#7 Love you more
Blaze hides behind my dad when he sees that I didn’t come alone today. My dad is a big, broad man, so he’s the perfect person to stand behind when you’re shy like my little brother. He’s nothing like me, really. I take after my mom, who was insane. I don’t mean that in a bad way. She just was, and that explains how I ended up as a childlike 32-year-old with no filter. Blaze is quiet, reserved, and it takes him a while to warm up to someone. That’s why I make sure to see him at least once a week. I went on vacation for three weeks when Blaze was two, and he looked at me like he’d never seen me before when I came back. It took a month before he was truly comfortable around me again.
“Honey, that’s Kian,” Dad tells his youngest son, stroking his hair. “Dylan’s boyfriend, remember? He’s coming with you guys to the zoo.”
“The zoo?” Blaze asks, peeking around Dad’s big frame. “We’re going to the zoo?”
“I was planning to take you, but I can tell you’re not interested in seeing the giraffes,” I tease, sticking out my tongue. “I guess Kian and I will just have to go alone.”
“No! I want to come!” Blaze finally emerges, being brave so he won’t have to miss out on our adventure.
“Then get your coat and shoes,” Dad orders.
While we wait for Blaze to get ready, Dad nods to the couch, silently telling us to sit down. I take Kian’s hand without even thinking about it, and I can feel him flinch. Before I’d have been hurt, but I understand him better now. He could never sit like this in front of his father, and he doesn’t know mine that well yet. He doesn’t pull back his hand, though, intertwining his fingers with mine instead. That’s progress right there.
“Nice to see you again.” Dad smiles kindly at Kian. “How are things going at the office? Did you win that case you were telling me about last time?”
“Yeah, I did. The guy has 50/50 custody now.” Kian is a divorce lawyer, and he specializes in complicated custody cases. It’s a cruel world that probably doesn’t help with his views on love, but he enjoys the court cases and always comes home ecstatic when he feels he did right by his clients. They’re mostly men who are afraid of their wife getting sole custody of the kids, and wanting much more than that.
“Good,” Dad says with a nod. “I tried to get that with Dylan, but his mom fought me so hard that I eventually just gave up.”
Wait… what? I look at my father like he’s crazy. “You did not. You walked out and I was only with you every other weekend.”
“Yeah, because that’s what your mom wanted, and I was the one without a job at the time, who left his family for a younger woman. Things were different back then. The judges always sided with the woman, and your mother was very good at making it seem like I was the worst father in the world.” He shakes his head and drags a hand over his face. “Not that I want to speak badly of your mother, of course. She did a fine job raising you. In the end, I decided it was better for everyone to just make my peace with it.”
“How did I not know this?” I mutter, feeling like my whole world just shifted. I thought Dad just didn’t give a shit about me at the time. Sure, he was an okay father those four days a month, but it was Mom who raised me. Who picked me up when I fell, dried my tears, came to my piano recitals, and tucked me in every night.
“I shouldn’t have said anything.” Dad closes the subject the moment Blaze walks back in. “Are you ready?” he asks.
“I want to go see the giraffes,” Blaze replies, his eyes lit up with excitement.
“Give your old man a hug first.”
Blaze does as he’s told, and seeing the two of them so sweet together hurts a little bit, just like it always does. I never had that with him.
I don’t know what to make of what he just told me about the custody battle that I never knew about, and it’s too late to ask my mother’s side of things. She died when I was 19, so it’s not like I can ever find out the whole truth. She was 20 when she had me, and Dad was already 31 at the time. I bet the age difference didn’t help Dad to win the custody battle either. Nor the fact that he left her for a younger woman. One he didn't even end up with.
“Let’s go.” I get up and nod at Dad. “Give my love to Amber.” She always sleeps in on Saturday morning, and I bet my dad will crawl back in with her the second we’re gone. I shudder just thinking about it. I like Amber just fine, but she’s 30, and he’s 63, and the thought of them having sex… Ugh. No. It took me a long time to be okay with their relationship, and I am most certainly still not okay with thinking about them getting it on.
My dad has always had a thing for younger women. He met Amber when she was in her early twenties. When he introduced her, I felt so weird about her being younger than me. It's still a bit weird, but she's sweet and she gave me Blaze.
“How was school this week?” I ask Blaze when he’s safely strapped into his seat and Kian drives us to the zoo. I’m sitting in the back with my brother so we can talk more easily. I love that Kian is tagging along, but today is all about Blaze.
“I learned all about numbers.” He looks very proud. “I can count to twenty.”
We spend the drive like that, Blaze trying to impress me with everything he’s learned at school so far, and me applauding every tiny victory. I love that kid so damn much.
At the zoo, he turns into a different boy entirely. He’s running ahead of us, pointing at things, and running back to tug at my hand so I will walk faster. He doesn’t engage with Kian, but he doesn’t seem scared of him either.
When we reach the giraffes, he asks me to put him up on the small wall in front of the glass division. I always make him watch from here, because last year I was not paying attention for one second, and he almost climbed over a fence. I’m not taking any chances with him.
“Did you know giraffes always do everything standing up?” Kian asks Blaze, leaning against the low wall. “They even sleep standing up.”
“I know.” Blaze sounds utterly unimpressed.
“And they all have different spots. It’s like fingerprints for humans. You can recognize a giraffe by its spots.”
“What do you mean?” Blaze asks, looking down at his hands. “Like fingers?”
Kian leans in closer and points at Blaze’s fingers. “See all those little lines there? I have them too, see? But mine are different from yours. All humans have different fingertips, and when you touch something, you leave a print. Those prints can be used to find out who touched something.”
“Oh,” Blaze breathes, his eyes wide with curiosity. “That’s how the police catches bad guys, right?”
“So if a giraffe does something bad, you can know who did it by looking at his spots?”
“That’s very smart,” Kian praises him.
Oh my God. I think I just died and went to heaven. Kian must have looked up giraffe facts to have something to talk to Blaze about. How cute is that?
“Did you know giraffes only need half an hour of sleep every day?” Blaze asks Kian.
“Wow, really?” Kian sits down next to Blaze now, and the boy doesn’t cower away from him like he normally would. “What else do you know about giraffes?”
The two of them end up talking about giraffe fun facts for half an hour. I just stand behind them, too scared to say anything for fear I’ll break the spell. When they eventually get back up and we start walking around the zoo again, Blaze even holds out his hand to Kian when we get to a big crowd. He likes to be held when we’re around lots of people. He got lost in the mall once, and it took poor Amber twenty minutes to find him. It scared Blaze so much he’s now a big hand holder. Normally, he’ll only hold my hand. Or Thom’s, since he tags along often too. But never Mila’s, or any of my other friends. Not that Mila often opts to hang around with kids, of course. To say she hates kids would be too strong, but she’s not a big fan.
Today, Blaze holds Kian’s hand, and it’s enough to make me feel like I’m floating.
“Thank you,” I tell Kian when we get back to the car at the end of the morning. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“He’s a really sweet kid,” he replies with a fond smile. “I’d love to come along more often.”
“Yes.” I hug him and give him a kiss. “Yes, I’d love that.”
“Dylan?” Blaze asks from the car. “Can we go now? I’m hungry.”
“Of course, baby bro. We’re going.”
Kian and I even stay for lunch with my family, and by the time we get back to his house, it’s late in the afternoon, and I’m ready to jump his bones. We don’t even talk when we take off our shoes and coats. We’re on each other in seconds, tearing at clothes and feverishly kissing each other. We suck each other off in the hallway, and then he drags me inside and bends me over the kitchen table, fucking me until I come so hard I black out for a second.
When we’re cleaned up, he tells me he has some work to do before dinner. I have Liv and Andre’s website to work on, so I follow him into his home office, and we work in silence together. It’s utterly perfect. We’ve never done this before. When we have work, we usually each go to our own house, or I go see Thom, hang out at the bakery, whatever. I don’t sit with him in here. Never. I’ve given him blowjobs in here, sure. But it’s never been like this.
“How about I take you out to dinner?” Kian asks when he finally shuts his laptop.
“How about we order in instead?” I don’t feel like going out, but I really don’t want this night to end either.
“Perfect. You pick the food, I’ll get us something to drink.”
I settle into the couch, scrolling through my phone to order our favorites from the Thai place a few blocks down. When he gets back, he’s got a glass of wine for himself, and a beer for me.
A beer I didn’t buy. He must have picked it up himself.
No words are needed. Actions speak so much louder. He’s stepping up today. He’s getting to know my family. He wants me to be with him even when he’s working. And he knows my favorite drink is not wine.
“Come here.” I pull him against me and press kisses all over his face.
He sighs happily. “I love you so much.”
“I love you more.”