When I opened my eyes, sunlight streamed in through the blinds on my window and illuminated Chet's face and his brown eyes as he blinked at me. His black eyelashes were long. His caramel skin glowed welcoming the sunlight. I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him close to me.
"How long have you been awake?" I asked.
"Awhile," he answered honestly.
"You could have woken me," I said.
"It's Thanksgiving break. You should be able to sleep in."
"Don't remind me," I said and pulled him even closer.
"Don't remind you of what? That it's Thanksgiving today?"
"Ugh. Yes. That. I don't want to go home. I want to stay here with you."
He smiled and his warm hand came up to caress my jaw. "We have to go to our own houses," he said. "I shouldn't have slept over last night, but I did anyway."
He was right. I found myself once again hating that life interfered with my time with Chet.
"Fine," I said. "We should get up and get ready then. Do you want breakfast this morning?"
"No," he said as he rolled out of bed and began to get dressed. "My dad always makes us a big feast. More than we can eat. I guess that's what Thanksgiving is all about you know besides the whole give thanks thing."
I watched him from the bed as he finished dressing. He smirked when he caught me.
"Get up," he said. "You have to get ready too."
"Fine," I said and rolled out of bed.
He watched me as I got dressed. I didn't mind.
"Can I ask you something?" he asked.
"Always," I said as I pulled my shirt on over my head.
"Your grandma seems really nice and supportive. Wouldn't she stand up for you if the rest of your family finds out about us?"
My stomach began to turn in knots. It was something I tried not to think of too often. "I love my grandma," I said quietly, "but she isn't perfect. She didn't welcome me as a new baby. That's what I've been told anyway. I obviously don't remember it. I do remember bringing her flowers I picked from the garden when I was five because I wanted her to love me like she loved Aiden. And I remember she smiled at me. I think that's when things began to change and she began to accept me. She loves me, but she loves her son more." My voice grew quiet as the pain tore at my heart. As if Chet could sense my pain, he closed the distance between us and hugged me. The pain in my heart eased as his arms came around me.
"She will vouch for me," I said. "She will try to get my dad to change his mind, but ultimately she won't interfere with his decision."
"I hope you're wrong about that," Chet said.
But I couldn't hope that I was wrong because if I hoped that she could change his mind or make him keep me as his son and then it didn't work, it would destroy me. It was easier not to hope. We held each other without saying anything. I just basked in his warmth and the safety I felt in his arms. He pulled away first and went into the bathroom.
I went into my bedroom and changed into better clothes for Thanksgiving with my family. When I heard Chet brushing his teeth, I rushed into the bathroom to join him. He smirked with the toothbrush in his mouth. He had figured out I liked watching him brush his teeth. I grabbed my toothbrush and put toothpaste on it. I began brushing my teeth so it wouldn't be too obvious I was staring at him even though I was. He bumped my shoulder with his own.
When we were through, he tried to exit the bathroom, but I grabbed his wrist. "Do you want to shave me?" I asked as I remembered the last and only time he shaved me.
He smiled and patted my jaw. "No," he said. I was sure I pouted even though I didn't mean to express my disappointment physically. "That would lead to other things and we've got to go to our family houses."
I sighed. He was right. "Fine," I said.
"Next time," he said.
I followed him out of the bathroom. "Do you have family coming over?" I asked him.
"No," he said. "We don't have family here. It's just us."
I started to make the bed and he joined in to help me.
"Where is your family?"
"Most of them are in Thailand. My mom's oldest brother is in New York with his family. I haven't seen my cousins in like 5 years so we're not really close."
"I didn't realize your mom was from Thailand too," I said. I knew his dad was, but I also knew his dad had grown up in the states. I never heard an accent when he spoke.
"She was born here," Chet said. "She's the baby of her family and the first to be born here. My dad's family moved here when he was twelve. Both of my grandpas died when I was little. That was when my grandmas and my aunts and uncles decided to move back to Thailand. I haven't seen them since, but I do speak to both of my grandmas on the phone. They became good friends after my mom and dad started dating each other and they still live close to each other."
We moved to the kitchen and began to put away the dishes.
"Do you speak Thai then?" I asked. I always wanted to learn a second language. I thought it would be good for a business person to know multiple languages, but I could never decide what to study.
"Not really," he said. "My mom is mediocre with it herself. My dad tried to teach me when I was younger, but I only wanted to focus on soccer. Kannika can speak it though. When she talks to my grandmas on the phone I have no idea what she is saying."
I looked around for more things to do.
Chet smirked. "Go finish getting ready and stop stalling." He pushed me gently towards the bathroom. I dutifully obeyed. He was correct though. I was trying to stall. I didn't want to go home and I didn't want to take Chet home.
After we were both ready and I was driving him home I asked him, "So what do the four of you do on Thanksgiving besides stuffing yourselves with food? Do you watch the game? Watch the parade?"
"No. I do like sports, but Kannika and my mom don't like football so to be fair to everyone, we end up playing video games together."
I glanced at him briefly before turning my eyes back to the road. "Your mom and dad play video games with you and Kannika?" I couldn't imagine it.
"Yes," he said. "My family is a bunch of kids."
"That sounds like heaven. I really wish I could go to your Thanksgiving instead."
"Maybe next year," he said.
"I'll look forward to it."
"It doesn't bother you if I say things like that? Coming to my house for Thanksgiving next year or us eventually getting a place together?"
"No," I said. "I like it. I like picturing a future with you permanently in it."
He smiled at this. "Me too," he said.
I placed my hand on the center console and he placed his over mine. Our fingers entwined. I dropped him off around the corner at the usual place. My eyes lingered on him until he turned the corner and I couldn't see him anymore.
When I got to my house, Aiden wasn't there. My grandma greeted me at the door. She hugged me and dragged me into the living room with her to watch an old movie. I didn't see my mom or dad. I didn't dare talk about Chet with my grandma in case my mom or dad were within hearing distance.
I could smell the turkey that was baking and a mix of other delicious foods. My stomach growled loudly reminding me that I hadn't had anything to eat yet. I wondered if Chet's family had started their feast.
Aiden showed up with Jasmine. I knew Trevon was home for Thanksgiving so I was surprised Jasmine wasn't having family dinner with them. We had talked about arranging a time for Trevon to meet Chet and Mateo, but I wasn't sure the timing was going to work out before he had to go back.
Grandma and I greeted Aiden and Jasmine at the door when we heard them come in. Jasmine hugged Grandma. I was surprised as Aiden put an arm around my shoulders and pulled me into his side for one of those half hugs. He seemed genuine as he said, "Finally I get to see my little brother. It's been too long. You need to come around more often."
Jasmine smiled when she saw it. I would have assumed it was all a show for Jasmine, except there was a warmth in my brother's voice and a strange familial affection in my brother's eyes that I hadn't seen before that made me think it wasn't all just for show. Maybe Jasmine really was changing him for the better.
Jasmine broke the hug with my grandmother and hugged me instead. My brother quickly embraced my grandma. "I'm glad I get to see you again," Jasmine said quietly to me as my brother and grandmother exchanged pleasantries. "Who knows, maybe someday we'll be family," she said.
I wanted that, but didn't want that at the same time. It would be great to have her as family, but I didn't want my mom to say something that was going to hurt her. As if reading my thoughts my mom and dad showed up at that moment. My mom surprised me because after she greeted Jasmine and Aiden, she hooked her arm in mine and patted my hand gently. My dad of course ignored me as he led my grandma into the dining room, but I was just happy that my mom and brother had showed me affection. She and I followed Aiden and Jasmine into the dining room.
We found our normal spots around the dining room table. The table was all set and the food was warm and slightly steaming. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, rolls, the usual Thanksgiving dinner.
I didn't contribute much to the conversation as we ate. I was asked about school and friends and I gave brief, polite answers on everything that was asked. Jasmine said she would be finishing her masters soon. I didn't know that was something she was working on. My dad and Aiden talked about projects they were working on at the factory until my mom told them no talking business at the table.
Then my mom turned to me and asked me the one question I didn't want anyone asking me. "Are you dating anyone, Vinny?" She blinked at me expectantly. Even my dad seemed interested in my answer. My grandma tensed slightly which I expected since she knew. What I hadn't expected was that Jasmine and Aiden also slightly tensed. All eyes turned in my direction. I wasn't sure what to say. If I said yes, they would ask questions and want to find out who it was. If I said no, I would be outright lying.
"School is so time consuming," Jasmine said, "I'm sure he's focused on his studies."
"Yes," Aiden said. "Don't try to pressure him into dating. School is stressful enough as it is."
"I'm not pressuring him," my mom said easily. "I just want to know how my youngest son is doing. It doesn't matter how busy someone is, they can always find time to date. So," she said turning back to me, "are you dating someone?"
"I..." I started, but Aiden nudged me under the table and indicated with his hand not visible to the others for me not to answer. Did he know? Did Jasmine know? Had Trevon said something to her? I doubted it. I hadn't specifically told Trevon not to tell her, but he knew she was dating my brother and he knew how my family would react if they knew. And if my brother did know, I couldn't fathom him not informing my dad right away. He never went against what our dad wanted.
"No," I lied. "I'm not dating anyone." Jasmine, Aiden and my grandma all visibly relaxed.
"That's a shame," my mom said. "When you do date, make sure you bring her home for us to meet."
Her. That wasn't happening. Ever. Not now that I had Chet.
"Sure," I said.
After dinner, Jasmine and Aiden left to visit her family. I wanted to go home, but I didn't have an excuse to just leave and it was a holiday. They would expect me to stay.
The four of us gathered in the living room and grandma put her old movies on to watch.
I sent Trevon a text as I sat in one of the plush chairs near the couch.
Me: Did you tell Jasmine about me and Chet?
I put the phone back in my pocket thinking it would be awhile before he would see it. He was supposed to be having a family Thanksgiving dinner after all, but my phone immediately beeped with a reply.
Trev: No. Never. Why?
Me: It seemed like she and Aiden knew.
Trev: Did they out you to your parents?
Me: No. Maybe they don't know. It just seemed like they did. It seemed like they were trying to protect me.
Trev: Your brother protect you? That would be a first. Well, maybe not a first. Remember when that kid in the 5th grade hit you and then Aiden showed up the next day to talk to him? Sometimes I still wonder what they talked about. The kid didn't bother you again after that though.
Me: Your sisters used to come "talk" to the kids who were mean to you all the time.
Trev: Yeah, and then at home they would lock me in the closet or take away my food or hit me. I don't understand my sisters. If Jasmine and Aiden know about you and Chet, they didn't hear it from me. I don't know how they could know.
Me: ok. TY. Have fun with your family
Trev: TY U2 oh wait. Your family isn't fun. Just survive then.
"You know," my mom said to me after a short time, "if you do decide to date, make sure they are someone like Jasmine. Someone who has plenty of money. You don't want to end up with someone like those highschool girls again."
My stomach began to twist and my heart began to beat rapidly against my chest. My hands began to get cold and clammy.
"Yes," my dad said in a rare moment where he actually spoke to me. "Don't be fooled into thinking love is better than money." His eyes drifted to my mother before they looked back to me. Pain washed over her face for one brief moment before she recovered and wrapped both of her arms around one of his. She cuddled into him more as they sat next to each other on the couch. "Love will only bring heartache," he said quietly, but he took my mom's hand and squeezed it gently in his.
My fingers began to tremble slightly and my legs were weak even though I was already sitting. "Would you mind if I go to my room for a little bit? I'm feeling nostalgic."
My mom smiled. "Of course, son."
I tried to make my movements as normal as possible and not the frantic panic I was feeling. As soon as I was out of eyesight, I rushed the rest of the way up the stairs, down the hall and into my old room. I was careful not to slam the door behind me in my panicked state. I went to the corner by my bed that I always went to. It positioned me in such a way that if someone opened the door, the bed would be between me and them and hopefully they wouldn't see me. I pulled a pillow off my bed with trembling hands. I collapsed to my knees. My face buried in the pillow to quiet the frantic wheezes that escaped my lips. Sweat dripped down my brow and down my back even though I was cold all over. My heart pounded painfully, erratically against my chest. It was difficult to fill my lungs with enough air. My stomach rolled violently.
I wasn't sure how long I stayed there on the floor with the pillow like that, but eventually my trembling stopped, my heartbeat evened out and I could breathe easy again. I put the pillow back and straightened out the quilt so no one could tell I had disturbed it. I sat on the floor with my back propped up against the bed frame and took out my phone.
Favoritesoccerplayer: ILY2. Hang in there. I'll CU tomorrow
I held the phone up to my heart and stayed in that position until I finally felt strong enough to go downstairs and rejoin my family.