The Lernier Family
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 41: The Twins’ Birthday

Rick awoke, with the feeling he was being watched.   He rolled over, and came face-to-face with the twins.   They had climbed into bed with him at some point during the night.   He smiled at them, and said, “Good morning, boys.”

They chorused, “Good morning, Dad.”

Rick asked, “Why did you get into bed with me?   Your bed is right next to mine.”

JJ said, “We were scared.”

Josh said, “You kept talking to Daddy in your sleep.”

Rick asked, “Really?”   He gave the boys a skeptical look.  He very much doubted that he had been talking in his sleep.

JJ said, “Yes, you kept saying, ‘Please don’t go,’ and ‘I love you.’”

Rick met JJ’s gaze, and asked, “You’re not teasing me, are you?”

JJ shook his head, and said, “No, Dad, you really said those things.   You stopped when we got in bed with you.”   He looked at his twin brother.   “We really did hear you talking to Daddy, didn’t we, Josh.”

Josh said, “Yes, we did.”

Rick said, “I must have been dreaming.”   He didn’t remember dreaming about Glenn leaving him; but, apparently, his subconscious mind was as worried about his relationship with Glenn as his waking mind.

JJ said, “I dream sometimes, too.   In my dreams, Josh and I are on our boat fishing, when I catch a fish this big.”   He stretched his arms out wide to show how big the fish was.   “But, I always wake up when the fish wriggles free, and gets away.”

Rick asked, “Do you always remember your dreams?”

“No,” JJ said, shaking his head.   “Just that one.”

Josh said, “That’s because JJ wants to catch a bigger fish than me.   Remember, I caught the biggest fish last time we went out fishing on the boat.”

JJ said, “That’s because Daddy was helping you.”

Josh said, “Yes, Daddy helped me; but I still caught it.”

Rick said, “I remember that you caught several fish, too, JJ.”

JJ smiled, “Yes, I did.   They tasted really good, too.”

There was a soft tap on the bedroom door.   Jeff pushed open the door, and stepped into the room.   He smiled when he saw the twins were in bed with their father.   “Hey, guys!   Breakfast is on the table.”

JJ asked, “Are there pancakes?”

“Yes, there are,” Jeff replied.  He laughed as the twins scrambled out of the bed, and raced out of the room.   Turning to Rick, he said, “I’ll save you some breakfast, if you need to get some more sleep.   I know how hard it is to sleep, with little ones in the same bed with you.   When the girls were small, they used to climb into bed with me and my ex-wife.   They couldn’t lay still for even two minutes.   I always felt like I’d been severely beaten by the time the sun came up in the morning.   Whenever they wanted to sleep with us, I would pull out the crib mattress, and let them sleep on the floor next to our bed.”

Rick yawned, and said, “I usually sleep okay, even if they get into bed with me.   I think I’m tired, because I couldn’t get to sleep last night.   I’m worried that Glenn will still be mad at me, for not waiting until next week to bring the children to see their grandmother.”

Jeff said, “I tried to convince you to wait, but you wouldn’t hear of it.”

Rick said, “I know you did.   I should’ve listened to you.”   He rubbed his eyes, in an attempt to force the tiredness from them.

Jeff sat down on the twins’ double bed, facing Rick.   “Rick, may I be very candid with you?”

Rick met his gaze, and said, “Sure.”   He sat up in bed, pushing a couple of pillows behind his back, and leaned against them.

Jeff said, “What started the breakup of my marriage was the very behavior you’ve exhibited toward Glenn this weekend, only I was worse.   I did it consistently over a period of years.   My ex-wife left me, because there was zero trust left in our relationship.   I constantly made command decisions about us and our family.   I felt it was my prerogative, as head of the household, to make those decisions; overriding any concerns, or objections she might have had.   As you know, she hates me so much, she has turned my oldest daughter, Jolene, against me; and nearly did the same with Caroline and Marie.”  

He paused, before continuing, “I don’t want the same thing to happen to you.   Most of the time, you treat Glenn very well; but, every once in a while, you exert your authority, as the alpha male in the relationship; as if you feel a need to remind Glenn who rules the roost.   It’s been happening a lot since you quit your job, and Glenn is the one working to support the family.”

Rick had a look of disbelief on his face.   “I’m not the alpha male in the relationship.   We’ve worked hard at treating each other as equal partners in our marriage.   You could say that it’s one of the main reasons we’re still together.”

Jeff said, “You may fool yourself into thinking you’re not the alpha male, but you are.   When you feel threatened, or uncertain of yourself, it becomes really noticeable.   I’ve watched Glenn skillfully work around your pride, while he manages to stroke your ego, until you calm down.   Most of the time, you listen to him, and you two work as a team; but, as I’ve already stated, you’ve been treating Glenn more like your subordinate than your partner.  He really loves you, Rick; because I would have left you, if you had treated me the way you’ve treated him over this whole situation with your mother.”

Rick asked, “Am I really that bad?”

Jeff said, “I would’ve said ‘no,’ until yesterday.”

Rick nodded his head in agreement.   What Jeff had pointed out resonated with him; because, despite his reluctance to accept the truth, he knew Jeff was right.  “I know I messed up, yesterday.   Glenn hung up on me last night, he was so angry.   He’s never done that to me before.”

Jeff said, “You had better make a serious course correction, my friend, before you end up divorced, like me.”

Rick said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can make it up to Glenn.”

“The best way is to change your attitude, Rick.   Glenn isn’t trying to make you any less of a man by being the breadwinner in the family.   He is doing what he can to support the family, until you can find another job.   You need to recognize that both of you are very sexy guys, and that Glenn is just as buff and masculine as you.   You have to admit that he turns the heads of both sexes, when you’re out on the town.”

Rick smiled, and said, “Yes, I’ve noticed.   A couple of weeks ago, one of the women at the dance club we went to, made a pass at him.   I’ve never worried about Glenn finding a woman.  He’s never been interested in them.”

Jeff said, “I know, but that doesn’t mean he won’t find another guy, if you don’t change your ways.”

Rick said, confidently, “He loves me too much to leave me.”

Jeff said, “Yes, he does, but you can kill that love by treating him poorly, Rick.   Love must be nurtured, so that it continues to grow and strengthen.   It’s not a static thing.   It can fade away and die, if you’re not careful.   Haven’t you heard of older couples getting divorced, because they’ve fallen out of love?”

Rick said, “Yes, but that’s what happens to straight couples.”

“And you think gay couples don’t have the same problems as straight couples?” Jeff asked, incredulously.   “I can’t believe you’re that naïve.”

Rick said, “I know that gay couples have the same issues as straight ones.   It’s just that I think we’re stronger, because we have to fight harder to stay together.   There just isn’t the same support network for gay couples, as there is for straight couples.”

Jeff rolled his eyes, and sighed in frustration.   “Rick Lernier, you are being stubborn.   I’m not going to argue with you about support networks, or gay couples vs. straight ones.   The bottom line, Rick, is that, if you don’t change how you’ve been treating Glenn, lately, you’ll lose him.”

Rick grimaced, and said, “I know you’re right; but, I don’t know what to do to fix what’s wrong.”

Jeff nodded his head, emphatically.   “Yes, you do.   I’ve just told you.   Show him how much you love him, by treating him as an equal partner, not as your subordinate.   Write him an e-mail, telling him that you love him.   Beg for his forgiveness, and show him you really mean it, by how you act.   Most of all, prove that you’re man enough to admit that you’re wrong; that you’ve made a mistake.”

“Didn’t you try to do that with your ex-wife?” Rick asked.

Jeff replied, “No, I didn’t, until it was too late.   She tried to convince me to go to a marriage counselor, but I refused.   That is when she left me.   I tried to get her to come back to me, but I had waited too long to change the course of events that resulted from my poor behavior.   Our marriage was over.   I knew it, and she knew it.   I had damaged our relationship beyond repair.”

“But Glenn doesn’t hold grudges, and is so forgiving of my faults,” Rick said, trying hard to counter Jeff’s arguments.   “He’s not like your ex-wife, who harbored bad feelings, and refused to let them go.”

“You’re right.   Glenn doesn’t hold onto bad feelings, and is very tolerant and forgiving.   You have to admit that those things are part of his charm, and what attracts you to him.  However, that doesn’t mean that you can abuse those character traits,” Jeff said.   He hadn’t commented on his employers’ relationship before now; but, he felt if he didn’t say something, Rick would continue his self-defeating behavior, and Rick and Glenn would end up in a divorce situation.

Rick said, “They are part of his quirky personality.”

Jeff said, “I agree, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that Glenn’s shallow.   He has a very deep, and convoluted personality.   He maintains a public image that makes you think he’s always happy, and content; but, I would venture to say that, even you, his closest friend and husband, don’t know everything about him.”

Rick looked thoughtfully at his friend.   “Maybe, you’re right.   I need to shift my attitude toward my husband.   I think we’ve become so comfortable around each other, that we’ve stopped courting each other, like when we were first married.”

Jeff smiled.   “Now, you’re starting to think.   You can win back your husband’s love by courting him.   I don’t mean the chocolates and flowers stuff, but a real courtship, where you show him that you love him by your words and actions.”

Rick said, “You should’ve been a therapist, or a marriage counselor!”

Jeff said, “Maybe.   I’m just pointing out what I see, because the same thing happened in my marriage.   I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did.”

Jeff stood up, and left Rick to ponder his words.   He joined the children at the dining room table.   The twins had already finished their first helping of pancakes, and were begging Ashley to let them have a second.

JJ said, “We promise to help you clean your room.”  

His wheedling tone made Jeff laugh.   “Don’t believe all the promises you hear, Ashley, especially coming from a four-year old who wants pancakes.”

Ashley grinned.   “Uncle Jeff, I’ve learned how to deal with my ‘baby’ brothers.”

Josh protested, “We’re not babies!”

Ashley looked horrified.   “You’re not?!   I thought you were.   Isn’t that the reason you always ask me to cut up your pancakes for you?”

Josh said, “We’re not babies.   We ask you to help cut up our pancakes, because you do a nicer job of it than we do.”

In his room, Rick pulled out his laptop, and began writing an e-mail to Glenn, expressing his deep remorse for his lack of trust.   At first, he had difficulty writing down his feelings; but, as he reviewed what he had written, so far, he gained a clarity of purpose.  He began writing with heartfelt conviction, hoping Glenn would be able feel the love and sincerity behind his words.

In Austin that same morning, I awoke in Todd’s arms.   He smiled at me, and kissed me.   “Good morning, Glenn.”

“Good morning,” I replied, rubbing noses with him.

Todd said, “I’ve been thinking about how angry you’ve been with Rick about his mother.”

I ran my hand over his chest, and said, “What about his mother?”

“I’m thinking you should be a little more flexible, since Rick gave up his family for you,” Todd said.   “He really loves you, Glenn.   There aren’t many people who would sacrifice their relationship with their family to be with their spouse.”

I said, “I know he loves me, Todd.   I just want him to stop treating me like I’m his servant, or something.   We went into our marriage on the premise that we would be equals; that we would be a team.   I didn’t sign up to be dominated by him.   I want to walk hand-in-hand beside him as his partner.   It’s been pretty difficult the last few weeks, and his decision to ignore me was the last straw.”

Todd said, “I understand your position, and agree with you about that part.   However, I think you need to cut him some slack where his mother is concerned.  It appears that she is trying to change her ways.”

I said, “I’m not so sure of that.   She has been our enemy for a long time.”

Todd said, “But, if she is genuine, you should give her the opportunity to have a relationship with her son, and grandsons.”

I shuddered, involuntarily, as if someone had walked over my grave.   “I’m not sure I want them to have a relationship with someone who wanted to commit murder; and, basically, commissioned Rick’s father and uncle to do the deed.”

Todd said, “But, that was over 11 years ago.   Didn’t Rick say that she has changed?”

“He didn’t say.   I think she wants to try and pull Rick away from me.   That’s what I think,” I said.   “I don’t believe that she’s has all of a sudden become this kind-hearted soul, who wants to make peace with the world, before she passes on.   From what Rick related to me last night, he had to threaten to leave and never come back, to get her to behave civilly.   That doesn’t sound like a repentant soul to me.”

Todd said, “Glenn, you’re missing my point.   This is about you and your relationship with Rick.   You need to let him attempt to re-establish a relationship with his mother, no matter how you feel about it.   You owe it to him for his devotion to you all of these years.   Has he ever expressed regret about marrying you?”

“No, he hasn’t,” I replied.   “He’s always tried to reassure me that no amount of sacrifice on his part, would keep him from loving me.”

Todd said, “Then, shouldn’t you be able to give a little in this situation?”

I met Todd’s gaze, and said, “Alright, I’ll try to keep my doubts to myself, and let him try to work things out with his mother.   However, I won’t be party to it, until she has demonstrated that she is sincere about her change of heart, where we’re concerned.”

Todd said, “Why don’t you call him, and tell him you’re not angry with him, anymore.   It will go a long way to helping you guys resolve your differences.”

I kissed him, and said, “I’ll have to let Rick know he has quite the advocate here.”

Todd grinned.   “Well, if I can’t have you, I want you to be happy with the man you chose to be your husband.”

I rolled over and got out of bed.   I padded across the room to the en suite.   After taking care my needs, I returned to find Todd waiting for me.   He kissed me, and said, “Why don’t you call Rick, while I get showered?”

I said, “Okay.”   I sat down on the bed, and retrieved my cell phone from the night stand.   I dialed Rick’s phone.

He answered on the first ring.   “Good morning, Babe.   You’re up early.”

I said, “Good morning, sweetheart.   I wanted to apologize for hanging up on you last night.   I shouldn’t have let my emotions get the better of me.   Can you forgive me?”

Rick said, “I’m the one who should be apologizing to you, for not listening to what you had to say.   I’m sorry.”

I said, “Sweetheart, I think we both share in the blame for this situation, and that we both deserve to be forgiven for giving offense to the other.   I want to let you know that I support your desire to normalize relations with your mother.   I know you’ve sacrificed a lot to be with me, and I should be more flexible when it comes to dealing with your family.   I love you very much, and I want you to be able to have your family back.   I only ask that you be patient with me;  because, in some ways, it will be harder for me to accept them, after all they have done, than it is for them to accept us as a couple.   They haven’t witnessed the suffering they caused you.   They have no concept of the damage their actions caused.   The fact that you’re willing to even speak to them is amazing to me.   I’m proud of you, Rick, for having the courage to reengage with your family, despite what they have done to us in the past, and are still doing.”

I could hear that Rick was crying.   I waited in silence.   After a few moments, Rick managed to speak.   “I love you, Glenn.”

I said, “I love you, Babe.   I want you to have a good visit with your mother today, and I didn’t want you to worry about where we stood.   I know you probably didn’t sleep well last night, and it’s all my fault.   I’m sorry, Babe.”

Rick said, “No, it wasn’t your fault that I didn’t sleep well last night.   I should have listened to you, and waited until you came home to come here.   Jeff has pointed out that I’ve been treating you pretty poorly lately.   I promise to change my ways.   We are equal partners in this marriage, and I admit I haven’t been treating you as my equal.   Can you forgive me?”

I said, “Yes, Babe.   Thank you for acknowledging how bad things have been the last little while.   I love you too much not to overlook your shortcomings.   I only ask that you do the same for me.  You’ll always be the one for me.”

“I sent you a long e-mail this morning,” Rick said.   “Have you seen it?”

I replied, “No, I just woke up.   Todd scolded me for being so angry with you.   He reminded me that you’ve sacrificed so much to be with me; and that I needed to be a little more accommodating, with regards to your mother.”

Rick said, “I knew there was a reason I liked Todd.”

I laughed, and said, “And you were worried that he would take me away from you.   He’s been your biggest advocate.   If I didn’t know better, I would begin to think you were paying him.”

Rick chuckled.   “Maybe I am.”

“Well, if you are, you owe him double his wages for today,” I said.   “I’ll read your e-mail after breakfast.”

Rick said, “Okay.”

“Go and enjoy your time with your mother,” I said.   “I’ll talk to you, tonight.”

“I love you, Babe,” he said.

“I love you, too,” I said.

I broke the connection, just as Todd returned from getting his shower.   He looked at me, and asked, “All better, now?”

I grinned at my handsome friend.   “Yes, all better.”

“Good,” Todd said, dropping his towel to the floor.

I looked him over, appreciatively, and said, “I love sharing a room with you.”

He gave me a lecherous grin.   “The same goes for me.   Now, go get your shower.   We have things to see and do, today.”

Jeff looked up and watched Rick, as he rejoined them in the dining room.   “Let me guess, you two kissed and made up.”

Rick smiled, and he said, “Yes.   How did you know?”

“You’re practically floating on air, my friend,” Jeff said.

“Is it that noticeable?” Rick asked, sitting down across from Jeff.

“It is.   I’m glad you two aren’t still arguing.   You’re much more pleasant to be around, when you’re happy,” Jeff said, smiling.

“Are we ready to go?” Rick asked.

“We will be shortly,” Jeff said.   “I believe that the twins are the only ones left, who need to get their gear together.”

Ashley said, “I’ll help them get packed.”   She turned to the twins.   “Come on, boys.   I’m not doing it for you, but I’ll tell you what needs to be done.”

JJ groaned.   “Can’t you just do it for us?”

“No, JJ, you need to learn how to do it for yourself.   You’re going to be five years old next week, and you should be able to put your own clothes in your suitcase.”

Josh looked at his twin, and said, “I told you Ashley wouldn’t do it for you.”

JJ stuck his tongue out at his brother.   “You’re such a know it all.”

Josh laughed.   “So are you.”

Ashley took them by the hand, and guided them into their bedroom.   They emerged a few minutes later with their overnight bag.   “Done,” Ashley declared.

“Alright, let’s go,” Rick said.

They loaded their gear in the mini-van, and retraced their route to the elder care facility where his mother was living.   This time, his mother was well-behaved during their entire interview.   They left her room, just as her lunch was being delivered.   They bid her farewell, with a promise to return the following weekend, to celebrate the twins’ birthday.

I opened Rick’s e-mail, and read it slowly and carefully.   By the time I had finished reading it, I was in tears.   I was deeply moved by his words to me.  I saved it to a special folder on my laptop.   Rick had written many beautiful letters to me over the years; but this e-mail was, by far, the sweetest and most heartfelt.   I could feel his love and concern for me in every letter on the screen.  I knew this e-mail would be something I would treasure for the rest of my life.   I hit the reply button, and began my response.   I spent nearly two hours writing about my feelings for him.   Several times, I had to stop, because of the tears that blurred my vision.   My emotions were very near the surface, and I was having difficulty keeping them under control.   I wanted Rick to know of my deep love for him, and, to feel what I did, when I read his message to me.   I rewrote it several times, until I was satisfied I had managed to communicate my love for him.  I hit the send button, and closed my laptop.

Seeing that I was finished, Todd said, “That e-mail must be something pretty special, for you to spend so much time writing it.”

I met Todd’s gaze, and said, “It is.   I want to reassure Rick that I love him very deeply.”

Todd nodded his head.   “I understand.   You two have been under a lot of emotional stress over the last few days; and a good way to relieve it, is to write about your feelings.”

I acknowledged the truth of his words.   “You’re right about that.   It’s the reason I keep a journal.   It helps me to put my thoughts on paper, and helps me express my feelings.”

Todd said, “I’ve wondered what you wrote in your journal every night.”

I clicked on my on-line journal, and pulled up my entries for the last few days.  I pointed to the screen.   “See, this is what I wrote.”

Todd sat down next to me on the sofa, putting his arm around my shoulders, as he read my journal.   His eyes widened, in surprise, then he laughed.   “You should publish your journal, Glenn.   You have a real talent for describing people and the events that happen every day.”

I said, “I don’t think I write very well.   Rick says my journal is very boring to read.”

Todd said, “Well, I guess if I had to read all of your journal entries, I might say the same thing.   However, the ones you wrote this week are pretty funny.”

I laughed.   “That’s only because what happened this week was rather comical.”   I shut down the laptop, and asked, “What are we doing today?”

Todd said, “Let’s drive over to San Antonio, today.   I want to see the River Walk.”

I said, “Okay, let’s go.”

We spent the day playing tourist.   We invited Lenny to join us, but he declined.   So, it was just Todd and I.   We managed to find the Alamo, tucked away on a little side street.   We drove past it, twice, before we noticed it.  

Todd said, “This is a really cool place.”

I agreed, “It is pretty interesting.”

Todd said, “We should rent some of the old movies they made about this place.”

I groaned.   “Don’t tell me you want to watch old spaghetti westerns again.”

Todd laughed, and said, “Yes, I love watching the old western films.   I like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.   They made great movies.”

I shook my head.  “You’re crazy.   You’ve already made me watch a bunch of those old films.”

“We won’t watch those comedy ones,” Todd promised.   “It will be only the historical ones.”

“Just like you promised we wouldn’t watch Grey’s Anatomy,” I complained.

“Stop your complaining, Glenn.   You won’t let me fuck you, so what else is there for me to do?” Todd asked, laughing.

“We can spend time at the gym,” I suggested.

“Okay, I’ll find us a gym,” Todd said.   “It’s not like we haven’t been out running every morning, before work.   You’ve been pretty adamant about keeping in shape.”

“You haven’t complained about it,” I said.

“No, I haven’t, because we both need to keep our husbands happy,” Todd said.

We completed our tour of the Alamo, and drove back to Austin.   We ordered Chinese carry out, and settled in to watch Todd’s old western film.

Rick called me after the children were in bed.   Todd was already on the phone with Zach, when my cell phone rang.   I walked into the bedroom, and closed the door.   I stretched out on the bed, as I answered his call.

“Hey, Babe,” I said.

Rick said, “Hey, yourself.   I just read your e-mail.   You got me all choked up, sweetheart.   I had to wait to call you, because I was so emotional.”

I asked, “Then, you liked what I wrote?”

There was a catch in Rick’s voice, as he answered, “It was what I needed to know.”

I said, “Your email hit me really hard, in a good way, Rick.   It helped me understand where you were coming from, and that I needed to be more understanding and compassionate.”

“Yours did the same for me,” Rick said.   “I had no idea I was coming across as being so demanding and dictatorial.   It just reinforced, for me, the idea that we need to talk about us, and our relationship, more often.   We used to do that frequently, when we were first married.   Remember?”

“Yes, I remember.   We should do that again.   We still have our date night every week, but we haven’t had as many heart to heart talks as we used to have.   In fact, we used to stay up all night, talking, in between fucking each other’s brains out,” I said.

Rick said, “I remember those nights.   We used to talk, until one of us would get really horny; then, we had lots of great sex.”

I laughed, at the memory.   “I was always sore the next morning.”

Rick said, “Yes, but you loved every moment of it!”

I responded, “And so did you!”

“I never denied that I love fucking you,” he said, his lust for me showing in his voice.   “I still love having great sex with you.”   He paused, then asked, “What can we do to get back to those days, again?”

I said, “I think we’ve been spending too much time on the computer, or other electronic devices, instead of spending time together.   I mean spending time cuddling and talking.  I think we need to make time to have the great sex we used to have.   Instead of going to bed after midnight, like we’ve been doing, we should go to bed earlier.   That would give us more time together, alone, without children to interrupt us.   I love what I call ‘pillow’ talk, especially after we’ve just had mind-blowing sex!”

“I do spend too much time on the computer,” Rick admitted.   “I’ve become addicted to some of the games.   Let’s promise to limit our computer time, so we can have time to talk to each other.”

“I think that’s a great idea,” I said.   “I’ll make up a schedule, so we can fit in computer time, as well as spending time with the children and each other.   While you play computer games, I’ll write in my journal.   I don’t think we need to eliminate computer time.   We just need to control it, instead of it controlling us.   I’ve had the same conversation with Kyle about his cell phone.   He’s been spending a lot of time sending text messages with his friends, instead of spending time with the family.”

Rick said, “I wondered why he suddenly started showing up downstairs, instead of disappearing into his room.”

I laughed.   “Yes, I told him he needed to stop being a social hermit, and spend more time with his brothers and sister.”

Rick said, “Okay, I’m willing to try your schedule idea.   I think we should make up a schedule for all of us.   I think our teenagers would benefit from it, as well.”

I said, “Okay, I’ll make up a schedule for all of us.   How was your visit with your mother, today?”

“It went much better than yesterday.   She was civil the entire time, and she took an interest in the older children, this time,” Rick said.

“That’s good,” I said.   “I was worried that she wouldn’t acknowledge them as her grandchildren, since they’re adopted.”

“She ignored them, yesterday; but, today, she compensated for that, somewhat,” Rick said.

“I’m glad you had a good visit,” I said.

Rick asked, “What did you and Todd do, today?”

I related to him our activities.   “Overall, it was a nice day,” I said.

Rick and I talked about his plans for the next day.   When we finished, I said, “I’ll call you tomorrow, Babe.” 

“Good night, sweetheart,” he said, and broke the connection.

Afterward, I stared up at the ceiling, thinking of the wonderful man I married.   I have to admit, I’m the most fortunate man on the planet.

The following Friday, Lenny drove us to the airport.   We caught our flight to Dallas, where we switched planes.   We arrived in Washington, DC, in the late afternoon.   As soon as we were on the ground, we called Rick to let him know we had landed.

Rick said, “Grab your luggage and come on outside.   I’m in the cell phone parking lot, and I’ll be there to pick you up, shortly.”

I said, “Okay.”   I turned to Todd, and said, “Let’s go, Rick’s here already.”

We followed our fellow passengers down to the baggage claim.   Our bags popped out onto the carousel, as we arrived.   We grabbed them, and headed outside.   It was cold and rainy.   I felt the chill through the jacket I wore.

Todd noticed me shiver, and said, “It’s quite a bit colder here, than in Austin.”

I nodded my head.   I spotted Rick, and waved my arm to attract his attention.   He pulled over to the curb, and stopped.   He turned on the emergency flashers, and put the Land Rover in park.   He jumped out, and ran around to the back of the car.   He helped load our luggage, then pulled me into his arms.

He kissed me, and pulled back to look me in the eyes.  “I’ve missed you, Babe.”

I put my hand to his face, cupping his cheek.   “I’ve missed you, too.”

He released me, and we climbed into the Land Rover.   I looked into the back of the Land Rover, noting that it was empty of passengers.   “Where are the children?”

He responded, “I left them home.   Kyle is watching them for me.   He volunteered.”

I smiled, and asked, “What’s up?”

Rick grinned, and said, “You’ll have to wait, and see.”

Todd laughed, “I won’t spoil your secret.”

Rick glanced in the rear view mirror at Todd.   “How do you know what we’re doing?”

Todd grinned, “Zach kind of spilled the beans last night, but I didn’t tell Glenn.”

I glanced over my shoulder at him, “What?   You didn’t tell me?”

Todd said, “And I won’t tell you.   You have to wait until we get home.”

Rick left the airport, and merged onto the George Washington Memorial Parkway, heading south.   As we drove through Old Town Alexandria, I took advantage of the backed up traffic.   I placed my hand on Rick’s leg, caressing the inside of his thigh.   I was rewarded for my efforts by the bulge that appeared in Rick’s jeans.   Rick put his hand on mine, and said, “Be patient, sweetheart.”   He leaned over and kissed me.

We finally arrived at home.   The gates swung open, and we pulled into the driveway.   There was a big banner across the garage that said, “Welcome home, Daddy!”

I smiled, and said, “So, this is the big art project you said you were working on, last night.”

Rick nodded his head, as he pulled the Land Rover inside the garage.   We climbed out of the car, and walked around to get our gear.   We heard the door to the kitchen open, and we were soon mobbed by a welcoming committee!

Todd scooped Cammy and Skye into his arms.   “Hey! I missed you guys!”

Cammy said, “We missed you too, Daddy.”

Skye said, “I hope you’re not leaving us again, Daddy.”

Todd said, “Uncle Glenn and I will be home for a while; but we’ll have to go, again, at the end of next month.”

I knelt down to pick up JJ and Josh.   They both hugged me and kissed me on the cheek.   JJ said, “We’re glad you’re home, Daddy.”

Josh said, “I’m glad you’re here to celebrate our birthday, tomorrow.”

Kyle said, “I’ll get your luggage.   Purev, will you get Uncle Todd’s?”

Purev nodded his head, “Yes, I’ll get it.”

Once inside, I put the twins down, and turned to the teenagers.   “I’m glad to see you.”   I hugged Ashley, and each of the boys.   I was a little surprised, when Kyle clung to me.   I pulled back a little bit, and looked into his eyes, searching for a clue as to what was going on.   I asked, “Are you okay?”

Kyle nodded his head.   “I’m okay, but I need to talk to you, later.”

I released him, and we moved into the family room.   Kyle and Purev took our luggage upstairs, and returned the family room.   I was about to go into the dining room, when I found my way blocked.   I looked at Kyle, in surprise.

Kyle said, “You need to go upstairs, and get dressed for a night out with Dad.”

I looked at Rick, who nodded his head.   “Let’s go get ready.”

As we climbed the stairs, I asked, “Where are we going?”

Rick said, “You’ll see.”

As soon as the door was closed, Rick pinned me against it, and kissed me passionately.   He gradually stripped off my clothes, then did a strip tease that had me drooling!   He gave me a lecherous grin, and led me into the en suite.  A while later, we helped each other get dressed.   I wore a black fishnet shirt, with a sheer, white silk shirt over it, left unbuttoned.   I added a tight fitting pair of black slacks. 

Rick looked me over, and said, “You look good enough to eat.”   He pulled me into his arms and kissed me.   When we surfaced for air, he said, huskily, “Maybe we should stay in for the night.”

“That would be alright by me,” I said, rubbing noses with him.

He released me, and I helped him dress.   He chose a dark blue silk shirt, and bright white jeans.   The jeans hugged him in all the right places.   I looked him over, as he had done to me.   “I like the outfit,” I said, approvingly.

We slipped on our penny loafers, and made our way downstairs, holding hands as we went.   I was surprised to see that the children had all changed into their Sunday best.  

Before I could ask what was going on, Kyle looked at his watch, and said, “You’re late.”

I said, “We’re actually on time.”

Kyle grinned, and said, “Yes, we know.   Dad had to make sure you were dressed properly.”

I laughed, and said, “Yes, he did.”

Ashley said, “You both look great.   Please come this way.”

I looked at Rick, with raised eyebrows.   He smiled, and kissed me.   We followed Ashley into the dining room.   The table had been set with china and crystal.   The lights had been turned down, and two candles had been lit.   Kyle and David pulled out our chairs for us.   Ashley handed us hand-made menus.

Purev walked in from the kitchen.   “I’ll be your waiter this evening.   Would you like something to drink?”

I said, “Just some water, please.”

Rick said, “I would like a glass of wine.”

Ashley and the boys left us, with Purev returning with our beverages.   He took out a small note pad.  “Would you like an appetizer?”

I looked down at the menu, and noticed there were several different items listed.   I said, “I’ll have the shrimp cocktail.”

Rick said, “I’d like the clam chowder.”

Purev wrote down our order, and asked, “Do you need more time to decide on your entree?”

I hadn’t gotten that far, so I read down the rest of the menu.   There were several choices.   I said, “I’ll have the baked ziti with a green salad, and a mixed fruit cup.”

Rick said, “I’d like the baked tilapia on a bed of white rice, fresh steamed green beans and the fruit cup.”

Purev left us, and I took Rick’s hand in mine.   “Whose idea was this?”

“Kyle’s,” Rick said.

David appeared with our appetizers.   He placed them in front of us, and asked, “Do you need anything else?”

I said, “No, we’re good.”

He withdrew, and I said, “This is really cool.”

Rick grinned.   “I thought you would like it.”

As we finished eating our appetizers, I heard the twins giggling behind the kitchen door.   Then, Ashley said, “Okay, boys.   It’s your turn.”

Purev preceded them into the room.   They each carried a plate that was covered.   JJ brought his to me, and Josh took his to his Dad.   Purev lifted the lids, and asked, “Is there anything else you need?”

Rick said, “No, we’re good.”

Purev turned to the twins, and pointed to the kitchen door.   The twins skipped out of the room, laughing as they went.   Purev followed them, closing the door behind him.

I tried my baked ziti.   “This tastes pretty good.”

Rick said, “So does my fish.”

We ate in companionable silence.   After a few moments, I asked, “Who did the cooking?”

Rick shrugged his shoulders.   “You’ll have to ask the children.”

I said, “I thought we were going out on the town tonight.”

“We are, after dinner,” Rick said, smiling at me.

As we finished the main course, Purev returned, and asked, “Would you care for dessert?”

I nodded my head.   “Yes, that would be great.”

He handed each of us a dessert menu.   I could tell it was Ashley’s handiwork, from the many small drawings of different desserts represented along the edges of the paper.

I said, “I’d like the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.”

Rick said, “I’ll share Daddy’s.”

Purev wrote it down on his note pad.   He left us, but soon returned with Cammy and Skye bearing the cheesecake and the eating utensils.

Cammy placed the cheesecake in the middle of the table, between us; while Skye handed each of us a fork.  They withdrew, leaving us to share the dessert.   I took a forkful and fed it to my husband, who, in turn, did the same for me.   In between bites, I said, “This reminds me of when we were first married.   Do you remember that hotel we stayed in, in upstate New York?”

“Yes, I do,” Rick said.   “I think we were so horny, that it didn’t matter where we stayed on that trip.”

I laughed.   “You’re right about that; but, that wasn’t what I was thinking about.”

Rick smirked, and said, “You’re not a very good liar, Glenn.   I know you were thinking of what we did by candlelight in the Jacuzzi that night.”

The memory of that night had things stirring down below!   “Okay, I’ll admit that I did think of that; but, remember how we shared our dessert that night?”

Rick said, “I do remember that, but the fantastic sex afterward is what sticks out in my memory.”

I laughed.   “You still have a one track mind.”

Rick smiled, and raised his eyebrows.   “And you don’t?”

I took his hand in mine.   “No, I never said that.”

“Good, because I’ve got plans for you, this evening,” Rick said, rubbing his leg against mine, under the table.

Purev returned, and asked, “Will there be anything else?”

Rick smiled at him, and said, “No, we’re good.   The meal was very good.   Please invite everyone to join us.”

Purev walked to the kitchen door, and said, “Everyone, come here.”

The children lined up in front of us, with Todd standing in the doorway, smiling at us.  I said, “Thank you for the fantastic meal.   It was very romantic, and I loved everything about it.”

Rick seconded my thoughts, “Yes, you all did a great job.   Thank you.”

Kyle was beaming.   “It was my idea to treat you to a romantic meal at home.”

I said, “It was a great idea.   Who did all of the cooking?”       

David said, “Purev and I did most of the cooking.   Ashley made the cheesecake, and the other desserts.”

Rick said, “Who did the menus?”

The four youngest boys chorused, “We did.”

JJ said, “Ashley helped us, but we used the computer to make the menus, and Ashley drew the desserts.”

Cammy said, pointing to himself and his twin, “We colored the menus.”

Josh said, “I got to light the candles.   Purev helped me.”

I stood up from the table and gave each of them a hug.   With tears in my eyes, I said, “Thank you for making this a very special evening.”

Todd said, “Okay, everyone, let’s clean up and let your Dads go on their date.”

Rick said, “Thank you for staying with the children.”

Todd grinned.   “Not a problem.”

JJ pulled on my hand, and I knelt down to talk to him.   “What is it, JJ?”

He whispered, “Dad has a surprise for you.”

I met his gaze, and said, “Okay, thank you for telling me.”

Rick laughed, and asked, “What are you two whispering about?”

JJ looked guilty, as if he had been caught taking cookies out of the cookie jar.   He glanced up at his Dad, and said, “I was telling Daddy that you had a surprise for him.”

Rick smiled.   “That’s true.   I do.”   He walked over to me, and took my hand.   “Follow me.”   He led me into the family room.   When the children made to follow, Todd said, “Let them have some time alone, children.   Help me with the cleanup.”

Rick walked over to the fireplace, and retrieved a small box.   He kissed me, and handed it to me.   “Go ahead.  Open it.”

I pulled the lid off, and pushed aside the tissue paper to find a handsome pair of blue diamond studs.

“They’re beautiful,” I said.

Rick said, “They match the color of your eyes.” 

I kissed him, and said, “Thank you, Babe.”  

He took the box from my hands, and helped me put the studs in my earlobes.   He stood back and admired them.  “I think I did a good job of picking them out.”

He pulled me into his arms, and kissed me passionately.   We heard a click of a camera.   Then, the patter of little feet, followed by two sets of little arms wrapping themselves around our legs.   Rick pulled back and looked down.  

Josh said, “Daddy, we want to see.”

JJ said, “We helped Dad pick them out.”

Rick released me, and I knelt down between our twins.   Josh fingered the earrings.   “Dad said they had to match the color of my eyes, because they’re the same color as yours, Daddy.”

I said, “Well, are they a perfect match?”

Josh examined my eyes and the diamond studs very closely.   Finally, he said, “Yes, they’re a perfect match.”

JJ said, “We got you a present, too.”

Rick picked up a second box off of the fireplace mantel, and handed it to JJ.   JJ said, “This is from me and Josh.”

Josh said, “We liked it a lot.”

I opened the box, and found a gold chain.   I took it out of the box.   JJ pointed to the back of the chain.   “Our names are right here.”

I looked closely at the gold chain, and read, “To Dad love JJ, Josh, Ashley, David, Kyle, and Purev.”  I placed it around my neck.   I pulled the two boys to me, in a group hug, and gave each of them a kiss on the cheek.   “Thank you, boys.”

Josh put his hand to my cheek.   “Why are you crying, Daddy?”

“Because you and JJ make me so happy,” I replied.      

“But don’t you cry when you’re sad?” he asked, giving me an uncertain look.

“Sometimes,” I said.   “Other times, I cry when I’m very happy.”

Josh still looked confused.   JJ said, in a very knowing tone of voice, “It’s a Daddy thing.”

Rick laughed, and said, “Yes, it’s a Daddy thing.”

I looked up at Rick, and smiled.   “Yes, it’s a Daddy thing; but it happens to other people, too.”

I stood up, and I held out my arms to my teenage children.   “Group hug.”   I enfolded the four of them in a big hug.   “I love you.”  I released them, and smiled at them.

Ashley said, “We love you, too, Daddy.”

Purev said, “We’ve really missed you, Daddy.”

“I’ve missed all of you, as well,” I said.

Rick looked at his watch, and said, “We need to be going.   We have an appointment to go ice skating.”

I looked at him, in surprise.   “We aren’t going ice skating dressed like this are we?”

Rick laughed.   “Why not?”

“Well, for one, I’ll freeze,” I said.

Rick replied, “Then, wear a coat.”

I was about to tell him what I thought about that, when I caught sight of Todd’s grin.   I said, “Okay, I’ll wear layers.”

Rick said, “Let’s go, then.”   He turned to Todd.   “Thanks for watching the children for us.”

Todd said, “You’re welcome.   Just make each other happy.”

Rick gave him the two thumbs up sign.   He took my hand, and led me into the foyer.   We retrieved our winter gear.   I pulled out a sweater and a lighter jacket.   Last time I went skating, I got overheated with a big winter coat.   Rick picked up our ice skates, and carried them out to the Land Rover.   We climbed in, and Rick drove us to Pentagon City, where there was an outdoor ice rink.   He was lucky enough to find parking on the street, near the rink.   We got out of the car, and walked the short distance to the rink.   Rick paid the fee, and we went out on the ice.

Rick said, “Watch me skate backwards.”

I laughed, as he took a tumble onto the ice.   “Babe, you’ve never been able to do that.”

A middle-aged gentleman came over to us.   He was bald, with a fringe of dark hair that made him look like one of the Three Stooges.   He had blue eyes, and a friendly smile.   “Hi, I’m Oliver.  I can give you a few pointers, if you like.”

I gave Rick a hand, and pulled him to his feet.   He smiled at the stranger, and said, “I’m Rick, and this is Glenn.”

He shook our hands, and said, “Let me show you how to get started.”

He demonstrated how to skate backward, then coached us as we imitated him.   Within minutes, we were able to accomplish the task.   We chased each other around the oval, or we skated side-by-side, holding hands.   After a while, we came off of the ice, and sat down on a bench outside the rink.   Oliver joined us.

“Where are you guys from?” he asked.

Rick said, “We live in Lorton.”

“I meant, where are you from, originally?   You guys don’t sound like you’re from around here.” Oliver asked.

Rick said, “I’m from North Carolina.”

“I’m from Saskatchewan,” I said.

Oliver grinned.   “I thought you were Canadian.   I’m from Winnipeg.   I moved here a few months ago.   I work at the Canadian Embassy.”

“Thanks for helping us out,” Rick said, smiling.   He leaned over and kissed me on the lips.

Oliver said, “Thank you for being openly gay.   I’m gay, as well; but I’ve been afraid to be as open about it as you two are.”

Rick said, “We haven’t always been as open about it.”

A young woman, with long dark hair and brilliant green eyes, joined Oliver.   She said, “Oliver, it’s time to be going.”

Oliver introduced us, “Rick and Glenn, this is my sister, Michelle.”

She nodded her head in acknowledgment.   “Come, Charles is waiting.”

Oliver said, “I’m sorry to run off like this, but my brother-in-law doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”  

He left us, and we returned to the ice.   We spent a couple of hours skating.   I love ice skating.   I learned to ice skate almost as soon as I was able to walk.   I learned to play hockey, but never got good enough to play in the recreational leagues or on the school hockey team.   However, hockey was something that my cousin, Ben, excelled at.  

Rick, being a naturally gifted athlete, picked up ice skating as if he were born on the ice, except for skating backward that is.   Of course, as soon as someone demonstrated it for him, he was off like a bullet, pulling me along with him.   It took me a little longer to get the hang of it; but, eventually, I was able to mirror Rick’s success.

We skated hand in hand around the rink, with Rick showing off by skating backward.  I love seeing Rick this way, happy and carefree.  His infectious smile communicated his high spirits to me and everyone on the ice.   After a while, Rick brought us to a gliding stop, and pulled me into his arms.   He gave me a quick kiss, and said, “I hope you’re not too tired to dance the night away.”

I grinned up at him, and said, “As long as I’m in your arms, I could dance all night long.”

His gaze met mine.   There was an intensity in his eyes that sent a shiver of anticipation down my spine.   “I intend to hold you to that, on and OFF the dance floor.”

He captured my lips in a passionate kiss.   We were interrupted by someone shouting, “Get a room!”

Rick laughed, and said, “I intend to do just that.”   It was nearly 10 PM, so we left the ice.  Rick said, “It’s time to go dancing.”

We returned to our car, and he drove us to the dance club.   We paid the cover charge, and joined the throng of people already on the dance floor.   I had shed my silk shirt, leaving only the black fishnet shirt.   I was rewarded by Rick’s lustful look, as he took me out on the dance floor.

He leaned closed to my ear, and said, “You look good enough to eat.”

I grinned up at him, and responded, “So do you, Babe.”

As it approached midnight, a couple of good looking guys walked over to us.   We were a little surprised, since we don’t normally frequent gay clubs, tonight being an exception. 

They introduced themselves.  “Hey, I’m Marty, and this is Kevin.”   They were holding hands, and it was obvious that they were a couple.

Rick said, “I’m Rick and this is my husband, Glenn.”

Marty was the same height as Rick, with dark brown, wavy hair, dark brown, almost black, eyes, a hawkish nose, and a wide smile, showing perfect teeth.   He boasted a pencil thin mustache on his upper lip, and a goatee.   Kevin was the same height and build as Marty.  In contrast to Marty’s dark hair and eyes, Kevin had short, blond hair, blue eyes, a small, button nose, a small mouth, and a clean-shaven face.  

Marty said, “We noticed how much you’re into each other.”

“We’ve watched you guys dancing, and it’s like no one else exists, except you two,” Kevin said.   “We noticed that you’re wearing wedding rings, and thought we would talk to you about what it’s like to be a married gay couple.   We’re engaged to be married next month.”

I responded, “Congratulations!   We’re happy for you.”

“We’re going to Boston to be married,” Kevin said, looking at Marty.  

Marty said, “We’re both students at Georgetown.   We met through an on-line dating site, and discovered that we were both studying at the same school.   I’m a music major.”

Kevin said, “I’m a chemistry major.   We’ve been together for almost three years now.   How long have you guys been married?”

We glanced at each other, then Rick answered, “It’s been a little over six years.”

Marty said, “I hope we’re as happy you guys are, when we reach 6 years of marriage.”

I said, “I’m sure you will, if you remember to always think of your husband, before you think of yourself.”

Rick seconded my statement.   “Yes, you need to remember that it’s not about you, but about your spouse.”

Marty said, “Thanks for the advice.”

Kevin said, “I hope we meet up with you, again, sometime.”

They drifted off into the crowd.   I met Rick’s gaze, and said, “That was sure weird.  

“It sure was,” Rick agreed.   “We can’t be the only married gay couple they know.   I’m ready to go.   You?”

“Sure,” I said.

We left the club, and Rick drove us to the J.W. Marriott Hotel, where Rick had reserved us a room for the night.   I looked over at Rick, and said, “I didn’t pack anything for an overnight stay.”

Rick gave me a knowing smile.   “Never fear, Babe.   I’ve taken care of that.”   He reached into the back seat, and retrieved a small overnight bag.   “I have everything we’ll need, right here.”

We checked in and made our way to our room.   As soon as the door was closed, Rick pinned me to the door and captured my lips.   When we came up for air, Rick said, “I hope you’re ready to be seduced by your husband.”   He gave me a lecherous grin, and proceeded to strip my clothes off of my body.   He picked me up, and carried me to the bed.   He laid me down, gently, and began a slow strip tease.   The sight of his well-muscled body, and his provocative movements, had me extremely aroused in no time.   Seeing my state of arousal, Rick straddled me, causing me to arch my back in pure ecstasy.   I pulled him down, until our lips met in a passionate kiss.

Later, Rick lay on top of me, with his magnificent male member reminding me why I love him so much.   He looked down into my eyes, and said, “Are you ready for round two?”

I nodded my head, and said, “I want you to fuck my brains out.”

Rick kissed me, and said, “Your wish is my command.”

My body responded to his caresses, with increasing intensity.   The flames of our passion grew so hot that we seemed to pass into another dimension, one where we had become fused into one single being.   Afterward, we lay together, exhausted, but completely happy and content.

Rick said, “I love you more than you know.”

I put my hand up to his face, and traced his jawline with the tips of my fingers.   “I love you in equal measure, Babe.   I’m so sorry I hurt you last week.   I didn’t mean to make your life so miserable.   I should have been more understanding and compassionate.   I’ve accused your mother of some pretty hateful things, all true; however, I was the one inflicting pain on the one I love.   Can you forgive me for being so selfish?”

He looked searchingly into my eyes, and said, “Only if you can forgive me for being self-centered, egotistical, and dictatorial.   I’m sorry for not listening to you, and treating you as the equal partners we are.   Can you look past my failings, and help me to become a better husband and father?”   His voice was thick with emotion.   More than anything in the world, he wanted Glenn’s understanding and forgiveness.   Glenn was his reason for living, his everything.   Last weekend, when he thought he might lose Glenn, he had realized just how much his husband meant to him.

My vision had blurred with unshed tears; as I was so overcome with emotion, I couldn’t speak.   I wiped a tear from Rick’s cheek with my thumb.   Listening to my big, tough guy husband ask for my pardon for his faults, touched me deeply.   Looking into his eyes, my heart was full of love for this man.   I realized that I needed to be much more sensitive to his needs.  

I said, “I’ve already forgiven you.   I want the same promise from you, sweetheart, that you’ll help me be a better husband and father.   I know I’m a work in progress, and that I need your help to become the best husband I can be.”

Rick smiled, and said, “I promise to help you reach your full potential as my mate, as well as father to our children.”

I returned his smile.   “I promise to do the same for you, Babe.”

Rick ran his hand through my hair.   “I’ve missed playing with your hair.”

I took his hand in mine.   “I’ve missed your touch on my skin.   My skin tingles everywhere you touch me.”

Rick’s smile widened.   “Is that all it does to you?”

“No,” I replied, giving him a gentle kiss.   “I think you know the effect you have on my body.” 

There was a glint in his eye, as he met my gaze.   He ran his hands lightly over my back, moving slowly down to my buttocks.   His lips met mine, with renewed passion.   He let out a low growl, as he rolled me onto my back.   I looked up into his eyes, and shivered with anticipation at the look of lust I saw there.

He grinned, and said, “Now, I have you just where I want you.”

I pulled him to me, and whispered, huskily, “I need you to make me yours, Babe.”

Late the next morning, Rick awoke, and looked into his husband’s sleeping face.   Glenn looked so peaceful, and happy.   It was such a contrast to the way thing had stood between them a week earlier.   He never wanted to repeat that experience.  They had made love most of the night, leaving them both exhausted.   He had slept deeply, as a result.   He felt refreshed, and rejuvenated.   He knew that it was more than getting enough sleep.   He felt wonderful, both physically and emotionally.   He felt he could conquer the world, today, with his husband by his side.  

He marveled, anew, at how wonderful he felt, when Glenn was by his side.   The time apart from his lover had made him fully appreciate how much he depended on Glenn.   Admittedly, they had experienced some serious miscommunication over the last few weeks; but they had managed to become stronger and more unified than before.

He had also learned, that, even the most tolerant and forgiving person has limits to what they can endure.   He sincerely hoped he would never find that limit again!   He lightly ran his fingers over Glenn’s nipples.   They hardened under his touch, and he felt Glenn’s growing erection push against him.   Glenn moaned with pleasure in his sleep.

I awoke, to find Rick caressing my chest with his fingertips.   I looked into his eyes, and smiled.   “I love you, Babe.”

Rick’s answering smile reached his eyes, lighting up his face.   “Love you, too.   You looked so happy, sleeping in my arms.”

“Of course, I’m happy.   I’m with you, sleeping in your arms, right where I belong,” I said.   “You seem to be just as happy as I am.”

Rick rubbed noses with me.   “Yes, I am.   Like you, I’m right where I want to be.”

Rick looked very happy and content.   It did my heart good to see him happy.   Rick’s soft caresses moved lower, causing me to moan with pleasure.   He captured my lips in a passionate kiss.   He pulled back, and said, “Let’s get a shower.”

He stood up, turning to give me a hand.   He pulled me into his arms, and kissed me.   We made our way to the shower, where we demonstrated our deep love for each other, under the warm cascade of water.

When we finished, we dried each other off, and helped each other get dressed.   We had just finished dressing, when Rick’s cell phone rang.   He picked it up off of the dresser, and answered it.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hey!   Are you guys ready to go?” Todd asked.

“Yes, we’re ready,” Rick responded.   “We’ll be down in a few minutes.”

We gathered up our gear, throwing it into our overnight bag.   Rick said, “Todd will be here in a few minutes.   Then, we’ll caravan down to Smithfield, to see my mother.”

I smiled, and said, “I’m sure the twins are excited to be celebrating their birthday with their grandmother.”

Rick nodded his head in agreement.   “Yes, they’re very excited; but, I think their excitement is more about the fact that you’re home, than going to see my mother.   They have talked about you, constantly, since you left.”

We walked hand-in-hand down the hall, and into the elevator.   As soon as the doors closed, Rick pulled me into his arms, and kissed me passionately.

He released me just before we reached the lobby.   I was left breathless from his kiss.   He grinned at me, and took my hand again.   He laughed, and said, “I’ve never seen you quite so out of breath before, Babe.”

I squeezed his hand, and said, “Only you could take my breath away.”

We checked out, and walked over to the valet.   The handsome young man smiled at us, and took Rick’s claim ticket.   He looked like he was Filipino, with dark hair, brown eyes, honey-colored skin.   His name tag said, “Lex.”

He disappeared, then pulled up outside in our Land Rover.   He jumped out, and handed the keys to Rick.   Rick handed him a generous tip, and Lex thanked him profusely.

Just as we were climbing into the Land Rover, Todd pulled into the passenger drop off.   Todd rolled down his window.   “Perfect timing.   There are two boys who want to ride with their dads.”

I laughed, and asked, “They wouldn’t be our birthday boys, would they?”

Todd said, “Yes, that would be they.”

“Okay, let’s get them transferred to the Land Rover,” Rick said.   He opened the door to the mini-van, and unbuckled JJ.   JJ exclaimed, “Dad, I knew you would be here!”

Rick said, “Yes, I’m here, just as I promised I would be.   Let’s get your car seat, and move it to the Land Rover.   Please wait here in the van, until I get it installed.”   He met JJ’s glance, and asked, “Okay?”

JJ nodded his head, and said, “Yes, Dad.”  

I walked around to the other side, and opened the opposite door.   I reach in and unbuckled Josh.  

Josh immediately threw his arms around my neck.   “Daddy!”

Smiling, I said, “Happy birthday, Josh and JJ.”

Josh said, “David baked us a birthday cake.   It’s our favorite kind – chocolate with chocolate frosting.”

I looked into the back seat, and smiled at David.   “Thank you, David.”

David said, “The twins helped me make it.”

Josh said, “I got to break the eggs.”

JJ said, “I got to measure the oil and the water.”

“It sounds like you had lots of help,” I said.

Purev said, “Yes, he did, and I supervised the entire operation.”   Purev punched David in the shoulder.   “David always needs supervision.”

David blushed, and protested, “I do not.   You’re the one who needs supervision, Purev.”

Purev laughed, and said, “Okay, then, let’s say we supervised each other.”

I looked at the two teenage boys.   I got the sense that there was a lot going on behind their words.   I couldn’t put my finger on it, but made a mental note to talk to Rick about it.   My thoughts were interrupted by Ashley.

Ashley said, “Kyle and I wrapped presents.  He’s riding down to Grandma’s with Jeff and Cole.”   She pointed back at the SUV that had pulled up behind the van.

“Thank you for helping with the boys’ birthday,” I said.

Josh pulled on my hand.   “Daddy, let’s go.”

Cammy said, “Can we move Skye up here, now that the twins are moving to the other car?

Todd said, “Sure.   David and Purev, will you help move Skye’s booster seat?”

Purev said, “Yes, we’ll move his booster.   That way we’ll have the back seat to ourselves.”

Todd said, “I thought you wouldn’t mind taking care of Skye for me.”

I turned my attention to removing Josh’s car seat.   I undid the seat belt, and pulled the car seat out of the van.   I walked over to the Land Rover, opening the back door opposite of where Rick was installing JJ’s car seat.   I began the process of installing it, making sure it was completely secure.   We returned to the van, and each of us picked up one of the boys, carrying them to the Land Rover.   As soon as they were secured, safely in their seats, we returned to the close the doors to the van.   Rick walked back to talk to Jeff.

Jeff rolled down his window, and asked, “Are we ready to go?” 

Rick said, “We’re all set.”

Jeff smiled, “Okay, let’s get this show on the road.”

Rick said, “Thank you for taking Kyle with you.”

Jeff said, “Not a problem.   I have Caroline and Marie with me, as well.   So, he’s not exactly roughing it back there.”   He motioned to the back seat, where the aforementioned teenagers were actively engaged in conversation.

Rick grinned.   “At least, he’s well chaperoned!”

Jeff laughed.   “Yes, he is, as are my daughters.”

Rick returned and we climbed into the Land Rover.  Rick turned the key in the ignition.   He looked over his shoulder, smiling at his boys.   “Are we ready to go to Grandma’s?”

The twins chorused, “Yes, Dad.”

“Do we get to open presents at Grandma’s?” JJ asked.

Rick said, “Yes, and we’ll sing, ‘happy birthday,’ to you.”

Josh said, excitedly, “And we’ll get cake and ice cream!”

I smiled at his exuberance.   “Yes, we’ll stop and pick up some ice cream to go with your birthday cake.”

“I want chocolate ice cream,” Josh said.

“I want vanilla,” JJ said.

Rick said, “I think we can arrange to get both kinds of ice cream.”

JJ clapped his hands together, and exclaimed, “Yeah!”

The twins kept up a steady stream of chatter, as we drove from Washington, DC, to Smithfield, North Carolina.   A little over four hours later, we pulled into the nursing home parking lot.   We had stopped for lunch, just as we entered Smithfield.   We also hit a local grocery store to pick up the required ice cream and paper products, including plastic utensils.

We disembarked, and recruited the children to help carry in the cake, ice cream, presents, etc.   We were met by Mrs. Hartwell, who escorted us back to my mother-in-law’s room.

The children entered her room ahead of us.   By the time we reached the door, the twins had already climbed up on her lap.   Both of them had their arms around her neck, and were giving her a kiss on the cheek.   It was one of those picture perfect moments, which Kyle was able to capture.   I had seen photographs of my mother-in-law from Rick’s visit last weekend; so, I wasn’t surprised to see how much she had aged, since I had last seen her.

I hung back, while the children greeted their grandmother.   Rick moved forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek.   “We came back, just as I promised we would.   We’ve brought cake and ice cream, to celebrate the twins’ birthday.”

Mrs. Lernier smiled up at her son, and said, “Thank you for including me in their celebration.   They are such dears.”

JJ asked, “May we open our presents now?”

“No, sweetheart.   We have to sing ‘happy birthday,’ first,” Rick said.

David placed their birthday cake on the little table by the bed.   He pulled out a lighter from his pocket, and lit the two number ‘5’ candles he had placed on the cake.

Kyle said, “I’ll lead the choir.”   He grinned, and raised both arms in the air, pretending to be a famous maestro, conducting a special performance.   He said, “1, 2, 3…”

We sang the happy birthday song to the twins.   They blew out their candles with gusto!  

“Now, may we open our presents?” JJ asked.

“I think we should eat our cake and ice cream, before the ice cream melts,” Rick said.

David said, “I’ll serve the cake, if Purev will serve up the ice cream.”

Purev said, “Sure.   Where are the bowls?”

Ashley produced the plastic bowls, forks, and spoons.   David cut the cake into squares, and began putting a piece of cake into each bowl.   Purev said, “I know JJ wants vanilla, and Josh wants chocolate.”

He handed them their bowls.   Rick ushered them over to a chair, and said, “Please stay seated, until your cake and ice cream is gone.”

The twins nodded their heads, and attacked their treats.   Purev asked, “Mrs. Lernier, what kind of ice cream would you like?”

She responded, “Thank you for asking, but I wouldn’t care for any.”

Purev moved on to serve the rest of us.   I sat next to the twins, and kept a close eye on their progress.   When they were finished, I retrieved their bowls and spoons.  I pulled out a couple of wet wipes to clean their hands and faces.

Josh pulled a face, and said, “Daddy, I’m clean already.”

I agreed, “Yes, you are, now.”

JJ asked, “May we…”

I interrupted him, “Yes, you may.”  I handed each of them a wrapped present to open.   The twins ripped the paper off.

Seeing what it was, JJ said, “It’s just what I wanted.”

Josh echoed his brother’s sentiment, “Me, too.”

We continued handing them gifts to open, until they had quite a little pile of treasure surrounding them!   When they were finished opening their gifts, Rick said, “Now, it’s time to haul your treasure out to the Land Rover.”

JJ looked up at his Dad, and asked, “May we ask David, Purev and Kyle to help us?”

Rick smiled, and said, “Yes, you may.”

Before he could ask them, Kyle said, “We’ll help.”   The teenagers gathered up the twins’ presents and left the room, followed by the twins, giving directions.  

Ashley said, “I’ll clean up the cake and ice cream.”  She put the lid back on the ice cream containers, and covered the cake.   She placed them back in the paper bag we had brought them in.   She gathered up the paper products, and returned them to their containers.   She said, “I’ll be right back.”

Jeff said, “Let me take the cake.”

That left me and Rick alone with his mother.   She finally met my gaze, and said, “Hello, Glenn.”

I forced a smile to my lips, and said, “Hello, Mrs. Lernier.”   I had promised Rick I would be on my best behavior.   So, I walked over and gave her a quick hug.   “It’s been a long time.”

She smiled, hesitantly, up at me.   “It has been.   I want to apologize to you, Glenn, for the harm I have caused you and Rick.   I know what I did was wrong, and I’m deeply sorry for the pain and suffering that has resulted from my actions.   Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”

I met her gaze, and I said, “I believe that you’re sorry for what happened; but, I can’t just forget what has happened.   Forgiveness will come, in time, as you show that you’ve really changed.   My mother always taught us to forgive and forget; but she is more of a saint than I am.   She also taught us to give everyone a second chance.   That, I’m willing to do.   I think we can start over, as mother-in-law and son-in-law.   I do not wish to cause my husband any more pain and suffering, by refusing to let him have a relationship with his mother.”

She looked from me to Rick, and back to me.   Rick put his arm around my shoulders, and leaned over to give me a quick kiss.   I looked at Rick, and said, “Rick,”

He put his finger to my lips, and said, “It’s okay, Babe.”

He turned to his mother.   “I wanted you to know that I’m very much in love with my husband.   Glenn comes first in my life, then my sons.”

I looked over at Mrs. Lernier, to see her reaction.   She looked at me, and smiled.   “I’m glad that you have made my son so happy.   I can see that he adores you, Glenn.   What’s important to me, now, is the fact that you’re both happy, and that you’re raising a fine family.   I seen how well behaved the children are, and that they have two loving parents to watch over them.   I may not agree with two men being married to each other; but, I can see that you have a wonderful family, and I need to accept that fact.   I’m ready to move on, since I can’t change the realities of the situation.”

I relaxed against Rick.   Her little speech satisfied my concerns about her, at least, for the moment.   I said, “I’m glad you’re willing to see past your religious views, and acknowledge that we have a very happy family.   I want Rick to have a relationship with his family.   It’s been a long, and difficult time for him.   My family has been very loving and supportive of us; but, it’s not the same as having your own family by your side.”

The twins returned, chattering excitedly about their presents.   I watched them interact with their grandmother, and decided that Rick had been right to bring them to see her.   I could see that she really connected with them, and they with her.   I leaned over, and whispered, “You were right to bring them to see her.”

Rick turned his head, and kissed me.   He didn’t say anything, but his smile let me know that I had reassured him that I was okay with his decision to bring the children to see their grandmother.  I put my hand up to his face, and cupped his cheek.   “Remind me to give you a special gift, when we get home.”   I put my hand on his leg, and caressed his inner thigh.

He grinned, and put his hand over mine.   “Hold that thought, Babe.”

We visited for another thirty minutes, or so, before Rick said, “Mom, I think it’s time for us to go.”

The twins climbed up on Mrs. Lernier’s lap, and gave her a hug and a kiss.   “Thank you for coming to see me,” she told them.

JJ said, “You’re welcome.”

Josh said, “We will have to bring our robot, next time.”

She smiled at him, and said, “That would be wonderful.”

We bid her farewell, and made our way out to our vehicles.   Rick drove us north, to Selma.   We pulled into Uncle Stan and Aunt Sharon’s driveway.   We unbuckled the twins, and they ran to the front door.   Each of them was pushing the doorbell.   Aunt Sharon opened the door, and said, “Come inside, boys.”

She stood back, and they pushed past her.   We gave her a hug, and a kiss.   She said, “Welcome.   We’re glad you’re here.”

We followed her inside, and found the twins were already in family room, talking with Uncle Stan.  

Uncle Stan looked up, and said, “Hello, guys.   Please, come in, and sit down.   The twins are telling me all about their robot.”

We sat down, and I snuggled up next to Rick.   Jeff, Cole, and our teenagers joined us.  Uncle Stan asked, “How did the visit with your mother go?”

Rick said, “It went really well.   I’m glad we went.”

Aunt Sharon looked at me, and asked, “How do you feel about the visit?”

“I’m okay.   It went better than I expected.   I can’t say I’m ready to become best friends with my mother-in-law; but, I’m willing to, at least, be civil.”

Uncle Stan said, “Good.   I’m glad to see some progress in that area.   I hope that you can have a good relationship with her, given a little time.   I know that Rick has suffered immeasurably, because of what has happened.”

Rick said, “Yes, I’m glad that we’ve been able to visit with Mom; but, just the same, we’ll proceed with caution.”

Aunt Sharon said, “That is wise.   Everyone needs some time to get used to each other, before you can become comfortable with them.”   She turned to the twins.   “I know it’s your birthday, today.   What would you like me to cook for your birthday dinner?”

JJ spoke up first, “I want chili mac, like Grandma Scarborough makes for us.   She said she taught you and Grandma how to cook it, just like she does.”

Aunt Sharon laughed.   “She told you that, did she?   Well, I guess I could cook chili mac for you.   Josh, do you have a favorite dish?”

Josh said, “Yes, I want macaroni and cheese.”

“Do you want homemade, or the boxed kind?” she asked.

Josh asked, enthusiastically, “May we have the boxed kind?   Daddy says it fake and won’t let us have it.   But, I really like it.”

Aunt Sharon looked over at me, and asked, “Well, Daddy, are you going to permit me to make Josh’s favorite?”

I replied, “Sure, since it’s his birthday.”

She turned back to JJ and Josh.   “Is that all you want for your birthday dinner?”

Josh glanced at me, before answering, “May we have key lime pie?”

JJ said, “Yeah, we both like key lime pie.   It’s so much better than cake and ice cream.”

Aunt Sharon smiled, and said, “We can have key lime pie, if a store bought pie is okay.”

Rick said, “We’ll hit the supermarket for the key lime pie.”

The twins clapped their hands, and ran over to their father.   “Thanks, Dad,” JJ said.

Rick said, “However, I get half of the pie.”

JJ said, “That’s okay, as long as we get the other half.”

I spoke up, at this point, “What about the rest of us?”

Ashley said, “I can help make a cheesecake, Aunt Sharon.   I’m taking home economics at school, and we learned how to make cheesecake this week.”

Aunt Sharon said, “I would love the extra help in the kitchen.   If we’re doing cheesecake, we had better get started.”   She smiled at Ashley.   “Thank you for offering to help.”  

Ashley said, “You’re welcome.   May Caroline and Marie help, too?   I know Caroline and Marie are a good cooks.   They are much better than I am.”  

Aunt Sharon said, “Certainly.   Come with me, ladies.   I think we can whip up some chili mac, macaroni and cheese, and a cheesecake.”

The three girls left the family room, with Aunt Sharon, chatting excitedly among themselves.     

Uncle Stan looked around the room, and said, “I think we need to have something for the guys to do.”

JJ said, “We could play video games.   I know I can beat Purev and David, but Kyle hasn’t played me yet.”

Kyle grinned at his little brother.   “Okay, JJ, let’s see what you’re made of.”

Uncle Stan said, “You know how to operate the game system, so I’ll leave you boys to it.”

Jeff said, “We’ll set up a watch around the property.   I’m still not sure about your family, Rick.”

Rick nodded his head in agreement.   “It’s always best to be prepared.”

Jeff and Cole left the room.   We heard the door close, as they exited the house.   Uncle Stan said, “I’m glad you still have your security detail.   There are too many crazy people out there, who hate gays; especially now that there is so much in the press about gay rights.”

“I know,” I said.   “It seems the closer we are to getting equal rights, the more strident the opposition has become.”

Uncle Stan said, “Yes, because they can sense that they are losing the battle, and they are becoming desperate.”

Rick said, “I just hope that they remain civil.   Too many times, the anti-gay crowd has tried to enforce their beliefs with violence.”

Todd said, “We saw anti-gay sentiment at work in the contract I had in Austin.   It was outright discrimination.   It was very fortunate that I had added an escape clause to the contract, just in case there was a hostile work environment at the work site.”

“I’ve seen it a lot of that in the computer industry,” Uncle Stan said.   He was a former executive at a data services company.   His currently works as a consultant to computer industry.  “Usually, the contracts we use include language prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation; however, as of late, there have been a couple of companies that have objected to that clause.”

“Are they big companies?” Todd asked.

“No, they’re mainly small businesses, where the owners claim that hiring gays goes against their religious beliefs,” Uncle Stan said.

Todd said, “Well, they will miss out on many talented people in the industry.   I can’t believe there are people who still think that being prejudiced is a winning business strategy.   As you know, there is a network of professionals that all of us depend on for information.   I’ve put the word out about that Austin company, as a warning to others who may wish to contract with them.”

Rick said, “I’m glad you’re not letting them get away with being anti-gay.   Both individuals and companies need to know there are consequences for promoting discrimination, in any form.”

I looked at Rick, and I said, “We need to go out to the store for the key lime pie.”

Rick stood up, and pulled me to my feet.   “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”

I said, “We’ll probably have to drive back to Smithfield to find it, though.”

“I’m sure you’re right about that,” Rick said.   We climbed into the Land Rover.   Rick stopped, when Jeff flagged us down.   He rolled down the window.

“Guys, you’re not going anywhere, alone,” Jeff said, sternly.

Rick said, “I’m sorry.   We should have checked in with you.”

“Damn right!   Don’t do that again.   You pay us good money to protect you and your family.   Don’t nullify that protection, by taking unnecessary risks,” Jeff said.   Cole joined him.   “Cole, I want you to stay here, and watch the house, while I go with the guys to the store.”

Cole said, “Sure, boss.”

Jeff climbed into the back of the Land Rover, and shut the door.   “Now you can go.”

I glanced over my shoulder at Jeff.   “Thanks, Jeff.”

Rick drove us into Smithfield, and pulled into the parking lot of the Food Lion market.   We went inside, and found they didn’t have a key lime pie.   However, they had a packaged one we could take back to the house.   The directions didn’t seem that difficult, so I put it in our basket.

We were in the checkout line, when Rick stiffened.   I took one look at Rick’s face, and knew something was very wrong.   I touched his arm, and said, “Babe, what’s wrong?”

He nodded toward the front door of the store.   I looked, and saw his ex-girlfriend, Angie, pushing a double stroller with a baby, and a toddler buckled inside it.   There were two older children following in her wake.   Following behind them, was a middle-aged, overweight, balding man.   He had small, piggish blue eyes, a big red nose that dominated his face.  His other prominent feature were the folds of fat under his chin.   He kept yelling at the older children to stay close to their mother, and not to wander off.

I said, “Let’s go.   I don’t want to talk to her, or her porcine husband.”

Rick barked out a short laugh, covering his mouth to stop from making a scene.   We paid for our groceries, and quickly exited the store.   Jeff followed us out to the Land Rover.

Once inside, he asked, “What was that all about?”

Rick glanced in the rear view mirror, and said, “That was my ex-girlfriend with her family.”

Jeff asked, “Do you mean the one who helped destroy your apartment, along with your dad, uncle and cousin?”

“The very one,” I said.   I looked over at Rick, and said, “I wonder where she found that guy.”

Rick guffawed, “Maybe she decided she wanted someone who wasn’t good looking, because all of good looking guys are gay!”

Jeff cuffed Rick up the side of the head.   “Hey, I’m not exactly ugly, and I’m not gay.”

Rick laughed.   “Okay, not all the good looking guys are gay.”

“That’s better,” Jeff said, smiling.   “Okay, let’s go.”

We drove back to Uncle Stan’s and Aunt Sharon’s place.   We delivered our precious cargo to the kitchen.   We walked into the family room to find the guys still very much engaged with their competition.

Rick and I returned to our previous place on the couch.   I asked, “Guess who we saw at the store?”

Uncle Stan responded, “Who?”

Rick said, “Angie and her family.”

Uncle Stan said, “I’m not surprised.   She married Raymond Pritchard, after his wife died.   He had two children by his first wife, and two more by Angie.”

Rick exclaimed, “He’s old enough to be her father!”

“That’s true.   He’s a couple of years younger than I am,” Uncle Stan said.

“Well, she looked pretty good, for having had two babies,” I said.

Rick snorted, in derision.  “I don’t think so.   She looked like she had picked up quite of bit of weight around the hips and thighs.”

I laughed, and said, “You’re just used to being with me, and I don’t have wide hips, or fat thighs.”

Rick grinned.   “I guess you’re right about that.”   He leaned over, and kissed me.

I snuggled up close to him, and relaxed, while the boys played their video games.   I love being with my guy, especially when he’s happy, like he is now.

The twins loved the Aunt Sharon’s birthday dinner!   They kept talking about it most of the evening.  When we put the twins to bed for the night, JJ said, “It’s has been the best birthday ever, Daddy.”

“I’m glad,” I said.  

Josh said, “Uncle Stan said I could ride with him on his motorcycle, tomorrow.”

I said, “We’ll have to talk about that tomorrow, sweetheart.”

He yawned, and said, “I like Uncle Stan.   He’s really awesome.”

We said prayers with them, and kissed each of them good night.   Rick stood up, and pulled me to my feet.   “It’s time for us to go to bed.”

I willingly followed him.   We stripped, and climbed into bed.   Rick took me in his arms, and kissed me.   “I’m glad Uncle Stan and Aunt Sharon have a large home.   Everyone is able to have their own room, while we visit with them.”

“They are very nice people,” I said.

Rick said, “Everyone in your family is nice, especially you.”

I said, “I believe you are due a special gift.”

Rick said, “Yes, I am.”

I grinned broadly, as I began the seduction of my husband.   He proved to be a willing subject!   Later, basking in the afterglow of our lovemaking, I said, “I love you, Babe.”

Rick responded, “I love you, too.”

I placed my head on his chest, and soon drifted off to sleep, listening to the steady rhythm of his heart.

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

San Antonio River Walk -

Austin Bat Location -

The Alamo -

John Wayne film -

Town Danceboutique =

Music for this chapter:

Natasha Bedingfield – A Little Too Much

Pink – Just Give Me a Reason -

Pink – Try -

Chris Young – Who I Am

Christina Perri – A Thousand Years -