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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 - 20. CDMX • XX

Bonus chapter posted this Presidents' Day Weekend in honor of Liebe's four favorite U.S. Presidents: Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Abelló.

“How’d you hear about this?” Silas Washington, the lanky kid Randy Abelló and his husband had fostered years before after the boy’s father beat him close to death for being gay, sat next to Ritch.

The Air Force Academy cadet had conceived and facilitated their Christmas morning outing, including arrangements for transportation since the Cayenne was not large enough to accommodate all of them. CJ had been impressed with how his brother had coordinated the entire adventure.

“A blurb on my feed. It reminded me of the one CJ and Ozzie took me to in Washington, and I thought it’d be fun. I asked them if they wanted to come, and they suggested I invite you, Randy, and Ty.”

“So, you’ve been to one of these before, huh?” Tyler Scott had worked for the family’s Chicago business since before Randy joined the firm after college. They had already been a couple by then. Eventually, they married, fostered a few kids on an emergency basis, and kept Silas around even after he turned eighteen. Young Mr. Washington was now part of the family.

“Yeah… Like three years ago?” Ritch looked at his brother for confirmation. CJ nodded. “It was cool to watch the sunrise from the Watergate’s rooftop back then, and since Christmas Day with us is usually all about eating and drinking, I thought it’d be good to start the day with a little exercise.”

“That was a fun event.” Owen fiddled with Liebe’s headphones until they no longer slipped off the girl’s head. “Kinda different not having to wear these things.”

Ty looked confused. “What do you mean?”

“D.C.’s noise ordinances wouldn’t allow music in that spot at that hour.” CJ had seamlessly picked up the conversation thread. “Everyone wore Bluetooth headphones. It was—”

Ritch interrupted his brother. “It was weird to take them off and watch people dance in silence with the sounds of the waking city as a background hum. The music was all inside our heads."

CJ recalled the day well. He and Owen had returned from their honeymoon and crammed their summer with as many activities as they could. Then, Ritch had been the little brother invited on a lark. Today, he was an equal returning the gesture. CJ thought maybe he was experiencing some of what the fathers had often mentioned; Ritch had gone from boy to young man in the blink of an eye.

“That won’t be an issue today.” The amphitheater was sufficiently removed from residential areas music could fill the air with abandon. Ty pointed at Liebe while looking at CJ. “What made you decide to bring her?”

“FOMO.” Owen precluded his husband from answering.

“What was that?” They had all been momentarily distracted by a small herd of mule deer in a roadside clearing.

“FOMO. Fear of missing out. CJ suffers from it, and he’s trying to infect Liebe. He thought she would one day love knowing her first rave was before turning two.”

The sun had yet to rise when they reached the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Once inside the roofed but open-sided structure, their first stop was the bar.

“Who wants a smoothie?” Although drugs and alcohol were strictly prohibited at the event, water, sodas, and juices were available. Bartenders augmented the options by mixing custom shakes. “My treat.” Ritch peeled a couple of bills from his money clip.

As the eastern sky brightened, a gong strike alerted everyone festivities were about to commence. “This is weird.” Sunrise yoga outdoors, while cocooned against the cold, was something new and different. CJ embraced the experience. He placed Liebe on the ground and the girl attempted to imitate her fathers’ stretching.

Soft electronic music played in the background as a young woman led attendees through various poses. Her “Namaste”, when done, was the signal the DJ awaited. The crowd enthusiastically responded when he ditched the chill tunes and cranked up the decibels,

The six men took turns holding Liebe while dancing. Bright, high-energy numbers were a sharp contrast to the often moody house music spewed late at night in every dance club CJ had ever been to. The crowd’s expressions, smiles, and laughter echoed their mood. It was a lovefest. Most everyone unbuttoned their coats at some point since the exercise was sufficient to temporarily warm them.

A couple of hours later, on their way back to the house, Liebe was still moving; she bounced on her father’s lap to whatever music she heard in her head.

 

Not everyone was awake when they returned to the house, But Lynne and César were in the kitchen prepping brunch. “How was it?” he asked.

“Awesome!”

“It was sick!” Ritch walked around the kitchen island and kissed his aunt and father good morning.

When he reached for a piece of bacon, his hand was slapped away by Lynne. “Stay away from the bacon. I know how you boys are. If you start eating it now, there won’t be anything left when the others come down.”

“Check it out, Dad. Liebe’s still dancing.” CJ hovered over his daughter while she gyrated. “You should have seen her moving around with us.”

“I thought she was wearing headphones. How could she hear the music?”

Owen tossed the baby bag on the island and sat on a stool. “She was. But I loosened them enough so she could hear some. That girl can definitely shake her booty.”

 

By previous agreement, the family avoided the slopes that day, wanting to dodge the large holiday crowds. Instead, once brunch concluded, they gathered to exchange presents. Since everyone except Ritch flew to meet in Vail, César attempted to diminish the number of packages anyone would need to carry or ship. He organized a lottery to decide who would buy presents for whom. One person one gift except for Liebe. She was fair game but her fathers had suggested nothing too cumbersome since they did not want to deal with carrying or shipping too much back to Mexico City.

Because César had organized the exchange, he went first. Reaching under the Christmas tree, he retrieved a small box, and tossed it at his nephew. “I got Rod. Saw this when we went to visit the guys in Mexico and thought you’d like it.”

Since it was not a large package, Rod ripping off the colorful wrapping paper and tossing it on the ground was not too noticeable. CJ knew by the time they were done, the entire living room would be awash in destroyed giftwrap and ribbons.

“Thanks, unk. Love it. I’ll break it in as soon as we adjourn to the deck. Sterling and onyx?” Rod passed the handsome cigar clipper to his wife.

“Yep. Hundred percent Mexican silver and stone.”

“Let’s hurry this along so I can put my gift to work.” Rod’s fixed his gaze on CJ. “I drew my cousin.”

“Which one.” CJ knew it was him but why pass up the opportunity to pick on Rod?

“You, butthead.”

“That’s the second time I’ve been called that since we got in!”

“If the shoe fits…” Owen patted his husband’s hand. “Now hush.”

Rod bowed in their direction. “Thanks, Ozzie. Anyway, we all know CJ doesn’t like birthday presents and insists if we must we should make a charitable contribution instead.”

“I buy him an expensive bottle of Scotch every year.” Brett’s pause telegraphed a punch line coming. “And then I contribute it to myself.”

CJ threw a cushion at him, and César pushed his husband off the couch’s arm. Nobody seemed to mind the interruption.

“Is this like a night at the Improv?” Rod’s mock frustration was not convincing. “Anyway, CJ surprisingly asked for a birthday present this year, so Brett and César got him a set of golf clubs like he wanted. After a few lessons, CJ might be able to join us when we go out for a round without embarrassing himself.”

After César took the first gift from under the tree, Ritch volunteered to sit by it and grab presents for everyone. César and Brett had insisted they all be properly labeled. The package the cadet passed over was larger than the jewelry box Rod’s clipper had been in. Once it reached him, the man held it out to CJ.

“Those should last you at least nine holes.”

Taisha laughed the loudest when CJ flipped her husband off after seeing what was inside the box: 144 golf balls.

“If I burn through a gross in nine holes, I’ll head straight for the nineteenth.” CJ leaned across the coffee table to bump fists with Rod. “Okay, my turn.” Ritch passed him the appropriate package, and CJ held it out to his uncle. “Keeping with the Mexican theme, this is one of the best we’ve tasted and the bottle alone’s worth the price.”

Unwrapping and opening the box, Rico retrieved a beautiful, white milk glass bottle covered in blue designs shaped like agave plants. He read the label while licking his lips. “Doña Carmen Azul Añejo. Thanks, CJ. If it tastes half as good as the bottle looks, I’m going to enjoy it.”

“Better than you can imagine, Rico.” Owen allowed Liebe to slip off his lap and waddle toward the Christmas tree. Ritch intercepted her before she could attack the decorations or presents underneath. “It’s a small-batch tequila not sold in the U.S.”

“Let’s crack it open! We need shot glasses, limes, and salt.” Randy shot out of his seat and headed to the kitchen.

“Don’t you dare!” CJ snatched the bottle from his uncle’s hand and held it behind his back.

“CJ!” Owen’s voice carried a warning. “Stop being dramatic, give Rico back his tequila, and explain your objection to Randy. You know, use words, like you told Liebe last night.”

“Burn!”

“Good for the goose, good for the gander.”

“Good slam, Ozzie.”

“Screw you all!” CJ returned the bottle. “First, we’ve learned the salt and lime thing’s American. The only places they do that in Mexico are tourist traps. Or when you drink rotgut. This particular one’s designed to sip not chug. Trust me, pair it with a good cigar, and you’ll think you’re in heaven.”

The gifting round robin continued until only Liebe was left. Everyone had brought her something, but Ritch’s packages were larger than anyone else’s; he asked to go last. Aware of what was inside, and suspecting what would happen when they reached those presents, CJ requested a break before setting his daughter loose on them.

“I have a feeling after she sees what Ritch got her, we’re gonna lose her.” CJ placed Liebe in front of him while Owen retrieved a small plastic bag from behind a cushion. “You ready to give everyone the presents you brought for them?”

The girl nodded and stuck a hand inside the bag. The bright, braided strip of cloth she retrieved was a friendship bracelet like the one CJ had bought her earlier in the month.

“Who’s that one for, Liebe?”

She pointed at Lynne, took a couple of steps, and silently handed the trinket over.

“Thanks, cutie. I love it. Come, give me a kiss.”

Owen explained while the girl repeated the process one by one. “When the Dads were in Mexico, CJ bought her the one she’s wearing from a street vendor. At the time I had no idea what he told the woman when he spoke to her but a couple of days later he came back with these.”

“I asked when she would be on that sidewalk again and if she could have a couple dozen with her at that time. I went back and bought twenty-five of the things for fifty dollars.”

“Wait.” Brett looked confused. “Wasn’t she selling them for ten pesos a piece when we were there?”

CJ nodded. “Yeah, fifty cents each. When I paid for these in U.S. dollars, and told her the excess was a present, she started crying. That woman couldn’t stop thanking me.” The actual event and its recounting left CJ conflicted. He was happy such a small gesture could positively impact one human’s life, but it saddened him to realize how little some people had when he lived so comfortably.

He and Owen had agreed to do a bit more for the needy of Mexico City in the coming year. Random acts of kindness carried special importance when they could impact someone’s life in a significant way with so little effort.

“You’re such a mensch.” César’s smile was the warmest CJ had seen in a while. “Proud of you, buddy. I remember the infant she cradled when you bought the original. I have a feeling that kid’s having a good Christmas.”

Because the group decided to avoid the slopes that day, after presents had been distributed, they instead trudged outside to play in the snow. Falcon’s Lair had been built atop a hill with the property gently sloping in all directions.

Ritch had bought Liebe an Airforce Academy jacket and two sleds. The larger, a wooden one with a padded seat designed to be pulled. He claimed it could be used by any future family additions once Liebe outgrew it. Considering its craftsmanship and beauty, it had been handmade by a carpenter in Colorado Springs, CJ thought it could be kept in Vail and would become a family heirloom.

The other one was a small plastic oval she was big enough to ride on her own.

Her squeals of delight charmed even strangers watching over their children sliding down the miniature slope. After tumbling off a couple of times, Liebe apparently decided she enjoyed being covered in snow. For the remainder of the play period, she would jump off before reaching the bottom.

Tired, and with everyone damp as a result of the snowball fight’s debris, it was time to dry out, warm up, and rest or snooze.

In some ways, Christmas Day resembled prior celebrations in Washington. Those not napping or in the hot tub, gathered to watch the game between the Miami HEAT and the Los Angeles Lakers. All other contests that day were enjoyed by everyone watching as sports fans; the HEAT-Lakers match brought out partisan rivalries. The two loudest were Brett and CJ. The Californian rooted for the Lakers, while his son was just as obnoxious in his support of the HEAT.

“Are the Nuggets playing home in Denver this week? We should go to a game.” Owen’s suggestion changed the topic from arguing about a televised event to planning for a live one.

The caterer who provided dessert for CJ’s birthday dinner supplied sufficient food to feed the family with enough left over to satisfy just as many people again. Done eating, everyone spread out throughout the house. Multiple groupings shifted throughout the evening, carrying on a myriad of conversations.

 

The following day, Ritch started the meeting as soon as he sat. “I told CJ I’ve been on a naming spree.” Liebe was down for a nap. The great-grandparents and the Chicago crowd had gone shopping or returned to the mountain after lunch, while Owen, CJ, Ritch, and the fathers congregated on the deck beneath a gas heater. “But the next one’s gonna require you guys to agree.”

When César mentioned they all needed to meet as the family foundation’s board of directors to review year-end financial matters, CJ insisted they get it out of the way. He planned on spending as much time as possible skiing over the coming days and wanted to start that evening. Owen attributed his husband’s anticipation of night skiing to FOMO once again. “If it sounds like fun, and Ritch’s done it, CJ’s gonna want to match the experience.”

Ritch’s desire to name something else made Brett look at him askance. “We didn’t get to approve of Heinrich or Falcons Lair, but you want us to say yes to another one?”

“Shut up, Jarhead. I kinda like Falcons Lair. It’s growing on me. Let’s hear what he has in mind.” César’s pleasant expression was a radical contrast to his other half’s scowl. “What’s your thinking, bud?”

“Well… I read all the stuff Rachel emailed me after last year’s meeting.” Rachel Stout, the foundation’s attorney, had shared minutes of prior meetings following Ritch’s election to the board the previous December. “You guys”he pointed at César and Brett“changed the name to the CBC Foundation when CJ joined, but you didn’t add an O or and R when Ozzie and I came aboard. Tots unfair.”

“Suck it up, valley girl.”

“Fuck you kindly, CJ. Anyway, we can’t keep adding initials, even though an L wouldn’t be needed for a long time. Considering how Cap reconnected with the memory of his parents earlier this year, I think we should go back to Davenport Family Foundation.”

Owen was the first one to react, nodding vigorously. “I vote yes. Including my initial’s not a big deal. I really never thought of it, but I like Ritch’s idea. After all, Brett’s a Davenport, and we’re all family.”

César appeared pleased and nodded. “All in favor?”

The five men all raised a hand.

“Approved unanimously. Rachel, whenever this is transcribed, make sure it’s clear Ritch moved the proposal, and Owen seconded it.” Using his phone, their conversation was being recorded for inclusion in the corporate minutes. “And tell them to scrub the foul language, please.”

After a review of the year’s income and donations, César steered the conversation towards the homes in California, Colorado, and New York. “I’ve been doing a little tax planning, and Brett and I decided to make some ownership changes. We’re creating real estate trusts to hold each of our places and giving Ritch and CJ a one-third stake in them.” Shrugs and nods greeted his announcement.

“Okay, last one. Let’s talk about Third Line Development’s ownership.”

“Are you selling?” CJ had no idea what his fathers’ plans were. Considering Rod and Taisha were moving, he wondered if his cousin knew something he didn’t. “Is that why Rod’s moving?”

Ritch looked confused. “He’s moving? Where?”

“Next door to us, mate. Across the alley. He and Taisha told us at lunch the other day, but they wanted it kept quiet until they got the inspection results.”

“That won’t be a problem, right? The house looks modern, so I guess it’s newer than yours.” When Ritch reached for his phone, César shook his head.

“You can google it later. It was built in the seventies. And, CJ, to answer your question, our plans and them buying the house are connected. Rod and Taisha are aware of what we’re doing, and that probably influenced their decision to move. They realized they’re going to be in D.C. for the long haul.”

“Were they thinking of leaving The District?” Ritch had drafted Rod to drive cross country to Colorado with him the previous year. Afterward, he had mentioned to CJ how much he had enjoyed traveling together and how great their chats had been. He had gained a new appreciation for their cousin during the trip.

Brett took the reins of the conversation. “Not that we know of, but Rod still owns a piece of the Chicago company, he could have gone to work there whenever he wanted.”

“Anyway, reacquiring the Malibu house made us reevaluate our net worth and do some estate planning. We had never included the artwork on loan to CAMALA in previous statements; Brett’s old will left those pieces to the museum.”

“Fat fucking chance that’s happening now.” Brett’s malevolent grin assured everyone he was still pissed at the institution’s executive director.

“We all know you hate the guy, Jarhead. Anyway, now that some very expensive pieces are in our possession again” César raised a hand to stop CJ from talking. “This is gonna be short, wait until the end for comments. Brett and I decided since neither one of you”he glanced at CJ and Ritch in turn“are likely to want to work in construction, we would ensure Rod stays. Under our new ownership structure, Brett and I keep fifty-one percent, you two get an eighth of the company each, and the rest goes to Rod. We plan to increase his ownership over time as part of his compensation package.”

“I’m good with that. He’s helped build the business, and he deserves it.” CJ shrugged. “But I’m glad you guys aren’t selling. I offered Sergeant MacKenzie a job if he leaves the Corps.”

“That your buddy at the embassy?” Brett had heard about but not met Austin.

CJ nodded and so did Owen.

“I agree with CJ. I figure when I’m done with the Air Force, I’ll go fly for an airline, but it’ll be good to have a fallback position if that crashes.”

When Liebe woke up, the men had completed their discussion and returned inside. The girl’s potty training was going well, she wore Pull-Ups instead of regular diapers most of the time, and had one of her infrequent accidents while napping. Ritch was tasked with cleaning his niece’s behind and, as usual, loudly complained about the smell. “My farts don’t smell this bad!”

CJ dismissed the claim with a hand wave. “Whatever, flyboy. Think of this as another training session. For when we give you more nieces or nephews, or you have your own.”

 

Brett joined his sons and son-in-law that evening. With Ritch behind the wheel, and Brett in the passenger seat, CJ and Owen quietly chatted in the back.

“Quite a different Boxing Day than last one, eh?” CJ snuggled in a bit closer. “At least there was no parental drama.”

The previous year, they had celebrated Christmas in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley at the Liston Vineyards. The trip’s primary purpose had been Spencer and Tilda Liston’s wedding; Liebe meeting her Australian relatives had also played a part. Pam, Owen’s mother, had driven them crazy with her antics. Not having properly dealt with the grief of losing her only daughter years before, she had butted heads with her sons. Helicoptering and complaining about how CJ and Owen were raising Liebe did not endear her to anyone. Christmas Day itself had seen a huge explosion, with CJ and Owen threatening to go stay at a hotel. Peace was restored when anxiety medication calmed her sufficiently for her to realize she needed help.

“Mum looked cheerful yesterday morning.” On the way to the Daybreaker Party, they had video-called to wish that side of the family a Happy Christmas. They had talked with Spencer and Tilda separately.

“I’m glad Spence’s keeping an eye on her, and she’s still in therapy and on meds.” CJ had been adamant during their trip he would not allow Liebe to be alone with the woman unless she sought assistance. “I’m a believer in better living through chemistry.”

Owen chuckled. “We’ll see for ourselves in six months.” Geoff and Pam Liston planned to visit Mexico City in June. “She might be my mother, but I still agree with what we said last year. Unless she gets better, we keep her away from Liebe.”

“I have faith in her, Oz. When you told her she wouldn’t be able to even see her granddaughter unless she got better, I think something snapped. Like when an addict realizes it’s either change their way or die.”

“Let’s just hope she doesn’t get hooked on those pills she’s taking.”

“Anti-depressants and opioids are different, Oz. I don’t see that being an issue.”

“Better not. I want my mum back the way she used to be before Liz got sick.”

“If she’s doing okay next summer, maybe we can head down under at the end of the year. I'll ask for the time off as soon as we get home. No way can Northman complain about not enough advance notice.”

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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