After serving as the best man at his father Tim’s wedding to his long-time partner, Craig Pearson, twenty-year-old college student Nick Wattley is visiting San Diego to celebrate the couple’s first wedding anniversary.
But the mood in the Wattley-Pearson household is anything but festive due to a disagreement between the couple over a seemingly innocent anniversary gift. Can Nick help his father and stepfather get their relationship back on track?
Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.
Craig changes clothes and he and I hang out and talk until Dad comes home. After that, everyone retreats to his own corner of the house. Dad goes to the kitchen to cook dinner, Craig heads to the office to finish up some work things, and I go to my room to surf the web. We don’t all reconvene until Dad tells us dinner is ready.
Dinner is ... odd. It’s obvious Craig is angry with Dad but his anger is so quiet and contained that it creates a weird dynamic between us all. On the surface it looks like everything is okay. The meal is good, everyone enjoys the food Dad cooked, the conversation is light, and nothing seems out of the ordinary. But something is wrong. I know it, Craig knows it, and my father knows it. While we’re having dessert, I give them my anniversary gift: passes for a bike and kayak combination tour in La Jolla. They both thank me for the passes and promise to use them. Then, Craig laughs a little and says, “Thank God you didn’t give us any pictures.”
Dad shakes his head. “Jesus, not again.”
Craig looks at him and asks, “Are you ashamed of our marriage?”
Dad looks shocked by the question. “What?”
“You heard me. Are you ashamed to let people know you’re married to me?”
“Of course not. I’m not closeted at work or anywhere else, Craig. You know that.”
“Then what’s the problem? Why won’t you put the picture in your office?”
“Because I’ve always kept my private life private. I don’t like having people in my business. I never have.”
“Did you keep a picture of Beth on your desk when you were married to her?”
“Beth” is my mother, Elizabeth. She and my father were married for a little over ten years before they called it quits and divorced. My mother and father have an amicable relationship now and she claims to have no issue with the fact that her ex-husband is gay. “Tim is free to live his life however he chooses,” she told me once when we talked about my father’s sexuality. She didn’t always feel that way, she admitted, but time and distance seem to have healed her wounds.
“Yes, I kept a picture of Beth on my desk when we were married,” my father tells Craig, “but that was a long time ago and the picture I had of her wasn’t from our wedding. It was a picture of her and Nick together.”
“But you didn’t have any problem sharing that photo with your co-workers, right?”
“I was in a different place in my career and in my life back then, Craig. I did what was expected. Now I can do what I want.”
“And you don’t want to have our wedding picture on display in your office, right?”
I try to quietly rise from the table so I can leave Craig and my father to argue privately, but Craig grabs my arm as soon as my ass is out of my seat.
“Don’t go, Nick,” he says. “You should stay and hear this, too. This is a family issue.”
My father lets out a sarcastic laugh. “There is no issue.”