Bobby drove across town to his street. The leaves rustled in the early morning breeze. He turned into his driveway. The grass needed to be mowed, and the flower boxes on the porch could use watering. He’d worry about that later.
He parked in the garage and closed the door before he headed into the house. He needed a shower and shave before the kids came back.
He made his way upstairs to his bedroom and stripped down. He kicked out of his shoes and vowed he’d never go sock-less in loafers again. He waggled his toes. Bone-deep weariness settled over him as he stepped into the shower stall. He rested his forehead against the tile wall as the water sluiced down his body.
What did he have to complete that day? Work, as always, the yardwork, and his parents would probably want to spend time there. Since he’d moved back to Cedarwood, the relationship with his folks had improved. He wasn’t sure what had changed their mind but wasn’t questioning his good fortune. He appreciated the help with the kids and not having that void in his life.
So many years had gone by with his parents hating him for being gay. He could still hear the insults, although time had mellowed the entire situation. He wasn’t as flamboyant about his sexuality, and they didn’t seem to be as flustered, either.
He dipped his head under the hot water and groaned. He had so much to do. He wanted the myriad boxes out of his room, in addition to getting the other work done.
God. He couldn’t shut his brain off again. He lathered and washed. That was his problem—not the washing, but the overactive thinking. He didn’t settle down well.
Terry hadn’t minded his frantic qualities, but then Terry was just as driven and work-minded. Neil hated it. He wanted to party, eat out, and not grow up. Having kids made maturing inescapable.
Bobby sighed and switched off the water. If he didn’t get going, he’d never leave his own head. He dried off and dressed in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Although he had the air conditioning on, the heat of the late June day already permeated the house. He decided against socks and padded downstairs to his office. He settled behind his computer and opened the spreadsheets.
Two hours later, he had both sets of payroll complete as well as had the finances sorted out for the mowing company. He drummed his fingers on the desk. His parents wouldn’t be there for another forty-five minutes—unless they were running early. Always possible.
He could start the yardwork, but he hesitated. Remy came to mind. He opened his web browser and searched for the Cedarwood newspaper. Once he located the main page, he clicked on the staff tab. Sure enough, Remy’s name was under the sports and entertainment banners. The photo used for the site wasn’t great. Remy looked tired and old. A thought occurred to Bobby. How old was Remy? Legal, yes, but he hadn’t asked. Just like he hadn’t asked about his last name or a lot of other info.
God, he was slipping. Still, he was impressed with Remy. He read through Remy’s bio twice, then closed the browser window. He liked a man with accomplishments, and Remy seemed to have a few. He leaned back in his seat and crossed his ankles. Coming back to Cedarwood looked good on paper but had some negatives. The kids still needed to adjust to the new surroundings and get into the swing of things. He hadn’t been bothered by the Coalition, but there was still time.
There were positives. Christopher and Darcy were getting to know their grandparents. Each had bigger rooms, and he had an office in his home. They’d made friends and had sports teams to occupy their time. He had the support group and some of his old friends from school too. He could call Colin and get the scoop on Remy.
He noticed his mother’s sedan pull into the driveway. The kids were back. Relief washed over him. As much fun as he’d had the night before, he preferred the family atmosphere.
Darcy bounded into the house first. “Dad!” She raced into his office. “The movie was awesome.”
He hugged her. “Which one?” He’d remembered one of them mentioning something about going to the drive-in, but he wasn’t sure which movie was playing.
“The comic book one. So much fighting.” Her eyes lit up. “Dave Klein was in it.” She sighed. “He could save me.”
“You’re twelve.” Besides, he wasn’t ready for his daughter to have a crush on anyone, even if the guy was an actor and not at all within her reach. His daughter wasn’t supposed to be growing up so fast.
Christopher strolled into the office and plunked his MP3 player on the desk. “This died.”
“Hello to you too.” He picked up the device. “It’s waterlogged. What’d you do?”
Chris winced. “They tossed me into the pond during the last practice, and I forgot I had that in my pocket. My earbuds are ruined too.” He met his father’s gaze. “Sorry, Dad.”
“Things happen. Where are your grandparents? Or did you abandon them?” He hugged his son, then headed into the main portion of the house. He found his mother on the back deck. “Thanks for watching the kids, Ma.”
Esther smiled and shielded her eyes, despite wearing sunglasses. “I forgot this house had a pool.”
“That’s why Darcy wanted it.” He hadn’t been thrilled about the price tag, but he wanted to encourage Darcy’s love for the water.
“They were good. We saw some movie with fighting and men in tight pants.” She folded her arms. “Both of them loved it. I still don’t get it. Must be the next generation’s thing.”
“Kind of.” He was a sucker for those movies too. He’d never admit it in front of his children, but he liked looking at the myriad hot asses in tight leather.
“I’ll make lunch if you want to stick around. I can grill something.” He had burgers and hot dogs in the fridge.
“I’d like that. Your dad had to work. The Coalition’s been giving him fits.” She shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
“You should. You hated me for the longest time for being gay.” He turned on his heel and went back into the house. He’d known the topic would come up sooner or later. He retrieved the pack of burgers, a spatula, and the bottle of seasoning. He left the food on the deck table and switched on the grill.
“I did, and we were wrong.” She dragged a chair from the table. “You’re our son, no matter who you love, and you have two wonderful children.”
“Speaking of.” He glanced over his shoulder.
Darcy hurried onto the deck. “Can we swim?”
“I’m watching. Sure,” he replied. He widened his stance and folded his arms. Sure enough, Chris strolled onto the deck too. He’d already donned his swim trunks.
“Told you,” Chris snapped. “She doesn’t listen to me, Dad.”
“With that tone, I wouldn’t either.” He sighed as the kids jumped into the pool. He turned his attention to his mother. “You fed them nothing but sugar, right? As payback for me being a hellion as a kid?”
Esther shook her head. “They were good. We had sundaes last night, but that was it.” She left the chair and joined him by the grill. “You weren’t a bad kid. Energetic, but not bad.”
“Funny. That’s not what you’d say when I got into trouble.” He checked the heat on the grill, then opened the pack of burgers. “For the longest time I thought my name was Oh-For-The-Love-Of-God.” He spaced the hamburgers on the grate, then shut the lid.
“When Dad wasn’t around, it was tough.” She stood beside him. “I hear you met someone.”
He froze. She knew already? Yes, the park was a public place and he had no idea who all saw him with Remy, but how’d she find out so fast? He sighed. He’d better play this cool and not get her hopes up. “Kinda, but I’d rather not discuss it.”
“I heard he’s cute, has a job, and is single.” She smiled. “Sounds like a catch.”
“Ma.” Sometimes he wished his parents were still in the dark about his sexuality. “Just because he’s got good qualities doesn’t mean we’re going to be together forever. I met him. That’s enough.”
“Please.” She snorted. “If he’s cute, single, and not an axe murderer, then go on a date.”
“Eventually. I just met him.” Jerked him off, slept with him, and looked him up on the Internet. She didn’t need to know all of that. “I thought I saw his last name, but I don’t remember it.”
“Ma.” She’d gotten pushier with age.
“I’ve met him. He’s nice.” She turned her back on the pool. “My friend Maureen works with him at the paper. She’s been trying to fix him up with her daughter and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working. Now I know. I won’t say anything.” She put both hands up. “I didn’t want to say anything in front of the kids, but I’m glad you met him. You need help around here and to not be lonely.”
Smoke from the grill wafted around them. He stared at her. Would she give him the lecture? “I’m not twelve, Ma. I know how to conduct myself, if that’s what you’re going to say. I’m lonely, but after Neil, things were rough. I’m not ready to jump into something. The kids are still adjusting to Cedarwood, and I’d like to get over that wrinkle before I do anything else.”
She frowned. “I know you know how to conduct yourself, as you put it. You wouldn’t have kids if you didn’t.” She lowered her voice. “I meant, I want you to be happy. Don’t forget about you.”
“I won’t.” He hadn’t expected that from his mother. She’d never been good at subtlety or interested in fixing him up with other men.
She kept her voice low. “I wanted to tell you. A bunch of ladies and I are forming a group. I’m tired of the Coalition giving your father hell. It’s too much.”
“Another group of well-meaning, well-intended citizens is just what Dad needs.” He tried not to sound like a shit, but he didn’t see a good outcome to this.
“I agree he needs some help.” She shrugged. “The people who aren’t part of the Coalition or don’t agree with it need a voice. I’ve had plenty of folks tell me they’re tired of the fighting. It’s getting old. This used to be a nice place to live for whomever wanted to live here, but with them trying to run people out of town…it’s not good any longer.”
She’d stunned him to silence. He hadn’t expected her to say that, either.
“I’m tired of my son and his friends being targeted for doing nothing more than living their lives. It’s not like you’re dancing down the street in high-heeled shoes and feathers.”
“Gee, Ma. I didn’t know you cared.” He chuckled and flipped the burgers. “But if given the chance, I’m sure some people in the gay community would love to have a pride parade complete with drag queens, feathers, and anything else they can think of.”
“It could be fun.” She shrugged again. “Bobby, I want to see you happy, no matter who you’re with. The kids deserve to grow up in a community filled with love and diversity, not whatever we’ve got going on in Cedarwood.”
“If you need my help, say the word.” He wasn’t sure what all he could do, but he’d try. “Is it going to be an organized group, or are you just rounding people up to visit businesses friendly to everyone?”
“I thought we’d start there. Colin Baker’s doing such a great job with the bookstore. He’d probably like the business. So would Colton over at the diner. This past spring, the group picketed the diner, then someone beat him up. Why would they do that?”
He wasn’t entirely sure. “Some folks aren’t ready for change, even if we’re not ramming it down their throats.”
“We’re losing good teachers because the head of the schools doesn’t like gay people.” She folded her arms and turned back to the pool. “You’re really willing to help?”
“I said I would.” He turned the heat off and left the lid open on the grill. “I need to get a plate. Keep an eye on them, please?” He meant the kids, not the food, but didn’t bother to clarify. He figured she knew. He hurried into the kitchen and retrieved a paper plate, then returned to the grill.
“Ma.” He moved the burgers to the plate. “What if he doesn’t want to?”
“Oh please. It’s a date, not marriage.” She held up both hands. “But if you decided to marry him, I wouldn’t object. I’d like another son.”
“You’ve got me and Chris.” He carried the plate and spatula over to the table, then turned his attention to the kids. “Food’s ready.”
“Be happy. Have a boyfriend and raise those kids.” Esther grabbed his arm. “Let us deal with the Coalition. Not everyone is against having gay people in town. Have a life.” She smiled. “And if you’re willing to be a financial officer at some point for us, we could use you.”
He wasn’t sure how they’d need him, but he was game. “Sure.”
“Great. Now where are the buns? I’ll help.”
He shook his head. He’d settled a few parts of his life, but others were in chaos. Trust his mother to help him upheave more of it, and all because she wanted him to have a date. Wouldn’t she flip if she found out he’d gotten a whole lot closer to Remy besides learning his name? He sighed. Coming home had been a blessing and a curse.