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    Parker Owens
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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.

A to Z - 60. Chapter 60 Are You Sure?

Are You Sure?

No special warnings for this chapter.

Questions and issues raised in this chapter or any other chapter can be discussed at the A to Z story thread here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/40860-a-to-z/

March 21 – Tuesday

So. It's official. Zander and I are getting married! Really. Yesterday, Father Brewer called me on my cell in the middle of Physics lab. He left a message for me to call him, which I did, during lunch. I took my phone outside the building, so I could have some privacy – and so I could avoid the assistant principal, who constantly reminds everyone of the no-cell policy.

The good news: we can get married. The harder news: the earliest date Father Brewer could give us was still ten days away – a week from this coming Friday. Father Brewer said there's a requirement for pre-marriage counseling sessions that we couldn't get around. I had to tell him I would call him back when we had a date.

Just Zander, Kaz and Terry waited for me at our lunch table when I came in. Three pairs of eyes watched me enter the cafeteria, grab some lunch, and sit.

"Well? What's the news?" asked Zander, who knew exactly what the call had been about.

Kaz and Terry, on the other hand, were clueless.

I broke into a grin. I couldn't help it. "He said yes."

Zander's high voltage smile shone out brilliantly. He grabbed my hand and squeezed. "Awesome. Faaaaaantastic."

Terry couldn't contain her curiosity anymore. "What's going on? Who said yes? To what?"

I took Zander's hand and showed his ring finger to Kaz and Terry. "We're getting married," I said simply. "I asked Zander to marry me on Saturday."

I think that might have been the first time I ever saw Terry completely astonished. If had said 'I gave birth to live muskrats in English class,' I doubt she would have been more shocked.

Kaz looked at Zander, then at me. "You mean it?"

I nodded, still smiling. I held up my left hand. "See? I have one just like Zander's."

Kaz took a second to examine it. "Shit, you're not kidding," he breathed. I love surprising Kaz.

"Nope. Not kidding. What's more, we can pick any date we want, as long as it's between March 31st and April 8th. At least, that's what Father Brewer said," I relayed to Zander.

"Wait, wait," Terry began recovering, "Andy, do you mean you really proposed last Saturday? And how exactly did this happen? Zander, please tell me you said 'yes.'"

"Of course I did," Zander said happily.

"You sly devil, Andy. How did you pop the question? And what did Zander's parents say?" Her questions tumbled out. No stopping them now.

Over lunch, we gave Terry and Kaz a quick retelling of how we got engaged – and then dropped another bombshell by telling them about being confronted by Ambrose and Uncle Allan. Terry wanted more details, but Kaz stopped her to ask something else.

"I don't understand. How can you marry Zander, if you go live with this new uncle of yours?"

"I'm not going to live with him. He lives in Africa. I'm staying with Zander. He's my family," I answered.

"So, when does the wedding happen?" Kaz asked. "You said something about a date."

I took the last few minutes of lunch period to explain our reasons for marrying in a hurry. They knew all about our problems with Family Services. Kaz nodded thoughtfully as Zander and I tried to make them understand.

"This is so cool," Terry enthused. "Not only do you get the romance, but you also put one over on Bruce Mack's aunt. Bitch."

There was something in her tone that cracked us all up.

We had to get on to class by then. And the rest of the day was a good day. Practice went well, and I began to learn how to pole vault.

At supper, Monica and Garrett received the news differently than I'd thought they would. On Saturday, Garrett had been mildly supportive, while Monica seemed intent on putting up roadblocks. Last night, it was Monica who got excited at the news from Father Brewer.

"It's really possible," she said, wiping her mouth. "It could really happen."

"The question is really what day we want," I added, hoping to get her beyond giving us reasons why we couldn't do it.

"Well, I think we'd want the last possible day, don't you? That can give us time to plan," she responded.

I exchanged looks with Zander. "I don't want to wait longer than we have to," he said. "The sooner we can get married, the less I'll worry about what Ms. Chandler will do."

"Garrett, what do you think?" Monica asked, probably hoping he'd settle the matter.

But Garrett said nothing for a few moments, his face all concentration. "I guess it's up to the boys," he said eventually.

That settled it for me. I wanted to get married on Friday, March 31st, and said so. Zander was right. The earlier, the better.

After supper, Garrett sat down on the end of the bed where we had been doing homework for an hour or so; he directed his most serious gaze at each of us.

"Andy, Zander, you realize that you don't have to go through with a wedding, don't you?"

I sat up straighter on the bed and frowned. Zander took my hand.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Andy, once your Uncle Allan can file the necessary paperwork, he becomes your guardian. He'll replace me and Monica."

"But I…"

Garrett held up a hand. "Hear me out. Allan told me he'd be perfectly happy to arrange for you to stay with us as long as you want. That's not an issue. But once the legal niceties are observed, you will no longer be a foundling. Ms. Chandler and FPS will have no jurisdiction."

I stared at fine blue and white pattern of threads on my jeans while Garrett let that sink in. I could stay here in this house and in this room and nobody could say anything about it. There was no legal need to get married anymore. No need for rings or promises.

Except. I stirred and looked back at Garrett.

"I still want to get married," I said softly. "I still love Zander. That hasn't changed at all. I still want to be part of this family, part of you and Monica and all the rest." I felt Zander squeeze my hand. "And I still want the promise that I won't be alone or abandoned again. And I don't want those things in some future time when I'm more mature. I think I need them now."

Garrett took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He blinked. "I see. Well." He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. He looked at each of us in turn and asked: "Boys, are you sure you want to go through with this?"

We looked at one another. I nodded, and Zander followed suit. "Yes. Definitely."

Garrett cleared his throat. "I know you're in love, but I want to be certain about it," he said. "If you're completely sure about this, then tomorrow, I'll take the two of you out of school at lunch time. We'll go down to the courthouse and file the papers for a marriage license. Shouldn't take long; you'll be back in time for math class."

I got an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach. Not fear. Something else. Excitement, maybe? I don't know. I still have it, whatever it is.

"Once you file those papers, once you apply, you are making a public statement – it's a public act, you understand?" Garrett continued, earnestly. "People file for marriage licenses every day, and it's no big deal if you live in a big city. But gay couples filing for marriage licenses are relatively rare in this part of the state, and a gay couple as young as yourselves filing here in Blackburn is unheard of. Word is going to get around."

That took a moment to sink in. Word would get around, all right. To Ms. Chandler, maybe? To everyone we know, more like.

"Public records are treated with discretion, but there is no guarantee this will be kept quiet," Garrett made the point absolutely clear.

"So, you’re asking if we really want to get married, because if we do, people might know about it?" Zander asked quietly.

"Know about it and make trouble for you, yes," Garrett replied evenly.

I looked down at the bedspread. I found wrinkles and creases to examine where I'd been lying on it earlier. I didn't want to be a burden, to cause trouble for Zander and Garrett and Monica.

I felt a hand take mine.

"I have never wanted to do anything more in my whole life," I heard Zander say.

I felt my throat constrict with emotion - with the love I have for Zander, which seems to grow by the hour. I looked up Garrett and tried to agree, but all I could do was nod.

So that's why we appeared in a basement corridor of the county courthouse, in front of the county clerk's window during lunch today. Zander and I stood there together at the window, while Garrett hovered in the far background. He had coached us what to apply for, and what to say, but he insisted we make the application ourselves.

That unsettled, excited feeling in my gut got more prominent.

We waited a few moments until a mildly interested middle aged woman curtly told us, "One at a time, please."

"We're together," Zander put in before I could say it.

"And what do you two need?" She chewed a wad of gum, I noticed.

"We're applying for a marriage license," I said.

"Which one of you is getting married?" she asked.

"Both of us," I said, clarifying, "to each other."

The woman's eyes narrowed. "Get out of here. Don't waste my time on stupid pranks," she said shortly and looked down at the papers in front of her again.

We stayed there. Neither of us moved an inch.

"What? Didn't you hear me?" she said, glancing up at us.

"Yes, ma'am, we heard," Zander said and gave her his best smile. "But we're serious. We have the forms, the papers, ID, the church and the wedding date, everything. It's not a prank."

I held out a folder with all the items I'd known we would need and which Garrett had gathered up for us.

Suspiciously, the woman took it from my fingers. Silently, she examined it, leafing through the pages of documents. "I don't believe this," she muttered. Suddenly, she rose, and walked out of view into the recesses of the office.

A moment later, an older woman with half-moon glasses and a tall, silver beehive hairdo appeared in front of us. She held the folder in her hand. "Are you the two boys looking for a marriage license?" she asked.

"Yes ma'am," we practically chorused.

"And you're absolutely serious about this?" She directed a piercing glance over her glasses at each of us.

We nodded. I resisted the urge to shout that this was supposed to be completely legal, and that it shouldn't be a huge production for two guys to want to get married, no matter where they lived.

She held up a document – Garrett's parent permission form. "Whose signature is this?" she demanded.

"That's my dad's – Garrett Stevenson," Zander responded. "He's a lawyer here in town. Do you know him?" he asked innocently.

"And where's yours?" the steel-haired lady asked, turning to me.

"Umm, my permission is there, the form with Judge Harrison's signature on it." I indicated a paper under her thumb.

That seemed to get her attention.

She examined the documents in the folder again, one by one. "And you have a wedding date where? St. James' Church here in town?" She was looking for a reason to turn us down.

"Yes, ma'am," I answered. "It's on the blue paper, there," I pointed to the folder. It helps to have a lawyer for a guardian and foster father when you want to get married. Especially if you want to marry his son. Everything was in order; everything had been triple-checked.

"You have photo ID?" she demanded.

Zander produced his driver's license, and I handed over my permit. Both had our pictures, bad as they were.

She inspected them carefully, minutely, then looked over Zander's shoulder at something behind us.

I turned. Nobody there but Garrett standing in the background, purposefully gazing at a poster on the wall.

Eventually, she handed our I.D. back, her lips pressed tightly together. She seemed to be making her mind up about something.

"You have the fees?" She seemed hopeful that I'd forgotten.

Instead, I nodded. I carefully extracted the sixty dollar filing fee from my pocket. I'd put up half and Zander had put up half. I was completely broke, pretty much, but I'd insisted on contributing my share. I hardly cared. I gave the money to her.

"You'll want a receipt?" she asked tersely.

"Yes, please," I said as pleasantly as I could.

I held my breath while she wrote it out on a form.

"Here. You should be able to pick up your license at this window Friday afternoon," she said curtly, handing over the flimsy receipt. And she promptly disappeared from view.

Zander and I looked at each other, and breathed out a sigh a relief.

"You boys really getting married?" An older gentleman in a corduroy coat and tie behind us inquired, an incredulous expression on his lined face. I hadn't even been aware he was in line behind us.

"Yes, sir," I said, grabbing Zander's hand with a big smile breaking out on my face, "we sure are."

And then there was the pre-marriage counseling session at our house tonight. Father Brewer came over for supper. Apparently, he and Monica talked it over while we were in school. Zander and I prepared the meal, while Monica and Father Brewer watched. She bought the ingredients and got out the recipe, and we worked on it together.

If it was some sort of test, I guess we passed. After supper, Father Brewer had Zander and me in the living room. There were a lot of questions and Father Brewer tried to explain about sacraments and stuff. Not sure if I got all that. Mostly, he seemed interested in how Zander and I handle disagreements: how would each of us respond when our opinions conflict?

Neither of us knew how to answer that – we've never fought about much of anything. But I did talk about what I'd learned from the last week. About the importance of talking things out with Zander when something didn't seem right between us.

We have another appointment tomorrow afternoon, after practice, in Father Brewer's office. This is looking like a busy week.

 

March 25 – Saturday Afternoon

So for an hour or so, I've been curled up on the bed with a little time to write. Zander is drawing something on his pad – I suspect it might be a study of my foot. What is this fascination with drawing my body parts?

Big question for today – no, for this whole week – is, "Are You Sure?" It's not even my question.

But it's the question everyone seems to be asking every other moment. Zander and I got it Monday from Garrett before we got ready for bed; we got it again at the courthouse; I got it in a long, late night phone call with Uncle Allan in Nairobi; we got it again from Father Brewer Tuesday, and on Wednesday, and last night, too. It seems that anyone who knows about our wedding next Friday asks us that question.

The whole 'Are You Sure?' thing is getting to me.

Dr. O'Shea said on Thursday that it's natural to question a big decision like this one. Then, of course, she asked me the Question. Of course, she's full of questions, so that wasn't the only one for that session.

Hell. The wedding is next Friday – that's less than a week away, isn't it?

Since writing on Tuesday, the days have gotten more and more packed. I thought the ‘nothing else’ promise Zander and I made would be hard to keep. After all, we sleep in the same bed, wearing only our underwear. Believe me, that itself is worth looking forward to at the end of the day.

But by the time everything gets done, and after we are ready for bed, Zander and I are too exhausted to think about anything much hotter than kissing. Well, maybe a few things hotter than that.

But still, all the things we have had to do! School. Homework. Projects. Work. Track practices.

Practices got longer this week because we’ve started training for field events. The coach seemed happy with my choice of pole vaulting. He showed me the basics, and then had Nick Lewis watch me while I managed to make a complete idiot of myself trying it out for the first time. I’m glad he was patient with me, and I eventually got over the bar on my own.

Then we’ve had meetings: Pre-Marriage counseling with Father Brewer. An appointment with Dr. O’Shea that included Zander. By a strange coincidence, both sessions included discussions on sex. Father Brewer wanted us to think about what we thought sex was for: in our case, it sure isn't for making babies. He talked about sex as a sacrament in marriage – and I'm not sure I got all that. But if it's about me showing Zander how much I love him, then fine, I can go that far.

The session with Dr. O'Shea was a whole different kind of thing. I guess I’m used to Dr. O’Shea and her questions, but Zander isn’t; he actually got a little embarrassed being questioned about sex so frankly.

After we got past the 'Are You Sure' business, a lot of what Dr. O’Shea wanted to talk about was how we should be gentle with each other. She led us into understanding how I’ll need to tell Zander when he does something to make me uncomfortable – something that brings up bad memories. And she warned Zander that I might not respond to him the way he wants me to sometimes, and that he’ll have to be patient. Honestly, I don’t see that happening, but maybe she knows something I don’t.

What I really wanted to talk with Dr. O’Shea about was the uncertain kind of feelings I've been having. Yes, I'm sure I want to marry Zander. I know I'm young, and vulnerable, and all that, but honestly, when am I ever going to find a more beautiful, patient, caring and loving boy? And one who wants me, too? So, yes, I'm sure.

But that doesn't mean the unsettled feeling in the center of my gut has gone away. It hasn't, and I know it's not just excitement, and it isn’t heartburn.

As I lie wide awake and stare at the ceiling next to Zander, I wonder this: will I turn out to be like my Dad? Will I grow into a devil like Uncle Ray? Genetics works – six weeks on Eustace's farm taught me that much - and so I need to know: did I inherit the monster gene? I know I look like my Mom. At least, if Uncle Allan is right, I do. But maybe, deep inside, I'm evil, like my Dad and Uncle Ray, and it's just waiting to burst out.

The idea that I could hurt Zander because I'm just born evil has haunted me the last two nights. I’ve had terrible dreams, which have this basic theme: I’m angry, so angry that I have a weapon in my hand. I hear my father's voice shouting: "You're just like me! I can prove it! Just like me!" And in the dream, I chase after Zander with the weapon; in the dream, all I can see is fear in his face. And then I swing it at him. And when I do, I hear my father laughing his nasty laugh, and I wake up. I wake up, and all I can think of is that I can’t ever be the cause of such pain and fear, not to Zander, not ever.

I don't wonder what the dream means. I know – but is it a fear, or a warning? We didn’t get a chance to talk about it Thursday with Dr. O’Shea, and I really wish we had, because the dreams keep coming back. I have her emergency number, but I doubt this counts.

I don't want to hurt Zander. I don't want to be a monster. Is that something I get to decide, or is it written in my chromosomes? Briefly, I wondered if I should get away again before we find out.

Then there's the problem of not wanting to disappoint anyone. Monica has really gotten into the idea of a wedding. On Wednesday, she told her boss that she was taking some vacation time to plan a wedding. Since Tuesday, she’s been on the phone with Zander’s sisters and brother – does that mean I’m going to be their brother-in-law? – and with her own brothers and sisters, and with Garrett’s parents, and with her own mother, and probably with the President of the United States, the way she’s gotten excited. She's probably been on the phone with the whole town.

Believe it or not, very soon I will get to meet Monica's mother, Zander's Nonna Costanza. 'Nonna' is Italian for 'grandmother.' I've never known one, though Uncle Allan says there's his own mother – my Mom's mom – still alive in Florida. She lives in some kind of retirement home there, or something. Anyway, he said he was going to try and contact her to tell her about me being alive. Haven't heard a thing, so I wonder if she's not happy about the news she has a gay grandson. On the other hand, Zander's Nonna Costanza is so excited about all this that she's coming up from Atlanta, and Monica is meeting her at the airport. Tonight. Monica is happy her mother is coming, but I'm scared to meet the rest of the family – what if they hate me?

I didn't realize that this was going to be such a big deal.

I think I heard Monica on the phone talking to someone about flowers. What the hell do we care about flowers?

After I finished with Mrs. Marjorie today, Monica had Garrett take me and Zander shopping for suits to get married in. At first, she thought about tuxedo rentals, but Garrett intervened to say that men always need good suits, and the cost of a rental was halfway to the price of a decent suit. We might as well each have one; we’d find it useful, he thought. Maybe he’s right, but I can’t imagine when I’ll ever wear it again.

We wound up getting identical dark charcoal grey suits at the big mall where we went to buy clothes for me the first time – how long ago that seems. Garrett made us pick out a couple of shirts to go with our new clothes, and several ties, too. Zander says he’ll help me with the tie; I’ve never had a real one before. And then I had to purchase some dress shoes. I didn't understand why I couldn't just wear the ones I'd bought at the thrift store.

And speaking of Mrs. Marjorie, I realized it was time to tell her the truth about me and what was about to happen. She'd been good to me, and I felt it was right to tell her everything. She didn't have much for me today – just some pre-spring garden chores and cleanup in her little barn – so when I asked if we could sit down in her kitchen, she seemed surprised. It wasn't a rest that I needed.

She sat and waited for me to speak.

"Mrs. Marjorie, there's something I need to tell you," I started.

"Go ahead, Andrew," she said.

I took a long breath. "Mrs. Marjorie, you need to know something about me. I'm gay."

She blinked behind her spectacles for a moment, then answered, "Thank you, Andrew. I appreciate your trusting me with that."

"You knew that already, didn't you?" I accused her, gently. She always seemed to know everything and everyone.

"Well, I suspected as much, now that you mention it," she said, shaking her head with a small smile. "At first, I wondered a little, because a handsome boy like yourself never talked about girls or dances or anything. Nobody told me you were dating their daughters. Lately, I heard about your little dust-up with Phyllis Chandler and the Stevenson family you live with. Didn't take a Nobel prizewinner to make that connection." She paused a moment. "Anyhow, it doesn't make a particle of difference to me. You're not the first gay child in Blackburn, not by any means."

"Really? There were others?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Andrew, of course there were. A few of them came out at school, and some had their secrets discovered for them by their so-called friends." She shook her head. "For some it was hellish, and for others less so. Has it been awful for you?"

I thought about that. "Yeah, it was. The actual coming out part was…terrible," I answered, hesitating. "But most people here in Blackburn have been pretty good about it."

"Anyone in school giving you a hard time?" she pressed. As if Mrs. Marjorie could do anything about it. Then again, maybe she could.

"Yeah, one guy on the track team was a real asshole about it – oh, sorry, ma'am," I corrected myself quickly.

"What has he done?" Mrs. Marjorie sounded as if she was going to march right down to the principal's office and take action.

I shrugged. "It's okay, Mrs. Marjorie. The kid is a senior – his name is Bruce Mack – and he'll graduate, and then he'll leave me alone."

"One of the Macks, is it? Well, then, it's not a surprise."

I cast a puzzled look at her.

Mrs. Marjorie explained. "Everyone knows Beatrice Mack's husband left her five years ago…for another man. Not that I’d blame James for leaving that woman, but it certainly did cause quite a stir. I doubt she helped her kids or anyone else come to terms with it."

I sat and stared for a moment. Well that explained Bruce's hostility. And his aunt's.

But Mrs. Marjorie wasn't finished with me, not quite. "How has your father taken the news?"

I sighed. "It wasn't pretty." And I proceeded to tell her my story. My real story. The story of how I wound up on her doorstep, asking for a job. And how I stayed in Blackburn to go to school and fell in love.

Through it all, Mrs. Marjorie listened patiently, frowning at my treatment in Carlsberg, nodding occasionally at other points, asking only one two questions. When I was through, she smiled and commented, "Well. That's an extraordinary tale, Andrew. So you've come all this way, and now you have a foster family and a boyfriend. I'm glad you found a future here in this little backwater."

But I had saved the best for last. "Well, it's not over yet, Mrs. Marjorie. Next Friday, I'm getting married to my boyfriend. I'd like you to be there, if you could."

Finally, I'd robbed the nice old lady of speech. We'd managed to keep things quiet enough to surprise her. Mrs. Marjorie always had a wise answer for everything, but not this time. Her face seemed frozen in surprise.

"You're getting married?" she finally squeaked out, recovering.

I nodded. "And if you can come to St. James' Church on Friday evening, you can see it."

"You want me to be there?" she asked, her voice still half an octave higher than usual.

"Of course. You were my first friend in Blackburn."

Her voice returned to normal. "My goodness, Andrew, you startled me. You're not joking with an old lady, are you?"

I shook my head. "No, ma'am."

"You're so young, both of you. Are you sure about this?"

Ugh. The Question again.

I nodded. "We're certain. And Zander's parents are okay with it, and the judge signed off on it, and we actually got our license yesterday." Which was true. Garrett had picked it up for us, and it rested on Zander's drafting table.

"Well. This will certainly be a first for Blackburn. Of course I'll come," Mrs. Marjorie said, settling into her usual character.

Gotta stop now; I think I hear voices downstairs. Monica is one of them. Another clue: Zander just closed his pad and rocketed off down the hall. Time to put on a smile and meet family. God, I hope I don’t screw this up.

I charged down the stairs as soon as Mom and Nonna arrived. I love my Italian grandmother, and while I doubt I am her favorite, she is always happy to see me. I didn't even let her get her coat off before I was giving her a hug.

"Pesciolino mio, Sandro," she laughed – 'my little fish,' in Italian. "You're so big! Monica, you feed him plenty, I see." She returned my hug for a moment or two. "All this journey for a hug, Monica. You wait, you'll see how much you want it." More laughter.

And she released me. She was peering at something around my shoulder. I turned. There you stood in the kitchen doorway; you looked uncertain, scared, almost hunted. You'd had that look in the fall, when you were all alone. My heart went out to you.

But before I could bring you over to get introduced, my Nonna marched right over to you. She grasped both your arms. For a moment, she looked straight into your eyes. She had to look up, you were a lot taller; I saw you flinch for half a second, but you held her stare. Then her arms went around you, and you got a real Nonna Costanza kiss, on both cheeks.

"He is a good one, this. Bravo, Sandro, bravo," she grinned broadly. "My new grandson is already a man."

The deep red your face turned should be a patented color.

"Mother, this is Andrew, our foster son. And Zander's fiancée," mom made the introduction. My voice somehow disappeared.

"Si, si, Andrea. Andrea," Nonna repeated, putting the accent on the second syllable in the Italian style, still looking directly at you. "Andrea, mio bello," she murmured for a moment, then she held you at arm's length and eyed you critically up and down. "Monica, do you feed this boy?" she asked. She still hadn't let you go.

You turned a deeper shade of crimson, if that was possible.

Time to put you out of your misery. Walking over, I put an arm around you. "He's mine, Nonna, and I like him just the way he is."

Supper kind of materialized that night. In time, lasagna that mom had made earlier emerged from the oven, hot garlic bread, salad, red wine that Nonna had brought. You and I even got some of that, but I noticed you barely touched yours.

But there was laughter – lots of laughter – mostly at the stories Mom and Dad and Nonna insisted on telling about me. Better than showing off embarrassing baby pictures. Maybe. I didn't mind too much, because I've heard all those stories a million times. Like the time when I was ten, and I drove Uncle Pat's snowmobile straight into the pond because I thought it would float. Hell, I really thought it would. The best part was watching you warm up with each successive story: first a smirk, then a grin, then a chuckle, and by the time dessert rolled around, there might have been tears streaming down your face.

That alone was worth it.

When supper was over, Mom and Dad insisted on clearing the dishes, leaving us with Nonna Costanza at the table.

"Sandro, be a good boy and fetch me my purse, please," she asked, suddenly getting serious.

'Sandro, be a good boy'…that was how she always asked for something. I brought the big leather satchel over to her. She searched inside for a moment, then drew out a small, worn box. She set it on the table and pushed it over towards me.

I looked at her, confused.

"Open it, Sandro."

Inside, two simple gold rings inset with tiny red stones nestled on cotton wool. They gleamed in the light.

"Your grandfather gave me mine on our thirtieth anniversary," Nonna said softly. "And I gave him his. I want you to have them."

I stared. No words would come.

"They're beautiful," I heard you murmur. And then you rose from your chair, rounded the table, and embraced my wonderful Italian grandmother. "Thank you, that's so generous of you," I heard you say.

"Andrea, mio bello, they are simple, not fancy…" she started.

"But they're perfect for us, Nonna," I interrupted, finding my voice at last. "Thank you. Grazie. É perfetto."

I saw Nonna smile at that; she always loved it when I tried to speak Italian. "Prego, Sandro. Now be perfect for Andrea, too." And I saw a tear trickle from her eye.

Craftingmom edited this chapter. Her assistance and advice were essential to this and every portion of A to Z.

Please leave a review. Your remarks and reflections of any sort or variety are very much appreciated.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; 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.
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Chapter Comments



I know what that 'unsettled feeling in my gut' is! It's extremely familiar to me. I get it all the time: it's anxiety!

 

I love how Andy briefly contemplates running again, but moves on right away. He's grown enough to not feel the compulsion to escape his problems by leaving like he was forced to do so many times in the past.

 

And Andy is secure enough with his life that he can Come Out to Mrs Marjorie. While she is surprised by the wedding, he is surprised by her revelation that there are other Gay people in Blackburn. And we get a peek into the source of Bruce's homophobia.

 

Such a joyful introduction to the rest of Zander's extended family. Nonna is so welcoming to her new grandson. What a nice gesture for her to offer the boys rings with so much meaning behind them.

 

Andy is feeling love from somewhat unexpected sources. All the extra little things he's been doing, nearly unconsciously, have rewarded in ways he never anticipated. All those KarmaPoints™ he's been racking up all his life are paying off big time!

 

Great chapter!

 

(Oh, and in the US, we call 'cotton wool', cotton balls.)

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Oh, man--such a great chapter! Dealing well (seemingly) with the wedding plans, and the constant "are you sure?"has been a challenging thing, but both our heroes seem to be handling it ok.
Inviting Mrs. Marjorie was a great thing, and seeing her reaction to the wedding was great, but Grandmothers giving them matching rings was one of those priceless Hallmark moments! Quite moving!
I'm waiting, though, convinced the Macks and CPS are about to pounce--hope I'm wrong!
Fine writing going on here...now bring on that wedding! (Grin)

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Are you sure? I guess that's a question I would ask too, given a chance. And the boys think it's unnecessary, but it's good they think it through.
Andy's family just keeps growing. What a change for that lonely, abused boy.
I'm looking forward to the next chapter! Could it be the wedding?

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On 02/24/2016 02:55 AM, droughtquake said:

I know what that 'unsettled feeling in my gut' is! It's extremely familiar to me. I get it all the time: it's anxiety!

 

I love how Andy briefly contemplates running again, but moves on right away. He's grown enough to not feel the compulsion to escape his problems by leaving like he was forced to do so many times in the past.

 

And Andy is secure enough with his life that he can Come Out to Mrs Marjorie. While she is surprised by the wedding, he is surprised by her revelation that there are other Gay people in Blackburn. And we get a peek into the source of Bruce's homophobia.

 

Such a joyful introduction to the rest of Zander's extended family. Nonna is so welcoming to her new grandson. What a nice gesture for her to offer the boys rings with so much meaning behind them.

 

Andy is feeling love from somewhat unexpected sources. All the extra little things he's been doing, nearly unconsciously, have rewarded in ways he never anticipated. All those KarmaPoints™ he's been racking up all his life are paying off big time!

 

Great chapter!

 

(Oh, and in the US, we call 'cotton wool', cotton balls.)

Well Andy sure has anxiety big time, and the 'Are You Sure' question isn't helping. The introduction to Nonna Costanza was a wonderful moment to write; she's a character I know from many observations. Finally surprising Mrs. Marjorie must have been a big score for Andy. Love KarmaPoints! Where do I sign up? Thanks for your review, and for reading this chapter of Andy's journal.

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On 02/24/2016 03:13 AM, Robert Rex said:

Oh, man--such a great chapter! Dealing well (seemingly) with the wedding plans, and the constant "are you sure?"has been a challenging thing, but both our heroes seem to be handling it ok.

Inviting Mrs. Marjorie was a great thing, and seeing her reaction to the wedding was great, but Grandmothers giving them matching rings was one of those priceless Hallmark moments! Quite moving!

I'm waiting, though, convinced the Macks and CPS are about to pounce--hope I'm wrong!

Fine writing going on here...now bring on that wedding! (Grin)

I'm so glad you liked this chapter. Grandmother Costanza was a fun character to write. Andy seemed a little overwhelmed by her welcome. Finally surprising Mrs. Marjorie must have been a very satisfying moment. The constant 'Are You Sure?' drumbeat has got Andy anxious and unsettled, too. Hope you like what's left of Andy's journal, and thanks very, very much for reading!

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On 02/24/2016 03:17 AM, Puppilull said:

Are you sure? I guess that's a question I would ask too, given a chance. And the boys think it's unnecessary, but it's good they think it through.

Andy's family just keeps growing. What a change for that lonely, abused boy.

I'm looking forward to the next chapter! Could it be the wedding?

I think anyone who knew the boys even tangentially would ask them "Are You Sure?" But that doesn't make it easier for Andy to hear it all the time. Andy certainly isn't lonely any more, is he? His Italian Grandmother wouldn't hear of it. I hope you enjoy what's left of Andy's journal, and thanks so much for reading!

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Another chapter to reread again and again and to love, Parker. No surprises that Andy's insecurities still show - at least to us, if not to his new family and friends. He definitely needs to talk about his fears and nightmares with his doctor.
Garrett's warning hints at some new complications. You do know how to keep up suspense.
Wonderful conversation with Mrs. Marjorie, great to see her so completely perplexed for once and genuinely happy for Andy and Zander.
And of course meeting Nonna. Lovely scene! Can't get enough of it.
But also: That Andy has no idea how to celebrate with all the trimmings, clothes, flowers, decorations... rings so true and is so sad at the same time. They still need their best men, don't they? On the other hand it shows us, too, that he is in for the marriage itself, the security he hopes for, not having a party and being the focus of everyone's attention.
What also emerges: he is completely unaware of what kind of person he himself is, even though people tell him all the time (now), he can even find it in his heart to understand Bruce Mack. What a wonderful young man has emerged! Thank you, Parker, for Andy, Zander, and the remaining chapters - may they be numerous, even if that would mean spring will be long in coming to the white north country.

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Nice chapter. Lots of acceptance but also lots of concern and rightly so given their ages and divorce rates generally.
But Andy's worries are different than most of us ... I didn't worry about being a monster before I got married.
Glad the older women in Andy's life aren't freaking at him.

 

Well done

 

tim xo

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On 02/24/2016 05:42 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Nice chapter. Lots of acceptance but also lots of concern and rightly so given their ages and divorce rates generally.

But Andy's worries are different than most of us ... I didn't worry about being a monster before I got married.

Glad the older women in Andy's life aren't freaking at him.

 

Well done

 

tim xo

Thank you, Tim. Concern from everyone, will (I hope) translate into support and maybe even a little life coaching when things get chippy - as we know they will. You're right that Andy's worries are different. Mrs. Marjorie and Nonna Costanza both seem really happy, and in their different ways, supportive. The Nonna character was a particularly fun one to write. Hope you like what's left of Andy's journal, and thank you so, so much for reading!

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On 02/24/2016 04:46 AM, mayday said:

Another chapter to reread again and again and to love, Parker. No surprises that Andy's insecurities still show - at least to us, if not to his new family and friends. He definitely needs to talk about his fears and nightmares with his doctor.

Garrett's warning hints at some new complications. You do know how to keep up suspense.

Wonderful conversation with Mrs. Marjorie, great to see her so completely perplexed for once and genuinely happy for Andy and Zander.

And of course meeting Nonna. Lovely scene! Can't get enough of it.

But also: That Andy has no idea how to celebrate with all the trimmings, clothes, flowers, decorations... rings so true and is so sad at the same time. They still need their best men, don't they? On the other hand it shows us, too, that he is in for the marriage itself, the security he hopes for, not having a party and being the focus of everyone's attention.

What also emerges: he is completely unaware of what kind of person he himself is, even though people tell him all the time (now), he can even find it in his heart to understand Bruce Mack. What a wonderful young man has emerged! Thank you, Parker, for Andy, Zander, and the remaining chapters - may they be numerous, even if that would mean spring will be long in coming to the white north country.

Andy is a great hearted person, who responds to love naturally. And he wants no spotlight, just to be married to Zander. But you are right: he has very little clue about the actual traditions and trappings. His worries about the wedding are very different to what many others have. Hopefully he and Dr. O'Shea can talk some of those out. Thanks very much for continuing to read the journal; there's a bit more yet.

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Certainly a lot of nice stuff in this chapter Parker!
From Nonna through Marjorie, great discoveries for our little hero.
Also the two scenes of Andy and Zander to successfully navigate the bureaucracy and stunning their two best friends was well written and entertaining.

 

I felt more than a little unease with Andy's dream/fear of being a genetically bad person. He's got to talk that out with his therapist! Also a little uneasy with Dad giving off bad vibes. What's with that?

 

OK, enough worries. Thanks for another great chapter of Andy's journaley!

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On 02/24/2016 06:53 AM, skinnydragon said:

Certainly a lot of nice stuff in this chapter Parker!

From Nonna through Marjorie, great discoveries for our little hero.

Also the two scenes of Andy and Zander to successfully navigate the bureaucracy and stunning their two best friends was well written and entertaining.

 

I felt more than a little unease with Andy's dream/fear of being a genetically bad person. He's got to talk that out with his therapist! Also a little uneasy with Dad giving off bad vibes. What's with that?

 

OK, enough worries. Thanks for another great chapter of Andy's journaley!

Garrett is worried for the boys, but that's all. The dream/fear has Andy much more anxious and unsettled. But double teaming the clerk at the county offices was fun, and I'm glad you picked up on that. And surprising Mrs. Marjorie meant giving her the first shock she's had in years. I am so happy you found so much to enjoy here. Hope you like what's left to come in Andy's journal, and of course I thank you for reading!

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Great chapter. Loved Nonna. I understand Andy is tired of being asked if he's sure, but it is a logical question. I think both boys have grown and matured through all their problems and can handle marriage now. Will there be problems? Sure. What marriage doesn't have them? But I think they'll be okay. I also expect one more encounter with CPS before the story ends as I don't think she's the type to just walk away.

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On 02/24/2016 07:03 AM, avidreadr said:

Great chapter. Loved Nonna. I understand Andy is tired of being asked if he's sure, but it is a logical question. I think both boys have grown and matured through all their problems and can handle marriage now. Will there be problems? Sure. What marriage doesn't have them? But I think they'll be okay. I also expect one more encounter with CPS before the story ends as I don't think she's the type to just walk away.

I am so very happy you loved Nonna Costanza. I really enjoyed writing her character parts. The 'are you sure' question must be hard for the boys to hear over and over and over, though. What might make the boys okay in marriage is that they clearly will have family support as they start out together. Thank you for reading, and I hope you like what is left to come.

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On 02/24/2016 08:33 AM, flamingo136 said:

................and a tear trickled down from my eye too!!!!!!! :)Mike

Oh, my. I think that makes me happy :). At least Nonna was not as fearsome as Andy thought. Thanks for reading!

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I'm SOOOOO loving this story!! I've shed tears over the Eric's(Andy"s) heartache. I can't wait to read more. Thank you. :D

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On 02/24/2016 11:23 AM, Ricki said:

I'm SOOOOO loving this story!! I've shed tears over the Eric's(Andy"s) heartache. I can't wait to read more. Thank you. :D

Glad you have enjoyed reading so far. Andy is surely anxious still, but he knows Zander loves him. Thanks again!

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Parker... Damn!... Every time I get another chapter, I HAVE TO re-read previous chapters. This time took the longest. I re-read from Chapter 57 when Ambrose and Allen showed up.

 

Parker, please don't even think about ending this anytime soon. There are still so many unanswered questions that you simply MUST answer; What DID happen to Andy's dad? What happened to the property his dad owned? Did his dad ever leave a note for Stephan? Did he or his mom have life insurance? Who was the beneficiary? What happens to the house? Is there ANY redeeming quality that he can gain from his old, miserable, despicable life? What happens to good old uncle Ray? What will happen between Andy and his uncle Allen, his wife and kids?

 

Honestly, since Andy now has liberated himself from his miserable past, he has a new lease on life.

 

I'm suspecting that the reasons for his marriage to Zander have now been mostly nullified. Andy has SOOO much to work on and deal with now.

 

I rally think that SOMEONE should talk Andy and Zander out of this marriage plan. YES, they love each other and want to be together forever. BUT, they are kids. Andy has a lot of work to do, history to deal with and issues to be resolved BEFORE he can be emotionally honest with himself and present himself to Zander and the rest of the world.

 

You have a plan, Parker... You know that the BIG reasons for getting married are gone. What they are left with is a few months on being in love and that's not enough to base a marriage on.

 

I hope that the constant question, 'Are you sure' becomes less annoying and more real for Andy and Zander. I imagine a scene where Andy says, 'Ya know, Zander, I love you with all my heart and I can't even imagine being with anyone else. I want that to happen so much, but I have to get right with myself, my history, my life before I can give myself to you honestly, freely, knowing everything about myself before I can honestly do that.

 

Neal

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On 02/24/2016 01:25 PM, Nahrung said:

Parker... Damn!... Every time I get another chapter, I HAVE TO re-read previous chapters. This time took the longest. I re-read from Chapter 57 when Ambrose and Allen showed up.

 

Parker, please don't even think about ending this anytime soon. There are still so many unanswered questions that you simply MUST answer; What DID happen to Andy's dad? What happened to the property his dad owned? Did his dad ever leave a note for Stephan? Did he or his mom have life insurance? Who was the beneficiary? What happens to the house? Is there ANY redeeming quality that he can gain from his old, miserable, despicable life? What happens to good old uncle Ray? What will happen between Andy and his uncle Allen, his wife and kids?

 

Honestly, since Andy now has liberated himself from his miserable past, he has a new lease on life.

 

I'm suspecting that the reasons for his marriage to Zander have now been mostly nullified. Andy has SOOO much to work on and deal with now.

 

I rally think that SOMEONE should talk Andy and Zander out of this marriage plan. YES, they love each other and want to be together forever. BUT, they are kids. Andy has a lot of work to do, history to deal with and issues to be resolved BEFORE he can be emotionally honest with himself and present himself to Zander and the rest of the world.

 

You have a plan, Parker... You know that the BIG reasons for getting married are gone. What they are left with is a few months on being in love and that's not enough to base a marriage on.

 

I hope that the constant question, 'Are you sure' becomes less annoying and more real for Andy and Zander. I imagine a scene where Andy says, 'Ya know, Zander, I love you with all my heart and I can't even imagine being with anyone else. I want that to happen so much, but I have to get right with myself, my history, my life before I can give myself to you honestly, freely, knowing everything about myself before I can honestly do that.

 

Neal

You a so very good to re-read parts of the story to get bits and pieces to fall into place. Garrett will probably look after the property issues for Andy related to his father's death. This will take a very long time to settle, I imagine. Allan said they'd get together in the summer; I would expect that to happen when the State Department lets him have a vacation. For Andy, marrying Zander is not a means to an end. Rather, he firmly roots himself where he had no roots before. The Question that has been repeated can both prompt thought and it can goad. Andy has been goaded quite a lot. I really appreciate your thoughtful and carefully crafted review. I hope you don't have to tackle so much again for the next chapter.

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Another great chapter Parker. All I can say is I am amazed they are going through with this wedding. I wish them all the best. :joe:

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On 02/24/2016 01:48 PM, slapshot said:

Another great chapter Parker. All I can say is I am amazed they are going through with this wedding. I wish them all the best. :joe:

Thanks very much for continuing to read Andy's journal. I think Andy feels he wants to do this. He's actually making events happen for the first time in his life. Hope you enjoy what's left!

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Thank you Parker!

 


I don't want to be a monster. Is that something I get to decide, or is it written in my chromosomes?

Hey Andy, I have had same fear a few times myself ... press forward and love ...
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Wonderful chapter Parker.. I thought the marriage would be off the table now, in light of the new developments, but I'm actually glad the boys are moving forward. I think somehow, as unorthodox as it may be, they need to do this on a deeper level than the adults can understand. They'll have a lot of support and guidance, even as its punctuated with understandable worry.. Just as long as they're sure.... Couldn't resist..

 

Also, glad Ms Marjorie is finally in the loop..

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