Chapter Twenty Five: Surprises can be good or bad.
Christmas morning saw the sun finally appear to make its way through the clouds. The weather hadn’t become that much warmer but the sun was now clearly visible in the sky giving hope to all New Havener’s slowing rising from their sleep.
In the Praeses Locus, Jay lay awake watching his now peacefully sleeping boyfriend. Considering everything that had happened recently, he had never seen Andy look so calm and peaceful.
“m-I love you too mmm,” said Andy clearly in his sleep.
Jay smiled at him, he knew who Andy was talking about. Or at least hoped so. Everything between them had never been so perfect and despite the happiness he had found with B and then Edward as time went by, he had never felt this happy nor this comfortable. Andy rolled over to his side mumbling something else that sounded very much like ‘my boyfriend Jay’ which made Jay’s smile grow even wider.
Jay had thought about getting up for some coffee, but he was so compelled watching his boyfriend sleep that he didn’t budge. Ten minutes later he couldn’t stand it anymore and he leaned over and kissed Andy waking him up.
“G-morning,” Andy yawned after realizing where he was.
“Merry Christmas my beautiful boy,” Jay replied, slightly chuckling at the cuteness of Andy’s tiny yawn.
“Oh yeah, Merry Christmas to you to my love,” Andy said giving Jay another kiss.
Simultaneously the pair reached down under their side of the bed to grab boxes they had wrapped the night before. Andy couldn’t help but buzz inside, this was without a doubt the best Christmas ever and he was so happy it was Jay sitting next to him.
“Here my love,” Andy said handing Jay a gift wrapped in red Christmas paper with golden baubles. “Merry Christmas.”
Jay looked joyously at the rectangular box and winked at his boyfriend.
“It’s perfect,” he joked. “Just the right shape and colour, oh thank you Andy, how’d you know I wanted a red rectangular box!”
Andy burst out laughing.
“There is so much I could come back with to that,” he laughed. “Go on, open it.”
Jay smiled and gave Andy a peck on the cheek.
As he unwrapped it he found a beautiful sterling silver bracelet with several links surrounding it with the exception of a small tag with an engraving on it that read Ever yours, ever mine, ever ours – A.
Jay’s face began to fill with tears that he roughly wiped away with the back of his hands.
“Do you like it?” Andy asked, a tad worried that he didn’t.
“It’s…it’s perfect,” Jay replied his voice breaking. “Thankyou.”
“You’re welcome,” Andy said. “No matter what, we will always be together.”
“Even if you go interstate?” Jay asked smiling.
“Turn it over, there’s another engraving on the other side,” Andy advised.
Jay did and found indeed that there was another engraving on the other side of the tag it read: Where you lead, I will follow.
“I got myself a bracelet too, look,” Andy continued.
He showed Jay a much less impressive bracelet, very plain with a tag that also said Where you lead, I will follow.
“In other words,” Andy answered seeing the questioning look on Jay’s face. “If you need to go somewhere, I’m coming and vise-versa. We will always go together.”
Jay reached out and squeezed Andy into a hug. This was more than he had every received from anyone in his life and he was willing to bet that Andy had never made the same offer to anyone else.
Could it be? He wondered to himself.
Could this finally be the kind of relationship you read about in books and see on TV?
Once out of the hug, Andy put the bracelet onto Jay’s right wrist and asked him to place his on his left.
“That way,” Andy said while Jay fastened the clasp. “They’ll come together when we hold hands.”
Jay took that moment to do exactly that taking Andy’s left hand in his right. The connection of their hands, the bracelet and just the energy seemed so perfect. He then grabbed a small blue box and passed it to Andy.
“Merry Christmas beautiful,” he said.
“Thank you darling,” Andy replied unwrapping the gift.
Inside was a gorgeous silver ring with a black onyx stone in the centre. The words Love and Promise circled the outer edge of the stone. Andy nearly dropped the box in shock it was so beautiful.
“It’s not an engagement ring in case you were wondering,” Jay said quickly.
“No,” Andy replied smiling through newly forming tears. “It’s a promise ring isn’t it?” he asked.
There was no explanation needed Andy knew what it was and why Jay had done it and it was without a doubt the most perfect thing imaginable. That is if Andy could have imagined anything like this in the first place.
“Can I put it on you?” Jay asked.
Well, that sent Andy right over the edge as tears flooded out of his eyes.
“Yes, yes!” he cried. “I’m so sorry I’m crying,” he added.
“Don’t be, I love that you are. It shows how much we mean to each other,” Jay replied.
He took the ring out of the box and showed Andy that on the left and right were these indistinguishable markings.
“They’re tribal symbols,” Jay answered seeing the look on Andy’s face. “Basically it’s saying, with courage you’ll survive anything, I thought it was very appropriate.”
Andy beamed nodding in agreement.
Jay picked up Andy’s hand.
“With this ring, I promise that my heart, mind, body and soul belongs to you and no one else. I love you now and always my beautiful Andy.”
As he came to the end of the sentence he slid the ring on Andy’s finger. Andy had just enough time to squeak the word thank you before tears flooded again and he grabbed Jay into a tight embrace. Not only was this the best gift giving process ever, but it was also a ceremonial moment of sorts honoring their commitment to one another. Andy couldn’t believe that, in spite of all the drama he actually ended up with the boy he had always loved.
After celebrating their relationship ceremoniously, they moved onto celebrating it steamily and as per usual both boys came out very satisfied though quite spent.
As they dressed Jay thought of an idea.
“So I know Mel said we shouldn’t leave the hotel, but it’s early A. Maybe we could take a quick walk or something?”
Andy thought about it. He was getting sick of being stuck inside the hotel even if it was with Jay. So he agreed and together the boys left. Despite being dressed in overcoats and scarves the boys could still feel the chill of the winter season and so they set of for Latro-Mare which was just around the block.
“I’m so happy right now,” Andy couldn’t help but say as he squeezed Jay’s hand.
“Me too,” Jay replied. “Despite it all, today just feels so nice and the whole morning has been fun.”
“Followed by more fun,” Andy smiled and winked.
“Andy!” Jay pretended to protest, nudging him in the ribs. “We’re out in public.”
“With no one else around,” Andy confirmed. “Unless you were referring to Casper the ghost,” he laughed.
“You’re right,” Jay smiled looking around and noticing that indeed they were alone. “Well…since we are…alone…”
Jay leaned in and gave Andy a very quick kiss.
“Oh yes, mother’s around the corner isn’t she?” Andy joked. “We can do better than that!”
And with that he pushed Jay up against a nearby wall and the pair made out for a solid 5 minutes. Even Jay had calmed down enough that he didn’t care if anyone walked by. Panting the pair pulled apart just as a woman and her husband strolled past.
“Merry Christmas boys!” the lady called joyfully.
“And many happy returns,” her husband finished.
“Merry Christmas!” the boys replied at once, noticing that they didn’t seem to take offense at all to Jay and Andy’s sudden and very passionate PDA.
“Come on,” Andy tugged at Jay’s elbow. “Let’s get some coffee.”
They rounded the corner in very high spirits and were just about to enter the café when Jay stopped and pulled Andy back.
“What?” Andy asked ready to flee if the case warranted.
“Isn’t that…?” Jay started taking another look in the window. “Isn’t that Mel…and Linds?” he asked surprised.
Andy peered into his favourite café and noticed indeed that their favourite former lesbian couple were in fact sitting across from one another enjoying a hot beverage. Straining to see more, Andy even noticed Mel place her arm on Linds’ who smiled in return.
Simultaneously the boys jumped back from the café lest they be seen and turned to each other.
“What the heck?” Andy asked. “They…they’re…”
But his voice just trailed off.
“Having coffee together?” Jay suggested slightly chuckling.
“Yeah, but weren’t they broken up?” Andy asked. “Last I heard they were going through a very rough mediation.”
“Well,” Jay replied coyly. “Mel always did say she liked it rough.”
“Wow,” Andy started, daring to peak in the window again.
This time he actually caught Linds planting a quick kiss on Mel’s lips.
“I guess love is in the air for many people today,” he finished.
“Damn straight,” Jay replied, pulling his lover back and planting a kiss on his lips.
“Come on,” Jay beckoned. “Let’s leave them be. If it has worked out or if they’re trying to work it out, we best leave them to do it alone.”
“But…” Andy started. “Coffeeeeeeeeeeeee.” He whined.
“There’s coffee at the hotel,” Jay replied smiling at his boyfriend.
“What?” Andy asked noticing the smile.
“You’re so cute when you whine!” Jay finished. “I should keep that in mind.”
Andy gave his boyfriend a short whack on the head and the pair headed off back in the direction of the hotel.
Later that afternoon Rick was in his room getting dressed for the dinner at the Praesus Locus. He had phoned Bryce the night before confirming his activities for the day and had advised where he would be and, more importantly, who else would be there. He still had no idea what exactly Bryce wanted with Jay, but for 500 dollars he was happy to simply locate Jay for him.
“Good morning Rick,” a sleepy Carmita yawned as she walked past his room.
It had turned out to be such a late night for the two of them that they hadn’t found their way to bed until 7am. She was surprised therefore to see him wide awake and getting dressed at this hour, so much so that as she passed the door she did a double-take.
“You’re up early!” she remarked.
“Yeah, just getting ready to go out,” Rick replied putting on his shoes.
“Oh by the way,” he started, standing to get something out of the closet.
He found what he was looking for and gave it to her.
“Merry Christmas,” he beamed.
Carmita blushed, shocked. She wasn’t expecting anything from him at all.
“Oh my goodness,” she replied. “That’s so nice of you.”
“Just my way of saying thank you,” Rick replied.
Unwrapping the gift Carmita found a pair of red castanets and a box of assorted Pestiños and Polvorones.
“Goodness me, thank you Rick,” she smiled.
“I thought a nice touch from the old country would be good,” Rick replied.
“Oh si!” Carmita confirmed. “I didn’t pick up any of these this year. Thank you, thank you,” and she gave him a big hug.
“So,” she started, closing the lid of the box and taking in how nice he looked. “You’re off somewhere special? You meet someone, hmm? He nice?”
“No,” Rick started, but she interjected.
“Oh come on Rick you can tell me. Tall, dark, handsome, with a quirk for Chinese fishing?”
Rick couldn’t help but laugh at the thought.
“No, I’m off to a Christmas party Andy’s holding. He invited me to bury the hatchet as they say.”
“A party?” Carmita whined. “Oooooh, I want to come!”
“Who says you can’t?” Rick replied. “Andy never said I couldn’t bring anyone. Come with me.”
“Really?” Carmita asked her face lighting like a Christmas Tree.
“Really,” Rick confirmed. “Oh and by the way, I got you one more thing.”
He walked back over to the closet and took out what was unmistakably a dress bag.
“Oh no, Rick! No! That’s too much!” Carmita complained.
“Ok, I’ll take it b-” he started.
But before he could even finish she had yanked the bag out of his hands.
“Kidding!” she smiled unzipping it.
Inside was a stunning mostly green with red-lining flamingo dress.
“Oooooooh!” Carmita cooed. “It’s gorgeous!”
“I didn’t know if you’d think it was silly or not,” Rick said.
“Not at all!” Carmita replied taking it out of the bag excitedly. “It’s perfect! I’ll wear it to Andy’s party!”
Before they knew it seven oclock had arrived and it was time for Lauren’s little get together for Christmas. Andy had warned Jay that Sam might be there and though Jay had some reservations he knew even if Sam showed up he would be fine as long as he had Andy by his side. And so at 6:57pm, Andy always being punctual pressed the elevator button and the smartly dressed pair headed down to the dining area.
“Hey boys!” Lauren called out from behind the reception desk.
They walked over.
“How’s your Christmas been?”
“Fabulous!” Andy replied, thrusting out his hand with Jay’s promise ring.
“Oh my god,” Lauren replied shocked. “You’re not-?”
But Jay stopped her at the word.
“No Lauren, it’s a promise ring.”
“Awwwww, that’s so sweet. I didn’t know people still did that anymore.”
“Romantic people do,” Rein replied, popping her head out from the back room.
“Hey Rein!” Jay called out running over to give her a hug.
“Damn dude, she gets a hug from him before I do from you?” she questioned Andy. “What’s wrong with this picture?”
“I know, too many things,” Andy replied, leaning over the desk to hug his friend.
“All done mom,” Rein advised, pulling Andy in for a hug. “Merry Christmas Andy!”
“Merry Christmas Rein!” Andy replied. “Don’t you look fabulous?”
“Again with Rein getting the attention, it must be Christmas!” Lauren remarked sarcastically.
“Thank you Andy,” Rein replied talking over her mother. “Yes I only got it yesterday.”
“Ok guys, enough chatter,” Lauren said. “We’ll have time for that later.”
She turned off the computer she was typing on and stepped out from behind the desk.
“Ok so we don’t have much as you can imagine,” she said her voice suddenly echoing quite loudly. “What with the cook being off and all. Well…”
She pointed to the door indicating Jay and Andy go in, Andy pushed open the door and was just about to walk in when…
“SURPRISE!” came a chorus of people from in the room as streamers were thrown and whistles were blown.
As soon as they got over the shock Andy and Jay looked in and indeed it seemed that almost everyone they knew in Pittsburg had arrived.
Micah and Ben were there and so was Aunt Deb wearing a very characteristic Christmas jumper. Mel was there and Linds was standing right with her not surprisingly with champagne in hand. Even Emmett and Ted had arrived, Emmett looking outrageously festive in a red top and green feather boa compared to his partner Ted who wore his usual grey suit. And for Jay, a very nice surprise to see his mother standing next to Micah and Ben.
“You couldn’t come to Friday night dinner son, so Friday night dinner came to you!” Micah yelled out.
“Yeah!” Chorused the remaining people.
“Ok people no crowding the door, safety hazard!” Lauren yelled out as everyone moved back to allow them to enter.
“You set this up?” Andy asked her as Jay raced over to his mother.
“Well Mel and I did actually,” Lauren smiled.
Andy pulled her in for a huge bear hug.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said. “I love you so much Lauren!”
“I know you do,” she replied hugging him back fiercely. “Now go say hi to your family!”
She gave a signal to what Andy now saw was a band on the stage and suddenly joyous jazz music filled the room. Andy didn’t need telling twice and he bolted to Micah giving him the biggest hug he could manage not being able to avoid the tears from streaming down his face.
“Merry Christmas son!” he said proudly.
“Merry Christmas Papa!” Andy cried into his chest. “I love you so much.”
He then grabbed Ben.
“Dad! Merry Christmas!” he yelled excitedly.
“Merry Christmas my gorgeous boy!” he said hugging his son.
The party was amazing. Lauren it seemed had planned everything down to the last detail. The room was glowing in streamers of red and green with mistletoe hanging here and there to encourage a lot of passion. A huge Christmas Tree stood to the left of the stage with bundles of presents lain under and even the tables were adorned festively with Christmas table cloths and lovely wreath holding candles.
Andy could see that name tags had been placed on separate tables and was thankful to see that his table saw Ben, Micah, Ms Taylor, Jay and himself only. Andy indicated to his parents that he was going to make the rounds and they were more than happy for him too.
“Ms Taylor!” Andy yelled out excitedly over the music. “It’s so wonderful to see you.”
They embraced quickly and Jay couldn’t help but smile as he watched on.
“And you too Andy,” she replied. “And, wow, that ring is gorgeous. Jay told me he had bought it for you, it’s lovely. Oh and call me Jenny will you? A commitment like yours negates the need for formality,” she smiled warmly.
“Thank you Jenny,” Andy replied. “And thanks for coming. I notice we’re sitting together for the meal, I can’t wait to properly catch-up.”
Andy continued the rounds racing to his Aunt Deb next.
“Andy!” she squealed in delight hugging him so tightly his feet rose up from the floor.
“Welcome to New Haven Aunt Deb!” Andy beamed.
“I am so happy to be here sugar, oh and there’s sunshine, hey sunshine!” she beamed pulling Jay, who had arrived just then, into a hug.
“Oh, it’s so nice to be here. And as for you two, don’t think I don’t know what happens when you’re upstairs,” she chortled.
“Aunt Deb,” Andy whined.
“But seriously,” she continued. “I don’t care what anyone else tell you ok, I am just so happy for you both, I love ya’s both! I miss you both too, you know at the diner! Not the same without you boys!” she laughed again.
Andy and Jay said their goodbyes to Deb and made their way around the room. They spoke to Mel briefly and while they waited for Linds who was filling some more champagne into her glass she asked them politely to not ask any questions saying that things were looking good, but she didn’t know where they were just yet. Linds though appearing quite nervous apologized for her actions at the court room and advised that she had moved out of B’s apartment and was staying with a friend.
They then spoke to Emmett and Ted, the former crushing Andy into a hug so tight he was gasping for air afterwards. Emmett couldn’t believe the temptation of beautiful men he had seen so far in New Haven, but assured them both that no one compared to his Teddy. Ted on the other hand was just greatful to be away from Pittsburg for the holidays as things were stressfull at work.
Then came the meals. They had a lovely entrée of Tomato Soup (with Luren suggesting the red symbolized santa, which had everyone laughing), followed by a wonderful dinner including Turkey which Ben graciously carved while everyone crowded around.
Just as the Turkey was being dished up Andy felt to hands covering his eyes.
“Guess who my little Andy!” came a joyous sing-song voice.
“It wouldn’t happen to be my favourite spicy Latina would it?” Andy asked, turning around to see Carmita behind him.
The pair embraced, before Rick stepped forward and hugged both Andy and Jay.
“I’m so glad you could come,” Andy told his friend.
“I’m happy to be here Andy, Merry Christmas!” he’d replied.
Not too much later Lauren had found name tags and placed them. With Andy and Jay’s table being filled, she placed Rick on her table which included Rein, Mel and Linds and placed Carmita at a table with Deb, Ted and Emmett. It didn’t take Andy long to see that Carmita was fitting right in with the others. At one stage he even saw Deb and Emmett shriek in laughter with Deb yelling out something about Carmita being a stitch. She did seem to be clearly enjoying herself.
As for Rick he also seemed comfortable at what seemed to be the more demure table with Lauren, Rein, Mel and Linds, all of which seemed to be in deep philosophical discussion which Andy couldn’t help but overhear as he passed by.
“I think the world had become a little too politically correct,” he’d heard Rick say.
“I agree,” Lauren piped up. “To resort to Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas it’s a joke.”
“Ah, but that’s religion for you isn’t it?” Mel had replied.
Andy couldn’t help but giggle as he filled his glass with some Midori and Lemonade. As he walked back to the table, Rick approached him.
“Hey Andy, where’s the bathroom?” he asked seemingly embarrassed to do so.
“Oh,” Andy replied. “You have to go back into the foyer. There isn’t one out here.”
Rick nodded at the information confirming he understood and left the room as Andy rejoined his table. As he got to the foyer however, he took out his cell and dialed Bryce’s number.
“Hey Rick,” Bryce said. “Got some info for me?”
“Yep, I’m at the Dètendez-Vouz,” Rick replied. “Jay’s here he’s in the dining room with everyone else.”
“That’s perfect!” Bryce replied. “Give me two minutes, I’ll be right there.”
Not too much later Rick was back at the table with Lauren, Rein, Mel and Linds when he received a text.
I’m here. I wont come in.
Can you get him outside?
Despite the fact that he couldn’t understand why Bryce wouldn’t just walk in and talk to Jay, he decided to deal with what was asked of him and so walked over to Andy’s table.
“Hey guys!” he called out, a little too merrily.
“Hey Rick!” Ben replied. “Having a good time?”
“Oh yeah definitely. I never knew Andy knew a lawyer that cared so deeply for philosophical topics! It’s been a lot of fun.”
“Yep, that’s Mel for you,” Micah replied. “I think it’s safe to say Andy has a huge variety of friends, don’t you son?”
But as Andy was eating at precisely that moment he simply nodded.
“Anyway,” Rick continued. “Jay, there’s someone outside that’s here to see you, I guess he didn’t want to come in.”
“Thanks Rick,” Jay smiled and wiping his mouth with a napkin he stood up and left the room as Rick took a seat in Jay’s chair.
As Jay walked out into the foyer he couldn’t see anyone at all. The place was empty. But then he remembered that Rick had said the guy was waiting outside, so out he stepped and almost fell into Bryce.
“You!” he screeched with loathing. “What the hell are you doing here?”
But just then Bryce pulled a gun out from his overcoat.
“I’m here for you,” he replied pointing the gun at Jay.
Jay went white as a sheet.
“But…” he started.
“But nothing, get in the limo,” Bryce spat clenching his jaw.
Jay had no choice but to do so and the moment he opened the door Bryce shoved him inside and took a seat next to him.
“Driver, you know where to go,” he said with a wry smile as he kept the gun pointed at Jay and the driver exited the hotel parking lot.