#76 Where you lead, I will follow
Waiting for me at the airport after a week in Brazil isn’t Andre like I’d been hoping. Instead, it’s James, Nova, and Aurora. A weird threesome to be waiting for me, but I smile at them anyway.
“Not who you were expecting, I know,” James says apologetically. “Andre and Liv are swamped at the store. Another one of those horror days where everything somehow goes wrong. Thomas’ car broke down, and Tracy is stuck in surgery at the clinic, so…” He shrugs. “You’ll have to make do with us.”
Something about his explanation feels off, and Nova shoots him a knowing look that tells me I’m right about James lying to me, but I don’t say anything. I just give Nova a hug, grab my bag, and follow James and Aurora out of the airport. He asks me if I want to switch while we walk to the car, which of course I do. He carries my luggage and I carry 11-month old Aurora, who looks up at me with those gorgeous blue eyes she got from her father.
“You’re a pretty good welcome committee,” I tell her, making a silly face. “Did you miss your Uncle Dylan?”
Nova laughs. “She hardly even knows who you are.”
“Nova,” James chides her as we reach the car. “Be nice.”
“Sorry,” she mutters, but I swear to God she’s rolling her eyes at him. It’s fun seeing James in his role as both father and stepdad. I think it’s safe to say he excels at both, but that doesn’t mean his wife’s kid won’t give him sass from time to time. Lord knows I was that way when I was a kid. So much worse than Nova, in fact. I was all sass all day every day.
I sit in the back of the car with Aurora strapped into her car seat right next to me, while Nova rides shotgun. She’s in control of the radio, changing the channel every minute or so. James complains about that half-heartedly, but he doesn’t really tell her off. He may be a big, bad-ass, tattooed cop, but deep down he’s a little softie.
“Where are we going?” I ask James when he takes a left where he should have taken a right turn. “Did you forget I moved?”
“This is a shortcut,” he replies.
“Bullshit.” I was right all along. Something is up. “James, where are you taking me?”
“You’re such a terrible liar,” Nova groans. “It only took him five seconds to figure it out. Why didn’t you just tell him you had to run an errand before dropping him off?”
“I could have said that if you hadn’t just ruined the surprise.” He sighs heavily. “They never should have trusted me with this. I’m terrible at lying.”
“Dylan knew something was up the second he saw us,” Nova says, patting his arm. “It’s not your fault.”
“You’re cute and all, great bonding moment, but is anyone going to tell me where you’re taking me?” I look around, trying to figure out what part of town we’re heading to. “Does Andre have a surprise for me or something? We’re going downtown, aren’t we?”
“Not saying anything,” James tells me sternly. “Andre will kill me if I ruin this any more than I already have.”
“Jesus, James, you just confirmed Andre indeed planned something.” Nova sounds completely exasperated.
I’m getting excited now. I was disappointed that Andre wasn’t waiting for me with open arms the second I got back, but this is so much more exciting. There is only one problem… “James, you can’t take me to whatever the surprise is while I’m wearing jeans and a dirty shirt. I need to change into something way sexier than this.”
Nova looks over her shoulder at me. “Sexier than torn jeans?” Little Miss Sarcastic. “Impossible.”
“Nova!” James laughs. “Dylan, I can’t do that. My instructions were clear: pick you up from the airport, keep you from suspecting anything, and then take you to The Palace.”
The guy is so bad at keeping secrets it’s funny. “You definitely can’t take me to a club without allowing me to change first. I need a glitter suit for that. Turn the car around, Officer Tyson.”
With a groan and a muttered curse, he does. “I ruined the surprise anyway,” he tells a protesting Nova. “Let him wear his glitter suit if that makes him happy.”
“It does make me happy,” I chime in, grinning from ear to ear. “Very happy.”
I have no idea what Andre has planned, but I love that he’s trying to surprise me. He’s not very good at it – what kind of amateur sends James Tyson and his two daughters to pick me up and keep the surprise a secret? – but he’s trying, and it’s cute as hell. I’m betting it’s a surprise party if it’s at Shaughna and Dshawn’s club.
Despite being tired from the plane ride, I feel energized as I rush through my house, freshening up and changing into my powder blue glitter suit. No one even blinks when I walk back into the living room in my extravagant outfit. By now, I guess everyone is used to all that is Dylan Dyer.
As we drive to the club a little later than planned thanks to this very necessary detour, I start getting a bit nervous. I’m usually the one planning surprises, not getting them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving every second of it already, but it’s weird to receive the big gesture instead of to be the one pulling the strings.
“Any hints on what I’ll be walking into?” I ask Nova and James pleadingly while James gets Aurora out of her car seat.
“James is not allowed to talk anymore,” his stepdaughter informs me. “And I’m a vault.”
“I liked it better when James was still allowed to talk.” I pout, but that doesn’t do me any good with Nova, so I give up. I’ll just have to accept that some things will remain a surprise.
What’s definitely not surprising is that Shaughna is waiting for us, leading us straight up the stairs to the karaoke bar upstairs. “You wore a glitter suit on the plane?” she asks in disbelief. “Wait… Fucking hell, James. Did you crack?”
“He did, and I love him for it.” I’m bouncing off the walls with adrenaline by now. “Come on, Shaughna, let me see my man.”
She sighs deeply before opening the door to the bar with a flourish, revealing a room filled with people. All my friends, my family, and I even spot Emmy, Arthur, and some other Peterson family members. Blaze is huddled behind my dad, overwhelmed by so much noise, and Amber is halfway through what’s probably not her first glass of wine, her cheeks rosy. Since it’s the middle of the day, the bar wouldn’t normally be open yet, so this is truly all for me. Andre threw me a surprise party. I’m not sure why yet, since I was only gone for seven days, but I’m eager to find out.
“He’s here!” Shaughna shouts over all the noise. Girl’s got some pipes on her.
Immediately, all attention is on me. A song starts playing over the speakers, and I recognize it right away. It’s the theme from Gilmore Girls.
Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead
After a few beats, I hear Andre’s voice joining in. It takes me a moment, but then I spot him walking onto the stage, holding a microphone. Hogging the spotlight is more my thing than his, so I love that he’s doing this. Singing to me. Doing all this for me.
“Dylan,” he says when Dshawn turns the music down. “Would you please join me on stage?”
Would I ever… I make my way to the crowd, people slapping me on the back and yelling stuff in my ear. It’s not until I’m on stage that I realize there is a big banner on the other side of the room, where I came in moments before. It’s bright pink and it says Happy Engagement! So that’s what this is. It’s an engagement party.
For the first time since he said yes, I truly feel happy with every fiber of my being.
“Welcome back, love,” Andre says softly as I throw my arms around him and hug him close.
“I missed you,” I whisper right before I kiss him.
Me going to Brazil for a week was the right thing for both of us, but I’m ready to go back to where we left off now. I’ve truly forgiven him, and I’m ready to enjoy being engaged to the man of my dreams.
“You’re wearing a suit,” Andre realizes when we break apart. “Did James say something?”
“You can’t trust that man to play things cool.”
We both laugh, and I’m happy to see he doesn’t mind one bit. I’m still amazed by what he did for me, and I’m happy I’m not in my plane clothes anymore, especially with all those eyes on me. I spot Deidra and Imani in the crowd, and I blow them a kiss, happy they’re here.
It looks like even Thomas’ mother came, which is a huge deal. When I came out at Christmas many years ago, she called me an abomination. Thomas threw her out of his apartment and they didn’t talk to each other for months. They patched things up when he and Tracy bought a house together, got married, and started having kids. She’s been civil around me the past years, but I didn’t expect her to show up for my engagement party. To be fair, she looks out of place, but it still means a lot that she’s here. I’ve known her since I was a little boy. She was there for me when my mother died. She was a fixture in my life until that day she made it clear that me being bisexual made me unworthy in her eyes. I can’t believe she came to celebrate my engagement to a man.
I turn back to Andre and lean in for another kiss. I bet he started planning this seconds after I called him to let him know I was still all in with him. He may not be the king of big gestures the way I am, but damn he did a good job. Truly everyone is here. Thomas and Tracy with their three rugrats, Liv and James with Nova and Aurora, Sandra, Imani and Deidra with our little bun in the oven, Ivan and Jayne with Anja and Arne, Malik, Chase and Kyle, Francesca and Joshua with their three kids, Derrek and Matthew, Dad and Amber with Blaze, Aston and Annabel with Steffi and Benji, and even Mila’s brother Dominic with his wife Zoey and their son Xavier.
The door in the back opens to reveal a tall man in a suit, his arm around a girl with wild brown hair and a wicked grin. Nathan and Rose Storm. Shaughna must have invited them, and I love that they came. Nathan was an important part of my journey, in a way. Without that wonderful house, the realization that I should be having a baby with Deidra might have taken me way longer. A woman runs up to him and Rose, and I recognize her as Caroline when she kisses Nathan on the mouth while trying to balance their 2-year-old son Ash on her hip. And all that with her 4-year-old daughter Daisy tugging on her skirt. It’s not until Nathan takes Ash from her that I realize Caroline is sporting a huge baby bump. She must be six or seven months along already.
Soon, I will be one of them. One of the many parents in this room. And Andre will be right there with me, just as much the father of our child as I am.
“Thank you for coming, everyone,” Andre says into the microphone while I’m still staring at all the people who showed up. “I’m not much for speeches and spotlights, but today, I guess I have to be.” He shoots me a quick smile. He almost seems… nervous? “I guess most of you know that Dylan and I have not had the easiest time this month. Three weeks ago, he asked me to marry him, and I was stupid enough to tell him no. Thank God I came to my senses and he took me back. The second time he asked, I said yes.”
“Why are you rehashing this?” I mutter, not too fond of this little trip down to memory lane.
“Just wait,” he whispers before going on. “Dylan… You didn’t get to propose to me the way you envisioned. You always go big, and I think that since our last proposal went up in flames, we should get a do-over, right?”
A do-over? “But… we’re already engaged,” I remind him.
He laughs. “Yeah, we are, but you don’t have a ring yet, do you? I think I should remedy that.” With that, he sinks down onto one knee and pulls out a small black box.
My heart stops for a second.
“Dylan Dyer,” he says, his voice breaking a little. “Will you do me the honor of becoming my husband?”
“Yes,” I reply before he can even flip open the box. “Of course I will.”
As everyone cheers, I get down too so I can kiss my fiancé. This gesture, this day, everything he planned… It’s amazing. He’s trying to make up for what happened, and damn he’s nailing it. I couldn’t have planned any of this better even if I’d tried.
Just when I think this can’t get anymore perfect, he opens the box, and I finally see my ring. It’s a silver band with a large pink stone in the middle, with smaller stones on either side. They’re red, orange, yellow, green, and purple. The colors of the pride flag. This man knows me better than I know myself. I never would have thought of that, but he did, somehow. It screams my name.
“I love it,” I breathe, holding out my hand so he can slip it onto my finger. “It’s gorgeous.”
“It reminds me of you.” He takes my face in his hands and gazes into my eyes. “I love you, Dylan. I hope you know that.”
“I do, babe. I do.”
“Get a room!” someone yells when we kiss again and things get a little steamier than appropriate.
We break apart and get up so I can hold up my hand, showing off the flashiest ring in the history of engagement rings. Now I can never make fun of Amber again for getting me rainbow stuff for my birthday. This is the gayest ring I’ve ever seen, and I love it.
As we walk off stage, a song starts playing. It’s Reflecting light by Sam Philips – a song that played during one of the most iconic scenes from Gilmore Girls. The one where Luke and Lorelai have their first date, and they dance at his sister’s wedding.
“This song should be playing when we get married,” I tell Andre as I intertwine my fingers with his. “It’s perfect.”
“Anything you want, love.” He holds up our hands and presses a kiss to the ring. “Anything at all.”