Akira winced as Gavin’s words landed in the middle of the circle. He trusted Gavin’s approach, and figured this must be the best way to handle his group of friends.
“Children are a wonderful addition to any family,” said Bo. “Thank you for clarifying what your news was before our group started making innumerable and incorrect guesses.”
“What he said,” said Luca.
“I’m glad that’s settled,” said Gavin with a small chuckle. “Now, before we head over to the bonfire, Carmen, can I talk to you for a second?”
“Of course,” said Carmen as they stepped a short ways away from everyone else. “What’s on your mind?”
“I want to give you this,” said Gavin, pulling a key to his apartment from his pocket. “Aside from Akira, you’re my best friend here, and I want you to know you’re always welcome in our home, you don’t even have to call first.”
“Oh Gavin, that’s so sweet,” said Carmen. “It really means a lot to me that you consider me one of your people.”
“You definitely are,” said Gavin, “and I know you don’t come into the city as much anymore, but at least you have it if you need it.”
“Thanks,” said Carmen, taking possession of the key.
Carmen pocketed the key, then said, “now how about we get this party going? Lead the way to the bonfire!”
“Yes ma’am,” replied Gavin.
The entire group headed through the ruins to the bonfire.
Akira paused in his dancing to join Gavin. “You ready to have this conversation?”
“I am,” answered Gavin. “But I’m also kind of nervous. I’m really glad we didn’t make this some formal thing. Now that we’ve told my grandparents our plan, it just feels like there’s so much more riding on this, you know?”
“Yeah, I know,” said Akira. “We don’t even have a surrogate, yet this feels so real. Think about it. If this goes well, we’ll be fathers really soon, like days from now.”
“You’re making me even more nervous,” said Gavin. “Just stop talking for a bit and enjoy this moment with me, especially since it’s likely to be one of our last hangs with no big responsibilities waiting for us at home.”
“I can do that,” said Akira, as he leaned into Gavin and they both stared into the fire.
The group didn’t all stay by the bonfire, which gave Gavin and chance to speak with Laurel, and it gave Carmen a chance to get to know Akira.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re very attractive,” said Carmen.
“That’s a fine compliment,” said Akira, “and don’t worry, I’m only taking it in the way you mean it. I assume you mean you’re happy for Gavin that his partner is someone you can both agree is good looking?”
“Exactly! You get me,” said Carmen with a chuckle. “We’re going to get along just fine. How do you feel about karaoke?”
“Positively. I feel very positively about karaoke.”
“Heh, good to know.”
While Gavin and Carmen were getting chummy, Gavin spoke to Laurel about their desire to find a surrogate. She got really excited told him she “knew a guy from Bridgeport” for whom the immigrant, unmarried, and new relationship things would not be a problem.
Gavin chose not to ask too many questions. He only wanted to confirm he’d have multiple reputable candidates to choose from, and that he and Akira could meet them all in person. Also, he wanted to make sure the candidates were diverse. Lastly, he was adamant that none of the surrogacy candidates be part of his constituency. He didn’t want to worry about any potential political scandals in case this didn’t work out.
Laurel assured him that he had nothing to worry about. They looped in Carmen and Akira on their conversation. Carmen happily agreed to help Laurel, mostly in a wrangling-the-surrogacy-candidates-during-interview-time capacity. Laurel planned on calling her guy in Bridgeport first thing in the morning. She smiled to herself as the wheels started turning while the other three animatedly discussed the possibilities a surrogate afforded.
Baby re-joined the group as Laurel wandered off to chat with Bo and Luca. He asked what they were talking about so passionately. Gavin informed him they were going to find a surrogate and have babies! Baby’s smile didn’t quite reach his eyes and he looked towards Akira, the worry in his eyes outweighing the smile on his face.
“What? Surely, you think this is good news,” said Akira.
“I do, I do,” assured Baby as he considered his words carefully, “it’s just that things are still so new between you two, and I want to make sure you’re having kids for the right reason, and that you’re really really sure that this is what you want. The last thing you want is to end up with an entire family you didn’t think through before having.”
Carmen was standing in the middle of the conversation and wishing she wasn’t. She knew the whole Branham family, but wasn’t close to any of them. She felt like she was eavesdropping.
“I know this is a bit sooner than you’d expect,” said Akira, “but we’re just following our hearts. We’re doing this for our family, for Cristian and Kenya, but also for Gavin and me. This is what we really want. I thought you’d be happy for us.”
“I am, I promise I am,” said Baby. “I think I’m just projecting, man. Don’t mind me. Anyone who is around you two know how much in love you are. I’m sure you’re doing the right thing.”
“Projecting? Is everything okay with you? I didn’t want to say anything before,” said Gavin, “but since you brought it up… Are you and Lesley okay?”
“Yeah, man, we’re the same we always are,” said Baby. “Don’t worry about us. I’m sorry I even brought it up. I’d rather talk about the two of you. Congratulations on making this step forward!”
Akira and Gavin had a silent conversation with their eyes. They agreed to let the conversation about Baby’s marriage drop for now.
“Thanks! We’re really excited,” said Akira, his eyes focused back on Baby. “If we’re lucky, we’ll have at least one kid soon enough for them to be able to have play dates with your daughter Luz.”
“Oh yeah,” said Baby, “that would be great.”
“That goes for you too,” Gavin said to Carmen. “I can’t wait to see my own children playing with little Rodrigo.”
“I can’t wait either,” said Carmen sincerely.