Two more weeks pass and the same routine continues: classes, workouts, a few more dates with Zane, hanging out with Josh, Leo, the football guys and a few more friends I've managed to make on campus, and going to a few more sports games. The Cardinal is still undefeated and Josh has managed to stay a starter for the team.
Zane, Josh and I have gone to a few of Leo's fights and he always comes out of them without a single scratch. It's amazing to see how high Leo's level of skill is. I've spent some days at Blake and Cassadee's tattoo shop, mostly talking to Zane and Courtney when they aren't working (well, listening to Courtney. She never really stops talking or laughing...).
Blake, Cassadee and Zane managed to convince me to do something I thought I'd never do: get a tattoo. Nothing extreme like what Zane has, just a simple black ring that goes all the way around my right forearm that's about an inch in diameter. To be honest, I really like it, even though it cost me about $100, even after the discount because I'm Zane's boyfriend.
After spending the day at Zane's work, Zane and I have to get to Stanford Stadium, where most of the student population is headed. It's the day of the 116th Big Game, the annual meeting between the Stanford Cardinal and the California Golden Bears of UC Berkeley. It's always sold out, but I managed to score tickets in the third fucking row. When I told Zane about it, he jumped for joy (literally).
We get to the stadium, Zane wearing a Stanford Cardinal beanie and me in a Stanford cap. Leo's outside waiting for us when we get there. "Ready for the game?" he asks.
"Definitely," I say. "It's amazing that Josh is starting in the Big Game."
"We worked hard for this," Leo replies. "He deserves it more than anyone. C'mon. We should get in there before it gets too crowded to move."
Zane and I walk with Leo and manage to get some food and drinks without any of us losing each other. I keep my arm firmly wrapped around Zane's waist to make sure he doesn't get swept away in the crowd. With our stuff in hand, we head out to the stands and see they're almost full already, and the game doesn't even start for another thirty minutes.
We get to the third row and take our seats. With Zane on my right and Leo on my left, this is going to be a fun afternoon and evening. "Leo? Is that you?"
We look to our left and standing in front of two empty seats next to us are two guys. One looks to be about 6 foot 2 with a very built body, shaggy brown hair and cool grey eyes. The other is about 6 foot 4 with a blonde buzz cut, a lean body and bright green eyes. I don't know who these guys are, but Leo's face lights up. "Ryan! Nate!"
Leo jumps out of his seat and wraps his arms around the two guys. "It's been months since I've seen you guys!" Leo says.
"You look great, Leo!" says shaggy hair.
"How's college life treating you?" says buzz cut.
"It's going great! How're you two here?"
"It's the offseason and Nate and I don't have work until next April," says shaggy hair. "Seeing as it's Josh's first Big Game, we wouldn't have missed it for anything."
"Who're your two friends?" asks buzz cut.
"Oh!" Leo turns and looks back at Zane and me. "Ryan, Nate, these are two of Josh's and my friends: Eric Swanson and Zane Quinn. Guys, this Ryan and Nate Rusden-Underwood. Ryan is the brown haired one and Nate is the blonde one. Ryan is Josh's older brother and Nate is Josh's brother in law and Ryan's husband."
These guys are gay too? Zane and I both stand up and shake Ryan and Nate's hands. "So you're the Eric my little bro has been talking about," says Ryan.
"That's me," I say. "Nice to meet you both."
"Same here," says Nate. He looks down at Zane, who out of instinct tries to hide behind me. "You okay there, Zane?"
"Y-Yeah," Zane stammers. "I'm just getting used to meeting with jocks."
"We aren't jocks anymore," says Ryan. "I wrestled in high school and Nate here was a swimmer at UC Berkeley. We were roommates before we got married."
"Wait, if Josh is your little brother playing for Stanford and you're a UC Berkeley graduate, who're you rooting for?" I ask.
Ryan and Nate both smile. "We're rooting for both," says Nate. "See?"
He gestures to his clothes and I see Ryan's wearing a Stanford t-shirt and has a UC Berkeley cap on his head. Nate is the opposite with a UC Berkeley sweater and a Stanford cap in his hand. "I love Josh and I want to see him win," says Ryan. "But I love my alma mater too and want to root for them."
"Well, just cheer whenever someone scores," I say.
Ryan smiles. "I'll do just that." He and Nate take two seats next to Leo, who gets up to head to the bathroom before the game starts. "So you're a baseball player?"
"Yeah," I say. "I'm a pitcher. Hoping to go pro one day."
"Maybe Nate and I could put in a good word for you with the Dodgers."
I almost drop the drink in my hand. "The Dodgers?" I breathe out.
"Yup," says Nate. "Ryan's the physical therapist for the team and I'm working on the marketing for the team."
I'm going to kill Josh for not telling me this...
Don't get me wrong. I love my Seattle Mariners, but I'm talking with guys who know and work for the fucking Dodgers. "That would be great," I say. "But could you hold off on that word until after college? I want to enjoy my time here with Josh, Leo, and my boyfriend."
Ryan and Nate's eyebrows rise a bit. "You're gay too?" asks Ryan.
"He is," says Zane, leaning over me and giving me a small kiss. "And I'm his boyfriend."
Ryan and Nate both smile. "Are you two happy?" asks Nate.
I take Zane's hand. "We are," I say. "It's only been about a month and a half since Zane and I have started dating, and it's been fantastic."
"Well, we hope you two have a long and loving relationship," says Ryan.
Leo comes back and takes a seat between me and Ryan. With two clouds of smoke on both sides of the field and Zane's hand in mine, this seems like it's going to be a good game.
3...2...1...game over. Final score: California Golden Bears: 10. Stanford Cardinal: 35. With three touchdowns, Josh is handed the Stanford Axe, the trophy for winning The Big Game. Zane was a monster with the cheering today. He actually managed to start a wave with the Stanford fans, which I thought was amazing.
After the game, Leo texts Josh to meet us at the campus café. When he arrives about fifteen minutes after we do, he sees Ryan and Nate and runs up to hug both of them, still feeling a high from winning. As they catch up, I scoot my chair a little closer to Zane. "So...Thanksgiving is next week," I say.
Zane glances up at me for a second before looking back at his lap. "Yeah, it is..." he says solemnly.
He nods. "Yeah. This is just going to be the first time I don't spend Thanksgiving with my parents. I know they were horrible to me, but Thanksgiving and the holidays were the only times of the year it felt like they were nice to me. I doubt they even care that I've been gone for more than half a year."
"So what're you going to do this year?"
"I don't have anywhere to go, so I'm probably going to stay in my dorm room and draw the whole break."
I can see how upset Zane is by this, but an idea pops into my head. "No you're not," I say.
Zane head looks up at me. "Huh?"
"You're not spending Thanksgiving by yourself. You're coming home with me to Seattle for the weekend."
Zane's eyes bulge. "Seattle? You want me to come home with you?"
"Of course! I'd love for you to meet my parents. I've told them a lot about you and they've asked when they'd be able to meet you since they were busy over parents weekend last month and couldn't come down. So...how about it?"
Zane looks down at his lap for a minute. "Would you parents be okay with it?" he asks.
"I'm sure they would! Our Thanksgivings are always only me and my parents. We always try to find people who would be willing to spend time with us."
It takes another minute, but Zane slowly smiles. "I'd love to come with you."
I grab Zane's head and plant a firm kiss, attracting the attention from the other guys. "Good news?" asks Josh.
"Zane's coming up with me to Seattle to spend Thanksgiving break with my family and me," I say.
"Do your parents know about you two?" asks Nate.
Fuck. I thought I was forgetting something. "Um...no," I say. "I want to tell them...but I'm not sure how they'll react."
"You're afraid the same thing that happened with my parents will happen to you," says Zane. I nod once, fear starting to take form in the pit of my stomach. Zane places his hand on top of mine. "I know how it feels to wonder how your parents will react, and it's fucking terrifying. But just remember that I'll be there to help you get through it."
I smile and kiss the side of Zane's head. "Thanks, Zane."
Zane rests his head on my shoulder and I feel myself start to relax. "So when do you four get to fucking each other?" asks Ryan.
Nate picks up his hand and smacks the back of Ryan's head, causing all of us to break out laughing.
After a few more days, I'm packing up to get ready to head home for the break. It'll be great to see Mom and Dad after three months, but I can't get over this nervousness I'm feeling. I feel like I'm about to throw up and piss myself at the same time. I'm their only kid. How will they take it when I tell them I'm gay?
I shake my head out and shut and zip my suitcase. "You feeling okay?" Josh asks as he gets his stuff together.
"Pretty shitty, actually," I reply. "Was it this bad for you when you told you parents?"
"I actually came out to my parents earlier than I wanted to, and I was really scared. My dad found me and Leo naked in my bed, making out, before I told him and my mom."
"Are you serious?" I say, cracking a smile.
"Dead serious. He surprisingly took it incredibly well and he and my mom accepted me. I really hope it's the same for you and your parents."
"Thanks, Josh. You think Leo and Zane are ready yet?"
"They should be, and I'm finished with my packing. You ready to go?"
I wrap my backpack over my shoulder and grab the handle of my bag. "Yup."
Josh and I walk out of our room and lock the door behind us. Josh gives a quick rap on Leo and Zane's door. "You guys ready?" he calls out. "I think the cab is waiting downstairs."
The door opens and Leo stands in the doorway. "Ready," he says.
"Where's Zane?" I ask.
"Bringing up the rear."
I look behind Leo and while I expect to see my tattooed, pierced, red-haired boyfriend, this Zane is completely different. All except two of his piercings (in his earlobes) are gone, a leather jacket covers his arms and his hair is...dirty blonde? He comes up next to Leo, his face a bit pink. "Um...Zane?" I say.
"Yeah..." he quietly says.
He and Leo carry their things out into the hallway, locking their door once they're out. "Any reason for...the change?" I ask.
He ruffles his undercut. "This...is my natural hair color. I wanted it like this so I can make a good impression on your parents. So I took out my piercings and hid my tattoos."
"Zane, my parents have friends that are pretty similar to you. Some have full sleeves, some have a lot of piercings and some dye their hair. They like to see people on the inside, not their outward appearance."
Zane looks like I just slapped him across the face. "Oh, well in that case..."
He takes the ends of his jacket sleeves and rolls them up past him elbows, revealing several of his tattoos. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out what looks to be a lot of his piercings. With amazing dexterity, he clips the piercings in his ears and in his eyebrows within a minute. "Ah...much better," he says.
I smile and give him a quick kiss. We get all out stuff and head downstairs and find the taxi we called earlier waiting outside the dorm. "Have a good break, boy."
I look back and see Charles standing outside the doorway to the D.A. office. "You too, Charles," I reply.
Before I leave, I see a bit of what looks like sadness in Charles' face. I dismiss the thought and follow the guys outside and we pack our stuff in the back of the cab. Once we're all in, we're off to the airport.
About forty minutes later, we arrive at San Francisco International Airport. Once we pay the taxi driver and get our stuff, we walk into the airport and get to the counter. Quickly getting our tickets, we get to security and go through the painful process of taking off our shoes, belts, and get all our electronics and metal objects off.
Josh, Leo and I get through the checkpoint no problem. But when Zane steps through, the alarm goes off. A security guard takes Zane off to the side and asks him if he has any metal objects on him. Really? He has ears and eyebrows full of metal! After taking a minute or two to get that all cleared up, we walk to the gated areas.
Josh and Leo stop suddenly. "Our gate is Gate 14," says Josh.
"We're Gate 31," says Zane.
The gates are in opposite directions, so we have to split up. Josh and Leo quickly step forward and hug both Zane and myself. "Good luck, guys," says Leo.
"We hope you have a good break and everything goes well," says Josh.
Zane and I hug Josh and Leo back. "Thanks, guys," says Zane.
"I hope so too," I say.
Josh and Leo give us one more wave and head off to their gate while Zane and I head off to ours. As we wait for our plane to arrive, the sense of dread that's been building up in my stomach has reached fever pitch. I feel like the plane is going to be my death sentence. The second I step on, my world is going to crumble all around me.
Something suddenly touches my hand and I see Zane placing his hand on top of mine. "Eric, you're shaking," he says.
I look down and see Zane's right. My legs are vibrating uncontrollably and my arms look like they're seizing. "I-I'm scared, Zane," I say. "I don't know what's going to happen and I'm afraid of what will happen."
Zane cups my left cheek and turn my head to the right, giving me a small kiss. "Eric, I promise you everything will be okay. From what you've told me, your parents love you no matter what. I know it's terrifying, but I'll be there to help you through it."
My shaking starts to ease and I smile a bit and kiss Zane back. "Thank you, Zane."
Our plane starts boarding and Zane and I gather out things and join the line of people waiting to board, hand in hand.
A little over two hours later, the plane touches down in Seattle, the sky a cloudy overcast, which is pretty common for the time of year. After another five minutes, the plane arrives at the gate and all the passengers stretch their arms and legs and slowly make their way off the plane.
Zane and I walk into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and I take a deep breath in, remembering the smell of my hometown. "Sweetie!"
I don't have time to react as a 5 foot 4 woman with strawberry blonde hair in a tight ponytail crashes into my side, almost knocking me over. But I manage to recover, drop my bags and grab my mom in a tight hug, spinning her around once. "Hi, Mom!"
I set my mother back on her feet and look down at her. A large hand rests on my shoulder and I turn back around and I see a rugged face with greying light brown hair and shining dark brown eyes with a bright smile surrounded by laugh lines. "Hey, Dad."
Dad gives me a firm hug. "We missed you, sport," he says.
Mom joins in the reunion hug and we stand there for several seconds before letting go. "Mom, Dad," I say, placing my hand on Zane's shoulder, "this is Zane Quinn. He's the friend I've been telling you about."
Zane steps up to my parents and offers his hand. "Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Swanson," he says.
Mom and Dad both smile and shake Zane's hand. "It's a pleasure for us as well, Zane," says Mom.
"Eric has told us you're an artist?" says Dad.
"Yes, sir," Zane replies. "I love sketches and working with charcoal. I'm not sure what I want to do with it yet, but I love doing what I do. I'm sorry if my piercings and tattoos are off-putting to the both of you."
"Nonsense," says Mom. "I think your tattoos are beautiful and the piercings are what make you who you are."
"I agree," says Dad. "You must have some pretty big balls to go through all that pain."
Mom's eyes look down and I see her looking at my arm. "Eric! What is that?!"
I raise my arm, holding the tattoo in front of both Mom and Dad. "It's a tattoo," I say. "Zane talked me into getting one and I got this."
Mom and Dad shake their heads. "We half expected this," says Dad. "But it's your body and you're old enough to make your own decisions. Just don't get a Prince Albert. That's where I draw the line."
We make our way to baggage claim and quickly get Zane's and my bags. Following Mom and Dad, we get to Dad's Aston Martin Rapide, which sits in the airport parking lot. "Nice car," Zane whispers.
"My dad's an incredible defense lawyer," I whisper back. "One hundred twenty-one cases, only three loses in his twenty year career."
"Damn. What about your mom?"
"She's a real estate agent, one of the best in the city of Seattle. We live a very comfortable life together."
Piling into the car, Dad drives us out of the parking lot and heads home.
About thirty minutes later, Dad pulls into a private driveway and I see my home a minute later. Mom, Dad and I live in a beautiful three-story home that Dad had specially designed and built to his and Mom's liking, and to mine as I grew up in it. Zane lets out a low whistle when we roll up to the garage. "This is a beautiful home," he says.
"Thank you," says Mom. "We love it too."
Dad shuts the car off and Zane and I grab our stuff from the trunk and head in the front door with Mom and Dad. I take a deep breath, the smell of home filling my nostrils, and a small bark filling my ears. I look to my right and a very small object comes scurrying into the lobby, right toward me. "Patch!"
I drop my bag and backpack and kneel down, grabbing the little monster and giving him a firm hug and letting him lick my face. Patch is my family's 5-year-old Scottish Terrier. We found him at the animal shelter when he was just a puppy. He was an abandoned dog and was close to death when the shelter found him.
We went to the shelter when I was 13 years old, wanting to adopt a new dog. Mom and Dad found a few they liked and we were about to pick a Golden Retriever (not to worry. Another family adopted her), when I found Patch sitting on the floor of a kennel. I was instantly drawn to him and he to me. He had a small patch on his leg from an injury he got when he had been abandoned, hence the name Patch.
I walked into the kennel and sat down next to Patch. He stared at me for a second before standing up and taking a seat in my lap, looking up at me with his dark brown eyes. I loved him to death after that and twenty minutes later, Patch was ours. I stand back up with Patch in my arms and look at Zane. "This is Patch," I say. "He's the family monster. Patch, this is Zane."
I hand Patch to Zane and Zane holds Patch in his arms. Patch usually doesn't like strangers and often whines for someone to let him down. But that isn't the case with Zane. Patch looks at Zane for a second, licks his face a few times and rests his head on Zane's arm, quickly falling asleep.
My parents and I stare in amazement at the display. "Goodness," Mom says. "Patch never warms up that quickly to strangers."
Zane just smiles and looks down at Patch. "I'll take him from you," says Dad, taking Patch from Zane's arms. "You two had a long flight. Why don't you go rest for a little while? We'll talk about dinner later."
"Sounds good," I say. "I'm going to show Zane around and then we'll relax."
I give Patch a scratch on the head, grab Zane's and my bags, and lead him upstairs to my room, pointing Zane to various rooms along the way. As we walk into my bedroom, reminiscence fills my head. Dozens of baseball trophies and posters line the walls, a large king-sized bed sits in the middle, exercise equipment is scattered throughout the room and a flat-screen mounts the wall in front of the foot of my bed.
I set Zane's and my bags on the floor and close the door behind us. Giving Zane no warning, I grab him and pull him into a kiss and he kisses me back. "I feel bad," I say.
"That I introduced you to my parents as my friend and not my boyfriend."
"Eric, it's okay. You did the right thing by not coming out in public. You should do it when it's just your parents and you."
I smile and give Zane another kiss. "Thank you for understanding. You feel like taking a nap?"
I let go of Zane and strip down to my underwear and he undresses to his usual tank top and boxers. We climb into my bed and pull the covers over us, holding each other when we're covered. "Thank you for bringing me here," Zane says.
"It was nothing. I think my parents really like you. Maybe that'll help when I..."
Fear floods into my body, making me shudder. "It's really scary, Eric," Zane whispers. "But if you need me, I'll help you through it."
Although I'm still scared, I give Zane another kiss. "Thank you, Zane."
A few hours later, I wake up and see that the sun's setting. Zane's asleep in my arms, pure peacefulness in his face. I smile and let him go, slipping out of bed without waking him. Once I stretch out my arms and legs, I slip into a t-shirt and basketball shorts and head downstairs. Sitting on the couch with a glass of iced tea is Dad. "Hey, Dad," I say.
"Hey, sport. Where's Zane?"
"Oh, he's still sleeping. I didn't want to wake him, so I came down here. Where's Mom?"
"She went to pick up some things for Thanksgiving and to grab a couple pizzas for dinner."
I take a few deep breaths, my heart racing. I'm ready...
"Dad? Can I talk to you?"
"Sure, sport. Is something wrong?"
"To me nothing's wrong," I say, taking a seat across from him in a chair. "But...I'm not sure what'll happen after."
"After what?" Dad sets his tea down and rests his elbows on his knees. "You can talk to me about anything, sport. Now, what's bugging you?"
I assume the same position as Dad, but I can feel my hands starting to tremble. "Um...I know this is going to be hard for you to hear, but just know it'll be even harder for me to say to you."
"Oh God, please don't tell me you got a girl pregnant."
"No, no I didn't get a girl pregnant, Dad. I...wouldn't want to get a girl pregnant."
"Oh, that's good," he says, resting his hand on his chest.
"No, I mean..." I choke for a second and take a minute to get my words together. "I mean...I don't want to be with a girl. Not now, not ever."
It takes a second, but Dad's eyes slowly widen. "Y-You mean...?"
I nod a bit. "Dad...I'm gay."
I see Dad's body tense up suddenly and he's frozen, eyes wide, mouth slightly slack. The tension in the room is so heavy I can feel it pressing down on me. "Y-You're not gay..." Dad quietly says.
Did I just hear that right? Dad's always been incredibly accepting of everyone, but this...is different. "Dad...I am gay," I say. "I know it's hard to accept but..."
"You're not gay!" he screams. He shoots off the couch, knocking his full glass of iced tea to the floor, but he doesn't even notice. "I've seen you date girls when you were still in high school! You're not gay!"
Why does he look so...angry? I feel a knot start to appear in my throat. "B-But Dad..." I start.
He suddenly takes a few steps toward me and stands right above me, his face seething. I honestly feel like my own father is going to hit me. "You're NOT, Eric! You're not some kind of...faggot! You're not a cocksucking, ass-eating, homo-fucking faggot!"
My body suddenly feels as cold as ice, the crystals stabbing me from the inside out. Dad's never said those words as long as I've been his son. But he directed it toward me and...it fucking hurts. I feel tears slide out of the corners of my eyes. "D-Dad..." I choke out.
Dad's hand suddenly raises and my flight response kicks in. I press off the floor with my feet and the chair I'm in goes flying back. I land on the hardwood floor, the chair shattering under me, and crawl as far back as possible. I've never been this scared in my life and I can't get my body to stop shaking as my tears flow out hard and fast. "P-Please...don't h-hurt me..." I beg.
I stare at Dad, scared out of my mind and awaiting the terror that's going to come next. But Dad looks to be frozen. His head slowly turns and he looks at his raised hand. The anger that was in his face disappears and it's suddenly replaced with what looks like...fear of his own. He brings his arm down and he looks at me, his eyes wide and his eyebrows high. "S-Sport...I-I didn't..."
I give him no time to talk as I jump up and run from the room as fast as I can, not hearing Dad's cries after me. I sprint up the stairs like a man possessed and make a beeline for my room, running in and slamming the door shut and locking it behind me. The sound of the door slamming wakes Zane up and he sits up in my bed and sees me standing in front of the door. "Eric?" he groggily says. "What's going on?"
As much as I want to respond, the only thing that comes out of my mouth is a sob. I press my palms to my eyes and fall back to my door, sliding to the floor and just letting all the hurt and fear out. A pair of arms wraps around my neck and I tightly hug whatever's in front of me. "I'm sorry, Eric," Zane says.
Zane doesn't get a response from me. Just more anguished cries...
The rest of the afternoon and evening is just me in my room, crying and sobbing into my pillow. Zane tries to talk to me, but I can't talk. The only noise I can make is a cry. He lets me hold him tight as I cry and it helps a little, but it doesn't dull the pain of Dad not accepting me for being gay.
I eventually fall asleep from crying so much and wake up the next morning in my bed alone (I hear Zane in the shower). As much as I want to stay in my room and wallow in my sadness, my stomach makes me move. God, I feel terrible. I change into some fresh clothes and head downstairs, praying neither of my parents are here.
Walking into the kitchen, I find Mom seated at the kitchen table, the morning paper in her hand, a mug of coffee to her right. She hears me walk in and looks over at me. "Morning, sweetie," she says.
"Hi..." I force out.
I give Patch a pet, who's sleeping on the kitchen floor, and walk to the coffee pot and pour myself a mug, choosing to drink it black. Grabbing a banana, I start to walk back to my room. "Come sit down for a little white, sweetie," says Mom, her tone not asking.
I turn and walk back to the table and take a seat across from her, expecting the worst. "Sweetie, your father told me about what happened between you two."
My grip on my coffee mug tightens and I feel bile in my throat. "He's...he's not here, is he?" I ask, my voice breaking. "Y-You're not going to kick me out are you?"
Mom places her hand over mine. "No, sweetie. Your father's at work and won't be back until later. Now, why would you think we would kick you out?"
"B-Because...that's what happened to Zane and I don't want it to happen to us."
I nod. "He's my boyfriend. We've been dating for almost two months now."
Mom stares at me for a minute before smiling softly. "I can see you two are very happy together. Even before I knew you were dating, you always talked about Zane in such a high regard and described him better than any other person you'd talked about before."
I smile a bit. "But...what about Dad?" I gingerly ask.
Her face turns serious. "Sweetie, I'm sure your father just didn't know how to react to you being gay and just...blew up. When I came home from shopping yesterday, your father was in the living room with his face in his hands. When I asked him what was wrong, he looked up at me with a wet face and said 'I fucked up...'"
"What do you mean?"
Mom shakes her head. "I can't really describe it, sweetie. But I think he can talk about it better than I would be able to."
The horror I felt yesterday comes back to me and I feel myself starting to sweat and shake. "Y-You want me to talk to Dad?" I ask.
"I really think you and your father need to have a heart to heart about all this."
I quickly shake my head. "N-No. I don't want to talk to him. H-He'll just...do that again..."
"You mean...raise his hand to you?"
I nod a little, wiping my eyes in the process. "It was so...scary, Mom. I actually thought he was going to hit me..."
"I bet it was, sweetie. I almost slapped your father myself for even getting his hand in the air. But I really think you two need to talk about this. Could you do that for me?"
Mom's face looks like she's begging me to talk to Dad. "I'll think about it," I say.
"Good. Now what did you mean by Zane being kicked out of his house?"
I give Mom a five minute long lecture about Zane's past with Dallas. By the time I finish, Mom looks like she's seen a ghost. "That's...horrible," she says. "How could anyone force their own child out of their home, let them be bullied for years, and to have them practically fend for themselves for years?"
"That's the question I've been asking myself ever since I met Zane."
"What since you met me?"
Mom and I look over and see Zane, showered and changed and his hair freshly dyed a pure white. "Hey Zane," I say. "I was just...telling my mom about how your life has been."
His face falls a bit. "It's been hard," he says. "But I'm happy now that I've pretty much started a new life in Stanford, have made a lot of friends and have started dating Eric." He takes a seat next to me and takes my hand and looks to Mom. "Mrs. Swanson. I need to tell you that your son has been the greatest person I've ever met."
"He's sweet, kind, smart, compassionate, very attractive, and just...wonderful. You should be proud for raising a son as great as he is."
I smile and kiss the side of Zane's head. "I'm proud of him every day," Mom says, a smile on her face.
I get up from my chair, circle the table and give Mom a hug. "Thanks, Mom." She gives me a squeeze back and lets go. "I'm going to take a shower."
"What's your plan for today?" Mom asks.
"I'm going to show Zane around Seattle. Give him the grand tour, show him all the sights and let him try the world's best coffee."
I see Zane smile at me and I smile back. I head upstairs and take a quick shower. Once I'm changed into some fresh clothes, I head back downstairs and find Mom and Zane laughing together. "What's going on?" I ask.
"Oh, I was just telling Zane about some of your most embarrassing moments," says Mom.
"We're up to the time you were in the second grade and you peed your pants on stage during your production of 'The Tortoise and the Hare,'" Zane says.
My face flushes red within a second and I rush over to Zane's side, grabbing the keys on the counter as I take him. "On that note," I say, "I'm going to take Zane around the city."
"Awww," Mom says. "I was just about to tell him about how you broke your nose!"
I pull Zane out of his seat and pull him out of the kitchen before Mom can continue, her laughing as we head out. We rush out through the front door and walk to Mom's S-Class Mercedes and I climb in the front seat and Zane in the passenger seat. "How DID you break you nose?" Zane asks me as he buckles his seatbelt. "Baseball hit you?"
"I wish," I say, turning on the car. "I broke it when I was practicing and I swung too hard and the bat I was holding whacked me in the face..."
Zane presses his hand to his mouth and I can see his body starting to quiver from stifling a laugh. I roll my eyes and Zane and I head out.
The hours go by and I show Zane ever sight there is to see, from the Space Needle to the fish market where they throw the fish (I wasn't paying attention and a mackerel hit me in the face. Zane and everyone else there got a good laugh out of it). By mid-afternoon, we're both pretty tired. "Want to stop for a little while?" I ask Zane.
"Sure," he says.
I look around and see the perfect place. "Want to stop in here?" I ask, pointing at the shop on the corner: 'Sandy's'. "The coffee is some of the best in the city, and that's saying something."
He and I walk in and the smell of freshly roasted coffee is in the air. It may be the middle of the day, but the coffee is so good here, people come in during all hours for some of it. I order Zane and me two coffees and as I'm paying, I heart something from my left. "Eric! That you, you asshole?"
I look over and see Travis Phillips and Brandon Vaughn, two of my best friends from high school and from my high school baseball team. "Guys!" I pay the cashier and walk over to them, hugging them both. "How's college life treating you two?"
"Hot girls for miles," says Travis, with a grin. "I fucking love it."
Travis has always been the one with the ego on him (mostly because he knows he's handsome with his dark brown hair, perfectly geometric face and large amount of muscle), but he's actually a good person. "The classes are good and all the friends I've made are nice, so I'm having fun," says Brandon.
Travis is attending ASU while Brandon's going to the University of Oregon. Brandon's the more down to earth of the two with black hair, olive skin and moderate muscle tone, and he knows what to do when something's gone wrong. "How's Stanford going?" he asks.
"Fantastic," I say. I look behind me and see Zane standing a foot behind me. He moves to my side and looks up at Travis and Brandon (who're both 6 foot 1). "This is Zane Quinn. He's one of the newest friends I've made at Stanford and is here spending Thanksgiving with me and my family."
"Hey," Zane says to them.
Travis and Zane both nod a hello. We all walk to a table and take a seat. As I catch up with my friends, I notice that Travis keeps glancing at Zane and Zane begins looking more and more nervous. After a few minutes, I hear my name being called for Zane's and my coffees and get up to get to them.
Slowly making my way past customers who are also waiting for their drinks, I get to the counter and grab the two coffees and walk over to the cream and sugar station and some cream and sugar to both drinks. I walk back to the table and see that there's a seat that's empty: Zane's. "Where'd Zane go?" I ask.
"That faggot?" says Travis. "He got up from the table while you were getting your coffee and walked out."
Fear races through me and I drop both drinks in my hands, sending them to the floor and spilling every drop of coffee. Travis and Brandon jump up from their seats at the coffee splashing onto their jeans. "Eric?" says Brandon. "You okay?"
"Why did he leave?" I say.
"That faggot's too sensitive," says Travis. "All I said to him was that he should stop hanging out with you because he'll just make people stop coming around you because of his fag genes. That cocksucker needs to learn to grow some skin..."
Pure rage floods my body and I throw a punch that hits Travis right in the face. He falls to the floor, knocking over a few chairs and attracting the attention of everyone in the shop. I jump on top of Travis, ready to throw another punch. "Why the fuck did you say that to him?!" I scream.
"Dude, get the fuck off of me!" Travis yells back at me. "Why're you defending that fag?!"
Another punch collides with the other side of Travis' face. I'm about to punch him again when I feel two arms pull me off of him. "Guys, stop it!" Brandon yells.
Travis gets back to his feet and lunges for me, but Brandon stops him. I run to the front of the shop and rush out the door and look up and down the street, but Zane isn't anywhere to be found. "What the fuck, Eric?"
I look back and see Brandon and Travis standing in the shop entrance. "Where did he go?!" I yell.
"Why the hell are you even looking for him?" asks Travis. "You're too good for that faggot."
I'm so fucking done with this shit. First Dad, then one of my best friends. I'm not putting up with this anymore. "No, he and I are perfect with each other," I say.
"Why would you want to hang out with him, Eric?" Travis asks. "The guy screams 'faggot.'"
"Yeah? Well, he's the faggot I'm more in love with than anyone in the world."
Travis and Brandon's faces register with shock. "Y-You're gay?" asks Brandon after a minute of silence.
"Yeah," I say. "And if either of you call my boyfriend a faggot one more time, I'll shove my fist so fucking far up your ass, my watch will be lodged in your throat. What you both don't know is what he's had to go through his entire life and the gift that he has. If you two can't accept the fact that I'm dating Zane, then I guess our friendship is over."
Both Travis and Brandon don't say a thing. The door behind them opens and a woman with ears full of piercings and a tattoo on her neck walks out. "What the hell was all that in there?" she asks.
I recognize her as Sandy, the owner of the coffee shop. "One of my former best friends called my boyfriend a faggot and made him run out of the shop and I punched him a few times because of it," I say.
She glances at Travis and makes a disgusted face. "It's people like you that make me sick," she says. She looks back at me with a smile. "Go and find your boyfriend. Your friend here can pay for the damages caused to my store."
I smile and take off down the street, frantically looking for Zane. I ask a woman on the street if she saw anyone with white hair run down the street and she points me to a nearby park. I run to the park and after a minute of searching, I find Zane sitting on a bench, his body hunched over. I walk over to him and stop in front of him. "Zane?"
He looks up at me and I see he's been crying. I take a seat next to him and hug him tightly before he can say anything. He hugs me back and cries into my shoulder. "Please...don't cry..." I say. "I'm sorry Travis and Brandon were so horrible to you."
"I-It was just Travis," Zane says. "Brandon didn't do anything but watch and listen."
"Well, either way, I'm better off without those two. Travis insulted you and Brandon didn't do anything to help you."
Zane suddenly sobs again into my shoulder. "I-I'm sorry, Eric," he says.
I hold Zane at an arm's length. "Why're you sorry?"
"Because I caused you to ruin three relationships: your dad, Travis, and Brandon. If you didn't date me, you'd still have them."
I feel tears fill the bases of my own eyes. Zane actually blames himself for all this happening? "P-Please don't say that," I say.
"But it's true. If..."
"No!" I interrupt. "I don't care about all of that! All I care about is that I'm with you, Zane. All I care about is being with the guy I love."
Zane's body twitches and he looks up at me with wet eyes. "Y-You...what?"
My tears spill out, but they're tears of joy now. "Zane...I love you. I love you so fucking much that it hurts, but it's a good hurt. I don't care that my dad doesn't approve of me being gay and I don't care that I lost two of my best friends. All I care about is that I'm with the guy that I love more than anything: you."
Zane stares at me for a few second before slowly smiling. "You...you love me?"
I nod and smile myself. "Yes. I love you, Zane Quinn."
His tears pour out again, but his smile stays. "I...I love you too, Eric. I've loved you ever since we first started dating."
Happiness floods my body and I almost explode from joy. I take Zane's face and kiss him lightly. "You have no idea how much that means to me," I say.
"Not as much as it means to me."
I give Zane another kiss and hold him tightly in my arms. "So what do you want to do now?" I ask.
"After a day like this? I kind of want to just relax with my boyfriend."
I smile, give him a third kiss and fall back into the bench with my arm around his waist, warmth in the middle of my chest.
An hour later, as the sun is setting, Zane and I arrive back home with a few groceries Mom needs to cook Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. We walk into the kitchen and start unloading the groceries when Mom walks into the kitchen. "Oh, hi boys," she says. "Zane, did you enjoy seeing the sights?"
"It's a beautiful city," Zane replies. "I'm glad Eric showed me around."
"Did you take him to Sandy's?" Mom asks me. "They make the best espresso around."
My stomach falls at the mention of Sandy's. "Yeah, we went there," I say. "But we didn't get the chance to drink any of the coffee."
"Why?" Mom asks.
"Travis and Brandon showed up and Travis insulted Zane and made him leave. Brandon didn't do anything to stick up for Zane and I kind of punched Travis a few times, told them I was gay and ran off to find Zane."
Mom walks over to my side and rubs my arm. "I'm sorry that had to happen, sweetie."
"I'm not," I say. "If they can't accept it, then I don't need them as friends."
My mouth tightens at the mention of Travis and Brandon not being my friends anymore. I shake my head out and finish putting away the groceries. "Why don't you show Zane your private setup out back?" Mom asks. "I'm sure he'd like to see it."
"Sure," I say, cracking a smile. I look to Zane, who seems a little confused. "Let me show you the backyard."
I lead Zane through the back door and we walk across my family's gigantic backyard and get to what I'm looking for. I walk over to the awaiting circuit breaker and flip the circuits, causing a low mechanical hum to sound. Bright lights flash and illuminate the backyard, exposing a large baseball field.
Back when I was eleven, my family decided to build a baseball field right in our backyard so my friends and I could have a place to ourselves to play and practice. I've used almost every day since then. Zane lets out a low whistle. "Wow..." I hear him say.
"I like it too."
I lead Zane to the equipment shed, unlock it and open the door, revealing a shed filled to the brim with baseball equipment. I grab a bat, two mits, a bucket full of baseballs, two helmets and a pitching machine. I had the bat, mits and helmets to Zane and we walk out onto the field.
Taking in the smell of dirt and grass, I walk the pitching machine to the pitcher's mound, behind the pitcher's net, flip the switch, turning it on, and place the bucket of balls next to the machine. "You want to hit a few?" I ask Zane.
"Can you go first?" he asks back. "I've never really swung a bat before."
"Sure, but you'll need to feed the machine. It's already set to the speed I like, so go ahead and stand behind the net so you don't get hit by a stray ball."
Zane nods, tosses the bat and a helmet to me, and walks over to the machine. I slip the helmet over my cap and walk over to the batter's box, squaring up and taking the bat in my hands, the wooden handle fitting perfectly in my palms and fingers. "Whenever you're ready!" I call out to Zane.
He takes a ball from the bucket, holds it behind the machine and drops it in, sending the ball flying at 95 miles per hour at me. Gripping the bat tightly, I swing with all my strength and feel the bat connect with the ball. The crack of wood echoes throughout the field and I see the ball sail past the infield and fly well past the outfield, landing on the other side of the fence at the edge of the outfield.
Zane followed the ball the entire time and he looks back to me with amazement in his face. I shrug innocently. "C'mon!" I yell at Zane. "I'm a bit rusty! I can hit even farther than that!"
For the next hour and a half, I have fun with Zane, teaching him how to hit and watching him pitch a little. He manages to hit the ball past second base by the time we're finished and I see that he's an even better pitcher than I thought he was, with a nice curveball, knuckleball, change-up, and a fastball I clocked at 91 miles per hour in his repertoire.
Zane leaves for a quick break to the bathroom and I keep practicing with the pitching machine, swinging at every ball there is. As I'm hitting, memories of the last twenty-four hours flood into my mind: Dad, Travis, Brandon, none of them accepting me being gay and the hurt I felt when I learned this.
Anger fills my body and I start to swing at the balls even harder, sending them rocketing outside the field. My grip on the bat tightens and every ball that connects with the wood sends a sharp shockwave up my arms, but I don't feel the pain they bring, even as my palms start to bleed.
I just keep hitting, pure rage and adrenaline driving me forward. The bat handle is starting to turn red from my blood and even some drips to the dirt, but I don't care. The pain feels good and it helps to dull the hurt I've felt from the last day. As much as I want to keep going, the bat shattering into a million pieces stops me.
My grip on the bat handle stays firm and tight, even with most of the bat in the foul ball zone. "I haven't seen you break a bat since you hit that grand slam last April."
I look past the fence behind me and, standing in one of his nice suits, is Dad. He has a friendly smile on his face, but my glare causes it to fade. I toss the broken handle and walk over to the second bat I put aside earlier and grab it and walk back to the batter's box, ready for another ball. "Sport...can we just...?"
The sound of a ball connecting with my bat drowns out the sound of his voice, as does my choice to ignore him. "Eric...please...?" he starts. Crack! Ignore. "Buddy...I want to..." Crack! I keep ignoring him. "Is that...blood...?" Crack! His voice disappears again. "Eric! You're hurting yourself! Stop!"
Like I didn't know that. But his cries flow through my head and flow back out a second later. I keep swinging with all the rage-filled strength I have, the bat quickly turning red like the other one. "Eric! Please stop!"
I pivot around on one heel and throw the blood stained bat at the fence, right where Dad's still standing, causing him to flinch out of reflex. The bat rattles the fence and clatters to the dirt. "Look out!"
I spin back around just in time to react to a ball flying right at my face. I raise my hand and the ball runs right into it, causing stinging pain to shoot up my arm, but I ignore it. Gripping the ball tightly, I hurl it right back at the pitching machine, flying right into it. The machine falls over and dies from the impact.
Breath after breath leaves my body and I watch the blood drip from my hands to the dirt. "Sport! Are you okay?"
I look over and see Dad quickly walking onto the field, but I turn and walk in the other direction, heading back toward the house. "Eric! Can we please just talk?" Dad calls after me.
I quicken my pace and toss my helmet to the dirt. I walk off the field and cross the lawn and storm into the kitchen, where Mom stands at the counter with a Chinese take-out menu in her hand. "Sorry about the blood on the floor," I say as I walk out of the kitchen.
She glances up in time to see my hands. "Stop right there, young man!" she says.
I stop dead in my tracks and she walks over to me, taking my wrist and looking down at me hand. "I'm really fine," I protest.
"You are not!" she yells. "Wait here while I get some hydrogen peroxide, gauze pads and bandages."
She walks out of the kitchen and I take a seat at the counter and see my hand for the first time. It's actually worse than I thought. My skin has been rubbed raw from swinging the bat so much and some of my skin peeled off as a result. I get up from my chair and walk over to the sink and turn on the faucet and run cool water over my hands, wincing from the pain.
The blood washes off quickly and I carefully dry off my hands. "Can we talk now?"
I look behind me and see Dad standing at the back door, concern on his face. "Fuck you, Dad," I say.
Dad's face falls from that, but he looks back at me. "I really want to talk to you about what happened last night, Eric."
"What's there to talk about, Dad? I came out to you, you called me a cocksucking, ass-eating, homo-fucking faggot and almost hit me, and I now know that you don't accept me. End of discussion."
I see Dad suddenly looks like someone just told him he lost his closest friend. "Eric...I-I don't know why I reacted the way I did...but I'm so sorry for what I said and what I did. It must've been horrible for you to have heard all that..."
"No...horrible is an incredibly light way of putting it," I interrupt. I look Dad straight in the eye. "Dad, you scared the fucking shit out of me last night. I've never been that terrified in all my life, and I was terrified of you, my own dad. No kid should ever feel that scared of the man that raised them.
"I actually thought you were going to hurt me last night, Dad. When you raised your hand, it was the scariest thing I had ever seen. And the words you called me? Those hurt worse than any slap or punch would have. Do you know how much it hurt to hear that come out of your mouth and to know that you were calling me those horrible things?
I feel tears fall from my eyes, obscuring Dad. "Dad, I've looked up to you my whole life and thought you were the greatest person I had ever known. But last night made me feel like I should be afraid of you and that I should close myself off from you. I felt like I should never talk to or ever see you again..."
I wipe my eyes and recover my vision. But the first thing I see is Dad, crying himself. "I-I never wanted to make you feel that way, sport..." Dad sobs. "I was just...scared..."
"B-Because I was afraid of what would happen to you..."
"What do you mean?"
Dad wipes his eyes for a second, but new tears come another second later. "You being gay will make you a target to some people. I didn't want to have to get a phone call in the future telling me someone found you dead in an alleyway after some people bashed you."
"You were...concerned for me?"
"I...don't want to see you get hurt. When you told me you were gay, I feared for your safety and thought that being gay would only result in you getting hurt. So...I flipped because of my fear, but that's no excuse for what I called you and the fact that I almost hit you. But...if you can forgive me, I promise I'll never do something like that ever again."
"S-So...you don't hate that I'm gay?"
Dad starts slowly walking toward me. "Of course not. Eric, you're my son and nothing will ever change that fact. I love you more than anything and I will always love you."
Relief crashes through me and Dad stops a step in front of me. I grab him and pull him into a crushing hug, pressing my face into his shoulder as my tears soaking into the fabric of Dad's suit. "I love you too, Dad," I cry. "Thank you for accepting me."
Dad hugs me back and I feel his own tears slide onto my shirt. "Thank you for forgiving me, sport. I promise I'll do better in the future." I let go of Dad and take a seat back at the counter, Dad taking a seat next to me. "May I see your hands?"
I show Dad my palms, which have started to bleed again. At least the pain's gone down a bit. "Everything okay in here?"
Dad and I see Mom walking back into the kitchen with a first aid kit in her hands. "Yeah," I say. "Yeah, everything's okay."
She smiles and walks over to me and quickly bandages my hands up. "We'll change them in an hour or two," Mom says. "Go and change out of our shirt. There's a few blood spots on it."
I nod and make my way upstairs, meeting Zane as he comes back down, a sketchpad and pencil in his hand. "You okay?" he asks, looking at my hands.
"Yeah, just peeled a little skin off. I'm fine."
I climb two more stairs and hug Zane tightly. "Are you really okay?" Zane asks again.
I feel my tears come back as I press my face into Zane's chest. "He accepts me, Zane," I sob softly. "My dad still loves me..."
Zane hugs me back, resting his chin on the top of my head. "I'm really happy for you, Eric," he says.
I look up at Zane and he smiles down at me, giving my lips a light kiss. "So you two are boyfriends?"
Dad is standing at the base of the stairs, smiling up at us. "Yeah," I say, wiping my eyes. "We've been dating almost two months now."
He nods. "It's good to see that you two are happy together." Dad makes his way up the stairs, giving my shoulder a pat and stopping on the same step as Zane. He looks down at him with a smile. "Welcome to the family, Zane."
Zane smiles and Dad continues up the stairs to his bedroom. "I need to go change my shirt," I tell Zane. "I'll be back down in a few minutes."
I give him another kiss and walk up to my room, a smile on my face.
With a fresh new shirt, I sit in my living room with Mom, Dad (changed into a t-shirt and jeans), Zane and Patch, who's the latest drawing for Zane's sketchbook. I watch as Zane draws away, capturing every piece of fur exactly. The doorbell suddenly rings and Dad sits up. "That was fast," he says. "The Chinese restaurant said it would take forty-five minutes."
"Eric, could you get that?" Mom asks me. "The money's on the kitchen table."
I get up form the couch, grab the money and make my way to the front door, when the doorbell rings again. "I'm coming!" I call out. I grab the door handle and open the door. "$52.37, right?"
But there are two people on my front porch instead of one with food: Travis and Brandon. My face goes flat in record time. "Fuck off, both of you," I say, closing the door.
Travis sticks his foot in the doorway, keeping me from closing it. "C'mon, Eric," says Brandon. "Can we just talk?"
"I have nothing to say to either of you," I say. "So Travis? Move your fucking foot before I break it."
"You and I both know you won't do that, Eric," Travis replies.
"Want to try that theory?"
I press my whole body against the door and push back. Travis moves his foot and the door slams shut. I lock it behind me and walk back to the living room. Everyone looks at me when I come back without any food. "Who was at the door?" asks Dad.
"Travis and Brandon," I say, flopping back onto the couch.
I told Mom and Dad about what happened with Travis and Brandon a little while ago. "Sport," Dad says. "Do you think you should maybe give them a second chance? Like you gave me?"
"You don't get it, Dad," I say. "Travis insulted Zane and Brandon didn't do anything to defend Zane. If they insulted me, I'd give them another chance. But Zane? No way."
The room is completely silent as I let my words sink in. Zane suddenly stands up with his sketchpad and pencil. "I'll be right back," he says. "I'm going to get a little air."
He walks to the backdoor and steps outside. But before he walks out, I notice a look on his face that seems...determined. The doorbell rings again and I sigh to myself, thinking it's Travis and Brandon again. But I see it's the Chinese deliveryman. I pay the guy and walk back into the kitchen with two arms full of food.
As I unload the bags, I look out back and see Zane standing there, and he looks to be...talking to someone? I squint my eyes and see two shadows facing Zane, both of them with a 6 foot 1 frame. Travis and Brandon. I drop all the food I'm holding onto the counter and rush to the back door and sprint outside.
They all hear me running out to them. "Get away from him!" I yell at Travis and Brandon.
"Eric! STOP!" My feet suddenly stop moving from the voice shouting out to me. But it was neither Travis nor Brandon. It was Zane. "I'm just talking to both of them." He looks back to the guys. "Now, what was it you were saying?"
Travis and Brandon look back down at Zane. "We...I was saying how I was sorry for the way I treated you earlier," says Travis. "I'm kind of protective of Eric and thought you might do something to ruin his reputation around here. So...I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too," says Brandon. "I should've done something to rein Travis in, but I was thinking the same way he was."
They just wanted to protect me? It's just like with Dad. "Guys," I say. "I don't care about my reputation. I don't care if people know I'm gay. All of Stanford knows I'm dating Zane right here and they treat me like I'm a normal human being. I'm friends with some really awesome guys who are gay too and they break every stereotype you know.
"I'm happy now that I know I'm gay. My parents still love me and I love Zane. I really hope you can..."
Travis and Brandon walk over to me and hug me tightly. "We're sorry about how we reacted earlier," says Travis. "You had every right to punch me for insulting your boyfriend."
"You should have punched me too," says Brandon. "Maybe that would've knocked a bit of sense into my head earlier."
I laugh a bit and give my two best friends a squeeze and let them go. "Now what's this gift you were telling us Zane had?" asks Travis.
We look over and see Zane lifting his pencil off his sketchpad. "You can't have finished a sketch that fast," I say.
"I think it's a new record for me," he says with a smile. "Take a look."
He walks over to us and turns his sketchpad over, showing a picture of Travis, Brandon and me, talking just like we were at Sandy's. Once again, every detail is correct. "Shit..." Brandon says.
"How the hell did you do that so fast?" asks Travis.
Zane shrugs. "I just...did it."
"See?" I say. "He has a gift."
Travis and Brandon both nod, shock still on their faces. I hear the back door open and see Dad sticking his head outside. "The food's getting cold!" he calls. "Travis and Brandon! We ordered your favorites!"
He closes the door behind him and I see Travis and Brandon looking a bit embarrassed. "Yeah...your parents kind of called us about thirty minutes ago to talk to you," says Travis.
I smile at them. "I'm glad they did."
They smile back and we start to make our way back to the house. "I'm glad everything's back to normal for you," Zane says as he walks next to me.
I stop for a second and give Zane a kiss. "I'm glad too."