David’s a cocky guy. No doubt about that. It comes from his height, I suppose – or the lack thereof – although he is quick to remind us that his legs reach all the way to the ground. But his cockiness doesn’t really come from a need to prove that he’s better than everybody else. He never said he was, but he seems to have a need to prove that he’s at least as good. Some guys on the crew never became anything other than David’s workmates because of it, but most of the guys accepted and ignored his cockiness when they discovered just how much they could depend on him to do his job and do it well.
“He’s a sparkplug, that one,” Grant said to us one evening as the guys were cleaning up before shutting down for the evening. “He might be a whole lot of talk, but he backs it up with a whole lot of action. Does he even have an off switch?”
“I don’t think so,” I told him. “I’ve barely ever seen him slow down let alone grind to a complete stop. As long as there’s something to be done, he’s there to do it.”
As is he’d heard us talking about us, David glanced our way, gave us a wide, happy grin and an enthusiastic thumbs up sign, and went right back to doing what he was doing.
“It’s not a job to him, is it?” Grant said a few moments later. It was said as a question, but it sounded more like a statement seeking agreement.
Brad asked the question that was in my mind: “What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s more of a hobby for Davey, isn’t it? He truly loves his work. He’d do it for free if people let him.” There was only a moment’s pause before Grant added, “Cam did good sponsoring him.”
I couldn’t disagree with Grant on that one. We did good becoming David’s friend. No regrets.
Still, for the longest time, David liked to pretent that it was his joining the construction team which caused things to take off and proceed as quickly as they did, and he told that to anyone who would listen to him. It was, in fact, mere coincidence that the two events coincided, but every day following that Thanksgiving weekend when David joined the crew brought new changes to our house. The huge piles of lumber for the floor joists and the huge stacks of heavy plywood subflooring were reduced by about half now that the main floor was finished. The rest of that lumber would, of course, be used for the second floor once the walls were up – but that’s another story and another stack of lumber.
That had been our first real thrill - walking on our new ground floor for the first time. Lindsay walked with me and Brad, holding my hand tightly in hers. Brad held my other hand. Justin and Jeremy ran about willy-nilly, jumping from the main floor entry level to the raised level of the lounge, diningroom, and kitchen, then down to the main level again only to do it all over again, squealing and giggling and howling all the way. There weren’t any steps yet. They would come later. There weren’t any walls, either, but we had a bi-level and it was the base of the house that was to come.
I had been concerned that it had taken so long, but Grant reminded me once again that the foundation – this time including the main floor – was the most important part of the house. Get that part right and the rest of the house will fall into place.
He was right.
Now, Brad is a man through and through, even with his hair grown out following the wedding. His longer, flowing locks gave him a softer, more youthful look as opposed to when he had cropped it short for the wedding. He had looked so much more rugged and mature then. I liked it longer, though, and I think Tiger did, too. He had the body of a man, he had the face of a man, he had the smell of a man, and he filled a pair of jeans like a man, but, in all that manliness and testosterone, there lurked a little boy who popped out for brief visits every now and then. That little boy made a brief appearance that day.
“It’s happening, Pops,” Brad said to me, his chipped-tooth grin practically splitting his face in half. “It’s really happening.” His face glowed and his green eyes sparkled with excitement in the early-evening sunlight. His face, at that moment, reminded me of a photo of him in one of Bernice’s many photo albums. It was a birthday photo and he had just opened his gift: the newest Nintendo system at that time - a Nintendo 64. The same expression of unbridled excitement on his face over a decade earlier was on his face again that night on the floor of our new house. I could practically feel the pulse of his pounding heart through our hands. “After all this time, it’s really happening.” He stopped, pulling us to a halt. Lindsay released my hand and sauntered off to do her own private investigations.
Brad’s hand gripped mine so tightly that it made me wince. Thankfully, it was a very brief squeeze before he loosened his grip and continued on. “My first house,” he said. Then, “Our first house.”
“Have you forgotten the old house already?”
“No, but that was your house, Ted. You just let me live there. The only time I was in it as your husband was when we walked through what was left of it. But this! This is our home - yours, mine, the three kids. It’s like a fairytale, isn’t it? A castle with two kings and we’re all going to live happily ever after! I can hardly wait!”
And then he started bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Can you feel the floor moving?”
I had to admit that it was barely perceptible, unlike the old house which could have been used as a trampoline in places. “Barely,” I told him.
“Sturdy,” he added.
“If the rest of the house turns out as strong as the floor,” I added, “we’re in business.”
Brad squeezed my hand again and I felt a shiver of excitement pulsate through him and into me. “Gee-sus Murphy, Pops. It’s like Christmas every day, isn’t it? When we come home after work, a bit more of our present has been unwrapped for us.” His grip on my hand relaxed slightly and his voice dropped to a near whisper. It was almost as if he was talking to himself more than he was talking to me. “It’s really happening,” he said, and then he fell silent and the little boy went back into hiding. A minute later, Brad heaved a huge sigh which swelled his chest (causing me great distraction, I might add) and he became a husband and a father again.
There was little doubt that Grant knew his business. After what felt like months and months of nothing happening, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders that night when I felt our new floor under my feet for the very first time. As Brad had pointed out several times, things were really beginning to happen.
What was once our front yard was virtually hidden beneath mountains of supplies: stacks of metal-strapped two-by-fours as large as an SUV piled bundle upon bundle; stack upon stack of plywood; and several more piles of unknown materials each carefully enwrapped in massive, blue plastic tarpaulins to protect them from the elements. More supplies arrived on site almost daily.
Friday morning, I left for work. When I came home that evening, there were walls. Only on the outside, mind you, but there were walls. According to Justin and Jeremy, who had watched the entire operation with uninterruptable awe from their vantage point in the driver and passenger seats of the Winnebago, each section had been carefully constructed on the floor of the new house – blue, moisture and mould-resistant two-by-four stud framing with sheets of plywood screwed to the outside. A layer of rigid foam insulation was added after the walls were lifted and secured into place by a small team of strong men and two surprisingly strong young ladies, and then the whole thing was wrapped tightly in weatherproof house wrap and sealed and taped with strips of bright red and black tuck tape.
Our house had walls. Blue walls, but walls nonetheless. That was the day the twins started telling everyone that they would be living in a Smurf house.
There was only one way to go after that - up. In no time at all, it seemed, the ground floor was completely framed out and the second storey floor was in place, followed closely by the outer walls and framing. The roof, probably the most exciting part of the build, was soon to follow.
The crane arrived early one morning and began lifting the pre-made roof trusses from the huge, flat-bed delivery trucks, the crane operator deftly setting them into place under Grant’s expert supervision. According to Terry, Justin and Jeremy had sat in complete silence all afternoon in the cab of the camper, watching the crane work. They wouldn’t even abandon their places for an afternoon snack of Grandma Hayes’ fresh, homemade chocolate chip cookies. Fortunately, their glasses of chocolate milk sat neatly in the built-in cup holders in the console between the seats and the cookies sat neatly on small plates on their laps. They ate and drank in complete silence, their eyes not leaving the crane for even the briefest of moments. It was a day that they would talk about for many weeks to come.
Terry said it was one of the quietest afternoons she had ever spent in the Winnebago with the boys there. The boys didn’t even take a bathroom break until the crane had to shut as it awaited the arrival of another truckload of trusses. She rather made up for it on Tuesday afternoon, though, when the twins grabbed her by the hands when she picked them up from school. They held tightly and took off running for home, making Terry run right along with them. Back home, the boys immediately headed for the front seats again and Terry headed for the counter to make them a bowl of soup and a ham sandwich for lunch. Then, as they ate and watched the construction next door, Terry sprawled out on the day bed, put her feet up, and watched her soap operas in “exquisite peace and quiet.”
Not long after David had joined the construction crew, we quickly became aware of how much work he had done for us in the cleaning-up department. There was a lot more to do than either Brad or I had anticipated. Until then, Brad and I had come home and put in our ‘sweat equity’ time and we were surprised how easy it was. We were stunned at the piles of garbage and waste there was for us to pick up. David often stayed behind after work to help us on his own time, but we still spent several hours each night cleaning up what the crew hadn’t managed to clean up during the day. In many cases, especially after the switch back to standard time, that meant working in the dark with spot lights and city street lamps to illuminate the yard. Bernice took to giving the twins their baths and watching them for us until we were finished and able to put them to bed. Even then, there were nights that one of us had to go back out to finish up.
I wasn’t used to such physical labour and soon found myself dragging my ass out of bed in the mornings and trying to stay awake at work. Brad’s studies were suffering, too. He didn’t let on, but I knew. The boys didn’t enjoy having to sit on the sidelines watching us as we worked. They wanted to get in there to help, but the yard was too dangerous for them to be running around in it. As it was, both Brad and I had suffered our share of bumps and scrapes and splinters.
It was all getting too much for us.
Mark, our reliable friend and Brad’s biggest fan (outside of the family, of course), was only too happy to join our crew after school and weekends, especially when Brad took him out to buy him his own pair of steel-toed work boots and gloves. He also bought Mark his own personal yellow hard hat and orange safety vest with reflective yellow stripes on the front and the back. The name ‘Mark’ was printed on both. He wore them every day, beaming with unabashed, innocent pride when he rode in on his bicycle. “He can use them when Baie Dankie gets up and running and he starts working for me.” That was one thing about my Tiger. Once you gained his friendship, you would be hard pressed to find anyone more loyal.
I had a good feeling about his future with Brad and Baie Dankie Landscaping. Even his brother, Jamie, didn’t have Mark’s ambition and determination. Jamie was a ‘go-fer’ at work and that’s what he was when he quit about a month before Christmas. Unlike his older brother, Mark always strived to do his very best in everything that he was asked to do – not for the money, but to make other people (particularly his hero, his mentor, and his best friend, Brad) happy and proud of him.
We all were.
Life became a lot easier with Mark on the payroll. David watched out for him when Brad wasn’t around, keeping an eye on him and making sure he was safe. He wasn’t allowed in the house and was prohibited from getting closer than the designated dumping spots, at least during working hours. Mark worked tirelessly, loading up the wheelbarrow load after load, wheeling it to the dumpster, and tossing the barrow’s contents inside the huge bin piece by piece. After the crew had packed up for the day, Mark was allowed to go inside and clean up what the crew hadn’t cleaned. Brad and I took turns helping him although Brad seemed to take more turns than I did. And when the crew returned the next day, they returned to a clean house with swept floors, empty ashtrays, and not a stray nail or screw to be found. They came to respect, admire, and appreciate Mark as much as Brad and I did.
And so it was, with a dedicated contractor, Cam, and a seemingly tireless construction team, a general contractor who was worth much more than his weight in gold, friends and family to back us up when we needed them, our house was finally beginning to look like a real house.
Cameron and Grant took us on our first official tour of the house. It was a Thursday evening. I remember that. John Hayes joined us, but Lindsay wasn’t as much into the building process as the guys were. “I’ll wait,” she told me, “until it’s got a toilet I can flush and a bathtub I can soak in.” She had her priorities. Our student designer joined us as well, making simple outline sketches and adding brief notes and scribbles.
With the end of Daylight Savings Time, darkness came much quicker. By the time I got home from work, the generators were still humming, generating power for the various tools and lights for the grounds and the interior. Most of the crew were cleaning up and putting away tools and other equipment while the occasional power drill or hammer could be heard. For a brief time, there was the rapid tat-tat-tat of a nail gun. Mark was busy finishing his clean-up chores. David probably would have joined us as well if he hadn’t still been on the time clock.
Cameron and Grant talked us through the house, pointing out where everything would be going and making sure they were going where we wanted them to go. “If you wanna make changes,” Cam said, “now’s the time to tell us about ‘em. It’s a lot cheaper to change things now then when we get the drywall and plaster on.”
Everything looked fine to us and everything seemed to be where we wanted it, but our designer had a concern and a recommendation. We had gone from the foyer up a step to the front lounge and then into the diningroom heading toward the back of the house where the kitchen would be. Between the two rooms were an open doorway and a half-wall to the right of the doorway. “This is going to be a pass-through, right?”
“Yes,” I said. “It was solid in the original plans we bought, but Brad and I both thought that a pass-through would really handy, especially at holidays.”
“It’s too short,” the designer explained. “It should be higher to hide the counter from the diners. Making big holiday meals makes bigger messes in the kitchen. Nobody wants to look at that when they’re eating a holiday dinner. If I design a custom sideboard, could it be built there instead of the nib wall?”
“You mean take out the nib wall and use the back of the sideboard as a counter backsplash,” Grant said in understanding. He seemed genuinely intrigued by this idea. He glanced quickly at Cameron, who also seemed intrigued. By Cam’s expression, it was clear that it wouldn’t be a problem. Grant nodded his consent and looked at us questioningly.
“We were going to buy a hutch and put it over there against that wall,” I said, pointing at the wall opposite the windows, “but I like your idea a lot more.”
“It will be a lot handier here at the pass-through,” Brad added with a twinkle of excitement in his green eyes, “and it won’t take up as much room.”
Our new designer friend had our permission to go ahead and make us a built-in sideboard. We took a minute to make more precise measurements before carrying on with our tour. Two days later, a picture of a table and chair set and a scanned image of our sideboard arrived in my Email. Written on the dining set photo was the note, “Found this in a furniture store near my place. It can seat ten when fully extended. I think you’ll like it.” The price followed and, below that, “I’ve designed the sideboard to match the style and it can be stained to match as well.”
Brad and I both loved it. “It looks a lot like your grandmother’s table,” my Tiger told me. He was right. The resemblance was eerie. It wasn’t particularly deep, but there appeared to be plenty of room on top for plenty of serving bowls and desserts and such. Four shallow, adjacent drawers lined the top of the sideboard above four wooden doors with glass inserts. Three shelves behind the doors offered plenty of space for several sets of china and glasses and holiday serving bowls and platters. Four deeper drawers along the bottom offered plenty more storage for anything we might want to put in them.
Why did I tell you all this? It was a combination of the tour and the design of the sideboard matching a diningroom set that we both loved which convinced Brad and me that, in choosing Spencer as our student designer, we had made the right decision.
By the time Lindsay and I went on our little trip to Peterborough, the roof was done and shingled, the house was weatherproofed and insulated, the windows and doors were installed, the utilities were installed on the inside and the siding was being installed on the outside.
Brad and I would probably be sleeping in the livingroom with the boys and Lindsay would probably be sleeping either in the den or the diningroom, but our dreams of spending our first Christmas as a family in our new house were looking entirely within the realm of possibility.
* * * * *
We interviewed four young ladies before we decided to go with Spencer, our fifth applicant. We didn’t decide to contract with him because he was the only male (he wasn’t) or that he looked great in a pair of jeans (he did). No, we decided to hire him as our decorator for no other reason than nine simple words he said to us during the interview. The fact that he was a guy who looked great in jeans was a pleasant happenstance.
Brad had put our ad on the design school website giving a one-week time limit to apply. We asked the applicants to reply via Email giving us a brief description of their styles and a sample photo of their work, but no pictures of them. We wanted to make our selections based upon abilities and not appearance. Seventeen people (fourteen females and three males) applied and we quickly narrowed the list down to our five best possibilities – four females and one male. We had to travel to Pickering to meet with one young lady, but the rest of the applicants were interviewed through webcams. Spencer was the last to be interviewed.
The girls were good, and one of them really impressed us, making it a difficult final decision, but it was those nine little words Spencer said which ultimately convinced us to go with him. Justin and Jeremy were with Brad’s parents during the interview, getting their baths and probably an evening snack of some of Grandma Hayes’ home-made treats.
Spencer was sitting at a table in his kitchen. We could see a section of the counters and cupboards and a refrigerator behind him. What we could see was all black and stainless steel with a backsplash of shockingly-red glass tiles. It looked like something you would see in a home decoration magazine. It wasn’t my idea of a kitchen, but I didn’t have to live with it. I hoped, though, that ‘modern’ wasn’t the only thing Spencer could do.
He was older than I expected, more my age than Brad’s. He had short, jet black hair with dark eyes shadowed beneath jet-black eyebrows which almost joined each other. His face was narrow, his nose thin. His mouth looked small, but that might have been nothing more than an illusion created by the neatly-trimmed, coal-black designer scruff with just the right amount of skin showing through. From what we could see of his body, he appeared to be rather slight like me.
“Hello,” he said. His voice was deeper than I expected. “I’m Spencer.”
The moment he said his name, I recognised an affliction I was well-acquainted with. A young fellow who used to work with me suffered the same affliction. When Spencer said his name, it sounded muffled, as though he was speaking through a dust mask. The ‘s’ and ‘c’ sounds were virtually non-existent and the ‘r’ was throaty. Being unable to hear them, he couldn’t know that he wasn’t making them properly. At least that’s how my former workmate explained it to me. It was then that I noticed the earphones he was wearing.
I tried not to react, but I guess I did. Spencer merely flashed a perfect smile and added, “Yes, I know. If my parents had known I was almost deaf when I was born, they would have named me ‘Bob’. At least I can say that.” He gave a small laugh and I knew he’d been through this speech many times before, especially since his Email application showed that his last name was ‘Simons’. Later, I tried to imagine what life must have been like for him, not even being able to say his name properly. I considered myself to be a very lucky man.
I smiled back at him. “Hello, Spencer,” I said as clearly as I could. “My name is Ted. Can you hear me okay?”
He nodded, saying, “Hi, Ted. Yes, I can hear enough, but please be sure to look into the camera when you speak. It’s easier if I can see your face.”
“Hi, Spencer. I’m Brad.” Brad’s smile was as bright and sincere as Spencer’s. “Thanks for answering our ad.”
“Thank you for the interview,” Spencer replied, “but who would I be working for? If I get the job, that is.”
“Both of us,” I told him. “It’s our home you’d be decorating.”
“We’re married,” Brad added with a hint of pride in his voice. “Is that a problem for you?”
“No,” he answered quickly, shaking his head back and forth emphatically, “as long as you don’t have a problem with a married deaf man with a kid decorating your house.”
That, of course, wasn’t a problem with either Brad or me, so we got on with the interview. Spencer, as it turned out, was twenty-nine years old. He’d married his wife, Jackie, when he was twenty. His son, Brendon, was born a year later. He explained that he had always been interested in interior design as a hobby, but didn’t consider it as a possible occupation until he lost his job as a baker when the bakeshop we worked at burned down the previous year. “It wasn’t my fault,” he was quick to add. He’d been working there since graduating from high school, first as an apprentice, then as a full-time baker. “I know, right?” he added. “You’d think I’d be the size of the Goodyear Blimp. I love making pastries, but I don’t like eating them. Except for angel food cake. I love my homemade angel food cake.”
It was Jackie who convinced Spencer to go for his degree. Between their savings, Jackie’s income, and the student loans, grants, and bursaries he applied for, Spencer set out on a new career path. Brad and I were quite chuffed to have been part of it.
Spencer was in the middle of showing us photos of his home decorating projects, including the various rooms in his current home, a young boy appeared onscreen and tugged at Spencer’s shirt sleeve. There was no mistaking the fact that the boy was Brendon, Spencer’s son. The resemblance was uncanny – minus the scruff, of course.
Spencer excused himself and turned to his son. “I asked you not to interrupt me, Brendon. I’m talking to these gentlemen about a job. Could you go back and watch television until I’m finished, please?”
Brendon signed with his hands as he spoke. “But I’m hungry now, Dad. Can you make me a sandwich?”
“I can’t right now, Brendon. Your mother will be home soon. Can’t you wait until then?”
As Brendon stubbornly began to shake his head, I called Spencer’s name. I had to say it twice to get his attention. When he looked at the camera, I told him with a reassuring smile, “We have three kids: two boys and a girl. We know hungry bellies don’t like waiting. Go make your son a sandwich. We’ll wait.”
Spencer smiled nervously or, perhaps, apologetically, probably fearing that his son had fucked up his chances at the position. He couldn’t have known that one of the girls we interviewed stopped the interview to take a phone call and kept us on hold for over five minutes. Another girl rushed through her interview because “American Idol is on in ten minutes.” A hungry child was a valid interruption.
Spencer took off his earphones and began signing rapidly to his son. His son replied just as rapidly. The only sounds that came out of their mouths were whispered words which didn’t need to be said out loud. A few moments later, he stood up and, with his son following at his heels, disappeared off the right side of our monitor.
“It’s going to be a tough choice, Pops. That Candice was pretty good. I liked her and I liked her designs.”
“I did, too,” I replied. “My biggest concern with Spencer, though, is that he can’t do anything besides modern and minimalist.”
“The bedroom he showed us was nice.”
“The one he did for his parents?” I asked.
“Yeah. I thought it was quite elegant and luxurious, actually.”
“It was. A nice blend of masculine and feminine. And it continued into the bathroom. I loved that double vanity.” They truly were stunning rooms, and not so feminine that I couldn’t see them in my own home. “I see what you mean, Tiger, and I agree. It’s going to come down to either Candice or Spencer.”
It took another minute or two before Brendan walked past on our screen, happily carrying a plate with a sandwich on it. Spencer appeared a moment later, sliding into his chair, putting on his headphones, and smiling apologetically.
We told Spencer that we had seen enough photos and a flash of disappointment crossed his face until we asked him some questions. He soon relaxed again knowing that his son hadn’t ruined his interview. He answered our questions and we gave him the opportunity to ask us questions in return. He had only one. He asked us to tell him about ourselves. I began. “Well,” I said, “Like blue and. . .”
Spencer cut me off. “No. Don’t tell me what you like. Tell me about you and your families.”
I went first, giving him a quick, five-minute précis of my life to that point. Brad followed with his own brief story. All the time we talked, Spencer was jotting down hand-written notes.
When we finished, he sat back in his chair, stared directly into the camera, and spoke those nine words which ultimately cemented our decision to take him on as our decorator: “You don’t want a design. You want a home.”
“Can you do ‘home’?” Brad asked.
Spencer nodded once and smiled. “Yes, I can do ‘home’.”
And indeed he could. That very weekend, Spencer took us to a furniture and appliance store and a tub and tile store in town to get an idea of what we liked and didn’t like. He knew his stuff. He showed us what would work together and what wouldn’t, what was practical and what wasn’t, what upholstery would survive a pair of rambunctious five-year-olds through high school and what wouldn’t survive until Brad and I celebrated our second anniversary, what was easy to design around and what would cause nightmares for us, and a whole lot of other things which Brad and I would never have considered.
The thing that surprised us most was the fact that Spencer didn’t so much design our house for us as he did guide us through designing it for ourselves. He was with us from that first day as our ‘designer guide’ to the day he went with us when we bought the diningroom set he’d picked out to the very last day when he hung the last piece of artwork he’d over the gas fireplace in the front reception room.
In the end, Spencer gave us the home we wanted and not a home he wanted us to live in. We didn’t know until the very end, until after Spencer had taken all the ‘after’ photographs he’d wanted to take for his portfolio, until after he handed us an evaluation booklet from the college, that he was being graded on the project. “I didn’t want you to think I did it just to up my grade.” Of course, we gave Spencer a very favourable evaluation, and not a word of it was an exaggeration.
Spencer graduated - probably on his own merits, but we like to think our evaluation had something to do with it. He’s made a name for himself in Toronto as a freelance designer and decorator and home stager, and he has at least one client who loves his work. There’s a certain blond-haired, green-eyed, chip-toothed landscaper who calls on Spencer whenever there is an outdoor patio or deck or garden area which requires decorating.
Brad and I felt doubly blessed. Not only did we find a dedicated decorator, but we also found some very good friends in Spencer, Jackie, Brendan, and now little Jessica.
* * * * *
My birthday came and went with little fanfare, but a lot of happy moments. Warren and Bill wanted to come into town to take us all out for dinner, but we had already made plans to stay home and have a quiet meal as a family in the Winnebago. Brad had prepared a roast for the crock pot the night before and Bernice cooked it for him the next day. He made cheese and bacon stuffed baked potatoes, honey-glazed carrots, and creamed corn. He bought a tub of macaroni salad from the Price Chopper deli.
Lindsay joined us – the first meal she’d had with us since she moved in with John and Bernice. It was a delicious meal and the roast beef was melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious. (Bernice made the gravy and two dozen homemade roles to sop it up with.) It was a most delicious birthday dinner, but then macaroni and cheese with fried wieners mixed in would have been a most delicious dinner a long as I had my family around me.
When the meal was finished and the dishes were cleared away and piled in the sink and on the counter for washing-up later, the kids excitedly set their gifts in front of me. Justin’s was a rather large, rectangular package which had a very familiar plastic, rattling sound when he tilted it onto the table. Jeremy’s was smaller and rectangular and looked considerably heavier than his brother’s gift, confirmed when he dropped it onto the table. I didn’t hear anything breaking, so I guessed it wasn’t a salad bowl. Lindsay’s gift was small - the perfect size for a set of CDs. Brad’s was a small, thin rectangle about half the size of the accompanying blue greeting card envelope with the following words written on it:
Happy Birthday, Pops.
Love always, your Tiger.
Beneath that was a hand-drawn winky face with a triangular party hat on top.
I distinctly recall feeling the blood suddenly flooding into my nether regions and filling out all the available space in my underwear. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon how you look at it), my mind was saved from drifting into the world of frivolous daydreaming by the ecstatic voices of our boys.
“Open ours first, Daddy,” Justin and Jeremy squealed in eager unison as they bounced on their knees on the bench and clapped their hands. “Hurry!” Their smiles practically split their respective faces. How could I make them wait another second more?
I forced the naughty images of my growling tiger out of my mind, at least for the time being and reached for Jeremy’s gift. I opened the card first and, as I did with the other cards, read it out loud, laughed when I was supposed to or, in Lindsay’s case, smiled brightly and said, “Aw, that’s so sweet.”
Jeremy’s hefty gift turned out to be a pile of books. Children’s books. Mostly Dr. Seuss. “You and Daddy Brad can read them to us if you want!” Jeremy squealed with excitement and anticipation.
“Me now, Daddy! Open mine!” Justin pushed his gift closer. I knew it was Lego. I just didn’t know which set. As it turned out, it was a road construction set which included a Lego dump truck, a front-end loader, a steam roller, and various road construction crewmen including labourers and an uncharacteristically happy flagman with a great big smile on his face.
“If you don’t know how to make it,” Justin enthused through a smile as big as the flagman’s, “we can show you!”
I smiled back at him. “I would appreciate that, Justin.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lindsay roll her eyes and mutter, “Brothers!” under her breath. I looked at Brad with a questioning look in my eyes.
He shrugged and said, “I told them they could buy whatever they wanted.”
I laughed. “Looks like they did.” I didn’t mind. They didn’t have much experience with buying gifts for someone else and I knew Brad and I would have just as much fun building the Legos and reading the books as they boys would.
“Fair warning, Ted,” Brad added with considerable reservation in his voice. “They picked out your cake, too.”
I could hardly wait.
Lindsay’s gift was more serious and much more appropriate: Mozart’s four horn concertos featuring Barry Tuckwell. I had the set on audio cassette, but hadn’t gotten around to replacing it with CDs yet. My daughter couldn’t have bought me a better gift. It was a gift I knew I would be enjoying it for a long, long time – long after the novelty of Builder Bob and The Cat in the Hat wore off.
Each of the kids received an enormous and heartfelt kiss.
I was puzzled by Brad’s gift. I couldn’t imagine what it was until I opened it and lifted the lid off the box. I was hit by the wonderful scent of leather and retrieved the wallet from its gift box. It was genuine leather, soft and supple, and elegant in its simplicity.
“No husband of mine,” Brad told me with is chip-toothed grin, “is going to be seen in public with a wallet that closes with Velcro.” He got a heart-felt kiss, too, and he returned one which felt my heart right back, even sending another rust of warm fuzzies into my groin.
I flipped it open almost automatically and was greeted on the left by a photo of our entire family that Bernice had taken of us one evening. Brad and I sat side-by-side on the sofa. Lindsay sat cuddled next to me, her legs bent and folded on the sofa cushion. The twins straddled our laps, leaning back against us. My right arm was draped lovingly over Justin’s shoulder and chest. My left was wrapped just as lovingly around my daughter. Jeremy was in Brad’s equally loving embrace. There were five bright smiles beaming at the camera.
There appeared to be other photos in the pocket behind the clear, plastic window, but what looked like a business card was poking out of the top of the paper money pouch. I reached for it and pulled it out enough to read Brad’s handwriting:
You get the rest tonight
after the kids are gone.
There was another winky face under that, but this one had a distinctly suggestive look in its eye. Or maybe I just imagined it. I looked up at Brad. That same lustful, suggestive look was in his eyes as well and I knew I hadn’t imagined it.
“Mom and Dad are keeping the twins tonight after their baths,” he said, and a one-sided smile joined the licentious look in his heart-melting green eyes. A billion images flew through my mind in less than a breath. Tingles flooding into my crotch were even faster.
“Thanks, Tiger,” I said, leaning forward to give him another kiss on the lips. His tongue made a brief intrusion into my mouth, curling up and making a swift sweep of the inside of my upper teeth - a promise of things to come when we had the Winnebago to ourselves later that evening.
With the gifts and hugs and kisses out of the way, it was time for the birthday cake. Justin and Jeremy made sure that I sat at the table with my eyes closed as Brad retrieved it from wherever he had hidden it. Lindsay busied herself cleaning up the wrapping paper and discarded envelopes. There was the loud crackle of hard plastic which, I surmised, was the clear plastic protector that Price Chopper used to cover their cakes. I heard the distinct striking of a match on the rough scratch pad on the back of a book of penny matches. This was soon followed by the faint but unmistakable scent of melting candle wax.
Justin and his brother began clapping their hands. I couldn’t see their excitement, but I could easily imagine it in my mind. “Open your eyes, Daddy!” I did.
Brad started singing Happy Birthday as he set the cake in front of me. Lindsay and the boys quickly joined in. I was gritting my teeth to keep myself from bursting into fits of raucous laughter. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. It was a large, rectangular, chocolate cake. Or, more precisely, it was chocolate frosting. . . with fancy pumpkin-orange shell piping around the top and base and down each of the corners. . . decorated with plastic white ghosties and ghoulies flying amongst the plastic tombstones placed along the bottom of the cake, black bats hovering in the upper left corner, and a web of thin, white icing in the top right corner with a great big plastic spider plopped down right in the middle of it. In the centre of all that, in the same orange frosting, were the words, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY”. A tub of black cherry ice cream sat beside the cake. The boys knew I liked black cherry ice cream. That made up for the spiders and bats and tombstones.
My sons had bought me a Hallowe’en cake for my birthday. It was the best, most memorable birthday celebration I’d been given in many, many years.
* * * * *
Harry Potter and Hermione Grainger walked down the sidewalk hand-in-hand. Being the consummate wizard and gentleman that he is, Harry walked at Hermione’s right side, protecting her from the traffic on the nearby street. Behind them walked a pint-sized pirate with his eye patch flipped up so he could see with both eyes; walking beside him was an equally short policeman. Both the pirate and the cop carried a plastic Jack-o-lantern which contained their cache of candy in one hand. Their other hands were being held by two proud, happy grown-ups who were dressed as proud, happy fathers.
It was Hallowe’en night, of course, and that wacky group was our family and my daughter’s boyfriend, Daniel. They made a fine-looking pair. Justin made a fine pirate and Jeremy cut a fine figure as a cop.
Brad and I each carried an umbrella. There was only a forty percent chance of rain forecasted that evening, but, as often happens on Hallowe’en, that forty percent usually saves itself throughout the day and begins to happen the instant the first child holds out his candy bag and shouts, “Trick or Treat!” We had been lucky so far that night, but we were prepared in case the forty percent decided to make its appearance.
Lindsay and Daniel had had considerable help with their costumes. Terry had supplied them with choir robes borrowed from her church. She’d found a passable ‘Hermione’ wig for Lindsay and ‘Harry Potter’ specs for Daniel which she had found in one of the costume shops downtown. She also had a stick of black hair colouring made from soap (guaranteed to wash out with plain water) to hide Daniel’s ginger-coloured hair. Black chopsticks she had found in her junk drawer at home served as wands. A lightning bolt scar over Daniel’s right eye, drawn with Terry’s mascara, completed the look.
For the twins, it was their first-ever Hallowe’en outing. They knew people gave them candy, but they’d never experienced it. They could barely contain their excitement, asking every minute or so, “Is it time yet?” It saddens me even today knowing that they had missed four years of their childhood, but it makes me happy that we were able to make up for it in the years to follow.
Terry had arrived earlier than usual that morning so she could get the twins dressed in their costumes for the Hallowe’en party at school. Justin was the pirate; Jeremy was the policeman. They had worn only their costumes for the party. Their trick-or-treat make-up wouldn’t be applied until just before they set out on their Hallowe’en prowl. Terry had picked up a stick-on moustache for Jeremy when she bought Lindsay’s wig and, when the time finally arrived, she stuck it over his upper lip. Then, using a make-up brush and the same hair-black soap she’d used on Daniel, she stippled a moustache and beard on Justin and coloured both boys’ hair black as well. They were bulkier than usual, the result of the jackets and track pants they wore beneath their department store costumes.
Our first stop had been Grandma and Grandpa Hayes. Bernice gushed all over them, pretending she didn’t know who they were and handing out generous portions of treats, dropping them into them into their plastic pumpkins. The boys, in turn, grinned widely at the sound of the candy hitting the bottoms of their empty candy carriers, staring inside and oo-ing and ah-ing before holding them out for our scrutiny. Throughout, John snapped pictures with his camera while Brad snapped even more with ours.
The pirate and the policeman were rather shy and hesitant at the first few houses as we began our candy-gathering tour of the neighbourhood, but they quickly embraced the spirit of the holiday and began greeting home-owners with huge grins, extended arms holding out their pumpkins, and shouting “Trick or Treat” in perfect unison. Harry and Hermione waited patiently and politely behind them until it was their turn to receive their treats.
Kids were rushing around, scurrying up and down the sidewalks like mice in a maze while parents were dragged along in their wakes. We took our little group in the direction of their school, crossing the intersection at the end of our block and walking to the end of the next block. We stopped at each house which had a porch light on which signified that trick-or-treaters were welcome. At the end of the block, we crossed to the opposite side of the street, and began our trek back the way we had come. We passed our house and continued for another block and a half before crossing the street once more and heading for home. When we got there, we piled the kids into the van and drove off to pay Terry a visit.
Terry was expecting us and greeted us at the door dressed as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, complete with the tall, silver crown, star-tipped wand, and sparkling white gown which reached to the floor. Her dark hair was covered up with a strawberry-blonde wig and her face actually sparkled from some sort of make-up she’d put on it. She made a very pretty witch.
Tom Kent was there, too, grinning with unabashed amusement at the twins’ excitement. He was dressed as a taller, thinner version of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, right down to the flowing, black cloak with the high collar, the white shirt, white vest, and white bow tie, the sharp widow’s peak, and the menacing fangs. He was, by far, the sexiest vampire I’d ever seen in my life. I think I would stand in line to let that man suck my blood. Instead, he was sucking on a Tootsie Pop.
I knew both Terry and Tom would be in costume. Terry had told me a few days earlier that they would be going to a party later in Courtice at the home of one of Tom’s fellow teachers. They looked very different in costume, but their disguises didn’t fool Jeremy. “Hi, Mr. Kent,” the mini-cop called out. “Are you here to get candy from Terry, too?”
So much for my being concerned that the twins might put two and two together and come up with Terry and Tom being a couple. Lindsay had figured it out shortly after school began and mentioned it to me, but she promised that she wouldn’t say anything to her brothers.
Tom held out his Tootsie Pop as evidence. “Yup. Sure am,” he said. “You guys having fun?”
“We sure are,” Justin replied quickly, failing dismally at staying in character as a pirate. He seemed to have completely forgotten Brad’s lessons in saying, “Arrr, matey!” He didn’t do so well at hiding his enormous, unpirate-like grin, either. He held out his jack-o-lantern to show Tom his pirate booty. Jeremy did the same with his. “We got lots of candy! See?”
Tom peeked into the pirate’s candy bucket. “Wow,” he said. “You sure do!” Then, “Ooo! Coffee Crisp! I love Coffee Crisp!”
“You can have it if you want.” Justin reached into the jack-o-lantern, snatched up the Coffee Crisp candy bar, and offered it to his teacher. “I don’t like coffee.”
Jeremy retrieved his Coffee Crisp bar and held it out as well. “You can have mine, too,” he said. “Daddy Brad says we’re too little to have coffee.”
Tom accepted the proffered candy bars from our sons and slipped them into his vest pocket. He beamed at his students. “Thank you, guys. I’ll save them for my snack at school tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay,” they beamed back at their teacher.
Tom gave them a wink and a smile, then stuck the Tootsie Pop back in his mouth and continued his task of trying to find out how many licks it would take to get to the chocolate Tootsie Roll centre.
Terry took a few photos for her own collection and Tom took a few of all seven of us, including Terry, with both Terry’s camera and our own. Then, with photos out of the way, the twins were anxious to get on with the rounds. “We gotta go get more candy now. Bye!”
There were three other apartments on Terry’s floor and she told us that they were giving out treats. “Mrs. McIntosh across the hall,” she whispered almost conspiratorially, “is giving out homemade popcorn balls and real midway candy apples.”
Brad and I scored a popcorn ball, too, but turned down the offer of a candy apple.
Nathan was alone at the apartment when we got there. Barry was out patrolling the streets. The police were always out in force on Hallowe’en night. It was a busy time of the year for them, keeping a keen eye open for trick-or-treaters who were more interested in the tricks than in the treats. But Barry wouldn’t miss out on the fun. The door opened to a video camera pointed at our faces. Nathan had obviously been waiting for us and had either spotted us through the security peephole or had heard Justin and Jeremy’s excited squeals and shouts as they stormed down the short hall to his door. I tend to think the twins were a dead giveaway.
Of course, Nathan briefly teased the twins by pretending that he didn’t know who they were and that he didn’t give candy to kids he didn’t know. The stunned and saddened looks on the boys’ faces were precious, but short lived as Nathan started laughing uproariously and shouting, “Gotcha!” He passed the camera over to Brad to do the filming and Brad passed our camera to me. Between the two of us, we got plenty of memories from a few meagre seconds of an ecstatic uncle handing out healthy portions of candy to his nephews, their sister, and her boyfriend.
Our visit was a short one. We still had one more stop to make on our trick-or-treat trek before the ghosts and goblins and dancing skeletons and spooks were sent packing back into the childhood memories and dreams for another year.
“Did you see the boxes stacked in the corner beside the bedroom door?” Brad asked as we drove through the city toward Maple.
“Yeah. Looks like Nathan’s already got a head start on his packing.”
“I bet he’s counting the days.”
“I’d be willing to bet on ‘minutes’,” I said.
“You’d probably win,” Brad laughed. “It’s all he talks about these days. He must really love Barry to have put up with that matchbox of an apartment as long as he has. It’s not much bigger than the camper.”
“That’s what people who really love each other do,” I said, thinking about Brad tolerating having to live in the crowded and cramped Winnebago. Then again, I knew Brad would be happy living in a cardboard box if that was all we had. For the first time in a very long time, I was reminded of someone who wouldn’t have even considered the idea of living in a camper van. Me. The thought left my brain as quickly as it had entered it. I was much happier in my new life than I could ever have been in my old one.
Brad responded by reaching across the console and placing the palm of his hand on my thigh. He gave it a tender squeeze. I placed my hand over his. It stayed there until we pulled into my parents’ driveway and I had to lift it away to shift the van into park.
Until that moment, the night had been a first for not only the twins, but for me and Brad as well. It was the boys’ first Hallowe’en, and it was our first trick-or-treat with our new sons. But there was another first. Never before had Lindsay been able to visit her grandparents on Hallowe’en night. Crystal Beach was a bit too far to go for trick-or-treat. For the first time in their lives, my mother and father opened their door to their granddaughter on Hallowe’en night. The fact that their two new grandsons were there as well made it triply rewarding for them.
The kids were thrilled to death. Lindsay was beaming and the boys were screeching. Mom swept away a tear and even Dad had to fight them back. I had to swallow a growing lump in my throat. Brad squeezed my hand even harder and I squeezed right back. It was a moment I don’t think I will ever forget.
* * * * *
I was still kneeling on the floor, watching the kids playing, including Brad, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. David bent down and whispered in my ear, "Nancy wants to see you upstairs." I struggled to my feet, helped by a boost from David.
"Thanks," I said with an embarrassed smile. "Football, you know." I shook my legs to get them working again as I looked at Brad, indicating with a glance for him to wait here. I found Nancy sitting at the kitchen table, her cell phone in front of her. I sat down.
"I've just got off the phone with my supervisor," she began. "First of all, we would both like to thank you and to apologize for pushing everything at you so fast. We don't usually work this way, but I'd like to explain. My first thought when I met you that first night was of Justin and Jeremy, especially when I discovered that you and Brad were partners. You were just what we were looking for. As soon as I talked to my supervisor after that initial visit, you were made my priority. I visited personally with your references and phoned those who I couldn't visit. None of them had anything bad to say about you or Brad. Your father even told me that Brad was going to become Canada's greatest British gardener, whatever that means." She smiled and I sent my Dad a silent ‘thank you'. "All of them praised you on how you care for your daughter. The way you took charge following the abuse. I even read the transcripts from the court case with your ex-wife, including your session with the judge in her chambers."
She paused, gathering her thoughts, I guess, before continuing. "Over the past year and a half, Justin and Jeremy have been placed in nine different foster homes. The first time, we separated them and we realized we had made a terrible mistake. It was a disaster. They were unbearable until we brought them together again. Fortunately, one of the families agreed to take them both, but only until we could find another home for them. This went on and on, but the people quickly became frustrated with their lack of communication and the fear they could sense the boys had of them. Trish and David were our last hope, and things were going well until David told us they'd have to give the boys up because of his work. We were scrambling to find them another home, and, with great hopes, a permanent one. We needed a gay couple. They had nowhere else to go, and we didn't like where we might have had to send them. And then you came along.
"I'm like David, Ted. I don't know what magic you're weaving, but it's working. I have never seen those boys as completely comfortable as they are with you and Brad. Perhaps they recognize your relationship and they're familiar with it. They understand it. Jeremy was always the shy one - the one who depends on Justin to look after him. The fact that he's downstairs right now sitting in Brad's lap is something of a miracle in itself. Even David couldn't get that close to him, and David got closer than anyone else."
I would have started crying again if I wasn't so caught up in what Nancy was saying.
"A lot of my co-workers are sitting at home right now with their fingers crossed, waiting for a phone call from me. My supervisor has just now given me permission to ask you if you would like to take Justin and Jeremy for your six-month trial period."
I couldn't speak. All I could do was to nod my head.
Nancy smiled then, relief flooding her entire body. "Wonderful," she said. "Would next week be too early for you?"
I sat back, my jaw dropping and my eyes popping open. "Um. . . No! I mean, no! We're not ready. We don't have anywhere for them to sleep. We need to finish their bedroom and the bathroom first and we haven't even started them."
"There's the bedroom in the basement," she offered. "I saw it just off the stairs."
My head shook back and forth. There was a powder room down there, sure, but still, the boys would be at the other end of the house from me and a whole floor away. That was out of the question. "No," I said. "I wouldn't leave them down there by themselves to sleep. I couldn't. Not even if they slept in our room and we slept down there. It's too far away."
"How long would it take you to get the rooms ready?"
"I don't know. A month. Maybe two. I don't know."
"Isn't there anywhere you could put them?" The happy look she had moments ago was gone. "We're desperate, Mr. de Villiers. You're the only chance these boys have right now. Their only other option is. . ."
"Please," I said, my mind racing for a solution. "Don't say it. I won't put them in the new bedroom with all the construction. That just leaves the living room and our bedroom, and none of them are very appropriate."
"Daddy?" I looked toward the kitchen doorway. Lindsay was standing there.
"Not now, Sweetheart," I said. "I'll be with you in a minute, okay?"
"I need to talk to you, Daddy," she said.
"Please, Sweetheart," I pleaded, "I'm talking with Nancy about something important."
"I know," she said. "I heard you. That's why I have to talk to you, too."
I looked at Nancy. She nodded. "Okay," I said and held out my arms. She came to them and I set her in my lap.
"They can sleep in my room with me," she told me.
"Really?" I asked. She surprised even me.
"If you move my bed closer to the window, there would be room for another bed, wouldn't there?"
"Yes," I said. "I suppose so."
"And it's not for all the time. It's just for a little while until you get their room ready, right?"
"I hope so."
"Then it's okay," she said. "They can sleep in my room. That's what big sisters do."
I glanced quickly at Nancy. Her nod gave me her approval. Any old port in the storm. My eyes filled with tears and I hugged Lindsay close to me. "I love you, Sweetheart," I said through my tears. I clenched my eyes tight to shut them away.
"I love you, too, Daddy."
I heard Nancy politely leave the kitchen, giving us our time.
When I felt like I had held Lindsay long enough, I let her go. She leaned back and looked at me. "Are you sure it's okay?" I asked.
"I heard what the lady said, Daddy. They need us. They don't have anywhere else to go."
I hugged her once more just because I wanted to. "You're the best daughter anyone could ask for." I held her as I stood up and we went to find Nancy. She was in the livingroom, talking once again on her telephone - probably to her supervisor. When she was finished her call, I smiled at her. "When would you like them to move in?"
Nancy's smile joined my own. I set Lindsay down and took her hand. "Let's go tell them, okay?"
"Okay, Daddy," she said, and a third smile brightened the room.
Downstairs, I released Lindsay's hand and sat on the floor beside Brad and Jeremy. "Can you pause that thing?" Lindsay sat down beside me.
Brad pushed a button and took the system out of Jeremy's small hands. "You can play again in a minute, okay?" Jeremy nodded.
"Justin," I said, "could you come over here, please?" He dropped the Lego blocks he was holding and came to sit between my legs as Brad turned Jeremy around to face me.
I looked from one happy face to the other, and both of them looked almost exactly the same. "Would you like to come live here with us?"
They didn't look at each other this time, but somehow their minds were linked together. They nodded in unison. Three times each. And then they smiled at me. Jeremy stood up and hugged me from the left. Justin hugged me from the right. My arms hugged each of them.
They leaned away from me at the same moment and looked at me.
"Are you our new Daddy?" Justin asked.
That’s how it had begun one year earlier. The anniversary of that day passed with no fanfare and no acknowledgement except for a private memory session shared by me and Brad in our bed that night.
“I can’t imagine what our lives would be like without them,” Brad whispered quietly as we cuddled each other beneath the covers. “It feels like they’ve been with us forever.”
“I don’t even want to think about it,” I whispered back.
And that is exactly why we had decided not to celebrate the occasion. As far as Justin and Jeremy were concerned, there was no life for them before they crossed the threshold of their new home – our home - for the very first time. As far as they were concerned, Brad and I had always been their fathers and Lindsay had always been their sister. We had always been a family. They didn’t want to think of a time when we weren’t and, quite frankly, we didn’t want to think of that time, either.
Not all that long ago, I could never have dreamt of my life being what it was now. I could never have imagined how fulfilled my life could be with one daughter and two sons who loved me as much as I loved them, and one man who loved me probably a lot more than I deserved.
To Be Conti. . .
Oh, wait. I almost forgot something, didn’t I?
You know how one word can bring back memories as if you were right there and reliving them no matter how much time had passed? I’m that way with shortbread. Just reading or hearing the word, or even the mere thought of it, can take my mind back to the kitchen in Crystal Beach where I grew up. I can see Mom so clearly, standing bent over the open oven door and pulling out a large cookie tray of fresh out-of-the-oven shortbreads. The exquisite scent still fills my nose. I can see her, wearing her favourite powdery-blue gingham dress with the crisp, white apron which had hand-embroidered violets running along the bottom and up the right-hand side. Heavy, floral-print oven mitts protect her hands. With the care and skill of a surgeon, she uses a soft spatula and slides each cookie off the tray and onto a wire cooling rack. When they are cool enough, I take one.
I can see it and smell it. I can feel the soft, almost sensuous texture of it when I take it into my fingers. The buttery scent wafts up to my nose. When I bite into it. . . oh, when I bite into it. . . it’s like a culinary orgasm – a smorgasbord for the senses, a buffet of delights.
All from a shortbread cookie.
Brad is my shortbread cookie. Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, all I have to do is close my eyes and he’s there. I know every part of his body by sight, by feel, by smell, by taste, and yes, even by sound – at least in places where his body makes them. People smell his shampoo, his deodorant, his aftershave, his soap. They can recognise him by those scents. I can smell the man underneath it all. You can blindfold me and hold any item of his clothing close to my nose and I can tell you what it is. In some cases, I can even tell you if I’m sniffing the front or the back. I know all of his different tastes, too, and there are many. I know how they change in different parts of his body. I can almost taste his moods and desires. I don’t need Brad there with me. I need only think of him and everything comes to me. Brad is with me wherever I go.
I didn’t need my imagination that night. The boys were in bed in their grandparents’ home, their bellies filled with my Hallowe’en birthday cake and black cherry ice cream. Lindsay wasn’t in bed yet, but she was dressed for it and watching television with her grandfather. But I had other things on my mind. Namely, part two of Brad’s promised birthday present to me.
The door to the Winnebago was closed and securely locked. Our discarded shoes were kicked off to one side. The curtains over the small windows were all drawn. We were alone.
Brad was backed up against the kitchen counter, his legs spread apart and his butt resting on the laminated countertop beside the stove. I stood between his legs, my crotch pressed against his. I could feel him through our clothes. His hands were on my waist. Mine held his face. I tilted my head to one side, leaned forward, and pressed my lips against his. The kiss was long and deep and very, very intense in a tender, adoring sort of way.
I could feel Brad growing against me. I pressed my groin against him more forcefully, grinding our crotches together. His hands moved from my waist to my back; he pulled me to him. Our chests ground against each other. Our hearts beat against each other. Our breaths came in short, anxious pants through our flaring nostrils as our passion grew.
With our lips still locked together, my hands abandoned my Tiger’s cheeks and slid down, over his shoulders, and down his sides to his hips. My fingers tugged the hem of his T-shirt out of the waistband of his jeans and slid beneath the thin, cotton fabric. Brad slackened his grip on me as I began to work my palms up and over his stomach toward his heaving chest. They fastened on his solid pectorals, the index fingers and thumbs seeking and finding his hardening nipples and clasping them in a gentle but vicelike grip. Brad moaned into my mouth as I twirled and squeezed them with my fingertips. His fingers dug into my back, pulling me to him again and trapping my hands there. Our kissing stepped up another notch.
If the zipper of Brad’s jeans hadn’t been as strong as it was, his growing cock would have ripped it apart and burst free. But even Brad’s burgeoning cock was no match for Levi’s metal teeth and they held firm. His discomfort became swiftly apparent when he twisted his lips away from mine and whispered with great urgency, “It’s starting to hurt, Pops.”
I leaned back quickly and released his man pecs, pushing up with my hands until the T-shirt slid over his head. Brad lifted his arms up and over his head. My right hand continued to push the cotton up and off them before tossing the shirt to the floor. My left hand, meanwhile, grabbed hold of Brad’s wrist, holding his arm in place above his head. I buried my face into his exposed armpit and set about making love to it.
It wasn’t necessary to hold Brad’s arm there knowing that my face was in a place that he truly liked. As soon as I released it, his arm bent at the elbow, his hand settling behind his head and taking roost there. His other hand quickly joined it, leaving both armpits open to attack, and attack them I did. The faint scent and taste of deodorant still remained, but I ignored it, relishing instead the manly tastes and smells which were much more prominent now.
With my hands now free, they dropped to Brad’s waist. I pulled my hips back to make room for them as the anxiously ripped at the button and zipper. I pushed the denim flaps aside, shoved one hand down the front of his underwear to grasp and protect the manhood hiding there, and worked both his jeans and underwear down as far as I could reach without having to remove my face from his armpit. Brad lifted his butt off the countertop to allow me to do so, settling back again as soon as the material had passed over his cheeks.
With my hand still wrapped around the fleshy tower of his magnificent cock, my other hand gently palmed the full, plump balls hanging beneath. Brad moaned, and then moaned even harder when my mouth travelled swiftly across his upper chest to the other pit, giving it as thorough a tongue washing as I had given its counterpart. His now free hand dropped from the back of his head to the back of mine, holding my face in place. Above me came the soft, whispery words, “That feels so good.”
I couldn’t wait any longer. My birthday present waited for me further south. I pulled my face away from the delicious armpit and dropped to my knees between Brad’s spread and powerful thighs. As I aimed the moist cockhead, now glistening with droplets of precum, toward my gaping mouth, Brad’s hands dropped, clasping the countertop overhang in a tense, anxious grip. I sucked the huge cockhead into my mouth, locking my lips around it and swirling my tongue over the satiny skin, savouring the Bradley Nelson deVilliers-Hayes flavour of it. It was like ambrosia and his precum was like nectar. The Gods would have been impressed.
Copious amounts of clear fluid, sweetly tart and tangy, flowed out of the tip of Brad’s luscious cock and over my tongue; I drank it down as if it were an elixir of life. I sucked on as much of Brad’s cock as I could fit into my mouth in that position for only a few minutes before I released it and moved my attention to the balls I cradled in my palm. I had just begun lapping at them, teasing each one and nipping at the loose skin containing them, when Brad’s right hand released its grip on the countertop and dropped to his groin. He wrapped his fingers around the skin between his testicles and the base of his cock, pulling the ball sack tightly around his magnificent orbs. He held his balls out to me. As I washed them thoroughly with my tong, my hands pushed his jeans to the floor. Brad lifted each foot one at a time so I could pull them off entirely. His socks came off, too. Brad stood before and above me, completely and totally naked, and just as mind-numbingly sexy and handsome as ever.
I could have stayed there all night, feasting on my man, but Brad had other things in mind. All too soon, his hands hooked themselves beneath my arms and he easily lifted me to my feet. His mouth locked on mine again as his deft fingers began undoing the buttons of my shirt. It soon joined his T-shirt on the floor. My pants and underwear quickly followed as Brad knelt down and pushed them off my feet. He sucked my shaft into his own mouth and throat, giving me a quick suck, but it was only long enough for it not to be considered anything more than a tease, and then he pulled his mouth away with a loud, noisy slurp. My cock was left to bounce and bob in the open air before me. A moment later, Brad stood before me again, wrapping his strong arms around me and holding me so tight that it felt as though he was trying to pull me right into his body. Our chins rested on each other’s shoulder. I found that I was having trouble breathing, but I couldn’t think of a way of dying that would have made me happier if I had died that night being crushed in his arms.
Down below, our rampant and throbbing cocks were captured between our bellies. Our hips swivelled and twisted and humped against each other, grinding our poles together and sending our already feverish passions into a higher orbit.
Brad pulled his hips away from mine, one hand dropping to his crotch and pushing his cock downward until the smooth, lube-moistened head poked into the valley between my legs just beneath my nuts. I moved my knees apart slightly and Brad’s cock slipped between my thighs. When his pubes were pressed against my balls, I clamped my legs together again, trapping him there, loath to let him go free again. I liked the feelings I felt there. My own cock was trapped once again between our bellies.
My Tiger started humping then, fucking my thighs with his mammoth cock while my less substantial cock fucked his fuzz-tufted stomach. Brad’s cock had been there before – many times. But this time was different. There was an intent which had never been present before. It wasn’t an accidental moment. It wasn’t foreplay. It wasn’t a game. It became real man-on-man sex, and it was mind blowing in its intensity and the pleasure it was giving to me. I could feel his meat moving back and forth, in and out. The friction caused the heat to rise between my legs. If we had been boy scouts, we would have earned our campfire badge. The heavy ridge of his cockhead dragged over my skin, the top of his mast polishing my ball sack from beneath. It caused all sorts of tingles and sensations I had never felt before.
As if to make certain that it was really happening and wasn’t just another daydream, my hand dropped behind me and I tilted slightly at the waist until my fingers encountered the cock poking its head out from between my legs like a groundhog sticking its head out of its lair on Groundhog Day. Brad’s cock disappeared momentarily, but I knew it would be back soon enough. My fingers and thumb curled into a tunnel. The next time Brad’s cock was thrust out again, the head slid into the pocket made by my obliging hand.
Brad froze. He groaned and clutched me even harder. His cockhead throbbed in my hand. His chin lifted from my shoulder and mine, in turn, lifted from his. Our eyes met. There was an intensity there which I had rarely seen, and there was a growing intent and need there as well. “Holy, fuck,” he groaned. His brow furrowed and he bit down on his lower lip with his chipped tooth. His hips started rocking again, his cock stroking through my hand like a steam piston. Each stroke squashed my cock into his belly. The feelings rose within me. Passion burned inside me, building with each stroke and driving me closer and closer to climax. His sweet breath blew over my face in small hurricane puffs. My grip tightened around his man cock. Brad responded by switching his pelvis into a higher gear. His strokes became faster and longer. He became like an animal – a bull, a stallion – with only one goal in mind. There was nothing else in his world at that moment other than his need to cum.
I beat him to the finish line. Between Brad’s frantic humping and the constant rubbing of the underside of my dick from his stomach, I was lifted to the heights of orgasmic bliss within a few very short minutes. My jaws locked up like a bank vault. My eyes clenched shut, allowing neither a single emotion to escape nor a single distraction to intrude. Semen blasted out of my cock, coating both our stomachs with its sticky, creamy texture. I breathed in the smell of our sex and it served only to increase the intensity of my orgasm. A few more volleys of semen followed the first few.
As my climax neared its end, Brad’s began. He froze once again, his cock pushed firmly into my clenched hand as it pumped out his seed. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and cheeks. I twisted my hand around the head as if wringing the life-giving fluids out of his body. Brad’s stifled groans filled the camper as his cum filled my hand to the point of overflowing. I could feel it dripping through my fingers and falling to the floor at our feet. And still more came pumping out. Over everything else, there was Brad’s smell, both of his body, of his sex, and of his orgasm. It was all as intoxicating as the world’s finest brandy.
As with all good things, it slowly came to an end. We slumped together, holding each other up and finding lost strength in the other. I kissed away the sweat from his brow and cheeks, and a single drop which had gathered at the tip of his nose. We found comfort in the heaving of our chests and the pounding of our hearts against each other. Most of all, though, we basked in the love we had for each other. At that moment, we were the only two people in the world, and I would have been completely happy if we truly were.
I had come to accept that Brad was the best thing to every happen to me. The gift he gave to me that night was the best gift anyone had ever given to me. Life was good.
Happy, happy birthday to me.
Happy birthday indeed.
To Be Continued