New Man Pt. 09


Christmastime, and I wasn’t doing well.

For starters, my son Isaac was flying out soon. Two weeks without the person I loved most in this world. It would be the longest we’d ever been apart, but he was excited to see his mom in Alaska and I tried to be happy for him. I’ll admit, I kinda hoped the weather would take a dump so he was forced to stay home with me, but that would make him and my ex-wife miserable. That, I most definitely did not want. Maybe I didn’t see eye-to-eye with Tina about a lot of things, but she was, at heart, a good person, and I wanted her, Isaac, and her boyfriend to have a great time together.

I was scared shitless about Isaac’s flight, too. He’d flown before, but never solo. Airline personnel would escort him through his pair of layovers, and my friends Garth and Christy assured me it was perfectly safe, but goddamn it, he was my kid and I was going to worry until he was back with me.

My dating life felt like it was crumbling. That started and maybe ended with Morgan, my ex-sister-in-law and the woman I’d lusted after and loved for years. Our last long-distance conversation happened while I was in bed with two of my gorgeous girlfriends, Sarah and Jenna. Morgan was into it, and stayed on the line while I fucked the pair. I confessed a number of things in that conversation, namely that much as I wanted Morgan in my life, I was deeply in love with my five girlfriends as well as her.

I don’t know how Morgan would have responded to that. Her husband came home right at the tail end of our debauchery. They’d been fighting, and I think she mentioned she wanted to try and keep things together with him. Douglas was an almighty asshole, but I understood that drive to keep things together. You might fall out of love with the person themselves, but you’re still so in love with the idea of love, of the forever and ever. You think your relationship just needs work, that this kind of ache is normal, and you force yourself not to realize you’re miserable with the person you’re with. I know. I did that for nearly ten years.

Morgan fell out of contact with me, but she was still reaching out to my son every couple of days. She was his everything, and he was hers. Where Tina fell away from motherhood slowly, after the divorce, Morgan became Isaac’s tentpole, the person he trusted most when he couldn’t talk to me about some of the pain and frustration of his life after the divorce. They loved each other with a ferocity I felt echoed in my own heart. If Morgan didn’t want to be with me, I was okay with that. So long as she was in my son’s life, I would love her forever.

The other big problem affecting me stemmed from the phone orgy too. Jenna, one of my girlfriends, always told me she didn’t want to be a mother to Isaac, and I assumed what we had was temporary. I found out how temporary it was when I let the bombshell go that I loved her, Yvonne, Sarah, London, and Dakota along with Morgan. Jenna tried to tell me it should be Morgan and I in a relationship and stormed out. I haven’t heard a word from her since.

Yvonne, who you might call Jenna’s girlfriend within the fivesome, told me that Jenna was staying with her for the short-term. She wouldn’t say much more than that. Whenever I brought Jenna up, she got this stormy expression on her face. I fucked things up. Bad. I took it too far, but I genuinely thought from some hints Jenna had been making she might love me and my son too. I guess that makes me an idiot. I knew at the beginning she didn’t want to be close to us, and me telling her I loved her must have thrown too big of a wrench into the works.

All that said, I had lots to be thankful for. Even if Morgan and Jenna were now out of the picture, I still had four terrific girlfriends, all of whom I deeply loved. Then there was Victoria, Isaac’s teacher and my sometime lover. We had to sneak around behind Isaac’s back at my request until he moved on from her class, but she was quickly becoming one of my favorites too. On top of that, Jessica, my college-aged babysitter, was a frequent flier in my bedroom too.

Beyond the relationship stuff, my life was great. My new electrician business was booming, with plenty of work coming from both households and construction businesses looking to contract out work. Even my former employers there in Agramonte hired me from time to time, though I made sure to have it in my contract I wasn’t about to crunch hours or be beholden to some jackass like my former foreman there. In another three or four months, I was confident I could pay back the personal loan a friend gave me to get things started here, with a nice buffer besides for both the business and my personal life.

And finally, there was the house. From the first day Yvonne showed it to me, I thought it felt like it could be a home, and now, months later, with some furniture and workout gear in the basement, the last of the boxes unpacked, and the place feeling more lived in, the house truly became our home. That was helped by our neighbors, Ataşehir Sınırsız Escort and I don’t just mean my girlfriends. If I filled these pages with all the times my friends Garth and Christy came by to help with things, or all the potlucks Isaac and I were invited to, or all the laughter and fun times we had with friends and acquaintances up and down the street, I’d never stop talking. It is a wonderful place, and I have thanked Yvonne a dozen times over for guiding me here. I didn’t know until I lived here how much I craved community, but I do. And it’s been amazing for Isaac in helping him feel less like an outsider and more like he belongs.

I was a confused mess. And just two days before Isaac was supposed to fly out, we had a Christmas party to host.

* * *

“Do I have to wear the sweater during the party?” Isaac asked.

I recoiled like I’d been snakebit. “God no. I’m not wearing this a minute more than I have to for the photograph. Grandma can never know, though.”

“Deal,” Isaac said.

He posed for a picture near the staircase’s bannister. The two of us wound up with most the Christmas decorations from our life with Tina, and we spent a sobering weekend going through all of it and decorating. I’m not going to lie, it brought out a lot of complex emotions in Isaac, not all of them pleasant. He threw a couple ornaments and cried himself to sleep one night, then came down the next morning as apologetic and straight-up scared as I’d ever seen him. He thought he’d ruined Christmas for me, and I don’t know if he ever quite got over that despite my assurances that I loved him and I understood, even if I didn’t approve of the smashing.

When I got a halfway decent photo of him where his smile didn’t look like he was about to go through a root canal without an anesthetic, he said, “Your turn.”

“Uh, what?”

“You have to get a picture in your sweater too.”

“Grandma will be perfectly happy with one of you.”

Isaac gave me a devil’s grin that reminded me so much of his mom in our earliest months together, when we were still wild. “Oh no. You have to. We’re a team, remember?”

Oh, the little turd. Those were the exact words I’d used to get him to go to a Nutcracker ballet my girlfriend London wanted us to attend. Neither Isaac or I were exactly thrilled about the prospect, and his attention the entire night was on me, glaring with mock fury.

“I do owe you,” I grumbled. I stood next to the bannister and our stockings. His was stuffed with some candy, gum, a toothbrush, and a paperback. In mine, I stuck a ribbon-wrapped bottle of Drambuie, a gift to myself I planned on cracking open the moment I got back from seeing Isaac off at the airport.

He took my picture, and hurried back to the small pile of gifts under the tree. With the new house and getting my business started, I couldn’t go nuts this year, but I thought I’d done pretty all right. As he plucked a small box from under the tree from one of his relatives, I said, “Hey bud. There’s something we need to talk about.”

“Yeah?” he asked, holding up the box. I nodded, and he dug into it.

“I know you wanted a dog for Christmas, and the truth is, I really want one too. I promise you, we’re going to get one-“

“Wait, really?” he asked, fumbling the box in his excitement.

I laughed helplessly. “Yeah. Really. But we’re not going to do that for Christmas, okay? I don’t feel comfortable giving animals as presents. It feels… cheap, I guess. A dog isn’t something you give away like…”

“A watch,” he said, holding up a digital sports watch. “Cool.”

“That is cool,” I said. “So maybe we’ll do some looking around in January when you come home. But you need to help me raise it and walk it.”

“Okay!” Isaac said. He hurried over to me and hugged me tight.

We finished up with the last of the extended family’s gifts. My brothers and I had a quiet tradition of passing around our kids’ cheaper-end Christmas lists or ideas on what to get the kids so no one ended up doubling up or getting gifts they didn’t want. It was a pretty good system, but there were always a couple surprises. Isaac was through the roof about a fantasy action figure playset, and completely baffled by a fox hood winter cap thing. Not made of actual fox, mind you, but shaped to look like a fox. That one was probably picked out by my sister-in-law Becky. She… she was weird.

With about an hour left to go until the Christmas party and the ham in the oven doing divine things to make my stomach growl, we narrowed the presents down to our gifts to each other. Isaac would have something small to open from me up at his mother’s house, an anagram game I thought he would love, but for now, he got a couple action figures and some books he told me he wanted.

Over the last couple months, he saved up from his allowance and bought me a new wallet and a small bottle of cologne. “London and Dakota gave me five bucks to help pay for the cologne,” Ataşehir Suriyeli Escort he said, giving me a hangdog look. Isaac had a terrible guilty conscience.

I chuckled and hugged him tight. “That was very sweet of them.” I gave myself a spritz, then before he could escape me, I gave him a squirt too. It was a good scent, sportier than my usual richer, darker tones. It would be a good day-to-day cologne. “I love it, Isaac. Thank you.”

“There’s one more present,” he said shyly. I raised an eyebrow. There was nothing left under the tree. He hurried upstairs and came back down missing his Christmas sweater from my mom. He held a thin, squarish wrapped present. “Aunt Jenna helped me with it.”

I blinked at him. “Jenna? When, uh, when was this?”

I expected him to say a few weeks ago, before the world blew up. Instead, Isaac wrinkled his nose as he thought and said, “Monday or Tuesday. We went after class. Her and Aunt Yvonne. It was Aunt Jenna’s idea. But she said she might not be able to make it and I should go ahead and give it to you before I left.” He looked at me, still holding the present. “Dad? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just…” I bit my lip. “If you talk to her sometime, tell her… tell her I said thank you. And merry Christmas.”

“Are you two fighting?” he asked, very quietly. The divorce still hurt him in a lot of ways that would take time to heal, if they ever did.

“I don’t really know. She might not be coming around as much.”


“I love her very much. But I…” I sighed. “Sometimes people want a thing too much. A relationship, something. I guess I pushed Aunt Jenna a little hard towards something she wasn’t sure about and I think it hurt her.”

“I’m sorry, Dad,” Isaac said. He shifted the package to his side and wrapped an arm around me.

That hug, that moment, that was the best Christmas gift he gave me that year.

We opened up the present. It was a picture in a beautiful driftwood frame. In it, Isaac was centered in among my five girlfriends, against a snowy park backdrop. All my girlfriends were striking a different pose, Sarah twirling one of her ponytail pigtails and looking skyward with a devious smile on her face, the twins with their heads together, both blowing me kisses caught forever in time, Yvonne winking and grinning wide. Isaac got into it too, giving me his favorite dumbfounded, open-mouthed expression. He loved that look for pictures, despite Tina and I trying and failing to get him to smile nicely. We gave up and it became a running joke.

And Jenna, in the background, smiling softly, her dark eyes holding mine even in just a damn picture.

“Dad?” Isaac asked.

“It’s perfect,” I murmured. I hugged him again and kissed the top of his head.

* * *

Yvonne was the first to show up, and boy, was she loaded for bear. With towels over her crossover’s seats and floorboards, she had at least half a dozen piping hot casserole dishes for us to bring in. I wanted to tear into the creamed kale gratin right away, and I know my boy was eyeballing the smashed potatoes, one of his favorites.

“Oh no,” she told us as we told her about the green sweaters. “You boys need to go change right back into those.”

Isaac looked like he’d just seen a venomous snake. “Uhhhh, what?”

“There are lace reindeer,” I said.

“Lace,” Isaac agreed.

Yvonne gestured at her own Christmas sweater. “You’re throwing a Christmas party! You need to be dressed for the part.”

“I’ve got a Santa hat,” Isaac said blandly.

“And… uh… I have a red shirt,” I said. “Close enough.”

“Then I suppose you won’t get your Christmas presents from me,” she said sweetly, heading for the oven to check on the ham. Despite me being able to cook pretty damn well, she and Sarah always felt the need to second guess me. Grumble grumble grumble.

“Blackmail!” I bellowed. “Your devil woman tricks won’t work on me.” Isaac’s eye was going twitchy. “Oh no. Don’t turn traitor.”

“It’s… but… presents,” he protested.

“Demon child!”

He shrugged, and Yvonne snickered.

I sighed. “Okay. Grab mine too while you’re up there.”

He raced out of the kitchen and up the stairs. When he was out of earshot, I lost my smile and asked Yvonne quietly, “Jenna?”

Yvonne wouldn’t meet my eyes. “I… don’t know. I wouldn’t count on her coming.”

“Fuck,” I muttered. “I bought her something. Should I bring it by on Christmas, or…?”

Yvonne shut the oven again and sighed. “I don’t know. I really don’t. What happened?”

“She hasn’t told you? Or Sarah?”


I leaned in and kissed Yvonne. She looked more worried than pleased, and I said softly in her ear, “I told her how I felt about all of you.” I pulled back and stared her in the eyes. “That I’m not just in love with Morgan, but all of you.”

Yvonne’s lips parted. “Love?”

“Got it!” Isaac hollered. We jumped, and Yvonne laughed softly, Ataşehir İranlı Escort dropping her head against my shoulder. I wrapped her in my arms, and my son hurried in with the sweaters. He stared at us curiously, and said, “Did I miss kissing stuff?”

“Just in time,” Yvonne said, and pulled back to lay a heart-stopping warm kiss on me. She tasted like vanilla and I could have kept her there forever if Isaac hadn’t made a gagging sound. She tossed him her keys, and told him our presents were in the very back in a box, and that he should just bring the whole thing in. When he was gone again, she looked up at me, eyes sparkling. “God, I love you too. I have since…” She blushed, and shook her head, chuckling softly. Into my ear, she whispered, “Since that night you took my ass so slowly.”

“Now that’s a weird night to fall in love,” I said, and she punched my shoulder. “I’m serious, though. Without you, none of this would have happened. God’s honest truth, you changed my world, Yvonne. Thank you.”

Along with presents for Isaac and myself, there were presents for the rest of my girlfriends as well as some of our neighbors that would be attending, along with a few unmarked gifts meant for any stragglers who might show up. That was smart. We always had a few at these neighborhood things. We agreed we would do a “family” gift swap at the end of the party when it was just Isaac, me, and my girlfriends.

Family. Huh. I liked that.

The twins were next, carting my babysitter and sometime lover Jessica in tow. They had their own gifts, but Jessica couldn’t stay long. She had her own family party to get to, so Isaac presented her with our present to her, and I gave her a Christmas bonus for all the times she’d been so willing to watch over Isaac with little warning. I wished I could sneak her away for one last romp before she left for her holiday vacation, but oh well.

With that, the rest of our guests showed up in droves. Christy and Garth led a small army of their children, including their squalling infant. Neighbors from five other houses on the block showed up, and when Sarah finally let herself in, she was accompanied by a few friends from further up the street. The house was packed, but we were happy to have everyone.

There was one notable absence, though, and every time I heard the door open, I’d look out just to make sure my Jenna wasn’t there so I could try and apologize and make the world right again.

It came time to cut the ham and serve everyone. Isaac and I had worked up a speech thanking everyone quickly for welcoming us to the neighborhood and making the last four or five months so special. But the kids had congregated downstairs, with lots of laughter and jeering as they played video games. Isaac was down there at one point, I knew, and probably just didn’t hear me or wanted to hang out with his friends. I gave the speech by myself, and our neighbors and my girlfriends cheered. I thought that would at least bring up Isaac, but nope, he was still down there.

Christy and Garth ambushed me in a corner with their baby, gushing again their thanks for me babysitting a few nights before when they had a family emergency. I told them it was no big deal. Their son and Isaac’s closest friend on the block, Greg, ran upstairs and told them he was hungry.

“You’re just in time, my man,” I said. “Everybody’s dishing up now. Was Isaac downstairs with you? He needs to come up and eat too. Don’t think he’s had anything but chocolate all day.”

“He wasn’t,” Greg said.

I blinked. “You sure? Did he maybe run and use the bathroom?”

“I don’t know,” Greg said crossly.

Christy gave me a concerned look, and Garth handed the baby off to her. I glanced around and frowned. When was the last time I saw Isaac? Not that I didn’t trust anyone we invited, but there were a lot of people coming in and out.

My imagination was getting away from me. Garth gripped my shoulder. “Hey, he’s probably just in the bathroom, like you said.”

“You mind looking downstairs? I’ll check upstairs.”

He nodded, and we hurried through the crowd of people. A few guests tried to pluck me away, and Sarah wanted my attention, but when I leaned in and told her what was going on, she went from pouty and kinda cute to worried too. We searched upstairs, but nothing, no sign of him. I looked out back, and no one was out there. Garth had no luck downstairs.

By now, Yvonne and the twins were looking too. My heart was doing a hard sprint, and all I could think about was a news article about a child gone missing in the city a few months ago. I ran out front, looking around wildly, like anyone who might have taken him would have stuck around for some ham and cranberry cocktails.

I cupped my hands to my mouth and bellowed, “Isaac?”

Yvonne took my arm. I pulled free, barely noticing her touch. I raced further down the street, not paying a bit of attention to the ice underfoot. I was full-blown panicking now, and my guests trickled out the door, whispering and talking to themselves.

“Isaac!” I shouted again, so loud I was nearly screaming. I was running now, and Yvonne was with me, her heels in hand, barefoot save for her socks.

“Dad?” a voice shouted in the distance.

My heart felt like it hit a wall. “Isaac? Where are you?”