"How is your sandwich?" I asked Vincent. We sat side by side in the cafeteria. Instead of answering, he put the sandwich in front of my mouth. I took a bite.
"I like my taco better," I said.
He smiled and opened his mouth for a bite. I fed him a bite of my taco while thinking about how handsome and adorable he was. It was good to see him smile again. It had taken awhile which was quite understandable. He loved his grandmother a lot.
"I like my sandwich better," he said.
"Well, it's good we got what we like then," I said.
"Chet." Melissa walked up to our table. I hadn't seen her since New Year's Eve. We didn't have a class together anymore.
"Hi, Melissa," I said.
"Hi," she said. She pulled out the chair next to me and sat. "How are you doing? I haven't seen you in awhile."
"I'm good," I said. I glanced at Vincent to see if he was jealous, but he didn't seem like it. He took a bite of his sandwich. "How are you? I hear you are still dating both Jimmy and Devon."
"Yeah," she said. "It might sound silly, but I actually wanted to thank you for turning me down. I'm not ready to be in a serious relationship. I don't have to worry about that knowing both Jimmy and Devon are leaving at the end of the semester. I am going to miss them though." She paused and smiled at Vincent. "And I think you two are perfect for each other."
"I agree with that," I said.
"Me too," Vincent said.
"Well, I'll let you two be," she said, "but I hope I see you around campus."
"I'm sure you will," I said as she stood up.
Shortly after she left, Vincent's phone rang. The caller i.d. came up as the realtor my mom had recommended to him. Vincent answered and put the phone up to his ear. I leaned in close so I could hear the conversation. He didn't seem bothered by this.
"Hello," Vincent said.
"Hello, Vincent," the realtor said. "Everything is completed. The money should now be in your bank account."
Vincent and his dad had signed the paperwork awhile ago. They just had to wait for the paperwork to go through. It would have taken even longer, but his dad paid in cash. Eight million dollars in cash. It was unfathomable to me.
"I know you said you only wanted eight million and the deal is done now so we can't go back and change anything, but I really wish you would have sold it for the appraised amount of fifteen million. And not just because I want a higher commission," the realtor said. "After everything that man put you through, I think you are entitled to that much."
"I don't want that much," Vincent said. "I don't even want the eight million. Despite everything, they are still my family." It hadn't been part of the official deal so the realtor didn't know it, but Vincent told his dad he would cut the price in half for the house if he gave my dad his old job title back and gave him a raise. Greg Kinsington made the deal easily saying he had already planned on doing that anyway.
The realtor sighed. "I'll respect your decision, but this isn't a fair deal, Vincent. You are being way too generous. I enjoyed working with you though. If you ever think of purchasing a home, let me know. I'll help you find a good one."
"Thank you," Vincent said.
They hung up and Vincent went back to eating his sandwich.
"What?" he asked me after I stared at him for awhile.
"Don't you want to check your account to make sure the money is there?"
"I'm sure it's there," he said.
"Check it anyway. I want to see it."
He put down his sandwich and picked his phone back up. He logged into his bank account. $8,000,123.48 was the amount in his bank account.
"It's kind of unbelievable," I said.
"Yeah," he said. He set his phone back down and continued to eat.
"Are you sure you don't want to quit work and just live off that money now?" I asked. "There is plenty to pay for school and start a business plus get a luxury apartment now." I was happy living as we were now and he knew that. I just wanted him to be happy and I knew working and going to school took a lot out of him.
He smiled and said, "I like working. I'll just use the money from the house to pay for school and then start a business. There will be money left over, but we can determine what to do with it after the expenses of school and starting a business. Who knows. Maybe my first business will fail and I'll need to use the rest of the money to start a second one."
"Your business isn't going to fail," I said. "I have confidence that it will be a complete success."
When we were finished eating, I walked him to his next class as his class started a little earlier than mine. "You traded shifts tonight, right? So you can still go to Mateo's birthday?"
It wasn't technically Mateo's birthday for another two days, but he would be celebrating with his family on his actual birthday and tomorrow night, Alex's mom wanted to take them out to dinner. Tonight Vincent, Gareth and I would be gathering at Mateo's and Alex's apartment.
"I traded shifts," he said as he walked hand in hand, "but that means I need to be at work at midnight instead of at four."
"You can skip Mateo's party tonight if you need to rest before work," I said.
We arrived to the open door of his classroom. Some students were already inside. Others ignored us as they walked passed us and entered.
"I don't want to skip," he said.
"Okay," I said. "I'll see you later then."
I left him and went to my own class. When I got home from soccer practice, Vincent was spreading buttercream frosting on the cake he baked for Mateo's birthday. He smiled brightly when he saw me.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi. It smells really good." I hugged him from behind and peeked over his shoulder.
"I hope he likes it," Vincent said.
"He'll love it," I said.
"I left the present on the bed for you to wrap," he said.
"Okay." I left him and went into the bedroom. We had bought Mateo a video game that was on sale. Vincent had left it as well as wrapping paper, tape and scissors on the bed. I noticed he left his dirty clothes on the floor though. I picked them up and tossed them into the clothes hamper. I took the present and the other items to wrap it in the folding table. I wrapped the present while Vincent finished putting sprinkles on top of the frosting. My wrapping job didn't look nearly as good as Vincent's cake, but it didn't really matter. The wrapping paper was just going to get torn up anyway.
We got on the elevator and took it to the next floor down. Gareth opened the door.
"That looks great," he said and took the cake from Vincent's hands. He was practically drooling over it as his eyes ravaged the cake. He took the cake to the kitchen, leaving me and Vincent to let ourselves in. I shut the door behind us.
"You're here," Mateo called from the couch. "Hold on a sec. I need to beat Alex."
The two of them were hunched over the controllers. It took less than thirty seconds for Alex to completely annihilate Mateo. Mateo pouted.
Alex laughed and kissed Mateo on the check. "Sorry, baby," he said.
"It's my birthday," Mateo said as if he was angry, but there was mirth behind his tone and a smirk at the corner of his lips. "Couldn't you at least pretend to let me win."
"If that's what you want for your birthday present, sure," Alex said. He readied his fingers over the controller.
Mateo placed his hand over Alex's stopping him from starting up the game again. "That's not what I want for a present. You can give me a present after everyone else leaves."
Alex smiled all too knowingly. "Deal," he said.
"What are you doing?" Vincent asked.
I looked around to figure out what Vincent was referring to. Then I noticed Gareth had stuck 19 candles in the cake and was lighting them with a match.
"What else would I be doing?" Gareth asked. "It's Mateo's birthday. He needs to blow out the candles."
"Are candles really necessary?" Mateo asked. He set his controller down on the coffee table in front of him and stood up to approach. Alex followed.
"Of course candles are necessary," Gareth said. He carried the cake with the lit candles carefully from the kitchen to the table. "You're the baby of this group. You need to blow out candles."
"I'm not the baby," Mateo grumbled.
"You are the youngest," Alex pointed out.
"I meant," Vincent said, "why are you lighting the candles now? I thought you brought fried chicken for dinner."
"That's for dessert," Gareth said easily. "The cake is for dinner."
"Just go with it," I said. I sat in one of the chairs and pulled Vincent into the seat next to me.
"You need to sing the birthday song," Mateo said. Gareth and Alex each sat and we sang a discordant version of happy birthday to Mateo. He blew out the candles while Gareth was still holding out the last note as long as he could.
Mateo went into the kitchen and retrieved a knife while Alex got plates and forks. Mateo dished out a slice of cake for everyone and then sat in between Gareth and Alex to eat it.
"This is delicious," Gareth said.
"It really is," Alex said proudly smiling at Vincent.
"Much better than store bought," Mateo agreed.
And they were all correct because my man could cook. And bake. Cook and bake? Were they two separate things or could they be categorized into the same thing? And what about barbeque? Was that it's own separate thing too? Then what was it called if you only made cold dishes? Was that cooking or baking?
Vincent leaned over and kissed my cheek.
"What was that for?" I asked him.
He smiled. "I can tell when you are rambling in your head," he said. "It's cute." I couldn't help but smile at that.
When we finished our slice of cake, Gareth set out the fried chicken along with various sauces and dressings to go along with it. I chose the barbeque sauce. Vincent chose ranch dressing.
It was shortly after we started eating the chicken that Alex got a video call from Trevon. When he answered, Arthur's cheek squished against Trevon's to make sure he was seen on the screen. Alex held the phone out from him so we would all show up.
"Happy birthday!" Arthur called out brightly. He frowned when he saw the fried chicken and turned to Trevon accusingly. "You said they would be eating the cake now."
"I was just guessing," he said to Arthur. "Happy birthday," he said to Mateo.
"We had the cake first," Gareth said. "This is dessert."
"That's the greatest idea ever," Arthur said. "Whose idea was it?"
"Mine of course," Gareth said.
"I love you," Arthur declared. "Marry me."
"If only you were a girl," Gareth said, "and you weren't dating a guy who looks like he's about ready to kill me."
Vincent laughed lightly as Arthur turned to Trevon. I took Vincent's hand in mine and squeezed it. It was good to hear him laugh.
"I was just teasing, handsome," Arthur said to Trevon. "You're the only one for me."
Trevon's tight jaw loosened and his eyebrows relaxed. "I know." He smiled and ran his thumb lightly over Arthur's bottom lip before he turned back to the rest of us. "Did the money come through yet on the house?"
"It came today," Vincent said.
"Why didn't you tell me," Alex asked.
"I'm telling you both now. At the same time. Isn't that best?"
"I guess," Alex said which drew a smile from not only Trevon and Vincent, but Mateo as well.
"I still think you should have asked for more than the appraised price," Trevon said. "Your dad would have paid almost anything to keep that house."
"I know," Vincent said, "but I'm happy with the deal."
"How are things with your brother?" Trevon asked. "Jasmine says you two are still talking."
"Things seem almost normal between us," Vincent said.
"That's good," Trevon said. "My sisters are weirder than ever."
"Weirder than normal?" Alex asked.
"Yeah," Trevon said, "but maybe it just seems that way because Arthur's family is normal."
"Okay," Arthur said. "We're going to go have sex now. Have fun for the rest of your party." Gareth burst out laughing.
"Arthur!" Trevon scolded.
"What?" Arthur asked.
"That was too much information," Trevon said. The phone moved away from their faces.
"They can guess what we're doing anyway," Arthur said. Trevon hung up so we couldn't hear the rest of their conversation.
There was a pause before we all burst out laughing. After we ate the chicken, Mateo opened his presents. Gareth got him condoms as a present. Mateo hit him on the head with the wrapping paper.
"What?" Gareth asked similarly to how Alex did not too long ago. "Don't tell me you can't use them. And I got the size right didn't I?" He smirked all too knowingly.
Mateo sighed and rolled his eyes, but he didn't refute Gareth.
We moved to the couch to take turns playing Mateo's new video game. I couldn't help but think that Vincent had come a long way since the first time I met him. He actually looked happy now.