Sunday, December 19, 2010
Viva Las Christmas (Kevin's Family Christmas)
Kevin Bennett immediately stopped playing with the window on his economy car. They’d chosen to leave the Maserati at home, though Michael had insisted on driving, which was more than fine with him. He crossed his arms over his chest and allowed himself a tiny pout.
“You shouldn’t sulk either, sweetheart. It’s Christmas Eve Eve.”
He eyed Michael through a lock of black hair. “Otherwise known as December 23rd.”
“Yes, technically,” Michael said, cheerfully.
He turned to look out at the brown hills and cars speeding past them on the freeway. Just ahead of them, the Las Vegas skyline loomed.
“I still think we should have gone to Northern California to see your family for Christmas. Or stayed home and had our own Christmas, like last year.”
His husband nodded. “Last year was fantastic, I agree. We’ll have a more private celebration for New Year’s. But as part of the human race, Kev, we sometimes have to put our own preferences aside to please others. You said yourself your father hadn’t asked to see you in years.”
Me and my big mouth.
“Well, maybe that was a good thing.” Kevin sighed.
He had been surprised when he’d received first an email and then an actual phone call from his father asking him to come to Vegas for Christmas. Something about making amends for all their lost time. Unfortunately he’d said something about it to Michael and here they were almost to Vegas.
“I saw your face, sweetheart. You wanted to come.” Michael reached over and patted Kevin’s leg. “It’s going to be all right. If we feel uncomfortable, we’ll go home. It’s only five hours or so.”
“And if I changed my mind since then? Can’t we turn around and go back now?”
“Give it a chance. For me, if not your dad.”
Crap, when Michael put it that way, what else could he do? He slunk down in the seat. “Okay.”
Michael glanced at him briefly, smiling. “There’s my beautiful boy.”
“Don’t lay it on too thick,” Kevin said with a snort. And speaking of laying it on, it was time to retouch his lip gloss. He reached into his jeans pocket and took out the cherry colored and flavored gloss. Pulling the visor down to expose the mirror, Kevin layered a generous amount with the sponge applicator.
“Trying to put so much on they won’t kiss you?”
“Kiss me? Oh, babe, trust me, the old man won’t want to kiss me. Don’t you remember him from when we were kids? Not exactly warm and fuzzy.”
Michael shrugged. “People change. And what about this woman he lives with now? Lulu?”
“I don’t even know her. She better not kiss me.”
His husband chuckled. “Well, that leaves all your kisses for me then.”
Kevin’s stomach gurgled sourly as Michael exited the freeway. That meant they were almost there. Great.
When they had finished exiting, instead of continuing down the street, Michael pulled into the driveway of a small strip mall and stopped the car.
“What?” he asked, confused.
Michael grabbed his hands and squeezed. “You’re so pale. Sweetheart, it’s going to be all right. You know I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Kevin bit his lip. “It’s just…everything with my dad has never managed to live up to what I want it to be, you know?”
“I know. And if it truly is horrible, I promise, you just have to say the word and we’ll go home. But you might be really sorry if you don’t at least try.”
“Ok, I’m trying.”
“Yes, you are, and I love you for it.” Michael leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. “Shall we?”
* * *
His father lived in senior apartments off of Tropicana Boulevard. Michael followed the directions Kevin’s dad had given them and pulled into a visitor parking space directly in front apartment B.
Blowing out a breath, Kevin opened the car door and got out. He tried to remind himself he had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Michael came around from the other side and grabbed his hand. The pain in his chest loosened a little. Really, he could face anything as long as he had Michael’s love. He even managed a smile, weak though it was.
The door opened as soon as they approached, as though someone had been watching out the tiny living room window, waiting for them. His father stood there.
Kevin hadn’t seen Robert Flaherty for a number of years now. Since his parents’ divorce. Once in a while he’d hear from him or about him, but he hadn’t seen him. So, for a moment, all he could do was stare. More than his mother, Kevin resembled his father. The same eyes, same shape of the nose, same full lips. It was almost like looking into the mirror at one’s future self, he supposed. His father was dressed simply in khaki slacks and a blue buttoned-down shirt. Though his hair was white, it was full, which Kevin hoped meant the same would be for him when he got older.
“Don’t just stand there, boy, give me a hug,” his father said from the doorway.
“A hug. For your old man?”
Since those were the last words he expected out of the old guy, Kevin stood rooted to the spot. He might have stood there until New Year’s, but Michael’s hand rested on his shoulder, propelling him forward.
His father enveloped him in a big, squeeze-the-stuffing out of him bear hug. Kevin wondered if his ribs would pop.
“Don’t keep the boy out there on the front doorstep, Bobby, let him inside,” a woman’s voice came from somewhere behind them.
At last his father loosened his death grip on him, and Kevin looked at the woman. She was tall and thin with perfectly coiffed white hair with…pink streaks. She grinned at him.
“Hi, there, darling. You must be Kevin. “
It was on the tip of his tongue to say, oh, no, he wasn’t. But before he could, his father had a grip on his arm and was yanking him toward the woman.
“That’s right. This is my boy. And this is Lulu.”
Lulu got a hold of him and plastered a big wet kiss on his lips. Kevin hoped he managed to keep the grimace off his face. “My real name’s Diane. Lulu was my stage name.”
“I was a Las Vegas show girl once upon a time, darling.” She looked past Kevin. “Oh. Oh, my. Aren’t you a looker?”
Kevin looked back at Michael who looked entirely too amused, the bastard. “Yes, that’s Michael, my husband.”
Lulu looked delighted and ushered them all inside the apartment. “So, that makes you Bobby’s son-in-law, doesn’t it?”
Michael smiled. “I suppose it does.”
“Then I’m your mother-in-law.”
“What?” Kevin asked.
She batted her lashes. “Your daddy made an honest woman out of me. That makes me your momma.”
“Er.” Kevin didn’t know really what to say to that. His head was swimming. Lulu was chattering away asking them about drinks and whatnot. Kevin noticed an a big artificial Christmas tree in the middle of the living room heavily decorated and blinking with multi-colored lights.
“That’s a pre-lit tree,” Lulu advised when she saw him studying it. “Got it from QVC.”
“Hmm. Nice.” He saw an ornament with a Santa holding a bingo card, another that was a royal flush hand of cards, and yet another with a slot machine.
“Where’s your luggage?” his father asked expectantly.
“In the car, for when we go to the hotel,” Michael explained.
Lulu and Kevin’s father squealed as one.
“Oh, no, darling, there’s no hotel. You’re staying with us. We’ve set up a room just for you. This is a two bedroom so we can have guests.” Lulu was more animated and bouncy then him, which was saying a lot, Kevin supposed.
She ushered them down a short hall to two bedrooms and a bathroom. “This is your bedroom, boys. Look, I’ve put a Christmas quilt on it.”
And she certainly had. The quilt had a picture of a snowy village and above the village Santa in his sleigh with his reindeer. But what really caught his eye was that on the night stand next to the double bed was a small bottle of lube and a package of condoms.
Seeing where his gaze was, Lulu clapped her hands. “See, we thought of everything! There’s no need to go to a hotel.”
Michael chuckled. “Apparently not.”
Kevin elbowed him in the ribs. This was so not funny and they were so not having sex with his dad and Lulu in the bedroom next door.
“Now,” Lulu said, “let’s get your stuff out of your car. Have you finished your shopping? Cause, if you haven’t we can all go over to the mall off the strip. In fact, even if you have finished, you can come with us anyway. Michael, do you mind driving?”
“No, Lulu, that’s fine.”
She smiled brightly at them, and both she and his father looked so damn happy they were there, a little ice chunk melted from Kevin’s heart. Maybe this wouldn’t be the ordeal he thought it would be.
As they made their way back to the living room, Michael and Lulu went out to the car for their stuff, but his dad held him back.
“Son, I just wanted to say, I’m really glad you’re here.” His father’s gaze was downcast. “I…I wasn’t sure you would want to come. That’s why I sent the email note first, but Lulu said I should call and ask you.”
“I’m glad you did, Dad,” Kevin said softly. And he meant it, too.
His father raised his gaze and in the depths of his eyes, so like his own, Kevin saw hope. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Maybe you and Lulu can come see us next year in California.”
His father nodded. “I’d really like that. I’d like us to spend more time together. I know I should have tried before, but—”
“Don’t worry about the past, Dad,” he interrupted. “Let’s worry about now. Okay?”
His dad swallowed. “Yeah. Thank you, Kevin. It means a lot to me. To both of us to have you and Michael here for Christmas.”
Kevin got choked up and couldn’t respond. He was saved by the arrival of a very noisy and boisterous Lulu and Michael, who, surprisingly…er maybe not…were singing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.
Great, now his husband had a pal.
Michael came to him and hugged him. “Everything good, sweetheart?”
Kevin smiled and kissed him with cherry-glossed lips. “Everything’s fantastic.”
“Merry Christmas,” Michael answered.
“And God Bless Us Everyone,” Lulu declared, then laughed. “I just love A Christmas Carol, don’t you? We’ll have to watch that later after shopping.”
And she kept chattering away and no one seemed to mind.