Coming home was the best part of Mikey’s day. He loved the little house they were renting from Jay-Cee, Benny’s boss. Every now and then he wondered if they’d ever been able to buy it from Jay-Cee. This side of the holidays, even the blanket of snow had lost some of its charm, but the way the lights from their cabin shone through the trees as he pulled in the driveway made Mikey feel safe and warm. Smoke drifted from the chimney up into the cloudless starry night. His feet crunched over the frozen snow as he walked to the door.
Once inside, he kicked off his shoes and pulled his planner out of his briefcase. As he passed through the living room, the warmth from the wood stove in the corner sunk into his skin and he shivered. He’d been chilled all day. Dropping his briefcase on the coffee table, he followed the sounds of laughter into the kitchen.
Benny and Jasmine sat at the kitchen table, working intently on something that involved piles of red and white tissue paper. Mike stopped at the table to distribute kisses. First to Jasmine.
“Hi, Daddy.” Jasmine was focused intently on folding a stack of tissue paper back and forth like she was making a fan.
“Hey, babe” Benny said, tilting his head for a kiss as Mikey bent over him from behind. He smelled like wood smoke and white glue. There was silver glitter in his dark hair. “How was your day?”
Poochie, Benny’s apricot labradoodle, whined from his dog bed in the kitchen and thumped his heavy tail against the floor. The dog had beds everywhere, he was the most spoiled service dog ever. Mikey bent down and scratched his fluffy head. Poochie smelled like dog food. “You’re stinky.”
“Don’t insult my dog.” Swiveling around on the bench, Benny reached out and wrapped his arm around Mikey’s hips and pulled him in, holding his face up for another kiss.
Mikey obliged happily. “Work was pretty good. I’ve got a new case to work on. Nothing traumatic, just contract stuff.” He slid off Benny’s lap on the bench next to Jasmine and she leaned against him.
“Any luck with venues?” Benny aksed.
“Not yet. Few places said they’d call back.” He put the planner on the table. “I’ve added a few more places to the list that might have room for a little ceremony, if you want to take a look later.”
Mikey reached for what looked like a wadded up ball of tissue paper.
“What are you guys making?”
“Flowers for the wedding,” Jasmine answered. She held up a multicolored explosion of tissue paper about eight inches across.
Mikey guessed if you looked at it from the right angle it could look like a flower. “That’s great, baby.”
“Yeah,” Benny agreed. “I found all these great ideas on Pinterest.”
“And you say I’m the mom.”
“You’re the one with the Moms group,” Benny reminded him. “Jasmine and I are artists,”
They’d started going to the Unitarian church at Christmas after Jasmine asked why Santa Claus gave other people presents on Christmas if it was his birthday. It was okay, though some people still looked at them as if they were some sort of UU poster children: gay, young, and interracial. By the end of the first Sunday Mikey had been assimilated in the groups of moms, while Benny got to hang with that dads. Benny alternated between explaining that they sense Mikey’s intrinsic maternal energy, and insisting the women liked him better because Mikey was hot and they wanted an excuse to touch him.
Mikey would have argued with him, but the women did seem to need to touch him to get his attention a lot. He’d gotten very good at slipping away to avoid the dreaded goodbye hugs.
Mikey twirled the flower in his fingers. Small heaps of glue and glitter covered the table, and scraps of confetti littered the floor as if a ticker-tape parade had passed through the house. “Yeah, but I was kind of thinking real roses for decoration? Something tasteful, like one white rose in a vase for each table. I know they’re expensive this time of year, but we wouldn’t need that many. We’d only have about five tables, assuming round tables that fit six.”
Benny looked at him in horror.
“What?” He looked behind him as if something was sneaking up behind him.
“Five tables won’t even hold the members of my family that are still talking to me. I have at least three cousins and their families that said yes.”
Mikey had forgotten about the extended Quintaña family. In his defense, it had been a few years since he’d been back to their home town in New Mexico. With both his parents and Benny gone from the area, there really hadn’t been a reason for him to go back. “We don’t even have a hard date yet. How could they have RSVP’d already?”
Benny shrugged. “They’re flexible. Tia Mary said she’ll make tamales. Do you want pork or chicken? Maybe we should have some of everything, just in case.
“Yeah.” Jasmine chimed in, reaching for more tissue paper. “We’re gonna need a big room with lots of tables and lots of flowers. And I’m gonna bring all my friends and Daddy B’s friends from California with the funny names. And everybody will be dancing.” She wiggled in her seat. “And we’ll eat a huuugge cake and clang the glasses so you can kiss. We can throw the bookay but Daddy B says no smushing the cake. Oh, and the chicken dance! Do you know how to do the chicken dance? I do!” Jasmine jumped out of her chair and demonstrated, arms flapping while she hummed the worst tune Mikey had ever heard.
Now it was Mikey’s turn to look horrified. “No. No peanut. It’s not…it’s not that kind of a wedding.” He turned to Benny. “Where is she getting this stuff?”
Benny concentrated on folding his tissue paper just so. “We may have watched a few episodes of Bridezilla.”
Poochie got up and walked over the fridge, pawing it open.
“Poochie!” Benny said firmly. “Bed.”
The dog gave him a mournful look, and stuck his nose into Jasmine’s side for a pet. She giggled and threw her arms around his neck. He might not be the best service dog, but Benny and Jasmine loved the eighty-pound Muppet.
“I started some chili for dinner,” Benny said. “Do you mind giving it a stir?”
“Nope, let me get changed first.” He reached for the tissue paper flower Jasmine had made. “Can I have this one for my desk?” he asked.
“Of course,” she said magnanimously.
Mikey stood up from the table, shaking his head at the sticky mess.