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    Mac Rountree
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  • 4,642 Words
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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

And A Child is Born - 12. Opening Night

“Are we really going to leave Ossie and Juju home?”

“It is a quick trip, Matan. We will be overwhelmed with the opening and running in several directions while we are there. It is just for a weekend. I know it will be our first real separation from the children, but there you are. I think they should stay here.” Yonatan looked at Matan and could see that he had a different idea. “Tell me what you want me to do.”

“I have already spoken to Jan and Nash, and they are willing to go with us and take care of the children while we are at the museum for the opening. Besides, Etienne will be excited to see them again.”

“I don’t plan my schedule around a flight attendant.” Yonatan snorted and then looked at Matan. “You know I will give in to you, so go ahead and tell Black to make the arrangements.”

Of course, Black strode into the room at that moment and said he would get right on it. Sometimes the man drove Yonatan crazy by always being two steps away, hiding in the shadows.

“Matan, you know I will need to take extra security if you are traveling with the children. Is that okay, Yonatan?”

Yonatan looked at them and tried not to be pissed off.

“This generosity of loaning the collection to the museum for a special exhibit was supposed to be easy and not cause us any additional stress. I cannot believe what a cluster it has turned into when we have exams in a week. It would have been easier to have opened the apartment for the world to wander through than to give the museum carte blanche to plan such an event.”

Yonatan had spoken too hastily and saw the tears in Matan’s eyes. His good deed was turning into a significant art event in Belgium, Vienna, and Paris. What had started as a small exhibit at one museum was now a traveling show. They would not have the artwork back in the apartment until the following summer. The demand for the catalog had already outstripped the print run, and the printer was rushing to print more copies for the opening night. Yonatan held Matan in his arms and told him it would all be good and that he did the right thing. The two men were both exhausted from having two babies, going to school full time, and trying to manage the family business, as Yonatan now called it. This added stress was pushing him over the edge.

The museum had sent a work crew to remove all of the artwork from the apartment. They had also sent a truck to Paris to remove the painting of Oscar and Rebekah Feldsher that would be the first painting that people saw when they walked into the exhibit. Yonatan had flown to Brussels on business two weeks prior and walked into the apartment and found it bare and not like the home they were trying to create. Matan had not been in the apartment since the artwork had been removed. Yonatan anticipated that he would hate to stay there, but he was proved wrong once again.

Luckily, Chanukah started on Saturday night, so they could fly on Friday night, arrive Saturday morning, and then leave on Sunday to be back in school on Monday. It was a brutal schedule, and Yonatan didn’t think the children would be up to the trip. But once again, he shook his head in bewilderment at the ease with which the children traveled.

Of course, Matan had been shopping and bought formal wear to don on opening night. He said their “old stuff” just wouldn’t do for such an important event. Yonatan didn’t consider their clothes old but had turned the sartorial parts of his life over to Matan. Except for school clothes, Matan told Yonatan what to wear when they went out. He had never erred in his choices.

It seemed that the entire extended family would be present for the opening of the exhibit. Abe and Rachel were flying over early to visit Matan’s parents in Paris, and they were all traveling to Brussels and would stay at a hotel. Todd, Erick, Eron, and Tayloe were also attending. Todd told Matan that he had rearranged his schedule to squeeze the trip in before exams at Ericks’ insistence. Each time Matan would mention Yonatan’s name, Todd would change the subject. Todd and Griffith were flying directly from Atlanta, while everyone else was flying directly from Dulles.

Matan and Yonatan went to class that Friday morning and were picked up by Green at Erick’s apartment, where they were leaving the Jeep. Black was also driving as they had all of the baby stuff, luggage, extra people, plus Pink and Yellow. Matan was bouncing around on the seat as they pulled onto Interstate 64 and headed north. Erick was riding with Black, and they stopped at Tayloe’s apartment to pick up Eron and Tayloe. Yonatan was slowly learning to accept that their lives were complicated and that Ayal, Black, and Green knew best how to arrange itineraries to minimize the complications.

Yonatan had not been told that Robert and Marjorie had decided to fly over also and were on the same flight. Robert knew that Yonatan was stressed and decided to drive to the airport on his own. Neither did Yonatan know that Senator and Mrs. Fairfax decided they thought it was a good idea to be present. Somehow, the Senator had convinced the U.S. Ambassador that he, Evelyn, Marjorie, and Robert should stay at the U.S. Embassy. It was all about connections, and he had them.

Yonatan tried to stop worrying about the exhibit because he needed to focus on his exams. Matan and Yonatan had one week after they returned home before they started. Matan would ace his exams with no problem; however, Yonatan was struggling in two of his courses. Ever the overachiever, he was carrying too many course hours that semester.

They arrived early at the airport, which turned out to be a good thing with all of the luggage, the babies, and the people in their group. Somehow, they all arrived simultaneously and planned to get something to eat before settling in before the plane was boarded. All of the restaurants were overflowing with holiday travelers. It was only the 2nd of December, but people were everywhere, and Matan smiled when he saw wrapped packages in people’s luggage. Dulles Airport was always busy, but this Friday in December seemed to push its limits. Matan and Yonatan sat at a bar while others grabbed tables where they were available. They waved at each other across the restaurant. When Yonatan pulled out a credit card to pay for dinner, the waiter told him that a gentleman in the restaurant had paid for their meal. Yonatan looked across and mouthed, “thank you” to the Senator who nodded his head in acknowledgment. Small favors were genuinely appreciated.

Their group was spread across the first-class and business sections of the plane. It was like their own private party. Etienne was on duty and made a huge fuss over the children. Ossie and Juju loved the attention. Yonatan had to give it to Jan and Nash as they were laser-focused on caring for the children and were not getting caught up in the rest of the craziness of the trip. Etienne was so taken with having the babies on board that Yonatan had to ask twice for his usual and customary: a glass of scotch. Etienne was embarrassed that he had forgotten to bring it to him. Yonatan smiled and told him it was okay because they were the most beautiful children in the world. Etienne laughed, and others joined him.

Matan slipped Yonatan a piece of paper as soon as the plane leveled off and was handed one in return. They both chuckled, and Matan opened his first. He read the poem, smiled, and then turned to kiss Yonatan.


I don’t mind

Being the non-essential.

Even a child takes

Its mother for granted.

It does not run opened back

To its mother until it’s hurt.

Nobody first thinks of water

When they arrive

At an exquisite dinner party,

Until they are choking.

I don’t mind

Being the non-essential

Knowing you will come looking

When things are broken

And nothing else works

Art is non-essential

Until it is not.


Madhu R.


Yonatan carefully opened the paper that Matan had folded into an origami bird.

He call’d on his mate,
He pour’d forth the meanings which I of all men know.
Yes, my brother, I know,
The rest might not, but I have treasur’d every note,
For more than once dimly down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds
and sights after their sorts,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen’d long and long.

Listen’d to keep, to sing, now translating the notes,
Following you, my brother.

Walt Whitman


They both leaned across the seats and kissed. The nighttime flight across the Atlantic was smooth, with most of them sleeping. Yonatan had a moment of panic when he realized that he was now taking this life of luxury as something normal. He had promised himself never to take the money for granted, but it was easy to slip into this luxe life. Many times, Yonatan still felt like a farm boy from Southampton County, but with Matan by his side, it was easy to pretend that they were to the manor born. Matan had packed pajamas, so they slept comfortably and spent time in the morning shaving and dressing before the plane descended.

They were well practiced in getting through customs, and soon everyone was gathering luggage. Ayal and Zeke were waiting and said that ground transportation had arrived. Yonatan was surprised to be introduced to the U.S. Ambassador, who was at the airport to greet the Senator. The Ambassador reminded Yonatan that they had met at the engagement party given at Cameron Farm for the guys. Yonatan remembered meeting so many people that night the Ambassador was just a blur in his memory. Ambassador Ravenscroft said the exhibit was proving to be a major event in the holiday calendar in Brussels. Willem Arendt had become a local hero after the story emerged about how he and his father had saved the artwork and apartment of the Feldsher family. Matan and Yonatan were happy for Willem.

After the luggage was organized, they split into three groups: those heading to the Embassy, those going to the hotel, and the rest going to the apartment. Matan said it felt good to step into the apartment. It increasingly was feeling like their primary home. Matan had arranged for a cocktail party at the apartment before they headed to the exhibit. Yonatan had tried to discourage him because the apartment looked so bare. Matan, however, said it would be alright and that people would understand. He was right. People walked through the apartment, talking about the space’s architecture, and looked out the windows on St. Catherine’s Terrace and the Cathedral. It was a magical cold winter’s night.

When the men were putting on their topcoats to leave for the museum, Jan and Nash stepped into the salon with the children dressed for the outing. They had on royal blue outfits trimmed in white fur – colors for the first night of Chanukah. Yonatan could not believe what he was seeing. He and Matan had not discussed taking the children to the museum. Why were they dressed? Yonatan turned and looked at Matan, who stuck out his bottom lip and pouted. Yonatan could only laugh and shrug his shoulders. Yonatan was a slave to whatever Matan wanted.

Black came up and said that Matan had cleared it with him earlier.

“He knew you would say no, so he came directly to me to make it happen. Sorry, boss, but I don’t know how to tell him no. Just like you can’t tell him no. Everyone will be safe, I promise. I have already checked with the authorities about security for the event. The Belgium government considers this a high-level event, and the Prime Minister’s Office has briefed me on what to expect. I will be near, and you will be fine.”

Yonatan could only nod his head. Yonatan thought it important for Matan that he be okay with everything, but the evening was turning out to be a bit overwhelming.

Matan grabbed Yonatan’s hand, kissed him, and said this was an unbelievable night. They walked to the front door of the apartment building and were met by Green Berets in dress uniforms. There was a line of cars waiting to transport them. Ayal had a list of who traveled in which vehicle. Once they were seated in their cars, the world filled with the blue lights from the police escort, and they traveled through Brussels to the museum. Why were the Green Berets present? Yonatan assumed it was because of the Ambassador. Matan had coordinated the evening with the museum staff, and Yonatan had intentionally stayed oblivious to the details.

Yonatan thought of himself as Matan’s plus-one that night, which suited him fine. When they reached the museum, a giant Chanukiah was on the plaza in front of the building. A large crowd had gathered in front of the Chanukiah. There was a speaker’s dais where Matan and Yonatan were seated along with a group of people they did not know. Chief Rabbi Hershel had flown in from Vienna and gave a short speech of it being the first night of Chanukah and the importance of this exhibit in bringing light to the world on this special night. The servant candle in the Chanukiah was already lit, and then the candle for the first night of Chanukah was lit. The crowd let out a cheer, and the choir from the Jewish School started to sing.

The Mayor of Brussels gave a short speech, and then they headed inside. Black and Green were behind them as they were escorted by a phalanx of military personnel as they walked into the museum, where they reconnected with their party. A receiving line had been set-up for opening night, with Willem joining them. He was so proud and was a hero in the eyes of the Belgian people. Once they were organized, there was a trumpet fanfare, and a steward announced the arrival of Her Majesty, Queen Fabiola. Yonatan and Matan were stunned. The Queen was attending the opening night of the exhibit! Yonatan chuckled that he had no experience bowing but gave it his best shot. Her Majesty was escorted by the U.S. Ambassador, who had a wicked grin on his face. The Queen could not have been more gracious and said she was sorry she could not get to the party at the apartment, but her calendar was filled. She said that nothing could have kept her from the opening of the exhibit. She insisted that Matan and Willem escort her through the gallery and tell her about the artwork and how Willem had managed to save it not only during the war but in the ensuing years. Photographers were everywhere, taking pictures. Yonatan was standing with Jan, Nash, Griffith, and the children when the Queen approached and asked to be introduced to the children. Griffith Manners, whom Yonatan and Matan had met that night, did not miss a beat and did a deep bow to the Queen.

“Your majesty, it is good to see you again.”

“Lord Manners, how delightful to see you. It is wonderful that you know our esteemed hosts tonight. Please give your parents my best regards. Hopefully, we can get together again soon.”

Yonatan could barely speak because he was so overcome by emotions. Black walked up behind him and whispered in his ear that he was okay. Black stayed directly behind Yonatan, and at times Yonatan felt Black’s strong hands holding him upright. That gave Yonatan confidence, and whatever queasiness he had earlier disappeared and then had a delightful conversation with the Queen. She insisted that the men and their children visit the Palace over the Christmas holiday when they would be in Brussels. Yonatan told her that he would have Ayal contact her secretary to make the arrangements. The Ambassador also said the Jenner-Ward household would also be expected at the Embassy. The Queen said she understood that they had upcoming exams and wished them the best.

“I expect nothing but the best from you, Monsieur Jenner-Ward. I have heard about your brilliance. Don’t disappoint me.” Yonatan smiled as he saw the twinkle in her eyes.

“Bring the children when you come to visit. His Majesty and I love children. I would like the chance to spoil them a little.”

And just like that, she thanked Yonatan for inviting her to the opening night and said that she must leave.

The night would have been a blur in Yonatan’s memory except that Matan talked about it the rest of the evening and on the flight home. Matan remembered each and everything single detail about what happened. Yonatan’s memory was based on what Matan said happened.

Apparently, invitations had been sent to the diplomatic community, who were out in full force. Yonatan and Matan also recognized several people who re-introduced themselves after meeting them at the fateful meeting in Vienna. Max Lambert and Lee Humbert came up and said the night was the highlight of the holiday season’s social calendar. Matan took Yonatan by the hand and walked him through the exhibit. He explained why the paintings and sculptures were placed as they were. The museum had recreated their salon for the exhibit and had the paintings and sculptures placed exactly as they did in the apartment. They had taken high-resolution photographs from the windows and printed them so that people felt they were in the apartment looking out onto St. Catherine’s Terrace. The show was beautifully mounted.

Yonatan kept looking for one person but didn’t see him. Yet, Yonatan knew he would be present. Then he saw him seated with Judy and Herbert. Mr. Cohen. There was no way he would not be present for this evening. Yonatan went up and told him that he was a soothsayer. Mr. Cohen chuckled and said he didn’t know that the men would become celebrities so quickly.

“You are now known among some of the most important people in Europe, Yonatan. Use this to your advantage. My secretary will send you a list of everyone invited, and you are to memorize the list of people and their credentials. It will serve you well throughout the years.”

“Can I pass my college exams first?” Yonatan had a sly glint in his eye.

“Of course, but you only have until the winter break when you return to know them all because I can assure you that you will have a stack of invitations waiting. Ayal will be a big help in figuring out which parties to attend. You will have someplace to go to every night. You and Matan will be the stars among the glitterati.”

Todd was agog that Queen Fabiola was present. He was very much a royalist and kept saying that the long trip was worth it to meet the Queen. Matan asked him what he thought about the artwork, and he flatly said he had no time to look at the artwork because he was too busy identifying who was who. Everyone laughed. Yonatan noticed that each time he tried to engage Todd in conversation that his friend would find an excuse to walk away. Todd wasn’t exactly rude, but he wasn’t warm and friendly the way he had been in the past. Yonatan marked it down to having just finished his classes and his desire to be with his husband.

Todd and Erick were so clearly still in love and could not take their eyes off each other. Eron and Tayloe presented a relaxed demeanor as they wandered through the galleries meeting people. Tayloe acted as if he had never met a stranger, even when he was introduced to a Prince or Prime Minister. He took it all in stride. Robert and Marjorie Reynolds were clearly starstruck. They were significant players in the Richmond, VA social scene, and they would receive many dinner invitations once they returned home so they could tell the story of this evening. Tonight, they were bit players in a much larger circus. Marjorie had the perfect curtsey when she was introduced to the Queen. Yonatan asked her how she managed that; Marjorie laughed and said she went to Miss Adelaide’s Dance School, where they learned how to curtsey. Marjorie smiled and then laughed at the remembrance. She said that Miss Adelaide would tell her students that they needed to be prepared in case they were presented to the Royal Courts in Europe. Marjorie never thought that what she learned on those Saturday mornings would ever be used. She remembered the girls snickering at such a thought, yet here she was.

Matan and Willem were the stars of the evening. Throngs of people were following them throughout the galleries.

Mademoiselle Peeters, the Director of the Museum, thanked Yonatan for his helpfulness and said the show had sold out in Brussels. She said the photographs from the opening night with Queen Fabiola would be in the Vienna and Paris social columns and that she expected that the show would sell out in those cities. Mme. Peeters said the proceeds from this exhibit would help the museum mount other less sensational exhibits, but important to emerging young artists. Yonatan mentioned that he and Matan would like to fund an exhibit for young gay artists in Brussels. She beamed and said that she would write a prospectus. Yonatan knew that he had just scored points with Mme. Peeters, but more importantly, with Matan.

Jan and Nash had already left the museum with the children by the time Yonatan and Matan were finally able to get away and head back to the apartment. It seemed that Matan spoke to each person in attendance at the exhibit. People were drawn to him. As they exited the building, they encountered the Green Berets who had escorted them to the museum. The commander said they would safely escort them home. Yonatan looked across the plaza and saw a line of vehicles appear. There were many hugs with family in front of the museum as they would not see them again until winter break from school. Yonatan and Matan would return in three weeks but would be very busy before then. The Green Berets were very patient as the two men talked with people, when all of a sudden, Green approached Yonatan and whispered in his ear that it was time to leave. Yonatan momentarily froze in place. Green spoke: Yonatan listened.

Black took Yonatan’s arm and said everything was okay but that Matan would stay all night if given a chance. Besides, he said, the Marines were freezing their butts off while they were lollygagging around, kissing, and hugging. Black laughed and shot Yonatan a look of amusement. He was trying to keep his tone light. Green was tense and observant as he quickly walked the men across the plaza to the car. As soon as their car door closed, they were quickly moving through the late-night traffic, leaving the other cars behind. Yonatan thought the military escort was a little over the top as lights and sirens interrupted the still night air. Nothing was said the entire ride back to the apartment.

The next day they traveled to the airport, again escorted by a Green Beret company. The group heading home to Virginia was smaller than the one coming to Brussels. Matan said there was no need to take any of the clothes home, so they had no luggage. Jan and Nash had the children bundled. Matan and Yonatan stepped in to explain they were their children and not Jan and Nash’s as they were going through security. One of the security officers had a newspaper and kept looking at it and then at Matan. He finally asked Matan if that was him with the Queen. All of a sudden, they were celebrities and were checked through with no problems. Of course, Matan signed the newspaper. Other people rushed to purchase newspapers, and Matan spent the rest of the time signing the papers.

They were early for the flight and had assumed they would have time to relax in the terminal before their flight was called. Matan was signing newspapers when military officers suddenly arrived and said they would escort the men onto the plane. Their presence had caused quite a stir, and security had been called to their gate to clear people. Green was glued to Matan, and Yonatan noticed that Black was very much in his personal space. Pink and Yellow were quickly moving Jan, Nash, and the kids through the travelers before they disappeared down the jet bridge. Yellow stopped at the jet port entrance and did not let anyone else enter until he got the word that the children were safely on board the plane.

Todd had a meltdown when it was time for Erick to get on the plane. Todd’s flight didn’t leave for another two hours to take him to Atlanta. He kept crying and holding onto Erick. Erick continued to say, “I will see you in ten days. I will see you in ten days.” Eron stepped up and kissed his twin and said he would pick him up at the Richmond Airport and take him to Williamsburg when he came home for the holiday. Eron told Erick to get on the plane while he calmed Todd. That seemed to work. Todd fell into Griffith’s arms when Eron walked onto the bridge.

At last, the plane was in the air and racing the sun across the Atlantic. Yonatan and Matan were returning home to exams. Yonatan remembered that he and Matan were college students who also had this incredibly fabulous life that was mostly secret from students at the college. That changed when the “Virginia Gazette,” the local Williamsburg newspaper, received a copy of the AP wire photograph and published it on the paper’s front page. The next day, the “Richmond Times-Dispatch” published a picture of Matan and Yonatan bowing to the Queen, along with an interview a reporter had with Marjorie Reynolds. There was also a picture of Robert, Marjorie, and their sons in formalwear, on the opening night. The paper published a review of the exhibit, which was more a social column of who’s who at the exhibit on opening night and the Queen’s presence. There was an interview with the Ambassador and the Senator. Yonatan was disturbed that some of their private, personal information was included in the articles. The children’s names were included in an article, as well as a picture of Jan and Nash holding the little darlings. Matan thought it was wonderful, but Yonatan was concerned about their privacy. Yonatan knew he had to have a difficult conversation with friends about talking with the press about the children. He reflected on their desire to maintain a low profile, yet they had just been at a major social event - an event where they were the focus. Yonatan couldn’t reconcile how to satisfy both parts of their lives.

The need for a low profile presented sooner than anticipated - right in the middle of exams.

Copyright © 2020 Mac Rountree; All Rights Reserved.
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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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Yonatan seems a bit lost in the melee, although holding his own when he has to.  Todd's behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic.


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Again a breath taking rollercoaster, thank you. As always, just can't wait for the next chapter;)

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