#60 No hoopla for Daddy Peterson
The drive to the Peterson residence lasted an hour and a half. Not too bad. It would take Andre three hours to come here by bus and train. Thank God I’ve got a driver’s license.
“Andre!” a small woman with long black hair jumps right into his arms the second she opens the door for us. “It’s been too long, honey.”
“Hey mom,” he says, squeezing her tightly. “I saw you only three months ago.”
“That’s too long.” She breaks away from him to look over at me. When she first jumped Andre, I thought she was way younger than she actually is. Must be because she’s a petite thing. She’s got light brown skin, straight hair that reaches her lower back, and twinkling brown eyes. “You must be Andre’s new man. Dylan, right?”
“Dylan Dyer. It’s so nice to meet you.” I hold out my hand, and she shakes it with a bright smile on her face. She has to look up at me to meet my eye, since the top of her head barely reaches my shoulder.
“Emmy!” a booming voice sounds from inside the house. “Bring those boys in here!”
“Shush!” she shouts back. “It’s my house, Trey!”
As she ushers us into the house, the shouting continues. There seem to be several people who already have lots to say even though we’re not even inside yet. I don’t know what I expected coming here, but it most certainly wasn’t this. Andre is such a calm guy that it’s hard to imagine him growing up in an environment like this. The living room is filled with people, and the place is decorated with streamers and balloons. There is a huge birthday cake on the dining table, and everyone is standing around talking and yelling at each other. There are a gazillion kids playing in the yard, and there is music playing as well, even though everyone talks over it.
My mom would have felt right at home here. I can’t imagine Dad and Amber fitting in here the way she would if she were here. Andre’s arm goes around my middle and he presses a kiss to my cheek before he pushes me gently into the room, right into the crowd of his relatives.
“Damn, Dre, you brought a new man?” A tall black man slaps him on the shoulder. “Don’t believe anything this boy has told you about me.”
“I haven’t told him anything about you, Uncle Trey.” Andre laughs. “I figured he’d take one look at you and realize what a tool you are.”
More people come up to meet me, and I get patted on the back a lot. Everyone seems very excited that Andre brought someone, which leads me to the question…
“How many men have you brought home to meet your parents?” I whisper to Andre when we manage to have a second to ourselves.
“Only one.” His arm is still around me, and he squeezes my hip. “After Eric, I had a few other relationships, but I was very selective about who I took home to meet my mom and dad. So selective that none of them made the cut. Until you.”
Oh wow. That’s a huge thing. Andre may not see his family every weekend or anything, but I know his parents are important to him. For him to bring me here after only two months, when we’re still figuring things out… It fills me with hope and joy.
“I love you,” I murmur, not sure if I can kiss him in front of everyone or not.
He seems to sense my discomfort and solves the problem by putting a hand on the back of my head and pulling me down to him. The kiss is short and sweet, but it still leaves my mind reeling. To have a guy who not only takes me home with him, but who has no trouble with PDA in front of his entire family – that shit is rare. It is in my life, at least.
“Which one is your dad?” I ask, looking around the room at all the men that seem to be the right age. Most of them already introduced themselves as uncles or neighbors or something, so I’m not sure who is left.
“Oh, Dad doesn’t like all this hoopla.” He nods toward the sliding doors leading to the garden. “He’s usually sitting on a bench in the yard, drinking his coffee while he watches the kids play. Do you want to meet him?”
“Well, it is his birthday.” I pull him towards the doors, eager to finally meet the man we’re all here for. It seems strange to me that his wife would throw him a huge party like this if he doesn’t even like being inside with all of the others. Sounds like an interesting dynamic.
Like Andre predicted, his father is sitting just around the corner of the house, where he can’t be seen by anyone inside. The yard is huge, and the kids are playing tag from the looks of it, while he watches them with a smile on his face.
The man looks up when he hears Andre’s voice. “Son. I wondered if you were ever going to show up. And this must be Dylan.” He gets up to shake my hand. “Very nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too, sir.”
He laughs, and I swear it’s the exact same laugh Andre has. In fact, Andre looks exactly like his father, except for their skin tone. His father is way darker than he is, but other than that they look so alike it’s eerie. Both aren’t tall, have a big body and a smile that could light up an entire football stadium. “Call me Arthur,” he says with a grin. “I may be turning 61 today, but that doesn’t mean you need to make me feel old by calling me sir.”
I sit down next to his father while Andre grabs a chair so he can sit with us as well. Andre’s father is taking me in while he keeps smiling, his eyes wandering over every single inch of me before resting on my face once more.
“So you’re Dylan.” He nods once, sort of like he’s confirming something for himself.
“Erm, yeah.” I’m not usually tongue-tied, but I seem to have lost all my words.
“Have you had cake yet?” Andre asks. He looks at his father’s empty coffee cup. “And you need a refill, I see.”
“I was waiting for you to get here to take care of that for me.” His dad pouts. “Don’t make me go back in there, Dre. There’s so much noise.”
Andre rolls his eyes and gets up. “Fine. But only because it’s your birthday.”
Just like that, I’m alone with Arthur Peterson, feeling a little out of my element. I’m not good at meeting parents. Well, I’m solely basing that on my experience with Kian’s father, of course, so that might not be fair to myself. Fact is I’m nervous.
“I don’t bite,” Arthur says without warning. “I don’t know what Andre told you about me, but I’m sure it’s all lies. I’m really not so bad that you should be this tense.”
I force a laugh. “The last time I met someone’s parents wasn’t a huge success,” I confess stupidly. “And I like Andre a whole lot more than I liked my last boyfriend, so…”
“Hence why you’re so nervous.” Arthur doesn’t seem put off by my bluntness. “Look, it’s really simple, Dylan. Andre loves you, and he brought you here. You get the benefit of the doubt, and until you prove me wrong, I’m perfectly fine with you dating my son.”
“Really?” I’m beyond relieved. “Thank you, sir.”
“Okay, now you’re getting on my nerves again.” He nudges me. “I told you to call me Arthur, didn’t I?”
Andre shows up with one of his cousins in tow, holding cake and coffees for all of us. His cousin introduces himself as Jordan before pulling up a chair and declaring he needed to get away from all his aunts asking him when he’s going to have babies with his wife.
“You’re lucky you’re gay,” he grumbles to Andre. “No one is ever asking you when you’ll start popping out kids.”
Arthur speaks up before Andre can reply. “Actually, Dylan is trying to have a baby with two lesbians, so Andre might be a dad before you finally give your mother a grandbaby, Jordan.”
What the hell? I knew Andre was open to his parents about his life, but I didn’t think he’d be this open.
“Fuck,” Jordan grunts. “And you’re younger than me too. I’m screwed.”
“Do you want kids?” I ask him curiously, trying to move past my complete and utter shock.
Jordan shakes his head and I swear he shudders a little. “No way. I’m perfectly happy with my wife and our three dogs. No need to throw diapers and PTA meetings into the mix, right?”
“I don’t think Dylan agrees with you on that,” Arthur says with a small smile.
“I’d love to be knee-deep in diapers at a PTA-meeting,” I agree, loving how incredibly open-minded this man is.
“Dad, can we stop talking about kids for a second?” Andre nods at his cousin. “He’ll start screaming if we talk about the swing set in Dylan’s yard.”
Jordan indeed looks scandalized. “Then where do you put your dirt bikes?”
“In the store,” I reply right away. “Because why the hell would I buy a dirt bike?”
“Dump him,” Jordan tells Andre. “Right fucking now, man.”
Andre merely rolls his eyes.
“Well, I think-”
We never get a chance to find out what Arthur thinks, because two kids run up to us. “Andre!” one of them says happily. “Are you coming to play with us?”
Andre looks over at me to check if I’m okay with that. Of course, I’m already on my feet. “Can I play too?”
The boy, who is around 6 years old, narrows his eyes at me. “Can you play red light, green light?”
“I’m the king of that game.”
“Please,” Andre scoffs. “You’ve never seen me play it. I freeze like a boss.”
“Little kids,” Jordan mutters. “Both of you. I’m ashamed to be related to you.”
“Right back at you.” Andre smacks him on the back of his head before heading with me to where the kids are getting ready for their game.
That’s how I spend the next two hours of the party: playing with the kids. Andre is with me for the first hour, but then he goes inside to talk to his family some more and eat another slice of cake. I play a ton of games with the kids, and even teach them some new ones. Their favorite game by far is Simon says, and I make a show of coming up with weird movements they have to copy. We only stop because the parents are starting to call for the kids to come in and say goodbye to Arthur and Emmy before heading home.
“You’re quite a busy man,” Emmy comments when I finally head back into the house, sweating profusely. She purses her lips as she takes me in. “You’ve got grass stains on your jeans.”
I shrug, no longer as nervous as I was when I came in. “They’ll come out. Or not.”
“Won’t be the first time you have to throw out pants because you play like you’re still 5.” Andre hands me a moist guest towel to wipe my face. When I toss it over the back of a chair, he gives me a glass of ice-cold water, fondly rubbing my back while I drink it. I’m still amazed by how easily he shows affection around his family.
“You boys are staying for dinner,” Emmy warns us. “Don’t even try to tell me no. I’ve hardly had a chance to get to know Dylan.”
“Like I’d leave without helping you clean up.” Andre grins at his mother. “You’d have a fit.”
“Damn right I would.” She pinches his cheek in that way only moms can get away with. “Dylan, you’re helping me in the kitchen. Andre, get your lazy father out of the yard and start cleaning up the mess his guests made.”
“His guests?” Andre mutters. “Pretty sure he didn’t invite them.”
Emmy clicks her tongue at him before dragging me with her into the next room. She’s pretty forceful for such a tiny woman. I haven’t seen her and Arthur together yet, and I’m curious how they work as a team. They are so incredibly different from what I can see, just like my parents, but Emmy and Arthur have been together for forty-five years already. They’re high school sweethearts. Andre has told me all about how they met in gym class, where Arthur was trying to hide underneath the bleachers so he wouldn’t have to do laps, and Emmy pretty much dragged his ass onto the court and yelled at him until he started running. He threw up after five laps, she held back his hair – the guy had long black curly hair back then – and asked him out on a date when he stopped puking.
Weirdest story ever. Not exactly a meet cute like in Andre’s beloved romance novels, but it’s sure as hell funny.
Forty-five years is a long time to be together. I’d be lucky to get that kind of time with Andre.
“So,” Emmy says, handing me a kitchen towel as she gets started on the dishes. “Do you realize it’s been ages since Andre brought anyone home?”
“Yeah, he told me about Eric.” This woman doesn’t play around. That much is clear. And since Andre has been open and honest with his parents about who I am and what I’m getting into with Imani and Deidra, I have absolutely no reason to bullshit his mother.
“He did?” Emmy hands me a dripping wet plate. “Everything? Did he tell you everything?”
“Not every single detail,” I admit. “He told me about their relationship, how isolated he got, and that he didn’t see you and his dad for a long time. Almost lost all of his friends. That’s why his family and friends matter so much to him now, I think.”
Emmy smiles at that. “Very good. Then he must have also told you how things ended between them.”
“More or less.” I know it ended terribly, but Andre never explicitly stated what happened between them. He just said things turned dark. I’m pretty sure Eric laid a hand on him, but I never asked.
“We had to visit him in the hospital,” Emmy says, clutching the cup she’s washing so hard that I’m scared it will scatter. “He had a concussion, a black eye, several bruises all over his body, and a cracked rib.”
“Fuuuuck,” I breathe. I figured it must have been bad, but not that bad.
Emmy turns to me, looking powerful despite her petite frame. It looks like I’m getting the full momma bear treatment, including eyes blazing fire at me.
Here we go…