The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
CJ and Owen returned to Washington exhausted from the trip. The previous week’s events left them drained but too emotional to fall asleep on the plane.
The following morning, CJ woke up much later than usual, climbed upstairs in search of coffee, and discovered he and Owen were alone in the house. He sipped from the heavy ceramic mug while staring at the backyard through the kitchen window; he tried to figure out what to do. The contemplative mood ended when he reached a decision. Calling Brett, he made plans to pick him up around noon and asked him to get in touch with César and have him meet them for lunch at Forbes Grille.
The dads were somewhat subdued the previous evening after CJ and Owen flew in from Sydney. They did not spend much time together―the younger couple fell asleep soon after eating―but Owen made them aware his sister loved the immense flower arrangement they sent to the hospital and his parents were grateful for the generous contribution made to Cancer Council Australia in her honor.
César stood as Nelson Wheatley―Forbes Grille’s maître’ d―escorted Brett and CJ to the table. “You look a hell of a lot better than you did yesterday. How’re you feeling?”
CJ gave his dad a kiss on the cheek before sitting. “Still tired but I’ll be okay. I don’t ever want to go through a week like that again.”
“Still lost. I invited him to come with but he turned me down. Not that I blame him, last thing he needs is another emotional explosion. Left him answering e-mails and messages on Facebook.”
“Is that what we’re going to do? Have an emotional explosion over lunch?” César sounded somewhat defensive.
He studied both his parents. Brett appeared relaxed, but César seemed tense. “Hope not, Dad. I don’t want to fight with you. But we have to settle this shit. Ozzie and I are getting married next year. I hope we have your approval. But there’s no way―”
“No, Dad, let me finish. We’re getting married, period. And there won’t be a pre-nuptial agreement. You either accept the fact Ozzie’s the man I want to spend the rest of my lifenext to without any caveatsor I move out.”
“Caveats?” Brett leaned back, crossed his arms, and grinned.
“Leave me alone, Papa. I’m being serious here.”
“So am I, dude. I just need you to use little words so I can understand.” When CJ made to speak, the retired Marine raised a hand to silence him. “And you need to give us a break. It’s not every day we have a son tell us to fuck off.”
“Look, CJ.”César rested his hand atop his son’s.”I screwed up. Brett made me realize it while you were out of town. I allowed the accountant to speak instead of the father. We love Ozzie. We think you two are right for each other and approve of the two of you getting married. Both of us think a pre-nuptial agreement would have been right but I guess that ship’s sailed.”
“You can say that again. No fucking way am I signing anything like that.” Anger tainted CJ’s calm demeanor. He could feel his heart beat faster than usual.
“We know that now. You can stop being pissed, okay? We screwed up how we approached the subject.” Brett was serious and for once did not make any jokes. “Of course you have our approval. And of course we want to be part of it. You said next year. Have you guys picked a date?”
CJ relaxed into the cushioned chair as the tension escaped his body. The rigid line of his lips twitched and the corners attempted to tick upwards. “Thanks. I’m not sure how I would have handled it if you weren’t part of it. But trust me, I was ready to do it. If you guys weren’t in the picture, we planned on getting married at city hall before school started this year. But if we’re going to have a real ceremony, we’re thinking of June twenty-third. I checked online and the place we want to do it at is available. I put down a deposit to reserve it. But I want to talk about a couple of other things.”
“Shoot.” The table’s atmosphere felt less edgy after the fathers caved.
“Rod’s old apartment’s rented, right?”
“Yep. A couple of GU seniors signed a lease for the coming school year.”
“Good. I’d like to take it over after they leave. Ozzie and I would like to move there after the wedding.”
César gave Brett a quick glance. “Are you sure? The two of you can stay in the basement as long as you want. You have a key to lock the door and the elevator.”
“Thanks, Dad, but I think it’ll be good for us to live on our own.” The old, mischievous CJ returned. “We want to walk around naked all the time and fuck on the kitchen counter if we want.”
“Sup, teach. Got presents for you and your bro.” Trey Mourning straightened as he took the last step into the Prospect Street townhouse’s basement―at almost seven feet tall it was a close fit on the staircase―and tossed a bag towards the couch. CJ lay with his head on Owen’s lap so the Ausssie raised an arm and snatched the projectile out of the air. Conversation halted for a moment as everyone in the room turned to glance at the newcomer.
“Hey, Trey! What’s going on, bro?” Ritchie rested the end of his cue stick on the floor and tossed it back and forth between his hands. CJ grinned every time his brother tried to sound and act cool, wanting to be one of the boys when dealing with the older guys. He was in the rear portion of the space playing against their friend Gina, but the appearance of the Georgetown University Hoyas basketball player seemed sufficient incentive to interrupt it. The two had interacted a few times since meeting but not as much as the kid did with some of his brother’s other friends. “I didn’t know you were coming over today.”
“Yeah, kind of last minute thing. It surprised me you guys were all staying in on a Friday.” The tall African-American athlete touched knuckles with Ritchie and waved at the girl smiling at him from the far end of the pool table. “I finished writing a report for my English class and wanted to see if your brother could read it over for me. After I e-mailed it, he texted inviting me to come over and hang. Move your legs, CJ.”
After meeting Patrick Ewing―the school’s former standout hoops player as a student and new coach―at the time of his hiring, CJ agreed to take an unpaid position with the basketball team. As Special Assistant to the Associate Director of the Academic Resource Center for Student-Athlete Services, he was a glorified tutor without a specific portfolio. Team members could ask him for help but the real reason for the job and title was to facilitate his interaction with recruits without conflicting with NCAA regulations.
“I’ll look at it tomorrow morning and send it back with comments. If I have any.” CJ swung his legs off the couch’s arm and onto the coffee table, patted the vacated space, and motioned to Patrick sitting on the floor with his back resting against the couch. “Scoot over a bit, Paddy.”
“Thanks, guys. I hate Shakespeare, but A Midsummer Night’s Dream ain’t that bad. The fact I already read it in high school may have something to do with it.” Trey leaned over CJ and fisted Owen. “What’s up, Ozzie?”
“Not much. It’s weird being at another uni working on a third degree. I’m going to be so overeducated nobody’s gonna want to hire me. What’s in the bag?”
“Oh, Coach sent those for CJ and Ritchie. They’re team shirts. He put Abelló on the back of both. CJ’s number twenty since he graduates in twenty-twenty.” Trey turned around to look at Ritchie who had repositioned the cue stick and leaned over the table about to strike. “Yo, little Abelló. We didn’t put a number on yours ’cause we don’t know what year you’ll be starting at GU.”
Ritchie looked at Gina and rolled his eyes. “I think this game’s over. Come out front while I straighten out the dumb jock.” Ritchie leaned the stick against the wall and stared at Trey as he sauntered towards him. “One, my last name’s Peterson not Abelló. Two, I won’t be a Hoya if I can help it. I wanna be a Falcon.”
While CJ, Owen, and the others chuckled, Trey looked confused. “What’s he talking about?”
“Ritchie and I have the same mother but different fathers. Guess we never brought that up around you. When our mom and her husband died, Ritchie came to live with us.” CJ watched the confusion on Trey’s face dissipate. “And the Falcon thing? He wants to be a pilot. The dads hooked him up with flying lessons this summer and he’s been talking about applying to the Air Force Academy for a while. His dad was in the Air Force.”
“No shit?” Mourning’s surprised expression and reply made everyone snicker. “His dad was in the Air Force? And one of your dads was a Marine? Damn! This house’s like being at the Pentagon.”
“Brett’s still a Marine, Trey. Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Carson sat on the floor by Patrick; Wingnut sprawled between them, legs in the air, enjoying the belly rubs and behind-the-ear scratches. “And if you want to feel all patriotic, we can have my dad come over. He was in the Army. My brother would be here if he wasn’t on active duty. He’s in the Army too. Oh, and if we call our friend Tank, we can have a Navy man. All we need’s a coastie.”
“What’s a coastie?”
“That’s somebody in the Coast Guard.” Carson returned his key after he moved to a dorm room in Harbin Hall at the beginning of the semester, but seemed to be over at the townhouse more often than not. He kept complaining about the guys in one of the rooms in his corner of the building blasting Southern Rock all the time.
“I know somebody in the Coast Guard. But she’s stationed in Juneau.”
CJ looked at Gina as she plopped down on the orange beanbag in front of the television set. “One of your girlfriends?” His smirk made the woman flip him off.
A native of Alaska, Gina Nichols met CJ the previous year at a GU Pride event and hung out with him on and off until she went home after spring semester. “Nah, I worked on a fishing boat over the summer and she came on board for an inspection. We got to talking and hit it off. Next time I was in port overnight, I had dinner with her and her girlfriend.”
“You worked on one of those boats in the fishing shows on Discovery Channel?” Trey had met Gina a couple of times but their time together had been limited. “I thought it was all men on the crews.”
“Don’t be a chauvinist, Mourning. Women can do whatever men can. Alaska fishing’s still male dominated, but a few of us have cracked the door open. And no, it wasn’t one of the TV show boats.”
“From what I’ve seen it’s hard work.”
“It is, but the pay makes it worth it. I’m at GU thanks to scholarships and loans. So I try to make as much money as I can over the summer to carry me through the year.”
CJ nudged Owen and tilted his head towards the side table. “Let me have the stack, Oz. Speaking of summers, this is for you guys.” He riffled through the ivory colored envelopes and selected two of them, each emblazoned with the name of one of his classmates.
“What’s this?” Gina turned the opulent stationery over and ran a finger over her name inked in exquisite calligraphy.
“It’s a save-the-date announcement. We’re getting hitched at the end of June. You’ll be getting invitations in time.”
“Thanks, CJ, Owen. That is wonderful. Congratulations!” Gina used the proper words but her face indicated some worry.
Trey, on the other hand sounded elated. “This is awesome! It’ll be my first gay wedding. Is it gonna be a big one?”
“A little bigger than we originally thought.” Owen had been grumbling about the number of people the dads insisted on inviting. “But what the heck, we plan on having a party and that’s all that matters.”
Gina held the envelope and stared at it. “I’m not sure I can be there, guys.”
”How come? You have to be there. I’m gonna be my brother’s best man.” Ritchie was still thrilled about being asked to stand next to CJ.
“I need to get back to Alaska, Ritchie. The administration in the White House’s not being real friendly towards students. I’m not sure how much money in grants or loans will be available in the future. I need the job on the trawler so I can afford my senior year in school.”
A corner of CJ’s mouth bent upwards as he glanced at his boyfriend. Owen gave him a discreet wink and squeezed his knee. “What if you didn’t have to worry about the job? Let’s talk about next summer in a couple of weeks. Ozzie and I may have an idea of how you could make enough money to pay for a year of school. You might not have to go fishing for it next year.”
“Cute pun. Do I have to kill somebody to make all that money?”
“Nah! The two of us and the dads know enough people, something will come up. Look at Carson. I hooked him up with a dream job and a free place to stay this past summer. We might be able to do something similar for you next year or the one after.”
“Sounds good to me. Hey, Trey, you’re from Miami, right? How’s your family? Did the hurricane do much damage to their place?” Gina adroitly shifted the conversation’s focus away from her; CJ did not fail to notice the maneuver. “CJ and Ritchie told us their grandparents refused to evacuate but did okay. Except for losing power for a few days, I guess.”
“Yeah, I talked to CJ last week. I was scared for the ’rents but they did okay. My parents live in an area called Coconut Grove that’s full of trees. Dad said the canopy’s much thinner now and they still have piles of debris out front. They lost power too, but Dad installed a big generator a few years back so they were okay.”
“My grandparents did the same. And the other set lives in a retirement home with hurricane-resistant windows and a generator so they were safe too.” CJ glanced at his brother who had taken a seat on the floor. “I think Ritchie and I were more scared for them than they were.”
“Damn right I was scared. I thought Miami was gonna take a direct hit. We all stayed up most of the night watching the eye of the storm approach Florida. Mr. A was still pissed off at his parents for not coming up here to stay with us.”
“Are you and Ritchie going down to see them now that things are settling down?” Carson stood and walked towards the refrigerator in the back room. “I’m getting a Coke. Anyone want anything?”
“Thanks, I’m good. Ritchie and I both wanted to go down this weekend but the dads wouldn’t let us. What with school and all.” CJ shrugged. “But Papa Brett’s going there tomorrow to check on them. The guy who oversees the company’s construction projects is going with him. They want to do a full inspection of the house to make sure there’s no hidden damage.”
Patrick leaned back, rested his elbows on the floor, and shook his head. “I’m still surprised Brett’s going down instead of César. I mean, they’re his parents after all.”
“We were just as blown away by it.” Owen shook his head and looked astounded when he first heard the plan. “The dads explained Brett was the one qualified for it. Plus, César and CJ have a meeting with a financial guy Sunday night.”
“On a Sunday?” Trey sounded surprised. “They’re having a business meeting on a Sunday night? Doesn’t your dad take weekends off?”
“Most of the time he does. But get this: they’ll be meeting in one of the suites during the football game. Not sure how much business there’ll be considering the amount of food and alcohol at those things.”
“Damn, Abelló. Luxury box for a Redskins game? Rough life you got there, bud.”
FedEx Field, home of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins, located in Landover, Maryland, was almost an hour away from the Prospect Street townhouse. Taking advantage of a beautiful Sunday night, César and CJ decided to ride the motorcycles.
“So, Dad, who are the owners of this box again? And why were we invited?” They locked the helmets on the bikes and walked towards the entrance to the stadium.
“Short answer? Roland and Plummer’s a privately held wealth management firm and they want our business.”
“Yeah, thanks. That clears things up.” Head shaking accompanied CJ’s sarcastic tone. “It’s what you already mentioned before. How about a little more info? Like what am I supposed to do?”
“Be yourself. They’re clients of Ernst & Young but I have nothing to do with them in an official capacity. I think one of EY’s partners mentioned who we use to help manage our portfolio and these guys have been giving me a soft sale for weeks. They’re bound to turn up the heat tonight. Let’s just play it by ear.”
“I’m good with that.”
Inside the stadium, they made their way to the third level where the suites were located.
“Hello, Jeremy.” César extended his hand towards the bespectacled older man standing at the bar.
“César! My friend! It’s good to see you. Where’s your other half?”
“Out of town. Hope you don’t mind I brought one of the boys instead.” He took half-a-step sideways closer to the bar. “This is our son, CJ. CJ, Jeremy Plummer. Our host and one of the founding partners of Roland and Plummer.”
“Good to meet you, sir. Thanks for having us.”
“Nice to meet you too, young man. This may work out well. One of the guys I’ve been thinking of assigning to the account may be closer in age to you than to your father and me.” The man’s assumption he would need to assign someone to work on their account did not go unnoticed by CJ. Jeremy scanned the crowd and locating who he searched for, raised a hand to get his attention. “Hey, Karl, get over here.” Lowering his voice, he spoke so only his guests could hear him. “He has no idea you’re potential clients or he’s being considered to work with you. Let’s keep it that way for now.”
“Hey, boss. What can I do for you?” Karl was somewhere in his twenties and about CJ’s size with a conservative cut of dark-straw hair.
“Just wanted you to meet two of our guests. Gentlemen, this is Karl Moore. He joined our firm this past summer after graduating from college. Karl, César Abelló here is a partner at Ernst & Young, our accountants, and this is his son CJ.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Abelló.” He shook hands with the older man then turned his attention to the son. “What’s going on, CJ?”
“Not much, man. More than ready for some football. Mr. Plummer mentioned you started working for the company this summer. How do you like the job?” CJ’s curiosity was genuine but also part of the approach he honed while working on the 2016 presidential campaign. Displaying interest in someone else made them relax and open up even more.
“Dude, so far, so good. Been meeting lots of people and training. It’s amazing how much they don’t teach you in school. Are you an accountant like your dad?”
“Nah… Still in school.” CJ had no idea if Karl was qualified as an investment advisor but thought as a salesman he would do well. He was handsome, friendly, and articulate. César often remarked his proficiency as an accountant was good but what earned him rapid promotions was his ability to keep clients happy and lure new ones. “I’m a sophomore at Georgetown.”
“Yeah? That’s cool. You look older. I kinda miss college. All that pussy...” Karl looked around the suite for a moment before returning his attention to CJ. “Gotta watch my language.” He sounded sheepish. “At least there’s no women around here tonight. I bet a good-looking guy like you has the bitches falling all over trying to get in your pants. Hey, let me get you guys a drink. What would you like, Mr. Abelló?”
César looked away when CJ rolled his eyes at him after the pussy comment and the tight smile on his face told his son he was trying to control his laughter. “A beer would be good, Karl. Thanks.”
“What about you, CJ?” Karl had already reached inside the bar fridge and retrieved a bottle.
“Just a Coke for me.”
“Awww, come on, man. Have a drink. It’ll put hair on your chest.”
CJ glanced down at his torso and the hair peeking through the open neck of his shirt. Shifting his eyes to his father, another roll of the eyes accompanied his look of surprise. “Dude, I’ve got plenty of that already. We rode our motorcycles tonight. And since I’m not legal, I don’t want to smell like booze if we get stopped by the cops on the way home.”
“Too bad. So, what type of motorcycle you have? Like one of those Ninja things?”
The four men traded bits of biographical information, chatted with other guests, bantered about college sports―Karl had played football at his school―and professional teams; the possibility of César and CJ becoming clients never came up. CJ glanced at his phone when it chimed; it was Owen calling and the smile was automatic. “Excuse me while I take this.” CJ ambled towards the chairs at the front of the box and took a seat. “Hey, babe. What’s going on?”
“Watching TV with Ritchie. We’re taking a break while he’s upstairs getting us a snack. You know that documentary I recorded? The one on Discovery Channel?”
“Yeah, something about ranching and farming?”
“The title’s Rancher Farmer Fisherman, and that’s the one. I’m keeping it on the DVR after we finish. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s all about grass roots activists working with NGOs and government. The Nature Conservancy plays a part in the initial segment.”
CJ failed to notice Karl following and standing behind him until the account executive gave his shoulder a jock-style shove. “Dude, tell your girl you’ll call her later. Gotta stand up for the national anthem.”
“Oz, hafta go. Talk to you later.” CJ returned the phone to his pocket and swiveled to look at the man behind him. “That’s okay, Karl. I’m sitting this one out.” He pointed towards the opposite end of the field where the visiting players were all on the bench. ”Just like the Raiders are doing. If Trump’s going to call me a son of a bitch I want to show my displeasure with him.”
“Dude, the President was talking about those jerks who make millions of dollars but have no respect for the flag. Not about people like you and me. Come on, stand up.” He punctuated the comment with a harder shove to CJ’s shoulder.
“That’s not going to happen. You want to stand, you stand. I prefer to sit this one out.” Both had kept their voices low so CJ was certain nobody else heard them, but he noticed César and Jeremy Plummer were now standing right behind them.
“Man, you’re disrespecting our country and you’re disrespecting my boss. You’re a damn guest. Act like a man instead of an unpatriotic fag.” The accompanying shove was hard enough it pushed CJ forward in his chair.
He lost his composure. CJ grabbed Karl’s wrist and surprised the man by pulling hard towards the ground causing the former athlete to lose his balance and fall to his knees. He was unsure who could hear his clipped words and he did not care. “Listen to me, dickwad. You shove me one more time and I’ll break your goddamned arm. Not that it matters, but yes I’m a fag. I’m also worth as much or more than those players.” CJ noticed his father’s eyebrows climb; it was unheard of for CJ to brag about his wealth. “I took the comment by that white supremacist piece of shit in the White House personally. And don’t fuckingtalk to me about respect for the flag. My other father’s a Marine and I take every opportunity possible to honor him, his service, and what he fought for. And that was the rights of all Americans to do what we believe is right.”
“CJ, you okay?” César leaned down and placed a hand on his son’s shoulder.
“Yeah, Dad. I’m fine.” He released Karl, wiped his hand on the empty chair next to his, and stood. “But I’m going home. Thank you for inviting me, Mr. Plummer. Sorry I have to go. You may want to tell Karl to ice down his wrist or it’ll swell up.”
“Hang on. Don’t go yet. I think I heard echoes of Mr. whatever-his-name-was and the Pledge of Allegiance. Are you sure you’re okay?”
Before CJ could reply, Plummer spoke up. “Really, César? Is this how you raised your son? Lousy job you did if you ask me. He’s our guest and this is how he behaves?”
CJ watched as color filled his father’s face. “Really, Jeremy?” Repeating the man’s words, the tone of voice was angry and mocking. “You’re going to lecture me on how to raise a child? Wasn’t your kid arrested for selling drugs?” Plummer’s face registered surprise. “Oh, yeah. I know about that little incident. We talked about it in the office after someone heard about it.”
CJ could not recall seeing his father so angry. A warm feeling coursed through him as his dad stood up for him. He also noticed Mr. Plummer looked nervous, scanning the suite occupants, as if his son’s problems were a secret he did not want to discuss in public. “I think that’s a private matter. Your son’s behavior’s public and offensive. I’ll be calling the managing partner tomorrow. Maybe he needs to reconsider your employment or we’ll reconsider who audits our books.”
César squared his shoulders and stood ramrod straight. “You go ahead and do that. It won’t much matter after I tender my resignation. And you can kiss potential fees from managing our investments goodbye. It’s about time I took over running the family finances myself.” He gave Karl a dismissive glance. “Kid, I hope you realize you just cost your employer a lot of money. The fees for managing a ten-figure account would have paid your salary several times over. Let’s get out of here, CJ.”
“I can’t believe I go out of town for a couple of days and the whole world flips.” Brett returned from his foray to Miami Monday afternoon and after a quick stop at the offices of Third Line Development, was home early enough to fix dinner for the family with CJ’s assistance. “By the way”―he pointed at his husband with a grilled chicken leg―”Rosario’s all worried about what you’re gonna do with your life now.”
“I got a little of it this morning. Mami called but I had to cut the conversation short. I promised to return it tonight. You wouldn’t believe the shit storm my resignation caused in the office. Meetings and calls to New York and London headquarters all day.”
“How long will it take for you to get out, César?” Owen was surprised when CJ and his dad returned home the previous evening hours before expected. When he found out what took place at the stadium, his jaw dropped so far CJ joked about having something he could stick in his mouth.
“It’ll be about a month or so. They buy my interest in the company and I’m out. Transferring clients to other partners won’t take long.”
CJ was still upset with himself for losing his temper the previous evening. “I’m sorry again, Dad. I should have just stood up for the national anthem and avoided the confrontation.”
“Okay, buddy, last time. I’m proud of you for standing up―pun intended―for what you believe in. It’s the way Brett and I have tried to raise you and Ritchie. Stop blaming yourself for doing what’s right.”
“I’m proud of you too, CJ. My dad would have been pissed at you, but I’ve learned a lot since he died and I came to live here.” Ritchie was shocked the previous evening but once his brother explained what happened in detail, all he did was give CJ a hug and a kiss. “I hope I grow up to be like you.”
“Not sure you have what it takes to be a politician, dude.” Brett ducked to avoid the slap César aimed at his head. “And anyway, CJ, what happened to your diplomatic skills? I think last time you used fists was that fight you mentioned in Nashville. And from what Ozzie said then, you were like toying with the guy instead of trying to hurt him.”
“I don’t know. This Karl guy just pissed me off. He shoved me a couple of times and I let it go. The third time he pushed me hard enough all I wanted to do was hurt him. I think part of it is my increasing anger with the Cheeto in the White House. Ever since Charlottesville I’m so pissed I try and avoid anything he says. But that’s hard to do. So when Karl defended Trump…”
“Well, whatever brought it on I’m grateful for the result. Been trying to get your dad to quit the accounting firm for a heck of a long time. Figures you’d succeed where I couldn’t.” Brett put his fist out to bump. “Thanks!”
“That reminds me of something.” CJ turned his eyes towards César. “When you talked to Karl at the end you said our account would be ten figures. When did we become billionaires?”
Ritchie’s jaw dropped; he barely paid attention to family finances and the revelation was obviously a surprise. Owen had a better idea of the family’s wealth but he looked astonished; he and CJ had never discussed details. Brett smirked and turned his attention to his husband, motioning with his hand, encouraging a response.
César sighed almost as if he did not want the discussion to take place. “First, it’s all of us together. And it happened sometime in summer. You all know we’ve been divesting ourselves of west coast real estate for the past few years. Selling prices have been higher than we expected. The proceeds we’ve invested in the stock market. And since the market’s gone gangbusters…”
“But hasn’t a lot of that money been used in Papa’s projects?”
“Nope. Third Line’s leveraged to the hilt. We’ve borrowed most of the money used. The interest we pay is lower than what our stock portfolio’s earning.” César paused and stared at Brett who picked up the explanation.
“One reason we’re looking for a new manager is our fear Wall Street’s gonna tank sooner than later. Our bank’s guidance’s not enough right now. Their Private Banking investment services are more geared towards complete management with little or no client input. We want to diversify our portfolio, have a say on how it’s done, and consider more real estate and other ventures. Take money out of the market ahead of a correction or downturn. Not all of it, mind you. But a good chunk. It’s why we’re happy to finance the house for you and Ozzie.”
CJ winked at Owen and smirked. “Glad we could help! I know I’ve spent a lot of money in the last two years and I was a little worried.”
“Nah…” Brett dismissed the concern with a wave of the hand. “You haven’t put a dent on the money and the Capitol Hill house’s a good investment.”
“Good to hear. Ozzie and I will be spending more pretty soon.”
The third weekend in October, CJ and Owen canceled plans to go away for the weekend on the motorcycles and instead of leathers donned formal wear. “Last weekend it was Ezra and Levi getting married, next weekend’s the HRC Dinner, and the weekend after that we’re in New York.” Owen sighed as they strolled through the silent auction display. “Are we ever going to have a quiet weekend at home again? I kinda miss the days when our friends would come over and we could just hang out in the basement.”
They were at the Four Seasons Hotel for the annual gala sponsored by the Citizens Association of Georgetown.
The year’s event, titled “The Streets of Georgetown,” was meant to highlight Georgetown’s unique and historic blocks. Residents, organizations, businesses, and politicos came together to celebrate Georgetown and CAG’s mission of historic preservation and community improvements.
“Me too.” CJ squeezed his fiancé’s hand and bumped him with a shoulder. “Sorry I twisted your arm into coming tonight. I’d never been to it before and Dad was insistent. You have to admit it’s nice to hang with some of the neighbors we wave at all the time.”
“It’s okay, I’m just not feeling it tonight. I realize our social obligations have increased, that some of our close friends scattered after graduation, and that our schedule will get more complicated in the future. We keep this up, I’ll need to buy another tux. I feel like as soon as I get this one back from the cleaners, it’s time to wear it again.”
“At least when we’re in New York in two weeks, it’ll be friends and casual clothes. Maybe we can do a little shopping while we’re there. Sounds like wardrobe update time.”
A week later, CJ gushed over how beautiful Gina looked. She ditched the boots, jeans, and flannel-shirt uniform, applied a little makeup, and wore a simple black dress with a gold heart pendant around her neck. “Damn! I hate to sound sexist but you look gorgeous.”
“Thanks, CJ. And thank you, Ozzie.”
Owen had been sitting in the middle row with Ritchie, but stepped outside to open the front passenger door for Gina when they stopped in front of the GU campus. “He’s right, mate. You look lovely. If I wasn’t gay…”
“Yeah, well, if you weren’t gay I’d still be, so forget it. Hi, Ritchie. Hello Mr. Abelló, Captain Davenport. Thank you for inviting me tonight.” She waved at the dads sitting in the back row of the Escalade.
CJ convinced his fathers to purchase six tickets to the 2017 Human Rights Campaign National Dinner. He suggested inviting Gina to attend the event with them. After explaining he wanted them to spend time with her so they could get to know her better, they acquiesced to the request. It was the kind of expenditure most college students could not afford and they were happy to introduce the girl from Alaska to the upper crust of Washington gay and gay-friendly society.
Brett made a beeline for the bar as soon as they stepped inside the Washington Convention Center. “Who else needs a little liquid courage to face the next few hours of boring chit chat?”
“Shut up, Jarhead.” César reached for his husband’s hand and squeezed. “I swear, we can dress you up but we can’t take you out in public. Behave.”
“Hey! All I did was ask who wanted a cocktail and looking at our crowd, they all have their hand up. Forget it, Ritchie. No booze for you tonight. What do the rest of you want?”
CJ and Owen were old hands at cocktail parties; they had attended countless black tie events since the Australian moved to the nation’s capital. Unlike the previous year, Ritchie stuck with his brother instead of César and Brett while they circulated through the items on display for the silent auction, martini glasses in hand. CJ and Owen bid on a couple of offerings while greeting people they knew and ended up going home with a painting by an artist named Shag.
“It has a fifties or sixties vibe to it,” he said when César asked him what attracted him to it. “Reminds me of all the mid-century modern architecture in Miami.”
“Where are you going to hang it? Are you starting an art collection?” The teasing tone made Owen grin and CJ roll his eyes.
“My bedroom for now. You can have the Hockneys I stole from my old one on the second floor back. Ozzie and I are going to need something to hang on the walls when we move out anyway. As for starting a collection, not sure about that.” CJ’s playful approach emulated his father’s. “That’s your department. Maybe I’ll just wait until you and Papa die and I can inherit all the stuff I like.”
Thank you, Mann Ramblings, Kitt, and Reader 1810 for your hard work.
This story would not be possible without your assistance.