Friday was Manny's last day of school till after the Holidays, and I think I was looking forward to his Christmas vacation as much as he was. I no longer worried about Jason taking up all his time, especially since the two would most likely be hanging out at my house if they did get together.
As for myself, working retail, I pretty much had to work right up till Christmas Eve, which was the following Tuesday, but we did close early, and I had Christmas day and Thursday through Sunday as a mini-vacation.
That Friday, I was outside checking some stubborn lights that didn't want to come on when Manny came up the street and joined me. Between the two of us we were able to find the pesky bulb that was causing that section to go dark, and when we were finished I invited him inside for some hot cocoa.
As we sipped our cocoa we talked, and soon the subject of Jason came up. I'd been waiting for that particular subject to come up, and I gave Manny a smile as he began.
"Jason is coming over to my house tomorrow to hang out, but we'll probably wind up going out or something. Maybe even play some soccer."
"You kids are crazy to play soccer in this weather," I chuckled, "the weatherman is warning we might get more snow tonight."
"Well, it depends on whether we do or not," Manny conceded.
"Personally, I hope it holds off till Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but I'm just happy we're going to have a white Christmas for once."
"Yes, it is very pretty," Manny said gazing out the window, but I don't think his mind was on the snow.
"Penny for your thoughts," I said then, causing him to look my way and smile.
"Oh, just thinking how different things are now...thanks to you, and to Jason."
"Well, you deserve a better life buddy," I said reaching over to pat his hand, "what are your plans for dinner, can you stay?"
"I can ask," Manny said sounding happy, "what are we having?"
"Well, I was thinking pizza, how does that sound?"
"Good, we don't get pizza at home much. I can call my momma if it's okay?"
"Yes, please do," I said handing him my cell phone.
Being a kid of the internet, it only took him a second to figure out how to use it, and he was surprised to see that his home phone number was already in my contact list. I listened as he talked to his mother and soon he hung up and handed my phone back.
"Momma has a different idea. She wants you to come down and have dinner with us. She is a very good cook. You will not be disappointed."
"Well, how can I pass that up?" I said trying not to look as nervous as I felt.
"It's okay, poppa is happy these days now that he does not have to deal with me as much."
"What do you mean, doesn't have to deal with you as much? He isn't ignoring you or anything is he?"
"No, I mean...no more than usual, but he does not say harsh things to me like before. I think...I think you have made him see that I am not bad, just different."
"Unique is a better word," I said smiling, "do you need to call your mom back and tell her I'm coming?'
"No, she said you must come, and momma is very stubborn when it comes to these things," he laughed.
"Well, okay...what time?"
"Poppa will be home at six, so we should go earlier, like 5:30 maybe."
We walked the short distance to Manny's house under grey skies that indeed looked like they could drop a load of white stuff any minute. It was cold, but fortunately there wasn't much wind, and though our cheeks were red by the time we arrived, we were none worse for the wear.
The two little ones greeted us at the door, and Manny scooped up Sofia and instinctively I grabbed up Julio, who seemed delighted by the attention. Maria popped her head around the corner from the kitchen and greeted us and I sniffed the air and sighed.
"Oh my, it sure smells good in here," I said smiling, "Manny tells me you're a very good cook, and if that smell is any indication of that, I think I'm in for a real treat."
"They are traditional Mexican recipes, I hope you will like them. I have made them not too spicy, but there is hot sauce if you want more spicy."
"I'm sure it will be fine just like you made it," I said sitting Julio down and following Manny into the dining room. The table was made of heavy wood, with seating for 8, and I wondered if they entertained often.
"Oh, it smells even better in here," I said sniffing the air, my mouth watering, and my stomach rumbling.
"You will like momma's enchiladas," Manny said looking hungry himself.
We were interrupted then by the arrival of Mr. Rodriquez, who apparently had managed to take off early. He surprised me by greeting me with a smile and a handshake before going over and kissing his wife on the cheek. The two smaller kids hung onto him, begging for his attention, and he finally picked them up, one at a time, and kissed their cheek. This certainly wasn't the father I'd expected to see after what Manny had told me, but I guessed it was different dealing with toddlers opposed to a teenager.
"I will shower and be right back," Mr. Rodriquez said excusing himself.
"Sit, please sit," Maria said indicating a chair on the back side of the table.
"Next to me," Manny said proudly.
"Me too," Julio said climbing up in the chair on the other side of me.
"Well, I feel right at home now," I said sincerely, "thanks for inviting me Mrs. Rodriquez.
"Please, call me Maria," she said smiling.
"Only if you will call me Rob," I agreed.
Mr. Rodriquez returned about ten minutes later dressed in jeans and a western shirt loose at the collar. I could smell his soap and shampoo even from where I sat, and when he took his seat at the head of the table I could also detect some subtle cologne.
"How is work these days?" I asked, "has the weather slowed things down any?"
"Si, some, but we do inside work when the weather is bad. We also paint and do drywall and flooring. Really, anything that needs to be done. We stay busy all year long."
"That's good, snow is not something we usually have to deal with. In fact, if it stays around, this will be the first white Christmas I can remember in a long time."
"Yes, it is good in some ways, very nice, but bad for some people."
Maria began to bring dishes to the table and Manny hopped up to help her, and soon the table was full of steaming dishes of delicious smelling food. Enchiladas, Spanish rice, re-fried beans, tacos, burritos, tamales, chips and salsa, and a huge salad. There was enough food here for ten people, but I doubted any leftovers would go to waste in the Rodriquez house.
As predicted, the food was delicious, in fact, I will say it was better than any Mexican food I'd ever eaten. I continually complemented the cook after taking a bite of each new thing, and she was all smiles.
We ate, and ate, and ate, and I was about to pop by the time we finally called it quits. Mr. Rodriquez could certainly put away the food, and of course Manny, being a teen, was an eating machine.
I offered to help clean up, but Maria acted offended, assuring me I was a guest, and guests do not do clean up. So, Manny and the little kids helped her while Mr. Rodriquez and I retired to the living room.
At first, I was nervous about being left alone with the man of the house, but Mr. Rodriquez was very friendly and cordial and I soon relaxed. He was obviously much more intelligent that I'd believed him to be, and I wondered if his feelings about Manny weren't based more in tradition than in science. But, since he seemed to be coming around to our way of thinking, I certainly wasn't going to question him on that subject.
At last, the others joined us and Manny was a little chatter box that night. He seemed genuinely comfortable in the bosom of his family, as did I after a while, and I smiled as I saw how the little ones hung on his every word.
Speaking of the little ones, they were snuggly little bunnies that kept going from lap to lap for affection, and no one was excluded, not even me. Julio seemed especially cuddly, but I knew it was not unusual for boys to crave attention that way. My own son and his friends had been that way, and I had never denied them.
I stayed for another hour, but at last I said good night, and though he looked disappointed, Manny didn't try to talk me into staying any longer, and even walked me to the door.
Mr. Rodriquez had left the living room at that point and Maria was sitting on the couch with one of the little kids on either side of her. They were watching Frosty the Snowman on TV, and the kids were engrossed in the story.
"Well, thanks for coming Rob," Manny said smiling.
"Thanks for having me. The food was great, and so was the company. I felt very welcome here."
"You are, even poppa will say so. He is a good man, just set in his ways, but you are changing him," he said grinning.
"Well, I'm glad it's all working out. Good night again, and...(I lowered my voice then) have fun tomorrow."
"Oh, I will. I'll come by later and tell you how things went, okay?"
"Great, well...better go. It's almost my bedtime," I chuckled.
He stepped out onto the porch with me and closed the door, and once we were truly alone, he gave me a quick hug.
"Thanks Rob, goodnight," he said smiling warmly.
"Goodnight my little amigo," I said ruffling his hair, "Now get back inside before you freeze."
"Okay, I'm going. See ya tomorrow," he said as he opened the door, then he was inside and I was left alone.
I stood there for a moment staring at the little house with the warmth of lights at the windows, pulled my coat collar up around me, then started home. The night sky was clear and there were a million stars, so I doubted we were going to get any more snow anytime soon. The crisp night air was actually invigorating, and by the time I got home I was wide awake.
I fixed myself a cup of cocoa and sat in front of the TV and watched a Christmas movie, but I really wasn't that much into it. I just needed time to unwind, and this was as good a way as any to do that.
Eventually, I began to yawn and I headed off to bed. I usually slept in the nude, but that night I felt chilled and left my underwear and tee shirt on as I piled into bed. Later, after I warmed up I'd shed them if necessary.
Saturday was busy at work and I didn't have much time to think about Manny or what he was up to with Jason. I went out for lunch and had a burger, and when I got back to work I threw myself back into the shit-storm and made it through the rest of the day without incident.
By the time I got home that day, I was halfway expecting Manny to be waiting for me, but as I pulled into the driveway I was disappointed to find that wasn't the case. However, I had only been inside a few minutes when my phone rang.
"Hello, oh hi buddy. What's up?" it was Manny of course, and he was just checking to see if I was home yet.
"Can me and Jason come down there?" he asked then.
"Sure, come on down," I said smiling, "I'll fix us some cocoa."
He hung up then, and by the time I had the cocoa ready the two appeared at the door looking half frozen. They shucked their coats, gloves and boots at the door and came in in their sock feet and fell down at the dining room table.
"Let me guess," I chuckled, "you guys have been playing soccer in the snow."
"Yeah, but the field is packed down now, it's not so bad. Just a little slick," Manny said, "I fell down a couple of times."
"Yeah, but it was fun," Jason enthused.
"Well, when I was a kid, we played football in the snow, so I guess that's no different. We built snow forts and had snowball wars, and built snowmen, and had a blast. There was even a hill in the park where we'd take our sleds, or cardboard boxes, or whatever we could find, and slide down it."
"That sounds fun, no hills around here except the ones on the expressway," Manny said frowning.
"Yeah, and it's not like it snows that much, so I bet there aren't many sleds around."
"So, we were wondering..." Manny said after a while, "Jason's folks are going to this party and he's staying at my house, only I was wondering if we could stay down here for a while?"
"Sure, I don't see why not. You guys can play some video games or watch TV. I can find something to do in my home office or watch TV in my bedroom. If you want, I can phone in a pizza later."
"You don't have to stay in your room," Manny assured me, "you can watch TV with us if you want."
"Well, okay...but I do have some things I need to do in my office first. Maybe you guys can play video games while I do that, then I can join you for pizza and movies."
"Yeah, that sounds good, really good," Manny said.
So far Jason hadn't said a word but he finally spoke up, "Yeah, thanks...uh, Rob," he said blushing.
"You're welcome guys. I'm gonna go change and do that stuff in my office now. You guys make yourself at home. If you want more to drink, there are sodas in the fridge...well, Manny you know where everything is, just help yourself."
I left the two and went to my room to change into sweats and wound up taking a little nap. The bed felt so good, and I crawled under the covers and soon I was out like a light.
When I awoke, it was just after five and I rose and used the bathroom, then went out to see what the boys were up too. I made sure to make lots of noise so they'd know I was coming, but I found them playing video games and not making out.
"I sort of fell asleep," I confessed, "I'm gonna go take care of my stuff in the office then I'll order the pizza, okay guys?"
"Yeah, that's fine Rob," Manny said, "we had some chips and Pepsi earlier so we're not starved."
"Cool, well carry on. See you in a bit."
I took care of my business quickly, then answered some emails and did some online shopping. Even with Christmas less than a week away there were still places that guaranteed delivery by the holiday.
It was 6:15 by the time I finished, and I quickly shut down my computer and went in to find the boys were sitting on the sofa side by side and holding hands. They didn't seem bothered by my sudden appearance, though Jason did blush a little.
"Pepperoni and sausage okay guys?" I asked pulling out my phone.
The boys eagerly agreed and I phoned in a large pepperoni and a large sausage pizza and was told it would be about 40 minutes. I guessed they were busy, not to mention the snow probably slowed them down some.
I took my usual seat in my recliner and visited with the boys while we waited, and still they continued to hold hands as if it was something they did all the time. I smiled at them often. They were very cute together and I could almost feel the sexual tension between them. I had once been their age, and I knew what it felt like to have those urges and how easy it would be to just give in to them.
Despite what I'd told Manny about waiting, I decided that maybe I was wrong. 15 wasn't all that young. I was certain they were both fully functional down there, and though I thought anal might be a bit too intense for this point in their relationship, mutual masturbation or oral sex might satisfy those urges.
"So, is Jason spending the night at your house?"
"No, I wish...he has to be home by 11," Manny said sighing.
"I see. What are you and your family doing for Christmas, Jason?" I asked to change the subject.
"We're just staying home and having company," he said glancing at Manny and smiling, "I'm gonna see if Manny can sleep over sometime while we're on vacation."
"Cool, do you have your own room?" I teased.
"Yeah...my brother has his own room too," he said not picking up on my implication.
Shortly after that, Jason excused himself to the bathroom, and as soon as he was out of earshot Manny filled me in on things.
"We kissed Rob, I mean really kissed, and it was sooo good," Manny said excitedly, "and we...you know? Touched each other's bodies...not down there, but our chest and back and stuff. It was sooo good."
"Have you talked about where this is heading, or about your feelings yet?"
"Yeah, a little. He said he's known he liked boys for a while now, and he always thought I was cute, but he didn't know if I liked him or not."
"That's good, see...sometimes you just have to put yourself out there. You did, and I'm so proud of you. You're getting what you want for a change."
"Yeah..." he started, but Jason's return cut him off.
The pizza finally arrived, and I had Manny grab us drinks while I got plates and napkins. We decided to eat in the living room so we could watch TV, and the boys sat on the floor in front of the coffee table, and I used the TV tray that I kept by my recliner.
I watched the two boys as much as I watched the TV, and I could tell they were still a little uncomfortable with this new relationship, but excited at the prospects as well. I finally decided I needed to give the two a little nudge, and after I'd finished my pizza I told the boys I had some things I needed to do and asked them if they'd be okay alone.
Manny gave me an appreciative look and assured me they'd be fine. So, grabbing my drink, I threw away my trash and headed to my bedroom. I turned on my TV and adjusted the volume so it wasn't too intrusive, then piled down on my bed and tried to concentrate on what was on. I wished I had a spy cam in the living room at that moment, then chastised myself for how pervy that sounded.
I must've dozed off at some point because later there was a soft knock on my door and it was no surprise to see it was Manny.
"Come in," I said sitting up and rubbing sleep from my eyes, "everything okay?"
"Yeah, fine. I know why you came in here," he said quickly, "but I'm kinda confused. I thought you said we shouldn't...you know?" he added blushing.
"Well, I guess I should have told you, I've decided I was wrong. I mean, I'm not saying you should go all the way, but some touching and stuff...well, I don't see anything wrong with that. I figured if I left you alone you'd get the hint, but I guess I should have been clearer about my intentions."
"So...you're saying we could like...umm, touch each other down there and stuff?"
"Yes, maybe some mutual touching, even oral..." I said surprising the heck out of Manny.
"Really?" he said wide-eyed, "I...I'm not sure we're ready for that, but...maybe some touching."
"Well, I'm not trying to rush you. I just wanted to put that out there, just in case. Tonight might not be the night, but maybe eventually you'll work up to that."
"Yeah, okay...I got it. Well, I told Jason I'd only be gone a minute. Is it okay that I got us another soda?"
"You know it is buddy. Feel free to help yourself in the kitchen. Come to think of it, I could use a drink myself. How about bringing me a Dew?"
"Sure, be right back," Manny said grinning, and in record time he was back with my bottle of Mt Dew.
I thanked him and shooed him out the door, but not before he gave me a hug and the biggest smile I'd ever seen on a person. I was smiling too as I closed the door and opened my drink. It was just past 9:30 and those two had over an hour to find out just how much fun they could have.
At 10:45 exactly Manny knocked on my door again and this time Jason was with him.
"It's time to go," Manny said, "we just wanted to come thank you again for having us over, and the pizza and stuff," Manny said blushing.
"Yeah, Rob, thanks," Jason said blushing as well.
"No problem guys. Maybe we can do this again sometime soon. Maybe next time I'll cook for you. I'm a pretty good cook."
"Cool," Manny said, "Well...better go. Don't want Jason to be late."
I walked them to the door, and despite how it might look to Jason, Manny insisted on hugging me again. I hugged back and wished the guys a goodnight, and they were still thanking me as they headed down the steps. I watched till they were out of sight, then went back inside and sat down in my recliner.
"It doesn't smell like sex," I said out loud to no one, then cracked up laughing.
I guessed I'd have to wait till tomorrow to find out what really went on in my living room that night, and I would not be disappointed.
I was off Sunday, slept late, then had a late breakfast, but still no Manny, and I'd begun to think he wasn't going to show up. Then around 2 that afternoon, the familiar knock came on my door and I opened it to find Manny grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
"Come on in," I said, "you missed brunch, but if you're hungry I can fix you something."
"Nah, I'm good. I been with Jason and the gang. We were playing b-ball at the school. Someone shoveled the court and it was pretty dry."
"Nice, how about a drink then?"
"Yeah, I'm kinda thirsty. Got any Gatorade or anything?"
I grabbed Manny a Powerade, and by then he had his coat and boots off and was standing in the dining room. I could tell from the shit-eating grin on his face that he was dying to tell me something, but I kept quiet. Finally, it was too much for him to hold back and he started in.
"So...last night. I guess you're wondering what we did..."
"No, not really," I teased, "that's your business."
"Really, but I thought..."
"I'm kidding. Of course I'm curious, but it is private stuff, and if you don't feel comfortable telling me that's okay."
"No, no...I don't care, and Jason don't care either. We talked about it and he's cool with you knowing. Anyway, we didn't do all that much. We didn't even get naked, but we did pull our pants down."
"Oh my, well...that's a start," I chuckled.
"And...we touched each other, but we didn't come. We didn't want to make a mess or anything..."
"Oh, well...I should have given you some towels I guess," I chuckled, "but I didn't want you to think I was trying to force you to do stuff."
"We talked about the oral stuff and we decided that next time we want to try that," he said then, "and swallow and stuff, that way there's no mess."
"That's very true," I said trying to keep a clinical attitude about all this, but it was sort of exciting to think about those two having sex.
"So, we kissed a lot and felt each other up and stuff, but mostly we talked and got to know each other better. He's really funny, and nice, and kind of sweet," Manny said smiling, "he said he wants to be...to be boyfriends."
"And you said yes, right?"
"Well sure, but even though I said that's what I wanted for Christmas, I was still kind of nervous."
"It's a big step, but you're young, and if it doesn't work out, there will be other boys..."
"I hope it works out, but I know you're right," Manny said solemnly, "but if it hadn't been for you, I'd never have even tried. So...thanks Rob, thanks a lot."
We hung around together the rest of the afternoon, but at 5, Manny said he had to go home for supper, and we said goodbye at the door. As usual he gave me a big hug and a smile, then he was out the door and down the steps.
I'd come to count on his visits and enjoyed them to the point that I felt sort of lost and lonely when he left. I was just happy I had him in my life, for however long it lasted, and I was eager to see how this thing with Jason worked out.
Monday, I saw Manny for a while before he said he had to go with his folks to visit some relatives, but he promised me he'd be down the following evening (Christmas Eve) as we planned to exchange gifts and have dinner together.
I was really looking forward to our dinner and had bought a small turkey and all the trimmings just for the occasion. I was only working a half day Christmas Eve and planned on coming straight home and starting the meal prep.
The store was busy that day and time passed quickly, and before I knew it, I was clocking out and headed out the door. Just as I pulled out of the lot, snow began to fall and I smiled. Most of the previous snow had already melted and disappeared, but it seemed that we'd have that white Christmas after all.
Indeed it came down harder as I drove the short distance to my house, and by the time I pulled into the driveway my yard was already covered in an additional layer of snow. I had just closed the garage door and was headed inside when my cell rang.
"Hey Rob, guess who?" Manny said cheerfully.
"Um...one of Santa's elves?" I teased.
"Maybe, whatcha' doin' right now?"
"Talking to you," I quipped, "just got home from work."
"Can me and Jason come down for a while?"
"Yes, as long as it's okay with your folks."
"Oh, they don't care," Manny said, but I wondered if he'd even bothered to ask anyone.
"Well, okay but be careful, it's snowing like crazy out there."
"I know, we want to build you a snowman," Manny said laughing, "you got a carrot for his nose and maybe a scarf or hat for him?"
"I'm sure we can find something," I said grinning, "dress warm then. See ya soon."
Meanwhile, I placed the turkey in the oven and set the timer for 4 hours. I'd prepped it the night before, and if all went well it would be ready by the time I had everything else prepared. There was still plenty of time though, and I thought building a snowman with the boys would be a good way to pass the time.
By the time the two showed up, I'd dug out an old fishing hat (not that I fished or anything) and an old scarf I'd bought at a thrift store. The carrot nose was easy, and I found some red rope and cut a length for his mouth. For arms, I had an old broom we could shove through the torso, and all that was needed were some buttons for his chest.
"In the old days they used coal for buttons and eyes and such," I explained as we placed the chest on top of the bottom section, but I don't have any coal. Charcoal is too large, but...I do have some poker chips and we can use two blue ones for his eyes."
"Perfect," Manny said excitedly, "be sure to take some pictures of it Rob, so I can show them to my family."
"Okay, I'll do that, starting during construction," I said whipping out my phone and taking some pics of the snowman in progress and of course of the two boys.
The snowman turned out pretty good, and I learned something else about Manny that day, not only did he have a wonderful singing voice, he was artistically talented as well. Instead of just a round ball for a head, Manny shaped Mr. Snowman's head into a realistic looking cartoon character, and even Jason was amazed.
"Dude, that's awesome. I didn't know you were an artist too," he effused.
"Nor did I," I said in amazement, "I'm beginning to think there is more to our friend here than meets the eye."
After Mr. Snowman was completed, I took several more pictures of him, and of him with the boys, and by then we were ready to go inside and warm up. The snow continued to fall, and if it kept this up much longer, we'd likely be snowed in for a few days. That was fine with me, since I had the next few days off, but I knew it could be a real problem for folks who needed to work or go other places. At least school was out so the kids wouldn't have to worry about getting there and back.
I fixed us hot cocoa, then peeked in on the turkey and basted it while I had the oven door open. It smelled wonderful, and I was looking forward to turkey and all the trimmings, but most of all, Manny's company.
"Can you stay for dinner, Jason?" I asked as I sat his cup of cocoa in front of him.
"Nah, I wish I could, but our family is having a special dinner and exchanging gifts. My grandma and grandpa, and aunts and uncles, and cousins are all gonna be there. Heck some of them are already there."
"Well, that sounds nice. Nothing like family for the Holidays."
"Where's your family Rob?" Jason asked innocently, and I saw Manny give him a nervous look.
"Oh, not far away, but with the snow and all..." I fudged, "and having to work, I'll have to go see them later on..."
"Oh, okay," Jason said sounding satisfied, "Sometimes I wish our family wasn't quite so big. When my cousins stay over we have to sleep three or four to a bed."
"Wow, that's crowded. I remember having to do that when I was a boy," I chuckled, "but we usually had a fun time and didn't sleep much anyway."
"Rob," Manny laughed, "you mean what I think you mean?"
"No silly," I said blushing, "I meant we played games and wrestled and stuff like that."
"Oh, just checking," Manny said cracking up.
We finished our cocoa and I decided to baste the turkey again just for good measure and get organized for the cooking ahead. I'd bought a pecan and pumpkin pie at Walmart, and the night before I'd candied the cranberries. I had canned Cresent rolls and yams to bake yet, plus potatoes to boil and mash, and a green bean casserole to bake, but with careful planning I could make it all come out together.
Manny asked if he and Jason could watch some TV while I puttered around in the kitchen and of course I told them yes. I supposed they wanted some privacy to hold hands and kiss, but I hoped they didn't get too carried away.
I tried to stay out of their way, but eventually I had to go to the bathroom, and as I passed by the living room they were snuggled up so close on the couch that I couldn't tell where one began and the other ended.
I went to my bedroom, changed out of my work clothes, then went to my office to check my email. I answered a few emails and sent a couple e-cards to online friends and the time passed quickly.
It was five when Manny came looking for me, hand in hand with Jason, who was blushing but seemed happy.
"Jason has to go, I'm gonna walk him home, then I'll be back, okay?"
"Perfect," I said smiling, "Merry Christmas Jason. I hope you have fun tonight."
"Thanks Rob. Merry Christmas, you too."
While Manny walked Jason home, I checked on the turkey again and decided it was right on schedule. In the past I'd had trouble with those pop up turkey thermometer things in turkey's, but I was hoping this year everything would go as planned.
I prepared the green bean casserole and yams and got them ready to bake, then peeled several large potatoes and cut them up and put them on to boil. All that was left were the rolls, and they only took a few minutes to bake, so they could wait till last.
Manny was gone about twenty minutes and when he returned he was carrying a trash bag with something inside. With a big smile he handed me the trash bag and said, Merry Christmas.
I dug in the trash bag and found two colorfully wrapped gifts inside, and the tags said one was from Manny and the other from the Rodriquez family.
"Oh, cool," I said smiling, "so you must be Santa Clause then, "I'll put these under the tree with yours, and later we'll open them, okay?"
"Yeah, cool, and my folks said thank you for the gifts you got for them and for Julio and Sofia."
"I hope they like them," I said smiling.
"Oh, they will...and I hope you like yours too."
"Oh, I will...just because it's from you," I assured him, "now, how about helping me with dinner? The turkey is almost ready to come out of the oven and I need someone to mash these potatoes..."
We made a good team, Manny and I, and he was as good at cooking as he was at everything else I'd seen him try so far. By 6:30 we had dinner on the table and Manny insisted on saying grace before we began.
"Father in Heaven, thank you for this food, thank you for my family, and thank you for my boyfriend Jason, and most of all...thank you for my friend Rob who made my life so much better," he said smiling.
A tear formed in my eye and I reached across and patted his hand, "And God, thank you for Manny and his family," I added, "they have made my Christmas the happiest I've ever had."
"Amen," we both said, and the feast began.
It was so nice to have someone to cook for who enjoyed eating, and let me tell you, Manny, like most teenage boys, could really put the food away. Even I ate more than usual, partly because the food was so good, but mostly because I was enjoying the company so much.
We were too stuffed to have dessert right then, so we decided to clean up the mess and let our food settle and have dessert later. I put the leftovers in sealed containers but I didn't refrigerate anything just yet. I was sure we'd want a snack later, and it would be easier to heat up if the food wasn't refrigerated.
As soon as we were done with the cleanup, Manny insisted we go into the living room and exchange gifts. I let him sort the gifts out from under the tree, and he was surprised to find he had three gifts from me.
I had him unwrap the smaller gift first, and he was pleased with the new pair of gloves I'd bought him. I'd noticed that his were kind of dirty and worn looking, and with all the snow we'd been getting, I decided they'd be a welcome treat. Next was the soccer ball, which he seemed very excited about.
"Oh boy, the gang will love me when I show up with this," he said bouncing it off his knee.
"Especially Jason," I teased.
"Go on, open one of yours," he insisted then, and I grabbed the one from his folks and began unwrapping it.
As the paper came off I discovered it was a set of flashlights in various sizes, "Nice, very nice. Who knows? If this snow keeps up I may need these to find my way around in the dark. I'll be sure to thank your folks for these. They're very nice, and useful."
"Okay, gonna open the last one now," Manny said excitedly.
I'd wrapped the tablet in a bigger box to disguise it, but I was sure Manny wouldn't be disappointed to find what was inside was a bit smaller than the outer box. As the paper came off, his eyes lit up when he saw the writing on the box. Still, he was being a bit reserved, just in case, but when he finally saw it really was a tablet, he squealed like a little girl.
"Oh my God, Rob...is it...really? Oh thank you, thank you, thank you. I've wanted one of these sooo long," he said hugging my neck before carefully opening the box.
"It's a good brand, not one of those cheap ones that quit working after six months," I assured him, "I didn't know if you had wi-fi, but I figured you could always use mine when you were down here."
"We do, have wi-fi," Manny assured me, "My poppa has a computer for his business, and momma uses it to talk to our family in Mexico."
"Perfect, now while you figure that out, I'm gonna open my present from you."
"Oh, okay...it's not as good as the tablet, but I hope you will like it."
"I'm sure I will," I assured him as I slowly unwrapped the gift that meant more to me than anything on earth, simply because it was from Manny.
"It's beautiful," I said once I had the box opened to reveal an ornate snow globe with a Christmas scene inside. There was a small house, smoke coming out of the chimney, and a Christmas tree beside it. When I shook it, the snow drifted lazily down making it look almost real.
"Oh Manny, this is amazing. I remember telling you I collected these, but as busy as I've been this season, I forgot to buy a new one to add to my collection, now I will have this one," I said, then shaking it once again and watching the snow fall gently all around the globe.
"I remembered," Manny said grinning, and I hope you had not bought one yet, but if you had, I figured that would be okay too."
"This is a nice one, bigger than most of the ones I have," I said rising to place it on the bookcase with the others. Counting the new one from Manny, I now had twelve snow globes, and as Manny joined me, we shook them up one by one till they were all snowing.
"They're nice," Manny said staring at the snow globes with the wonder of a child, "they make me feel...all relaxed or something."
"I feel that way too," I said amazed at his insight, "sometimes I just stare into them and imagine the world they represent, and if I'm the least bit anxious or upset, I soon calm down. This one will always be special to me, because it is from you. Thank you Amigo," I said giving Manny a quick hug.
"You are welcome Rob, thank you for being my friend. Now, will you help me set up my tablet?"
We spent a while getting his tablet set up and I gave him the password to my wi-fi and he connected easily. His tablet would remember my wi-fi and my password, and he could add his wi-fi at home as well, so no matter which house he was at, he'd have internet.
He pulled up YouTube and watched some videos for a while, then he asked if we could watch a movie or something on my big screen TV.
There were a variety of Christmas programs on TV, but Manny asked to watch the Scrooge video again, and I eagerly agreed. He even sang along this time, and needless to say, his voice was flawless, the voice of an Angel.
When the movie was over we finally had dessert, then fixed another plate of food, nuked it, and had a second dinner. Why not? It's only once a year and the food and the company was so good, it was only natural that we'd want to overindulge.
This time I put the leftovers in the fridge, but there was still plenty of food for my dinner Christmas Day. And the great thing was: I wouldn't have to cook, just heat it up.
We watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation then, and Manny laughed his head off. I'd seen it a dozen or more times, but somehow all the parts seemed funnier with someone to share them with. This had been one of my kids' favorite movies however, and it kind of made me sad to think about all the fun times we had watching it together.
We were sitting on the couch side by side this time, and Manny was so close I could feel the heat coming off his body and smell his spicy teen aroma. Usually, I sat in my recliner, but for some reason I'd felt the need to be closer to Manny that night, and he seemed to feel that need as well.
"So, you and Jason seem a lot more comfortable with each other now," I observed.
"Yeah, he's kind of shy around you, but I told him you're cool, and that you don't mind us holding hands and stuff, just not making out," he chuckled.
"Yeah, he was kind of blushing when you guys were holding hands earlier."
"Yeah, he tried to shake me off, but I squeezed his hand so tight," he laughed.
"Well, he'll come around once he knows me better."
"Yeah, I think so too. Hey Rob, about your family. I'm sorry about Jason asking you about them, I forgot to tell him what's up."
"It's okay, it's no big deal," I said trying to shrug it off.
"If you could have one wish Rob, what would it be?" Manny said, suddenly going off on a different tangent, or was he?
"Well, that's a hard one. I know most people would probably wish for money, or health, or to be young again, but I think what I'd wish for is...happiness."
"Happiness? Like you used to have, when you were with your family?"
"Oh, okay," he said looking very deep in thought, "so...if you had your family back, you'd be happy?"
"Happier," I said then, "since you've come along I'm pretty happy, so I'm not miserable or anything."
"Oh, okay," he said again, still looking deep in thought, "I'll pray about that," he said suddenly, causing my heart to swell with love for him.
"Thank you, that means a lot to me," I said reaching over to touch his arm gently.
"You're welcome. Maybe God don't listen to me cause I'm gay and all, but I'll try."
"No, you mustn't think that. God loves everyone, and remember, God made you just the way you are, and God doesn't make mistakes," I said smiling through tears.
"Yeah, I guess so," Manny said wiping at his own eyes, "I...just always thought I was bad cause of how I felt, but since I met you I don't feel that way. I think I am a good person, a good person who likes boys and not girls, that is all."
"Exactly, being gay does not define who you are as a person. Being gay is only a small part of who you are. First of all, you are very talented, and loving, and a nice person all around. You are honest, and trustworthy, and brave, and a good friend to me and to others."
"Aww you're making me blush," Manny laughed, "but I get what you mean. There are good and bad people, and who they like that way doesn't have anything to do with it, right?"
"Yes, despite what I did, I still consider myself to be a good person, just one who made a mistake. Unfortunately, my family doesn't see it that way. Well, not all of them anyway."
"Then they're wrong. I wish I could talk to them and tell them how nice you are, and make them see that they need to forgive you and love you," he said looking ready to cry.
"Oh Amigo, thank you for wanting to do that, but I'm afraid nothing could change their minds now."
"We will see..." Manny muttered, "they do not know you like I know you."
Eventually, I managed to change the subject, not because I felt uncomfortable talking about my family, but because Manny seemed to be getting very worked up over it.
It was pushing ten o'clock by then, and I wasn't sure what time Manny had to be home, but so far he hadn't mentioned a need to go. A quick peek outside revealed that it had continued to snow, and there was at least a foot or more of the white frosty stuff everywhere. Mr. Snowman was knee deep in snow now (that is if he had knees), and the tracks in the driveway and on the street were completely filled in now.
"Oh Manny, I think I should have sent you home earlier. It's really bad out there now."
"Yikes," Manny said, his eyes bugging out at the sight before him, "well...I will just have to call my momma and poppa and tell them I cannot come home tonight."
"Are you serious?" I chuckled, "I mean, it's fine with me, but what will they think?"
"Well, I will call them and see," he suggested.
"All right, and if they need to speak to me, that's fine too. You can stay in the guest room if they say it's okay."
I handed Manny my cell, and he made the call, and his momma took one look outside and became frantic.
"You cannot come out in this snow," she said excitedly, "let me talk to Mr. Rob."
So...long story short, Manny didn't even have to ask, his momma ordered him to stay here once she made sure I was okay with it. I assured her he'd be fine, that I had a spare bedroom for him, and that hopefully by morning the snow would have let up and he could make it home.
I showed him the guest bedroom, and with wide-eyed enthusiasm he checked everything out before falling down on the bed to test it out.
"Oh man, this is comfortable. I should just move in with you, Rob," he teased.
"And...you'll have your own bathroom. I keep it stocked with towels and stuff in case you want a shower or bath. I only use it occasionally for bubble baths since the master bath only has a shower.
"I had a shower before I came down," Manny said, "but I might take one in the morning."
"That's fine, there's a package of new toothbrushes in the drawer by the sink, and toothpaste in the medicine cabinet."
"Do I have to go to bed now?" Manny said, sounding like a little kid.
"No, you can stay up as long as you'd like, but I confess I'm starting to fade. I think I'll go on to bed."
"Okay," he said sounding a little disappointed, "I guess I can play with my tablet."
"Yeah, be sure to plug it in when you're done so it can charge," I reminded him.
"Yeah, I will. Hey Rob, thanks again...for tonight and the tablet, and well...for everything," he said jumping up and surprising me with a firm warm hug.
He held onto me for a long time, and I hugged back fiercely as tears stung my eyes. It had been a long time since anyone had affected me as much as this young teen and I thanked God and Heaven for sending him into my life at a time when darkness threatened to overcome me.
Eventually he pulled away, wiped at his eyes, then looked up at me with his dark soulful eyes, "Your kids don't know what they're missing," he whispered, "Rob, I...I love you."
His words melted my heart, and as tears stung my eyes I held him against me and spoke softly, "I love you too. You're like a son to me, and you make me proud in everything you do. I'm so happy for you and Jason, and that you and your papa are getting along so well."
"All thanks to you, but that's not why I love you. I love you cause you're so nice and so much fun to be with. I know it's crazy cause you're an adult and all, but that's how I feel...like you're my papa too, but it's more than that, we're friends too."
"Yes, good friends," I assured him, "and you've helped me as much as I've helped you. Because of you, I love Christmas again, and I think I'm ready to try to get back with my family. As soon as this snow clears I am going to call my son and daughter and see if they will meet up with me for dinner. They might say no, but at least I will have tried."
"I just know they will say yes," Manny said looking up at me again and smiling warmly.
"For the first time since all this happened I have hope, and that too is thanks to you. Thank you so much Manny, my amigo, my second son," I said squeezing him gently. Now, this old man needs some sleep. Merry Christmas Manny."
"Merry Christmas Rob," Manny said smiling warmly, "see you in the morning."
"Yes, I'll fix us some breakfast before you have to go home."
"Okay, goodnight Rob."
"Goodnight Manny," I said smiling as I turned to go.
"Rob...wait," he said grabbing me once again, then raising up on tip toes, he kissed my cheek.
"Thank you," I said grinning, "I needed that."
In my room, I thought about all that had happened this season and especially tonight, and I realized that there had to be a higher power involved here. What were the odds that I would make friends with a young teen with the voice of an angel, help him sort out his own family life and love, and in the process find out things about myself that I never knew, and most of all: find hope once again. Hope that I could make things right with my children and family and find that love once again that I had missed for so long. I was actually smiling as I fell into bed that night, and I couldn't wait to see what the future held for me, my family, and my new friend Manny and his family.
Christmas day dawned bright and cold, but the snow had stopped sometime during the night, temperatures were predicted to be above freezing by midday, and the snow had already begun to melt.
I had breakfast almost ready when Manny wandered in in just his boxer briefs looking sleepy-eyed and a bit scattered. His long dark hair was a mess, but even in this state he was beautiful in my eyes.
"Good morning amigo. Did you get any sleep or did you stay up exploring the internet all night?" I joked as I looked him over. Dressed as he was, he was even more beautiful to me, but it wasn't lust that I felt as I looked him over. It was love and appreciation of the beauty God had instilled in this boy, this boy with so much talent and so much love to share with the world.
However, I am human, and gay, and I couldn't help but notice the bulge in his briefs that said he was above average in that area that made him all boy. In fact, his briefs were so thin that I could see his dark wiry pubes and the outline of his cock so clearly that I could see he was uncut.
"Rob, are you staring at my dick?" he teased.
"No," I said red-faced now, "I was admiring your body. I assumed you wanted me to see it or you would have dressed first, "I chuckled.
"Yeah, so...what do you think, am I sexy?"
"Yes, I can definitely say that you are sexy, and Jason is a very lucky boy. Now, why don't you go get dressed and I'll have breakfast on the table when you get back.
He didn't protest, but I did notice that he sort of strutted on his way out, bringing my attention to his perky butt, which was just as sexy as the rest of him. I wasn't aroused, but I was smiling as I thought about what lay ahead for him. He had a whole world of firsts to experience, and if I was lucky, I hoped I would remain a part of his life as he shared those firsts with me.
I'd fixed a light breakfast since I knew Manny would be having dinner with his family, but fortunately they weren't going to eat till around 3 that afternoon. I'd already talked to his mother by phone when I awoke, and I promised to have Manny home by noon at the latest. She had thanked me for the gifts, and I in turn thanked her, and we had a nice talk. Then she thanked me for helping Manny and for restoring peace between him and his papa, and I felt humbled.
"This has been the best Christmas ever," Manny said as he ate his breakfast, "What are you going to do today Rob?"
"Well, I guess I'll watch some more Christmas movies or maybe make a few calls."
"You should come have dinner with us, I know mama and papa would like that."
"I don't want to intrude. It's a family thing...and after all, I had you for dinner last night, and that was wonderful."
"I will ask them," he insisted.
"I don't know..." I said, unsure of what I really wanted.
"I will ask, and I will call you, okay?"
"Well...I can't stop you, I guess, but make sure they know it was your idea, and not mine," I chuckled.
Manny helped me clean up the mess, then we had time to sit and talk before he had to go. However, when it finally came time for him to head home, he insisted on calling his mother first, and before I knew what was happening I was talking to Maria and agreeing to come for dinner as well.
"I'll need to get ready," I said looking at my sweats and house shoes.
"I can wait," Manny insisted, following me into my bedroom.
I felt a little self-conscious changing in front of him, especially since I wasn't wearing any underwear, so I grabbed some boxer briefs and excused myself to my bathroom to shower and shave.
When I came out wearing just my boxer briefs, Manny was laying on my bed with his tablet in his hand watching some video on YouTube. He looked up when I entered, then slowly sat up and boldly stared at me as I went about finding some clothes and dressing.
"You know, you look pretty good for...I mean...someone your age," Manny said blushing.
"Thank you," I chuckled, "so checking the old guy out, huh?"
"Well, you know? Just curious. I'm not turned on or anything," he laughed.
"I would hope not," I said making a face, "that would complicate things if you were hot for my bod," I joked.
"Yeah, and if you were hot for my bod," he offered.
"Fortunately, we're just friends, right?"
"Yeah, just friends," he agreed, "are you ready to go?"
"Just need to slip my snow boots on. I think they're in the garage from when we built the snowman."
I slipped on my boots and coat, and by then Manny was ready to go as well. We exited through the garage, and I closed the roll up door behind us using the wireless keypad to the right of the door. The snow was deep and it took us some doing to get to the road, but fortunately there had been some traffic there already and we were able to walk down the car tracks to Manny's house.
Once there though, we had to trudge through the deep snow again, and we'd almost made it to the house when the garage door went up and Manny's dad appeared. He directed us to the garage, welcomed me and shook my hand, then led us to the door leading into the house where we left our boots.
Maria greeted us as we came into the kitchen, which was filled with all sorts of Heavenly smells. Sofia and Julio greeted us next, Sofia clutching the doll I'd bought for her, and Julio a warn stuffed bear, that looked like an old friend.
I picked them up one at a time and cuddled them before allowing myself to be led into the small living room where the comforting smell of a live tree greeted me. The tree was about 6 foot tall and a little lop-sided, but it was beautiful in it's imperfection. Festooned with hundreds of twinkling lights, ornaments and tinsel, I thought it was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen.
It looked a little empty though with all the presents now opened and only a few pieces of wrapping paper or a stray bow visible. As a boy, I'd always thought it was sad when the gifts were all opened and Christmas day had passed. The tree would remain at our house till after the New Year rolled in, but it always seemed sad to see it sitting there all alone with no presents beneath it.
"Thank you for inviting me to dinner, Mr. Rodriquez," I said once we were seated, Manny at my side and Mr. Rodriquez in his easy chair.
"You are welcome, and please, call me Eduardo. We are glad to share with our friends. Thank you for the gifts, the children loved them and so did we."
"You're welcome, Eduardo, and thank you for the flashlights. I have a feeling they may come in handy before winter is over," I chuckled.
Dinner was wonderful, with Maria mixing both traditional American and Mexican cuisine, and everything was delicious. I tried to pace myself, but the food was just so delicious that I'm afraid once again I had overindulged, but as much as I ate, I noticed the two older Rodriquez males managed to eat more. Of course, Manny was a teen and a bottomless pit, but Eduardo did a good job of matching him bite for bite.
Dessert was pecan pie and a chocolate cake that was so good I begged Maria for the recipe, and she graciously agreed to share it. After eating, we retired to the living room once again, and after cleaning up, Maria joined us.
The two little ones were looking sleepy, and soon Sofia was asleep on her papa's lap and Julio under the tree where he'd been playing with the truck I'd bought him for Christmas. They looked so peaceful, and my mind jumped back to a place and time long ago, when my children were that young, and how wonderful our lives had been back then.
I guess I looked a little sad, and Manny picked up on it right away, but he didn't say anything. Instead, he just gave me a reassuring smile and I felt some better. If I couldn't be in the bosom of my own family, this was the next best thing. Sharing my life with this little family, but most of all, Manny, was a true blessing from God.
The afternoon passed quickly, and eventually the little ones awoke and were eager to play once more. Manny was very good with them, and kept them occupied while we adults chatted, but eventually I decided it was time to head home. I had a lot to think about, and I figured the Rodriquez family might be growing tired of my company.
Though Manny begged me to stay, and even his folks told me I was welcome, I finally convinced them I needed to get home. However, I did not go home empty handed, as Maria insisted I take some of the leftover food home, including a huge slice of the chocolate cake.
Manny walked me to the garage where I donned my boots again, then walked me to the roll up door and we said our goodbyes. I was a little sad to say goodbye, but I knew there would be many more hellos and although Christmas was almost over, the magic of this one would live on for a long time.
Manny managed a smile as we said our last goodbye, then looking uncertain, but determined, he gave me a brief hug and I started for home. I looked back to see him watching me as I headed up the road and I kept looking back, and only when I was almost out of sight did the garage door start to slowly descend. I smiled when I thought about how my life had changed, and all because of Manny and his family.
Manny and I continued our friendship, and over the years I got to share in a few of those firsts I talked about. He and Jason officially became boyfriends, and surprisingly Manny's father eventually accepted that they were a couple, and welcomed Jason into their home.
Manny became a bit of a star at school after his solo performance, and officially joined the choir both at school and at church. Both he and Jason were frequent guests in my home, and as I relaxed the rules the two became more intimate with one another. In fact, I'm pretty sure they lost their virginity to one another one night when they slept over in my guest room. They were 16 by then, and fully committed to one another, so as far as I was concerned I had no reservations about them taking it to the next level.
I didn't ask and they didn't tell, but the smug look on their faces the next morning said it all. The two made a lovely couple, and though they weren't officially out at school, a few of their friends knew and accepted their relationship.
As promised, I taught Manny to drive, and Jason as well, and both boys used my car to get their driver's license when they turned 16. After that anytime Manny was in the car I always let him drive, and sometimes when it was the three of us, even Jason got a turn.
As for me, I made that long overdue call to my children the day after Christmas. It was a little uncomfortable at first talking to them after so long, but something almost magical happened as we continued our conversation. We found that love and caring that we'd once had for each other had never really gone away, it had just been in hiding. We'd hidden behind our hurt feelings and disappointment with one another, but once we came out into the light, things began to fall back into place.
New Year's Day, I had dinner with my son and daughter and we began a new chapter in our lives. The love was still there, it just needed some prodding to get it back into the open. We talked for hours and had a wonderful time and agreed to meet again the next day at my Son's house.
That night, as I headed back to my motel room I had a spring in my step and a song in my heart. The song was one I had heard Manny sing so many times, my Manny, the boy with the voice of an angel, who had helped me find the Christmas spirit and the courage to begin the healing process with my family.
Manny and I remained friends till he went off to college on a musical scholarship, and even then I attended many of the programs he participated in . His family still lives just up the street from me and we get together often, especially when Manny is visiting.
Sadly, he and Jason didn't last forever as he'd hoped, but after graduating, Jason had joined the Marines and they'd both agreed that a long distance relationship wasn't fair to either of them.
As far as I know, Manny isn't dating anyone on a regular basis, but he does have a number of like-minded friends, and he's confided in me that they mess around on a regular basis.
As for my love life, it's still pretty much non-existent, but I do occasionally find a little action with other men who don't think being old means being dead. I can definitely say I'm happy these days, and tracing it back, I can definitely contribute it to that one special Christmas, and the boy with The Voice of an Angel.
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