“I need your help,” I said to Rose as I walked into her house.
“First, have you eaten?”
“Sit down and eat.” My mother dropped a plate of pasta on the table and summoned me with her flapping slap. I obeyed.
“What can I do for my son today?” She smoothed back my hair, looked me in the eyes and smiled.
“It’s Bekah Kay Day,” I said. “I need your help planning a party.”
“Kay?” Rose asked.
“It’s her middle name.”
Rose sat back in her chair and glared. Her mood about Bekah had changed considerably when she found out Bekah was leaving for two weeks to be with her college sister and her little sister across the country, in a college town with college guys. As the days stretched on and I spoke less and less about Bekah, Rose began to bloom again.
She talked about things with me again. Church, Mumble, food and work. She spoke about my siblings and how they were doing, and none of it held the whiff of manipulation that all her talk had since my breakup with Destiny and my matching with Bekah.
We will get to Destiny, but we have to go the long way to that one. Stay with me on this talk. It’s about to get dicey.
“Bekah Kay Day, huh?” Rose said. She held her rage in tight check. “I can’t imagine what Bekah Kay Day would even be, let alone help you plan it.”
Shadow burst forward, hard. Now any time my mother’s food was pulled out, Servant stepped out to meet it. He was her little man and obeyed everything she said. She had been crafting him slowly my entire life. He was the perfect son, but when she got the tone, and aimed it at Bekah, Shadow leapt forward and smiled. He was dark, he was pissed, and he had an answer for her.
He pointed at her with a fork full of pasta. “You don’t have to imagine. I’m gonna tell you all about Bekah Kay Day.” He emptied the fork and grinned with a mouth full of her food. “Bekah Kay Day is a celebration of the return of the girl I love.”
Rose threw her hands up and jumped to her feet. “Oh, we love her now.” She walked away then right back. She stood over us for maximum effect and glared down at me. “How long have you actually known this girl?”
Shadow stabbed noodles and shook his head. “I’ve known her since my sophomore year of high school and I have wanted her for that long, too.”
“What?” Rose shouted. “I don’t even want to know what ‘wanted her’ means ’cause it can’t be Christian. However, I know this is a lie because you have never mentioned her to me, not once, ever in your life.”
“Good pasta, Mom, really.” He moaned around his next bite and she stepped back, looked out her big picture windows, and fixed her perfectly coifed hair. “Wanted her means wanted her, and I have never told you that I want to sing on Broadway either, but it is true.”
“Sing on Broadway? Really?”
“No, but you get my meaning. There are a lot of impossible things I have dreamt about for all the years of my life that I have never talked about because they are as crazy as Memory on the stage. Look, she is- she is—”
“No better than you.”
“She is the one. She always has been.”
“No, we don’t know that yet. You cannot say that.” Rose steamed. She wanted to yell at something, and she wanted to hit something, and she wanted any modicum of control back, but things were moving way too fast for her now. She could not stop it, could not guide this thing that was happening in her son’s life. “We don’t even know this girl.”
“When did you know that you loved Bramble?”
She stormed across the room and slapped me in the face. “Don’t you dare.”
Shadow looked at the plate, took a deep breath, and began eating again. “More garlic this time, I think.”
“Don’t you dare compare me and Bramble to you and this girl. Don’t you dare. And I never loved Bramble the way I love your stepfather anyway, so I don’t know why we are even talking about him.”
“Listen, when you know, you know. You have been telling me this all of my life. But what you meant was when you know, you know. You decided long ago that you wanted Destiny to be my wife. Well, that can’t happen now. I heard you say it so many times that I was sure she was the one, too. But then Bekah, and I realize I have been wrong so many times before, and this time I am right. She is the one, the one we have been waiting for. She is it. And I can’t stay.” He stood, kissed her, and Shadow headed for the door. “I can’t stay because it is obvious that you are not going to help me plan Bekah Kay Day, and I have to get moving if I am going to get it off the ground.”
She didn’t stop him. She didn’t say a word. She just let him walk out. When he was almost out the door, he smiled at her. “Love you, too, Mom.” He closed the door and went to find Bell.
He woke Bell up. “Dude, I need you to come pick me up.”
“What time is it?” his exhausted voice said.
“In the morning?”
“Yes dear, it is eleven in the morning. I need your help. Can you come pick me up?”
“You and Father Morgan La Guy had me up until six,” Bell said.
We played Dungeons and Dragons until morning, but I hadn’t slept. I couldn’t. Sleep was impossible. She was coming back tonight. She was coming back tonight. Everything had to be perfect.
“Can’t do it, dude, sorry. I have had almost no sleep all week. With work and then the games you have been running, I have slept maybe ten hours of the last seventy. For the love of Christ, Jesse, I’m a lifeguard. I can’t fall asleep at work. People could die. I have to sleep. I’m sorry. Make this work without me.”
“Cool, I understand, my Droog. Sleep well, but be at my house tonight. The drinks are on Precious and we are having a party.”
“It’s Bekah Kay Day.” I hung up. Next call was Precious.
“Happy Bekah Kay Day!”
“Too early,” she said. She was reaching to hang up the phone when Shadow yelled out.
“Party tonight at my house!”
Pause. “What is Bekah Kay Day?”
“Glad you asked. She is coming home to me today. And I want to celebrate. Today everything is about her. The whole day.”
“What time is she getting back?”
“Then it’s not all day, it’s all night.”
“No, my dear, it is all day. I need food, snacks, drinks. I need rides to places, and I need to get music. I need my party planner goddess to help me all day today. Where is she? She is desperately needed.”
“Two hours. I have to get up, get fed, and get presentable. Give me two hours.”
“See you in two hours.”
“You really like her, don’t you?”
I knew when I answered that I would be talking to one of my ex-girlfriends, so I put it as gently as I knew how to. “She is home,” I said. “She is my home.”
“Two hours,” Precious said.
The Droogs were there three hours before Bekah arrived. We had food but it was all getting eaten. We had drinks, and everyone was drinking, and while all this was happening, Taste was messing with the music.
“What kind of music do you want playing, Jesse?” Taste said. “I can get a real ball rubber going when she walks in, if you want me to.”
“Yeah, when you are dancing with a girl so slow and you are so close to her and she reaches down and rubs your—”
“Don’t need a ball rubber, man. When she walks in make sure that The Cure is playing.” I pointed at him. “That is all I need from you.”
“The Cure sucks,” Taste said.
“Well, The Cure can suck every day, all day, except today because they are Bekah’s favorite band. So when she walks in, ‘Friday I’m In Love’ will be blaring,” Shadow said. He looked at Taste. He gave him the hard look. The “We are all laughing, aren’t we laughing? We are all having fun. Aren’t we having fun? We are all happy and no one is going to break your fucking nose because you are going to do what you’re told” look. That look.
Don’t remember anything else, to be honest, except the waiting. I remember Shadow disappeared for a while and Artist stepped out gingerly.
It was beginning to occur to him that she was coming. Artist had been in love with Bekah since she was a freshman in high school, and she had just finished her first year of college. Artist had been thinking about her all this time. He had been gone when they got together, he had been off doing other things. He had not noticed she had come into his life or that she was his girlfriend at all. Then, after she left and had been gone for a while, he found out.
One casual mention of her name while he was out. One joke and he realized his dream girl was coming home. He was furious. Raging. He had designed Shadow’s love life so he would never get to touch Bekah. But as the anger came down, Artist came to a conclusion that had captured his imagination and seized his mind.
He was going to get to kiss Bekah Lynch. It was all he could think about. He had been running Dungeons and Dragons games as much as possible to occupy his time because the waiting was unbearable. He was obsessed. He was overtaken by the thought of her mouth pressed against his. He was on fire, and she was coming.
I think he felt her in Rolla. I think he felt her pass Jerome. I think when she got off the exit at Best Western and turned onto his road, Artist could feel her heart pounding in his throat. He sat on the bed and crossed his legs. He closed his eyes as she turned into his driveway, and he drew in a deep breath, and waited.
He heard the door burst open and opened his eyes.
She stepped into view and stopped. She froze. She stared as if overtaken by the same incredible force that had a hold on him. They looked at each other for the very first time. He saw her face go from smiling and happy to suddenly serious.
Taste was talking.
She didn’t hear him.
Burg was welcoming her home.
She ignored him completely.
She walked straight to the bed Artist was sitting on and climbed onto his lap. He felt her weight resting on him and she grabbed his face.
He looked up at her, helpless. Gazing at the girl he had always been obsessed with. The girl he had never realized came from a rich family. The girl he had never wanted to fuck or do anything physical with. He looked at her, helpless, staring at the love he could never have.
And she stared in his eyes for the briefest of moments before she kissed him and made him whole. He looked up at her and smiled, and for the first time he was truly in love.
“Welcome home,” he whispered.
She kissed him again.
Shadow didn’t want to go. Fuck them. He was in a war with his mother for Bekah. He was sure as hell not going to fight her parents, too. When she said her parents wanted to meet him, he took off. He walked away, and out came Servant.
Servant was not happy about Bekah at all. She made Rose nervous. Rose didn’t trust her, and Rose had been telling him who to love and who to trust for a long time now. Without her guidance, he did not know how to proceed. But he did not trust Bekah and he did not like being around her.
Servant came out when they pulled up to the house of Vigil and Hymnal Lynch and took a deep breath. No matter how he felt, he was not going to dishonor himself or his mother. He would handle himself with respect and courtesy. And he was only here for the mother.
They met Servant at the door. They were standing there when he walked in, and his first instinct was to walk right back out. They were prepared for this war. He was not. But he turned his attention to the only thing that mattered and stepped up to stand before Hymnal.
“Mom, Dad, this is Jesse. He is my new boyfriend,” Bekah said. It was almost a chirp. An exclamation of such pure happiness at speaking the words that she sounded, to Servant, a bit insane. He filed that away for later.
Servant hugged her mother. He did not ask first. He did not shake her hand. He stepped right up to her and gave her a hug.
“It is so nice to meet you,” he lied. “Ever since the phone call, I have wanted to get over here and meet you face to face.”
Hymnal’s face broke open in happiness and she pointed at him. “I knew it,” she said.
He looked at her, looked at Bekah, then back to her and smiled. “Knew what?”
“You have been here before, to see Bliss, and the first time I saw you I said to myself, ‘Now that is a guy that could appreciate my Bekah.’”
Servant smiled at her and nodded. He wrapped an arm around a girl he did not like to trust, and he grinned. “And you were right.” He kissed Bekah’s temple.
Servant would not stay out for Vigil. He backed away and out came Guardian. Fathers were sacred with Guardian. He had failed at this once. Had let the father of a girlfriend down and it would not happen again. Ever since Pristine, fathers had been an obsession of Guardian’s.
He loved Bekah and wanted to be with her forever, so he had prepared every nuance of this moment in detail.
“It’s nice to meet you, sir,” Guardian said. “My name is—”
Vigil held his hand up.
“The chicken breast, is that white meat or dark meat?” Vigil said.
Guardian looked the man in the eye and had no idea what to do next. He was standing in a nice house. This was a perfect family man. He was making this man’s daughter feel safe and loved. This bizarre question and this hard face was not anything Guardian had ever dealt with before.
“Chicken breast is white meat, always has been white meat, will probably stay that way,” Shadow said.
Vigil extended his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Jesse. Welcome to my home.”
Guardian stopped and stared. He looked at Bekah who laughed, Hymnal laughed, and Guardian laughed. But within, he was screaming.
Guardian was not prepared for Vigil Lynch in any way. He thought of Pristine and he kept laughing.