I’ve stopped sneaking out at night and hiding my texts. All week, everyday after school I go over to Zayne’s house to bring him homework and notes. I end up staying for an hour or two helping him figure everything out before I go home.
Arriana and I have had it a little rough this week, we definitely get dirty looks now that I’m out of the closet, but with Conrad gone, no one says anything.
Caira hasn’t spoken to Arriana all week, but Tempe couldn’t really care less about the whole thing. What happened with Conrad and Zayne really opened Tempe’s eyes and made her more accepting.
Tonight is the dinner with my family and Zayne’s family together. I can’t help be nervous, so I spent my extra energy and actually cleaned my room. Arriana and my mom just about fainted when they saw my floor cleaned up, desk organized, and even my side of the bathroom counter straightened.
Mom takes Arriana grocery shopping to prepare for tonight, so it’s just me and dad.
“You ready for tonight?” he asks as I fuss over making my bed.
“No, he’s never seen the house before and I’m really worried I’m going to say or do something stupid and embarrassing.”
I flop back on my bed as my dad laughs, “Tell you what, you cleaned your room so you must want the house nice. We’ll shock your mom and clean the rest of the house, we’ll do it together.”
I’ve never seen my dad clean, I didn’t even know he knew how to use a vacuum. After I’m sure he’s not joking I get up and find where mom keeps the vacuum.
I start vacuuming my room as my dad is sweeping the hard floor in the living room and kitchen. I meet him where the carpet meets the hard floor.
“Do remember meeting mom? Did you do stuff like this when you two started out?” I look up a little embarrassed.
He stops, props himself on the broom and gets a deep concentration face, “When I met your mom, we were in college, she was actually dating my roommate. He was an idiot, like verge of getting kicked out of school idiot. Your mom was way out of his league and her and I would talk when she came by to wait for him. It took maybe two weeks for me to realize how badly I wanted to be with her. Our dorm had never looked so clean after that, the mini fridge we had actually had real food in it, I started caring about what I wear. Over twenty years later, here we are. It’s good to care about this stuff Josh, it shows what you feel is real.”
I really do care about Zayne and I really do think I love him. I want this to be real, I want him to see the effort I’m putting in, maybe it will help him feel safer in his skin to know there’s someone who cares this much willingly.
I clean the bathrooms and all the counters and tables while my dad does the dishes. I haven’t seen the house look so nice in such a long time. I really hope Zayne and his family like it and feel comfortable.
I look at the time knowing that they’ll be here at six, it’s almost four. I know my mom is a kitchen wizard and I trust her to get it all done perfectly in time, but I’m so afraid that something will go wrong and there won’t be time to fix it.
“Oh shit,” I suddenly dart in my room, leaving my dad behind wanting to get on me for my language.
I run into my room and grab the big box by my chair, close it, and hide it in my closet. I breathe a sigh of relief as my dad comes in to see me close the door.
“Hiding stuff in the closet? I thought we were past that,” I look to see him smiling like a goof at his joke.
“Sorry, I completely forgot I had Zayne’s birthday present just sitting in the open. I don’t want him to see it.”
He nods, “What’d you get him?”
“It’s a surprise, I put too much thought into it to let it get spilled by accident,” I shrug and give a crooked grin.
We hear the door open and go to meet my mom and Arriana. They look ready to fall over as they put the bags on the counter.
“Geez mom,” I say as my dad goes to help carry things in, “It’s dinner not a buffet. What are you even making?”
“Not telling,” she smiles, “But you’ll love it. Did you guys clean? The house looks amazing.”
I shove my hands in my pocket, a little giddy, “Yeah, I really want to impress Zayne.”
She gives a sweet pout, “Oh honey, if he isn’t impressed with what you’ve done for him so far, then you’ve got to find someone else. You have such a big heart,” she pulls me into a hug.
I leave to let her start prepping to cook, I hear the mixer go not long after settling into my room. Arriana joins me not long after.
She twirls, “What do you think? Mom let me get a new dress,” she smiles as she shows off the simple black and gold dress, “I think the sweet heart neckline really suits me, don’t you?”
I raise my eyebrows, “Arriana, I’ve said it a lot of over the years, I may be gay but that doesn’t mean I know what your talking about.”
She huffs, “Josh, I swear it’s a good thing you don’t like girls. You would be hopeless when it comes to helping her pick an outfit.”
I laugh, “You do look very nice Arriana, I like it, and I’m sure it will make a good impression.”
She smiles and twirls as she walks away. My sister has always been carefully modest in her clothes and this is no exception, her small chest allows her to pull off the “sweet heart neckline” and the thin straps holding the dress up. The gold that lines the top of her neckline and the bottom of the skirt give it enough wow factor to stand out. It hugs her top while hanging and flowing at her waist.
She leaves the doors open and I watch her get ready, looking like a kid at Christmas as she puts on her gold crescent moon necklace I got her for her birthday and throws on some simple flats to pull everything together.
“Arriana, you do know that Zayne and I are gay right? There are no guys to impress here tonight,” I laugh as she glares at me.
“I happen to want to look nice when I finally get to meet his family, and to celebrate what you two have. This is a big deal Josh, you guys took a big risk and already made a big change.”
I hear my phone ring and see it’s Zayne.
“Thank god you called, Arriana looks ready for a Milan catwalk, please save me,” She flips me off when she hears me.
“Trust me, my mom is no better,” his voice sounds full of life again, “She’s been worrying about how to do her hair for almost an hour.”
“Her hair is going to be fine no matter what she does.”
“See mom! Even Josh says it’s not a big deal!” I hear him yell.
“How are you feeling today?” I take a serious tone, I’ve asked him this question everyday and everyday his answer is different.
“I’m ok, my mom was on the phone for almost three hours with Conrad’s parents. It was a very mixed conversation, while they don’t endorse what Conrad did, they did try to apologize to my parents for their struggle in having a gay son. My mom didn’t take it well, saying that at least her gay son doesn’t harass students for being who they are. It was a mess, I just can’t wait to see you. Just talking to you is making today better.”
I smile, “I’m glad that I can help somehow. I’m sorry you had to listen to your mom on the phone, why was she even talking to the Lewis’?”
“They begged us not to press charges for the emotional and physical assaults at the hands of Conrad, they kept saying he’s young and has such a bright future. My dad sat there going on about how I have the same but Conrad kept trying to cut it short.”
“Zayne you shouldn’t have to listen to them when they’re getting into that stuff. Conrad finally got what was coming to him, you need to focus on looking forward and not having to think about what he’s done. If you ever need to come over to get away from it all you can, we could watch a movie or Arriana could hug you to death.”
I hear him chuckle, “Thanks, I think tonight will really help. I want to meet your parents, I want them to like and accept me. I really think it will help.”
“Only an hour and a half until you get here, then things will start getting better. I really miss you.”
“I miss you too. I’ve been trying to fill the time and entertain myself. My dad’s offered to let me go with him to Target, he and mom want to get some stuff for tonight. I think I might take him up on it.”
“You should, I’m not going anywhere and before you know it you’ll be on your way,” I look through my shirts.
“Ok, I’ll see you later then, and Josh,” he pauses, “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
We hang up and I feel my smile grow as I pull out the shirt I wore when I first kissed Zayne. I change into it and go into the kitchen to help my mom.
I see her putting a cheesecake in the fridge while the ingredients for the rest of dinner sits prepped on the counter.
“Please tell me it’s chocolate ripple,” I do a little prayer stance as I smile sweetly at my mother.
“Of course, what else? Do you want to help?” She closes the refrigerator door and turns to me, “I need help with the rest of this.”
I look down to see the many things out, pork chops, potatoes, honey, raspberries, “Mom what all are you making?”
“I’m making the pork chops you love so much, Arriana insisted Zayne try the raspberry walnut salad I made last week, I’m also doing honey biscuits and oven roasted potatoes,” she smiles as she cuts the baby potatoes in half.
“Can I do the pork chops?” I smile as she nods.
Joining her behind the counter I start working, passing the time with laughs and light conversation.
Before I know it, we’re pulling out all the amazing food and setting the table. I sit anxiously on the couch and wait.
When the door bell rings I jump up to answer it. I open the door to Zayne and his family, his mom hugs me tight.
My mom comes over to greet them, making small talk with Mrs. Daveen as she hands over wine and apple cider. My dad and Zayne’s dad shake hands and it doesn’t take long before they start talking about football and other guy stuff.
We make our way to the table and sit down. Arriana and I sit with Zayne between us while the parents sit on the other side of the table.
“This all looks amazing Ariel,” Mrs. Daveen and my mom talk about cooking and recipe swapping before my mom looks over at me and Zayne smiling.
“You must be the one I’m hearing so much about, it’s nice finally meeting the one who keeps my son so happy,” she puts her chin in her hands and stares at us.
“Mom, seriously?” I start blushing.
They all laugh and Zayne takes my hand under the table, “It’s really great to meet you Mrs. Notes, both Josh and Arriana spoil me with your food and it’s nice to actually get it from the source. Thank you for inviting us.”
She nods and everyone starts talking. Dinner flies by as we all laugh and eat, by the time mom brings out dessert, our dad’s look like stuffed pigs. They still manage to devour their dessert.
We all gather in the living room and watch TV together. Zayne sits with me, his legs seat-belting me in our chair as he yells possible answers at the game show host.
Seeing all seven of us together, enjoying each other’s company so openly, makes my heart warm. It feels really good to have so many people supporting us, and all the openness has definitely helped Zayne, I finally am seeing him smile for real.
We have such amazing families, such an amazing life. Hopefully a long one together.