The Danning Beginnings – Chapter Twenty-Three

“Dad? Dad?”

“J-Jacob? H… h… uh, Jacob?”

I opened my eyes, first seeing Kay’s worried eyes over me, then my son’s face a bit away–a little less worried and a little more excited. “Wh… what happened?” I asked, rubbing my head and trying to sort through my memories. I blacked out. From shock. Of… oh. I looked past Cal and there she was, a rather frightened look on her face. “P… Penny,” I said.

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She looked up, those bright eyes digging into my soul. “Hello Mr. Danevbie,” she said. “I am sorry I gave you a shock.”

I sat up and Kay slid down to sit next to me, an arm around my waist. “Are you s-sure you’re okay?” he asked.

“I’ll be ok. I… wow…”

“I TOLD you!” Cal threw his arms out triumphantly. “She’s real. Penny is real. Realer than she used to be.” He turned and hopped over to her, grabbing her hands. Penny jumped then giggled. “You look… wow. I never imagined… I never thought… I guess I never thought what you might look like real. I never thought you’d have such–er, I mean, that is to say, you uh, look… good.”

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My son got all awkward and released her hands. Penny just kept smiling. “Thank you, Calcifer. I never thought of what I would look like either. I still don’t know.” She looked down at her body then reached up to touch her hair. “Do I look awful?”

“You look bea–errr,, uh, you look good. Fine. Dandy. And no glowing orb on your head,” Cal added and Penny giggled once more. I had no idea what that meant and I looked at Kay who shrugged. “Come on! Come look. Kay, can we use your bedroom mirror since it’s full length?”

Kay nodded and Cal beamed, grabbing Penny’s hand and dragging her into his room. I heard her exclaim, and Cal mumbling something, then her giggling. I looked dizzily at Kay. “She’s real,” I said.

“Y-yep, she’s real.” He put his head on my shoulder.

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“Oh Watcher. Cal must really hate me. All this time, I just–and he–and she–oh damnitall, he must hate me.”

“He d-d-doesn’t hate you,” Kay whispered. “I c-can imagine it’s hard f-for someone who doesn’t already know to… to u-understand the–the imaginary friend thing. I don’t kn-know if I would if I already didn’t kn-know. Oh. I’m n-not making much sense, am I?”

My lips caught his in a quick kiss. “Perfect sense,” I promised, then started to kiss again when I heard Cal and–and Penny coming back out, so I didn’t get the second kiss. “Well. Um. Penny. Uh, I guess–I uh, guess, uh, welcome–to–the family.”

Penny smiled up at me. “Thank you, Mr. Danevbie. And you too, Mr. Redding. I can’t believe I’m real. It must be the most wonderful Christmas in history.”

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“I’ll say,” Cal added, blushing quite a bit.

“Well. Uh. How about breakfast? Are you–hungry? Miss, er, um, Penny?” I looked at her and she gave a tiny nod. “Okay. I’ll, um, fix some breakfast. Is there anything… you’d like in particular?”

“I don’t know what my tastes are, Mr. Danevbie, but anything will be more than fine.”

I backed up and went into the kitchen, searching the fridge. Cal came up behind me. “Dad, make it a really good one, it’s her first meal ever and I want it to be nice. No pressure.” He leaned against me for a second then took off. Yeah. No pressure.

*

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I wound up fixing sausages and bacon and eggs and some sausage gravy with biscuits, and toast. I remained pretty quiet as we ate but Cal talked nonstop except when he asked Penny questions and she answered, most of which were ‘I don’t know’. I realized halfway through most the stores would be closed and she’d need clothes. I was a bit glad she didn’t… errr… well, that she had clothes. I didn’t want to think of what my son would have said or done if she had appeared… naturally.

Christmas was still Christmas but all the presents fell to the wayside. After we ate breakfast, we sat in the living room and chatted. Kay and Cal kept asking Penny questions and even I ventured a few of my own though I kept pretty quiet. I kept thinking about how I had treated Cal all these years. Oh, all those times he said ‘Penny says this’ or ‘Penny wants that’. How Penny was afraid of the dark, how she said he needed to understand me–I remembered that, all right. When we talked about his ‘mother’ and–

I need to tell him, I think. I looked at Cal’s happy face. I hadn’t told him about the conversation Kay and I had had. Cal’s other parent was a guy. I wondered how he’d take it. All those times he claimed he was a monster, if he knew this I was worried he’d really-really-really think himself a creepy test tube baby. The child of two males? How’d he take it?

“Jacob?”

I looked at Kay, not realizing he had been trying to get my attention. “Yes?”

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“Do… you w-want to exchange… g-gifts…? Or wait until l-later?”

“What would you like?”

He flushed red and shrugged. “It’s up t-to you. I… usually…”

“Mmm?”

“Well, m-my sister and I would exchange gifts in m-mid-morning…” He looked down at his lap and sighed a bit. “I w-was hoping… to hear f-from her but… I g-guess she… I guess…”

I took hold of his hand. “Let’s exchange gifts,” I said, to get his mind off his sister. Kay beamed and Cal heard me since he bounced up and said yes, but then looked really upset.

“But we’ve nothing for Penny!”

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“You’ve given me something,” she said softly. “I’m real now.”

*

Kay and I didn’t get to our presents until later. We exchanged with Cal who didn’t seem as excited as he normally was as he opened everything. He kept looking at Penny throughout the entire process, and had her open a few. One gift was a box of chocolates which he declared were for her, and she happily took one. As soon as she bit into one a look of bliss went over her face.

“Oh!” she sighed. “This tastes heavenly. You must try one.” With that, she put one in his mouth. Cal looked all strange as she pulled her fingers out of his mouth and I knew what was going on in his mind. Dealing with a teenage boy was going to be so much more difficult with a girl, unrelated to him, in the house.

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I sat back, mulling things over. Fourteen–nearly fifteen. A difficult, hormonal age. And Penny was a lovely young lady. And–Oh hell, where’s she gonna sleep? I glanced up at the three bedroom doors. Three bedrooms, three beds, four people. I suppose she could have mine and I could sleep on the couch, or Cal could have my bed and she could have his. Or…

“J-Jacob?”

I jumped then realized Kay was offering me a small box. Cal had finished with his gifts and was sitting in the dining room chatting with Penny. I held up a finger then went and fetched one of the presents I had gotten for him. We exchanged the boxes and opened at the same time. As soon as I saw the nice watch inside I felt horrible for the stupid, cheap, miserable present I had given him. I wanted to snatch it away before he could finish opening but it was too late.

It was a box full of his favorite sweets and tucked inside was a small envelope. He opened it up and looked at the cards. I went dark red, wishing I could disappear as he read them. “I… didn’t have much money,” I mumbled. “I’m sorry. They’re not as nice as… this watch… I–I’m sorry, I–“

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“It’s w-w-wonderful.” He put his arms around me and kissed. I hugged back, kissing him rather hard and not caring if Cal protested. We finished the kiss and not a peep from the dining room. Hmm. Maybe Penny being real would make some things easier. “Now, l-let me see these.” He began flipping through the cards. They were certificates for ‘freebies’ such as kisses, massages and the such. There were some for things such as a moonlit walk by the lake when the weather got warmer, and breakfast in bed. Some for his favorite dessert, and French kisses and–and a couple for basically… whatever he wanted to do with me.

I had considered putting in more… intimate coupons in there but even though we had been together for a few months we had not done more than kissing. Now, I didn’t want to do–do–too much. But I wanted him to know I was ready for a little more, if that’s what he wanted. I just didn’t think he was ready. Not too long ago the back of my hand had brushed against his rear end and he was red for the rest of the day.

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“I hope you like the, um, book of… coupons.”

“I l-love them. Thank you.” He snuggled up close and began looking through the book again. “I l-love you, Jacob.”

“I love you too. I–uhh…” I trailed off as he handed me one of the cards. “Nope, not redeemable yet,” I said, pushing it away. “Today is free. Everything. Anything.”

“Anyth-thing?”

Now I was red. “Anything,” I said.

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We kissed and kept kissing for several minutes until my son yelled and complained about the sight. We pulled apart, laughing. I guess even with Penny there some things wouldn’t change. Kay and I exchanged our other presents–he gave me a cookbook and a winter jacket, and I gave him some nice aftershave and a rather inexpensive glove and scarf set. I decided to use the cookbook for lunch, even though we were going to ‘scrounge’ for lunch since I was planning a nice big dinner, but I was excited to try something out of the cookbook.

I started up a soup and had it simmering away before too long while I went ahead and started some stuff for dinner. I was in the middle of chopping up the carrots when I heard a car pulling up to the house. Kay gave a squeal and the front door slammed shut. I quickly set the knife down and went to the living room, looking out the window.

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It was Jay. She was parking the car and looking up as Kay went towards the door. She looked like she was going to unbuckle but then her eyes met mine, and hers narrowed. She left her belt on and just rolled down the window. I raised my eyebrows, watching as they talked and Kay was trying not to look upset. Eventually he reached in and hugged her in the car before holding up a finger. He ran back inside, grabbed a package from under the tree, and ran back out without another word. He gave her the package through the car window and she handed him a large manila envelope. He then hugged her again and she glowered at me before driving off.

Kay came back inside, pushing his shoes off his feet and slumping over toward the dining room. “Everything ok?” I asked.

“Y-yes, she’s just–my sister, sh-she’s very b-busy so she couldn’t c-come in.” Kay sat down at the table and opened the envelope. “I wasn’t… even r-really… expecting…” He stopped and I put my hands on his shoulder. “Ah, w-well–oh! L-look!” He held up the contents of the envelope. They were sonograms. “It’s the b-baby! The–the baby! My nephew!”

He jumped up and handed me the pictures. I took them, feeling pretty happy seeing them. I had never been given actual copies of the pictures of Cal inside of me–something I rather regretted. “Oh my gosh! He looks so cute…”

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“Th-that’s his head,” Kay said, pointing on the blurry blob. “L-look, oh he’s g-going to be so c-cute and look j-just like my sister and not the r-rat that did this to her.”

I giggled at that. I rather enjoyed this side of Kay–the over-protective brother act was really cute with him. “If the baby looks just like her and he’s a he, he’ll look just like you then.”

Kay’s eyes got all big and he went pink. “Oh! Oh. I, oh…” He smiled a little smile and looked hard at the sonogram. “I s-s-s-suppose he would, if he d-does.”

“Only a few more months now,” I said, resting my chin on his shoulder to look at the blobby picture. “Three months, really. A little less. We need to get the baby stuff soon. And need…”

“Hmm?” He looked up at me when I stopped.

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“Kay, we have three bedrooms and four people, and then a baby. We need to sort out who’s going to sleep–“

“Penny can share my room!” Cal burst into the dining room, not even ashamed of listening in. Penny was a step behind him, not phased by what he was saying. “She’s been sharing my room my whole life anyway, and my bed plenty of times, I don’t see why sh–“

“CALCIFER!”

Cal finally darkened with embarrassment. “Well, um, I wasn’t meaning–my bed, just, you know, we could get another bed and we could share…”

“No!” I snapped. “N. O. She can–er, Penny–you may have my room and I can have the couch until we figure out something more permanent.”

“I’m ever so sorry for causing any problems,” she mumbled.

“No problems, uh, Penny…”

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“Dad, you can share with Kay then.”

Now Kay and I went dark with embarrassment. Kay began sputtering and I couldn’t really find any words. Finally I squeaked out, “N-no, Calcifer, I don’t–we’re not–that’s not proper. Nor is you sharing with her. No, you must have your own rooms and I can have the couch.”

“I was meaning share a room, not a bed,” Cal said with an amused grin.

“I know what you meant,” I grumbled, though that’s certainly not the image that had popped up in my mind. And it was hard not letting those images make something else pop up. Oh man. I suddenly wanted Kay very, very badly. I swallowed and managed to talk again. “Perhaps a bed would be… best, and a room can be shared.” I focused on Cal. “You and I can share a room.”

“DAAAAD! No way!” he whined. “That’s AWFUL! I can’t! I don’t WANNA!”

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“I d-d-don’t want you on the c-couch, Jacob,” Kay said, taking hold of my sleeve. “You c-can have my bed and I’ll t-take the couch.”

“Nonsense. You have the bed, I really don’t mind,” I said.

“We c-could build on,” Kay said thoughtfully.

“Or you two could share a room and just put a screen up between the beds,” Cal said. “Then it wouldn’t be as, uh, improper. Or Penny and I can share a room with a screen–“

No.”

“What about bunk be–“

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“NO!” I rubbed the side of my nose and thought. This was a difficult situation. Kay’s room was biggest so it made sense for two beds to be in there, but the crib would most likely be going in there. Bunk beds would be the best solution, but there was no way I was going to let Cal and Penny share a room. I had been a little more strict with my… er, passions when I was Cal’s age but I doubted I’d have been able to hold myself back if I had to share a room with a girl. I couldn’t help smile, though, amused at how much things had changed. I never thought as a teenager I’d be with a guy. Then again, if Kay and I had to share a room I wondered about my passions now.

“I am very sorry,” Penny spoke up.

“No, it’s fine,” I assured her. “It’s just a bit–“

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“I kn-know what w-we should do,” Kay put in. We all looked at him. He ducked his head and began rubbing the back of it. “I th-think… w-well, Cal c-can keep his room and P-Penny, you sh-should have J-Jacob’s room, and we… er, well, w-we can… sh-share my room. We c-can put up a s-screen until we can have a w-wall built. Or have a r-room added on, th-that might be easier.”

“Would you be okay with… sh-sharing a room?” I asked, kicking lightly at the linoleum.

“I d-d-d-d-don’t mind.” He couldn’t even look at me.

“Yeah you two’ve shared a bed before,” Cal said causing us both discomfort.

“Do you mind taking my room?” I asked, trying to hide my unease by directing a question at Penny.

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“I don’t mind at all, Mr. Danevbie,” she said. “I don’t mind sleeping on the floor. I’ve been doing that for years.”

“N-no, no, uh, no, that’s not–no.” I shook my head. “You’ll have your own room, P–uh, Penny. I’ll get my own things moved out and we can go shopping tomorrow for some clothes. Tonight… you can… er, I’m sure Cal has a shirt and some sleep pants you can borrow.”

Penny looked down at her body once more. “Oh, yes. I must think about clothes now. I’m not used to that. I suppose I always went around naked.” Cal’s eyes went as big as dinner plate’s and he began choking on nothing. “I wonder, are these clothes… my old skin?” She rubbed her belly, her fingers gliding over the green cloth.

“That’s a r-r-rather m-macabre thought,” Kay muttered.

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“Tomorrow, we’ll all go out shopping,” I said. “We can get clothes for Penny, and stuff for the baby. And, er…”

“A b-bed, and screen,” Kay finished. “And anything e-else we might need.”

“Stores will be crowded tomorrow,” Cal said.

I shrugged. “Pe–uh, Penny, er, needs clothes.” My son bowed his head but I knew damn well what just flashed through his head. “And tonight, I’ll take the couch.”

“N-no, I can–” Kay tried but I refused. I would take the couch.

We made the plans for the next day then I returned to work. Cal and Penny watched TV while Kay read a book that Cal had given him. The soup I made for lunch turned out to be a big hit and then all four of us watched one of the movies Cal got. Kay and I took the couch while Cal and Penny sat on the floor. I kept glancing down at Penny. It was so weird… she was really real. I just–just couldn’t get over it, really. I glanced at Cal at one point, wondering exactly what he was planning. Penny had–well, she had been… er, imaginary all this time and now she was being put in the… in reality… I hoped Cal understood the responsibility.

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And now we had more responsibility all around. Another mouth to feed, body to clothe, education to worry about. Oh man, I’d have to contact the school and get Penny enrolled–except, she hadn’t had any previous education. Could she even read and write? What about maths? History? Cal had claimed before she helped him with his homework (oh wow, she really did then) so she wasn’t completely uneducated but enough to be plopped into the middle of the freshman year?

And what if–Watcher forbid–something happened? What of her medical records? She’d need a birth certificate, wouldn’t she? And–well, she had no information. She literally came into existence out of thin air. There was a little bit of awkward trouble with Cal but that was going to be smooth sailing in comparison to what we will have to deal with, with Penny.

What if her insides were different from a normal person? I knew Kay had Cal read through books to ‘get it right’, whatever that meant. But what if there was something inside her that made her different…? If she needed medical attention and the doctors found something weird–like inside me… I guess we could always say she was also a scientific experiment. Then again, she was.

“You l-look like you’re n-not even watching the m-movie,” Kay whispered.

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I adjusted my body and pulled him even closer. “Just a lot on my mind, it’s been a pretty eventful day,” I said, kissing just below his ear.

Kay giggled and I heard Cal gagging. “If you two are going to do that, go to your room.”

I nudged his back with my foot. “Kay’s my boyfriend and I’ll kiss him if I want to, and I want to.” I kissed Kay again but only once before turning back to the movie. I kept my eyes on the screen but my mind kept churning away at all the worries and anxieties that had flooded in with the opening of this particular door. I just hoped the waters settled quickly and easily.

The Danning Beginnings – Chapter Twenty-Two

After the L-bomb was dropped, things were really nice. Neither of us said we loved the other over the next couple weeks though we went on plenty of dates, kissed quite a lot, made out a couple times, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Sometimes Kay seemed a bit melancholy and I had the suspicion it was cause of his sister but I never asked, and he never offered an explanation.

Soon it was time for school to start. I had enough money to let Cal get some nice supplies, new clothes, and the biggest surprise of all: a cell phone. He was ecstatic about it, hugging me and promising he’d be responsible with it. I didn’t tell him he essentially had a free plan since it was added onto Kay’s. It only added a little each month to his bill, which I had to force into Kay’s hands. He didn’t like taking the money but he did, and then used it–I suspected–to get a nice rolling backpack for Cal.

Cal grumbled and complained the first day of his new school and Kay drove him since he didn’t want his dad to take him. As soon as they left, I felt all emotional as if it was his first day of school ever or something. There were brownies baking by the time Kay got back.

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“I needed a pick-me-up,” I laughed in embarrassment.

Kay put his arms around my waist. “Underst-standable.”

“Is it…? I mean, it’s not like… it’s his first day of kindergarten.”

“His first day of h-high school?” Kay asked. “Plus a n-new school? It’s f-fine to feel anxious. And b-brownies sound good…” He hesitated, going quite red. “We’re alone…”

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With that, we went into the living room and fell back on the couch; I got so wrapped up in his kisses that the brownies were burnt to a crisp.

*

We said we loved each other again not long after that. Cal was at school and neither of us had work so Kay and I went out of town to take a walk in the woods, with a picnic and stuff. At one point we were sitting on this big rock by a stream, and he reached over and took my hand and told me he loved me. It wasn’t anything big, or dramatic, he just softly said ‘you know, I think I do love you’. I replied that that was good, since I loved him too. Then we kissed, and went back to enjoying the quiet prettiness of the scene.

After that, we said it occasionally. Neither of us seemed to feel the need to say it all the time. I wanted to one day be at the point where we could, but right now I was very happy to say it once or twice a week. Though we didn’t have as much time for dates, as his workload got heavier. I finally found out he helped with research at the local lab. He wasn’t actually working as a scientist there, as he had in Sunset Valley, but whatever they were doing they needed him a lot.

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Halfway through September my workload got heavier. I was asked to come in a little more and I pushed pushing the part-time hours. I was asked if I’d consider a full-time job and I said yes, because I knew I needed it for the money. But when I talked to Kay about he seemed distressed but didn’t come out and say he didn’t want me to turn down a full-time job offer. I gave him a hug and told him if I did change hours it wouldn’t happen for a while.

“I j-just don’t want you f-feeling like you need to,” he said, his head resting easily in the crook of my neck. I swear, the shape of that crook of my neck and the shape of his head were… made for one another or something.

“I know,” I assured him. It was so hard, though. I couldn’t explain it to him very well. For fourteen years I had been struggling to give Cal what he wanted and needed. It was hard to realize and even accept I wasn’t paying completely for bills and everything.

But before I had to make the decision of switching to full-time, we got the phone call from Jay that we were waiting for. Well, Kay and I were waiting for. We didn’t think Cal particularly cared about knowing the sex of the baby we’d be getting.

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Kay and I were curled up on the sofa when she called and when I heard it was her, I just felt so excited, watching Kay with big eyes. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, and Kay was mostly making comments like ‘yes’ and ‘uh-huh’. When he turned off the call and faced me, I was unable to hold it in anymore. “Well?” I asked.

Kay smiled. “It’s a-a boy.”

I grinned and hugged him tight, giving him a kiss. “A boy!” I said with a laugh. “Awesome.”

“Y-yeah. A… n-nephew… or…” Suddenly he looked nervous. “W-will I be considered… a p-parent? I’m n-not… adopting him. Just… raising him. So… what would I b-be?”

“I don’t know. I guess that’s something to think about. We have plenty of time before he’ll start talking. Especially if he’s like Cal.”

“Oh?”

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I shrugged. “Cal took ages to learn… er, well, anything. Talking. Walking. Potty-training. He was a stubborn little baby.” That caused me to giggle. “I guess it shouldn’t surprise me he’s such a stubborn teen.”

“Is it h-hard raising a k-kid?”

“Yes. Very hard,” I said and as he began to have that fear in his eyes I leaned in and nuzzled. “But it’s wonderful. I…I am really looking forward to there being a baby.” I pondered for a moment about my lifelong dreams of a big family. Then I had a thought. Did the surgery Jay performed on me… get rid of my womb? I never thought to ask. Then again, it never occurred to me that I might want one. Of course I supposed it wouldn’t matter since two guys couldn’t have a kid together.

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“You look s-s-sad?” I felt Kay’s hand gently on my knee.

“Well… nothing.” I didn’t want to bring the subject up because what if he freaked out again?

He must’ve read my mind. “No, i-it’s okay. What’s bothering y-you? Please t-tell me…”

I wrapped my fingers around his hand. “It’s just… I kind’ve wish… well… please don’t take this in a way other than, you know, me thinking about things because–well, I don’t want you to freak out.”

“I w-won’t,” he said, except I could tell he was worried.

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“I was just thinking about–about how awesome it’d be if… like, in sci-fi stories, if two guys could have a kid together or something.” I waited for a second or two, studying the very strange look he now had on his face. “Kay? You kinda look like you’re, I dunno. You look…”

“Oh. Um. Y-yeah. Well. Th-the thing is… I g-guess we never… t-t-t-told you… about… oh… ummmm…” He rubbed the back of his head. “R-remember you were t-told the other parent had to be an unknown d-d-d-donor…” He reddened and shifted his weight, pulling his hand away from mine. “Well, ah, the-the thing is, uh, well, um, the–unknown d-d-d-donor–is–um–m-male.”

I felt like I was on the ferris wheel again. My stomach rose and dropped, spinning and churning in a way that made me ill. “M… male?” I was dizzy now. “Male? How–how is that… possible…?”

“F-from our r-research, the… aliens w-were most likely male. We w-w-wanted to be as au-authentic as possible. It t-t-took years to perfect the s-solution that t-turned… ahhh… male… uhh… male…”

“Sperm?” I offered and he went brighter red than he had in ages.

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“Y-yes. Th-th-that. It, uh, t-turns that into… viable… essence to be–f-f-fertilized.”

“So you take sperm and turn it into an egg?” I asked, very confused and bewildered and gobsmacked and a hundred other words that meant shocked beyond belief.

“N-not an egg exactly. But c-close. It’s male–ahh–essence that c-can be fertilized by other… male… essence.”

“And that works?” I asked stupidly, regretting saying it the moment it came out. Of course it worked. I had Cal.

But Kay didn’t react to my idiocy, thankfully. “Y-yes, it was a d-difficult process but once we got it w-we were able to create it easily. In f-fact my sister was researching making it easier, ch-changing chemicals in the body so it w-would be easier to change a man’s… uhhh… essence. That was set a-aside of course when we were k-kicked out of Landgraab…” Kay ducked his head. “B-but yeah, uh, both of C-Cal’s parents… are… uh, you and–and–and–and… a m-male.”

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“Whoa. That’s… a lot to absorb. I just thought you put a female womb or something in me with an egg in it or something.” I hesitated then blushed. “Which… essence was… turned…?”

Kay squirmed looking exceedingly uncomfortable. “Y-yours. You–your… uh, well, yours. And no, we f-found a process to male an artificial w-womb.”

“So I had a fake womb? Was it… like, plastic?”

Kay giggled. “No. C-completely bio–ah, biological. You… s-still have it…”

That answers that question. I put my hands against my stomach and looked down. “Oh, I figured she just removed it.”

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“No. She r-r-r-rearranged your organs in a b-better manner. C-completely removing the womb w-would have caused difficulties. Your body… and ah, chemicals and hormones w-were… altered.”

“Altered?”

“Mhm. So your b-body would accept the ch-change. The, uh, pregnancy process. For instance, to m-make sure Cal r-received all the p-proper nourishment growing inside of y-you.”

I leaned back on the couch, thinking about all of this. Kay wavered a bit, looking like he was trying to decide whether I needed space or not so I stretched my arm out, inviting him in. He snuggled close, putting his head against my shoulder. I wrapped my arm around him and turned the TV back on to give me something to pretend to watch while I thought a lot.

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If Jay didn’t completely object… could Kay and I maybe one day have our own, biologically related family?

*

September turned into October and Twinbrook was beautiful in the autumn. Kay and I took to walking a lot. On Mondays we went through the neighborhood, on Wednesdays we went along a river road, and on Fridays we went a bit out of town and followed a footpath through some woods. It started getting a bit too cold out though and partway through November we decided to just walk in our neighborhood once a week. I suspected even that would stop once winter really started up.

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The Thanksgiving holidays were really nice with Kay. A lot nicer than on my own with Cal. I usually didn’t go all out for dinner, just a small turkey, some potatoes and cranberries but this time I spent the day cooking a large turkey and loads of side dishes which went over well. Afterwards the three of us were passed out on the couch, half-asleep as we watched the parade on TV. Cal went to his room at some point, leaving Kay and I to snuggle. We wound up falling completely asleep and when we woke up in the morning, Kay was very embarrassed.

“I’m s-sorry,” he kept mumbling.

“It’s fine,” I said. But he just got more awkward and avoided me the rest of the morning before he left for work. I wondered what it was that bothered him so much. We slept on the couch but we were both completely dressed, a light was on, the TV was on, and we weren’t really touching that much. I had fallen asleep against the arm and he against me… but there wasn’t really anything intimate about it…

As I worked on the dishes that morning (ugh such a mess from the night before) I thought about when I had woken up in bed with him, when I was comforting him. I hadn’t realized just how nice it had been at the time…

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When he got home, he apologized for acting so silly. I promised him it was fine and so we curled up on the couch and made out until Cal came home, walking through the door and complaining very loudly about once again catching us at kissing. It seemed that he had a bad habit of that, and when I began laughing about it he gave me a glare and stomped to his room.

*

Winter hit and we began preparing the house for Christmas. I was so happy I could finally actually have the house all nice for the holidays. Kay apparently was big into decorating and told me he had always had to beg and wheedle his sister to let him decorate the place.

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One thing I liked about the decorations was catching Kay under the mistletoe. We made a game of it, hiding and watching until the other would cross under it then the other bounding out so we could kiss. Mmm… yes, mistletoe was a wonderful tradition.

I bought several nice presents for Cal, really excited about Christmas. The problem was… what to get Kay?He was my boyfriend. I should’ve had some idea of what to get but I really didn’t. He had a lot already. All his favorite books and movies. I didn’t want to just get him clothes or something, so what should I get him? I had asked him but he just mumbled and blushed, not really giving me an answer. He finally told me last year his sister had gotten him a text book, but that certainly didn’t help me.

The days wore on. Kay got super secretive about something he was doing, Cal complained loudly about school and not having any friends to go out with, and I agonized over what to get Kay. I really wanted it to be special. Something that would really make him happy. And finally–finally–I figured out what I was going to do. I just hoped it wasn’t as stupid as it sounded in my head.

*

“DAAAAAD!!!! DAD! WAKE UP! DAAAAAD!” Pound, pound, pound. I rolled over in bed and opened one eye. The clock said it was before six. I mumbled to myself and yanked the blanket over my head. “DAD WAKE UP IT’S CHRISTMAS!” Pound, pound, pound.

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I kicked the blankets away and got out of bed. Of course it was. There was no other reason Cal would be up this early, except on Christmas and his birthday. “Coming!” I shouted. “Did Santa come?” I added with a tease.

“Stop being so sarcastic, Dad!” he complained and I heard him moving away from the door.

I exited my room, expecting to give him a telling to for causing such a ruckus in someone else’s house–but there was Kay, sitting on the couch and looking just as excited as my son. They both had big grins and bright eyes. I just grinned back. “Merry Christmas, Cal. Merry Christmas, Kay,” I said, going over and kissing the side of Kay’s head.

“DAD! Not before breakfast!” Cal complained.

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“Then don’t wake me up so early. Shall I go start breakfast for you?”

Cal looked horrified. “But… but…” He looked at the tree and all the wrapped gifts. There was a LOT more under the tree than usual. Growing up, he didn’t exactly lack in Christmas gifts thanks to Elouia Bee buying and wrapping up three or four things from ‘Santa’ in addition to her usual gifts, but that was a long time ago and this was much different. I was going to say no, we should have breakfast first but Kay was now giving me puppy dog eyes as well.

“J-just one,” he said. “F-f-for Cal. From m-me. Please?”

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“Yeah, pleeeeaaaaase Dad?!”

“How can I resist that? All right.” I sat down, putting my hands in the air in defeat. “Stockings, and one gift.”

“Yeehaw!” Cal began bouncing around and tore into his stocking which had some candy, an orange, a deck of cards, and a CD he’d been harassing me for. He actually gave me a hug (great Christmas present) and then Kay went off to his room to fetch a bag.

“N-now be careful, d-d-don’t drop it. I… I’m sorry it’s t-taken so long to get.” He handed the bag over to Cal who began taking tissue paper out. Kay continued talking. “I was able to f-f-find the f-final ingredient about… a w-week ago. It was d-done a c-couple days ago but… I thought maybe… t-today would be a good day… to give it to you.”

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It was a corked vial of… bubbly… orange stuff. I looked at Kay then at Cal. Cal was staring with huge eyes. “Is this–is this–” he stammered, looking at Kay in shock. “Am I–I mean, will it work ok?”

Kay nodded. “It w-will be fine.”

“Do I need to… do anything?”

“N-nope, just hand it over and let her d-drink it all.”

“How long… will…?”

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“It sh-should start working right a-away.”

I tried to follow the conversation but got lost, finally guessing it had something to do with his imaginary friend. Of all the… Oh well, if they wanted to play that game then I wasn’t going to be bothered by it. Cal seemed ecstatic, he was screaming and hugging Kay and then handed the vial to the air. I was waiting for it to crash to the floor but when when his fingers let go it stayed there.

Wait.

What?

I sat up staring at the vial which was floating in mid-air. “Whaaat?” I screeched, struggling to my feet. “K–Kay? Cal? What–how–what’s–” I sputtered for several seconds, hardly able to form more than a couple syllables. The vial tipped back and the liquid disappeared. Like someone was drinking from it. Like–what?!

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I flinched at a flash of light and then there was swirling masses of light, like a–a–I don’t know what! I grabbed Kay’s arm. He beamed at me. “J-just watch,” he whispered. “I s-saw it once. It’s r-r-really neat to s-see!” He moved his arm a bit so he could hold my hand. There were sparkles, like on a big birthday, and light swirling every which way. Then bubbles. Bubbles and lights and then this sort of humming sound.

Cal was transfixed to the spot, looking as though he was gazing upon something–something–something we couldn’t see. And for the first time since he was a little kid, I wondered if there really was something there. Or someone. But how could Penny be real? A doll? An invisible friend? Nobody could see but him? Except, these lights. If I were more cynical I’d suspect a trick being played on me but I knew it wasn’t.

Penny… existed…? My son wasn’t crazy? I gripped Kay’s hand hard. “It’s true then,” I whispered, fearful of breaking whatever spell was going on.

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“We s-said it was,” he replied.

The weird hummy sound got louder and then I closed my eyes as it all exploded–the music, the lights, the bubbles. When I opened my eyes again there was someone standing where everything else had been. A young girl, about Cal’s age, with purple and red hair. She was wearing the strangest outfit and had a very confused look on her face.

Cal’s jaw dropped. “P…. Penny…”

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The girl looked at him then down at herself, then back up. “Calcifer,” she said in a soft, gentle voice. “I’m real.”

“You’re real!” Cal exclaimed with joy.

“She’s real,” I squeaked.

“Y-yep,” Kay said proudly. “C-Cal, I think an introduction is in order…?”

Cal just kept staring at her for several seconds before shaking his head, as if coming out of a trance. “Y-yeah… D-Dad this… is Penny…”

The girl looked over at me, her bright turquoise eyes crinkling a bit as she smiled. “Mr. Danevbie. It’s so nice to finally properly meet you.”

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That was about the last thing I was aware of before I fainted.

The Danning Beginnings – Chapter Twenty-One

*Jacob’s POV*

Well, I had ruined it. Completely ruined one of the best things that had ever happened to me. Kay stayed in his room, ignoring me for the rest of the day. At least he ate dinner and then went and fetched Cal. As soon as he came back, though, he returned to his room.

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“Did something happen?” Cal asked.

“Did he say anything on the trip?” I asked, rather hoping he had.

“No, he was pretty much silent. Oh!” Cal folded his arms and narrowed his eyes. “Did you two have a fight?”

I turned away from him, a bit annoyed he picked up on it so easily. Then again with the way Kay was acting… not that he was totally wrong for acting like it. But I just really needed him to understand that to me dating was more serious than how most people took it. I knew the old saying ‘better to have loved and to have lost’ but I just didn’t think, emotionally and mentally, I could once again put in so much time and effort into a relationship only to have to fall apart at the end of the dating journey. To have the door slammed shut in my face. I cared so much for Kay… I… more than cared for him. And I had been wrestling with these feelings. But to me marriage was–was–was so important. Eventually. Not now.

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But why had he freaked out so much? We had talked about other things. More serious things. I wasn’t proposing, I was just trying to bring it up as something to talk about–and then he and… takes it the wrong way. Okay, I knew I should have spoken clearly but I couldn’t very well. He did make me pretty tongue-tied more often than not.

Marriage as a subject not marriage as an action. There was a difference. It was like, kids. And other stuff. Which we had talked about. How could he talk about one day wanting children and not freak out, but talking about marriage sends him into fits? I knew I had made a mistake with the way I worded it, but I had not made a mistake in bringing the subject up. And with the way he acted… maybe it was better to have brought it up because of that.

“Dad? DAD?” I jumped and shook my head, looking at Cal. “You did fight, didn’t you?”

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“Um. Yes. Why?”

“Just wondering. Hope you make up soon. I don’t like tension in the house.”

If I had been drinking something I would have sprayed it out right there all over him. Him? The cause of most the tension in our house most the time with his sullen, bitter, angry complaining? “No, I don’t like it either,” I managed to say in an easy voice.

“What was the fight about? Sex?”

Okay now I would have sprayed a drink out. “Cal!” I gasped. “That is NONE of your business! You–we–no! None!”

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Cal shrugged and headed to his room. “Well it’s obvious you two are sickeningly gaga over one another, and Kay is gonna help with Penny so–go apologize. Probably your fault,” he added under his breath, most likely assuming I wouldn’t hear.

I marched over and shut the door he had just opened. “Excuse me? It was not my fault. Not completely. I want to make that clear.”

Cal shrugged. “Ok.” He tried opening his bedroom door again but I shut it.

“Why would you think it’s my fault?” I asked, pressing my lips together and focusing my eyes on him.

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He sighed rather heavily, leaning back against the door. “Cause Kay doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who’d start a fight. Judging from what I’ve seen and I could be wrong but he’s not a confrontational kind’ve guy.” He tried opening the door again and I leaned forward, shutting it.

“I may have brought a subject up but he completely freaked out, so it’s not really my fault,” I said.

“Dad.” He turned once more to face me. “What subject did you–” The he stopped, his eyes going wide. “Marriage? You–you brought up marriage?! Daaad! How–why? You’ve barely been together at all!”

I pursed my lips and let go of the door. “How did you know?”

“Penny just said. Dad. Seriously. Marriage? You–you think you’re ready for that?”

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“No! I’m not. And I know he isn’t either. I didn’t bring it up like that. I didn’t propose. I just wanted to talk about how he felt about it. We’ve talked about other things!” Now I slumped back against the door, rubbing my head. “Cal, I care about him so much but… I need him to know that… dating isn’t just… dating for me. I–I intend… on… having something… that will blossom into more than just dating, and I don’t know now if he feels the same with the way he was acting. I just wanted to talk. What’s so wrong with that? Isn’t it better to talk about it now instead of later when we’re very serious about each other, only for him to say no he doesn’t agree with marriage and me wasting another year or two or three on an empty relationship?”

Cal let out a short breath. “Jeez, Dad. Wasting time? You think it’s a waste to date someone and it not end in marriage?”

“I’m not that type of guy!” I felt like I was dog paddling in water and going under. “Some people can make that work and that’s fine. For them. I understand there are people like that. But I am not the sort of guy who can just… date around, or even just one person, indefinitely. Marriage is important to me. It always has been. It always will be. I–I have that dream, Cal. I’ve always wanted a family. Having you was the best thing to ever happen to me. And now I have… a chance at love? And a bigger family? I’d like that. One day. Not now. But I need to know that when our dating road comes to a crossroad, if a ring comes out it won’t be shoved back in my face.”

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“Then you should talk to him.”

I ground my teeth and tried to push down my frustration. “Yes,” I said very slowly, “I realize that. One reason I am so distressed is because he’s hiding instead of talking.”

Cal studied me for a second then brushed past me, going over to Kay’s bedroom. He knocked at the door. “Kay? Can I come in?” I heard something of a response and it must’ve been positive since Cal opened the door and went inside. I slowly walked over, watching the now-closed door with worry. What was being said? I was tempted to put my ear against the door but instead went to the couch and sat down.

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After two minutes I stood up and started going towards the door but turned and wandered into the kitchen. Dishes were done, everything was clean. Frowning, I went to the washer and dryer but no clothes. I ran into the bathroom but no, I had done the laundry earlier. I had folded it and put it away. I examined the bathroom. Nothing needed cleaning.

Grumbling a bit, I returned to the couch. It had been only three more minutes? I stared at the door, burning to know what they were talking about. I couldn’t even hear any raised voices from here. But I wasn’t going to eavesdrop. That was wrong. Tempting, but wrong.

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I put my feet up and turned on the TV, putting it on low and staring blankly at the pictures flashing by. I wasn’t even really concentrating. I just felt ill. Oh man what was Cal saying? What was Kay saying? How could I let my son just… waltz in there and talk for me? I felt like a coward. I was a coward. I needed to man up, so I got up and went over, knocking on the door.

Cal opened the door. “Yeah?”

“Um, can I come in?”

“Not right now,” he said and then shut the door. My jaw dropped then I clamped my mouth shut, glowering. I pounded at the door and Cal opened it again, raising his eyebrows. “Dad, come on. Give us some time, ok?”

“It’s my responsibility to talk to him, not you,” I said softly.

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“And look what happened.” Cal shut the door in my face, and I heard soft voices murmuring.

I raised my fist to pound but then slowly uncurled my fingers, moving my hand to my chest. Fine. I turned off the TV and stormed to my room, resisting the urge to slam the door shut. I may look young but I wasn’t going to act like a little kid, slamming doors and–and–hiding out. I tried to be adult and have a conversation and Kay just… acted like… a brat.

I threw myself on my bed, and brooded angrily.

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*

I slept fitfully and in the morning, I wasn’t feeling much better. A bit, but not much. I felt more sad than anything. I didn’t want to do anything but I forced myself out of bed, into clean clothes, and into the kitchen to start breakfast. I just made myself a fried egg sandwich and cut up an apple, sitting down at the table and eating by myself. I was halfway through when a door opened. I concentrated on my food, listening intently to the soft footsteps making their way to the kitchen.

I felt his eyes on me. “Morning,” I said lightly, purposely not looking his way. “Want one? Or would you rather something else? We still have some sausage gravy, I could heat that up and some biscuits, if you like.”

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“H…. hi… J-Jacob.” There was a pause and I finally glanced over as I stood up out of my chair. Kay looked a bit pale and quite unhappy.

“What would you like to eat?” I asked again.

He stared wide-eyed. “Y…. you’re not… m-mad?”

Here we go. “About last night? Oh yes. But that’s not going to change the fact I’ll fix you breakfast.”

“C… can we t-t-t-talk…?”

Stay strong. “I’d rather not.” I moved a bit closer to the fridge, trying hard not to break down. “Now, what would you like?”

“I–I’d like t-t-to talk,” he said a bit stiffly.

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“Well, I wanted to talk last night and that didn’t seem to work,” I said and Kay flinched.

“So b-b-because I d-didn’t want to talk last night, we can’t now?”

I faced him completely, arms folded, trying not to break down. “I’d like to talk, Kay, but now I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if we start talking, if you’ll stay and talk or just run off.”

“You–you just throw a–a thing like… m… m… like what you s-said last night and expect me t-to not take it the w-way I did?”

“I expect you to be a little more mature than running and hiding.”

“So… now I’m n-not mature.”

“You didn’t act mature, last night.”

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“Marriage is a-a-a-a huge l-leap!”

“I didn’t–I wasn’t–rrrrgh!” I pressed my hand against my forehead. “Kay. I wasn’t proposing. I wasn’t even suggesting we talk about getting engaged. I was just… making sure… you were on the same page as me, and that marriage should be the result of dating. I wanted to talk about it early in our relationship so I don’t go a few years down the line only to find out you think marriage is stupid!”

“I-I-I-I don’t.”

My hands dropped and I felt so… overwhelmingly upset I could hardly contain it. “Watcher. Was that so–so difficult to say? how–how come you couldn’t just–say that last night? Then none of this would have happened!”

“You d-d-d-didn’t ask me that!” he yelped. “You–you said–“

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“Last night I–I just wanted to talk about things. We’ve–hell, Kay! You’ve talked about kids? Remember? How come you can talk about kids so easily and then just talking about marriage scares you so much?”

“M-maybe because we–” He stopped and then gulped, stepping back and hunching over.

“We what?”

“N-nothing. I j-just… last night… you… it s-scared me.”

“I didn’t mean to scare you. Kay, I–I really… I…” Now was not the time to say that, so I bit down on my tongue and took a second. “I really like you. I… I don’t want us to just… pull apart because I said something stupid and it was misunderstood.”

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“I r-r-really d-d-don’t want to p-pull apart either,” he whispered.

I took a step closer to him and started to reach out when the phone rang. We both jumped and I looked at the clock. It was just slightly after 7am. Who would call so early? I looked at Kay who blanched a bit, then we both just sort of stood there. The phone rang, and rang, and rang, and went to the answering machine. Nobody left a message though.

I swallowed when the machine stopped, then moved closer. “Kay. I’m sorry I scared you. I really didn’t mean to. I didn’t think you’d freak out like that because we have talked about other serious issues. Like kids. And stuff.”

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“I… I j-j-just heard… and thought… and c-c-couldn’t think… and I’m s-s-sorry. But… you… y-you…”

“I what?” He opened his mouth, then the phone rang again. He started to move to answer it, but I seized his arm. “I what?”

“You’ve n-never…we’ve… y-y-you…” He bit his lip and twisted, though didn’t try to get out of my hand. “R-really, it’s n-nothing. J-just stupid.”

“It’s not stupid. Kay, please–we should… You can’t run away from conversations. If you don’t want to talk about something, we don’t have to. Sometimes I won’t feel up to talking. But we can’t push things aside. We… we need to be honest…”

The phone stopped, and once again whoever it was didn’t leave a message. Kay relaxed a bit under my grip and I let go. “How c-c-can we be h-honest and t-talk if we… d-d-don’t want to t-talk about s-s-something?”

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“I….. I don’t know. I guess if it’s important enough we’ll… find a way to say it.”

“What if it’s i-important but you’re afraid t-t-to say it?” His eyes softened a bit. “I’m n-not very b-b-brave.”

“Neither am I. But… if it’s important enough… I… I could…” Oh man. No. Yes. Oh jeez. “I could t-try.”

“D….. do you…w-w-want… to say… it?” His voice was so quiet, I barely heard it.

I leaned in close to him. I was terrified to say it. But I wanted to. And I knew I should. So I put my fingers under his chin and looked into his eyes. “Kay,” I said, trying not to sound as scared as I felt. “I love you.”

The phone started ringing again, but Kay didn’t even blink. He just stared back into my eyes, smiling. “J-Jacob, I–I love you t-too.”

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And we were kissing, very hard and fiery and passion-y and love-y and oh my watcher we just said those words but oh, I had never meant them more–in that way–than I did now. Somewhere in another world I heard a door banging open and my son yelling, but I closed my eyes and kept kissing Kay, arms holding him close, the small fight we had a million miles away.

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“Oh come ON!” We pulled apart and looked at Cal standing in the doorway, a huge scowl on his face as he had one hand covering the mouthpiece of the phone. “It’s fucking seven in the morning, and Doctor Bitch is calling and I have to see this? Worst. Morning. EVER!” He shoved the phone at Kay then turned to leave, then looked over his shoulder. “Though I guess I’m glad you two idiots made up.” He stomped back to his room and slammed the door shut.

“S-sis?…  Huh? Oh, uh, y-yeah. How are you d-d-doing?…. Uh, well, I, uh… Yesterday w-was a bit… difficult but everything’s f-fine now. Your ph-phone was off?…..” He raised his eyebrows then began to look nervous. “I’m… I’m f-fine, yesterday was just–well, it was j-just a misunderstanding. Everything is g-good. M-more than good, really. Everything is g-great. I’m g-g-glad the investing st-stuff went well…..” After a second he gave me a swift, rather scared look. “J-Jacob? Yeah, but–but as I said it was j-just a misunderstanding. We w-worked it out…..”

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I could feel his sister getting annoyed. I wasn’t sure if Kay would tell her–I didn’t think she knew about us yet. I gave Kay a look and indicated first myself then the phone but I don’t think I got the message across because he just smiled a bit back at me. “Oh, uh, y-yeah, he’s d-d-doing well. He’s doing very well.” Kay paused then slowly said, “He’s, um, l-living here……” He cowered as if expecting a bomb to go off because of that and because of his reaction, I braced myself. All that happened was he listened for a few seconds then responded with, “Well, he d-doesn’t… have his own place… r-right now and I figure he m-might as well stay here… Um, I, uh, well… why? Th-there’s… it’s fine…..” I really wondered what she was saying. Kay had been relaxing slightly but tensed up once more. “Ah, w-well, as I said it was a misunderstanding. We g-got it sorted out. I w-was upset last night but everything is g-great now…. Yes. I’m p-positive. It’s w-wonderful…..”

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He gave me a very sweet look and if he had been talking to anyone else I might’ve gone up behind him and put a kiss on his cheek or behind his ear, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing something like that when he was talking to his sister. I at least gave him a hopefully romantic look back. He blushed, so at least I didn’t look too much like a dork. “We t-talked about it. We… f-figured out what c-caused… the problem… and f-fixed it….. Um. Well, uh, h… how are things… there? Are you g-going to come… visit soon?…” He raised his voice, perking up, looking hopeful and then he slumped again, frowning. “Oh….” I felt terrible, because he sounded so sad. “Well… um… how are th-things are the lab?…. Th-that’s good… I hope… it all g-goes well…” Kay sniffled a bit. “I… I…….” He stopped, looking a bit dazed and flustered. “I… I hope you h-have some t-time to maybe come visit… if you c-can. I know you’re busy…. Oh… ok.” He sounded pretty sad again. “W-well I know you have a f-flight to catch, and Jacob w-wants to make my breakfast so I g-guess… I’ll talk to you… soon?…Ok. I–I, uh, bye s-sis…”

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He turned off the phone and came over, sitting down. I reached over and squeezed his hand. “You ok?”

“Mhm.” He nodded and turned his hand so he could hold mine. “Sh-she was j-just worried something w-was wrong.”

“You called her yesterday?”

“Yes… b-b-but her phone w-was off. I f-f-forgot she had a f-fund-raiser c-c-coming up. She’s in Monte Vista. The p-party was last night. I think it went w-well, I’m sure she would have been angrier if it hadn’t. Though I d-don’t know how it did go well. My s-sister’s not exactly….” Kay furrowed his brow. “Er, t-tactful when it c-comes to asking for funds. I was always the… f-face, so to speak.”

“You? And your cute little stammer?”

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He blushed and giggled. “Yes. I m-may stammer and have problems t-talking and… well, am a b-bit shy but that’s loads b-better than my sister’s complete lack of social grace. OH!” He looked around as if expecting someone to be there. “I d-d-didn’t mean it like th-that. J-Jay is wonderful. I love her s-so much. She–she’s very n-nice… well, with m-me…”

“Kay, it’s fine to say your sister doesn’t have social skills. It’s not an insult. And she’s not going to come out of the drain and yell at you for saying that.”

Now Kay was looking at the sink as if he were worried she might. “N-no, you’re right. I just… s-so many people just–d-don’t get her. I’m th-the only one in her c-corner. I sh-shouldn’t say such things about her.”

“You’re not the only one right now.”

“I’m n-not?”

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“Errr…” I hesitated and then began running my finger along the back of his hand. “I guess I don’t know, I just assumed the baby daddy was… around but… he might not be.”

“He b-better not be.” Kay actually looked angry.

“Oh…?” I gave him a curious look and he just kept silent. “Why’s that?”

“I d-don’t know, I just don’t… l-like the idea of…well… you know…”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Be a protective brother?”

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“Mmm… y-yeah.” He nodded, laughing as well. “It’s s-strange, to f-feel this way. But… everything is strange now…”

“Good strange I hope, at least for some of it…” I kissed the back of his hand.

“Now, yes. I’m… I w-w-w-will do better with talking. I’m n-not used to… con… confrontations… I’m… not r-really good with the more p-personal social type of things. Talking to rich folks to g-get money, yeah that’s n-not so hard, but trying to explain myself to the m-man I…” He paused and went red. “Ahh, you know….well that’s hard.”

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I bent forward to kiss him on the corner of the mouth. “It’s something we can work on. We have our whole lives ahead of us, there’s no need to rush into anything. We’ll take it nice and slow, and learn together, yeah?” He blushed more and nodded. I grinned and stood up. “Now, how about I get you that breakfast?”

The Danning Beginnings – Chapter Twenty

Cal was furious when I re-grounded him. He argued again it was my fault for not looking in on the movies he was seeing, but this time I didn’t cave–as much as I wanted to. He kicked up a fuss and grumbled and complained, but eventually retired to his room. Kay stayed up late with me watching a movie and whispering constantly that I had done the right thing.

“Sure?” I asked, clutching his hand.

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“P-positive,” he replied with a gentle smile.

When it got to be the day we were going to the fair, I realized it was slightly pointless to ground Cal. He didn’t have any friends yet and rarely went out, mostly staying in his room anyway. He was excited for the fair though. We got tickets and our hands stamped, and had hours ahead of us for fun but right away Cal begged for money. I gave him a little bit and he ran off, promising to meet us by the bingo stand at two.

“Two hours then,” I said.

Kay took my hand right in front of everyone. “L-let’s go on the ferris wheel.”

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“Ahhhh–the ferris wheel?” But he was dragging me off towards the ride. I stammered more than he usually did and dug my heels into the ground. There was hardly a line so we got on right away. I clutched the bar with one hand and clutched Kay’s hand with the other. I can do this, I can stand this. The ride started and we were lifted in the air. Why was I doing this?

“I’ve always w-w-wanted to be on the ferris wh-wheel,” Kay said. “I’ve never b-been on one b-before. I s-suppose the closest thing would be one of th-those glass elevators. Oh! L-look at that view! It’s so n-nice, I c-can see a lot of the fair and–J-Jacob? Your eyes are closed.”

“Yeah uh… sun’s in my eyes.”

“Jacob… are y-you… afraid of heights?”

“No! No. Just uh, on a completely unrelated note, let me know when we’re on the ground.”

“We’re n-near the ground…”

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I opened my eyes and sucked in air when I saw the ground slowly coming up towards us. I clutched Kay even more. “Ah–is it over then?”

Kay giggled. “No. W-we have a few more rotations t-t-to go and we’ll probably be s-stopped several times. I hope we’re stopped at the t-top.” I had a sharp intake of breath at that. “I’ve always w-w-w-wanted to be k-kissed at the top of a ferris wheel.”

“Oh,” I squeaked, closing my eyes as we headed back up. I kept my eyes closed until we were really stopped at the top, or near the top, and Kay coughed and I tried to muster as much courage as I could so I opened my eyes and focused intently on Kay’s face and not the wide… open… wide… high… space… high… behind him…

“I’m s-sorry,” he said when I started turning pale. “Close your eyes.”

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“N-no. I’m fine.” I gulped again and then pulled him close to kiss him, and as soon as I did I felt better. So I kept kissing him hard when we started moving and by the time we were stopped I felt a million times better.

We got off the ride and walked through the fairgrounds, holding hands. A few people gave us glares and judgmental looks but nobody said anything to us. “I sh-should have f-found out whether you were afraid of h-heights or not,” he said after a moment.

“Nah it’s fine, I survived,” I said. “And I enjoyed the kiss.”

“I st-still feel bad. I know how t-terrified you must’ve been. I was… I used to b-be afraid of heights.”

“You were?”

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“Mm. I never d-did anything like th-this… well, we never went to any f-fairs or anything when I was little. Or a teenager. Or an a… adult, really. Actually… th-this is the first time I’ve been to one, well th-that’s not true, I was here l-last year but didn’t g-go on any rides it f-felt pretty lonely and… st-strange being…in my forties… here alone…”

“Now we’re twenty,” I said, hands swinging a bit. “How did you get over your fear?”

“I had to. Elevators and–and airplanes. Especially airp-planes. And helicopters. My s-sister… would take the window seats and st-stuff but helped me. She’s d-done so much.”

I squeezed his hand tightly then stopped, seeing a game booth. “Hey. Want one of those giant teddy bears?”

“Huh?”

“Isn’t that what a guy does? Win a giant teddy bear at the fair for his date?”

Kay giggled again and blushed. “If you w-want…”

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It took a lot of attempts and several simoleons–probably more than what I could really buy a giant teddy bear for–but I finally managed to get it. Kay wrapped an arm around it, looking so pleased that it made all the effort worth it. I grabbed his hand and we moved on to another game, which he destroyed me at. It was a shooting game and he didn’t miss a single shot. He mumbled something about having learned how to shoot, which made me assume his dad had been a hunter or something.

We met Cal at the bingo stand and played for a bit, Cal winding up winning some money which he blew on winning a poster of a swimsuit model. We rode rides–thankfully avoiding the tall ones, although Cal did go on something like a ferris wheel that was faster, went backgrounds, and they were in these egg-shape things that spun. I felt ill just looking at it.

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We all got our faces painted, got sick on ice cream, cotton candy and pizza, went through a barn to see prize-winning animals, and watched the local school’s band perform. Cal didn’t seem too interested and shook his head when I suggested he go and meet a few kids. When it got dark we rode more rides, Cal and I went through a fun house–Kay refused–and then finished off the night with a firework show.

It was pretty late by the time we got back to the house. Cal actually thanked us before going to his room. I gaped at the closed door then turned to look at Kay. “Did he just…?”

“He d-did,” Kay assured me.

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“He doesn’t do that much anymore. I feel all warm and fuzzy,” I added with a laugh. “I really had a wonderful time today.”

“So did I,” he said, both of our hands meeting between us. “It w-was… like… well… I never g-got to do anything like it before.”

“Me either,” I replied honestly. “As a kid my parents never took me anywhere like that and as an adult I never really had anyone to go with until Cal, and then when Cal was growing up well… I didn’t go out to public affairs often because I didn’t want the backlash.”

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We kissed, and said goodnight before going to our rooms. I stripped down and flopped onto the bed feeling very sleepy and tired, but oh so very happy. Happier than I’ve been in ages… and just before I drifted to sleep, I thought of something which gave me a nightmare. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling very worried now, very frightened–until I came to a decision to just talk to Kay about it. That would be the best thing to do. And then I wouldn’t have to worry too much about… what might happen in the future.

*

Cal wanted to go to the fair again the next day–since it was a week long thing–so Kay drove him there and came back. I was slightly anxious about him being on his own only because of the fact he didn’t know anyone. Kay lent him his cell phone and I decided I really did need to get Cal one eventually soon.

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Kay came back, and I made lunch for us both. Afterwards we curled up on the couch together to watch a movie. Everything was great until a proposal scene in the movie which made me all sweaty and scared again, the nightmare rearing its ugly head. I glanced sideways at Kay who had his head against my arm. I really needed to talk to him. It was… early in our relationship but wasn’t that good? Better to… have it out now, out in the open, then get in any deeper and cause possible problems.

Not that I knew there would be a problem. There might not be. But I was so terrified that there WOULD be that I couldn’t keep silent on this matter. So after the movie, I mumbled something about wanting to talk to him. He turned those bright, lovely eyes on me and smiled. “Yes?” he inquired.

“I w-was wondering if… if… we could talk about some things.”

“Of c-course.” He got up and went over to the DVD player, moving the disk from the player to the DVD’s case. “Is everything ok?”

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“Yes. I just… had some things I needed to talk about. Um. You know. About the future.”

I was looking down at my shoes, so I couldn’t really see the look on his face. I thought about looking up and I finally did. He didn’t seem too disconcerted. “The f-future?” he asked. “What about it?”

“Well…” I stood up and went over to him. “I–I just… I needed to clear a few things up.”

“Oh?” He looked a bit frightened now.

I took his hands. “No. Nothing bad honest. It’s really good, actually. I just… well… I’m… I need you to know a few things. About me. About what kind of–of guy I am.” I held his hands tighter, feeling rather nervous. “Um, the thing is… I take–uh–dating… very… seriously.”

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His eyebrows lifted. “M-most people do,” he said.

“Uh, we-well the thing is a lot of p-people do but a lot of people… don’t. They just… think of dating as… dating. And I don’t.”

“What do you th-think dating is if it’s n-not dating?” He looked very confused, which made me feel even more scared.

“Uh… well… uh… I see… dating… as… courtship.”

“Courtship?”

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“As in…” I cleared my throat and focused on his eyes. “Courtship. The, um, road to… I mean… Okay. The thing is. I see dating… as… courtship… with… leads… to…” I sucked in air. “Marriage.”

His entire body stiffened up and his hands felt like lead weights. “Wh…wh…wh-wh-wh-what?”

“I want you to know. I think… It’s important for you to know.” I felt incredibly stupid. He looked stricken by fear and that filled me with fear. But I knew I did the right thing in telling him this, because… well, he needed to know. It was only right. I didn’t want him to think–think that I was the type of guy to just… date… for dating. Like some people.

His hands pulled away from mine. “J-Jacob, what? It’s–what?”

“Um… w… well… some people do… date just… to date and… I wanted you to know that–that I’m not like that, I–I see dating as–as something very serious…”

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“And I… d-don’t…?”

“No–I didn’t mean it like that–“

“J-Jacob, you’re–this–this is w-w-way too–soon–” He backed up, taking in rapid gulps of air.

I tried taking one of his hands but he withdrew from me. “I didn’t mean to–well, I just–I wanted you to–to know… and… I’m sorry if I–“

“How could you–it’s s-s-so… so… we’ve b-barely been… t-together…”

“What? Well–I know that’s why I wanted to tell you now before–before it was…”

“What? B-before it was what? We’ve been dating a c-couple w-weeks, we’ve only j-just–become boyfriends and–and–you w-w-want to discuss… m… ma… marr…” He gulped and went very pale as he backed up. “I can’t d-d-do this.”

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“No! Wait, Kay…” It was slipping through my fingers, how could I be so stupid? But it wasn’t like I could stay silent on the matter. I had this image of us continuing our relationship, our bond growing stronger and when it was time for–for us to–be more than boyfriends, I just had this horrible, sickening image of him pushing the ring away and telling me what a moron I was.

“J-Jacob, you haven’t even–you–h-haven’t…”

“I haven’t what?”

He rubbed his temples and then the bridge of his nose. “We–we’ve only b-b-been living together f-for… t-two months… and t-together… l-less… than that…” His gulping for air became even more rapid and then he clutched his chest, trying to slow the breathing. “I c-can’t handle this. It’s too soon!”

“I’m not–I’m not… asking… anything. I’m just letting you know dating is–“

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“Y-yes, yes, I–I c-can’t! Jacob, I… I…” His eyes darted to his bedroom door. “I… why… wh-why… I… how…” He sucked in a deep lungful and then shook his head. “I j-just can’t d-deal with this. Jay–w-was right.” And he took off, already shutting his bedroom door by the time I could even react. I stared at the shut door, everything sorta swimmy around me like I was stuck underwater including a rushing sound in my ears. My stomach flipped violently and then I was running.

“Kay!” I threw myself at the door. “Kay please–we–we–we should talk–and I’m sorry if I upset you–I just… I needed…” I pressed my forehead against the wood, my eyes closed tight. “I… I’m sorry…”

*Kay’s POV*

I was in the bathroom, two doors away from Jacob though only a wall away really. I could hear him knocking at the bedroom door, apologizing. Apologizing… for bringing up marriage? How did he THINK I would react? I–I really liked him but… there was no reason for him to ask such a thing so… so… soon.

I turned on the shower then started searching for my cell phone. It took over a minute to remember Calcifer had it, so I grabbed the house phone and fumbled with the numbers I rarely had to physically dial, though I knew them by heart. I pushed send then pressed the phone against my ear. I needed to talk to her so bad. She had been right. About Jacob. About guys. And I was stupid.

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It went right to her voicemail. I was surprised. She rarely had her phone off, unless something big was going on. I had expected if anything she’d see my name and not answer, but off completely? I felt… more alone. “This is Doctor Jay,” her voice said sharply. This was her private line and not many people had the number, but she never even used our real surname on it.  “Leave your name, number, and message, and I may get back to you if it is important.”

The beeping sound. I nearly dropped the phone and had to tighten my grip. “J-Jay?” I whispered. “Jay… I–I n-need you. I’m s-sorry. I was… I was–wrong. I was–I need you. P-please call back as soon as you can. I know… you’re… m-mad at me still but… I need you… I–I love you. C-call back. Please.”

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I hung up and slumped down, holding the phone against my chest. Tears did come out. I didn’t know what to do. How to even react. I could not believe he–he–he–I just couldn’t believe Jacob said that. It frightened me, no doubt about that. We barely have been together and… we just became boyfriends–and he hadn’t even ever said…l… lo…. If he couldn’t–or wouldn’t–even say the ‘l’ word how could he even bring up…. the ‘m’ word?

I just don’t understand. I looked at the phone again, willing it to ring, willing my sister to turn it on and hear my message. If… if Jacob… Oh, I couldn’t think about this right now. It was way too much. Too much. I just–why did he have to go and say that? HOW could he?

There was a tapping at the door and Jacob’s voice soon followed. Begging me to come out and talk, but I couldn’t. I moved back to the bathroom to turn the shower off then slumped back into my bedroom. Hearing him say my name hurt. I wanted to open the door and tell him everything was fine but I could not weaken. Because it was not fine, and it was not right to pretend it was.

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Marriage. He really said it. Courting. Marriage. After so little time. I shivered then dove into the bed, pulling the blankets over my head and wishing my sister would call back asap.

*

I stayed in my room the rest of the day, not daring to emerge. At dinnertime I could smell food cooking and it smelled delicious, but I remained behind my door. Jacob knocked and told me he had a tray of food. “You don’t need to come out, I’m just going to leave it here because you need to eat.” I heard him setting something down and then leaving.

I crept over and peeked out. He wasn’t anywhere to be seen but there was a tray of food so I dragged it in and shut the door, eating the roast beef and mashed potatoes. The roast beef was so tender it practically melted in my mouth. So delicious. But no, I wouldn’t let amazing food get to me. After I finished the food and drink, I pushed the tray out and returned to my bed.

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Jacob occasionally knocked at the door but I never responded. I was too scared. I just wanted to burrow deep into the bed and let everything just roll away. Marriage. And that he was worried I didn’t take dating as something serious? Well if his idea of ‘serious’ was to discuss marriage after a couple weeks then NO. I did NOT.

Am I being unreasonable? Maybe I was. I wasn’t sure. But wasn’t it more unreasonable to just… spring this on someone? Marriage? So soon? I was only just now getting comfortable with kissing… which was nice… very nice… and spending time with him was nice… but no. Marriage. Too soon. Far too soon. I knew a lot of people just flung themselves into marriage–getting engaged after a few weeks but I was not that kind of person.

It was nearly nine when the phone rang. I grabbed it and answered. “S-sis?” I stammered.

“Uhh, no, uh, Kay, it’s me,” Calcifer said. “You were expecting… your sister?”

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I tried to hide my disappointment. “W-w-w-well… I w-wasn’t sure. Are you r-ready to b-be picked up?”

“Yes please.” I wondered what Jacob would think about Cal saying please. I told him someone would be out, and then hung up. I left my room and Jacob was on the couch, perking up as soon as I left. I mumbled something about picking Cal up and quickly left, shutting the front door behind me.

I drove to the fairgrounds, windows down as I thought about everything that had happened since I had been told about Jacob. Giving him the youth potion, taking the youth potion in exchange for him getting the surgery… and our… romance. Which had been going great, until now. Why did he do that? I shook my head and tried to keep my mind off it. I picked Cal up and brought him home, going straight back to my bedroom when we got there, holding both the house phone and my cell phone for whenever my sister finally called back.

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