#57 Life without Andre
“Here.” I hand Andre my beer when he’s finished with his.
He wraps his hand around it nervously, plucking at the label. It’s hard to see him like this, but if we’re ever going to move past this hump, we need to push through right now.
“How are things at the bakery?” Imani asks, trying to get a conversation going.
“Good,” Andre replies quietly.
“Liv is working quite a lot again,” I add when he doesn’t go on. “Much to James’ despair.”
Deidra laughs. “If he got his way, he’d have her locked up in their apartment, pushing out babies one after the other. I swear he already brought up the subject of a second one.”
“Aurora was born only… what?” Imani shakes her head. “Four months ago? Less, even! Jesus, that man won’t give her any rest, will he?”
“They’re not trying yet,” Deidra assures her. “I think it’s cute he wants his daughter to have a sibling so badly. Aside from Nova, of course. He’s got three sisters, right?”
“Two,” I remind them. “One died.”
We’re all quiet for a second, thinking about the butterfly tattoo on his shoulder that represents his sister Desirée who got shot on the job. She was a cop, like James. She’s his inspiration for pretty much everything he does. I get that. My mother is never far from my mind either. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how she’ll have a grandkid soon. My kids will never get to meet their grandmother.
“Are all of your parents still alive?”
My question takes the girls off guard, but not Andre. His arm goes around me instantly, and he squeezes my shoulder. Despite not being on board with any of this yet, he still comforts me. He knows why I’m upset. I love that man so fucking much.
“My mom died ten years ago.” Imani sips her beer. “Car accident. Dad is still alive and kicking, but he doesn’t live close.”
“Both still alive,” Deidra chimes in. “No contact with dear old mom, though. My folks have been divorced for ages. She’s not on board with me marrying a woman. Luckily, Dad is a sweetheart. He lives a few blocks over. We go for a walk together every Sunday morning.”
“You’ve only got your dad, right?” Imani asks me.
I nod. “Mom died from cancer when I was 19. Dad got remarried, and he had another kid.”
We all look over at Andre, who has almost finished his second beer. He coughs and puts down the bottle. “My parents are still alive and together. They live in my hometown.”
So weird that Andre is the only one with both parents still in his life. The only one with a mother he can talk to whenever he wants. If he commits to this, to me, to us, our kid will have four grandfathers and only one grandmother. So weird.
“Siblings?” Imani asks curiously.
Andre shakes his head. “Only child. What about you?”
Turns out Imani has a sister two years younger than her, who is already happily married with two kids and a third one on the way. Deidra has an older brother who lives in Dubai, and he’s an eternal bachelor, career-driven all the way. Four people with such different families and upbringings, yet you wouldn’t be able to tell if you looked at us chatting away. Even Andre is easing up a little, no longer downing beer like the only way to get through this night is to get drunk.
When the oven pings, telling us dinner is ready, we all get up and make our way to the dining table. We talk about our childhoods, our first boyfriends and girlfriends, when we came out to our friends and family, and how that went. Apparently, Andre came out as soon as he found out himself, and his parents were very cool about it. Same for Imani. For me and Deidra, things were different.
“Being bi means that it’s way easier to pretend you’re straight,” Deidra explains, gesturing with her fork. “I experimented with women a lot, and all my friends – like Liv and Derrek – knew that I was bisexual, but my parents definitely didn’t. I only brought my boyfriends back home, never my girlfriends.”
“Until I came along,” Imani says with a fond smile.
“When I met this one, I knew I had to come clean.” Deidra shrugs. “You understand, right, Dylan? Must have been the same for you. You can’t do anything but own up to your true self when you realize you’re into someone, love someone even, and they become your everything. You can’t just only date the opposite sex your whole life just so you don’t have to tell your family you swing both ways, right?”
“It wasn’t like that for me.” I can tell that surprised both Deidra and Imani. “I didn’t realize I was into men for a long time. I started experimenting in college, but yeah…” I shrug. “Everyone experimented in college. Me and my friends always ended up drunk, stoned or both, at crazy parties, with everyone fucking anyone they can get their hands on. I didn’t think it meant anything. I didn’t come out until I was already 28.”
“Damn,” Deidra mutters. “I did not know that.”
“It’s not because I struggled with being bisexual,” I assure her. I feel like she might be worried I’m still experimenting. I don’t want Andre to think I’m new to this life or anything either. That’s so far from the truth. “I think on some level I always knew I liked guys as well as girls, but it took me until I met a guy who asked me out to fully realize what that meant. I didn’t feel like this is it and I never introduced him to my dad, but he was cute, and I was like… why not?”
I take Andre’s hand in mine underneath the table, squeezing it tightly. He seems tense still, but I’m not sure if it’s because of this subject or because of the kid thing.
“I didn’t come out to my friends and family because I met the love of my life,” I go on. “I came out when I was sure I liked men. I started with Thomas, who reacted in the best way possible. He felt kinda guilty he hadn’t noticed before, and was worried he’d made me feel like I had to hide part of myself. Not one single second did he act like me liking guys was a problem whatsoever. Then I told other friends, and eventually my dad and Amber. They took it really well, and they’ve been crazy supportive ever since. I just wanted to be myself around the people I loved. That’s why I came out.” I smile wryly at Deidra. “Of course, that is easy to say when you feel pretty certain they won’t stop loving you.”
She shrugs. “It’s her loss, not mine. I’ve still got Dad, and he marches in gay parades and everything. He’s beyond excited to become a grandpa. He really wants to meet both of you, by the way.”
“Both of us?” Andre croaks, his grip on my hand tightening.
“Yeah, well, I mean…” Deidra looks at Imani for help. “We said no kid talk, right?”
“Might as well.” Imani sighs. “You’re terrible at keeping your mouth shut.”
“Okay, so I’ve been thinking.” Deidra takes a deep breath and puts down her fork. “Look. I know Imani and I always said that we’d like all of our kids to have the same biological father, but we do understand that it’s daunting for Andre to know he won’t be a legal parent to any of the kids we might be having. So we thought maybe, if the two of you are still going strong when we’re ready for baby number two…” She motions at Andre. “...you might want to be the sperm donor.”
That sounds like an amazing idea. I’m on board right away, but the second I turn to Andre I can tell he far from agrees.
“I’m sorry, I can’t.” He jerks his hand away from mine and actually gets up from the table. “I can’t… I mean, thank you, but…”
“You don’t need to decide right now,” Imani assures him. “We just think you’re an amazing guy, and we get it if you’d want a kid of your own, so we wanted you to know we’d be up for that.”
He’s completely overwhelmed, that’s easy to see. This whole dinner was a mistake. I should have known Deidra wouldn’t be able to put a stop to the baby talk for one night. I don’t know why her amazingly sweet offer is throwing off Andre this much, but perhaps I should have foreseen this.
“I’m sorry,” Andre says, turning away from all of us. “I need to go.”
I’m so taken aback by him walking out that it takes me a second to jump up as well. “Sorry,” I tell the girls. “Don’t worry, this doesn’t change how I feel about any of this, but I need to go after him right now.” I don’t wait for their reaction, running out into the front yard as well.
Andre is standing on the sidewalk, head bent, typing away on his phone.
“Babe?” I walk over to him, my car keys already in my hand. “Let me drive you home.”
He shakes his head. “Go back inside. I don’t want to ruin your night.”
“Don’t worry about that.” When I place my hand on his shoulder, I can feel part of the tension leave his body right away. Thank God he’s still responding to me the way he always does. “Let’s go home.”
“You really don’t have to go home with me.” He holds up his phone. “Uber.”
“You’re not calling an uber.” I unlock my car and hold open the door for him. “Come on, babe. Let’s go home.”
Thank God, he gets in. At this point, I’m not even sure if he’ll allow me to go up to his apartment with him. I have no idea what happened back there to make him freak out this much. It can’t all be about me having a baby with Deidra. He seemed fine until she offered for him to be the one to donate sperm to Imani for baby number two.
Does he not want kids? That can’t be it. We talked about it.
Does he not want them with Imani and Deidra? That could be it, of course. Still, there has to be more.
I’m praying to God that it’s something we can work through. Because life without him? That would fucking suck.