Weak winter sun slipped through the mini blinds on the single high window in the corner of Mikey Washington’s office. The cement brick walls sucked in the light and heat equally. Floor to ceiling bookcases filled with blue 3-ring-binders lined two of the walls. Mikey’s desk crouched under the window and cold winter air seeped through the glass, chilling his fingers. Mikey wedged the receiver of his desk phone between his shoulder and ear, punched in a number, and opened his planner while he waited for someone to answer.
“Gaslight restaurant. How can we help you?”
Knowing full well he was on a fool’s errand, Mikey launched into the conversation he’d had twice already that morning. One maître d’ had actually laughed at him. “Okay. Hello. Yeah. I’m trying to see if you have availability for a private party on either of these weekends in February. I know it’s short notice, but I was hoping because it was a slow time of year. Well, not Valentine’s Day obviously. About twenty people, maximum. We don’t need a private room, just a corner. Yeah. I know. Okay. Well here’s my number. Can you give me a call if anything opens up?”
Hanging up, he crossed The Gaslight off his list of possible venues. That was the third place he had called today and the third place that had no openings. He laced his fingers behind his neck and lifted his heavy dreadlocks up letting the cold air slip underneath it. If he’d had more time that morning, he would have braided the whole thing up, but Jasmine had wanted her hair done before preschool. As Second-Dad-in-Charge, Benny could pick up a lot of slack in the morning, but he didn’t know a thing about doing black hair. He was going to have to learn.
Looking at the list of things he had to do for their wedding, Mikey groaned and shut his planner as if that would make the tasks go away. This whole wedding thing was Benny’s idea. If it were up to him, they’d be down at the courthouse with his sister Vanessa and Benny’s best friend Chris as witnesses. They’d have lunch someplace nice and it would be done. Over. No muss, no fuss.
Why did he always let Benny talk him into things? Oh, right. It was his stupid face. Whenever he flashed Mikey that stupid grin and his stupidly gorgeous brown eyes crinkled up with laugh lines, all of Mikey’s higher brain functions shut down. Just the same as they had done back in high school, way before Mikey had quite realized why he was so susceptible to Benny’s cajoling. Benito Quintana had been behind every bad decision Mikey had ever made.
Okay, maybe that was a little harsh. But at least three-quarters of them had been. Proposing had been all Mikey though. In his defense, he had been under a lot of pressure and Benny had been sitting there all sad and scared in the hospital bed and all Mikey had wanted to do was take him home, tuck him under his arm, and take care of him. Forever. So what else was he supposed to do but ask Benny to marry him? He still thought being married was a good idea. The wedding on the other hand…
The door to his office opened and his boss, Kevin Seaton, poked his head in. “Busy?”
“Is it bad if I say no?” Mikey asked, leaning back in his chair with a sigh. He’d been working for the older lawyer for almost a year now, and he’d come to think of him as a surrogate father. Grandfather, he amended. Kevin was almost 75 years old, but still a brilliant lawyer and compassionate friend.
Kevin laughed and came in, hands in his pockets. “I won’t tell if you don’t. Nice sweater. Is it new?”
Mikey looked down at the burgundy and grey argyle cardigan that had quickly become one of his favorites. He’d finally stopped wearing a three-piece suit to the office, but he still liked to look professional. “Christmas present from Benny.”
Kevin nodded his approval. “I’m glad you finally stopped wearing a suit every day. You were making the rest of us look bad.” When Kevin wasn’t going to be in court, he wore sports coats and jeans at work, a Colorado casual look Mikey had quite embraced yet. But nothing could really make Kevin look bad. Even at his age, he was good looking, with bright blue eye and a full head of salt and pepper hair. “So what’s up? You look frustrated. It is about one of the cases?”
“No. Sorry, I was using the work phone for some person calls.” Mikey pulled his black leather planner towards him. “Nothing’s wrong really. Just trying to find a wedding venue on short notice. If I leave it to Benny, he’ll have us at Chuck E. Cheese.”
Kevin’s husband Vincent, a big, broad Italian man ten years younger than Kevin, with traces of his New York accent still in his voice, pushed his way into the room. “Did I hear right? Did you two crazy kids finally pick a date?” He kissed Kevin on the cheek as he passed by, plopping himself on the corner of Mikey’s desk, one leg on the floor, the other swing back and forth.
Mikey frowned. “Kind of. Benny wanted Valentine’s Day.”
“That’s only five weeks away!” Vincent said, throwing his hands up. “How you gonna do that?”
Mikey shook his head. “We’re not going to. Every restaurant in town is booked.”
Mikey recognized his mistake as soon as he said it.
Kevin’s eyes widened almost imperceptibly and he shook his head but it was too late.
Vincent clapped Mikey on the back hard enough to rock him forward. “Not every restaurant! My place is always open for you. Benefit of having a rich husband. I don’t need the money, I can book a private party anytime I want.”
“You’re a gold-digger? I thought you loved me for my body,” Kevin said, crossing his arms across his chest and smiling.
“That, too. But we can do it, right? You don’t mind?” he asked, face wide open and guileless. Heat radiated from the hand he kept on Mikey’s shoulder, a heavy spot of warmth in the chilly room.
Kevin shrugged. “I don’t mind, but Mikey might have his heart set on something else.”
Mikey struggled to find a way to say thanks but no thanks. He loved Vincent’s for lunch and it was a great place to spend a long weekend afternoon on the back patio, but, when it came down to it, it was just a pub. The walls were dark wood and the décor was mostly neon beer signs and posters and fliers for local bands and events, mixed in with rainbow splattered decorations. One end of the room had a small stage and screens for karaoke. Not the most elegant location for a wedding. If Benny was going to make Mikey plan a wedding, he was going to plan a classy one. He drummed his pen on the table, pulling the planner towards him and looking at the short list of venues he had drawn up.
Vincent turned the planner towards him, whistling. “You have some fancy places listed here. Expensive. Anybody have room yet?”
“Not yet,” Mikey admitted. “We might have to push the date back a few weeks.”
Vincent closed the planner. He picked up one of the small frames on Mikey’s desk, put it down. Shook the pencil holder and looked inside. “Well, I know Vincent’s isn’t fancy, but we can make it look elegant like you wouldn’t believe.” He stood up. “The secret is turning the lights down really low. And we could bring in some food if you want something fancier than what we normally serve. Do a nice buffet, put it all along the bar.” He spread his hands along an imaginary bar.
“Thank you. That’s a very generous offer. Can I get back to you in a few days? I need to talk it over with Benny.” Oh, look. His first time using his partner as an excuse. It did come in hand. And hopefully he could get something else lined up in the next few days.
Vincent stood up. “Sure thing. Think about it. It would be fun.” His fingers trailed over the spines of the books on the bookshelves as he walked back to Kevin.
Kevin looked at Mikey. “Did you want to grab some lunch? That’s actually what we stopped in to ask.”
Mikey waved his hand over the piles of red legal files on his desk. “I spend my lunch break on the phone. I’m going to catch up on some paperwork and make some more phone calls, if you don’t mind.”
Kevin shook his head, “Nope. Go right ahead. Please let us know if we can help in any way.”
“I will. Thank you.” After Kevin and Vincent left, Mikey straightened out the frames on his desk and went back to work.