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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

CDMX - 15. CDMX • XV

“What the hell are you doing, boy?” Brett was sufficiently loud to startle CJ.

Chuckling, Liebe tumbled off her father’s back when his hand slipped and he collapsed on the rug. CJ was glad the balcony doors were closed so neighbors could not hear.

“Pushups! I help Ceej.” Instead of being upset, the girl acted as if falling was part of their routine. She rushed to scramble atop her father again.

“Morning, Dads. If you look outside, you may notice the deluge. No running this morning.” Brett and César both glanced in the balcony’s direction. Although the sun had yet to rise, sheets of rain sparkled in the street lights’ reflection.

“Did I hear the coffeemaker grinding beans?” César nodded towards the kitchen.

Brett Davenport and Cesar Abelló, CJ’s fathers, had arrived in Mexico City the previous afternoon. Owen telecommuted on Thursdays, so he was home when his in-laws showed up at the apartment. Infanta had still been there. Since she had been given Friday off, and knowing the visitors would be gone when she returned on Monday, the nanny had insisted on cooking for Liebe’s grandfathers. The fresh guacamole, arroz rojo, and enchiladas Potosinas she left behind seemed to magically disappear after CJ got home and they sat to eat.

“It should be done by now.” CJ rolled on his side once again spilling Liebe to the floor. “That’s it for today, Munchkin. Go show Grandad and Grandpapa where the mugs are.”

The girl ran after her grandfathers, scurried around them, and slammed into the swing door. Giggling, she bounced off it. “You’re gonna hurt yourself, Liebe.” Brett scooped her into his arms and carried her towards the coffee pot. “Where are the mugs?”

She pointed at the appropriate cabinet.

 

“Rain’s supposed to end soon. If it doesn’t, you guys can take Liebe to one of the museums instead of walking around the botanical gardens.” Visible from their apartment, Bosque de Chapultepec was home to several such institutions,

“More than one option?” César placed a full mug on the counter. “There’s your coffee.”

“Thanks. Yeah. Try the Museo de Arte Moderno. I think you’ll like their collection. It has some interesting twentieth-century works, including Rivera and Kahlo.” The muralist, Diego Rivera, and his wife, Frieda Kahlo, were world-renowned Mexican artists.

“I still can’t believe your boss scheduled a performance review for this morning.” Brett had fumed the previous evening when Stephen Northman’s antipathy towards CJ was discussed.

“What can I say? He’s a butthole.”

“Ceej! Grown-up word.” Liebe shook a finger at her father.

“Sorry, Munchkin.” CJ opened the refrigerator and retrieved a bottle of guava juice, knowing his daughter would ask for it with whatever she wanted to eat. “What do you want for breakfast?”

“CAKE!”

César looked dubious. “You feed her cake for breakfast?”

“Not the type you’re thinking of.” Owen stood at the open door scratching his chest. “Good morning.”

“Osh! You naked.” Liebe pointed at her other father’s bare torso.

“He’s not naked. He’s wearing boxers.” CJ grinned at his daughter. “Your grandfathers are family, so he’s allowed to walk around in his underwear.”

The girl’s affinity for nudity had led to a recurring struggle settled by allowing her to strip down to her diaper when only family was around.

“What flavor cake you want?” CJ retrieved an egg and a milk container from the refrigerator.

“Elvis!”

César chuckled. “Another peanut butter and banana concoction?”

“She’s her father’s daughter.” Owen poured himself a cup of coffee. “But she likes other versions too.” He opened a cabinet and pulled items out. “The blueberry and flax seed’s a favorite. The vegemite one not so much.”

“That’s ’cause that stuff’s vile!” CJ shuddered. “The one time I tasted it on toast, during our first trip to Australia, I spit it out.”

“It’s an acquired taste.” Owen grinned. “We’ll get her to at least tolerate it. It’s an Aussie thing. You wouldn’t understand.”

Brett’s scrunched face made his confusion evident. “How the hell do you have time to bake a cake for breakfast every morning?”

“It’s not your typical cake, Cap.” Owen leaned closer to the marine and kissed his daughter. “G’day, baby. I hadn’t smooched you yet.”

“Watch, dads. I think you’ll like this.” CJ took a banana from the countertop fruit basket and cut it in half. “It’s not an exact recipe, and you can enlarge it or shrink it depending on how many servings you want.”

With Owen handing ingredients over as needed, CJ set to work. “Mash half a banana with two tablespoons peanut butter.” He mixed the ingredients in an oversized ceramic mug, adding the previously beaten egg. “The original version calls for maple syrup, but we use agave. Three tablespoons.”

While describing the process, CJ added half a tablespoon of butter, a quarter cup milk and rolled oats each, and a pinch of salt. He thoroughly mixed everything and covered the container with a paper towel. “Three or so minutes in the microwave, depending on how wet or dry you like it.”

“So you can just throw in whatever you have laying around?”

“Yep. Mango, ginger, coconut’s a recurring concoction around here. Apples, raisins, and cinnamon’s also pretty good.” Using a kitchen towel, CJ removed the mug from the oven. “Let it cool, and you can flip it on a plate or just dig in.”

Liebe, already strapped in her high chair, banged her spoon on the tray. “I want juice.”

CJ kissed his daughter’s forehead. “Oz and the grandads will take care of you. I need to shower and get dressed. He looked at Owen and winked. “I’m gonna go in early in case the idiot springs any surprises. Mix me a protein shake for breakfast?”

Owen nodded and reached for the blender.

“Meet you guys here around noon.” CJ was not looking forward to going into the office. “If I’m not back by then, it’ll mean I beat the crap out of him, and I’m in jail.”

Originally scheduled to be out of the office the entire day, Northman’s insistence on doing his performance review that morning forced CJ to change his plans. But there was no way he would stay at the embassy beyond lunchtime.

 

“What are you doing here?” Shock would have been an appropriate description for Ambassador Cox’s expression when she stopped next to CJ’s desk. The blurted question was in sharp contrast to her usual affable greetings.

“Good morning, Ambassador. Mr. Northman scheduled my three-month performance review for this morning.”

She shook her head and handed him a square-ish white envelope. “That’s a card I planned to drop on your desk. It’s for you, Owen, and your fathers. Grab your coat and your briefcase. Let’s go find Stephen.”

They intercepted the man as he was about to unlock his office. CJ was unsure if it was mere clumsiness, or the surprise of seeing him with the ambassador before the embassy was open for business, but Northman dropped his keys.

“Oh, good morning, Madame Ambassador, Mr. Abelló.” He managed to open the door and turn on the lights. “You’re both here awfully early. What can I do for you?”

“Let’s talk inside, Stephen. No need for anyone else already here to listen in.” The ambassador’s usual friendly demeanor was missing; the stern expression was a new one for CJ. She strolled past Northman and took one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Close the door and take a seat.”

CJ was uncertain what was about to happen, but he greeted Northman’s nervousness with glee. Anything that made the man squirm was satisfying. Owen would call him a dick for feeling the way he did.

“Is something wrong, Ambassador?”

“There is, Stephen. I’m not sure if you realize the importance of CJ’s efforts. To me personally, to the embassy, and to the United States as a whole. After I mentioned his project in a footnote to a report, Washington instructed me to encourage similar ones in the future. Creating a handful of technology centers might not be an earth-shattering event, but the associated publicity’s very welcome.”

She leaned forward and stared at the man with renewed intensity. “After all the recent bad press due to our trade and immigration policies, the fact American citizens are being celebrated instead of being lambasted’s a breath of fresh air. It might not make tomorrow’s front page, but having the Barrosas involved guarantees coverage.”

Margaret Cox relaxed into her chair again and crossed her arms. “Why did you schedule CJ’s evaluation for this morning?” The challenge in her tone was hard to miss.

Northman squirmed. His reply was rushed and not in his usual calculated language. “It’s late already. He’s been at the embassy for over three months now. I felt it appropriate to do it on a Friday so he could think about it over the weekend. That way he would have time to reconsider his behavior.”

The attempt to justify his actions did not move the ambassador. “I’m not sure what behavior you’re referring to Stephen. Everything I’ve heard about CJ has been complimentary. From being a dedicated employee, to assisting coworkers, and obviously his community involvement.”

Although she may have not yet realized the antipathy Northman held against the younger man, she was not ready to allow CJ’s day to begin under a cloud. “I’m overruling you, Stephen. I’m sending CJ home to spend the rest of the day with his fathers. After all, they’re an integral part of his initiative.”

Margaret Cox looked regal when she stood. “Go home, CJ. My apologies to you and your parents for this unfortunate misunderstanding. I look forward to meeting them this afternoon.” Her smile faded when she returned her attention to Northman. “On Monday, after you’ve had time to reconsider your motives, you may schedule the review for a mutually convenient time.”

 

“Wait, wait, wait. She told him to use the weekend to reconsider his motives? What did she mean by that?” Brett sat on CJ and Owen’s bed, bouncing Liebe on a knee.

Following the ambassador’s dismissal, CJ had texted Owen letting him know he was on his way home and to wait for him. The overnight and morning rain engendered by a late-season tropical storm off Veracruz had dissipated. The sky remained cloudy, but the chance of precipitation for the remainder of the weekend was negligible. CJ was changing out of his suit.

“No idea. Except she emphasized the word when she used it. I think she was toying with him since he had said that’s what I needed to do after my review.”

Arms crossed against his chest, César leaned against the door jamb. “Maybe she finally realized your boss isn’t as enthusiastic as she is about your extra-curricular activities?”

“I’ve told CJ he should let her know about Northman disliking him, but my pig-headed husband refuses.” Owen had offered the advice more than once and become exasperated when it was always declined.

CJ reached into a dresser drawer and retrieved a Washington Wizards polo shirt he slipped on. Both his teams, the Wizards and the Heat had not advanced far into the playoffs the previous summer, but he hoped they’d do better in the incipient National Basketball Association season. He missed being able to watch basketball games regularly. “I can deal with him on my own. I don’t need to run to mommy whenever I have an issue.”

“What was the name of that army guy I had to slap down when you were in high school?” Brett had insisted on meeting with one of CJ’s instructors when the man exhibited homophobic behavior. The principal, a family friend, had facilitated the parent-teacher conference. Afterward, she had demanded CJ approach her if he ever found himself in a similar circumstance.

Surprised his father would recall the incident, CJ smirked. “I can’t believe you remember that crap. Sergeant Burke. He was a douche.”

“Sounds like you have another one hounding you.” César took a couple of steps and placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “You’re doing it again, CJ. You’re allowing your pride to interfere. We know you can fight and win most battles on your own, but why allow yourself to become miserable? If he keeps it up, go talk to the ambassador.” The grin was pure evil. “Or do you want one of us to mention it when we meet her this afternoon?”

“You do, and I’ll have to hurt you. Fine! If things don’t improve, I’ll ask for help.” After shimmying into a pair of tight, skinny jeans and tying his sneakers’ laces, CJ put his arms out to pick up Liebe. “Come on, Munchkin. Let’s get out of here. The park’s waiting for us.”

 

The outing was fun, the street-food lunch was good, and Liebe’s nap allowed the adults to relax before getting ready for the afternoon’s ceremony. The four suited men stepped off the car, with César carrying his granddaughter, in front of the school. Felicia Barrosa had been outside waiting for them.

“César! Brett! It’s wonderful to see you again.” She air-kissed the men twice. Felicia had met them once before, in 2016, when they had accompanied CJ to a campaign event. “We have plans for you, cutie.” She ran a hand down Liebe’s back when the girl buried her head in her grandfather’s shoulder. “Let me tell you guys how we’re doing this.”

Felicia was enamored with the project as soon as she heard about it and insisted on being part of the opening ceremony. Her offer of assistance turned into organizing the event. CJ and Owen had gladly relinquished any responsibility they might have had.

During brief planning updates, she confided to having secured a special guest. She had also made it clear although other press outlets would be invited to cover the opening, she expected exclusive interviews. Her husband’s conglomerate, Comunicaciones Barrosa, S.A. was underwriting the afternoon and hosting the reception in their building’s lobby.

“We’re waiting for our guest of honor,” Felicia explained once greetings and further introductions were done. “Which one of you will speak on behalf of the foundation?”

Brett raised a hand.

“Perfect.” Felicia slipped an arm through Brett’s. “Once we’re inside, I’ll do a brief welcome on COBASA’s behalf and mention a few names. I’ll introduce Gloria. Secretary Lujambo will speak for a couple of minutes and then introduce the guy from Amazon.” She meant Luca Biaggi. “He gets to explain his company’s involvement and future plans before introducing CJ and Owen.”

CJ looked at Owen and rolled his eyes. By now they were used to the socialite’s ways. CJ was surprised she didn’t have a stopwatch hanging around her neck to time everyone.

“The two of you can tell us how the idea came about and introduce Brett for his comments. No time limit on any of you, but try to keep it short. I’d like everything to take no longer than half an hour.”

Brett was not keen on long speeches and his smile confirmed it.

“When you’re done, call on me. I’ll bring in our guest of honor and she’ll

She was interrupted by the roar of police motorcycles preceding the arrival of a stretch limousine followed by several other vehicles.

“Oh, good, she’s here. Come, let me introduce you to Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, wife to our country’s president.”

Mexico’s first lady, flanked by security guards in dark suits, stepped out of the car.

The opening went on without a hitch in the schedule. Felicia kept moving things along if anyone dawdled. She chased Miguel Fernandez, the school’s principal, off the stage when he droned on for longer than the five minutes he had been granted.

In keeping with the technological theme, the ribbon-cutting was digital. With CJ holding Liebe in his arms, and Lupe standing next to him, a smiling first lady put her hand over the girls’ and pressed a red button. The large screen behind them showed a blue, CGI ribbon splitting down the middle.

The event’s highlight for CJ and Owen was Lupe Romero, the girl who had sparked the project, handing them each a variegated red and white dahliaMexico’s national flower.

Leaving the ceremony, César offered Infanta his arm and spoke to her in Spanish. “CJ and Ozzie have repeatedly told us how happy they are with you. Thank you for taking such good care of my granddaughter.”

“It’s nothing, Señor César. She’s a little treasure.”

César chuckled. “Except for when she throws a tantrum. How are you getting to the reception?”

“Oh, I’m not going, Señor César. I wasn’t invited.” She ran a hand over the two braids dangling down her back and touched her dress. “And I’m not dressed appropriately for such a fancy event.”

“Nonsense!” Although modest, her attire was clean and freshly pressed. “Of course you were invited. And if you weren’t I’m inviting you right now.” He turned his head to look at CJ. “Infanta and Lupe are riding with us in the limo.”

CJ nodded. His father taking over and deciding who would be at the party was not a surprise. It was typical of him to include everyone in an event. The stretch limousine, provided courtesy of Andres and Felicia Barrosa, was big enough to hold them all. “Sounds good to me.”

Located on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma, Chapultepec Uno was one of Mexico City’s newest and tallest structures. The glass-enclosed, asymmetrical, fifty-seven-story building housed offices, luxury residences, and the Ritz-Carlton Mexico City. As the primary corporate tenant, COBASA’s name was prominently displayed on its façade, near the rooftop helipad.

A section of the expansive lobby, guarded by security guards, had been cordoned off for the event. The burgundy velvet ropes attached to brass poles provided both privacy and exposure. All media outlets had been invited to the ribbon-cutting, but only Barrosa’s were present for the reception. Felicia adroitly juggled her duties as hostess, while coordinating coverage. She instructed photographers, videographers, and the print and television reporters assigned to the story.

“Infanta, could you please join us?” CJ motioned for Liebe’s caretaker to step closer to him and Owen. “Have you met Beatriz yet?” The Mexican first lady stood between the two men engaged in a non-sensical conversation with Liebe. The girl, as usual, had captivated everyone she came in contact with.

“Infanta’s an indispensable part of our household, Beatriz.” Owen relinquished his daughter to the nanny when the toddler squirmed in his arms. “She takes care of our girl and her daughter, Lupe, provided the inspiration for our efforts.” Guadalupe Romero had released her mother’s hand when Infanta was handed her charge and kept her eyes on the gleaming floor.

“Infanta, Lupe, es un placer.” Beatriz shook hands with both her compatriots. The first lady’s smile and warm greeting apparently surprised the nanny. In a country with marked social strata, it was unlikely they would have met the president’s wife were it not for her employer. “Thank you. For helping these two men feel welcome enough in our country, they would decide to give back to our children.”

The hovering photographer interrupted them so he could snap pictures of the small group, while the reporter standing behind him furiously scribbled on a notepad. The journalist approached them once the pictures had been taken.

She asked a few generic questions before focusing entirely on CJ. “Señor Abelló, you, your husband, and your fathers have been activists for a long time, promoting equality for gay people—”

CJ’s chuckle interrupted her. “I think my fathers and my husband would object to your characterization. They have supported my actions, but I know they don’t consider themselves activists.”

“Very well, given your activism, do you plan to get involved in the local disputes that occasionally flare-up between the gay community and governmental institutions in Mexico?”

“My only goal while assigned to the United States Mexico City embassy is to facilitate improved relations between our two countries. I have no desire to interfere in national politics. However, should I encounter abuse or human rights violations, I may say or do something, but only as a private citizen. As I did with this project. My views and my actions are not always a reflection of my country’s official position.”

He was gratified when, once the reporter had moved on, the first lady placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled at him. “Well said. I wish some of our elected officials were as careful and well-spoken as you are. It would make my husband’s job and life easier.”

A few feet away, Ambassador Cox, chatting with Brett and César, had obviously been listening. She caught his attention and gave him a thumbs up.

 

“She down for the count?” CJ closed the book he was reading when Owen returned to their room.

“Yeah. I think the Grands tired her out. I started telling her the turtles’ story, and she was asleep before I got to the plastic straw.” Owen stripped off his shorts and t-shirt and slipped between the sheets.

“Those two were outstanding today. Not only did they keep Liebe entertained when we couldn’t, but the way César took care of Infanta was incredible.”

“I’m so glad he insisted on her riding with us in the limo and then sending her and Lupe home in it.” They had strolled the two kilometers from Chapultepec Uno to their apartment, stopping at their favorite ice cream shop along the way.

“She’s gonna be famous among her family and friends. I don’t think too many people in her socio-economic circle get to rub elbows with Mexico’s first lady.”

“Well, the way the Grands treated her’s the way they taught me and Ritch to deal with everyone. They do practice what they preach.”

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.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

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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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