If the first visitors were going to be arriving this afternoon, Aaron and I decided we would need to really get moving once we arrived back to the house, and get our own little space set up before someone else got in first.
The spot I had suggested we pitch our tent was right near a bushy, young eucalyptus tree, about ten or twelve feet high, and which I thought would give us a little shade at various times of the day. Aaron had mown all around it, so the spot seemed almost perfect to me.
‘Have we got to get anything else in town before we head out?’ he asked when we made it back to the truck.
‘I don’t think so. Matt did want me to get some more prawns to cook up some of those skewers again, but that can probably wait until tomorrow morning.’
‘Nope, we better get them now, while they will have them in stock,’ he insisted. ‘Tomorrow will be just crazy, and being a long weekend you can bet your arse they’ll sell out.’
‘All right then. If you insist.’
‘I do,’ he grinned.
We climbed in and I started the truck up, then he directed me to head toward the boardwalk, where he assured me there would be plenty of fresh seafood available at one of the outlets there.
‘You know, it hardly seems like a week since I got back here,’ I said as I pulled into a parking space along the road. We weren’t parked very far from the toilet block where Aaron and I had almost bumped into each other last Saturday, the thought of which at the time had actually left me shaking.
‘A lot can happen in a week.’
‘Yeah. It can.’
He opened his door and climbed out, and I did the same, then we strolled the short distance down to the row of shops along the boardwalk, where he led me into a seafood shop, called The Pearl Perch, which was packed with fantastic looking fresh fish.
‘Hey, Aaron,’ a guy behind the counter called out as we entered the shop. ‘What brings you here?’
‘What the hell would you reckon, Georgio?’ Aaron laughed.
He was a short, solidly built guy, perhaps a little older than the two of us, and with a dark, Mediteranean type of complexion. I wouldn’t have said that he was what I would call really good looking, but by the same token he wasn’t what I would have called unattractive either.
‘You want fish? Fresh fish, it’s luv-er-ley!’ he crooned. Somewhere deep in my brain something seemed to register when he said that, but I couldn’t quite place where I had heard that before.
‘We want prawns,’ Aaron demanded. ‘The biggest and best ones you’ve got.’
‘Ahhh, men of taste,’ the fishmonger laughed. ‘Then you’ll want these Tiger Prawns. Beautiful.’
I looked at where he was pointing in his display case, at a tray of the largest King prawns I’d ever seen.
‘What do you think?’ Aaron prompted.
‘Better give us three kilo’s,’ I said to Georgio. ‘We’ll see how many that gives us.’
With a nod he retrieved a plastic bag and started filling it with prawns, before shortly afterwards placing it on the scales.
‘Just over,’ Georgio announced.
‘Is that enough, you think?’ Aaron asked me.
‘Better throw in another couple of handfuls, please,’ I said. ‘That should just about do us.’
‘Are you including Matt in your count? He’ll eat half of those just on his own!’ Aaron teased.
‘Not while I’m around, he won’t.’
Georgio wrapped our parcel and handed it over, then after I paid we said our goodbye’s and headed back to the truck, a short while later arriving back at the house.
‘How about I put these on ice, while you take the truck through to the back?’ Aaron said as I turned into the driveway. ‘If we can get our site set up we can then unload the rest of the party stuff once some of the others have arrived home.’
‘I always knew my boyfriend was not only good looking, but he’s smart and practical too,’ I replied.
‘Even when he wasn’t actually your boyfriend?’
‘Even then,’ I replied.
I stopped the truck and knocked it out of gear, letting the motor idle as Aaron climbed out, our precious cargo firmly in his grasp, then headed for the house. Continuing on I drove the truck out through the back gate and parked beside the bushy eucalyptus tree I had claimed earlier, then shut the engine off. By the time Aaron joined me I had our new purchases unloaded and spread out in a row on the ground.
‘Geez, you don’t do things by halves, do you?’ Aaron said, while eying the line-up of items.
‘And I haven’t even finished yet. I’m thinking we should get one of those special trailers they make for going off-road, so we can have everything packed up in it, ready to go, and if we ever want to just piss off for a weekend we simply hook up and drive off.’
For what seemed like a long time he looked at me with one raised eyebrow. ‘What’s brought on this sudden camping fetish?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know . . . I guess I just want to catch up on all that time we wasted feeling miserable with ourselves and go and do some of the things again that we used to enjoy doing together. We may as well enjoy life while we can, because we can never know what might be around that next corner.’
‘I’m all for that,’ he replied. ‘So, where do we start today?’
‘Ground sheet,’ I said. ‘We’ll spread it out where we want the tent to be.’
He leaned over and picked up the two packets containing the ground and fly sheets, then tossed one aside, before ripping open the second packet. Spreading out the folded sheet he handed me one side of it, then between us we continued to unfold it, until finally we had it opened to its full size and laid on the ground.
‘How’s that?’ Aaron asked.
‘Perfect,’ I replied. ‘Now for the tent.’
It didn’t take us long to unpack all the parts of the tent, then find the instructions on how to piece it together. Thankfully everything seemed to be straightforward, with the poles fitting together easily, and it wasn’t long before we had our new palace all together and standing in one piece. Then it was simply a matter of anchoring it to the ground using the ropes and pegs supplied, and we were ready to move in.
‘So. What do you think?’
‘I think it’s awesome. And I think it’s going to get a pretty good work out in the months to come.’
‘I just reckon it might,’ I laughed.
* * *
It was late in the afternoon when we heard the vehicle drive into the yard, followed by the sound of car doors opening and closing.
Aaron and I had earlier retreated to the guest house, once we had finished at the camp site, ostensibly to pack up my stuff and transfer it to our new quarters, but as often happens we managed to get ourselves distracted from the matter at hand.
When we heard the car doors we had been lying on the bed, naked, after partaking in some indoor exercise, which had left us both satisfied and slick with sweat. I jumped up and pulled on a t-shirt and some shorts and was the first to the front door, pulling the bedroom door closed behind me as I went, just in case someone happened to spot Aaron in there and still in a state of undress.
It took me a moment to recognise the couple who were standing beside the station wagon and looking around them, while stretching their tired bodies. I had only ever met them once or twice before, and that last time was more than five years ago now. Samantha still looked much the same, an attractive girl with a carefree spirit, although obviously now older and more mature; a look that I thought suited her well.
Ben had changed though. He too was more mature looking, but also, as he had always been a solidly built guy, he was now even more so. I wouldn’t say he was fat, or even that out of shape, but he had definitely filled out in the past five years.
At the sound of my opening the sliding door of the guest house they both spun my way. A frown passed over Ben’s face for a moment, as he struggled to recognise me, but Samantha’s face lit up straight away and she hurried toward me.
‘Tony! It’s so good to see you again. It’s been quite a while!’ she cooed, coming to me and giving me a hug.
‘It’s great to see you too, Sam. I didn’t know if you’d even recognise me.’
‘Oh, that was easy. The photo on the cover of your books is so much like the Tony I remembered meeting, it’s not like I was going to forget.’
By this time Ben had joined us also and was holding out his hand.
‘Good to see you Tony. I didn’t know if you would make it,’ he said as we shook.
‘I couldn’t miss this one,’ I replied.
‘No, I couldn’t agree more.’
Just then Aaron emerged from the guest house, dressed once more in his work clothes, and stood beside me.
‘Do you guys remember Aaron?’ I asked.
‘Of course,’ Samantha said, rushing to him and giving him a huge hug also, while Ben shook his hand, then pulled him into an embrace. I couldn’t help but notice the curious look he was giving us though. ‘How are you doing? I know things weren’t too good last time we saw you,’ she gently asked Aaron, while gently rubbing his upper arms.
‘All good now,’ Aaron replied. ‘And thanks for asking.’
‘I thought you two had called it quits?’ Ben asked, ever the diplomat. Samantha quickly gave him a belt up the back of the head. ‘What? Last time we were down here, things were totally different. I think it was when the boys were about a year old, wasn’t it? Aaron was here but you were long gone, Tony.’
‘Yeah, well, let’s just say we’ve sorted out our issues,’ I said.
‘Well it’s about bloody time, that’s all I can say. The guys here were beside themselves when you took off and Aaron stayed behind.’
‘Oh, don’t take any notice of him,’ Samantha offered. ‘He’s always been a tactless clod!’
Aaron and I both laughed.
‘So, can I ask? How long have you been back together?’ she enquired.
Aaron and I glanced at each other and grinned.
‘Oh, about a week,’ I replied. We all laughed.
Just then we heard a plaintive cry come from their car. ‘Mum, it’s hot in here!’ a small voice called out.
‘Excuse me, I had best go and let the little beasties out,’ Sam said, before hurrying away.
‘Surely they can’t be that bad?’ I asked Ben.
‘Mate, you have no idea!’ he laughed.
‘How many do you have now? Still just the boys?’ asked Aaron. He had slipped one arm around my waist and in return I placed an arm around his shoulders, hugging him close to me.
‘There are three now. The boys, Jake and Callum, are five, while Chrissy is just two.’
‘Wow. Twins?’ I asked.
‘Yes. Apparently they run in Sam’s family. If only I’d known, eh?’
‘Go on, tell the truth, you wouldn’t have it any other way.’
After just a moments hesitation, during which he looked lovingly across at Sam, who was unbuckling the kids from their seats in the car, he said, ‘No, mate, I certainly wouldn’t,’ as two boys soon came running across the yard toward us.
‘Daddy! Daddy!’ the boys cried out. ‘Where’s the beach? Where’s the beach?’
They were unmistakably twins, though I was so pleased that their parents hadn’t gone down the let’s make them look exactly the same by wearing the same clothes route. They were two little blonde haired, blue eyed cuties, who were both going to be little heartbreakers in a few years time. And if they ended up anything at all like their father, from what Luke and the guys had told me about him when he was a little younger, then Ben and Sam were certainly going to have their hands full.
‘We’ll take you to the beach in a little while, Jakey,’ Ben said, while scooping up the kid closest to him. ‘It’s not far away, but if you be really quiet you might even be able to hear the waves.’
‘Can we see the waves?’ the second boy asked. That must be Callum. He had his arms wrapped firmly around his father’s legs and was looking up at us with a curious, almost studious expression.
‘When we go to the beach later, Cal,’ Sam said as she joined us, with another blonde haired and blue eyed cutie on her hip. ‘We have to unpack the car first. Remember what we said? We have to put up our tent, because we’re going camping again.’
‘Goodeeee,’ Jake squealed.
‘Daddy, who is that man and that man?’ Callum asked, still looking up curiously at Aaron and me.
‘Do you remember who lives here? There’s Uncle Tim and Uncle Guy, and Uncle Matt and Uncle Luke.’
‘Yes, I . . . ummm . . . think so.’
‘Well, this is Uncle Tony and Uncle Aaron. They are from here too.’
I glanced at Samantha and then at Ben. They were both smiling at us. I suddenly felt . . . I don’t know . . . humbled by their acceptance of me, and of the relationship between Aaron and me.
‘Do you live in this house?’ Callum asked, pointing to the guest house.
‘No we live in another house,’ I answered him. ‘But while we are staying here we’re going to be camping too. Just like you. See, there’s our tent down there,’ I added, pointing to where we had set up camp.
‘Maybe you can get your mum and dad to put your tent near ours? Then we can all be camping together,’ Aaron suggested.
‘That’d be great!’ exclaimed Jake. ‘Can we Dad? Can we?’
‘Sure buddy. And then we can all sit around the fire and sing songs,’ Ben replied, while rolling his eyes at us, clearly trying to humour his son. Or at least I hope that was all he was trying to do.
‘Goodeeee,’ Jake squealed again.
‘Hun, why don’t you run the car through to the back so we can unload and get set up, Sam suggested.
‘Sure thing,’ he answered, then thrust his arms out toward Aaron, transferring a giggling Jake into his care and saying, ‘Here, take this!’
The look on Aaron’s face, as he held Jake out in front of him, his legs dangling in mid-air, was priceless. Jake kicked his legs a little, while laughing at the new game, then Aaron pulled him closer, so that he was able to get an arm around him and hold him on his hip.
When Ben walked away, laughing, Cal, quite surprisingly, transferred his vise-like grip from his father to me. I leant over and placed my hands under his arms and picked him up, holding him close also.
‘See, you two are naturals. If we need babysitters while we’re here, we know who to call on! And I think it’d be so nice to see you with kids of your own one day.’
‘One day, maybe,’ I replied, giving Aaron a wink as I did so. ‘But just don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.’
* * *
After Ben took the car through to the area behind the house, we all pitched in and helped with the unpacking of their gear, with even Jake and Cal trying to do their bit, looking as cute as buttons as they carried their loads from the car to where the tent would be pitched.
I had to admit that I was finding the thought of one day having kids of my own becoming more and more attractive, but just how that was ever going to happen I wasn’t too sure, especially with debate raging the world over about the evils of gay’s adopting or raising children in gay relationships. As the old saying goes, however . . . where there’s a will, there’s a way . . . and I felt sure that if Aaron and I wanted that bad enough, then when the time was right we would be able to do something about it.
Before long we had their tent set up, almost alongside ours, having decided to leave enough room to park a vehicle between them.
‘We finished now?’ one of the twins asked as we stood back admiring our handiwork. I think it was Jake, but I couldn’t be sure. Maybe I should have taken more notice of what each of them was wearing. I dreaded trying to tell them apart if they happened to be wearing similar clothing, or worse, if they happened to only have their shorts or something on.
‘Yes, Jakey,’ Ben replied.
‘So, beach now?’
‘Yeah, mate. We’ll take you to the beach now.’
As I watched Callum standing back and remaining quiet I realised then that Jake was obviously the more outgoing of the two boys, and I could just imagine the trouble that Jake would lead the quieter Callum into as they got older.
‘Are you guys going to join us?’ Samantha asked.
‘Not this time, I don’t think,’ I replied. ‘I’d best get my stuff in the guest house packed up and moved out, before the next lot of visitors get here. I think Luke said his folks would be arriving tonight, so we better make sure that they have somewhere to stay.’
‘Okay then. We’ll see you in a little while,’ she said, before picking up her daughter from where she was sitting on the ground, digging in the sand. We watched as they set off down the path, with two excited little boys running ahead a few yards, before stopping and waiting for their parents to catch up.
‘They look so happy together,’ Aaron said to me as we watched them disappear into the scrub.
‘Yeah. They do.’
‘Do you think that could be us one day?’
I turned and looked at him. ‘Is that what you want?’
‘I don’t know. Maybe. It’s worth thinking about though, isn’t it?’
‘Yeah, babe. I think it is.’
To be continued . . .