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Authors: Amy Lane

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BOOK: Bitter Taffy
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Hahahahahaha!

Shut up.

And:

Well, yeah, I believe in God. But watching the way my family treated Adam, and saying it’s all justified and shit? It’s like once I put that together, I couldn’t go back to the church. I miss it. There’s this sort of mystery there, you know?

Yeah. My parents drag me to their little church—which is very nice to me, by the way—on holidays. I don’t like to admit it because I’m supposed to be grown, but it puts the magic in Christmas and Easter. I hear you.

Right? Like there’s a grown-up there who still knows something more than I do.

Yeah! And if we fuck up, he’s still going to tell us it’s okay.

I really loved that. I’ve missed it.

Well, you know. You and me… we could go together.

Pause.

Yeah? We’ll be together then?

God, Rico. I hope so. I want… I want so much for us. With all my heart.

Then I’ll plan on it.

They kissed then, and set their bowls down, and although they didn’t have a third dessert, they definitely earned it.

By the time Sunday night rolled around, Rico was well and truly in love. Not magical weekend love, just in plain “I love you forever—God, I’d have your babies if I could” sort of love. He was going to go to the office to work with Derek, and he wasn’t tired of the man’s company. He was looking forward to work. He was looking forward to seeing Derek all week. He was looking forward to sleepovers between weekends.

Rico was looking forward to forever.

But he’d settle for waking up next to Derek three mornings in a row, legs twined, bodies pressed together, their sex still filling the room even though Derek had changed and laundered at least three sets of sheets.

That morning he was letting Derek knot his tie, since the bathroom was too small for them both to look in the mirror, when a question occurred to him. “So, we don’t just have to have sex for me to spend the night, do we?”

Derek stopped midknot and looked up at him, those wonderful wrinkles appearing in the corners of his eyes. “No. Not at all, why?”

“Well, I don’t know. I was just… you know, not
tonight
,
of course—”

“Why not?” Derek asked seriously.

“Well, for one thing, I owe Adam and Finn a walk with the dog. And for another, I don’t want you to get tired of me.”

Derek’s mouth on his was hot and urgent and still minty fresh. “Not happening,” he whispered, leaving Rico’s knees weak. “And you can bring Clopper over here, you know.”

Rico’s eyes widened. “In your house? Are you kidding? He’ll shed all over—”

“Well, yeah,” Derek said, looking worried. “But, you know. You’ve got a dog; I want a dog. I wouldn’t mind some shedding.”

Rico thought about it—thought of Finn and Adam and how much they loved the dog. “Okay,” he said slowly, thinking.

“Well, if you don’t want to—” Oh no! He sounded hurt.

“No! That’s not it at all!” Rico reassured him. Derek’s tie hung around his neck, and Rico took his turn and started to fuss. “It’s just… I mean, I love Clopper and all, but Finn and Adam… I mean, they
love
that dog. As much as I do, but… well, they’re sort of needier. I can’t explain it. It’s like I had that dog for two years, and I was okay as a master for him and all, but really, the whole time I was holding him for my cousin.”

Derek’s face fell. “You mean I’m not inheriting a dog?”

“Well, you know. Maybe… I mean, not right away, and Clopper can still come over to play, but… you know. Maybe we can find a dog that was waiting for
me
the whole time. Like Clopper was waiting for my cousin.”

And his face lit up from the inside. “So, like,
you and me
could get a dog.”

Rico carefully knotted the raw silk tie, stroked the fiber a little, and then smiled into Derek’s eyes, completely besotted. Ezra hadn’t even liked staying over. He’d never talked about the future. Every moment had been stolen and precious.

Apparently the everyday nonstolen moments could be just as good as the precious ones.

“Yeah,” he said. He held Derek’s clean-shaven cheeks and kissed him because he could. “We could get a—”

Derek’s phone rang, surprising them both.

Derek broke off from the kiss and pulled it off the charger and answered, sounding puzzled. “Hi. Yeah, hi, Adam. Yeah, he’s with me—Oh, crap. He turned the phone off. You know that? Okay, so why—Seriously? Are you fucking
kidding
me? And you didn’t think you should call us?” Derek blinked slowly. “Well, uhm, I can’t say I blame you for that, and—” He blinked again. “Yeah, you’re right. It was sweet of you to do that, but—” And now his eyes grew
really
wide. “You’re absolutely right. You should definitely talk to Rico. Here he is.” He handed Rico his cell phone.

“What is it?” Rico asked, more curious than alarmed.

“Your mom returned to their apartment yesterday morning. Apparently Finn’s sister was there and words were exchanged, and… well, I think you need to go bail your mom out of jail.”

Rico’s mouth fell open. “I need to do what?” he asked, talking into the phone.

“Yeah. Well, we bailed Mari out yesterday,” Adam said, sounding sullen. “Finn’s parents paid the fine and said they were proud of her, and asked me if I wanted them to bail your mother out.” Adam’s chuckle was all evil. “I told them I wasn’t really fuckin’ family.”

“You left my
mother
in
jail
?” Rico asked, not even angry, just stunned. “On what charge?”

“Assault,” Adam said matter-of-factly. “It was a good thing Finn called the cops first, because they helped break it up. Your mom called Finn a faggot, and Mari apparently knows Spanish real good too. And not just the nice words, like Finn. Your mom left a couple of big scratches on Mari’s face before we pulled her off.”

Rico wasn’t sure where the chuckle came from. It was horrible.
Inconceivable
. His mother had been arrested for assault, and nobody from her family had come to bail her out.

Well, they probably weren’t sure it was the right thing to do.

“But….” Rico found his feet again, found that kernel of properly outraged good boy in himself. “But Adam, why didn’t you tell
me
?”

Adam sounded absolutely smug. “Because. You turned off your phone so family didn’t bother you, and it wasn’t like this was a
real
emergency, right? I mean, if it was a
real
emergency, Grandma or your dad would have come bail her out. I left messages on their phones in case she didn’t get to call.”

“But, I mean—”

“Did you have a nice weekend?” Adam inquired, sounding like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Rico relaxed. “Best weekend of my life,” he said, catching Derek’s eyes so he’d know Rico meant it.

“Good. So I didn’t want to fuck that up. Here, I’m waiting outside the courthouse—I can take you in to front bail if you want. You know where it is?”

“Yeah. Seventh and H. I’ll be there in—” He grimaced at Derek.

“Twenty minutes,” Derek supplied. “I’ll take you there myself.”

“Thanks,” Rico said with a sigh. “This was
not
—”

Derek stopped him with a finger on his lips. “Don’t stress it,” he murmured. “Family. I get it.”

And he did.

Rico shook his head. “So you’ll be outside the courthouse?”

“Yeah,” Adam said, his voice dry. “You can recognize me easy. I’ll be the scary Mexican guy with the tats and the big fuckin’ dog.”

Well, all the better to eat Rico’s mother, Rico supposed.

Especially since she’d been tenderized by a night in the hoosegow first.

Amends and Amens

 

 

R
ICO
COULDN

T
look at Adam objectively, so to Rico’s eye he didn’t look scary at all. But that didn’t stop him from noticing the way people eyeballed the three of them—Adam, Rico, and Derek—as they stood in the concrete courtyard outside the relatively new jail on H Street.

“Don’t sweat it,” Adam said, watching the direction of Rico’s gaze. “They probably think you’re my lawyer. I’ve had three people ask me for cigarettes and two for beer, and I’ve only been here for five minutes.”

“Oolf!”

Clopper had apparently missed Rico over the weekend, and thought an appropriate greeting would be to jump up and plant both paws on his chest while trying to headbutt him while flailing his tongue.

“Oh my God! Clop—Clopper, dammit—!”

Derek was regarding him with a smirk. “Not really your dog, huh?”

“He’s a family animal,” Adam said dryly. “Clopper, you asshole, get your balls down on the ground.” He gave the short lead a solid yank and Clopper thunked heavily down on all four feet.

Rico made it up to him by rubbing his ears and scratching his ruff. “So now that I’ve fucked up my suit, should we go inside and spring the moms from the joint?” He looked up at Adam and tried to summon a little bit of recrimination, but he couldn’t.

Adam didn’t look tough—not to Rico. He looked wounded and irritated, but not tough. He’d been looking out for the family that loved him, and Rico couldn’t make himself be mad at that.

Adam shrugged. “Don’t need to. Mari’s in there with
her
mom having some sort of girl-bonding bullshit with
your
mom so she doesn’t have to press charges.”

Rico’s eyes were going to pop out of his head, he just knew it. “She’s doing
what
?”

Adam shrugged, looking really uncomfortable. “Oh, I don’t know, something about talking while they were in the cell like hamsters—Mari’s word, I’ve never seen a jail cell and I’m not a hamster. But they were talking and… I don’t know. I don’t get it. It’s like Finn’s whole fuckin’ family. They’re just magic fuckin’ happy people, and you don’t want to get in their way.”

Rico grunted and eyed Derek sideways. “Yeah. I know the type.”

“What?” Derek asked, genuinely puzzled.

“I’m sure you do,” Adam muttered. “Anyway, Mari texted me. They’re on their way out. She said your mom’s all weepy and she really wants to see you.”

Rico’s eyeballs really were going to explode. “I’m sure you got that wrong.”

“Oh you wish. She’s gonna come out here and get all sad on you, and you’re gonna be great friends, and suddenly you’ll be stuck doing family shit again.”

Rico shook his head. “Oh
hell
no. Man, my last meal at Grandma Macias’s was
your
last meal there. I went to New York to avoid another family Christmas.”

“Charming. And ungrateful.”

Rico’s stomach sank. Adam’s face twisted like he’d eaten a lemon, and Clopper started a low, angry rumble like the buzz of pissed-off bees.

He swallowed and turned to his father. “Well,
Papi
, it’s not like you ever did anything at those gatherings to make them more pleasant.”

Rico’s father was tall and thin—he wore his suits like a clothes hanger and had an expression of disdain for their inability to fit him. Or something. Rico couldn’t remember him with any other face besides the one with the deep lines at the mouth, alongside the nose, and the forehead. His
papi
had been finding things wrong with life since Rico was born.

“I didn’t know it was my job to make your life easier,” he said now, of course picking at the small thing Rico said. “I provide a good home, clothes, an education—unlike
this
one, you didn’t need to join the service—”

“I’m fuckin’ outta here,” Adam snapped. “By the way, Mr. Gonzalves? My boyfriend’s sister isn’t pressing charges, so the next time you open your mouth about being ungrateful, you fuckin’ remember that.”

Adam turned away, jerking bitterly at Clopper’s lead, and Rico looked at Derek unhappily. “Derek, could you go talk to Adam for a sec?
I’m
grateful, and I don’t want him to forget that.”

Derek nodded briefly, all business, but Rico couldn’t do that to him. Not without a sign, something that said Rico’s loyalties weren’t the same as Ezra’s. Rico knew where home was. He grabbed Derek’s hand and pulled him forward for a brief kiss on the cheek, ignoring his father’s hiss of disgust.

“Thanks,” he said softly. “Let’s see how this convo goes and we’ll see if I even want you to meet him. He’s embarrassing to me.”

Derek looked at him reprovingly, but Rico shook his head.

“No, man. You don’t even know.” He nodded, and Derek walked toward Adam, casting a glance over his shoulder once, just to make sure.

“Was that the…
man
who made you decide to break your mother’s heart?”

Rico turned toward his father and grimaced. In thirty years Rico might look like him, with a widow’s peak and skin so tight the shape of his skull showed past his forehead. “I was gay before Derek,” he said. “Derek just makes me really happy, but I guess that doesn’t matter to you.”

“Your mother is in
jail
—”

“Have you met them? Finn’s family?”

“No.” One syllable, chill and complete.

Rico glanced toward Derek and Adam talking desultorily and casting Rico’s father dirty looks. “They’re some of the nicest people,” Rico said. “Mari—the girl
Mami
scratched until she bled? She fed me beignets and coffee the first day I met her. Just because, you know? Because I was Adam’s family, and Adam made Finn happy, so they were going to treat me right. And she’s in there now with her mother, trying to drop the charges after
your wife
called a boy she didn’t know an ugly name. Do you know how much class that takes,
Papi
? They’re trying to drop the charges, and it wasn’t even their fault.
Adam
managed to keep his baggage from polluting their doorstep for four months. I’ve been here for two, and suddenly they are nose deep in our trash—”

His father slapped him across the face,
hard
,
and glared at Rico with the first trace of emotion he’d seen. “That is your
mother
you are talking about!”

BOOK: Bitter Taffy
7.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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