#55 Finally home
My dad is in jeans and a T-shirt, which is an unusual look for him. He’s a financial manager at an investment bank, so he normally wears expensive suits that match his high income. He’s not a very tall, board or impressive man, but he’s got a huge brain and the most winning smile ever.
“ShaSha,” he says, using his childhood nickname for me. “It seems like yesterday that I moved you into this apartment.”
I smile and pull him in for a hug. “It was barely three years ago, daddy.”
“And now you’re moving in with your boyfriend,” he says with a frown. “Now that we’re on the subject… where is your man?”
With a deep breath, I lead him into my old apartment, where Dshawn is in the bedroom taking apart my old wardrobe. It’s already been paid for by a young couple that is moving in together as well, so it needs to be disassembled in about an hour when they’ll be here to pick it up.
“Honey?” I call out to him. “Dad’s here!”
My boyfriend immediately appears in the doorway, covered in dust and a pair of pliers in his hands. He’s in old jeans and a T-shirt as well, looking sexy as hell. “Hi, Mr. Elmore, so nice to finally meet you.”
My father’s eyes move over Dshawn from his toes to his short-cropped hair, a smile appearing on his face as he shakes his hand. “Same here, boy.”
“I’m just finishing up in the bedroom,” he tells us, holding up the pliers. “That wardrobe is a real bitch, Shaughna. How did you ever put it together?”
“She didn’t,” my dad scoffs. “I did. I’ll help you. ShaSha is useless when it comes to this stuff. Go make some coffee for the big strong men, baby.”
I roll my eyes and head over the kitchen, where Aston is fixing one of the doors on my cabinets so the landlord won’t try to keep my deposit because of a small deficit. He grins at me and steps off the small stool, putting his screwdriver on the counter.
“I’m gonna say hi to daddy Elmore as well,” he says, winking at me. “Little Shasha.”
Aston and my dad met before, back when I moved into this place, and few times after when I got new furniture or needed the washing machine fixed or something. Aston and Dad are used to helping me out together, since I’m not really that independent and strong when it comes to stuff around the apartment, and I don’t like calling my mom’s boyfriend for anything. He and I don’t get along that well. Never have, never will.
Aston has been my go-to guy when I need a closet put together or a lamp replaced for long time now, but I guess that Dshawn is my go-to guy now, although he was quick to suggest calling Aston for some help. Because of my work schedule we only have one day to do this, and we can use all the muscle we can get. And Aston… yeah, he’s one big muscular hunk of man beef.
“Aston!” I hear my dad say with a smile in his voice. “I honestly though you’d be the one to snatch up my little girl, but I guess your friend beat you to it.”
What? I almost spill all the coffee over the counter when I hear my dad say that in the other room. Did he really think Aston and I would end up together? Where the hell did he get that idea?
The next few hours are filled with spackling, dismantling the closets and putting everything in my dad’s van. He has to drive to Dshawn’s place – our place – at least eight times before everything is where it should be. Dad makes a point of taking Dshawn with him when he gets in his van, leaving Aston with me. I wonder if that’s because he wants to grill my boyfriend, or because he’s hoping I will come to my senses and decide to move in with Aston after all.
I’m just opening the door to let my old neighbor is so he can see if he wants to buy my chairs from me, when Dad and Dshawn arrive to get the last piece of furniture that we want to keep: the comfy couch. Dshawn looks a little squirmy, and Dad has a scowl on his face. I give them both a questioning look, but they just walk right past me and call Aston over to help carry the couch outside.
“I’ll take them,” my old neighbor says, nodding contently after inspecting the chairs. He hands me the money and grabs one to put it in the elevator. I help him get the other four in and thank him for taking them off my hands.
To my surprise, the elevator comes back with Dshawn in it instead of Aston, which means that for the first time today, Dad didn’t insist on my boyfriend being the one to accompany him. Yeah, something definitely happened.
“Spit it out,” I tell him as we walk back into the living room that’s now eerily empty.
Dshawn shrugs. “No big deal. He just wanted to catch up with Aston.”
“Those two don’t know each other that well,” I argue. “They only see each other when I need something done that requires two people, or my dad’s van. Just spill the beans, Dshawn. Or do you want me to ask my father what went down between the two of you?”
He grimaces. “No… Just promise that you won’t get all mad. I don’t want you to fight with me, or your dad, or anyone, really.”
“Fine,” I agree with a sigh. It can’t be that bad, right?
Dshawn takes a deep breath before meeting my gaze. “Your dad was just being protective. He asked me about my intentions with you, that kind of stuff, what job I have, why I haven’t introduced myself to him sooner…”
“Like that’s up to you!” I huff. “You’re my boyfriend and he’s my father. The only person who can decided when you two meet is me.”
“Relax,” Dshawn says, rubbing my arms. “That’s not what happened, these were actually the friendly conversations during the first few drives to our place. When we were headed there last to drop off your large paintings, he asked me how I plan to provide for you and he told me that he expects me to ask him for your hand before proposing.”
“What?!” I exclaim. “Oh God, I should have seen this coming. Dad is crazy traditional when it comes to that stuff. Mom stopped working the moment she got pregnant with me, and even now, she only does volunteer work, letting her boyfriend pick up the bills.” I roll my eyes. Mom and I are very different people. “What did you tell him?”
Dshawn grows really uncomfortable now. “Erm… I said that I don’t actually plan to provide for you, since you have your own job and are very independent.”
“I’m sure he loved that,” I reply with a grin.
“Yeah, he hugged me and begged me to never leave you,” Dshawn jokes, a little more relaxed now that he knows I’m not flipping out about this. “Things got a little… weird when I said that we’re not actually planning on getting married. He basically said that I can’t be serious about you if I’m never planning on becoming your husband.”
“That’s Dad.” I nod, annoyed but not surprised. “I told you he’s old-school, didn’t I? I warned you that he and Mom are pushing me to settle down and start popping out grandbabies.”
“How come your father doesn’t know that you don’t believe in marriage?” Dshawn asks. “Isn’t that something you should tell him?”
I shake my head quickly. “Hell no. My parents haven’t truly known me since I turned 14 and they got divorced. Even before them, they didn’t truly understand me. To them, college is only useful for a girl so she can snag herself a rich husband. And the sole purpose of my life should be to get married and have fifty babies. They love me, but they don’t know me. Don’t get me. Don’t even try to.” I take a deep breath and let Dshawn pull me in for a hug. I don’t like talking about my parents. If I hadn’t needed my dad’s van, I would have been just fine texting him and Mom to let them know I’ve got a new address. They didn’t even know I was seeing someone before I called Dad to ask him for his van.
“Honey…” Dshawn strokes my back. “Look, if this is important to you, I can lie. I can say that I was just kidding, show him my paycheck from the firm and promise to ask for your hand when the day comes. I’ll even marry you some day if you want to appease your parents.”
“That’s sweet, but it’s our life,” I decide, pushing away from him so I can look him in the eye. “I’ve made my peace with them not accepting me the way I am a long time ago. I’m not getting married, I don’t want to stop working just because I’m in a relationship, and I don’t think we’ll be having kids for many, many years to come. Besides, when we open our very own night club, they will get upset all over again. Do you really think they want their little girl to start her own business, a club no less?” I laugh at the image of my mother finding out about our plans. “Trust me, they will flip.”
“Do you still want that?” Dshawn asks softly. “It’s my dream, but it doesn’t have to be yours.”
“It’s our dream,” I insist. “And you can either hire me as your manager when you get your own business, or we can be business partners, that’s up to you, but I’m not planning on giving up on this dream.”
He nods. “I already told you I’d love to do this together, fifty-fifty. This is as much your plan as it’s mine. And your management skills are much appreciated as well. I’m going to need you to show me the ropes, more than you know.”
We kiss, our arms going around each other. I love this man. He gets me, so much more than anyone ever has. Only Caroline gets me like this, knows what I want and need, but that’s different. Franny and Aston come close as well, but they have nothing on Dshawn.
Someone clears their throat behind us, and I break away from our kiss to see my dad looking at us with utter distaste. “One last check-up in here and we should be good to go,” he says, not meeting my eye. “I’d be happy to come over to your new place and help put up the paintings, whatever you need.”
“Thanks, but we’ve got it,” I tell him, a little annoyed with him. “You’re welcome to stick around, we’re ordering pizza in a few, but you can go home if you want to.”
Dad isn’t stupid. He knows that Dshawn just told me about their little talk and he may not know me through and through, but he did raise me. He knows that I am mad at him.
“Nah, I think I’ll head home.” He gives me a quick hug, slaps Aston on the back and offers his hand to Dshawn, who shakes it politely. “Good luck, ShaSha.”
“Thanks for everything, Dad,” I tell him, still grateful that he helped out all day. “See you soon.”
He takes off, leaving me with a sinking feeling. I lean against Dshawn and feel Aston’s hand on my shoulder as well, squeezing gently.
“He gave me the talk too, a year ago,” Aston says, amused by all of this. “And he just grilled me about Dshawn, asking me what I really know about him and if he’s right for his little ShaSha.”
“What do you mean, he gave you the talk?” I ask, stepping away from both men so I can look at them. “Why? How? What?”
Aston roars with laughter. “Your dad was under the impression that you and I were either dating or on the verge of starting something last year, so he asked me about my job, if I would be able to provide for a family, if I want kids, what my thoughts are on marriage…”
“What?” I grunt and pinch my nose between my fingers, feeling a headache coming on. “You’re kidding, right? What did you tell him?”
“That I’m a personal trainer and work in a gym, that I earn enough for myself and a little bit extra, but not enough to support a wife, that I have no intentions of ever getting married to anyone, since I’m not even a fan of committed relationships, and that kids and a family are not in my future.” Aston grins. “He thought I was kidding, because I kept cracking up, so eventually I just promised him to ask for your hand if I ever planned on making things official with you and he offered to put me through college for a real job so I could provide for you.” He’s so amused that it’s ridiculous. “I guess it’s funnier when you’re not really dating the girl, huh?” He smacks Dshawn on his shoulder. “Good luck with navigating ShaSha’s family. You’ll surely be meeting her mom soon, and she’s the real piece of work.”
“Stop calling me ShaSha,” I complain. “And no way I’m going to introduce you to Mom anytime soon,” I assure Dshawn. “You’ll need at least a month to recover from this.”
“Erm… Shaughna?” Aston raised an eyebrow at me. “You do know that your dad is going to call your mom on his way home right? Dshawn just told your dad that he never plans on making an honest woman out of you and that he expects you to keep working and pay for your own stuff. They may be divorced, but you once told me they feel exactly the same about the way you live your life. He’s going to tell her to try and talk some sense into you.”
“Fuck.” Aston is right, I realize. “We’re going to have to invite Mom over to dinner or something. Ah fuck, I really don’t want to see her and Walter. They’re so… ugh.”
“I’m so happy that you dragged me into your wonderful family,” Dshawn grunts, already looking forward to another awkward conversation about our modern way of thinking. “Maybe it’d be easier to just get married and have some kids.”
I laugh at him. “Sure. What are you doing tonight?”
Aston rolls his eyes at us. “Come on, let’s check all the rooms one more time and head back to your new place. I could really eat.”
And that’s what we do. My old apartment is ready for inspection, and Aston orders three pizzas on his phone while we drive home. I smile at that word. Home. My apartment with Dshawn feels like a true home, instead of just a place that I’m staying at until I move on to the next thing. I loved my old place, but I always knew it was only temporary. I thought I’d move on once I found a different job and knew in what town I was going to end and what sort of job I was going to do.
Dshawn’s apartment has felt like home from the moment I stayed the night with him that first night together. And that’s because he’s there.
I know we’re not going to live in that apartment forever – let’s hope not – but I do know that as long as I have him, I will have a home, in a way I never did from the age of 14. Melchior abused that knowledge to make me feel like I needed him to have a place I belonged, but with Dshawn it’s different. He doesn’t try to make me dependent on him. He’s my equal. He’s my family, my home, my love. For the first time in my life, I understand why people search for this for years until they find it. I’m so lucky to have found him without even trying, without even wanting to find him. I can’t imagine my life without him anymore. And you know what? I don’t want to.