I place the napkins on the table and do one last check. Everything looks good. There are napkins, paper plates, plastic silverware and places to place the food Joey is making inside. There are folding chairs and brightly colored tablecloths on the picnic table. I can’t help but smile as I see the balloons Joey places on the table as a centerpiece.
Today is Aiden’s first birthday. It’s still amazing to me that it’s been a whole year since he entered our life. He’s just made our home so much better. He’s growing up so fast, though. There is a part of me that wants to freeze time so he can stay this size forever. But then when I think that, I see him do something new and I want him to grow up faster so I can see what he does next. Parenthood is confusing.
“Steve, I think your parents are here.”
I smile as I hear Joey’s voice filtering outside from the kitchen. With one last glance around, I walk into the kitchen. Joey is busy dishing potato salad into a large bowl.
“I heard a car pull into the driveway and since Lucas is always late…”
“Yeah, I get it,” I say, kissing Joey on the cheek.
“Wanna go say hi to your grandparents,” I ask Aiden, whose sitting in his high chair, munching on some Cheerios.
Aiden looks up at me and gives me a smile. I smile back before lifting him into my arms and walking to the front of the house.
I open the door just as my parents come up the walk. We all exchange hellos as my Mom takes Aiden out of my arms, cooing him all the while. Aiden smiles back and clumsily claps his hands. He always loves attention.
I lead my parents to the kitchen where they hello to Joey. I admit that the relationship between them and Joey was strained when I first started dating, but they have really warmed up to him. Of course, Aiden has helped in that regard.
The four of us are just starting to catch up when the doorbell rings again. Excusing myself, I go to get the door.
“Hey Lucas,” I say as I open the door. We really don’t have too many people that we were close enough too to invite to Aiden’s first birthday party. So I knew it was going to be him.
What I don’t expect is the guy standing next to him. He’s not the hottest guy in the world, but even I have to admit there is a cuteness about him. He’s really skinny with blonde hair and thick glasses. And he is fairly average height. Actually, that kind of describes the rest of him. Average. But was makes me stops and stare is the arm Lucas has wrapped tightly around him.
“Hey, Steve. This is Hal. I hope you don’t mind I brought him.”
“Of course not,” I say, trying not to let my shock show too much. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You too. I’m sorry to crash your son’s party. He made me come,” Hal says, looking at the ground.
“Hey, it’s no problem. I’m certainly always interested in meeting Lucas’s boyfriends. And Aiden’s only one so I don’t think he cares.”
Hal gives me a shy smile as I stand aside and motion them inside. Lucas guides Hal into the kitchen where I can hear the introductions being made. I can’t help but stay behind and shake my head. Lucas with a boyfriend. That he took to meet me and Joey. On Aiden’s first birthday. This guy must be pretty serious. I never thought I’d see the day.
As the afternoon went on, things started to get even more interesting. We go out in the backyard and have a great meal. And on the surface, it is quite normal. The odd thing is every time I look over at Lucas he has his hand or his arm on Hal. It isn’t sexual, just comforting and sweet. Now don’t get me wrong. I love Lucas like a brother and he is one of the sweetest guys I know. But not with his boyfriends. Actually it wasn’t even boyfriends. It was more like friends with benefits. But this is different. And I am dying to know more.
Finally, I get the chance when Joey asks me to go get the cake, having his hands full with Aiden. Taking my chance, I ask Lucas for help. He shoots a look at Hal that makes me wonder if he is going to come, but he gets up and follows me into the house.
“So what’s up with you,” I blurt out as soon as we are inside.
“What do you mean,” Lucas asks, grabbing the dessert plates.
“Hal. I’ve never seen you care about a guy like that before.”
Lucas sighs. “He’s different, Steve. I think…he may be the one.”
I turn around from the cake and look at my best friend. He has a small blush and a smile on his face. Walking over, I wrap him in a hug.
“I’m happy for you. You deserve it.”
“Thanks. I’m happy. I’ve envied what you and Joey have had for years. But until I met Hal, I didn’t think it was possible.”
“Well, we’ll have to see. But I’m hopeful.”
I pull back and smile at Lucas. “I’m glad. Now let’s get the cake before Joey sends a search party.”
Together, we gather up the cake, plates, matches and the candle formed in the shape of a one and walk them outside.
Setting them on the table, I light the candle and we sing happy birthday. Aiden is confused by it all and Joey has to help him blow out the candle, but he loves the cake, smashing it in his face as soon as he gets a piece.
We all sit around the table, laughing and eating the delicious cake. But through it all, I can’t help but sneaking glances at Lucas and Hal. The soft touches and smiles say all I need to know about the love between them.
Love is certainly growing around here. And it’s a beautiful thing.
And there's Part 23! What does everyone think of Hal and Lucas? They were first featured in a free short story that can be found here. (Although, that part is set a little farther down the road.) I was thinking that maybe I should write their story when Steve and Joey's is done. What does everyone think? Let me know and check back next week for more of Steve, Joey and Aiden!!!