"So. Do you want to meet them?" Dean asked Vincent.
All of us went silent as Heather came back and removed the empty plates. I understood why the cheeseburger was Dean's usual. The fries had been fine, but the burger had been delicious. Possibly one of the best cheeseburgers I'd ever had.
"I'll be right back with your check," she said to Dean.
"I can pay for ours," I said indicating me and Vincent.
"I'll pay for it," Dean said.
"Yes, hun," Heather said. "He can pay for it. It's the least he can do after accusing me of being a gossip. And you better give me a big tip."
Dean rolled his eyes, but Heather had already turned so she didn't see it.
"I don't know if I want to see them," Vincent said.
"It might be better if you don't," Dean said. "Jennifer left without looking back for a reason. And," his golden eyes fell on me, "they are racist and homophobic. But," his eyes went back to Vincent, "I only asked in case you wanted a better understanding of your mom."
Heather came back with the check and then left to help other customers. Dean put down some cash. It was enough to pay the bill and leave a generous tip. He slipped out of the booth and headed to the door. Vincent and I followed him.
"Bye, Sarah," he said to the hostess.
"Bye, Dean. Bye," she said to me and Vincent. I waved goodbye to her as we exited the diner.
"Yes," Vincent said as soon as we stepped outside into the cold air. Dean turned to look at him. Vincent slipped his hand in mine and squeezed tightly. "I want to meet my grandparents."
"Then I'll take you to them," Dean said. "Just remember you can leave at anytime. You aren't obligated to stay just because they are your mom's parents."
"Okay," Vincent said.
"I'll introduce you, but then I'm going to leave," Dean said. "As you can guess, I don't get along with them. You can come to my shop when you're done and we can talk some more if you want. I'll text you the address."
"Okay," Vincent said.
He got back on his bike while we got in my dad's car. I followed him through the small streets to a trailer park. It wasn't a nice one either. Most of the trailers and mobile homes inside were run down, broken, needed new paint, rusty. He parked in front of one of the trailers near the back of the park. There was a little stream nearby. It was the only nice thing in this place.
I looked over at Vincent. He was pale.
"Are you okay?" I asked him.
"I think so," he said.
"We don't have to stay long if you don't want to. We can leave right now if you want." Dean turned his motorcycle off and stood up.
"Maybe this will help me understand why my mom chose money over me," Vincent said. I wiped the tear away as soon as it fell on his cheek.
"What are you doing here?" a harsh female voice croaked from the trailer door.
"Don't worry, I'll be leaving soon," Dean said.
Vincent took in a deep breath before he opened the door and stepped out of the car. I followed him. The woman had short, blond, messy curls. She wore a dull jacket that was zipped up all the way and black jogging pants.
"You're not welcome here," a man said behind the woman. He was balding, but what little hair he did have left was gray. He had a potbelly underneath a green sports jacket. He also wore black jogging pants.
"I came to introduce you to your grandson." Dean indicated Vincent.
The couple looked at Vincent with confused expressions.
"Jennifer's son," Dean clarified further.
Understanding dawned on their faces.
"Who's that?" the man nodded his head at me.
Vincent took my hand in his. "My boyfriend," he said in a strong voice that gave no indication that his fingers were trembling, but I could feel them in my grasp.
The man scoffed and went back into the trailer. Dean nodded at us, but that was as much as he gave us before he got on his motorcycle and drove away. The woman turned and went back into the trailer, but she left the door open. Vincent and I looked at each other before we went up the little steps and entered the trailer.
There was an awful smell inside - rotting food and body odor. I was careful not to scrunch up my face in disgust at the piles of garbage around the trailer. The man sat on a chair and watched t.v. He had a beer in one hand and several beer cans around his feet. I couldn't tell if they were all fresh cans or if he just always left his cans there. The woman sat at the edge of a tan couch. The couch had holes in it and tufts of stuffing were coming out.
"You just gonna stand there?" the woman asked us.
Vincent's grip on my hand tightened even further. We went to the couch and sat side by side.
"Jen's son," the woman said. I had only met Vincent's mom once and I didn't like her, but even I didn't like the way this woman said 'Jen'.
"Yes," Vincent said.
"We haven't heard from her in over twenty years and then a son shows up." The man shook his head before he took several swallows of beer. Then he belched loudly.
"You're so disgusting!" the woman shouted and it startled me. "We have guests. Act normal for once."
"They're not guests!" the man yelled back. "He's our faggot grandson."
Vincent bit his bottom lip, closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. His nose scrunched up a little and I surmised he got a good whiff of the awful smell in here. Our grips on each others hands never loosened.
"Where is our daughter?" the woman asked Vincent as if there never had been an outburst.
"Where else would she be," the man said. "She's out whoring around like she always was."
I expected the woman to yell at him, but instead she laughed in agreement. I felt dirty and not just because the place was filthy. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, but I would wait for Vincent.
"That's probably true. You probably have more siblings," she said to Vincent.
"I have an older brother," he said.
"Is he going to stop by and surprise us one day too?" the man asked.
"I doubt it," Vincent said.
"Well," the woman said to Vincent, "why did you come here?"
"I was curious how my mom grew up," Vincent said.
"She grew up a slut," the woman said. "We disciplined her, but she never listened. It didn't matter how much she got beat."
Now Vincent gripped my hand so tightly it hurt. It was so tight, it was crushing bones, but I might have been doing the same to him. I didn't say anything. I just held his hand.
"She's living respectively and healthy," Vincent said.
"Ha. That's a laugh," the man said. "So what's up with you? Even if you're gay, how can you date a Jap?"
Vincent and I stared at him in stunned silence. The woman waited silently for our answer.
"He isn't Japanese," Vincent said. "He doesn't even look Japanese."
"Chinese then," the woman said, "whatever."
Vincent's jaw tightened. "And my brother is dating a black woman," Vincent said to just rub it in their faces.
The woman and man shook their heads in unison. "Tell him not to bother us," the woman said.
"So why are you here?" the man asked. "We don't have money to give you."
"I don't want money," Vincent said. "Can I see her bedroom?"
"She took all her stuff when she left," the woman said. "We use it as a storage room now." She pointed to one of the doors passed the kitchen. Vincent stood up and pulled me with him to the back. He could only open the door partially as the room was filled with so many piles of junk that it blocked the door.
Vincent closed the door and looked at me.
"Let's leave," I whispered. He nodded and pulled me to the door.
"We're leaving now," Vincent said.
Neither of them answered him. The woman was drinking from a can of beer now too. Both of them were engrossed with what was happening on the t.v. screen.
We went out and practically ran back to the car. By the time we got in the car, tears were on Vincent's cheeks. "How could she live like that for eighteen years?"
I wrapped my arms around him and held him close. He buried his face in my shoulder. I stroked his hair. When his tears stopped and his breathing evened out I said, "Do you have a better understanding of your mom now?"
"Yes, but I'm not sure I want to and it doesn't really change things." He pulled away from my shoulder and I wiped away the tears on cheeks. "She still kicked me out," he said.
"All of these events led you to me," I said, "brought us closer. I'm glad you're in my life, Vince. You are a sweet, caring man who stands up for his friends, who still cares about his family even when they've wronged him. I'm glad you're mine."
I kissed his cheek and then his other cheek before I kissed his lips. He grasped onto the sleeves of my jacket when I went to pull away and kissed me hard.
He finally pulled away and said, "We probably shouldn't kiss in front of their house."
I shrugged. "They dislike us for no reason anyway." I kissed him again and felt him smile against my lips. "Do you want to go to Dean's shop now?"
"Yes," he said.
Dean's shop was a small motorcycle repair and supplies shop. There was a white truck parked partially inside the repair section. The tail end was sticking outside. We went inside the store portion first. A little bell rang above our heads when we went through the door. There wasn't anyone inside. Dean's leather jacket was on a chair behind the counter. His voice could be heard from the repair section of the shop, but I couldn't make out the words.
"Should we go in there so he knows we are here?" I asked Vincent.
"I don't know," he said. "What if he doesn't want us to?"
I didn't think he would care if we went in. Maybe if his customers went in, but not his biological son who he had tried to see for years.
I pulled Vincent in the repair part so we were standing just inside the door. Dean's back was to us and he had his phone up to his ear. The truck's hood was open and there was a toolbox near it. The repair shop was filled with various motorcycles. I didn't think winter would be a busy time for him, but he did say he was busier now than he had been. It didn't make sense to me though. No one drove their motorcycles in winter unless they lived in a place where it was warm year round.
"I already told you I can't meet that deadline," Dean said into the phone still with his back turned to us. There was a pause before he said, "Look, when you hired me to repair all these motorcycles I told you I was only one person and it was going to take some time." Pause. "I'm not going to hire someone just to let them go when this job is done." Pause. "No. I haven't completed anything today. I already told you I was going to be busy." Pause. "Because today is the first day in nineteen years that I ever got to see my son and I think that is more important than your bikes or your deadline. You can come take the bikes back and get someone else to work on them."
He turned and saw us. He approached us and waved for us to go back into the supply end of the shop so we did. He followed us. "I still need to repair my truck too. I'm not saying I won't repair your bikes," Dean said into the phone. "I'm just saying I can't meet your deadline." Pause. "Fine. Bye." He hung up.
"You're here sooner than I expected," he said.
"It's hard to be there," Vincent said.
"We can leave if you are too busy," Vincent said.
"No," Dean said. "I'd rather you not leave quite yet."
"Can you say it again?" Vincent asked him.
Vincent nudged my arm for me to ask for him as if I could read his mind. I was pretty sure I knew what he wanted though. "He wants you to call him your son again," I said.
"Oh," Dean said. He smiled slightly and said, "My son."
Vincent couldn't hide the many emotions that crossed his face in a matter of moments. He swallowed hard and asked, "Can I hug you?"
Dean opened his arms out wide and Vincent rushed into his arms. The two held onto each other tightly. I couldn't see Vincent's face from that angle, but I could see Dean's and he was just as emotional as Vincent was as he held him as tightly as he could.
They stayed that way for several long moments before Vincent pulled away. "Do you want some water?" Dean asked us. He took three bottles of water out of the refrigerated display of water and sodas that was clearly for the customers to buy. Vincent and I took the waters when he handed them to us.
"I need to finish putting the new radiator in my truck," he said. "It's supposed to snow tonight and I'd rather not drive my motorcycle through the snow. Do you want to come in the back and talk to me while I finish?"
"Yes," Vincent said.
Dean led us back into the repair area. There was a pan underneath the truck with green liquid inside it. He moved the pan.
"Do either of you know anything about cars?" he asked. He leaned over the hood of the truck and began to disconnect hoses and undo bolts.
"No," we said at the same time.
He smiled, but didn't take his eyes off his work. He wore a black t-shirt which I thought was silly in this cold weather, but it didn't seem like the cold bothered him. His muscles moved along his back and arms as he lifted the old radiator out of the truck. If Vincent was going to be like him when he was middle aged then he was going to be hot and I looked forward to it. Actually, no matter what Vincent looked like in his mid forties he was going to be hot and I looked forward to it.
"You're repairing all these bikes for just one person?" Vincent asked him.
"Yeah." Dean lifted the new radiator and put it in place. "He owns a new and used motorcycle shop. It's a pretty big one in a much bigger town. He has his own repair guys. I don't know why he asked me to fix all of these, but the pay is good so I accepted. I told him they wouldn't all be done by the time he wanted and he said that was fine, but now he is driving me crazy insisting I have it done by the original deadline. Whatever, I'll just do it at the pace we agreed to."
"Isn't it weird to repair some other shop's motorcycles when you have your own shop?" I asked. "Maybe not if you don't sell motorcycles."
"I do sell them," he said. "Just not on a big scale. I'll buy old ones and fix them up, make them shiny and sell them for a profit. I usually only do one at a time though."
"Where did you learn to do this?" Vincent asked him.
"The man that owned this shop before me hired me when I was a junior in high school. He taught me. He didn't have a family so when he died, I inherited his shop. It doesn't make a lot of profit, but I like it."
He finished putting everything back in place and then he added radiator fluid. He stretched out his back and then wiped off his hands.
"It doesn't seem like it bothers you that I'm bi," Vincent said. "That I'm dating Chet."
Dean shrugged. "That would be a bit hypocritical of me considering I've dated men before," he said. That surprised me and from Vincent's expression it surprised him too.
"Your bi too?" Vincent asked.
"I'm pan," Dean said easily. The two of them smiled at each other finding more common ground between them. "You two can stay at my place tonight if you want. It's not big, but you're welcome to it."
Vincent looked at me. I was hesitant to agree because we should get my dad's car back to him. Especially if it was going to snow.
"Some other time," Vincent said as if reading my mind, "we need to get his dad's car back to him."
"Can I text you though?" Vincent asked. "And maybe call you sometimes?"
Dean smiled. "Yes," he said. He led us back outside. Dark clouds were low overhead in the sky.
"It was nice meeting you," Dean said to me.
I shook his hand and liked his firm grip. "You too," I said.
He turned to Vincent. "And I'm glad I finally got to meet you," he said. He grabbed Vincent and pulled him in for another hug.
"Me too," Vincent said.
Dean stood in front of his shop as we drove away. Even when we were far down the street and I looked in my rearview mirror, he was still there. I reached out and took Vincent's hand. It had been an emotional day for him, but I think in the end, it was a good day.