Previously on 890

*

“Babe?”

He drops his car keys on the crude paper-maché mat on the small side table by the door. He smiles every time he sees it; he smiles now. Khalil had made it as an art project, had painted it and given it to his father last year. It is pale blue with Khalil’s small palm paint-imprint on it, along with the words ‘Baba Khalil’.

A thug, that boy.

It is astounding how his son has me wrapped around his five fingers, and I won’t have it any other way. Besides, I am just as wrapped around Aliu’s being too.

“Moe? Mischief-maker? Where are you guys?” he calls out to the seemingly empty house.

A furrow appears on his brow, and I imagine he must be slightly upset with me, seeing as I had said nothing all day about his birthday. He knows I don’t like my birthdays, but hey, I should have sent a text or an email or even given him a call.

He walks into the kitchen, which is warm from the use of the oven but void of my terribly dramatic presence. Then he heads down the hall into the living room, to find my laptop open on the table with a sticky note in the centre of it. He lifts the laptop to read the note.

You turn me on.

In spite of his displeasure with me, he chuckles and taps the power button. As soon as the laptop is done booting, a video comes up on the screen. He sits on the arm of the couch closest to him and hits PLAY, smiling as my goofy face drifts into view.

“Hey, Papi,” the video-me begins, “you’re probably wondering what this video is about. It’s mostly about me, and you – obviously. So, it’s your birthday. But you know that. I let that cow, Ivan talk me into going to shop for a gift.” I sigh and run my hand over my face with an exaggerated groan.

Aliu chuckles at my histrionics.

“Gawdy lawd, do I suck at this birthday thing,” I groan from the laptop, “or any other party or event.”

He arches his brows.

And I narrow my eyes at him from the screen. “Don’t give me that face. You know I suck.”

“Is this live?” he mutters, looking slightly startled.

“No, this isn’t live,” the video-me says. “I just know you.”

“Scary,” he murmurs.

I wink from the screen. “I know. Anyway, you know I’m a recluse and my paranoia is always at its peak. But Valentine’s Day…Awesome! Hell, I’d probably ride even well on Valentine’s Day. Insert inappropriate innuendo here.” I wriggle my eyebrows and Aliu lets out a laugh.

“You’re so impossible,” he says to the laptop.

“You’re probably calling me impossible right about now,” the video-me continues, “so let’s get on with this. Today was terrifying. Ivan is even more of an ass than previously deduced. And our little scoundrel? Terrifyingly exhausting.” I shake my head, heaving a sigh. “Anyway, I was going crazy, worrying about what to get you, afraid I’d ruin your first birthday together since you weren’t around last year. And then Ivan reminded me of something – that I have you, Aliu. Everything else is just icing on the cake. I love you and I hope tonight doesn’t suck.”

A slow grin starts out on his face as he senses what I’m about to say next.

“Actually, we both probably want there to be some sucking and licking going on, if you know what I mean.” I give him a lewd wink.

Kai!” Aliu exclaims.

“Sorry, I know. And Aliu?” My expression softens, and he shifts nervously. “Just follow the music.”

Music? He looks the question at me.

Suddenly, there’s a chirping of birds followed by instrumentals coming the other living room upstairs.

Setting the laptop aside, he gets up and starts moving in the direction of the melody.

The song is familiar to him. When he’d first heard it, he’d been mildly surprised to learn that it was a song from the nineties. Later on, he’d told me that in that moment when he heard it, his heart had fluttered, and for a moment, he’d been transported to when he first met me at the media house where I worked.

Loving You by Minnie Riperton floats gently all the way down from the living room upstairs, and just as he is on the last step, about to step on to the carpeted floor, the lyrics come to life.

He stands there, enthralled, not moving, his attention rapt.

“Happy birthday, baby,” I husk from within.

***

I rose languidly to my feet, feeling powerful and sensual as I watched my boyfriend ogle me. I was holding out a platter upon which was set a cake, velvet, chocolate and cream, with a singular candle stick set on the centre. I watched his eyes crawl over my body, appreciating my offering. I was clad in a black shirt with the three top buttons undone, and cream coloured shorts that stopped just short of my derriere and displayed the entire length of my legs, those amazing legs he loved so much. And I smelled wonderful.

I’m not here to play, baby. I’m here to slay.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” he said.

I smiled.

He smiled back. “You look…Wow.”

“Ivan helped me pick it out,” I said, smoothing a hand self-consciously over the short shorts. “We were going for a gay equivalent of a negligee.”

He gave a short burst of laughter. “Well, you did great, because you look…Wow. And this…” He turned a slow look around the room, gesturing. There were lit candles which drenched the room with a soothing twilight feel. In the centre of the living room, a blanket was spread for two, set up with dinner. Two candles glimmered around the dishes. A wine bottle chilled in a small silver bucket. There were two bowls of sliced apples, a bucket of ice cream and three large pillows.

“Babes, this is absolutely amazing,” he breathed out.

You’re absolutely amazing,” I rejoined.

He crossed the rest of the distance to me. I held out a hand to welcome him into a half hug. I kissed his cheek before turning to place the platter down on the centre table. Now unencumbered, I drew him into my arms, went up on my toes as I brought my head up to his, and claimed his lips. I’d been waiting all day for that.

Now that I had him in my arms, kissing him, tasting the sweetness of his tongue, feeling the warmth of his skin, the heat radiating from him, I could feel every molecule of our individual days dissipate. We kissed until we were forced to come up for air.

I let out a breathless laugh. “I should dress up more often. Oh, and before I forget, I got you something else.” I reached down behind a pillow in a deliberate motion that ensured my butt was facing his groin.

“Well, the view is great, if that’s the other thing you got for me,” he said with a laugh.

I turned a cheeky expression up at him, before lifting a Minion teddy bear to him. He laughed again. I joined in.

“This little guy was Khalil’s idea. He couldn’t be left out,” I said.

He took the toy, his smile unable to get any bigger. “I love it.”

And I love you, I thought. I love you both. There was no one I loved more than my boys.

“We got it just before they kicked us out of one of the gift stores,” I said.

He gaped at me, trying to figure out if I was joking. The deadpan pout on my face told him I wasn’t. Unable to help himself, he guffawed again.

“I’m sorry,” he said, doing his best to get himself under control. “I didn’t mean to laugh.”

“It’s okay. It was terrible, really.” I turned to gingerly let myself down on the blanket.

“How many stores did you get kicked out of?” he asked as he joined me.

My expression became sheepish. “Um, three stores. The first one was for checking the durability of a wristwatch’s strap – not durable at all, I’m telling you. I broke a ceramic bible in the process. The lady who’d been standing beside me said I was the antichrist. The second store was for throwing a dildo at an employee, and the third was for wrestling the bag I wanted to put this toy in out of the hands of some girl.”

Aliu stared at me with an expression that mixed amusement with astonishment. “You stole a teddy bear from a girl?”

“No, I stole the bag. Ode! Keep up. She didn’t even want it. She only wanted it because I wanted it. Then she offered to sell it to me for 5k. Can you believe that? Iranu!” I shook my head dramatically. “What’s wrong with our youths of nowadays?”

“Like you’re an adult yourself,” Aliu riposted.

“Of course I am,” I sniffed.

He laughed again, reached out to take my hand, giving it a squeeze. He seemed in awe of me. “You wrestled a girl for my present.”

I chuckled, and took one of the slices of apple from the bowl, lathered it with ice cream. “I also got kicked out of one of those fancy chocolate selling stores. There was an open box of chocolate on the counter. I thought it was a free sample.”

He burst into more laughter and I joined in. As ridiculous as it all sounded, he knew every word was true.

He managed to get a hold of himself and wipe the tears from his eyes. He let out a heavy breath. “You’re amazing, Moe.”

I leaned forward and held the apple out to him. “Must be the company I keep. Open up, big boy.”

He did as asked, opening his mouth and accepting the crunchy apple coated with ice cream. “Hmm, divine,” he murmured.

“I knew you’d like it. Let’s eat before our dinner gets cold.”

“Okay.”

We bantered as we ate, having to stop often so we wouldn’t choke on our laughter. We laughed over my antics, at Khalil’s too-smart-for-his-own-good responses, and Ivan’s shenanigans. Ours was an odd little family resting on drama and friendship, filled with love and laughter.

When we finished dinner, I set out to clear the dishes to make room for dessert, when Aliu caught a hold of my wrist. “I do the cleaning, mister. Thank you. I couldn’t have hoped for a better birthday.”

I reached into my pocket and took in a deep breath. “I have one more thing for you.”

He canted his head at me.

There was a shy smile on my face. “I was going crazy wondering what to get you, and as much as I’d love to take the credit, my mom helped me out.” I took his hand to turn the palm up, and proceeded to spill the content of the small blue velvet bag into it.

“Wow, babe,” he breathed out. “It’s gorgeous.”

I lifted the gold chain, gazing at the small, red, heart-shaped pendant with misty eyes. “It belonged to my mom.”

His eyes swung sharply to my face. “Your mom? Oh, babe. Are you sure you want to give this to me?”

“My dad gave it to her when she broke the news to him that she was pregnant with me. She said she kept it for me, and I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more than you. I love you, Aliu.”

Tears glimmered in his eyes, and with a nod, he placed his thumb on the pendant. It was difficult for me not to get teary-eyed as well. I scooted closer to him, crawling into the alcove of his embrace. Then I kissed him tenderly, one on his forehead, another on the tip of his nose, and finally one on his lips.

“I love you, Aliu.”

“I love you too, Moe.”

We kissed passionately again. When we came up for air, I murmured, “You know, I learned something about today.” My arms were wrapped around his neck, and his breath fanned my cheek with its warmth.

“That you should stay out of stores forever?” he gibed.

“Cow!” I laughed and playfully smacked his head. “No. That’s not it. I learned that today isn’t about gifts or breaking an arm trying to conjure up the perfect gift, because my gifts are already perfect. I have you and your son. Happy birthday, Goob.”

I reached for his lips again, but he stayed the motion with a finger placed over mine.

”And I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect partner to spend it with,” he husked, before letting me close to his lips for the kiss.

Written by Vhar

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