A Catholic funeral was new for me, but I went as I should. I knew from history and other sources that…gone were the sermons in Latin and now the priests were saying what was necessary in English. There was an elegance in the service I will readily admit. The two caskets held two very good people that I could see had touched a lot of people. They were there. Again, I was family and included as such. I sat beside Tony and Louise. The rest of the family covered a whole pew. Angelo and Kathleen had a lot of people as family alive here. Tears came again, but this was just sorrow for the loss of two precious people that would be missed.
At the end the two caskets were taken outside to the waiting hearses and I was asked to be a bearer, which I gladly did as did Al, Mike, David and Drew that were family and others as needed. We drove to St. John’s and I was impressed with the white building that Kathleen and Angelo were being placed. The graveside service was short and I was asked again to help put a casket in its resting place. The line of cars that had come with us was long, but once done, they began to leave to resume their places in the living world.
I was waiting for Tony to finish talking with some people that had known him and his parents. There was no hurry. Melissa came up to me. Her usual bouncy self was subdued, of course.
“You know there’s a place for you here.” Melissa said pointing at the mausoleum.
That was surprising. “What?” Then I shook my head. “No, I couldn’t. First, I’m not Catholic. They wouldn’t let me through the gate once I was dead.”
Melissa smiled. “But you are a Delveccio. They can’t deny that.”
“Sure they can.” I said. “Trust me, they will.”
Melissa frowned. “It’s a damned shame.” Then she brightened. “But when gay marriage becomes legal….”
I shook my head. “I don’t really see….”
“No!” Melissa stopped me. “It will. Look at Massachusetts. They’re already allowing gay marriage. There are other states falling in with them. It won’t be too long before it is nationwide.”
I had heard that it was now in some states. Canada had been first to allow gay marriage, but it was only in a few provinces. “Even if that becomes true, this is still a Catholic cemetery. You must be Catholic to be buried here.”
Melissa shrugged. “So become a Catholic. You’re a church going person. Does it matter what church you belong to? If just in name only, become a Catholic and there’s another hurdle you don’t have to jump across.”
I kissed her on the cheek. “It won’t be me when they bury me. I really don’t care what they do. Throw me in a ditch, I won’t be there.”
Melissa nodded. “But Tony will care. You know he will.” Then she smiled again. “Just think about it.” Then she went off to join her cousins.
This was something to think about. It would mean more to Tony if I were there. Who knew who would die first? I’d like us to go together, but it was more likely one would go before the other. If I went before Tony did he’d make sure I was here. I hoped that would be a while yet, but…
Later when we got back to the house Tony sighed wearily and plopped on the sofa. His head falling back on the sofa. I grinned at him as I sat beside him.
“It was a very nice service.”
Tony smiled raising his head again. “It was. Mama would have been pleased. Papa wouldn’t have cared.” He chuckled at his father’s opinion.
“I’m not rushing things.” I said. “But do you want me to become Catholic?”
Tony looked surprised at that. “Why? You’re a Christian.” Then he shrugged. “Then again, I wouldn’t have cared if you were Jewish or even Buddhist or even atheist.”
I nodded. “But in order to be buried in the Delveccio mausoleum won’t I have to be Catholic?”
He looked again surprised, but smiled. “You want to be buried with us?”
I shook my head with a chuckle. “I don’t want to be buried at all, but we don’t have a choice about that. But I want to be with you always. So, if I become a Catholic I can get buried here with you.” Then I shrugged. “Personally, I’d love it if we were both cremated and put in the same urn.” I grinned at his roll of eyes. “Well, that would mean we really were together. Literally. Shake it up and mix us completely.” Then I laughed. “The ultimate sexual experience, we’d be totally blended.”
Tony chuckled. “I guess it would.” He shrugged. “Or they could just put us in the same casket. We’d be a first if they did.” Then he thought. “I think.”
I smiled he was taking all this well. I kissed him. “I just don’t want to have someone come by, reading all the names until they come to me. I’m not legally a Delveccio. The question will be who am I and why is a non-Italian Southerner in with all these Delveccio Yankee Catholics!”
Tony grinned. “We could have it on a plaque explaining, or you could become a Delveccio.”
I hadn’t considered that either. “I could.” I agreed.
“I was kidding!” Tony said urgently. “I’d love for you to be a Delveccio, but you’re a McKenzie!”
I nodded. “I am, but I’m not going to pass it to anyone.” I looked at Tony. “Unless you plan to have another child with me, which biologically is impossible. It’s just you and me for now. I would change the name. Of course I’d have to tell Dad, but I think he’s disappointed we won’t have children. The name was really meant to be passed down. Who am I passing it to?”
“But we could have a child.” Tony said shrugging. “We’d have to bring in someone else…”
“Or adopt, but we’ve got time to think about that. No rush.”
Louise and Mike came in then. I kissed Tony and rose. “Is anyone hungry?” Remembering all the visits we’d gotten and all the dishes people brought. We had a ton of food all over the kitchen in Tupperware, covered dishes and bowls. “I could throw in a casserole or something.”
Louise smiled nodding. “I’ll help you. We’ll start with whatever Mrs. Doris Deluca brought. She’s the best cook to me.”
The wills were read and all three children were given the property and the money was evenly distributed to all the grandchildren. No disputes about who got what. It was decided we’d keep the house for now. Things would be shut down as much as possible, but it would be used as a meeting place whenever Tony and I or Louise and Mike came to town. Tony insisted they get a security system when in the past Angelo refused to even consider one. He was always afraid he’d always set it off. But Kathy and Al had to agree, because they were in town and the contact people. That was for the best, because no one wanted to disturb what the Delveccios had spent a life time accumulating. There was history here in this house. Tony contacted a company he knew in New York and had a system installed and Kathy, Louise and Tony would pay to keep it going with routine visits by security guards.
In many ways, I was more than ready to go home. It wasn’t that I didn’t like New York, Queens or Manhattan, I did, but we needed to go home. Nick flew back to Charleston first. Then Louise, Mike, Drew, Erin, Marcus and their baby went back to Canada. Whew! That was a lot of people! Then Tony and I were alone in the house he’d grown up in. We sat in the living room as the TV droned. As always, I kept an eye on Tony. He was fine. He was looking around the house.
“I’m sure it’s just me, but…” he said. “The place just feels different now that Mama and Papa are gone.”
I nodded. “They left a big void. Sure it’s different.”
Tony did take me to a show and we did dine out before we returned to Charleston. I was happy that Tony didn’t have the need to get some new clothes this time. Maybe what I’d said that night we reconnected had worked, but I’d wait and see.
But soon we were boarding a plane and flying home.
Entering the condo, it almost felt almost alien we’d been gone so long.
“We’re home.” Tony said coming behind me and putting his arms around me. His face was going into the soft places on my neck I loved him to go. Then he turned me around. “You were a rock for me these past few weeks. I would not have made it so well if you weren’t with me.”
“I know you’ll be with me in all tough situations. How could I not be here with you? You’re important to me.”
Tony grinned as he chuckled. “You’ve proven your point.” He rubbed the face I had slapped. “Pretty forcefully.”
“You needed convincing.” I growled.
“I’m convinced!” Tony chuckled putting a little more distance between us while protecting his face. “I don’t need more.”
I grinned knowing what he was doing. “Well, Tony, I had to get your attention, you weren’t listening. I told you’d I’d kiss whatever and did. Gladly.” I walked toward him as he backed up. “Do I need to do it again?”
Tony smiled. “Maybe.”
I pushed him backward toward our bedroom. “Well let’s not waste time. Come on, studman.”
It was great to be home.
Alan was thrilled when I returned to the hotel. Then I threw myself into my work and school. I turned thirty three and Tony turned thirty-nine, his last year in what he thought was his youth. Ha! Nick graduated and was thinking about what he was going to do next. The many cousins I had on Dad’s side were getting older and more involved with their own lives. David did visit once, but mostly the cousins connected through email and messaging. I refused to ever Facebook. What I liked was that Eric, Seth, Scott and Glenn were true to their words. They emailed and called even! But Sasha surprised me. He hadn’t been exaggerating when he said he’d keep in touch to increase his tip. He did!! I was getting pictures from all the ports he’d got to. Speaking English he did very well, when he was sober. Writing it, I had to interpret what he wrote some times. It just added to his charm. Eric and Seth were adopting a couple of little boys, brothers who’d lost their mother who was a friend who insisted they get the boys before she died. They were thrilled! Sad that they’d lost their mother, but thrilled they were getting two little boys. Then it came. Sasha was at the end of his contract with….whatever company he’d worked for on the ship. He asked if he could come by and see us. I was glad to have him and I forwarded the message to Tony who was also glad to have him come. I emailed him back saying we’d love to have him. He told us when he was flying in and we were at the airport when he got there.
Sasha was a big man, but he didn’t look like the man that had been our waiter. The waiter had been dressed nicely and hair combed and all that. The man that exited that little tunnel thing looked….well…relaxed! He was still a big man, but his bronze-brown hair was disarrayed and he had a slight growth of a beard he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days. He wore jeans and t-shirt with a bag he’d thrown over his shoulder. I grinned at what I saw. I liked this Sasha! Sasha’s eyes widened as he saw us and his smile widened.
“My friends!!” He said in a booming voice as he threw his arms out and came over to us in a hurry.
I got to him first, so I got the first hug and then Tony.
“Sasha, you’re as handsome as ever!” I said grinning at him.
“And look very comfortable.” Tony chuckled.
Sasha grinned. “Yes, now that I’m not waiting tables and all that mess, I kind of let myself take it easy a few days.” His Russian accented English was also his charm.
“I see that.” Tony grinned rubbing Sasha’s beard a bit.
Sasha chuckled rubbing his own face. “I shave when it becomes itchy. Which will be any moment now.”
“Do you have any other luggage?” I asked.
Sasha nodded. “I have one other suitcase.” Then we headed toward baggage claim. “Thank you for agreeing to have me. I will only stay a few days, maybe a week. Until I decide what to do next.”
Tony slapped him on the back. Why do guys do that? “Stay as long as you need to, Sasha. You’re a dear friend. We’ve got plenty of room.”
Sasha looked at the car Tony and I drove in with a little appreciation, but kept his mouth shut. When we opened to door to the condo, he couldn’t do that anymore. He said another word in Russian I had no idea, but got the feeling in was like my god. “This is…” he said a word in Russian I didn’t get again. English and Italian were my languages, I don’t have to remind you. “….castle? Palace?” He looked back at the two of us to see if he used the right word or….I don’t know.
“It’s our home.” I smiled patting him on the back. “I’ll show you where your room is.”
“Wait!” Sasha spun suddenly. “I need to tell you.” He wasn’t very comfortable doing this. “Why I came here. I don’t want you to think bad about me.”
Tony nodded. “Okay.”
“I knew you had money. More than the others.” Then he saw Tony’s face and hurried on. “I’m not thief or anything. I knew you may be able help me.”
“Help with what, Sasha?” I asked.
“I want to work here.” Sasha said. “In America. I have VISA to work if I find work. Russia is getting better, but…” he scratched his head. “I work the ship and send most back to raise my son.”
Tony nodded. “And?” Sasha looked a little confused at that. “…that’s so you’ll tell us the rest.”
“Oh, I want to bring my son here.” Sasha said. “Tasha is good mother, but she needs help. I send money, but she need break. My son will have better opportunity here.” He motioned to our condo. “Now, I know I was right. You have knowledge maybe, you can help me? Tell me where I need to go, see and get a job. Bring my son here.”
Tony’s eye squinted, but I saw there was a glimmer. He was going into joking mode. “I don’t know, Mitch. If he’s trying con us, he’s lousy at it.”
And me being who I am, I couldn’t help it. “Or he’s so good he’s giving us this to make it seem like he’s terrible at it.”
Tony nodded. “Could be.” Then he shrugged. “Either he’s completely trustworthy or a very, very good liar. What do you say, Mitch?”
“I am telling no lie!” Sasha said urgently, pleading we believe him.
I walked over to Sasha and hugged him again. “Relax, Sasha. We’re joking with you.” I confessed with a grin. “Of course we’ll help you. We’d love to help you. That’s what having friends are for.”
I watched as Sasha noticeably relaxed and blew a breath of relief. “I was worried.”
Tony grinned hugging Sasha. “That’s just our way. Joking with friends is what we do. Now quit worrying. You stay as long as you need. You’re more than welcome.”
But Sasha shook his head. “I help out. You know I can serve, but I can clean while I’m here. I don’t want to….” He used another word in Russian.
I had to guess. “Freeload?” I asked.
Sasha shrugged. “I don’t know that word, but I’ll say yes. I know free, but I know I can’t stay free. I work.”
“That’ll be fine.” I nodded grinning. “Upstairs. Come on.” I grabbed his suitcase and we went upstairs.
Sasha again we true to his word. He asked where things were, I told him and he started cleaning! That was on his first day! I had enough time off so I went to work, but I asked Alan about this situation.
“And you trust him?” Alan asked.
“He’s been a good friend.” I shrugged. “He was so worried we might not he told us everything. At the front door! He’s a good waiter. We’re talking five star quality work. He’s friendly, likable and he’s good looking. And he plays for both teams so he can flirt with everyone.”
Alan shrugged. “If you trust him, who am I to say otherwise. Do what you need to.”
When I got home Sasha was there cleaning the oven. I hadn’t noticed it needed to be. I mentally shrugged and went to where Sasha where he was working. The condo smelled nice and looked spotless. Maybe we should keep him as a domestic. The fumes from the oven a little thick.
“Sasha, buddy.” I greeted my Russian friend.
“Hi, Mitch.” Sasha smiled and came up for air. “The smell is bad here.” He inhaled deeply. “Strong.”
I nodded. “Well, thanks for doing it. Can you take a break and talk to me?”
Sasha nodded. “Sure.”
“First. What do you want to be first? A friend that works for us or an employee that’s a friend?”
Sasha’s eyes were confused. “I do not understand. Always I wish to be friends, so I chose friend that works.”
I took his rag away. “Then stop this!” I tossed the rag over my shoulder causing Sasha to chuckle. “You’ll show me up to Tony.”
“I couldn’t stay here and do nothing but watch TV.” Sasha grinned with a shrug. “I look for things to do.”
“If you do much more, I’ll make you wear a French maid’s uniform!” I growled.
Sasha squinted an eye. “You are again joking.”
“Keep doing this and you’ll find out.” I grunted. “Now, I’ve worked it out for you to get a job.”
Now Sasha’s eyes widened. “A job!? Where?”
“Here, in Charleston. The hotel I manage has restaurant. If you’re interested, I could set it up.”
“So, I would work for you?” Sasha asked a little wary.
“No.” I grinned. “That would be awkward. Not that I’d mind you working for me, but we’re friends first you said. No, the restaurant is independently owned. We do have a say on who’s hired and fired, but I don’t run it. Therefore I wouldn’t be your boss….technically. I can fire you, if need be, but I don’t think that will be a problem. I’ve been a customer of yours and you were perfect at waiting tables. You’ll be working for Jeremy Carlson. He’s a good man about forty-five. He’s a stickler for punctuality and his wait staff to be good. I don’t think that will be a problem for you. You’ll make good tips, I’m sure.”
Now Sasha smiling very widely now. “I knew I’d be okay if you help me.” Then he held his hand out. “There is some papers that need to be signed and sent. I’ll get them.” He started off and then stopped. He came back and hugged me tightly. “Thank you, Mitch.” Then I grinned as he took the stairs two at a time.
That’s when Tony came home. “Hi, honey, I’m home!” Then his nose wrinkled as he looked around. “What did he do? It smells good, then it doesn’t.”
I chuckled. “He was cleaning the oven.” I thumbed back to the oven. “I stopped him.”
“It’s self-cleaning!” Tony came over.
I patted him on the chest. “Don’t say anything, he’s trying to be helpful. And frankly, I think he doesn’t read English that well.”
“He speaks fine.” Tony frowned.
“Have you seen the Russian alphabet? He probably didn’t know what self-cleaning meant.” Then I kissed him. “Oh, and I’m getting him a job at the restaurant at the hotel.”
Sasha came down jumping the last few steps holding the papers. “Hi, Tony! Mitch is getting me job!”
Tony grinned at the man. Sasha's happiness was almost felt in the air. “So he was telling me.”