CHAPTER 36: REGROUPING, MORE ‘MN' STUPID, MEETING UP & A SURPRISE
We're quiet while the waiter clears up the debris of our lunch. I try not to smirk when the waiter defers to Matt and not Grady as what to do. And after a quiet word with him, he nods and walks away.
"Engaged? You two are engaged?" Hunter looks amused. "And what brought on this sudden attack of amoré?"
Of all the reactions I was expecting, amusement wasn't one of them. "And why are you smirking about that?" I demand.
"So have you set a date? Have you picked out a ring?" Hunter continues, as if I haven't spoken.
"No and no..." Lindsay starts, still flustered and no doubt highly fucked off with me.
"You haven't said anything Matt. What are your thoughts?" Grady turns to him.
"Irrelevant, it's your life, nothing to do with me."
"Nothing to do...but you're my son and she will be your stepmother..."
"Still trying not to be mom, aren't you Lindsay? Or should I start calling you mommy dearest? You know just to see how it rolls round my tongue."
"Gus, what do you feel about this?" Lindsay turns to him.
Gus barks out a laugh. "What do I feel about this? Why should I have feelings? It doesn't affect me. You're nothing to me so whatever, you want to do, you do. But if you two are coming into this marriage with the intention of hurting Matt or Hunter, I will make Aunt Zee look like a teasing kitten by the time I'm finished. I've learned a few things in the months you've been blissfully out of our lives. If you want to know what they are, then try and fuck my brothers over, just try."
Jenny turns to me. "And Michael, if you are attempting to orchestrate something from the sidelines so that you can use them as an in, much like the same way you used me...don't. You need to realise that there is more of us now. And we have far bigger reach you than three do!"
"Can we have the check please?" Matt calls out to the waiter.
"No son, I've got this." Grady takes out his wallet.
"I know you do dad, which is why I asked for separate checks for us. Wouldn't want you thinking we owed you anything."
He settles their bill and without looking back they leave.
I can safely say I have never been so stunned or mortified in my life. Grady and I exchange looks before turning to Michael.
"First you will settle your part of the bill. Then we will go back to the hotel and have a discussion..."
"No seriously Michael." Grady stops him. "Not a fucking word!"
When we get outside they are still there. "No cabs?" I ask.
"Waiting for papa." Jenny replies shortly. "Here he is."
Steve gets out. "Lindsay." He curtly acknowledges me.
"You said you were waiting for papa." Michael snipes. "Thought that was Ben."
"No he's dad...oh you weren't there when that was made official." Jenny throws over her shoulder and gets in the car with Gus following, Matt and Hunter wave them off.
They start to head down the street, but Grady calls out to them.
"Son, I don't want to part on such a sore note. Can I at least have a number to call you on?"
"We parted on a sore note about 18 years ago." He bites back. "Remember, when you walked away, twice. Once, because I wasn't perfect and the other time because you took the money."
They carry on walking until we can no longer see them.
TREEHOUSE - LATE AFTERNOON
We are all exchanging worried looks. Okay, so they can hardly have kidnapped them and we agreed to back off and let them handle it but it's been almost 4 hours now. Gus and Jenny were surprised when they discovered that the boys weren't back. They're waiting for them to come so they can tell us together. Problem is, they aren't answering their phones.
When my phone rings, I snatch it up on relief. "Hey. He needs him? Oh them, okay, where? Okay on their way. We'll see you tomorrow. Love you."
I feel the tears prickle and I try to blink them back. Taking a breath, I turn to Faal.
"Matt's in bits and needs his dad. He needs the rest of you guys to go with to stop Faal from hunting down Grady. They're at the Brownstone. Gus and Jenny, you go with them. C-can you take them to Britin and we'll work out where we're eating in the morning okay?"
Within 10 minutes they are gone.
I feel a strong pair of arms come round me and turn my face into Leda's neck and start sobbing. Finally, I calm down and take the proffered whisky from Jen. After knocking it back, I fix her with a hard stare.
"Tell Melody to have at her. Make sure that the only way they can come is to us!"
GRADY & LINDSAY'S SUITE
We've been waiting for Michael to join us for the last hour. For some reason he thinks that if he delays, it then it will get better! Finally, the door knocks and he comes in.
"Before you start, it seems that you and I aren't too different Grady..."
"How so?" I reply calmer than I feel.
"We both work a situation to suit our own ends and..."
"First, never, and I mean never, put the two of us together! The very idea makes me boak! I'm way out of your league in every way. You're half-cocked and I mean literally half-cocked and..."
"Boak? What the fuck does that mean?" He looks between the two of us.
"Vomit." Lindsay explains tiredly. "Michael, why did you tell them that we're engaged? This I don't understand."
His face contorts in anger and I know he's going to bring the stupid.
"Well you know how proper you are. I thought you would prefer to get married first. Your parents are going to be pleased and maybe they will acknowledge this grandchild, since he or she has been brought into the world the proper way."
"Proper? Grandchild? What on earth are you talking about?" Lindsay growls.
"Well you're pregnant, aren't you? I mean you've been at it like rabbits and what with the weight gain, I naturally assumed..."
"Let's put that aside for a second. Again, why did you say we are engaged?"
"It's obvious!" His mouth is running and his brain is way-way-back. "So they would stop you from getting married."
"So you told them that we were getting married so we wouldn't?" Lindsay scoffs. "And how, pray tell, do you figure that is going to happen?"
"They made it so we were gone before." He's warming up to his theme. "They'll do it again. This time without involving the courts."
"You think so?"
"Of course. Let me handle it though; I have the perfect solution."
I look at Lindsay and nod. "So about the pregnant thing? Why do you think she's pregnant?"
He starts to look shifty and guilty. "Li-like I said the weight gain..."
"Thanks Michael. I really fucking appreciate that!" Lindsay ranted.
"Look, let's all stop now!" I storm. "We all need distance! So Michael get out of here and we'll see you tomorrow!"
I yank open the door and he almost runs out in relief that this is over. Except for me it isn't... not by a long shot.
"Do you think I've gotten fat?" Lindsay looks down at herself.
Truth be told, she's put on a bit of weight but I think it looks good on her. "I don't do fat, so the answer to that is no. Come on, he's just being a bitchy queen because he's not got what you have...me"
She grins at me and I pull her into the bedroom.
Two hours later and after a shower, we're feeling better.
"So exactly why are you letting him go through with whatever half-cocked plan he's got going?"
I kiss her gently. "Because if he follows through with the stupid, this half-cocked plan has a legal name...extortion."
So I have planted the pregnancy seed. Soon she'll be running out for a pregnancy test and that will be the last thing in place, after all they went for the engagement stopping idea. I knew this would work!
BROHOUSE - SUNDAY MORNING
I really don't want to make this fucking call but after seeing Matt last night, it is imperative that they know who the fuck they're dealing with!
"Grady, it's Zeus. Yeah let's meet up... had some shit to deal with so couldn't get back to you sooner." I keep staring at Spit and Spot, the octopi, to remain calm. "How about we meet here? Bring your friends, say about 13:00; we can have lunch."
I take a deep breath and head back upstairs. "They'll be here about 13:00. Let's order in. It's enough that they are coming here but they're sure as fuck are not eating Tom's food."
"Why are they coming here?" Zan asks.
"Oh don't you know. This used to be Lindsay's family home. Thought she'd like to see what we've done with the place."
"Seriously, you are spending way too much time with Za...uh Zee." Zan chuckles.
"I know, I love it...and well saved." I smirk, getting an eye roll for my troubles.
"Okay explain that to me. I don't get it?" Tom turns round from the range.
"Explain what?" Zeon comes in. "What am I doing?"
"Toast and coffee please." Tom replies with a smile. "I was asking Zeus to explain Zay to me."
"Oh this bone of contention." He snorts.
"Shush. Continue Zeus."
"When we were little I didn't like Zaden, the name not the person, so I called her ZayZay instead. As we got older and closer, dad didn't like that and ordered me to use her correct name all the time, which of course I being the stupidly obedient big brother, I did. But there were times when she needed to know that I was there for her and that's when I'd whisper ZayZay and she'd know. He would go absolutely mental if I said it out loud. And now that I can say it out loud, I will do so every chance I get, but only me."
"Did he ever hit you guys?"
"God no! Grandpa would have his hide if he did. He did raise his hand to Zay once, you know a phantom slap but the look she gave him stopped him. It said to him, yeah please hit me because I will hit you back. It was just before her deployment, so she had a lot of marine training and a whole host of anger for him."
"His jealousy of her must be eating him up inside right now."
We all look at him in surprise. "Yeah, she's better at business and stuff but jealous, I don't think so." Zeph frowns.
"He is. He's jealous of her strength. Her strength of courage, character and resolve, something he clearly doesn't have. Think about it. She's come through absolutely everything he's thrown at her and was still brave enough to walk away from him to be happy. Even though she most probably desperately wanted to be daddy's little girl."
He turns back to the range and starts to plate up the bacon and eggs while we all stare at each other in shocked realisation.
"Oh by the way, we are not ordering from Nakama, Kaya, Meat and Potatoes or anywhere else we frequent. Find somewhere where we will never order from again, okay? And this is the only room they are allowed in; I can scrub it down afterwards."
He looks round at our stunned faces. "What? What's wrong?"
"You." Zeon pulls him in for a kiss. "Are a very smart man."
"Just spoke to Alice." I call out to Jen. "She says she's doing oxtail."
"Oh thank goodness for that!" Jen sighs. "We all need an inner hug this weekend, I think."
"How many bottles of the Chocolate Box shall I bring? I think four of that and maybe three of the Rust En Vrede?"
Jen sticks her head round. "Yeah that should do it. The Rust En Vrede is so lovely. Do you think we should have it for the blessing or get something else?"
"Oh my God!" I shriek when the realisation hits me. "We've got less than six weeks till their blessing. We have got to go to New York and then Portland to sort this out! What are we..."
"Debs!" Jen exclaims. "Calm yourself. Not only do we have Del and Dee, we also have Emily and Francine."
I take a deep breath. "Sorry I just want it to be perfect for them, especially now."
"And it will be." Jen kisses my cheek. "Come on girl, we've got this. Now to quote Del, let's get to getting."
"I think I may have made a bit too much oxtail." I call out to George, only to hear Justin snickering.
"There's no such thing as too much ox..." He stops when he reaches the range. "Okay I was wrong. Four pots Alice?"
"The boys can take some home and have for later in the week maybe?"
"Let me go check with them. You and Debs are so alike."
I stare at the pots in silence and it isn't until there's a soft chirrup at my feet and warm arms round my shoulders that I realise I'm crying in the arms of my George. He steers me to the chair and manages to wrestle the spoon out of my hand.
"Now you look here. This family is strong and has gotten bigger and better and we are more than capable of protecting our grandbabies." He brushes my tears away. "That's better. There's my beautiful wife."
I was about to go and find Lilah when I spotted her at the feet of Alice and I went to find George. I see Justin heading back to the kitchen with Matt and Hunter in tow but I cut them off and direct them to the lounge with the rest of the guys.
"Stay clear of the kitchen until George comes in please."
I'm surprised at the door knocking as Zee has a key so I head to open it to be faced with Daph and Vince.
"I thought you guys were in New York this weekend." I give Daph a hug but she seems unusually subdued and doesn't hug back with her normal enthusiasm.
"We were but I, well we, need to talk to you guys. When's everyone getting here?"
"About two hours. You okay Daph? Actually are you both okay?" I'm starting to worry.
"We'll explain when everyone's here, Mr K. Promise." Vince is also quiet. "Can you call me when they are please? We just need some time alone."
I nod and watch them head to his apartment before heading back to the lounge.
"Who was it?" Justin asks.
"Daph and Vince." I reply and he leaps up. "No Justin, they want to be alone."
"Alone?" Justin repeats puzzled.
"Yeah that's what they said. Also, they'll be down when the rest of the family arrives."
We exchange worried looks both thinking; what fuck of a fresh hell of a clusterfuck has happened now!
BROHOUSE - LUNCHTIME
We ordered from a Mexican place, everything off the menu. They're due in 10 minutes.
TAXI TO BroHouse
This route is familiar. "Why are we coming here?" I hiss at Grady.
"Because, duh, this is where the house is." He pats my thigh.
"Yeah obviously Lindsay." Michael snorts.
As we pull up outside my former family home, I rage inside. "Anything familiar Michael?"
He shakes his head and practically runs to the front door thus avoiding the taxi fare, despite being the last one out.
"Are you sure?" I ask again before Grady knocks on the now silver front door. "BroHouse? Why on earth would he call it that?"
The door swings open and whatever the guy was laughing at dies when he sees us. "Grady you made it. Come in."
"Zeus, nice to see you again."
Grady whistles when he comes in and we follow Zeus. Naturally, he's full of praise saying he could live here easily. Michael is vacillating between being sycophantically obsequious to Grady and trying to get Zeus's attention.
I pause to look at what they've done to the lounge. It has been knocked through with what used to be the dining room and is a huge open plan space. One end is used for working and the other end has a huge TV screen and comfortable looking sofas. It looks very macho but homely.
"Lindsay, you coming?" Grady calls out.
"Yes, sorry, just admiring what they've done with the place." I smile tightly.
As we come into the kitchen, I know that Zee did this. It has been extended and very high end. I feel nauseous when I look out the window and see the covered BBQ area and frown.
"What's next to the BBQ?"
"Pizza oven. Couldn't fit one in here. Guys, they're here!" Zeus calls down to the basement.
"What's down there?" I ask, dreading the answer.
"Aquacave. We love fish so we've got all kinds down there as well as..."
"I love fish! Can we go and see?" Michael's approach is blocked by people coming up.
"No." Zeus replies, bluntly. "Now that everyone's here, let's make the introductions and eat."
"Of course. Hi guys, this is Lindsay, my girlfriend, and her friend Michael. These are..."
"This guy?!" Zeph is incredulous. "This guy got Ben?"
Michael glares in his direction. "And what's that supposed to mean?"
Zeph is now laughing. "You re-remember I was telling you about the guy in Woody's?"
They all nod and he just points at Michael, who immediately goes red.
"What are they talking about Michael?" I ask.
"Nothing." He grumbles. "So who are the rest of you?" He demands rudely.
"Wow. Your manners match your technique...poorly executed." Zeph scowls at him. "Well I'm Zephaniah, this is Zeon...Zee's twin...you've met Zeus and this is Zander."
"Twin?" I'm surprised but can see it. "You and Zee are twins? She never said..."
"She keeps things on a need to know basis. Now let's eat and catch up." Zeus drawls.
We take our seats and another man comes in wearing an apron and I'm sure I recognise him.
"Hello uh, um..."
"Thomas. Bernadine and Arnold's son."
"Oh my goodness! It's been years!" I smile at him. "I haven't seen you since, well since you know..." I trail off.
"Ever the WASP I see. Ever since I ran away from home in a fit of pique."
"Well yes. How on earth did you end up here?"
"Kiki and Carl found me and brought me back."
"Kiki and Carl? I don't understand..."
"Mom and dad are good friends with Kiki and..."
"Kiki?" Michael is as stunned, as am I. "As in that drag queen that works..." He continues
"Transsexual, not a drag queen, as you well know." Tom cuts across him. "Kiki and Carl reconciled my parents and me and..."
"She got you a job here?" Michael scoffs, derisively. "As a butler? You must be so grateful."
"What is it that you do again?" His tone is glacial. "Now let's eat."
As he starts to plate up the delicious smelling food, Michael has that smirk on his face.
I look at Grady who just shakes his head. "So what are we having?"
"Mexican. There's enough to feed a small army here! How much did you guys order?"
Zeus huffs a laugh. "Don't look at me, I left that to Zan."
Once the food is placed on the table, Tom sits down much to our surprise.
"We have staff in our condo in New York," Michael begins, after loading his plate. "We don't let them eat with us. It gives the wrong impression."
Zeon slams down his glass. "And the moment we have staff, we'll take that on board! My brothers, my boyfriend and I were trying to keep a civil tongue in our heads but that's all blown to fuck now!"
"Thank God!" Zeus snaps. "You know what? Fuck this! We're done here. Get out."
"Guys please!" Grady exclaims. "Let's all remain calm and..."
"I said out!" Zeus yells. "We know all we need to know about why you are here. Now fuck off!"
Less than five minutes later we are outside the front door.
"Well thank you Captain Twatsticle!" Grady rages as we head to find a cab. "You couldn't just keep that big mouth of yours shut!"
They glare at each other. "So I got it wrong about him being..."
I manage to hail a cab and tug Grady to a stop and let Michael carry on walking. We get in and he winds down the window...
"You always get it fucking wrong Michael!" He shouts at him and Michael whirls round. "Like now!"
The last thing we see is Michael running back towards us. We watch until he is a mere speck in the distance.
I don't think I have ever been at a more subdued lunch than I had today. The tension between Vince and Daph has thrown the vibe off kilter to such an extent that Justin didn't finish his food.
"Please just tell us what's wrong." Alice begs. "You're not splitting up, are you?"
"No, not that." Daph gives a small smile but immediately starts to cry. Vince pulls her into his arms and kisses the top of her head.
"Vince?" Alice prompts.
"And..." Justin presses.
"We, we don't want to keep the baby."
"Oh. But why not?" Debs sits next to her taking her hand.
"It's too soon." Daph has regained her composure. "Don't get me wrong I want a baby with Vince but not now. I want to make a difference in the medical world and..."
"We will support whatever decision you make, you know that." Carl reassures her.
"It's too late." She whimpers before taking a breath. "For an abortion, I mean."
"Why? How many months are you? You can't be more than..."
To say we were astonished is an understatement.
"How? How are you seven months pregnant and look like that?!" We all glare at Faal.
"Sorry, bigger picture. But come on look at her!" He pouts.
"So what are you going to do?" I ask.
"Put the baby up for adoption." This sets them both off again and we wait until they are calmer and I stroke Justin's back as he tries to hold back tears.
"We want one that means we can at least explain why we've done what we've done and give the baby a chance to find us when he or she is older. But we don't know how to go about it. So Mel..."
"Wait a minute. Let me just... Justin, Mel you two with me!" I order and run to the study.
I look round the room expecting to see disappointment, but just see love and support.
"Excuse me Vince." Carl waves him aside. "My cub needs a hug." As his arms come round me, I let it all out.
"I-I'm such a terrible person not wanting my child." I wail.
"NO! Don't ever think that!" Debs is hugging a sobbing Vince. "You two are doing what's best for you two and the baby right now and don't ever forget that! It takes a lot of love and bravery to do what you are going to do. And..."
Whatever she's going to say is cut off by the doors bursting being flung open. Justin's face is blotchy and he's wiping his nose on his sleeve while leaning against Brian. Mel collapses into Leda's arms and we all stare at Brian for an explanation.
"So you want a private adoption?" He asks, his voice is thick and Justin starts to cry again.
"Yes Mr K we do. Do you know someone who can help?"
"How about an adoption when you can see the baby whenever you want?"
"Huh?" I look at him.
"All you have to do is get on a plane to Portland."
"What's in Portland?" Vince asks.
"Not what is in Portland but who is in..."
"Emily and Francine!" Emmy gasps. "You spoke to them? Would they take the baby?"
"Yes and yes." Justin manages to choke out.
I look at Vince and we both nod tearfully.
"So that's a yes then?" He asks.
"Oh God Brian!" I whimper and fling myself into Vince's arms.
"Now, now none of this. You need to speak to Emily and Francine. They're waiting on-screen in the study. Get to getting."
We break out into a run and after an hour's worth of tear-filled conversation, we head back to the lounge.
"Well?" Carl demands.
I can't speak I'm so happy.
"So for December, we're catering a wedding, a blessing, a baby shower/adoption thang and then a welcome to the world party when he/she arrives? Excellent." Zee grins, wiping her eyes.
"Yes, we will give up our rights and they will tell he or she that I was the surrogate" I finally am able to speak. "And in return, they've agreed to a couple of things."
"What are they?" Ben asks, gently.
"Godparents, as in we get to choose them. So the godfathers are, if they say yes, Brian and Justin and the godmother, singular, as there could only be one. Jenny."
Brian and Justin just nod but Jenny is quiet. Slowly she stands up and makes her way over to me and places her hands on my stomach.
"Hey in there. My name is Jenny and I'm going to be your godmother. I'm going to teach you so many things. I can't wait to meet you."
There isn't a dry eye in the room.