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    Mrsgnomie
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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. 

Dichotomy of Love - 6. Part One. Chapter Six.

The best solution for picking out ingredients for a build-your-own-pizza bar was to let the kids run up and down the aisles and choose what to buy. Judging by everything Kyan pulled from the cart at checkout, the normally picky eaters were suddenly willing and able to expand their palates. Kyan knew he shouldn’t get his hopes up, but he couldn’t help but wonder, was this the trick?

Let your kids pick their own foods, and they will try new things.

With the future looking brighter than ever, they drove to Perry’s house. Kyan had only been there a few times. With a gaggle of small kids, the family always came to Kyan’s. It wasn’t something he asked for, it was just how it happened. Now that they were bigger and easier to haul around, things were changing. Kyan wasn’t mad about it.

Perry had a great setup. A big open house that overlooked several acres of flat, prairie-like land, backed against a dense forest of Douglas firs. No close neighbors. The kids could run their hearts out and never leave his sight.

The yard at the rental house was big compared to some, but hardly enough to truly stretch their legs. After a long week cooped up in their little house, the kids were desperate for space. No sooner had Kyan parked the Pilot in Perry’s driveway than the older kids unbuckled themselves, burst out of the SUV, and took off running into the field.

Kyan sighed and released Gracie from her restraints and helped her down so she could chase after the others. He grabbed two grocery bags from the back, then looked at the house. Perry finished building it shortly after Dayna passed. A dark gray Craftsman-style home with a giant wrap-around porch. Kyan walked up and peered through the twelve-pane glass door for any signs of life. He opened it a crack. “Knock knock,” he hollered, then pushed it open with his hip. “Anyone home?”

The inside was Kyan’s absolute dream, with white oak wood floors, a designer kitchen, and a hidden movie theater above the garage. It blew his cookie-cutter, single story ranch rental out of the water. To Kyan, Perry had designed the perfect home.

The talented man himself appeared from the hall, freshly showered in a black t-shirt and dark blue jeans. He sat at the dining room table and pulled his socks on. “Do you have more stuff to bring in?”

Kyan hefted the bags onto the giant kitchen island with its easy-to-clean, matte white countertop. “A few, but I can grab them.”

When he came back with the last of the food, Perry was unloading the bags onto the counter. His brother-in-law snorted out a laugh. “How many pizzas are we makin’ tonight?”

“You told me to get ‘whatever’ and the kids swore they’re going to put all this on their pizzas.”

“Mhmm.”

Kyan laughed. “I know! But you try saying no when they’re excited about a jar of banana peppers. It’s hard not to believe they might just try it.”

“And just who is eating banana peppers on their pizza?”

“Gracie.”

“Riiiiight,” Perry laughed as he opened the ingredients and poured them into little bowls for easy access.

“So…” Kyan twisted the top off a jar of pizza sauce and tried to sound casual. “Are you seeing anyone these days?”

Perry looked at Kyan from the corner of his eye.

“I haven’t heard you talk about anyone in a while.”

“Because I’m not seeing anyone.”

“Have you dated anyone since Jerrod?”

“Yes.”

Kyan’s head shot up. “Who?”

“No one important.”

“No one? Or more than one?”

Perry paused what he was doing and thought about it. “Three?”

Three?” Kyan’s jaw dropped. “When?”

“Sometime between when Jerrod and I broke up and now?”

Okay. That stung a bit. Kyan bit the inside of his cheek and focused on putting the food out. Perry had three boyfriends since Jerrod, and he had no idea! He should have asked more questions.

“Why’d you and Jerrod break up, anyway?” Kyan redirected the conversation. “No one ever said. He just stopped coming by.”

Perry narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “That was eight years ago. Why the sudden interest?”

“Can’t a friend ask another friend questions?”

“Not when they’re being weird about it.”

“I’m not being weird.”

“Then why am I creeped out?”

Kyan laughed and threw some Cheetos at Perry’s face. He glanced out the window and found the kids having the time of their life in the playhouse, a replica of the main house.

Noah had Gracie laughing as he peek-a-booed from one side before running to the other side and doing it again. Gracie kept going back and forth, trying to catch him, only to be startled into another fit of laughter. The twins hid inside, popping out of the windows, trying to scare each other.

Everyone was happy. And that made Kyan happy.

Jessica arrived as Perry fired up the outdoor pizza oven. Followed by Jed and Trudy. Jessica helped the twins with their pizzas while Perry carried Gracie around the island so she could pick what she wanted. Unsurprisingly, and despite the fortune spent on toppings, three of the four kids ate cheese pizza while Noah had pepperoni.

Kyan got pepperoni, pineapple, jalapeno, and a few banana peppers because he felt guilty they were going to waste.

“That looks good,” Perry said as he slid Kyan’s pizza into the oven using a giant wooden paddle. “Save a piece for me.”

“Only if you tell me why you and Jerrod broke up.”

Perry laughed, long and loud. It was a contagious laugh that had Kyan smiling and had Jessica looking at them from the kitchen window. “You’re a dog with a bone, aren’t you? Man, I wish it was something interesting, but it’s just a boring case of wanting different things.”

“Like what?”

“Marriage, kids, that kind of stuff.”

“He didn’t want it or you didn’t want it?”

“I guess it wasn’t a matter of not wanting, it was more a timing issue. He wanted them right then, and I didn’t.”

“Really?” Kyan was taken aback. He assumed Perry would want a million kids, and he’d want them yesterday.

“Really,” he confirmed. Perry glanced across the room at his sister and parents, then leaned into Kyan and whispered, “Jerrod called me out on it. He knew I wanted to be a dad, so he had a hard time understanding why I wouldn’t commit to him. I didn’t have a good answer, which spoke volumes of a deeper issue. We knew it was over for us. I never told the family that part.”

“Oh. Well, thanks for telling me…and mums the word.” Kyan zipped his lips and threw away the key.

“Happy?” Perry asked with a curious but smuggish smile.

“Oh, no. I’m just starting. In fact, I would like to circle back to these boyfriends that I’ve never heard a thing about.”

Perry rolled his eyes like he couldn’t be bothered, but when he turned to check the pizzas again, he was smiling. “I wouldn’t consider them boyfriends.”

“Did they meet your parents?”

“Yeah.”

“But not me?”

“Meeting you would mean they went to a family function, and that’s different than a quick meet-up with my parents.”

“And Jessica?”

“Well, two of them met her, yes.”

“Dayna?”

“One, but only because she came over unannounced.”

Kyan took the pizza paddle from Perry’s hand and hit him on the shoulder with it. Perry put his hands up defensively and laughed. “Sorry! I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

Did my kids meet them?” Kyan shouted as he hit Perry over and over. “Did they?”

Perry crouched over and covered his head, laughing uncontrollably. “Maybe Noah, but he was really little. I doubt he remembers!”

Ohmygod!” Kyan stopped hitting him and set the paddle on the oven. “I can’t believe it. Even Noah met one of your boyfriends.”

“They weren’t boyfriends.”

Kyan pouted. “Well, they weren’t strangers either.” He felt genuinely crushed that Perry had dated men since Jerrod and never told Kyan. Perry must have sensed the change in his mood, because he stopped laughing. Perry opened his mouth, but Jessica popped up out of nowhere.

“Is dinner almost ready? I’m hungry and that mac and cheese pizza with hot dog slices isn’t going to eat itself.”

Perry looked at Kyan for a moment, then turned to the oven. They set all the pizzas out, including a few extras they made with crazy ingredients like Cheetos and craisins.For dessert there was one covered in Hershey Kisses, marshmallows, and drizzled with caramel sauce.

Grandpa Jed grumbled at the pizza blasphemy, partly to make the kids laugh but mostly because he was old school. He was a country boy who cycled through the same flannel shirts and Wrangler jeans, which were always held up with suspenders. In Jed’s mind, pizza wasn’t something you experimented with. You ate pepperoni or meat supreme.

Kyan flopped a slice of his pizza on Perry’s plate as part of their deal. Perry looked up from his conversation with Henry and smiled. In exchange, Perry gave him a slice of his Dorito, pepperoni, and black olive pizza. Tit for tat.

When there was nothing left of the pizzas but a few slices and spilled toppings, they moved outside to the porch. September’s east breeze was warm. It was a great night. Perry’s house was meant for family gatherings. Now that his kids weren’t so little, Kyan knew they’d be spending a lot more time over here.

The adults sat in adirondack chairs and watched the kids run around in the freshly mowed grass without jackets and shoes while the sunset stained the sky blood orange.

After a few minutes and a huddled conversation that made Kyan squint in suspicion, the kids sprinted across the field to the porch, and flung themselves onto a very unsuspecting Perry.

“Uncle Perry! Can we stay da night?” Henry asked between pants. He popped his bottom lip out and batted his eyelashes.

The intentional begging was new … and hysterical. Maybe they got Kyan’s doe-eyes after all.

Ava stood and put her hands behind her back, swaying back and forth. “Pweeeze!”

Perry looked at Kyan as if he was behind whatever plot was unfolding. Kyan put his hands up. “This is what I get for putting my kids in public school.”

“I, for one, am offended,” Jessica said. She crossed her arms. “No one wants to stay the night at my house.”

The kids dropped Perry like a hot rock and went straight to their favorite aunt. “I do!” Noah said.

Ava threw herself on Jessica’s lap and hugged her waist. “I want to stay da night with you, pweeze!”

Gracie just stood to the side and jumped up and down. She was along for the ride.

Jessica looked at Perry victoriously. One point for her. Not that anyone was keeping tabs. Except Jessica. She loved the attention almost as much as she loved her nieces and nephews. She gave all her attention back to the kids. “What if we pick a different weekend? That way we can plan something super-duper fun?”

Perry and Kyan shook their heads at the backpedaling. Typical Jessica.

The kids cheered, then ran back to Perry because their night was still free. Perry picked the twins up and set one on each knee. “I would love to have you guys stay the night, but I don’t know where you would sleep. The last time you stayed the night, we could all fit in my bed, but now you’re too big. I told you to stop growing, but you didn’t listen.”

“But you have—” Henry stuck out his tongue as he counted on his hands, “—five bedrooms!” He said, holding up three fingers.

Empty bedrooms with no beds.”

Noah jumped up and down. “We can sleep in the movie room!”

Evidently, sleeping in Perry’s theater room was peak goals. Perry and Kyan couldn’t have said no if they wanted because the children were already running upstairs. The only one they could have stopped was Gracie. Her three-year-old legs weren’t all that fast.

Perry stuck his tongue out at his sister. “I guess I’m having a sleepover.”

Jessica rolled her eyes and got up. She collected a few plates and set them on the island like she was cleaning up, then bolted towards the stairs. The kids were staying at Perry’s, but Jessica would stop at nothing to garner points.

“That bitch!” Perry said as he knocked his chair back and went after her, taking the stairs two at a time.

Trudy looked at the ceiling toward the garage where a stampede was taking place. “In their thirties and still acting like children.”

“I hope they never grow up,” Jed said. “I just wish Dayna was here to see her siblings fighting over her kids like this.”

Trudy patted his arm. “I think she’s watching them with great joy tonight.”

****

Everyone piled into the theater room, which had three rows of reclining chairs and a giant projection screen. They ate popcorn and laughed with the children.

By the time the credits rolled, the kids were all asleep.

Perry turned off the projector while Jed and Trudy made sure each child’s recliner was fully extended back and carefully tucked them in with the blankets Perry had provided. Kyan added some pillows next to little Gracie-flops-a-lot. If there was a way to end up on the ground, she would find it. Once she was safe, he stroked the back of his hand against her rosy cheek. She was a beauty, so much like her mother. They had the same pattern of freckles on the left temple.

Then everyone tiptoed out, and Jed, Trudy, and Jessica left.

Kyan dropped onto the black leather sofa in the living room. “I’m sorry,” he said, staring at the ceiling.

Perry sat on the other end and stared at Kyan. “For what?”

“For assuming the kids weren’t a priority to you. You’re a great uncle who makes my kids feel like a million bucks. You have been an essential piece of my life, too. Even before Dayna’s death, but especially after. I haven’t told you how much I appreciate you. Me assuming you would rather do anything other than hang out with us was insulting, and I know that was a week ago, but I’m sorry.”

“Oh. That’s old news.”

“But it’s important for you to know that I know I screwed up and that I’m really sorry..”

The corner of Perry’s mouth curved upward. “You keep saying that.”

“Because I’m sorry.”

“Okay. Damn. You’re forgiven.”

“Good.” Kyan lay on the sofa properly, with his feet on Perry’s lap. He wiggled his toes until Perry gathered them in his strong hands and started rubbing. With the kids asleep and his brother-in-law giving him a killer foot rub, Kyan circled back to the task at hand. “Tell me about Perry.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, confused. “Tell you what?”

“About you. When was the last guy you dated?”

“This again?” But he didn’t argue. “Right before Dayna died.”

“And since?” Kyan pressed. “Have you gone without? Or do you have a lot of one-night stands?”

Perry groaned and rose off the sofa, knocking Kyan’s feet to the ground. “I think it’s time for bed.”

“Perfect.” Kyan got up and followed him to the master bedroom.

Perry stopped when he got to his room and looked at Kyan. “What are you doing?”

“Going to bed so we can stay up all night talking about boys.”

Oh my god,” Perry groaned and stripped down to his boxer-briefs. Kyan followed suit.

When they were in bed, Kyan rested his cheek on his fist and gave Perry his full attention. “So, tell me everything.”

Perry buried his head in the pillow and laughed.

“How does Grindr work?” Kyan asked, genuinely curious.

Perry peeked out. “You want tips? Swipe left. Swipe right.”

He punched Perry’s shoulder. “Don’t be a smartass.”

“Then tell me what this is all about. Why the sudden interest?”

“We’re best friends. We should’ve been talking about this stuff years ago, but I was a little distracted. I’m tired of being a terrible friend to you. I want to be for you what you are to me. Unless—” Kyan hesitated. “Do you not feel comfortable talking to me about it?”

“I, uh—”

“Ohmygod. You don’t.”

“I’m just not used to it!” Perry cried. “Like you said, we haven’t talked about this stuff before.”

“Exactly. And there is no better time than now.”

Perry turned on his side and gave Kyan all of his attention, though it didn’t feel sincere. “What do you want to know again?”

Kyan ignored the fact that Perry sounded like he was getting a leg amputated. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just trying to figure you out. I didn’t know you dated. I don’t know what you like in guys or how you pick them up. I don’t know if you’re the kind of guy who uses Grindr or … the other options,” he ended lamely, because he didn’t have a clue.

“I have used Grindr in the past, but I didn’t like it. I don’t even have it on my phone anymore.”

“What do you do then?”

“What do you do?” he countered.

“Well, that’s different. I haven’t thought about that stuff since Dayna. I’m not even sure my dick works anymore.”

Perry blinked. “At all?”

“I’ve had morning woods, obviously. Other than that, nothing. I haven’t been in the headspace. Four kids put a damper on those thoughts anyway. ”

“I guess I’m not usually in the headspace either. Like most guys, I want sex all the time, but I don’t get a ton of enjoyment from casual hookups. I think sex is best when there is a connection and familiarity. You don’t get that on some app.”

“When was the last time you got laid?”

“A while.” He opened his mouth to say something else but appeared to change his mind.

“What were you gonna say?”

“After Dayna died, I was in a weird place emotionally. I kind of whore’d it up.”

Kyan chuckled. “You used sex as a distraction, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, it would seem so.”

“So, during your whore-it-up time, what did you do if you didn’t use Grindr?”

“Portland has a few clubs. It’s easy to pull if you want.” Perry narrowed his eyes. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Kyan said, trying not to laugh. “Trying to picture you at a club, pulling some dude. And that’s no disrespect. Remember that I have no experience. I knocked your sister up when I was seventeen. I haven’t even been to a club, let alone tried to pull or pick up. This is a world I know nothing about.”

“I didn’t do it because I enjoyed it. I did it because I needed to curb base desires… and probably because I was depressed.”

Kyan’s smile faded. “Are you still depressed?”

Perry was quiet for a minute. “I don’t know,” he whispered. “If anything, I’m lonely.”

“Have you thought about dating again?”

Perry laughed, but the sound was hollow. “I have. A lot, actually.”

“Recently?”

Perry nodded, and Kyan perked up. “That’s a good thing, right? I’m sure we can find you someone. I mean, you’re a hot dude — successful, funny, good with kids, etcetera.”

Perry turned on his back and stared at the ceiling. “I think that’s enough for tonight, don’t you think?”

He hit a tender spot. That was fine. As short as their conversation was, he had more insight into Perry’s personal life than ever before. He filed the information away for later.

Lying in a mildly tense silence, Kyan reflected on his personal life. Dating hadn’t crossed his mind. It was years out. If ever. He couldn’t see himself with anyone, not while raising kids. That didn’t mean he couldn’t be there for Perry. The man deserved happiness.

Kyan was determined to find his brother-in-law someone good. He immediately thought of Max. Max was really good. He was funny, smart, and, if you were to judge by his car and clothes, successful. More importantly, he was a good uncle and a good man.

A plan started to brew. It would stay a secret for now. There might be a lot about the man lying next to him he didn’t know, but he knew Perry and Max had the potential to be epic... if everything happened organically. It had to be because the thought of Perry being lonely was too much to bear.

Kyan nudged Perry, who now had his eyes closed. “I want you to know that you’re not alone.”

Perry closed his eyes and smiled. “Neither are you.”

Copyright © 2023 Mrsgnomie; 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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