The last couple of months have been amazing. Once me and Brady sat down and talked we worked through all the shit of the past. We’re now closer now than ever. Our connection grows stronger everyday along with the love I feel for him. Katie and Novy have been wonderful about the relationship. I expected Katie to be a little standoffish as she had been very upset about their parents split and betrayed on behalf of her mother when Brady came out. But to my surprise she’s been supportive, even visited a few times so she can get to know me. That totally blew me away.
“Boys don’t damage the door with that bed frame,” I said shaking my head at AJ and Novy.
They both looked to what they were carrying as it tipped sideways.
“Sorry,” they both mumbled coming further into the house.
Justin had finally kicked his good for nothing ex-boyfriend out of his house and had moved back into it. That’s when I asked Brady to move in. Novy is taking Justin’s old bedroom and of course Brady into my room.
We’d been out to buy a new bed for Novy since he didn’t have one. Nothing fancy, just a simple but stylish repurposed wood frame. Of course, the store over charges for delivery and the wait is two to three weeks for it. But if you can take it with you, you can get it now no charge… well except to touch up the damages from these two knuckleheads.
I remember when stores used to bend over backwards for your business, deliver it, and set it up. Not anymore. No, they favour the illusion to the customer that they’re saving money. Whack up the price then discount the product, end of service.
The bed head banged against the wall trying to get it into the Novy’s room. Brady shot daggers at the boys biting his tongue while holding the other end of the mattress to me. The boys were holding up the job with their less than enthusiastic gusto for the task. He rolled his eyes, shaking his head mouthing, ‘Sorry.’ He is so damn gorgeous all I could do is give him a half-cocked smile and shrug a shoulder.
Finally, we got into the room and set up the bed; only took us an hour and a few swear words, while the boys stood by watching intermittently while playing on their phones. It probably was more helpful they stayed out of the way.
“Uncle E, I’ve gotta pick up Ember from daycare. It’s cool if I leave right?” AJ asked hesitantly.
“Sure mate, off you go.” I waved my hand dismissively.
“I’m coming with,” Novy called out chasing after his best friend.
“Novy,” Brady called out right before we heard the front door close with a bang. He gave me a shrug and his mouth cocked in cheeky smile. “Hmm, house to ourselves. Nothing to do. What ever will we do with our time?”
“Hard and fast over the back of the couch - naked?”
“Yes!” Brady hissed.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen him move so fast while taking off his clothes down the hallway.
“I’ve got the lube,” he called over his shoulder, hopping while attempting to rid himself of his pants. Over his shoes, mind you.
Yep, this living together thing is going to work out perfectly.
“For christ’s sake; why am I so nervous?” asking aloud while pulling up in front of the Cameron’s work. My eyes glued to the outside of the building that housed the biggest of the fire houses in our town. I guess we considered it the main one. It had been the first one in town and the others were added when the population of town outgrew the support they could provide.
Opening the console between the seats I felt around for the ring to show Cam. I don’t know why but I felt like I needed his okay for me to ask Brady to marry me. I know traditionally I should talk to his father, but with the way our parents have been acting since they found out about me and Brady, I honestly couldn’t care less whether they approve or not.
A fire truck was parked just outside of the large doors, five or six firemen were washing, polishing, or doing some kind of maintenance with it. I thought I was fit but all these guys are different versions of the same. All overly fit guys my age or younger, they may be different ethnicities but still...One thing I notice is they all appear happy, not a miserable face in the bunch.
One of the guys stopped working to greet me. I think we went to school together, although he was a few years younger. He was a little shorter than me with dark brown hair, bright blue eyes, and thickly built. Stocky I’d call it. But he wore that perma grin that they all seem to be sporting.
“Hi, Ember, right?”
“Uh, yeah?” I answered unnerved a little that he knew who I was. Still I’m a gentleman, kind of, I held my hand out to shake his. He reached out reciprocating.
“Nick, what can we help you with?” he asked with a friendly interested expression.
I watched as the other guys stopped working on the truck to hear what I had to say making me even more nervous than I already was.
“I…um…I’m looking for Cameron Douglass.”
“Oh,” he said with a smirk leaning backward while ringing a chamois in his hands. “He’s over the back torturing one of the new guys.”
“Sounds about right.” I chuckled nervously. Wrong thing to say apparently.
The guy got all serious. “LF. Douglass, is a good guy. We’re lucky to work with him.”
I looked around the truck the guys all seemed to be standing those few steps closer now; even if they were on top of the large fire truck.
“I know,” I said quickly. Jesus, I’m going to be in the news for getting beaten up at a fire station by firefighters. I wouldn’t even know where to start to explain that. “I’m his brother’s partner.” I finished hastily.
That was where I probably should have started, they all lost interest and went back to work. Thank god. I’ve never felt so overly intimidated in my life. Geez, I’d hate to turn on one of them they’re like rabid dogs. Harsh assessment I know and they’re only looking out for their own, but still a fair assessment none the less.
“Oh, cool.” Nick leaned back away from me again calling out. “Cam! Visitor.”
“No sweat, you can sit in the common room,” he said pointing to a room on the right just inside the big double doors, “he shouldn’t be too long.”
Nodding with a genuine smile on my face I made my way into the common room. It opened from the front with wide glass doors that appeared they maybe open a lot of the time. At the back was a full-size kitchen with a few appliances on the benches along with one wicked looking barista style coffee machine. That would definitely be Cam’s contribution. A huge television had been elevated on the wall so it could be seen from any position in the room. Quite a few different couches around facing it. The couches themselves looked like they’d been brought in second hand, maybe when one of the guys got a new couch they brought their old one in here. A large dining hall table sat across the front of the kitchen separating the couches and kitchen. The table so massive that it could easily hold at least fifteen to twenty people. The walls had safety posters and framed memories hung all around. Even though the walls were brick, the furniture didn’t match, and the room was kind of dingy, it somehow worked and had a warm comfortable homey feel to it.
“Ember, what brings you this fine afternoon?” Cam’s jaunty voice boomed through the room, slapping me on the shoulder.
I turned to face him trying to keep my amusement from showing. I reached out to shake his hand.
“Advice, I need some advice.”
“You want advice? From me?” he almost seemed confused.
“Yes, you’re Brady’s brother aren’t you?”
“Last I checked.” Cam frowned. “What’d you do?”
This time I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Nothing. Yet!”
Cam narrowed his eyes at me sitting down on the arm of an ugly red pleather couch folding his arms across his chest. He didn’t say anything which was a little unnerving considering I was already nervous and wasn’t sure how he would react to my news.
I nodded my head sagely when he motioned with his hand for me to continue.
I took a deep breath and blew it out harshly before speaking hastily the words almost running together.
“I want to propose to Brady.” There I said it.
Now Cam and I don’t have much history with each other. I’d never interacted with him at all until Brady and I got together. Since then he’s always been wary of me and hyper protective of Brady. I don’t hold that against him; it’s his brother. Cam is usually full of snark, humour, or a combination of both. Like Brady, the man didn’t let things weigh him down and usually pretty easy going. But in this instance, he’s unusually quiet for longer than deemed necessary, my body was about to hit fight or flight mode when Cam unfolded his arms then rubbed his chin pensively.
“Okay, is that all?” he asked standing up.
“No,” I said shaking my head. I found myself starting to pace. “No. That’s not all Cam. How the fuck do I do this. Am I supposed to talk to your dad first? That seems primitive and almost downright insulting to both of us. I suppose I could speak with Novy and Katie and see if they’re happy with it…”
I must have ranted and paced for close to five minutes before I looked up to find Cameron more than amused with that smirk plastered across his face.
“What?” I threw my hands up in the air, stopping to glare at him and his ridiculous face.
“Nothing.” He shrugged. “I’ve just never seen you so squirly before; it’s kind of awesome. Fun to watch.”
“Zip it arse hat. Are you going to help me or not?”
Cam laughed raucously. “Yes, I’ll help you. Did you already have something in mind?”
Again, I threw my hands in the air and started mumbling. “No! Dammit. I don’t want to mess this up, Cam. I just can’t. I want it to be perfect for him.”
I could feel my eyes pleading for is understanding; hoping he wasn’t going to make this hard for me. Going to Brady’s brother for help was my last hope. No matter how much I went over the proposal in my head it all seemed right but never the right way. I’m at a loss as what to do. Brady is a simple guy, he doesn’t ever want. I’m not saying he lacks ambition or doesn’t have goals, but, he’s easy with everyone. He goes with the flow, not much gets on his goat. As much as I love that side of the man, it makes it almost impossible to try and figure out how to make something like this really special. Something he’ll look back on always as one of his greatest moments.
“You know you’re over thinking this, right? Brady is uncomplicated. He loves you, anything after that isn’t necessary. He won’t want any outlandish grand gestures, or public proposals.” Cam pointed at me. “Watch mum once you are engaged, she’ll want to put it in the paper as an announcement.” He added as a side thought shaking his head. “I suggest you keep it simple. Go out to dinner, or better yet make something special at home. All he wants is to know that you two are forever.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. This advice – damn good advice – coming from Cam. Even his tone was soft and almost wistful. I felt my head tilt as I observed the man clouded by… I don’t know… a longing.
“You okay?” I asked a little concerned, over his shoulder I watched as the fire truck from outside backed into the garage of the firehouse.
“Me? Yep, I’m good.”
Cam stood up straight clearing his throat.
“We’re back online Cam,” Nick said quickly popping his head in the room and just as quickly disappearing.
“Don’t you ever want to get married, maybe kids or something Cam?” Why I was getting into this with him I have no idea, but the way he’d spoken made me think it’s something he wanted. Something maybe he’d been wanting but never thought he’d get it for some reason.
He chuckled, “Kids? Definitely not. But marriage? Maybe. With the right guy, I can see it. Did you ever want kids?”
I don’t know why or what made me answer honestly but I did anyhow and was surprised by the reaction from Cam.
“I’ve always wanted kids,” I said shrugging my shoulder, “but, Brady’s raised his kids. I can’t see him wanting to go through all of that again. I let that dream die a long time ago, so I never brought it up with him.”
Cam actually giggled, like a fucking schoolgirl, ending with an exacerbated sigh.
“You two really need to communicate better. Don’t give up on that dream, Ember. Talk to my brother, he loves kids and always wanted lots of them. But Linda never wanted anymore, that and the whole my brother being gay and the relationship falling apart kind of put a stop to it anyway.”
“That was then, we’re nearly forty Cam, be realistic.”
“I am, god, Ember. Since we were teenagers, all my brother ever wanted was the whole ridiculous happy life with you. I’m talking marriage, 2.5 kids, dog, and the picket fence. Talk to him Ember, I promise you won’t regret it.”
Could that really be a possibility, I know we’re older but we aren’t down and out. I think we’d make great parents together. I’d love to have kids; but do I want to get my hopes up just to have them dashed? Not having kids was something that took me a long time to come to terms with. I’ll think about it when I have more time. Kids or no kids, I’m marrying Brady.
“I’ll think about it.”
“So, are you going to do a dinner, or do you want to keep spit balling?”
“Brady likes his wine. What if I book us a cabin for the weekend in the Hunter Valley? We could do a wine tour, go out to dinner, maybe a hike or something?” I pondered out loud to myself more than anything.
Cam smiled warmly, a look you don’t see often on his face. Mischief? Yes. Cheek? Yes. Warm affection, only when he’s in the proximity of Justin. Ha! I wonder if he knows that he does that.
An alarm system rang throughout the building, movement came from every direction and Cam started moving too.
“Sounds like you’re onto something. Sorry Ember, I gotta go. Let me know what you come up with?” He called over his shoulder as he exited the room in an almost jog.
“Hunter Valley,” I said out loud to myself in the empty room, “I like it.”
“Hey Boss, can you check over the GT. It’s finished. I rang the owner because of his rear tyres.” Troy pointed to the bald rubber. “Mr. Cotts’ said to switch the front to the rear ‘n put two new tyres on the front.”
“Huh, yeah okay. Make sure Basher knows,” I answered distractedly.
Poor kid I was only half listening when I walked into the workshop. My mind still on a weekend away with Brady, with the proposal hopefully ending in a ‘Yes.’ No, don’t be negative, it will end in a ‘Yes.’ My mind still warring with itself I went to head to the office to get started on my plan to propose. The more I thought about the Hunter Valley and wine tours the more convinced I am that is the way to go.
I turned around to face Troy.
“The GT, you were going to check it over?” Troy asked with a slight chuckle but lacked confidence at the same time. We really need to do better by helping him build his confidence.
“Let me ask you this? Are you confident that it’s fixed?”
“Have you double checked it yourself?”
“Did you need help with any of it, or were you unsure about anything you did?”
He shook his head side to side.
“Then why do you need me to check it over?”
The poor kid’s eyes grew big, he articulated slow and clearly as if I was five-years-old not understanding what he was saying.
“B..b.because, you are the boss, and the owner. It’s your reputation.”
Smart kid, but here’s where I help him.
“That maybe Troy, but I hired you because you aren’t an idiot. You’ve gotten top marks all through your apprenticeship. In the past twelve months I don’t recall ever having to fix anything you’ve already touched. You’re here because I trust you, you always give a hundred and ten percent and your work is always spot on. Plus, when you aren’t sure, or haven’t done a task before, or stumped in diagnosis you don’t guess, you ask for help. Now I’ll be in your office doing some paperwork.”
Troy’s hitched an eyebrow at me with a smirk on his face. I went back over what I said and realised, waving a hand at him correcting myself. “I’ll be in my office if you need me.”
“Sure thing, boss,” he said amused turning to the GT I assume to move it out of the workshop.
After about an hour of researching, phone calls, and reading comments by people who had taken the tours in the Hunter Valley I’d managed to have all the information I needed. I’d found the perfect wine tour for us, something we could enjoy it was just a matter of deciding…
My wonderful office manager, and only office worker appeared in my office.
“Everything okay, boss?”
“Yeah, kind of. I want your opinion on a couple of things.” I looked over her shoulder to see it was clear in reception. Shut the door, Mags.”
She reached over and closed the door gently.
“I’m planning on proposing to Brady–”
“You don’t say.” The sarcasm dripping off her tongue.
“– I’m taking him to the Hunter Valley and can’t decide on a few choices.”
Mags’ smile spread wide on her face as she took a seat in the chair in front of my desk.
“Okay,” I looked at the information I’d gathered. “Wine tour? Weekend or mid-week?”
“Mid-week, the weekends are too regimented and more people.”
I smiled, that was my thought too. “Private or group tour?”
“Hmm,” she hummed pensively, “are you planning to propose on the tour?”
I shook my head from side to side.
“Okay then, group. It will be fun and you could meet some nice people.”
“Food for thought. Okay, secluded cabin or motel?”
“Cabin,” she said looking at me like I was simple, “you’ll want to celebrate after he says yes.”
Yes, we will!
“Okay,” I pulled the ring out of my top drawer where I’d put it after coming back from Cam. Damn I forgot to show him. “What about this?”
Mags snatched it out of my hand giving a low whistle. “That’s nice Boss, not suitable for work but nice.”
“I’m going to have a couple of silicone bands we can wear at work. Thanks Mags, you don’t mind holding down the fort while we’re away do you?”
“Not at all. When do you think you are going to do it?”
“Very soon. We’ve wasted twenty-years, I don’t want to wait any longer.”
Mags stood up tapping the desk with her finger. “Just let me know when. We’ll all make sure your business is safe. I’ll keep this to myself you don’t have to worry about that.”
“I knew you would, Mags. Thank you.”
“Now I have to get back to work. My boss is an ass.” She left my office wearing a big ol’ smirk.
“You’re fired,” I called out to her retreating back.
“No, I’m not!” she shot back with a raucous laugh.
“No, you’re not,” I muttered under my breath.
I could hear Mags running interference for me as I got to work organising everything for the proposal. Luckily, I managed to get it all sorted this afternoon including organising dinner with Novy and Katie tomorrow night. Now I’m nervous and excited at the same time. I’ve no idea how if I can even keep my mouth shut that long.
Hi Everyone, I'm sorry this has been a long time coming. Life gets in the way sometimes and regretfully I've let it. Please accept my apologies and the epilogue won't be far away either.