Spring - 7. This Life
Friday, 18 April 2014
César and Brett sat on the couch, the marine’s legs resting on a pillow on the coffee table, when the front door being slammed caused both to look at their son returning from practice. CJ saw them look at each other and noticed Brett smile and give a quick nod.
“You pissed off at something or is the door lock not engaging properly?” César’s sarcasm earned him a grunt from his son.
CJ dropped his backpack on the floor, kicked off his flip-flops, and removed his hoodie. “I’m pissed. The sensei chewed me out big time. What are you drinking?” He pointed at the cocktail glasses his dads were holding.
“Bombay Sapphire martinis.” Brett held up the clear glass with a cobalt blue sphere halfway up the stem. “You want a taste?”
“Yeah. I need it.” CJ reached for the offered beverage and stared at it while sighing. “Now I see why sometimes you guys get home from work and say you need a drink.” He gently swirled the oily liquid, watching the ripples with interest, taking a large gulp before returning the glass to his father.
“Hey!” Brett looked and sounded affronted. “You weren’t supposed to eat my olives. Go get me a couple more and then you can tell us what happened.”
“Yummm. Blue cheese stuffing. Love that shit but gin’s still not my favorite. Although it could grow on me. I like the different flavors in it.” CJ retrieved the jar of olives and a long iced tea spoon from the kitchen counter where they sat next to a bright metal shaker. He used the spoon to fish out another morsel for himself before walking back to the front part of the room and handing the container to his father.
“So what happened? You got chewed out?” César was back to his usual calm demeanor, using an easy, conversational tone.
CJ looked at the two men, wondering if this was going to be another good cop-bad cop situation where one of them was nice and the other one gave him shit. “I may have made a bit more contact with my sparring partner than I was supposed to. But the guy sucks. Thiago would have probably avoided my kicks with no problem but we had different opponents tonight.”
“That it?” Brett sounded surprised as he scrunched up his face. “That doesn’t seem so bad. Hell, you’ve come home hurting from getting hit yourself.”
“I… I may have also used a few words he didn’t like.” The teen’s mumble was barely audible as he strategically stuffed a couple more olives in his mouth.
“CJ, are we gonna have to play twenty questions?” César’s voice was still calm, but the boy noticed a slightly hard edge to his tone.
“Fine!” He leaned back on the cushions and wrapped his arms around his chest. “He kept telling me to pay attention and concentrate on what I was doing. I got pissed and called him a fucking jerk. And a couple of other things.” The last part of his explanation was a mumbled whisper which made his dads chuckle.
“I see…” Brett’s drawn-out reply and smirk made CJ smile.
“Okay. You don’t have to say it. I was an asshole. I apologized before I left. But he kept getting in my face and I got angry.”
Saturday, 19 April 2014
“I’ll get it, Papa.” CJ placed his knife on the cutting board, wiped his hands on his t-shirt―a black Harley-Davidson one from his fathers’ collection, with the company’s bar-and-shield logo stamped on a riveted plate and RIDE HARD or GO HOME emblazoned on it―and walked out of the kitchen toward the door.
“Thanks.” Brett sat on one of the stools at the breakfast bar, sipping his umpteenth cup of coffee. “It should be the guy from the construction company. This is the third and last one we interview. I have a good feeling about it.”
CJ opened the door and was momentarily stunned. The two men standing on the stoop seemed related based on their facial features, but that’s where the similarities ended. “Good morning.” He stared into a pair of sparkling eyes which quickly scanned the teen up and down.
“Good morning.,” The visitor’s voice was a friendly, soft rumble. “You must be César. I understand Captain Davenport has a broken ankle and it doesn’t look like you’re having any trouble standing on yours.”
“I am César.” CJ took a step back and chuckled. “But probably not the one you think. I’m their son. Come on in. Papa’s in the kitchen and Dad’s upstairs. I’ll call him down.”
The bearded man smiled at the teen and stretched his arm out to shake hands. “Leo, Leo Dallas. I’m with Leatherneck Construction and I guess I have an appointment with your dads. This is Eli.” The man pointed a thumb over his shoulder at the younger guy standing immediately behind him.
“Hi, guys. Come in.” CJ closed the door and pointed towards the kitchen, urging them to head in that direction.
Brett had lowered his good leg to the ground and was standing beside the kitchen counter balancing himself on it. “Hey, Leo. Good to meet you, dude. You too, Eli. Grab a stool, guys. Either one of you want something to drink?” he asked, raising his mug and taking a sip from his coffee.
“Pleasure to meetcha, Captain. I could use a cup of coffee. Eli?”
“Could I get a Pepsi?” The younger man was looking around the first floor of the house with an appraising eye. “This is really nice. I’m guessing there’s been a lot of remodeling in here. The house is old but all of this looks fairly new and it’s a very modern style.”
“A Coke okay?” CJ’s interruption made Eli look back at him. “Dad hates Pepsi, so it’s not allowed in the house. And you’re right about this place: old but updated.”
“It’s not so much I hate Pepsi as the fact we own stock in Coca-Cola.” César had come down the stairs soon after the doorbell chime. He offered their visitor a handshake. “I’m César.”
“Leo Dallas.” The man scratched at the pelt of white hair visible through the open collar of his work shirt. “This is my nephew, Eli.”
After handing Eli the soft drink, CJ returned to his previous spot in the kitchen, ready to finish preparing the curried egg salad he was getting ready for lunch. He paid attention to the conversation while checking out the two construction workers.
Leo was older than his dads, probably in his forties. His hair was cut in a style reminiscent of a military high-and-tight, but not quite short enough to show his scalp. It was white on the sides, matching his furry chest, but was a rich brown on top. His full beard was also multi-colored, gold and russet thrown into the mix.
CJ noticed his father and Leo evaluating each other, smiles coming to their faces. “How many tours?” asked Brett.
“Five. And you?”
“Two. One in each theatre.” Brett’s reply made his son realize they were talking about their overseas deployments. “Can’t believe you kept going back.”
“Hell, man, it was nice to get away from the bitch, the rug rats, and all their nagging.” The construction man’s hearty laughter was echoed by his nephew who’d remained mostly quiet all this time. “What you laughing at, boy?”
“Oh, just the fact that if my dear aunt heard you calling her a bitch and complaining about nagging, she’d cut your balls off.”
“Hush, boy. No need to ruin my image in front of a brother marine who could become a client.” Leo’s rich, deep laughter reverberated throughout the kitchen once again.
“Okay…” César’s reply was drawled out with a hint of amusement. “Now that we know both you and my husband are military badasses, how about we get some work done? By the way, I hope you realize Brett and I are a married couple. If you have a problem with gay men―”
“Fuck no!” Leo’s reply was so quick it startled CJ. “One of my kids is queer. I better not have an issue with it since he’s my favorite. And I’m pretty sure Eli here likes cock too. Although I think he’s scared of what my sister and her husband will think if he tells us.”
“Hey!” Eli looked horrified and ready to bolt, but the chuckles coming from the other men calmed him. He remained where he was but his eyes seemed to be inspecting a spot on the floor at his feet.
Sunday, 20 April 2014
Tom Kennedy flew into Boston’s Logan Airport on Sunday afternoon. He rented a car and drove to the hotel he had booked a room in for the next three nights. Sitting on the bed, mindlessly surfing channels, he was lost in thoughts of his ex-wife and their sons. Hilary Kennedy had suggested he avoid visiting them at their house. The neighborhood they lived in was heavily Irish, everyone knew everyone’s business, and she didn’t want word of their meeting getting back to Tom’s father.
The knocking caused Tom to shake his head, rise, and walk over to open the door. In the hallway were his sons, Bradley and Patrick, white teeth displayed in broad grins, while their mother stood a couple of steps behind them. He thought her small smile was maternal and benevolent, an amused reaction to their kids’ apparent excitement.
“Hey, Dad!” Bradley rushed in and wrapped his arms around the tall man.
“Hi, Dad…” Patrick’s greeting was much more sedate, his demeanor subdued, his hug less effusive.
“Hello, Tom.” Hilary followed her sons into the room and closed the door. “It’s been a long time.”
“Hi, guys.” Tom was as nervous as he’d been in a long time. This was the first time he’d seen his sons’ mother in years; all their dealings following the divorce had been accomplished through attorneys or the postal service. “Hello, Hilary. You look well. Thank you for allowing me to come up and spend a few days with the boys.”
“Kids”―she held out a keyring to them―“I’d like to talk to your father alone for a few minutes. Why don’t you get your bags from the car and then wait for us at the Denny’s in the lobby? We’ll be down soon.”
“Okay, Mom.” Bradley accepted the keys and turned to his brother. “Come on, Paddy.” His use of the disliked nickname earned him a cross stare from the younger boy before both left the room.
“Hilary,” said Tom once he and his ex-wife were alone. “Thank you again for allowing me to see the boys. And I’m sorry for what I did so many years ago. I was weak and allowed family and tradition to push me into marrying you. That was a mistake.”
“It couldn’t have been so bad, Tom.” The woman sat on the chair by the desk while smiling. “Our marriage may have been doomed from the start, but good came out of it. Brad and Paddy were a pretty great result. But we aren’t here to talk of the past, are we?”
“No, I guess not. You mentioned being worried about Patrick. What’s the problem?”
“The problem is your little friend in Washington opened up a can of worms when he trashed your father after you were shot.”
“CJ’s a good―”
“Relax, Tom. This CJ seems to make quite an impression on everyone. You should have heard your father rail against him today. We stopped to talk to your family after Easter Mass. One of the boys brought up their friend in Washington, and that set the old man off.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll―”
“You’ll nothing. It was really quite enjoyable. This CJ facing off against the mighty Francis Kennedy helped clear the scales off my eyes. The way our sons speak of him, you’d think the kid could walk on water. I want to meet him sometime soon. Overall, I’m quite content with how things have turned out.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I’m not certain what the problem is. Paddy’s always happiest right before and right after visiting DC. Other times he's morose, argumentative, lazy, and reclusive. His grades have slipped. He’s come home with bruises from fighting more than once, but he refuses to give me details. The school principal called me in after the last one. The one which earned him his latest suspension. They would prefer he attend somewhere else next school year.”
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
On Saturday afternoon, CJ, Chipper, Harley, and Thiago gathered at the park’s basketball court to hoop it up. Chipper started talking about their time in New York and jokingly mentioned having to clean up the blood from the carpeting.
“Nice going, Chipper.” CJ threw the basketball at his friend with enough force to make him grunt. “You couldn’t keep quiet, could you?”
Once CJ reluctantly explained the details of his attempted drugging and rape, he asked Harley and Thiago not to say anything about it in school.
“Where’s José-María going?” Danek pointed as their classmate rushed past the group. “He always eats lunch with us.”
“Running away.” Harley’s derisive tone made heads turn in the group. “He knows if he comes near us, he’ll have the shit kicked out of him.”
“Harley!” CJ’s shout made his friend open his eyes wide and cover his mouth with a hand.
“Okay, what’s going on?” demanded Autumn. “And no bullshit. I know how you guys work.”
As CJ once again related what had taken place, the group ceased moving toward their usual table, and more students stopped to listen. Everyone was quiet, paying attention to the story. Murmurs reached CJ’s ears, but he could not make out details of the whispered comments. Except for one.
“Guuurl, I can’t believe you turned down the chance to bed that hot little number. And girlfriend, I would try to drug you up too, if it’d get me in your pants.” The somewhat high-pitched voice belonged to a thin, effeminate, black guy. Felix was a flamboyant character whose mannerisms had caused a few people to speak derogatorily about him. The times it had occurred within CJ’s hearing, he had always stood up for the boy.
CJ snapped around to face him, causing Felix to take a step back, startled by the sudden move. “You know, I’ve stood up for you whenever anyone said anything about the way you dress, act, or speak. It may not be my cup of tea, but it’s your right, and I’ll defend it. But you call me girl or girlfriend again, my shoe’s going to be so far up your ass, if you’re not already a bottom it’ll be easy for you to become one.” The words were spat out with force but only loud enough for their group to hear. CJ looked around at his friends, shook his head, and sighed. “I’m not hungry anymore. I’ll catch you guys later.”
Before he could take one step, Thiago had stepped behind him and draped an arm over his shoulders. “Hang on one second, homey.” He turned towards a shaking Felix and stared him up and down. “Our friend was almost drugged and raped and you make jokes? What kind of asshole are you? You’re a disgrace. I should beat the shit out of you just so we don’t have to listen to your stupid comments again. Keep that in mind next time you decide to open your mouth.” Pulling CJ along with him, Thiago set off towards the exit, followed closely by the other two members of their tight-knit group.
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Although the evening was cool, the four men decided to sit outdoors on the wrought iron bench and chairs in the side courtyard. César was lighting a cigar, while Tom fished a cigarette out of his coat pocket.
“What the fuck’s that?” JP stared at his husband in disbelief. “Gimmie that thing. Mate, you had enough trouble quitting. I’m not gonna let you start again. Where'd you get this, anyway?”
“Bummed it off a guy at the airport while waiting for you.” Tom sounded sheepish when he handed the offending item to Brett, who sat next to him. The marine crushed it in his hand, dropping the remains into the large ashtray on the table in front of them. “Not sure what I was thinking. Sorry. There’s just so much going on right now, it feels like my head’s about to explode.”
“Can’t be that bad, Tom.” César twirled the dark tobacco cylinder between thumb and forefinger, the end stuck into the flame of the torch Brett held up to him while inhaling deeply. “The purchase of the house’s on track and it sounds as if you had a great time with your kids. Is there something you haven’t told us yet?”
“Yeah. I hope you guys know I love CJ almost as much as I do my kids, but I didn’t want to say anything while he was with us.” Tom rubbed his hands over his nearly bald head before clasping them between his legs and dropping his shoulders as if exhausted. “The boys share everything and I don’t want him on the spot about this. He’ll find out soon enough.”
Brett watched JP lean back into the chair, extending his legs in front and crossing one ankle over the other. “You look like the cat who ate the canary, Pope. You obviously know what’s coming.”
“Yup.” The Aussie looked particularly smug when he answered. “I heard about it Sunday night when Tom called. Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad. Except for the fact my big, brave, police officer is scared shitless right now.”
“Fuck you and the horse you rode in on! I met alone with Hilary that night. You have any idea how nerve-racking that was? She made me a proposal but asked me not to say anything until I returned to DC and talked with my husband. Can you believe that shit? She actually referred to JP as my husband.”
“Duh!” Brett rolled his eyes and shook his head the same way his son and friends usually did around him. “That’s what he is. What else would she call him? Enough pussyfooting. Spill.”
“That was an interesting twist.” Brett snuggled next to César, using his husband’s shoulder as a pillow.
“Yeah, I guess. And Tom’s right, our kids gossip too much.” César snaked an arm underneath Brett’s neck, clasped his shoulder, and pulled the man closer to his body.
“It’s gossip when women are involved. Between men, it’s an exchange of information.”
“Asshole! That call I took from Doc was about more than his taxes. He mentioned Chipper told him about CJ almost tearing off some kid’s head at school.”
“What? CJ got in a fight and didn’t tell us?”
“Down, tiger. There was no fight. It was a verbal altercation if you want to use fancy words. I’ll tell you what I know in a minute. But I’m concerned about CJ and his temper. He seems to be angry way too often lately. I know it’s a reaction to New York but he refuses to talk about it anymore. Claims it’s history and he’s fine.”
“You asked him about it?”
“I brought up New York and asked how he was feeling about it. Done it a couple of times since he returned. Each time it was the same answer: ‘It’s over, Dad. I’m fine.’ But either he’s not aware of how all that shit affected him, or he’s lying to me.”
“I don’t think our kid would lie about it if he knew something was going on.”
“Agreed! Which means he doesn’t realize it. So I think it’s time we call in the cavalry.”
Thursday, 24 April 2014
While his friends leaned back to enjoy the midday sun on their faces, CJ kept his hoodie on. He’d grown somewhat accustomed to the colder weather, but stripping down to a t-shirt would have been too much with temperatures in the mid-sixties. The four had crossed the street in front of the school, purchased food and beverages at the deli, and strolled to the small city park next to it.
“Hi guys, do you mind if I join you? I’d like to talk to CJ for a bit.” Janelle Tu, a fragile-looking Asian girl, was a member of the Gay Straight Alliance and a casual friend. A junior, like Thiago, she participated in all their activities and was often accompanied by her girlfriend who attended a different school.
“Hi, Janelle.” CJ lifted his sunglasses to the top of his head and squinted in the bright sunlight. “Park your butt wherever you want. What can I do for you?”
“First, I want you to accept an apology on behalf of Felix. He’s my friend and he feels awful about what he said after you shared what happened to you in New York. I spoke with him right afterward and I think he realized the insensitivity of his comments. I told him how wrong he was about what he said. God, why are you boys so stupid?”
CJ’s smile faded on his lips, he replaced his sunglasses and brought the sandwich in his hands up to his mouth. “Then why isn’t he here apologizing?” he asked, before taking a large bite.
“Because he’s scared shitless of you.” She looked around at the men surrounding her and smiled. “All of you. But especially you, CJ.”
“Tell him to come talk to us,” Thiago spoke while his friend was busy chewing. “CJ has a temper and he can hurt somebody if he wants to. But he’s not a dick.”
“Fair enough. I’ll tell him. And I’ll make sure he does. I may have to start running that boy’s life if he keeps being stupid.”
“I won’t hurt him, Janelle. If I’d wanted to I would have done it right after he pissed me off.” CJ sipped from his Dr. Pepper, returning the can to the ground while wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his hoodie.
“Next. I want to run for GSA co-chair. And I want you to run with me for the other spot.”
The girl’s comments made even Harley stop eating. “That’s right. Elections are coming up. Bruh, that would be so sick. You definitely should run. The reason I went to the first meeting last fall was ‘cause you were going. Boy, did I pick the right car in that race. I got to meet all of you. And your dads! Oh, and all the―”
“Harley!” CJ’s shout made Chipper and Thiago laugh. “I get it, bud. I get it. Thanks for thinking of me, Janelle. It’s very flattering. But my answer is no. I mean, I’m gonna remain involved and all, but I don’t want to run for office. Especially right now. I’m still dealing with a lot of stuff and what the fucktard tried to pull while we were in New York is just one more. I think you should run. And you know what? I think Thiago should be the other co-chair. He’ll be a senior so it’s his last chance. Maybe I’ll do it next time.”
Saturday, 26 April 2014
The roar of a motorcycle coming from the courtyard caused CJ to pause the movie streaming on his tablet, kneel on his bed, and glance out the open window in time to see Dragon dismount his Harley and remove his helmet. “Hey, Uncle Devon. Whatchu doing here?”
“Looking for you,” replied the dark-skinned man, staring up at the window CJ was leaning out. “Put away your willie, hide the porn, and come downstairs.”
“Hey! You don’t know what I’m doing up here.”
“Yes, I do. You’re sixteen. I was that age not so long ago and I remember. Stop spanking the monkey and get out here.”
CJ reached for the gym shorts he’d been wearing earlier, slipped them on, unlocked his door, and headed towards the stairs. He caught the final words of Brett’s greeting their friend. “Thanks for doing this, dude.”
“Doing what?” CJ glanced back and forth between his fathers and their friend he often thought of as his big brother.
“Brett and I have a couple of things we need to take care of,” replied César. “Dragon volunteered to take my spot as your driving consultant today.”
“I thought we could go to lunch at the Florida Avenue Grill before spending some time finishing up those hours you need to get your license.” Dragon hung his helmet and leather jacket on one of the hooks by the door as he spoke.
“What’s the Florida Grill?” CJ glanced between his fathers and Dragon once again with a mix of confusion and frustration on his face. “When did you all talk? And how come this is the first I hear about it?”
“What? Are you working for the cops now? Is this what they teach about interrogating DWB suspects?”
“Funny, Uncle Devon. But stop avoiding my questions.”
“Fine, be a grouch. The Florida Avenue Grill is one of the few real diners left in DC. It’s near Howard University and serves large portions of greasy food.”
“Glad I ran this morning.”
“I’ll answer his other two questions.” César handed a mug of coffee to their visitor and sat on the stool next to him. “We talked about it a couple of nights ago. After we heard about a little incident where you tried to bite some kid’s head off in school and you didn’t tell us.”
“There was nothing to talk about.” CJ was no longer smiling and his tone was stern. “It was a misunderstanding. I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“Well, then you know the reason we didn’t tell you about Dragon taking my spot today. We didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“Bullshit, Dad. What’s going on?”
“What’s going on”―replied César, raising his voice―”is you’ve been acting differently since New York but you refuse to talk to us. You’re constantly snapping in anger and this is our attempt to help. Since you won’t talk to us, maybe you’ll feel more comfortable talking to Dragon.”
“THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ME!” CJ’s shout was followed by complete silence from the three grown men. The boy looked at each momentarily, bowed his head, and lowered his voice. “Fine. I’ll go get dressed.”
“Where do you want me to go?” CJ stopped Defiant at the entrance to the driveway uncertain which direction to turn.
“Hang a right and then turn left when we get to Wisconsin. Can you talk to me and pay attention to your driving at the same time?”
“Yes,” replied a surly CJ.
“You still think there’s nothing wrong going on? You just snapped at me. And let’s not forget your outburst at home.”
“I’m just pissed.”
“I don’t know. At myself for being a trusting idiot. At José-María and Bernardo for what they tried to do to me.” CJ made to continue but instead remained quiet.
“I don’t know! Okay? Do you realize I’ve been here for almost a year? After my own fucking mother wouldn’t raise a hand to defend me when her husband decided to throw me out for being gay. I’m pissed at her and the dickhead. I’m pissed at the two homophobic cops who arrested me because I was running while wearing a rainbow bandana. At the lowlife who shot Uncle Tom. At all the people who keep giving me shit about Owen. At the helicopter that malfunctioned and almost killed Papa―”
“Pull over to the curb, CJ.”
“Because you can’t drive unless you can see, and you can’t see when your eyes are full of tears. I’ll drive us to lunch and then you can take over.”
“Sorry. I’m being a little kid.” CJ wiped his tears with the back of a hand, slowed down, and brought the Jeep to a stop near the corner. He put the car in neutral, pulled the emergency brake stick, and unbuckled his seat belt. “Do you see the kind of year I’ve had? It sucks. And each time I think things are going great, something fucks it up.”
“Right. The entire twelve months have been shit. I understand.”
“Well, maybe not all twelve months…”
“Oh? There’s been good things too?”
“Don’t be an asshole, Dragon. You know there’s been some great stuff going on.”
“Doesn’t really sound like it, the way you’ve been acting. Seems you’re concentrating on the nasty shit instead of the great stuff. How ‘bout you make a list of the good and bad that’s been going on? Your anal-retentive father lives with lists for everything, I’m sure you have it in you.”
“A nice one, if I listen to what others say.”
“Right. Who you trying to fool? You’re a top.”
“Not always, lately.”
“Don’t be so surprised. I’ve been known to give it up once in a while. Although while Trip was away, Danno tried to make it a daily occurrence. With the guy back in town, my ass has gotten a break. It still happens, but Trip’s always happy to take on the two of us.”
“Oh, my god! I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Why are you telling me this?”
“What does he have to do with anything?”
“That’s the reason I’m telling you. You kind of included him in the bad, because of people trying to push the two of you together. I think there’s more to it. But you’re fighting it and I haven’t figured out why yet.”
“Nothing to figure out. I’m too young for a boyfriend.”
“Sez who? What does age have to do with it? If you like the guy, tell him. Date him. That’s the time you two get to define what your relationship will be like. Whether you stay together or not is irrelevant. Don’t fight it so hard. You, my friend, are part of an entirely new generation of gay men. One unencumbered by the so-called traditional view of relationships.”
“What do you mean?”
“Many older guys grew up at a time when we were deemed to be evil. Less than human. Some flaunted convention. Thanks to a few drag queens standing up to cops, the gay rights movement was born. Others married, had children, and hid their true nature. Once it became acceptable to be openly gay, they remained in hiding claiming it was for the good of the children.”
“They were pussies, you mean.”
“That may be a bit harsh, CJ. Times were different and the pressure to conform was intense. Many of them lived their entire lives hidden and in fear. Some eventually came out later in life. But they kept their attitudes toward sex and relationships. Some feel trapped in small towns or inside their own heads by the crap their parents and friends fed them while growing up. It’s why many of them look down on people like me who enjoy sex without strings attached.”
“I don’t. It’s your life and as long as you’re not hurting anybody…”
“Good deal. Why don’t you stop being a pussy then? Talk to the damn Aussie. You can set limits, but don’t lock him out.”
Monday, 5 May 2014
“Oh, man, I wish I could play like that.” Chipper was standing, clapping for the set the jazz trio on stage had just finished.
“You should audition. I know you’re good enough,” said CJ to his friend. As the lights came on, he looked for their server and gave him a slight nod.
Blues Alley was a Washington institution, his dads had explained. Although they’d not been there for a while, it was one of César’s favorite spots and where he wanted to celebrate his thirty-seventh birthday. When told he could invite a friend or a date if he wanted to, he’d immediately mentioned Chipper. CJ claimed the budding musician would kill him if he heard he’d gone to a live jazz performance and not invited him. It wasn’t a surprise to his dads when he told them Doc and Dash insisted on joining them.
“Here we go, guys.” Brett watched their waiter approach with a tray full of plates and a pie with a candle. CJ had arranged for the Key Lime concoction, his Dad’s favorite. After listening to a mostly off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday”, blowing out the candle, and accepting the first slice, César ordered a final round of after-dinner drinks for the adults.
“By the way, CJ,” said César casually. “Tom called today to wish me a happy birthday and to ask a favor. He’d like you to speak with Martha Edwards. Seems getting Chipper accepted into Walls without following standard procedures impressed him. He’d like you to try and work your magic again. You think you can get her to bend the rules once more? On behalf of Bradley and Patrick this time.”
“You’re shitting me.” The boy looked to the others at the table dumbfounded. His jaw had dropped and his eyes shot open when he realized what his father was saying. “They’re moving? Really?”
“Looks like it, kiddo.” Brett poured some more of his cocktail into CJ’s glass. “Drink up, dude. You’re getting what you said you wanted. This means your little gang’s growing.”
“Fuck!” CJ downed the last bit of Grand Marnier in one gulp. “I love this life.”
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