Dinner is all politeness and is felt stingingly by everyone present. Alek and Will, William S. Middleton, the evening’s honoured guest, did all in their power to project a stunning atmosphere, both acting for Dean’s sake. Gordon did nothing to ease the tension; the constancy of his hard stare at Dean was enough to determine discomfort for all. Destiny, having given up the ghost of benign indifference, has taken to extending her glare in his direction. He hardly noticed her. She had been demoted to peripheral vision the moment she entered the room. Dean, of course, would insist she attend dinner, to meet his so-called boyfriend.
There is no way, Gordon is convinced, this young man, Will Middleton, b-ball star of Pride High, chosen for the sports scholarship at Antinous Uni, loved and revered by all is his son’s boyfriend. The young man’s family is poor, unable to put their son through Uni; only his b-ball skills garner him such high respect. No doubt, Gordon believes, Dean has offered the young man a generous sum of money to be his boyfriend for the day, just long enough to come home to meet the dads. And why not? Not only would it be decent pay, enough even to buy a new pair of running shoes (the young man is tall, his feet huge – custom made running shoes are costly), he has the opportunity to meet with one of the Founding families. He’d have been a fool not to take up the offer. No, Gordon reminds himself, my son is straight. I know it, he knows it, and I’m sick to death with all this pretending. So, just as Will was to take another bite into his second of Alexzander’s gourmet burgers, he asks, “Top or bottom.” Will freezes, the burger hanging mid-air between his fists, which clench squeezing many of its toppings out, dripping onto his plate.
“Hardly appropriate, Gordon.” It is Destiny who responds. Alek is too stunned to say anything. Dean hides his face.
“Shut up, mother.” Will drops his burger. Alek closes his eyes and sighs. Dean sinks lower in his chair. Enrico, used to the ‘other family’ half’s stupid politics, ignores everything, continues to enjoy his burger and yam fries. Gordon persists. “Top or bottom.”
Having recovered his composure, Alek asks, “What does it matter?”
“Really,” Alek cries. “I’m bottom. Is that bad?”
“No,” Gordon suddenly realizes his mistake, not in his taunt of his son, but rather, how it has backfired by reflecting on his husband, “that’s not what I mean.”
“Then what do you mean?”
“I just want to know if my son is really—”
“Really, what? If he’s bottom, he’s not gay?”
“No, of course not.”
“Good! Because that makes no sense.”
Enrico decides to defend his brother. “Maybe they’re both. Jerry and I are both.”
Enrico’s admission to an active sex life only irks Alek further. “I don’t think sex is appropriate to talk with children.”
“Seriously, dad,” Enrico is enjoying playing his father, “Dean and I are hardly children. We graduate in June. I’m off to the army to do my two-year tour, and these boys are going to Uni on their high flying scholarships.”
“We don’t know if Dean will win the academic scholarship, yet.” Gordon finds it very difficult to acknowledge any of Dean’s accomplishments.
“Oh, he’ll get it,” Will replies. “He’s got the highest average at Pride.”
“That doesn’t mean he has the highest average at all the high schools.”
“Surely, the Stuttgart name stands for something?” Will teased.
Gordon remains dry. “We don’t go in for favouritism,” turning his acerbic gaze on his mother for the first time, “do we mother?” Gordon was offered the Uni academic scholarship upon his graduation. Still, Destiny knowing Gordon’s 93% could not possibly be the highest high school average, insisted on a review of all candidate results. The scholarship went to a young woman from Virginia Wolf high school with an average of 98%. Destiny, feeling the sting of Gordon’s rebuke, refuses to respond.
“I doubt anyone else has a 98.5, rounding him up to 99,” smirking at Mr. Stuttgart, “Do you?”
“You. Never. Know.”
“Well,” Will smiles at Dean, cupping his hand under Dean’s chin, he raises his head, helping him to hold it high. “I believe in my man.” Confident now Dean will not shy away under his father’s glare, Will looks back at Dean’s father, “I know he will win! And,” turning now to smile upon Mother Stuttgart, “and win it fairly.”
“I’m sure he will.” Destiny smiles in return.
Wiping his hands on his napkin, Will looks to Mr. Rivas. “Thank you, sir, for this wonderful dinner. Turning now to Destiny, “and Mother Stuttgart, it was a real honour to meet you. What you have done for our country, the stand you take on equality for everyone, it’s inspiring.”
“Thank you, son.”
Turning now to Gordon Stuttgart, “Sir.” He extends his hand across the table to shake Dean’s father’s hand. It was nice to finally get to meet you. After three years of dating, I swore Dean was never going to keep his promise to introduce me.” Will pauses to let this new insight sinks in. He knows Dean has avoided telling his family anything about their dating. With Mimi’s support, Dean was hanging onto the hope; he truly believed he could one day come out to his father. Will had finally convinced him his dream was futile, leading to his eventual invitation to dinner. He took a moment to study Dean’s father’s reaction to this news. That man is nothing if not impenetrable. At least Papa Alek shows signs of pleasure, mixed with displeasure. No doubt, he would have liked to have learned of their sham relationship sooner. Turning now to tease his Dean, “Ashamed of me, I dare say.”
“No, no,” Dean expostulates.
“I know, sweetie,” Will smiles, leans down and kisses Dean full on the lips. “I’m just teasing. Walk me to the door?” Dean nods, stands and exits the dining room with his boyfriend. As they stand at the door, Will notices Mr. Stuttgart leaning back in his chair so as to better observe them. “Humph, he’s watching us.”
“He knows I’m straight.”
“No, Dean, he thinks your straight. Knowing and thinking are not the same thing.”
“I don’t know. It just feels like—”
Will stops him with another kiss. “Laughing now, he pulls Dean in close and whispers in his ear. “Since he is so intent on watching us, let give the old bastard a show.” Their kissing becoming heated makes Dean very uncomfortable, but he avoids showing any discomfort for he knew his father was watching.