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    Carlos Hazday
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CDMX - 14. CDMX • XIV

“After last weekend, I was scared to serve wine tonight.” Shrugging, the woman handed CJ and Owen stemless glasses. “Since I couldn’t sample our options, I had to rely on the hubby. He swore this one and the red we’ll have with dinner were good.”

Six days after the wine tasting at their apartment, CJ and Owen were at Elijah and Natalie Sinclair’s home for dinner.

“I’ll assume it’s from New Zealand.” Owen gently twirled the glass, brought it to his nose, and inhaled. “Passion fruit and something citrusy.” He tentatively sipped, closed his eyes, smacked his lips, and smiled. “Yeah… Passion fruit, lemon-lime, and a trace of earth, maybe chalk. You guys do make good Sauvignon Blancs.”

“Mohua 2019.” Elijah reached into the ice bucket, retrieved the bottle, and handed it to Owen. “A heck of a lot cheaper than the stuff you served would have been.”

“Our hosts mentioned your family owns a winery in New South Wales. I gather being an oenophile comes naturally to you.” Kent George, the portly British diplomat, and his wife, Dorothy, had already been at the Sinclairs’ when the Americans arrived. Elijah had introduced them as golfing partners of his and Nat. They were waiting for the last two guests to show up.

“We do and it does, Mr. George. Liston Vineyard and Winery’s in the Hunter Valley and was established in the eighteen hundreds by Scottish immigrants. My siblings and I grew up tasting wines. We were allowed a sip or two as soon as we were able to hold a glass. CJ and I are following family traditions with our daughter. Although so far all we do’s dip her pacifier or a finger in whatever we’re drinking so she can get used to the taste.”

Natalie had insisted they bring their daughter with them. She had hired a babysitter who agreed to watch over both toddlers. Soon after arriving, Liebe had been whisked away to the den. CJ had followed until certain his daughter was comfortable and closed the door to the room when she joined Nigel in pushing one of his plastic trucks around. He figured between the multitude of toys strewn around, the big television set, and the shelves packed with children’s books, the kids would be entertained until they fell asleep.

“Nat, you mentioned you couldn’t sample the wines yourself and had to rely on Jah.” Dorothy George looked concerned when she touched Natalie’s arm. “Is everything okay, dear? Are you ill?”

“Not exactly.” Natalie’s serious expression transformed into a sly smile when she looked at her husband. “We found out yesterday that Nigel’s going to be a big brother. I’m pregnant.”

Dorothy raised a hand to muffle her “Ooohhh…”

“Bloody fantastic. Cheers!” Owen leaned down to peck her cheek while reaching over to fist bump Elijah.

“Well done, my boy. Well done, indeed.” Kent vigorously pumped Elijah’s hand, sounding as if their host was to be extolled for his singular accomplishment.

CJ smiled, shook his head, but remained quiet apart from offering his own congratulatory words. Kent George was significantly older than them, and CJ guessed he still had an old-timer’s view pregnancy was proof of a man’s virility. He wondered what Natalie would think of her role being perceived as less significant.

“It’s open. Come on in,” Elijah shouted as he chased the bell’s chime. The door swung in a moment before he reached it.

“G’day, mate. Here ya go.” Calum Moger smiled, handed Elijah a six-pack of beer, and threw a thumb over his shoulder. “Found this bloke outside when the taxi dropped me off. He looked lost, and I’m thinking he belongs to you.”

Roaring laughter from Calum and Elijah was not echoed by the impeccably dressed blond standing behind the Australian. He did not seem amused by the joke made at his expense.

“Good evening, Elijah.” Encumbered with a small flower bouquet in one hand and a liquor bottle in the other, the tall, gangly guy was unable to shake his host’s proffered hand. “Thank you so much for having me over.”

Watching with the others from a few feet away, CJ thought if that was Calum’s blind date, it was already over. The man appeared too polished for the rugger’s quasi-bogan style. He shrugged realizing it was none of his business. He did not think it would, but maybe it could work out. After all, opposites did attract.

“Come in, come in both of you. Thank you, Jürgen.” Elijah relieved his guest of the bottle and shook his hand. “Let me introduce you to our other guests.” Before he could do so, Natalie interrupted him.

“Oh, they’re beautiful, Jürgen.” Natalie pecked his cheek while accepting the flowers. “I’m so glad you made it, Cal.” She turned her face for Calum to kiss. “I’ll be right back. Let me put these in water.”

“Cal, you already know CJ and Owen. Kent, Dorothy, this is my rugger mate Calum Moger. And the distinguished looking gentleman’s Natalie’s coworker, Jürgen Bosch.” Elijah pointed at each person as he named them. “I’ll put this bottle away and be right back with wine glasses for our new arrivals.”

What followed was an adult version of Twister. Hands and arms crisscrossed as everyone greeted the two men and exchanged full names. CJ held Jürgen’s hand a touch longer than the others, he was not about to pass up the opportunity to practice.

Wie lange arbeitest du für Bayer?”

Jürgen looked surprised and sounded pleased. “Toll! Du sprichst Deutsch. Wo hast du es gelernt? Hast du eine Zeit in Deutschland gelebt?”

CJ chuckled. “Du musst langsamer sprechen. Ich spreche nicht so häufig Deutsch. Ich arbeite für die amerikanische Botschaft. Ich habe für eine Zeit in Deutschland gelebt, als mein Stiefvater auf dem Luftwaffenstützpunkt Ramstein stationiert war. Dort habe ich die Sprache ein wenig gelernt. Später, als ich auf dem college war, belegte ich mehrere Kurse, um die Fremdsprachenanforderungen zu erfüllen.”

Realizing all other conversations had stopped, CJ frowned. “Uhmm, I think we better switch to English. Looks like nobody else understands what we’re saying.”

“I caught about every third word.” Dorothy sounded proud of her achievement.

“About time you realized you were being bloody rude, mate.” Calum bro-slapped CJ’s back. “I have enough trouble speaking and understanding Oztrayan.”

Owen winked at his husband. “I hope you weren’t trash-talking the rest of us.”

CJ winked back. “Nah… I asked how long he’s worked for Bayer, he was surprised I spoke German and asked where I learned and if I’d been to his country.”

“Have you?” Kent asked.

CJ nodded. “As a kid, while my step-father was with the Air Force stationed at Ramstein Air Base. But I took four years at Georgetown.”

“Georgetown University? The School of Foreign Service by any chance?” Kent George sounded more enthusiastic than he had before.

“Yes, sir. On both counts. I went to high school in Washington and stayed in town for college.”

“That is magnificent! The college and the school are both wonderful institutions. I wonder if you met an acquaintance of mine. He used to be with your State Department and now teaches at your Alma Mater.”

“What’s his name? Even if he wasn’t one of my professors, I’ve probably met—”

“Dinner’s ready.” Natalie’s announcement interrupted CJ. “Hope you guys like lamb.” While everyone moved into the dining room, she set a platter with two racks of chops, bones steepled, on the table.

“Nat and I will take the ends. Dorothy, George, would you take the seats to either side of me? CJ, Owen, you can do the same by my lovely wife.” Elijah flirting with his wife brought grins to his guests.” He nudged Calum. “Mate, you and Jürgen get to be in the middle.”

CJ noticed Calum raised an eyebrow but remained quiet. Had the older couple not been around, CJ would have made a raunchy comment.

“You’re spoiling, CJ, Nat.” Owen took a bowl from her and placed it on the spot she pointed at. “He loves lamb. It’s what we served at his twenty-first birthday dinner.”

“Did one of you cook?” Dorothy nodded when Elijah raised a wine bottle in her direction.

“No way. We invited a few friends to join us at a restaurant.” CJ reached for one of the bowls to either side of the meat platter. “This smells terrific, Nat.”

“That’s vegetable rice curry and the other one has vermicelli with mint pesto.” Jah took the bowl once CJ was done with it. “So, was it a big party for your twenty-first?”

“Umm, kinda.” CJ passed his plate in Elijah’s direction. “That’s enough, Jah.” Their host had been about to place a third chop on the dish. “We made a whole weekend out of it.”

“My husband insisted on twenty-one people for his twenty-first birthday at 21 in New York City.”

“Oi, that must have cost a pretty penny. Even I’ve heard of that place.” Calum bit into a slice of rare lamb and hummed. “Mate, these are delicious. Ya got good meat.”

Conversation flowed easily for a while until Owen was again prompted to describe CJ’s birthday weekend. Glossing over the more salacious moments, he recounted the events in great detail. Calum and Elijah laughed the loudest when CJ puking in the gutter was mentioned. The women chuckled, Kent smirked, but Jürgen did not appear amused.

“Pardon my indiscretion.” Dorothy dabbed the corners of her mouth with her napkin. “How old are you now, CJ?”

“I’ll turn twenty-four next month.”

“Oh, my, you’re so young. You’re just starting your life and career while Kent and I are reaching our golden years. I find it interesting your first overseas posting coincides with our final one.”

CJ was surprised. “Really? Mexico City’s it for you?”

Kent nodded while resting his cutlery atop his nearly empty plate. The initial amount of food on it had been the smallest serving at the table. “That was delicious, but I better stop now. My cardiologist would not be happy with me overeating.” He sipped from his wine glass and again nodded when Elijah offered him a refill. “I’m retiring in the next couple of years. But Dotsie and I have decided to remain in Mexico.”

“Really? We just met a few American retirees at an event this week. Mexico’s significantly less expensive than the U.S. Are you planning on living in Mexico City?” Owen reached for another piece of the naan by the curried rice.

“That’s what Kent wants.” Dorothy smiled at her husband across the table. “I’d much prefer moving to a beach town, but we’ve agreed to stay in the capital for at least a year. We’ll revisit the issue then.”

“Could you imagine me wearing shorts at a beach?” Kent patted his substantial stomach. “They might mistake me for a beached marine mammal.”

“Nonsense!” Owen sounded adamant. “One of the things we’re trying to teach our daughter’s to have a positive view of everyone’s body. We point out differences and explain each person’s unique.”

“I know Nat and Jah have done so, but have the rest of you met Liebe?” Calum swallowed the bite in his mouth. “Their kid’s a cutie and bloody sharp. She gives us instructions when she comes watch us play rugby.”

“You know she’s in the next room with Nigel, right?” Owen, sitting next to Calum, pointed at Dorothy. “She also slobbered on Dorothy when we arrived.”

“Mate, you should have said something. If she’s still awake when we’re done, I’ll go say hello to her.”

After his initial excitement discovering CJ spoke German, Jürgen had not contributed much to the conversation. He chose that moment to break his silence. “You take her to rugby matches? How old is she? Isn’t that a violent game for someone young?”

“We were told she’s eighteen months, and I have a different opinion than yours.” Kent’s piercing stare at Jürgen was not missed by CJ. “I believe competitive sports are a wonderful way for young people to learn about striving for excellence and how cooperation can help us achieve goals.”

The German businessman looked appalled. “But life shouldn’t be about competition and defeating someone else. If you want children to practice sports it should be about participation, not beating an opponent. That’s barbaric.”

“Bah! Next thing you’ll say’s they all deserve one of those thingies they hand out to everyone these days.” Kent’s stare intensified. “Competition’s part of life, young man. Sports, business, and politics are all competitive endeavors. There will always be winners and losers.”

“Hear, hear! I believe those participation certificates, medals, and trophies promote mediocrity. We should teach our children to strive for success in all matters.”

“CJ! Off the soapbox, now!” Owen’s comment brought smiles to most at the table. “Next thing we know, you’ll start talking politics.”

Jürgen shook his head. “Oh, please don’t. If there’s anything I despise more than discussing sports, it’s politics.”

“Seem’s like we’re at odds again, Mr. Bosch.” Kent smiled at the befuddled-looking man. “Politics, whether you like them or not, are an integral part of all our lives. Mr. Abelló, when first introduced, I didn’t recall what school you had attended even though it was mentioned in that article a couple of months ago about you and Mr. Liston

CJ was flabbergasted. “You read that?”

“Of course I did. The newspaper’s social pages are a wonderful way for us to tell who’s in, who’s out, who’s coming, who’s going

Owen’s chuckle interrupted him. “I’m sorry, Mr. George. It’s just we heard those words, verbatim, from someone else.”

Kent shrugged. “Then they were absolutely correct in their appraisal. What I was going to ask was the article mentioned the reporter met young Mr. Abelló during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign while he was a spokesperson for Secretary Clinton. It sounded as if the correspondent expected you to run for office yourself at some point. Is that something you’d be interested in? Or do you plan a career in foreign service?”

Owen rolled his eyes, Jürgen leaned slightly away, and CJ sipped wine to buy himself a moment before replying. “Honestly? I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up.” The grins were universal. “Not wanting to work for our previous Secretary of State, I almost declined the position at the State Department. Ozzie convinced me to wait until the November election to make a final decision. With Biden winning, I figured someone with a less self-serving approach would be appointed as my boss. I decided to stick around.”

While most everyone paid close attention, Kent appeared to be the most interested one. He nodded in a knowing way. Jürgen sat rigidly, barely staring away from his plate.

“We figure we’ll be in Mexico for two or three years. At that point, we’ll reevaluate the situation. My husband has three degrees, and I’m jealous. Going back to school for an additional one’s a possibility.”

Kent appeared amused. “You adroitly avoided the matter of running for office, Mr. Abelló. That’s the way a good politician would evade answering something they’re not ready to discuss.”

“Mate, aren’t you scared those pictures Ozzie mentioned of you drunk, dancing naked atop that bar in New York would surface?” Calum had cleaned his plate, going as far as sopping up drippings with a piece of naan. He pointed at the remaining lamb chops, raised his index finger, and handed the plate to Elijah. “If your customers tasted this, your sales would explode.”

“I may have been scantily clad, but I was not naked.” The grin ruined CJ’s attempt to sound indignant. “Anyway, after Agent Orange’s antics, I think the American political climate’s been changed forever. If I run for office one day, I’ll blame those pictures on alcohol and youth. Or I’ll just refer to them as fake news.”

Although Jürgen may have found discussing politics unpalatable, Kent appeared to come alive during the conversation. “I’ll assume neither one of you voted to reelect your previous president.”

“I’m not an American citizen yet, Mr. George. I was unable to vote in the last election.” Owen shrugged. “Hopefully next one.”

“And you?” Kent asked CJ.

“Let’s just say I agreed with a select few of his policies, but I would have handled matters very differently.”

“Excellent response, Mr. Abelló.” Kent George beamed. “Once again, you sidestepped my question and provided a fairly neutral comment.”

The conversation rambled on through dessert, with CJ and Kent monopolizing most of it, until Elijah pushed away from the table. “Anyone interested in an after-dinner liqueur? We could sit outside since it’s a nice evening.”

“What you got, mate?” Calum tossed his napkin on the table and stood. “That was bloody fantastic, Nat. You guys outdid yourselves.”

“It was all her this time. She did all the cooking.” Elijah stepped next to his wife, bent down, and kissed her cheek. “Leave everything, babe. I’ll clean up before we go to bed. So, Cal, I’d suggest something Mexican right now. We’ve got Kahlua, Patrón Citrónge Orange, and Kalani.”

“I’m not familiar with the last one, what is it?” Owen was always adventurous when it came to tasting spirits.

“It’s a local favorite of mine, Owen.” Although standing at that point, Dorothy was much shorter than the Aussie, and had to tilt her head back to look at him. “Coconut flavor, but nothing like a coconut rum. It’s clean and clear, not cloying. I’ll have a little, Jah.”

Reconvening on the patio, Kent gestured for CJ to sit with him and Dorothy. “Do you play golf, Mr. Abelló?”

After suggesting the man call him by his first name, CJ had dropped the matter and accepted the British diplomat preferred a more formal approach. “Not really, sir. I’ve trampled over a few courses, but never applied myself. My parents and my husband do play, and I sometimes tag along. But my strength’s at the nineteenth hole.”

While husband and wife grinned, CJ caught fragments of the other conversations. Elijah, Calum, and Owen stood nearby discussing their rugby team; Nat and Jürgen talked about work.

“If you’ll allow an old man to give you a little advice, take up the game.” Kent George reached into his coat’s inner pocket and extracted a business card. “Whether you run for office or remain a diplomat, golf’s slower pace allows for conversation. Usually without eavesdroppers, making it suitable for private discussions.” He handed the card to CJ. “I’d enjoy chatting with you again. Give me a call. If you want to trample over a course, you and Mr. Liston could join us at our club sometime.”

 

Liebe woke up while being carried out to the car and again once home while they changed her diaper. “I had fun tonight.” CJ turned off the light but left the door ajar in case their daughter woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to join her fathers in bed.

“Food was excellent, the wine was pretty bloody good, and the company and conversation were brilliant.” Owen had already shed his sport coat and sat on the bed to remove his shoes. “Except for Jürgen who looked uptight and out of place.”

“Give him a break, Oz. He’s a nice guy. Maybe he was constipated.”

“Wanker! I noticed when he figured out you weren’t his intended date, and Calum was, he checked out for most of the evening.”

CJ grinned. “You saw that too, eh?”

“The moment he realized we were married, his face fell. I told Nat it was a nice try, but he and Calum are polar opposites.”

“I really liked Kent and Dorothy. I think we should take them up on their offer.”

“You wanna play golf?” Owen sounded surprised.

“What the hell, may as well. His arguments were convincing. I’ll look into taking a couple of lessons before we accept his invitation.”

“Mate, he took a shining to you. He even called us by our first name when we said goodbye.”

“It as your sparkling personality that won him over.” CJ leaned in and kissed his husband. “Night, Oz. Love ya.”

“Love you more.”

A heartfelt shout-out to @Aditus for graciously translating dialogue into German.

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.

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I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  

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