Sometimes the best gift you can give — and receive — is when you help a friend.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
I woke up from my nap around five-thirty. I still felt stuffed, so I decided that I’d take a walk. Or a slow jog. The door to Chris’s room was open, so I looked in. He was asleep, snoring softly. I decided that I wouldn’t wake him.
I went downstairs, and the twins were in the family room watching an NCIS: Los Angeles rerun.
“I’m going to take a walk or a slow jog to work off our late lunch. You interested in joining me?”
“Yes,” Sean said. “We’ll go with you. Mom told us that dinner would be ready around seven. She’s making a salad with shrimp. Something light since we’re sort of full.”
“So, the only reason she’s making a salad is that the two of you are sort of full?”
“No,” Ryan said. “We told her that you and Chris were stuffed. We heard you talking about it.”
“Do we need a jacket?” Ryan asked.
“Don’t know. I’ll go outside and let you know.”
I walked out onto the back patio. A light jacket would be needed. I returned and told the twins, and they went upstairs.
I walked into the kitchen. Mom and Dad were sitting at the table.
“The twins and I, and maybe Chris if he wakes up, are going to take a brisk walk to work off some of the weight we gained at lunch.”
“What are we going to do?” Chris asked as he joined us.
“So you’re awake?” I asked.
“It seems so. Unless I have somnambulism. What is it that we’re going to do?”
“Take a brisk walk with the twins to try and work off our oversized lunch. Mom’s fixing a salad with shrimp for dinner. The twins told her that they’re sort of full and that you and I are stuffed. Thus the walk — and the choice for dinner. A briskly walking walk.”
“Sounds good. Do we need…”
“A jacket?” I interjected, and Chris nodded. “Yes. A light jacket should be enough.”
We went upstairs and got jackets, and we followed the twins who were trying to pull on their jackets as we all walked downstairs. Chris and I laughed at their antics, and it made me think of an old saying, “They can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.” I called out to the folks that we’d be back in an hour. Then we left through the front door.
I started walking, but after a while, I felt like I needed more exercise, so I started a slow jog. Chris joined me, but the twins didn’t jog. Instead, they started running and passed us.
“Bye, guys!” I shouted at their backs. Chris chuckled, and we continued our slow jog.
“How long do you think they’ll keep that up?”
“Running? Since we’re going uphill, I think we’ll see that they’ve slowed down, maybe as soon as around the next curve.”
When we went around the next curve, the twins weren’t there. They were nowhere to be seen.
“Where’d they go?” Chris asked.
“Don’t know. The next street on our left goes uphill. My guess is they went the other way.”
“There’s a rule,” Chris said, “when you go downhill there’s probably an uphill waiting for you around the next corner.”
I laughed. “That’s great. Where did you find that?”
“I thought it up myself. I even Googled it and couldn’t find it anywhere online.”
“You oughta copyright it.”
We got to the next corner, and Chris was right. The street to our left, which was the direction home, was definitely going uphill.
We headed up, walking instead of jogging. When we got to the next cross street, Chris poked my arm and pointed to the right.
The twins were sitting on the curb.
“That’s the wrong direction,” I said to Chris. “To get home, we have to go to the left and loop back.”
We walked down to where the twins were resting.
“You were going the wrong way,” I said.
“We know, we went up that way,” Sean said, pointing to where the street curved on our right, “it’s all uphill after the curve. It’s steep.”
“We discovered that we made a wrong turn,” Ryan added.
“Well, get up and let’s get home. I know the way. Mom’s going to have dinner ready soon.” I held out both of my hands, each twin grabbed one, and I helped them up.
“We need to get more exercise,” Sean said.
“You know that we have a family membership at 24-Hour Fitness.”
“Yeah. The trouble is, it’s a long way from our house,” Ryan said. “It’s too far to walk, and we’d have to take two different buses, and that would take a long time.”
“If you ask, Mom or Dad will take you on the weekends. I’ll go, too,” I said.
“I’ll go, too,” Chris said. “If that’s okay.”
“I’ll have to check with Dad about the membership, but I think we can slip you in.”
“If my folks can become your foster parents, that’ll get you in.”
“Your folks aren’t going to do that, Darryl. My mom is still around somewhere. All we have to do is find her.”
“Maybe you can go in as a guest,” Ryan said.
“That is a good idea,” I said. “We can add that to what we’re going to ask Dad.”
When we got home, Mom greeted us. “I’m glad you finally arrived. We’re sitting down to dinner now, and your nows will be after you take off your jackets and wash your hands.” She pointed at the stairs. “So you’d better get it done now!” She was smiling, so I knew she wasn’t mad, just joking.
We hurried up the stairs — without running — and returned a few minutes later. The salad had jumbo shrimp, slices of avocado, cherry tomatoes, sliced radishes, and lots of butter lettuce and other greens. And Mom’s homemade green goddess salad dressing. It was a light and delicious meal, perfect after the huge lunch we’d eaten. Except for Dad none of us, not even the twins, asked for seconds.
When we were almost finished eating, Mom asked a question that surprised me.
“Chris, tomorrow is Sunday. Do you want to go to church? If so, we can take you to whatever church you want.”
“Thank you for asking. My mom didn’t go to church except for a couple times a year, at Christmas and sometimes at Easter, and I’d go with her then. She liked the music and singing, and I went along because she took me. But otherwise, I don’t go to church, either. If you go, and you’d like me to go, too, that’d be okay.”
“We’re holiday Catholics,” Dad said. “We only go to church on Christmas and Easter. And for weddings and once for a funeral. If you want to go, that’s fine with us. If you don’t feel the need, that’s fine with us. Darryl and the twins don’t go on Sundays.”
“What we’re saying, Chris,” Mom said, “is that this is entirely your decision.”
“Thank you. I don’t think that I’ll go to church on Sundays, either.”
“Alright,” Mom said. “So what do you have planned for today?” she asked me… and probably Chris, too.
“We have an exam in Spanish 4 the day we get back to school,” I said. “We have to study for that.”
“Okay. What time do you want to study for the exam?” Chris asked.
“How about right after breakfast? That way we’ll have the rest of the day to do whatever.”
“Okay. Do you have your Spanish 4 textbook?” Chris asked me.
“Yes. Do you have yours?” I asked.
“Uh, no. I forgot it.”
“That’s okay. We don’t need two textbooks. We’re going to study together. We only need one if we need to look up something.”
Mom looked at me. “I’m glad that you two are going to study before doing anything else tomorrow. What’s going to be covered on the exam?”
“If it’s like Mrs. Acero’s usual exams, there will be five parts,” I replied.
“First, there are sentences in Spanish with — and some without — grammar, word choice, spelling, and punctuation errors that we have to correct.
“Second, there are several paragraphs in Spanish that we have to translate into English.
“Third, there are several different paragraphs in English that we have to translate into Spanish.
“Fourth, there is a list of Spanish words, and we have to provide the English definitions.
“Fifth, there is a list of English words, and we have to provide the Spanish definitions.
“How long do you have to complete this exam?” Mom asked.
“Forty minutes. It’s on a Monday, so that’s the only day when periods are forty-five minutes long.”
“It sounds like it’s a complicated exam. This is high school Spanish?” Dad asked.
“Yes, but it’s fourth-year high school Spanish. This is the last year of Spanish language classes,” I replied. “There’s an AP Spanish class that’s oriented to reading literature, but I’m not going to take it. I’ll concentrate on my math and computer classes.” I looked at Chris. “Didn’t you say that you’re going to take AP Spanish next year?”
“That’s right. I figured that it would be the easiest AP class that I could take.”
“Darryl, you’re a junior. How are you able to take fourth year Spanish this year?” Mom asked.
“I took Spanish in the eighth grade. That was the equivalent of high school Spanish 1 that I’d normally take when I was a freshman, but that’s when I took Spanish 2. I took Spanish 3 last year, and Spanish 4 this year.”
“Okay, now I understand,” she said.
“I’m taking Spanish 4 and I’m a sophomore,” Chris said. “I was able to jump ahead two years and take Spanish 3 when I was a freshman because we spoke it at home. My abuela, my grandmother, didn’t understand English except for a few words she’d use when she went to the corner store to buy food.”
“Now I understand why Darryl wants to study for the exam with you,” Mom said.
“Do you think you’ll do well on the exam?” Dad asked.
“I hope so. I have an A in the class so far. Studying with Chris will be a big help. He also has an A. We’re both at the top in the class.”
“Why are you studying for the exam now?” he asked. “You don’t go back to school until January 7th.”
“That’s right,” I said. “Thing is, this is our midterm exam. We want to make sure we have the material down cold. That and the bowl games start next weekend and go through New Year’s Day. That means we either watch football or we study the weekend before the 7th to review the material. So, we’re starting this weekend, and we’ll test each other on Thursday and Friday. Then we’ll watch football bowl games.
“I also have my story for English 3 to finish. That’s what I’ll do tonight. Then Chris and I will watch some TV or play a video game. So, I’m going to go to my room and get started on my story.”
Chris and I stood up. “We’ll see you in the morning. Good night,” he said.
My folks said good night. The twins smirked at us. I wondered what that meant.
We went upstairs, and Chris said, “While you’re writing your story, I’m going to shower. Then we can watch TV or play a video game. Whatever you’d like to do.”
“There’s not much on TV on Saturday nights. Well, except basketball games. How about we watch a movie?”
“That sounds good. I’ll see you later.” Chris left to take his shower.
Since Chris wasn’t going to be hanging around, I decided to finish the short story that Mrs. Harington had so generously assigned us over our Christmas break. I opened the file and got to work.
After about an hour I’d completed the story. All it needed was one final editing pass, which I’d do on Thursday or Friday, and then I could post it on School Loop.
I closed my story file, signed out of Windows, and turned off my laptop. I stood up and stretched my neck and shoulder muscles. I was stiff from leaning over my keyboard. I needed a session at the gym.
I looked around, expecting to see Chris laying on my bed. But he wasn’t. I went to his room and saw him laying on his bed with his eyes closed. He must have felt me looking at him because he opened his eyes and grinned.
“You finally finished writing your story?”
“I still have to proofread it, which I’ll do later in the week. It took longer than I expected. You want to watch TV? The shows on Saturday nights are boring, but maybe there’s a movie on Netflix we’ll both want to watch.”
“Okay. Hey, how about Black Panther? Unless you’ve already seen it.”
“No, I haven’t seen it, and I want to,” I said. “I’ll check and see if my folks and the twins will want to watch it, too. That way we can watch it on the big screen in the family room.”
My folks did want to watch it, and I asked if it would be appropriate for the twins. It was rated PG-13, so Mom said it would be okay. I asked the twins, and they were eager to watch it.
We all liked Black Panther a lot. We agreed that it should receive one or more of the Academy Awards, maybe even the best movie. However, it’s a long movie, about two and a quarter hours. So when it was over, it was almost eleven o’clock. The twins announced that they were ready for bed. So was I.
I said goodnight to the twins and to my folks. Chris did the same, and he and I went upstairs to my bedroom. The twins trailed along and followed us into my bedroom, closed the door, and sat on the side of my bed. Chris and I stood looking at them.
“Could we ask you two a question?” Ryan asked.
“It’s okay with me,” Chris said.
Sean clasped his hands together, almost like he was praying. I knew that it meant he was nervous.
“Darryl, Chris, are you guys boyfriends?”
I grinned and looked at Chris. He was grinning, too.
“Well,” he said, “I’d say at this point that we’re more best friends than boyfriends. I know that I like Darryl a lot. More than us just being best friends. But… let me put it this way, nothing has been consummated yet.”
“What’s that word mean?” Sean asked.
“It means we haven’t been intimate,” I said.
Ryan squinted, said, “Oh,” then grinned and turned to look at Sean, then in a stage whisper said, “That means they haven’t had sex yet.”
Sean’s eyes opened wide. “Oh!” he said. Then he started to laugh, and said, “So when are you two going to have sex?”
“What? You want to watch?” Chris asked.
“Sure!” Ryan replied. “We need to learn about these things.”
“What, gay sex?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Sean replied.
“You think you might be gay?” Chris asked.
“Probably not gay, but probably bi,” Sean said. “We like the way girls look naked, but we like the way boys look naked, too.”
Then Ryan giggled. “We want to know what two boys do when they’re intimate with each other, and what two girls do when they’re intimate with each other. Being able to watch it happening would be best.”
“Since we don’t have any way to watch two girls, you’re our best bet for watching two boys,” Sean said.
I laughed at them. “Get outta here. Go to bed. Go online. Figure out what being intimate really means. You’re not watching us!”
“Okay,” Sean said, then he turned to Ryan, “they’ll tell us that they’re boyfriends when they want to tell us that they’re boyfriends.”
“And not before,” Ryan said. “Then maybe they’ll let us watch.” They were giggling as they stood up.
“Scoot!” Chris ordered, pointing at the door.
They did, giggling as they left, and they closed the door.
Chris and I flopped onto my bed, laughing until we were worn out.
“Didn’t we have a conversation talking about how the twins knew more about sex than we do now? Or something like that?” I asked.
“Sounds familiar. But if we didn’t, we should’ve. Did you know they were thinking that they might be bi?”
“No way I knew or even guessed that. I’m not sure they know what that means.”
“Did your dad have ‘The Talk’ with them?”
“Yes. Afterward, they told me they learned a lot more in the eighth grade sex-ed class than from my dad.”
“So, they think we’re boyfriends,” Chris stated.
I turned my head and looked at Chris. “Uh-huh. That’s basically what they said.”
He turned his head and looked at me. “Do you think we should be?” he asked.
“I’d like that.”
“Including the intimate part?”
“I’d like that.”
“You already said that.”
I smiled, then leaned in and kissed Chris on his lips, quickly, and leaned back.”
“And that’s supposed to be intimate?” he complained.
“It’s a start,” I responded.
He reached over with his left arm and pulled us close together. Then he kissed me. It was a long, sensual kiss. All of the important parts of my anatomy were tingling and vibrating and swelling and growing.
We pulled apart about an inch. We were both breathing heavily.
I stared at him. “Oh. My. God. That was amazing!”
He reached between us and squeezed.
We got up and got ready for bed. I showered, and Chris joined me even though he’d showered earlier. We had fun. Then we went to bed. Sans boxer briefs. In fact, sans any and all clothing.
Like every previous night, Chris and I slept together in my bed. Unlike every previous night, we were far from celibate, for the first time. Then we spent an hour just talking about it, about what we each liked that we had done and what we weren’t interested in and hadn’t done. We were on the same page. We agreed that we were definitely boyfriends. Boyfriends with benefits.
Sunday, December 23, 2018
In the morning I woke up earlier than I thought I would. Chris was spooned up against my back; his left arm was wrapped across my waist. I felt secure and loved. And loved… that was an amazing concept. It was a different kind of love than I’d ever felt before. I loved the members of my family; that was familial love. I was in love with Chris Rodriguez. I lay there just thinking about that.
I heard a muffled chuckle; it was just a fragment. I could see my bedroom door; it was open a crack. Just enough for someone to peek inside.
I whispered, “Come on in, guys.”
I heard a soft voice say, “Oops!” followed by something I couldn’t understand. Then the door slowly opened some more, and Ryan’s head poked through the opening. He pulled back as soon as he saw I was awake and staring at him. The door opened enough so the twins could sneak in, then they quietly closed the door.
They sat on the bench that was across from my bed.
“Hi,” Sean said, in what was almost a whisper. “Sorry that we were peeping twins.” They both giggled. “We wanted to come in and say we were sorry about what we said last night.”
“No reason to be sorry,” Chris said.
I turned, looked at him, and smiled; then I turned back to the twins.
“I agree with Chris,” I said.
“So, Are you boyfriends, now?” Sean asked excitedly.
“Yes,” Chris and I replied, simultaneously.
The twins jumped up and fell on top of us. “That is so cool,” Ryan said.
“You messed around?” Sean asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Oh, that’s even more cool,” Ryan said. “Did you like it?” he asked.
I twisted around so I could see Chris. He was grinning, and he nodded.
I looked at Ryan. “Yes, we did. Very much.”
“Thanks for planting the seed, guys,” Chris said.
“Planting the seed?” Sean asked.
“Giving us the idea,” I replied.
“Oh. We should have figured that out what that meant,” Sean grumbled.
“What time is it?” I asked, not being able to turn and see my clock radio because of the pile of pre-teen boys on top of us. Which made me ask Chris, “Is the collective name of a group of pre-teen boys a pile? And can two pre-teen boys be called a pile?” That made the two of us laugh, but the twins didn’t get it.
“It’s five minutes before eight AM,” Sean replied to my original question. Apparently, he was the only one who could see the clock radio.
“We better get up and take a shower,” I said to Chris.
“Us, too,” Ryan said. “We have a bunch of questions we want to ask you, about you-know-what. Maybe we can do that later today?”
“Maybe,” I said. “We will need privacy to do that. It means no parents in the house. And we won’t answer any questions that we think aren’t age-appropriate. Okay?”
“Okay,” Ryan said.
They climbed off Chris and me and left my room, quietly closing the door.
“Do we really have to get up?” Chris asked.
“I think so. Breakfast will be happening soon, and we want to be sure we don’t miss it. I don’t fry eggs in a way that makes them edible. Think about taking hard-boiled eggs — partially shelled — then smashing them and frying them. So let’s get up and shower and get ready to go down and eat.”
Chris laughed. “That thing about the way you cook eggs is more than enough encouragement do have your mom do the cooking. Let’s do it.”
Of course, I was just kidding Chris about the eggs. I can cook, and I’m almost always successful.
When we got downstairs, Mom and Dad were reading the Sunday papers. We get both the East Bay Times and the San Francisco Chronicle on Sundays, but not during the week. We can go online and read the daily papers as part of our subscriptions. I almost never did that other than to find high school sports scores.
Mom fixed fried eggs over-easy for Chris and me. Mom, Dad, and the twins had theirs scrambled. She also fixed bacon, the thick kind. I sliced and toasted bagels for everyone. After eating, Chris and I cleaned up the kitchen and then announced that we were going upstairs to study for our Spanish 4 exam.
Studying for an exam two weeks before we’d take the exam, even if the teacher said it was our mid-term, might not sound necessary. But Spanish 4 was one of our toughest classes, and being prepared for the most important exam in this class, other than our final at the end of the school year, was important for both of us. We each needed to get an A on this exam so we could get an A for our final grade. Spending enough time to study was worth it.
By one o’clock we were ready to call a halt. It was time for lunch, anyway. We went downstairs.
“Ready for lunch?” Mom asked me.
“Yes. We’ve spent over three hours studying vocabulary and conjugations and declensions and word order and… well, you can tell that it’s more complicated than English. At least that’s my opinion.”
“What do you want for lunch?”
“I don’t care. A sandwich, or soup, or pizza, whatever,” I said.
Dad asked, “Pizza? For lunch?”
“Yes, that sounds good,” Sean said.
“I agree,” Ryan said.
“Okay, we’ll order pizza. What do you not want on the pizza?”
“Anchovies,” the twins said, simultaneously.
“Anchovies and bell pepper,” I said.
“Anchovies and barbeque sauce, especially together,” Chris said.
Okay, I’ll order a pizza and have it delivered. I’ll let you know when it arrives.”
“What toppings are you going to order?” Ryan asked.
“I’ll order an extra large Kitchen Sink pizza with no anchovies, no bell pepper, and no chicken or barbeque sauce.”
“Cool,” Sean said.
“Who doesn’t like chicken?” Chris asked.
“Dad, on pizza. He says it gets dried out.”
“It looks nice outside,” I said. “You guys want to play some two-on-two basketball while we wait for the pizza?”
The response was positive, so the four of us went outside, I got my basketball from the garage and checked that it was fully inflated, and we played. Just for fun, of course.
To be fair, Chris and I stood next to each other, then turned and closed our eyes. Then the twins stood next to each other, so we were back to back. Then Chris and I turned around, and he picked one of the twins from the back. He ended up picking Ryan.
It was a lot of fun. Chris and I were reasonably well matched. Of course, the twins were, too. It’s amazing how a short kid can so quickly get in the way of a tall kid. The game was tied 19 to 19 when Dad came outside and told us the pizza had arrived.
After lunch, Chris and I went upstairs. We talked for a while.
“I hope you didn’t get me a ton of gifts for Christmas, Darryl.”
“Since you didn’t see any huge trucks making a delivery, you can be guaranteed that it isn’t a ton. I got you a few small things that, in my opinion, you need.
“But I do have another gift that I’m not going to wrap. It’s not that it’s too big, or too small, it’s… ethereal. That’s a good description.”
“You have me… confused. That’s a good description.” He grinned.
“You have a phone that has the Kindle app. I’m going to add you to my Kindle account. That means you’ll be able to see and read any of the books that I’ve purchased. You’ll be able to purchase books, too. It will be charged to my account. Eventually, you’ll be able to get your own credit card and charge your books to your own account.”
“Oh my god! Are you serious?”
“You have me… happy, delighted, overwhelmed. All of those are good descriptions, Darryl.”
“Well, until Christmas you’ll have to put up with those big, bulky, real hardbound and paperback books from my motley collection.”
“I can wait. But I am SO glad that you told me today. That will make it even more exciting when you actually sign me up to your account.”
“Okay, now I want to continue reading the science fiction story that I started earlier,” I said.
“And I want to finish Going Postal. It is so funny! I love it.”
We sat on my bed, reading. I was reading Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, on my phone. Chris was reading Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.
While we were reading, Chris’s cellphone started beeping — that’s the ringtone he selected. He pulled it out of his pocket and answered the call.
Chris shouted, “Mamácita!” and sat down at my desk. I pulled the side chair up and sat next to him.
There was a long pause. She must have been talking. I had time to wonder: how did she find out Chris’s number? Then I remembered that he’d called the gym and left it with them.
Chris said, “Mom, is it okay if I put you on the speakerphone? I’m at Darryl’s house.”
There was a pause, then, “He’s my best friend, and I’m staying with his family. I want him to hear both sides of this call.”
A short pause, then Chris turned on the speaker on his phone and set it down on my desk. I whispered, “Let’s record the call.”
Chris nodded. I clicked on the three-dot menu at the top right corner of the screen. That showed the ‘Add Call’ button, and I clicked that, then dialed Chris’s cellphone number. Since his number was in use, that brought up his voicemail, and then I clicked the ‘Merge Calls’ button, and we were all set. While I was doing this, he continued talking to his mom.
“Mom, I have a lot of questions to ask you. Can you answer them while we’re on this phone call? Do you have enough time to talk to me? Where are you calling from? Is the call going to be expensive?”
“Chris, ask your questions, and I will try to answer them. Don’t worry about the cost of the telephone call. That isn’t an issue.”
“Alright. My first question is, Why did you abandon me?”
“When I was laid off from my job, you know that my mother, your grandmother, decided to move back to Guadalajara. She didn’t feel well, and if you remember we thought she had the flu. She went to a doctor in Guadalajara, and he sent her to a hospital. The doctors at the hospital found that she has Parkinson’s disease.
“I was worried because I hadn’t heard anything about her flu. So I went to the Mexican Console’s office in San Francisco. They offer free telephone calls to Mexico. So I phoned your aunt Adriana, my sister, to ask her about our mother’s health. She is the one who told me about the Parkinson’s disease.
“Your aunt Adriana broke her leg at work and isn’t able to take care of our mother. She hired a young girl to help out. But that girl can’t be there for 24 hours every day, so she asked if I would come home and be one of my mother’s caretakers.
“That was the only possible solution, so that’s what I did. I am here at my mother’s home in Guadalajara right now, and that is from where I am calling you.”
Chris looked shell shocked. “Why didn’t you let me know that you were going to Mexico?”
“Chris, I’m so sorry. I didn’t have any way to contact you before I left. I didn’t know where you were. I went to your school, but it was closed for the Christmas holiday. I didn’t have the names of any of your friends. I knew that you had been working at a new apartment building that was under construction, but I didn’t know where it was or how to contact them.”
“Then how did you find me? How did you get the phone number here at the Mathews’ home to be able to call me?”
“I phoned the gym today, and they had your name and phone number, and they told me you had been looking for me.”
“So, what am I supposed to do? You’re in Guadalajara, I’m in Walnut Creek. I’m living with the Mathews, Darryl’s family, because they are very nice people and they took me in.”
“Chris, I don’t think it would be right to force you to move here and have to change schools. The high schools in Guadalajara are very good, but it’s not the same as where you are. I know you want to go to the university there, so graduating from your high school is very important.
“When I get settled I’ll be able to send you money to put away for your university expenses. I’ll also send money to help with your living expenses.
“Will you be able to stay with this family, you said their name is Mathews?”
“Yes. They have accepted me as if I was one of their sons. I really like living here with them.
“How are you going to send me money? Do you have a job?”
“The city of Guadalajara has many new companies. It is said that it has become the Silicon Valley of Mexico. Many high technology companies are here now, including my new employer, Corporación Saliana. Saliana is the name of a family of butterflies. You should look it up on Google and see how many different butterflies have that as the first word in their name.”
“Is the pay you’ll get from your new employer, this Saliana, going to be adequate?”
“I’m going to be paid a very generous salary. It is comparable to the salary I received before I was laid off. It costs me much less to live here, so I’ll soon have enough to pay toward your university education and living costs.”
“Mr. Mathews told me that he met with his attorney on Saturday, and they are drafting what is called a guardianship document. I will go with him to his attorney’s office on Wednesday. To do this, I’ll need my birth certificate. You have it, and you’ll have to send it to me. Then you’ll have to sign the papers so it will be legal. Are you willing to do this?”
“Yes. I need the attorney’s email address and telephone and fax numbers. I have an attorney here to help give me the rights to take care of my mother. So he and Mr. Mathews’ attorney can work together so you can be under the guardianship of the Matthews.
I have your birth certificate and passport which I will give to my attorney. He will fax the birth certificate to Mr. Mathews’ attorney. I will also have them send your original birth certificate and your passport to the attorney’s office by secure carrier.
“One thing that I am very sorry about is that I have your clothes and some other personal items in the trunk of my car. I will arrange to have them shipped to you at the Mathews’ address.”
“Don’t bother. I’ve probably outgrown those clothes, so please donate them. The Mathews bought me all new clothes so I have what I need.”
“I was thinking that during the summer school holiday you could come to Guadalajara and visit your grandmother, aunt Adriana, and me. Would you like to do that?”
“Yes, I would like to do that.” He took a breath. “It’s so good to talk to you,” he said.
Chris realized she had changed. She seemed… less his mother and more like an aunt. Their relationship was different now. It seemed that they’d become disconnected from one another. Parkinson’s disease was terrible, and his mother was focused on her new job and her mother and being her caregiver. That meant that he had to make his own path in life. He felt that he was ready to do that. As long as the Mathews were willing to support him. And put up with him, he thought.
“Chris? You’re very quiet. You said you had many questions. Have you asked them all, now?”
“Sorry. This has been such a shock, talking to you and hearing about my abuela being so ill.”
He paused, again, for several seconds.
“You said Aunt Adriana hired a girl to help with grandma. Will she continue helping your mother and will you be able to afford to pay her?”
“Yes, Chris, Adriana and I will each pay half her salary.
“My job will pay very well. I’ll be in charge of the payroll system, and I’ll have two assistants. The company has over two thousand employees. It’s all very high-tech.”
“Then do you agree that it’s the best solution, to have me live with the Mathews family?”
“I would turn that around, Chris. Are you alright living with the Mathews family? Are you happy there? Are they willing to have you stay with them?”
“Yes, to all of those questions. Mr. and Mrs. Mathews have been so wonderful, making me feel like I’m part of their family, treating me like I’m their son. They love me, and I love them. They are very generous. Mr. Mathews gave me one-hundred-twenty dollars to go Christmas shopping. I’m getting a weekly allowance, twenty-five dollars, for doing chores around the house the same as their three sons.
“I have three brothers now. That’s very different and I like it. I was an only child. All of a sudden I have a whole bunch of kids around me all the time.
“The twins are twelve-year-old boys and are in the eighth grade. Their names are Ryan and Sean. I know you’ll love them when you meet them. They are identical twins; their differences are very subtle. I figured out how to tell them apart all by myself. They were shocked that I could do that without someone in the family telling me the little things that are different.
“They are great kids and a lot of fun to be around.
“I have a brother my age. His name is Darryl. We’ve known each other since elementary school. We are now best friends and more.” Chris paused, then continued. “I love him, Mom. I know it’s strange to say this, and you might be shocked, but we’ve become boyfriends.”
“I’m happy for you, Chris. I have no trouble with you being this boy’s boyfriend. It’s better than if you were out chasing girls and getting them pregnant.” She chuckled, so Chris knew it was okay with her.
He’d never told her that he was gay, un adolescente gay — a gay teenager. Now he didn’t have to — well, that wasn’t correct! In fact, he had just told her a few seconds ago. He shook his head and grinned.
“What’s it going to be like living with your mother in Mexico? What is the house like? Is it secure? Is it in a safe neighborhood?”
“Chris, this is the house where I grew up as a child. So it’s an older house, but very well built. It’s been modernized. That was done about five years ago before your grandfather was killed in an accident at work. It has five bedrooms and four bathrooms. The kitchen is modern, and all the appliances are the latest, just like in the U.S. It has a large yard in the rear, good for playing fútbol — that’s called soccer where you are. It’s in a good neighborhood which is gated and very safe.
“Do you have a bedroom of your own at the Mathews’ home?”
“Yes. It was the guest bedroom.” He decided it was best if he didn’t tell her that he and Darryl were sleeping together in Darryl’s bed.
“What are you doing for Christmas?” he asked.
“The whole family is coming here. That way they can see my mother while she still recognizes people. Adriana’s daughters will make tamales for Christmas eve, then all of the women will cook the Chrismas dinner. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to get you something for Christmas, Chris. Let’s leave the gifts for when you come to visit during the summer.”
“That all sounds fine. Now I think it’s time to finish this call. We’ve been on the phone for a long time, Mom. I’m glad you called, and now I have your phone number too, on my cellphone.”
“So, let us say adiós for now. Be a good boy. Write me email messages. I’m using a cellphone, so it can text and do email. I’ll text you my email address, and you text me yours, okay?”
“Yes, okay. I’ll do that now. Please say hello to my abuela and to Aunt Adriana.”
“I will talk to my attorney tomorrow. Please email the information about Mr. Mathews’ attorney today.”
“Yes, I will. You have a good evening, and I’ll talk to you soon about the guardianship document. Goodbye, mamácita.”
“Well, that was interesting,” Chris said.
“I agree,” I said. “It sounds like she is going to be a lot better off in Guadalajara than it was for her here.”
“I certainly hope so. I’d better talk to your dad about the guardianship thing. I want that to get signed as soon as possible.”
“Okay. I’ll see you later.”
Chris grinned. “Finish your English homework!”
“Alright, alright!” I didn’t bother telling him it was already finished except for a final editing pass.
Almost an hour later I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the same science fiction story, Defy the Stars, on my phone. Dad and Chris came in and sat down and stared at me. They must have had a lot to talk about; it took them a long time.
They seemed to be staring at me.
I looked up. “What?”
Dad turned, and he and Chris looked at each other. “Do you really want to be this guy’s brother, Chris?”
“Yeah, I guess. I’ve gotten used to him. And that’s the only way I can be the twins’ brother, so… whatever.”
“Alright, what is this?” I growled.
“We’re going to see if we can adopt Chris,” Dad said.
“Whoa! What about his mother? What’s she going to say?”
“We’ll find out tomorrow. I thought you should know that was something we were thinking about.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” I said.
“There is one problem, though,” Dad said. “If you’re brothers you can’t have sex anymore.”
I could tell that Chris was trying hard to keep from laughing.
“Well, that’s okay with me,” I said. “I’m sure I can find someone cuter at school once we go back.”
I picked up my phone and got back to the story I’d been reading.
“That didn’t work, did it?” I heard Dad whisper to Chris.
“Trouble is, he’s too smart. He figured it out right away,” Chris whispered to Dad.
“Ustedes dos están actuando como agujeros de culo,” I mumbled loud enough that they both could hear what I said. Thing is, only one of them would understand what I said. And he burst out laughing.
“What did he say?” Dad asked Chris.
“You don’t want to know. Certainly, nothing that can be repeated in mixed company,” he replied. “Right now cabeza culo and I are going upstairs and talk.”
“Let me just clarify one thing,” Dad said. “We were just kidding. So in the future keep your Spanish clean. Remember, the twins are taking Spanish, and I’m sure if they had overheard what you two said, they’d want to look it up and try it out at school.”
That’s when we heard giggling from the family room.
I laughed. “Too late! They must have heard what Chris and I said. Fortunately, we didn’t use any Spanish equivalents of forbidden four-letter words.”
“Darryl’s right,” Chris said.
“You two better be right,” Dad grumbled. But he was grinning, so I knew we weren’t in trouble.
Chris and I got up and went upstairs. When we got to my room I closed the door and grabbed him in a hug, then we kissed.
“I love you, Chris.”
“I love you, Darryl.”
That was the best gift of all.
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