"Good god," Peter said, pulling up his comforter. "Why is it so gosh darn cold in this apartment?"
"Oh, sorry," Brandon replied, stepping out of the bathroom. "I turned it off during the night, because it got too warm."
Peter took a loving glance at Brandon, his hair disheveled from the night's sleep. "It's alright, I was just wondering. Did you sleep well last night?"
"More or less," he responded. "I have this huge meeting with my boss at the advertising agency."
Peter got all excited, "Do you think it's a possible promotion?"
"I honestly don't know," Brandon said, ruffling his hair. "I mean, I just work with demographics, psychographics, and statistics as an assistant. I doubt he'd really promote me anywhere."
"But if he does give you a promotion, you'd get a salary raise too. All those late nights and hard work will finally pay off." Peter beamed proudly at Brandon's accomplishment.
"Thanks, honey. Well, I better hit the shower and get dress for work."
Feeling mischievous, Peter asked, "Can I join you?"
There was no answer.
"Brandon?" Peter called out.
"You never have to ask, silly goose. What are you waiting for?"
It didn't take another second for Peter to strip off his pajamas and join his boyfriend in the shower.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
"Colin," Elliot mumbled. "Your alarm is going off. Don't you have an eight o'clock class?"
I darted straight up, "Shit, I do. Sorry to wake you up."
"It's ok," Elliot replied, pulling the comforter over his head.
Lucky ass gets to sleep in for another hour for his nine-thirty class. This will the last time I enroll in an eight o'clock class, I scolded myself. I pulled a pair of wrinkled jeans and a warm sweater to put on. Quickly, I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and splashed some water to mat down my hair. I grabbed my coat by the door and hurried to class.
"Baby," Mark called gently, shaking a visibly sleeping Kevin.
"Go away," Kevin said, swatting violently at Mark.
Mark leaned back and dodged the violent slap. He was used to Kevin's dangerous arm movements and filthy words in the morning. Kevin was definitely NOT a morning person.
"It's almost ten Kevin," Mark reminded him. "We're meeting my parents for brunch today."
The words parents and brunch woke up Kevin with a start. Kevin looked at the clock and asked, "How much time do I have?"
Mark studied the clock, "Probably ten or fifteen minutes."
"Good," Kevin said. "I have time to beautify myself for the parentals."
"Good grief," Mark chuckled. "My parents will like you no matter what."
Kevin popped his head out, "Yeah, right. Your parents will take one look at me and go 'why is my son wasting his life on this jerk'."
"First of all," Mark said, giving Kevin a comforting embrace. "My parents don't use the word, jerk. Secondly, they will look at you and go 'Wow, that's why my son is in love with that handsome casanova'."
"Casanova, eh?" Kevin grinned, cheekily. "You are too good to me. Now leave me be, so I can go shower and make myself presentable."
"Whatever you say," Mark said, leaving for the living room. "I'll wait for you out there, Casanova."
The door of Schwartz was opened again, and a gust of wind entered the room. Tom looked up from the counter and saw Dale.
"I see you're finally up," Tom said, grinning. "After last night, I'd thought neither one of us would wake up for years...or walk upright for that matter."
Dale laughed, "Yes, yes, we had quite a rumble last night."
"It was hardly a rumble, more like a havoc."
"Well, I came in for a chocolate chip muffin and a cup of joe before work."
"Dale, sweetie, you work at Starbucks down the street."
"Okay, or I wanted to come in and see my boyfriend," Dale said, leaning in to give Tom a kiss.
"Ok, lovebirds," I said, coming into Schwartz. "I plan on keeping my breakfast down this morning, thank you."
"Shut up, Colin," Tom retorted. "By the looks of you, it doesn't look like you had breakfast yet. You look like you just rolled out of bed, got into those wrinkly clothes, and ran to class."
"You got me, Miss Cleo," I said, rolling my eyes. "Can you fill my cup with some liquid goodness please?"
"Yes, sir," he said, smiling and pouring me a generous amount of coffee in my mug.
I took a small sip, the warmth of the coffee traveled down my weary body.
Tom put a muffin into a bag and poured some coffee into a take out mug for Dale, "Have a good day sweetie. Oh, you might want to finish all that before you walk into work. After all, you ARE competition."
Dale laughed and grabbed his order, "Love you, Honey bear."
"Love you too, Muffin," Tom said, leaning in for a quick peck.
"Eww, I'm still here y'know," I said, raising my hand to gain attention.
Dale gave a small snicker and left.
"Bye Honey Bear," I said in a high pitch voice, mimicking Dale.
"Shut up, don't tell me you don't have a pet name with Elliot?"
"Well, it sure isn't HONEY BEAR," I said, breaking into a fit of laughter.
"You're hopeless," Tom replied, rolling his eyes and wiping down the counter with a clean cloth.
The door opened again, and Peter entered with some grocery bags.
"I see the wife went grocery shopping," I observed.
"Good call, Sherlock," Peter retorted, as he put the bags down.
Tom laughed, "Where's Brandon?"
"Brandon had a meeting this morning with his boss," Peter responded excitedly. "I'm really thinking that he's getting a promotion and a raise."
"That would be fantastic," I said, leafing through Peter's groceries. "It's high time all of Brandon's time and effort get rewarded."
Peter sighed, "Well, I won't find out until tonight anyways. Colin, get your big head out of my groceries."
I pulled out a box of condoms, "Wowee Tom, look here. Petey has an ECONOMY pack. You guys must go at it like rabbits. Fancy this, MAGNUM. Petey, I didn't know you were that, um, well-endowed."
Tom roared with laughter, and Peter turned four shades of red, "Give me that."
Peter grabbed the box and threw it into the bag, "My OR Brandon's girth is none of your business. You can be so evil, Colin."
"Hey, if the horns fit..." Tom started.
The door opened again. This time, Kevin and Mark entered with two elderly couples.
Kevin glanced their way wearily and mouthed 'Help me.'
"Guys, you're here," Mark said, cheerily. "I want you guys to meet my parents and my grandparents."
We got up and walked over to them and greeted them politely.
"Mom, Dad, Gramps, and Grams, these are my friends Colin, Peter, and Tom."
We shook hands.
"Guys, these are my parents, Bob and Dorothy and my grandparents, Dick and Martha."
"This place is so cute," Dorothy gushed. She glanced at Tom's apron and asked, "Do you own this café?"
"Oh no," Tom replied. "I just work here part time."
"Well, I hear good things about this café," Martha spoke up. "And I'm famished."
Tom sat Kevin, Mark, and Mark's family in a comfy booth toward the back of the café.
"Kevin is meeting the family," I whispered to Peter. "Pretty big stuff."
Kevin shifted uncomfortably, but he kept a wavering smile on his face.
"Everything alright Kevin?" Dick asked, his voice semi-gruff.
"I'm uh...fine," Kevin stammered.
I stifled a chuckle.
"He's just nervous Gramps," Mark responded.
"Nervous about what?" Bob replied. "Us? We don't bite Kevin, and since we've heard nothing but good things about you from Mark, we won't harm you."
Dick and Bob broke into a deep, raspy laugh. Tom handed them some menus and went to take an order from another customer. Dorothy glanced up, "Colin and Peter, do join us for brunch."
I looked at Peter unsurely, "Well, as long as we don't inconvenient you guys..."
"Nonsense," Dorothy replied. "Any friend of Mark's is a friend of the family. Just pull up a couple of chairs, and Tom, I'd love for you to join us too."
"If I sit down," Tom joked. "Who's going to bring you your food?"
Dick and Bob laughed again, "I like this guy already."
Too bad they don't like me, Kevin thought sourly.
"You've been awfully quiet, Kevin," Bob noted.
"He's just shy," his wife piped back.
"Shy?" I said, unleashing any inhibitions.
Peter snickered, "Kevin is anything BUT shy."
"Really?" Martha inquired, raising an eyebrow.
We told the family of how we met in this café, and I quoted Kevin's opening line, "Hi, I'm Kevin. I'm gay and a Capricorn who enjoys long walks on the beach."
Kevin looked miserably as his two best friends continued to share embarrassing anecdotes with Marks' family. Finally, Mark chimed in with a few bedroom quips. Please let this end, Kevin thought inwardly. Marks' family hooted and laughed at the countless stories shared at brunch. Eventually, Tom pulled up a chair and added a few great Kevin moments. Kevin just needed some air.
He nudged Mark to move so he could get out, "I just need to get some air, I will be right back."
He hurried toward the door and went outside to get some fresh air. He was feeling claustrophobic, and he was afraid that he has lost his good, positive facade toward Mark's family.
I just want them to fuckin' like me, Kevin thought bitterly. Now they are laughing at my stupidity, and who wants their son to date a brainless moron?
The door opened behind him, and Mark shuffled outside.
"I thought I should come and check on you," Mark said, touching Kevin on the shoulder comfortingly. "You okay? You were really quiet back there, and you're always loud and saying...something."
Kevin wrinkled his forehead, "I'm not okay. I want your family to love me, I want them to think that their son has picked a decent person to be with. I mean, c'mon, I was depicted as some dumb moron in there. Your parents will think I'm just a joke, and they'll take another look at me and go, 'please, he is so not worth it.'"
"You done ranting Casanova?" Mark teased, referring to his nickname earlier.
"Yes," Kevin mumbled grudgingly.
"You are not a fool Kevin," Mark began. "My family LOVES you, Kevin. You don't have to put on a show for my parents, because they already know what a valuable and vital part you are to my life. You just have to loosen up Kevin and give them a chance to see you as that fun, loving, talkative guy that I fell in love with. And who cares if they don't like you? I do, and that's all it matters. Will you go in there and just have fun?"
"I love you," Kevin said, lovingly and admiringly to his beau.
"I love you, too," Mark replied and leaned in to kiss Kevin.
Kevin pushed the door open and walked in with more confidence and determination.
"I see CASANOVA is done with his pep talk," I said, teasingly.
"Oh save it," he retorted. "You'll have to forgive my friends here, they are just two irregular chimpanzees."
"You sound like such an interesting character," Dorothy commented.
"That's me, the life of the party," Kevin said, giving a broad smile.
I rolled my eyes.
"So Mark tells me that you are all enrolled in a yoga class," Martha stated.
"Oh the sheer torture of yoga, and I'm not that flexible to begin with..."
And Kevin continued to talk vibrantly about various topics, and Bob laughed numerously to Kevin's jokes and stories. Kevin finally felt comfortable. As they all got up to head out, Bob pulled Kevin aside, "Oh Kevin, my side is hurting from so much laughing, and I haven't laughed this much in years. You know, Mark doesn't really let us meet many of his boyfriends, but I'm glad he let us meet you. You'll have to visit us at our home in La Jolla sometime."
"Sure thing, Bob," Kevin grinned widely. "You can count on me to show up, I never turn down a chance to vacation in Southern California."
Bob chuckled and patted Kevin on the back, and they quickly followed the rest of the party outside.
"Wow, it's almost noon," Peter said, checking his watch. "I better get home to shower, I have a two o'clock class."
"Have fun, call me later," I said.
"It was nice of Mark's parents to buy us brunch," Tom commented.
"Yes, it was," I agreed. "Free food always taste so good."
Tom smacked me, "You cheap whore."
"Alright," I said, grabbing my backpack, "This is my cue to leave. I'll call you later."
"See ya," Tom said, returning to his cleaning duties for the remainder of the afternoon.
Elliot looked up from his pile of books and cluster of papers as I closed my apartment door behind me.
"Hey you," I said, setting my keys and backpack down to give him a hello kiss.
"I've missed you," he said, as he nuzzled my neck.
"Judging by the amount of books and notes all around the room, I take it that you're researching for a paper?"
"No, it's my new home style decor," he retorted mockingly. "Wood framed furniture with a great rug of psychology notes."
"Okay Sarcasmo," I said. "I get it, you're writing your psych paper. So I'm going to fix myself something to eat, because I am hungry."
"I thought Mark's parents bought you brunch?"
I answered from the kitchen, "Yea, but that was hours ago. Plus, my afternoon class just drained all my energy."
"What are you going to fix?"
"A turkey and avocado sandwich," I replied. "You want one?"
"I just want half."
"I'll take the other half then," I responded.
He called out, "Deal. Way to compromise, Colin!"
I just laughed, "Get back to your psych paper."
Peter waited anxiously for Brandon's arrival from work. He sat in the living room and attempted to read a Mary Higgins Clark novel, but his mind was elsewhere. Peter finally heard keys turn the lock a few minutes later, and he leapt to greet his tired lover from the doorway.
"Oomph," Brandon gasped, from the sudden impact of Peter. "I'd love it if you greeted me like this everyday."
"What if I just stood naked with a bow around my neck?"
"Even better," Brandon replied, licking his lips.
"So...." Peter hinted.
Brandon looked at Peter weirdly, "So....what?"
Peter sighed dramatically, "Your meeting with the boss, how did it go?"
"Oh that," Brandon's face changed slightly. "It went fine."
Peter looked inquisitively, "Just FINE? Give me some details."
"It just went fine, okay?"
"C'mon," Peter whined. "Give me some juicy details."
"There ARE no details, okay Peter?" Brandon retorted angrily.
Brandon rarely got angry, but Peter respected his space and left. Brandon cooled down and went after Peter.
"Peter, baby," Brandon called.
"I'm giving you space," Peter answered back from their kitchen.
Brandon walked into the kitchen and encircled Peter, "I'm sorry that I just snapped at you. I 'm just extremely stressed out and frustrated, and I shouldn't have taken it out on you."
"Well, I shouldn't have whined and pressed for details," Peter replied sheepishly. "I guess you'll tell me when you're ready."
"I'm ready to tell you..." Brandon started uncertainly. "I just don't know if you are ready to hear it..."
"Brandon," Peter said. "Now you're scaring me."
"I think you better sit down for this one," Brandon suggested.
Peter grabbed a seat at the table and looked up expectantly at Brandon.
"I had a meeting with Mr. Worchester today," Brandon started. "He praised my work and my effort, and he offered me a promotion."
"Oh honey, that's wonderful!" Peter shouted with glee, as he jumped up to give Brandon a congratulation hug and kiss.
Brandon pushed back, "But there's more...in addition, I'd get a nice raise. We could get that house with the white picket fence..."
Peter had lost his sense of humor or excitement, he knew there was a catch.
"Here's the catch," Brandon said, taking a deep breath. "The job requires me to transfer to a firm in New York."
Peter stared at Brandon blankly and found his way to the closest chair to sit down, "New York?"
"Yeah," Brandon mumbled back.
"What was your answer?" Peter asked, fearing the answer.
"I told him that I had to discuss it with you," Brandon said. "But I think I will turn it down."
"Turn it down?" Peter repeated. "Why would you turn it down?"
"Peter, this is where you grew up. Your family, your best friends, and your home are here in California," Brandon answered. "I wouldn't make you pack up and move across the country for me."
He was right, Peter thought. My family lives in San Jose, my friends, Colin, Tom, Kevin, and their beaus, are here, and I've grown up in California my entire life. Yet, he would give up his dreams for me.
"Take the job," Peter responded without a single blink of the eye.
"What?" Brandon asked incredulously.
"Take it," Peter said. "It's an once in a lifetime chance right? I say you accept the promotion."
"Are you sure?" Brandon questioned. "This is a big step in our lives."
A big step indeed, Peter thought, "Yes, I'm sure."
Brandon let out a huge sigh of relief and grinned, "You don't know how much this job means to me Peter. I won't let you down."
Brandon hugged Peter tightly and even picked him up in glee. Brandon ran into the bedroom to phone his parents to share his great news, meanwhile, Peter wondered, how am I going to tell the gang that we're moving?
"And you owe us twenty-two dollars," Elliot remarked tauntingly at Kevin.
"Fine," Kevin grumbled and handed us the money. "It's just too unfortunate that we took a detour at stupid Atlantic Avenue."
Elliot made a cackling noise and waved the money in front of Kevin and Mark's face. I chuckled quietly, I did not want any part of this competitiveness. It is Tuesday evening, and the four couples gathered for a friendly game of Monopoly. But friendly was definitely one of the last word to describe the current game. I looked at Peter, as he silently twirled his Monopoly game piece, the chrome top hat. He looked distressed about something, and his mind came in and out of this game.
"Earth to St. Petersburg," Kevin joked. "It's your turn, roll the dice."
"Oh, sorry," Peter apologized and half-heartedly tossed the dice.
I shared a concern look with Tom, and eventually, Kevin caught onto Peter's distress.
"I think we should take a break from this intense game," I said, getting up to stretch my legs. "I think I'm going to go refill our cups with soda, Peter, care to join me in the kitchen?"
Peter looked up, "Oh sure, I'll get us more soda, Honey."
Brandon just nodded, and Peter got up to go to the kitchen.
Tom and Kevin grabbed the nearest snack bowls and said, "We'll be back also. Sit tight and just talk amongst yourselves."
"Ok, spill," Kevin said, as he rounded the corner into my kitchen.
"Spill what? Peter asked, trying hard to feign innocence.
"We know something is up," Tom said. "It shows all over your face."
"It does?" Peter asked, still cowering to our line of questioning.
"We just know something is bothering you," I said, soothingly. "And we just want to help. We don't want to meddle..."
"Or gossip..." Kevin piped in.
Peter just nodded and took a sigh, "Guys, I'm moving."
I gasped, Kevin's eyes bulged out of its socket, and Tom held onto the wall behind him to stable himself.
"I mean, we're moving, Brandon and I," Peter said, his voice trembling. "He, uh, got the promotion and raise, but the job is in New York."
"NEW YORK?!" I screamed, a bit more loudly than anticipated.
Sounds of feet scurried to the kitchen, and within moments, eight men stood idly and awkwardly around the kitchen.
"That's right," Brandon chimed in, giving Peter a strong hug. "We are moving to New York."
"Uh...um...hm..." Tom stuttered.
Dale came into his rescue, "I think Tom meant to ask when you are planning to move."
Peter looked sadly at Brandon, but Brandon remained strong and answered, "End of the month."
I turned away, before any of my tears were shown. Kevin and Tom turned around as well, both afraid to show weakness. Elliot hugged me tightly, and Kevin and Tom's perspective beaus embraced them comfortably as well.
Finally, I broke out of this spell, "This is great news!"
I wiped my tears with my sweater, "This calls for a round of champagne."
"Champagne!" Kevin shouted with fake excitement.
Everyone talked and moved about to fill up the sadness and awkward silence. I pulled a bottle out from the fridge, and Elliot removed the cork. I poured generously into eight wine glasses, and I proposed a toast, "To Brandon and Peter, may their journey to New York be prosperous and successful."
Everyone muttered in agreement and clinked the glasses. An hour later, everyone made their way to the door. I hugged each of them goodbye, but I held onto Peter longer. Finally, everyone exited, and I closed the door behind me.
Stay strong Colin, I told myself. You don't need to make it worse by crying.
"I think I'll stay here tonight," Elliot said, putting the last washed wine glass into the cabinet.
"Please," I offered. "I think I could use someone to hold onto tonight."
"I just can't believe he's leaving, Dale," Tom said, as they both laid comfortably in their bed. Tom's head nestled on Dale's chest, and Dale stroked Tom's wavy brown locks.
"He'll come home to visit," Dale responded reassuringly.
"But it won't be the same," Tom replied, as he let out a huge sigh.
Tom's eyes welled up with unshed tears, and Tom betrayed his conscience by allowing the drops of saline tears to slide down his cheeks. Dale held Tom tightly, as Tom sobbed quietly at the loss of his best friend.
"Kevin, come to bed," Mark begged. "It's almost midnight, and I know you're exhausted."
"I'm busy," Kevin answered.
Mark went into the kitchen and found Kevin doing the high stack of dishes in the sink. Two weeks worth of dishes, all from their laziness and lack of time.
"The dishes can wait," Mark commented. "They sure waited for the last two weeks."
Not a hint of a smile of Kevin's face. Kevin's usual cheery deposition was replaced with a hard mask of stubbornness and exasperation. Mark went to the sink and turned off the jet of hot, steamy water. Mark took a rag and dried Kevin's hands, then Mark led him into the bedroom. Kevin, unlike his usual self, had hardly spoken two words on the ride home. The news of Peter and Brandon's move took a large toll on everyone, but Kevin took it exceptionally hard.
"You won't leave me right?" Kevin asked, vulnerably. His eyes were glimmering with tears, but Kevin wiped them away with his shirt sleeve.
"Of course not," Mark said. "I love you, and I'll be here always."
"Always?" Kevin questioned.
"Forever," Mark replied confidently.
"Forever is an awfully long time," Kevin said, as he closed the bathroom door behind him.
Mark was left in the darkness, his mind completely drained and flustered.
"Honey, I don't think we should move..." Brandon said, entering their bedroom. "I can tell this is killing you on the inside. And it's hurting Tom, Colin, and Kevin. And I don't want to hurt anyone."
Peter looked tired but he spoke up, "I know Brandon. You always put others' happiness and well-being before your own, but this time, the spotlight is yours. I want YOU to be happy. I know if you don't get this chance, you'll always wonder and regret."
"How can I be happy when you are miserable?"
"I'd be more miserable, if you were unhappy," Peter replied.
"I think I will go take a hot shower before bed, care to join me?"
Peter undressed and put on his pajamas, "No, thanks. I think I am going to get some shut eye. I've got an early class in the morning."
"School," Brandon said suddenly. "What about school? We haven't checked out where you'd transfer too...I don't know...it just doesn't feel right..."
"Honey, we'll talk about all the logistics in the morning," Peter said, as he pulled the blanket over his tired body.
"G'night," Brandon said, as he leaned in to kiss Peter.
Peter kissed back, "G'night."
The shower turned on, and Peter could hear Brandon hum quietly to himself.
Peter thought distressingly, I just want to close my eyes and not open them in the morning.
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