Bradley and I were seated to dinner with Jake’s mother, who had invited us over to her house for what was billed as a friendly get-together between neighbors. Giovanni (the son formerly known as Pierpont) and Jake were over at our house presumably doing their homework. Presumably.
“Can I get either of you anything else?” Jake’s mother asked as she took hers and our respective plates off the dining room table and carried them into the kitchen.
“No, ma’am. I couldn’t eat another thing,” Bradley replied.
“I’ve had sufficient,” I said with a chuckle. Saying that always makes me laugh.
“I’ll brew a pot of coffee then,” Jake’s mother said from the kitchen.
Bradley yawned. “You read my mind.”
“What’s for dessert?” I asked. “Not that I have room for it – but not that I won’t make room for it.”
“Just a cheesecake I picked up,” Jake’s mother answered as she returned to the dining room with three mugs, sugar and cream on a tray.
“You couldn’t make one from scratch…for us?” Bradley teased.
Jake’s mother smiled nervously as she placed the tray down and then took her place back at the table. “You guys make cheesecake from scratch?” she asked.
“Not at all,” I interjected with a smile. “But we certainly don’t admit it.”
“Although I will admit that neither one of us have ever tried,” Bradley said as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
“Giovanni made one once for that kid’s cooking class we signed him up for a few years ago,” I recalled.
“It turned out that he liked cooking but he didn’t like learning how to do it,” Bradley added, pouring me a cup of coffee as well. “So we’ve always just let him experiment – as long as he leaves the kitchen in the same condition as when he walked into it.”
“Jake’s told me on a couple of occasions that Giovanni’s not half bad as a chef,” Jake’s mother said.
Bradley creamed and sugared his coffee. “That’s pretty high praise coming from Jake."
“I’ll ask him to make a cheesecake for my birthday and then we’ll have you over,” I said.
“Jake can be our taste-tester,” Bradley joked while creaming and sugaring my coffee.
Jake’s mother chuckled. “Does Giovanni ever cook for the four of you when Jake is over there?”
“Yeah, whenever Giovanni is in the mood to cook and Jake is in the mood to eat what Giovanni cooks,” I explained while Bradley and I stirred our respective cups of coffee. “That doesn’t happen often – so sometimes I just lie and say I made it just to get the boy to eat. I like to think he knows I’m lying and just appreciates the fact that I care enough about his health to do so. Don’t get me wrong -- I do care, but the last thing I need is for you to get pissed off at us for returning to you an emaciated son.”
Jake’s mother smiles. “I’m actually glad to hear you say that.”
“As you should be,” I said through a chuckle.
“I’m less worried now,” Jake’s mother continued.
Bradley and I clinked coffee cups and raised them to our lips. “Worried about what?” I asked.
“Jake living with you full-time.”
Bradley and I froze mid-sip. Somehow it didn’t register with us that the coffee we were mid-sipping was hot. He and I completed the sip, lowered the mugs on the table, folded our hands and looked inquisitively at Jake’s mother in stunned silence for what, if timed, only amounted to a few seconds but clocked in much longer than that in the moment.
“You want Jake to live with us?” Bradley asked.
“You want Jake to live with us?” I also asked.
Bradley leaned toward me. “I already asked her that,” he whispered.
“You did? It must have taken me a second longer to recover.”
Bradley kissed me on the cheek. “That’s okay, hun. Welcome back.”
“Thanks, sweetcakes. Do you want to continue or shall I?”
“We should probably settle on an answer first.”
“I think we’re on the same page with this.”
“Are you sure?”
Bradley nodded and kissed me on the cheek again before responding to Jake’s mother. “So you want Jake to live with us?”
“Actually – it’s Jake who’s asking,” Jake’s mother explained.
“Did he accompany that ask with an explanation?” Bradley asked.
“Of course not, which is part of the reason why I’m supporting this. I’m sure he’d tell one or both of you before he’d tell me. But I’m pretty certain I already know a couple of those reasons.”
Bradley and I looked at each other for a moment before directing our attention to Jake’s mother. “And what might a couple of those reasons be?” I asked.
“He’s fifteen and searching for a father figure. Or two. And if my suspicions are correct as to why he’s selected either or both of you – besides the fact that you guys are great and wonderful people, then he’ll be more likely to say something to either or both of you before he says anything to me. And then we’ll all be able to offer the requisite support.”
Bradley and I just sat there, wide-eyed.
“He and I have also had our issues over the last few years. Yes, he’s my kid and ultimately my responsibility so I don’t want you to think that I’m shirking it in any way or making my responsibilities to him and for him yours. However -- and I know this sounds corny -- I do believe in ‘it takes a village’. And my village is a lot smaller now than it used to be now that my mother-in-law has moved into a senior community.”
Bradley and I continued sitting there, each of us adding a head nod to the wide-eyed look on our faces.
“I’ve also seen him with you two and he’s far more responsive to anything you all say to him than anything I say. He’s also getting taller and stronger, so it’s becoming progressively more difficult to get him to do as I say do without getting into an argument. I’m not scared of him per se, but the thought has crossed my mind that if we were to get physical with me…well…I just won’t have that in my house.”
Bradley and I looked at each other and then back at Jake’s mother.
“Bradley, I’m sure you’re thinking about the legalities, and Terrence, you’re probably thinking about the financials. We won’t be changing his address to yours or transferring his guardianship from me to you two, but I would like to add you two as his secondary emergency contacts. And I can pay back to you any increase in your expenses.”
Bradley and I (well, at least I) stared through Jake’s mother to the vision of a life raising two teenage boys.
“You two have really thought this out,” I said to break the silence.
“We have. I wouldn’t have even broached this to you otherwise.”
“I’m fine with it,” I said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
“I still have my concerns,” Bradley stated. “So I think the great idea would be to try this out for a month.”
“That’s probably wise, but can we not tell Giovanni or Jake that?” Jake’s mother asked. “If it doesn’t work out, I’d rather just tell him that I miss him and want him back in the house than for him to think this might be temporary.”
“I agree,” I said to Bradley. “We don’t want to him to feel like he’s a visitor. Granted, he hasn’t really been one in a couple of years, but he should be made to feel even more at home at our house than he already does.”
“In that case – and I hate to say this, but it needs to be said,” Bradley began. His tone had turned uncomfortably auger. “If this is going to work, then we’re raising him. Our way. The way we raise Giovanni – good, bad and indifferent. We’ve always loved Jake as if he was our own, but in doing this – even if for just that one month -- he’ll actually be one of our own.”
Jake’s mother thought about this for a moment. “I have to admit that I hadn’t thought about that, but it makes sense.”
I replayed Bradley’s words in my head. “In that case, then the financials don’t matter.”
“Put those financials you mentioned earlier toward the college fund I helped you set up when he started high school,” Bradley suggested.
“Or take a trip to Hawaii since we’re now raising your child,” I teased with a smile.
Bradley glared at me for a moment. “And after the first month, if at any time you want to end this, it’s ended,” he concluded.
“So when do you want do this?” I asked.
“Tomorrow night,” Jake’s mother answered. “I’d like to spend the day with him tomorrow. Plus, we’ll need to pack up his clothes and whatever else he wants to bring over.”
“There goes your office,” I said to Bradley.
“Why wouldn’t he move into Giovanni’s room?” Bradley asked.
“Did you have to share a room with your brother when you were fifteen?”
“Then there goes your office,” I repeated, taking another sip of coffee.