Sunday, May 28, 2017
TLR CHAPTER 121
Coral & Ryan's Rehearsal PART 1
Written by Rosemarie & Snarks
The wedding loomed close now. They'd had to postpone it since September had been busy and then there had been the Okoro’s move to Bangor and then Lucas and well…it had just seemed easier this way. Instead of having their announcement party on Halloween they had done it New Year’s Eve and it had been a hit. Everything had turned out perfectly and the two men had been very happy. Now, the wedding was immanent and nerves were high.
Ryan paced the living room up and down alternately biting his lower lip and glancing at his cell phone and then his watch as he absentmindedly petted Castiel who had grown considerably and was getting heavier too. It was the day of the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. He couldn't be still.
"When did they say they were goin' to be here? I know my parents said they would be comin'...do you think they changed their minds? Maybe they aren't comin' after all?" He made another turn around the living room. Knowing that his parents would be hypercritical of the slightest flaw in their housekeeping, he had helped Coral clean until there wasn't a speck of dust, one cat hair or fleck of dirt anywhere.
Coral pulled Ryan into his arms; the now large kitten draped across his future husband’s shoulders and held him close. "I'm sure that if they changed their mind they'd be adult enough to call and tell us. Give them time. And remember, Ryan Mine, you promised to behave yourself when they do get here, so keep that temper in check. Smile, and above all else, don't let anything they say or do get under your skin."
Ryan huffed. "I'll try, but I ain't makin' no promises," he stated with a dark look. His furry friend purred loudly in his ear and Ryan reached up to pet him.
Coral grinned at the double negative and hugged Ryan even more tightly. "I do expect you to try your hardest, Ry," Coral said lightly. "I'll be there to back you up if you need me to, but you're not to take the offensive and start with them. Can you promise me that much?"
Ryan nodded. "Yes Coral...I can promise that much, but if they start in on me..." he trailed off.
"Then we'll deal with it together, in a rational, adult manner."
Ryan sighed. "'Kay Coral." He stroked his fur ball as he purred loudly. It was a calming sound for Ryan. He wondered what his parents would think about him having a cat. He knew is mother especially wasn’t fond of having animals in the house and it was why he had never had a pet.
"That's my boy," Coral replied, giving Ryan one last reassuring hug and the half grown cat a soft rub before releasing his Brat. He swore to himself that if Ryan's parents didn't come without a word, he'd be having words with them after the wedding.
"Come on, Angel. Have a seat, let's watch TV or listen to some music while we wait for them. It'll help make the time go more quickly," Coral suggested.
Ryan nodded. "'Kay Coral...I'm not sure if I want them to hurry up or to come real late," he confessed. He sat down though, Castiel in his lap.
Coral suspected that his fiancé would have preferred it if his parents didn't come at all but didn't mention it. He was looking forward to his own parent’s arrival, knowing they would be excited and warm toward Ryan after them having visited them several times. He knew Ry would be comfortable around them now. James had been kind enough to set aside bungalows for Ryan's parents and for his own folks, and his sisters, and their husbands and kids. The families were meeting at their bungalow for coffee and cookies before the rehearsal that afternoon.
Jerome and Lydia pulled up to the check point at TLR. Harry happened to be stationed there and smiled as he checked their identification. "You're expected Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell. Just follow this road up until you see the main buildings and then park in the visitor's parking lot. If you go to the smaller building next to the main lodge and ask for Mr. Markham he'll escort you to your son's bungalow," he told them.
Jerome nodded. "Yes, thank you." As he got back into their car he said to Lydia, "You'd think this place was a military installation or something." He drove to the parking lot as he had been instructed and helping Lydia out of the car made their way to the administration building and Jeff's office.
Jeff had been expecting them and had been watching out for their car. "Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell. I'm Jeff Markham; it's nice to finally meet you," he said with a smile.
Jerome shook hands with Jeff and said, "Nice to meet you as well."
Lydia smiled and said, "I'm so pleased to meet you. Have you seen our son?"
"I'm going to bring you to him now. Please follow me. There's a cart outside waiting for you." Jeff led them to the golf cart and helped Mrs. O'Donnell into the back seat next to her husband. "It's not far," he assured them as he drove to Coral and Ryan's home.
Jerome noticed the neat grounds, the beautiful foliage and the rustic bungalows peeking through the trees. "This is a really beautiful place," he remarked.
Lydia smiled. "Yes, and look at that beautiful beach and lake!" she said to her husband as they caught a glimpse of it through the trees.
"Thank you," Jeff replied with a smile. "We're very proud of the place, and we have an excellent maintenance staff. We can give you a tour when you have the time, if you like," he offered.
Jerome looked at Lydia and she nodded. "We'd like that thank you. It will be nice to see where our son will be living."
Jeff pulled up outside of one of the small, neat bungalows. Mutt and Adam had really done a stellar job of neatening up Coral's gardens and the place looked like an old-style country cottage. "Here we are," he announced. He got out and helped Mrs. O'Donnell out of the golf cart then led them up to the door.
Lydia's blue eyes widened. "Oh my...are you sure two men live here? It looks like something out of Currier and Ives!"
Jerome nodded. '"It's much more than I expected."
Jeff grinned at the two newcomers. "Our landscapers take great pleasure in making the resort seem more like a home than a workplace," he explained. "I'll tell our head of landscaping what you said, he'll take it as a great compliment." He knocked on the door and stood back so that he wouldn't be in the way.
Ryan jumped at the knock and Cas jumped off his lap. "You answer it Coral,” he said right away, biting his lip. “It's probably them...or maybe it's your family?" he asked hopefully, more comfortable with the Okoro clan now.
"Deep, calming breaths, Angel. No matter who is on the other side of that door, stay calm, and smile. Ok?" Coral said quietly.
Ryan took a couple of deep breaths as Coral instructed and then nodded.
Castiel rubbed against Ryan’s feet and he picked him up so he wouldn’t escape outside. "'Kay."
Coral opened the door to find what could only be Ryan's parents standing there. "Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell, welcome." He smiled. "Jeff, thank you for bringing them over. We'll see you again in a little while?"
In a while. I'll call ahead when your folks get here. Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell, I'll leave you in Coral's very capable hands. Goodbye for now." He smiled as he went back to the cart and drove off.
Ryan peeked out from behind Coral at his parents, the large kitten in his arms.
Jerome nodded at Coral, also a little surprised that his son hadn't been exaggerating when he had told them he had found the biggest black man he could. He only hoped he wasn't mean, but his demeanor didn't give any indication of that. "I'm Jerome, you must be Coral?"
Coral replied, "Yes Sir. Ma'am. Welcome to our home." He smiled and nodded as he gestured the two newcomers into the bungalow.
Lydia's blue eyes widened as the large black man answered the door. Quickly averting her eyes, she focused on her son and snapped, "Don't just lurk there, come greet us properly."
Without even acknowledging Coral's gracious gesture, Jerome gave Ryan a look. "Do as your mother says boy," he barked.
Ryan grit his teeth trying to control his temper as it flared in his green eyes darkening them. He dutifully stepped out from behind Coral to face his parents, Cas still in his arms. "It's good to see you Mother. Father. I'm glad that you arrived safely," Ryan replied somewhat stiffly though politely. He leaned forward and gave his mother a quick peck on the cheek before shifting Castiel to his left arm in order to shake his father's hand.
Lydia’s blue eyes widened and then narrowed. “What have you got there Ryan? Is that a cat?”
Ryan nodded. “Yes, this is Castiel and he’s a Maine Coon Cat. I rescued him out at the firing range,” he explained.
Ryan’s father arched an eyebrow. “You are aware son that cat can grow to be as large as a small dog, aren’t you?”
Ryan bit the inside of his cheek in order not to make a smart retort. “Yes father, our vet here on the resort researched him. He told me and Coral all about him. He even gave us a couple of books so we can read up on him. He’s very gentle and a good kitten.”
Lydia said, “Well, I’m glad you have someone here to help you take care of it. I'm sure it wouldn't have lasted as long if it was left entirely up to you.”
Coral said quietly, “Ryan cares for Castiel. I only give support when needed like feeding him while Ryan’s on duty, otherwise Ryan takes full charge and care of him. He's doing a very good job of it, as you can see."
Lydia and Jerome exchanged disbelieving glances with nearly identical expressions as though they'd eaten a particularly sour lemon.
Ryan sighed, but kept a hold on Castiel.
Coral smiled gently at Ryan's parents even though he could tell that this was not going as smoothly as he'd have liked. He snaked out an arm and placed it around Ryan's shoulders, squeezing reassuringly while the younger man clung to his very large kitten. "Please come in and make yourselves comfortable," he continued, drawing back to leave Ryan's parents room to enter.
Jerome took Lydia's arm and they entered the bungalow. "At least it's neat and clean," Lydia remarked as she entered and glanced around.
Jerome nodded. "A far sight cleaner than that dump Ryan was living in," he said acidly.
Ryan's face turned red at his parent's comments, but he bit his tongue and cuddled his cat.
"Ryan has come a long way," Coral said quietly. "Even before I met him he had a lot going in his favor." In Coral's opinion, if the O'Donnell's hadn't liked the trailer their son had been living in they should have helped him invest in a new one, or arranged for him to live elsewhere. He mentally head slapped himself, comparing Ryan's parents to his own.
"Well, I can see he's done better living here with you Coral," Lydia said, sitting primly on the couch after checking it for cat hair and dirt and finding it satisfactory.
Jerome nodded. "Yes, I agree, especially if you got him to stop drinking all the time," he said, settling himself comfortably in an armchair
Ryan took a breath, about to make a retort. Coral put his arm around Ryan again and squeezed. He could feel his boy shaking in anger and he didn't much care for the way these people treated their son. "Ryan is the one who stopped himself, I was only here for moral support," he quipped. "Are either of you thirsty after your long trip? Would either of you like some coffee? Or tea?" Coral asked to change the subject.
Lydia nodded. "Yes, coffee for us both would be nice thank you."
Ryan said, "I'll be right back...nature calls." He made to move toward the bathroom, carrying Castiel with him.
Not wanting to be alone with Ryan’s parents for too long or for Ryan to be exposed to them without his presence Coral asked, "Ry, when you're done will you help me get the cups and tray ready?"
Ryan nodded. "Yes Coral." He took off to the bathroom where he could be alone for a few minutes.
Before Coral could make his escape, Lydia asked, "How do your parents feel about your marrying Ryan?"
Jerome nodded. "Yes, the two of you seem an unlikely pair," he asked referring to their color difference.
Coral smiled despite the older couple's attitudes. "My parents are thrilled that I've finally found someone," he admitted. "They'd pretty much given up hope that I was ever going to find anyone good enough to meet my standards."
Lydia and Jerome exchanged looks at Coral's words. "You find my son up to your standards?" Jerome asked a bit incredulously. "Well...he's not really a bad boy, just a bit difficult to handle."
"He's not a bad boy at all, sir. Just a bit lost at times, and it's my pleasure to help him when he needs it, just as he helps me. He's a wonderful man, Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell. You have a lot to be proud of."
Jerome and Lydia exchanged glances full of disbelief once more. Jerome half shrugged and said, "Thank you Coral."
With a tense smile and a quick nod, Coral went into the kitchen to get the refreshments ready.
Ryan returned, a bit more composed after spending some alone time with his furry friend. He gently put Castiel down, brushed off a few cat hairs, washed his hands again, and began to help to set up the tray for coffee.
"The coffee is nearly ready, Mr. and Mrs. O’Donnell, then we can sit a while longer and chat,” Coral said.
Once alone in the kitchen, the kitten jumped up onto his usual perch and curled his tail under Ryan's chin. Coral wrapped his arms around Ryan and gave him a big, bone popping hug. "You're doing great, Hon. I'm so proud of you," Coral said quietly, for Ryan's ears only.
Ryan turned into Coral's hug and hugged back for all he was worth. "I'm surprised they even came," he whispered to Coral.
Coral chuckled and stroked his fiancé's soft hair and said, "Whatever else they might think, Ry, you're still their son, and they do love you in their own way. They were going to want to meet the man who took you away from them, and make sure that I'm not some kind of ogre. I'm positive that if they suspected that I mistreated you they'd insist you leave with them. Just remember, slow, deep breaths. You're doing great," Coral said.
Ryan nodded and took a couple of deep breaths and stroked his half-grown cat.
"Coffee's done, Ry. Why don't you put out the platter of those cookies we bought at the bakery?" Coral asked a little more loudly so that the O'Donnell's could overhear him.
Ryan did as Coral asked him putting out the cookies, but secretly not believing that his parents would take him away if they thought Coral was hurting him.
Lydia said to Jerome, "At least the man knows how to entertain properly."
Jerome nodded. "Yes, he seems to be a nice person, makes me wonder why he hooked up with our son. He's been trouble as long as I can remember."
Coral heard the man's words and his jaw clenched so tightly it hurt. He forced himself to relax and carried the tray with the cups, cream, sugar, and spoons into the living room. He was glad there was nothing sharp in reach because these people were really starting to get on his nerves, speaking about Ryan as though he weren't in earshot and could hear every word. He returned to the kitchen to put the coffee in a carafe and then returned to the living room.
"Ryan has grown into a fine man. Did you know he graduated with honors from the Academy? We were fortunate to get him. He's been a great asset to the resort," Coral said conversationally, pouring coffee for their guests. He and Ryan sat across from the O'Donnell's.
Jerome nodded. "Yes, I'm still wondering how that happened. Ryan wasn't ever one much for school."
Lydia nodded. "It was because he graduated we gave him the shooting range to run. The place had belonged to my husband’s father and when he passed we had thought about selling it, but had just never gotten around to it. We thought it was something he could do with his degree."
Ryan said, cuddling Castiel in his lap, "I like working security here and runnin' the range too."
Jerome said, "Speaking of the range, how are you running it while you're living here?"
"I run it on the weekends and when there's somethin' important. Otherwise Coral's friend Aaron is running it during the week when I can't be there. Everythin' is very organized and you can check it over anytime you want to," Ryan said a bit defensively.
Jerome nodded. "I just might do that as long as I'm here."
Ryan looked at Coral, but sat down and took a cookie from the platter after offering it to his parents who each took one as well.
Lydia couldn’t stand it any longer. She had been watching Ryan with his half-grown cat and finally burst out, “Ryan! Animals belong outside you know that. Get that cat out of here.”
Ryan’s green eyes widened at his mother’s words. He wanted to scream at her, but took a deep breath. “Mother, Castiel is mine and Coral and I make the decisions about him. He’s welcome to stay in the house with me as much as I or my furry friend here wants.”
Coral’s dark brown eyes narrowed at Lydia’s outburst and he was so proud of how Ryan had held himself in check he put an arm around his fiancé and the cat and said quietly, “Mrs. O’Donnell, Ryan is correct. This is our home. We happen to like animals and have no problem with them being here.”
Lydia gave her husband a disapproving look at Coral’s words about the cat being in the house. She tilted her head in the men's direction in a clear gesture that he should say something to them about their attitudes.
Jerome gave a little shrug and said somewhat reluctantly, “It is their home.”
Lydia sighed but nodded, although it was clear in her expression that she didn't like the arrangement.
Coral smiled, trying not to force it as he looked at Ryan's father, continuing the conversation about the firing range. "You'll find everything in perfect order at the range," he assured the older man. "Ryan kept very accurate records. Even our friend was impressed when he saw Ryan's filing system, and he's a hard man to please. He also worked at the academy before coming here."
Jerome arched his eyebrows slightly, still not entirely believing anything that was being said. “I’m glad the man approves of our son’s work. It's good to hear that someone does."
Coral knew a lost cause when he saw it and changed tactics. Hoping to warm the cold, unfeeling couple up a little bit Coral said, "We're looking forward to giving you a tour of the resort. It's quite beautiful. I think you'll like it."
Jerome nodded. "So far I have seen a lot here I like."
Lydia also nodded, in reluctant agreement. "Oh yes, it seems a very beautiful place and we're looking forward to seeing more of it. Mr. Markham mentioned a tour of the resort as well."
Ryan asked Coral, "Do you think we should wait for your family to arrive and then take them all together?"
"I thought that might be the best plan," Coral agreed. "My parents should be here very soon now. I'm looking forward to everyone meeting." He put his arm around Ryan's shoulders and pulled the young man in for a hug. The furry feline crept up onto Coral’s arm as he put it around Ryan’s shoulders, not wanting to be dislodged from his perch.
Coral smiled at their fur ball.
Lydia replied in a somewhat disinterested tone, "Yes, meeting the others should be interesting."
Jerome nodded. "Yes, getting to know your future in-laws is always challenging."
Ryan squirmed and shifted nervously. He unconsciously snuggled closer to Coral.
Coral laughed, deliberately not taking offense to the people's tones. "Challenge is the right word," he joked. "The Okoro clan can be a bit on the loud side. My parents, and my sisters and their families will be arriving soon. They have great kids but they can be a handful."
Jerome raised an eyebrow. "Then you must be used to dealing with handfuls." He looked meaningfully at Ryan.
Ryan bit his lip and blushed. "Dad!"
Jerome said, "It's the truth Ryan and your man should know it."
Ryan's green eyes flashed and he was about to retort until Castiel began to purr loudly in Ryan’s ear and he smiled over at his now pretty large kitten.
Coral squeezed Ryan's hand and gently rubbed his thumb down the back of it. "I know a lot about Ryan, and there are depths to him that I haven't discovered yet. I'm not exactly an angel either. If he can put up with me then it's my gain," he said, planting a kiss on top of Ryan's head.
Jerome exchanged an unreadable look with Lydia.
Lydia said, "Well dear, if it makes you happy...then we'll go along with it." Her tone lacked the sincerity that Ryan so desperately wanted.
Ryan tensed. He just wished that for once his parents could be happy for him or that they'd want him to be happy. Castiel meowed softly.
"Ryan makes me very happy, Mrs. O'Donnell," Coral said. "And I like to believe that I make him happy as well, and that's all that matters to me." He could feel the tension in Ryan's shoulders at his mother's condescending tone. He was afraid that if Ryan's folks kept up with the attitude that he was going to be the one to lose his temper. It was more the way they said things than what was actually said that made Coral believe that the O'Donnell's didn't hold out much hope for their son.
Lydia gave a very insincere smile and replied, "I'm glad for you then."
The phone rang and Coral picked it up, not taking his arm from around Ryan's shoulders. "Coral here," he answered. After a pause his face lit up. "Wonderful, Jeff! Yes, would you all please escort them here? We'll be waiting."
"If you'll excuse me a moment, I'm going to bring out another tray. My family will be here any minute," he said happily. "Ryan, would you help me please?"
Ryan nodded. "'Kay Coral." He went with his man, his furry pal riding on his shoulders.
When they were away from Ryan's parents, Coral leaned down and gave his fiancé a quick but firm kiss on the mouth. "You're doing great, sweetheart."
Ryan clung to Coral. "I'm ready to strangle my mother and to kick my father in the butt," he confessed. "I'm glad they'll only be here for a short time or I'd commit murder. I’m real glad Castiel’s here too, he distracts me and it helps although I know my mother especially doesn’t like him all over me all the time. She keeps giving me disgusted looks."
"I noticed and I'd like to slap them upside the head," Coral confided with a conspiratorial grin. "But we're not going to allow ourselves to sink to their level, are we?" he asked, kissing Ryan again, more gently this time.
Ryan returned the kiss and Cas batted at Coral. "I guess not...besides I don't want you to swat me in front of them...and I don't want to be sore for our weddin' day or night."
"I wouldn't swat you in front of them, Angel," Coral promised. "I'd rather you behaved yourself for me because you love me, than because you're afraid of a spanking," he whispered.
Ryan squeezed Coral tight. "I love you Coral, but sometimes my temper gets the better of me and my good sense goes out the window or I don't think before I act. I'll try hard to behave in the manner I know I’m capable of though."
Coral hugged Ryan to him, rocking him slightly. "I know, Angel. That's all I ask. Now let's get out there before they think we abandoned them."
He quickly brought out another tray of cups and another carafe of coffee. Coral then moved up enough chairs into the circle
around the coffee table to accommodate the adult members of his family.
Ryan joined his future husband, bringing out more cookies, looking somewhat more relaxed at the thought of the Okoro's being there. Perhaps, he hoped, his own parents would warm to Coral's family and stop the O'Donnell's from being so stiff and formal. He fidgeted nervously, biting his lip as he awaited the arrival of the Okoro’s. He loved his fiancée’s family, but was totally unsure how his parents would react to them.
Lydia scolded, "Ryan, I thought you'd have outgrown that habit of biting your lower lip by now and stop fidgeting. Sit down and act like the adult you're supposed to be."
Before Ryan could react to his mother’ scold, there was a knock at the door.
Coral grinned as he saw the twins standing there with arms full of games with which to entertain the children while the adults got to know each other.
"Thank goodness you're here. Just set up everything on the kitchen table. We have milk and cookies laid out for all of you."
He turned toward the O'Donnells and introduced Little Jake and Jarrod. "They'll be helping with the kids until we're ready to go." he explained.
The O'Donnell's didn't look too happy at the idea of children being in attendance and were just about to voice their objections when another knock came at the door.
This time, James, Jeff, Mutt and Adam were standing outside the door with a small army of Okoros in their wake. Coral was grateful for the distraction because he was sure that he had been about to snap at the overbearing woman who by this time looked, to him, like a puffer fish.
James smiled at Coral. "I believe this bevy of happy people belong to you Coral," he teased.
The words were barely out of his mouth when Coral's mother entered first, beaming and saying loudly and happily, "Oh, baby! We're so happy for you! This is going to be a wonderful night, and tomorrow is going to be a dream come true. Where's our darling Ryan?"
Coral was surrounded by happy people, congratulating and patting him on the back and hugging him. He drew them in returning their hugs and smiles, then introduced them all to the O'Donnell's.
Ryan was quickly engulfed by the Okoro clan and hugged and kissed and patted with every bit of enthusiasm as they'd greeted their son. The kitten meowed loudly and caused everyone to laugh at his antics, except Ryan’s parents who looked at the furry animal with disapproval.
Ryan felt a bit overwhelmed by the love and affection being shown to him.
Mrs. O'Donnell looked as though she were ready to explode. She and her husband had always made it a point not to make too big of a fuss over Ryan in order to prevent him from becoming spoiled, and these people were undoing a lifetime's worth of work.
Coral turned quickly back to James and the others and asked them if they wanted to join the gang for coffee.
James smiled. "I think we'll leave all of you to get acquainted. Remember we're meeting at the gazebo at two for the rehearsal, at which point we'll assign the children their roles for the wedding."
"Thank you, James. We'll see you then. Thanks guys." Coral smiled as he shut the door and turned back toward his company.
Lydia and Jerome forced smiles as they stood and came forward. "How do you do? I'm Jerome and this is my wife Lydia."
"Omari," Mr. Okoro introduced himself with a smile and a handshake. "And my wife, Zahra. These are our three daughters, Opal, Ame, and Topie, their husbands Kevin, Braydon and Dono, and the children who we'll introduce to you later since there are so many of them."
"Good to meet you," he said, unable to take his eyes off of the one white child in the group.
Lydia said somewhat formally, "It's nice to meet you Zahra. Coral seems to be a very nice man."
Zahra grinned and hugged her son as well as the smaller woman was able. "We like to think so, thank you. And your son is cute as a button. He's so sweet," she said. "You must be very proud of him. He's a wonderful man."
Jerome exchanged a look with Lydia. He cleared his throat and said, "Thank you."
His response was nearly drowned out by the children greeting their uncles.
"Indoor voices, children," Omari said, just loudly enough to be heard above the din. The children immediately calmed down, still smiling.
Ryan blushed at Zahra's words and shivered a little at the decibel levels of the children, grateful when the cacophony stopped. Cas had been meowing loudly as well, adding to the din. He pressed close to Coral.
"Uncle Ryan," little Angela asked, smiling shyly up at the young man, “Can I pet Castiel?”
Ryan smiled. “As long as everyone quiets down and don’t scare him. He’s not used to all this noise,” he shared.
The children all quieted and each one gently stroked the half grown cat who purred loudly.
In minutes, all the children were surrounding Ryan and Castiel all wanting to touch the furry thing who seemed to revel in all the attention.
Lucas grinned. “Uncle Ryan, he’s gotten a lot bigger than when he was with you at Halloween.”
The young man chuckled as the other children chimed in as well about how large the kitten had grown. “Yes, he’s supposed to be big. He’ll grow a whole lot more before he reaches his full size,” he told the children with a smile.
"Mom, dad, everyone, please come over to the living room," Coral invited. "Have a seat."
Ryan said, "Maybe I'll stay and play with the kids."
Coral squeezed the young man’s shoulder. He smiled kindly down at his overwhelmed looking fiancé and shook his head very slightly to let his soon to be husband know that it wasn't the best idea.
Ryan gave Coral a little smile in return but reluctantly went with him to join the adults.
Jerome asked, "Omari, what do you do for a living?"
"I'm an investment banker," Omari answered with a smile. "I thought for sure that Coral would go into the business like me but he wanted to be a police officer. Ever since he was a little kid," he added, proudly. "What line of work are you in?" the man asked politely.
Jerome said, “I'm a corporate executive and I thought Ryan would want to go into the business like me, not become a policeman. I suppose it was a good thing because he was able to take over his grandfather's shooting range for something to do." He asked, "You weren't disappointed that your son didn't follow in your shoes?"
Omari gave the other man a look. “Not at all, my wife and I are very proud of Coral’s accomplishments. We’ve always encouraged our children to follow their own path in life.”
Lydia commented to Omari, "Ryan was such a rebellious child. Becoming a policeman was the last thing I expected."
Ryan blushed at is parent’s words and bit his lip. He realized he was doing that when his mother gave him a look and stopped. Castiel had extricated himself from the children and jumped back onto Ryan's lap.
"We were thrilled when your son agreed to take more hours here at the resort," Coral said. "He does an excellent job of splitting his time between here and the range, and both the men at the range and the residents here at the resort are all very fond of him."
Jerome nodded. "Yes...I see," he replied, unimpressed.
"Some people just need the right kind of structure and guidance to flourish," Omari said. "He must have found what worked for him because I'd heard nothing but good things about your son ever since Coral met him at the academy. It was a pleasure when we finally got to meet him in person."
Ryan sighed. He understood he had always been a disappointment to his parents especially once they found out he was gay. He sat tensely and quietly while the conversation flowed around him, occasionally stroking Castiel who had rejoined him once the children's attention had been caught by the twins and all the games.
The youngest girl again smiled shyly and invited Little Jake to play Chutes and Ladders.
"My favorite!" the younger twin said. "How did you know? I'd love to." He sat down and took a game piece to join her and her brother Austin and began to play.
Caitlyn, Kyle, Sasha and Noah entertained themselves in a game of Mousetrap, laughing each time one of them set it off.
Jarrod joined the three other children in a nerve wrenching game of Avalanche, laughing and groaning as more and more marbles fell. Since Coral and the other Okoro's didn't seem to be bothered by the noise, the O'Donnell's remained quiet, although they found the noise a bit aggravating. Ryan had never been allowed to play noisy games for that very reason.
When the cookies and coffee were gone and everyone, even the O'Donnell's looked a little more at ease, Coral said, "Looks like we're good to go."
"Kids, it's time to head out. Remember to behave yourselves," Omari warned.
"We will grandpa," they chorused.
Lucas added, “Yes Papa.”
"Awww, we were just beginning to have fun," the twins complained.
Lydia and Jerome looked on at the twins in amazement, then looked up at Coral's words. "Yes, I do believe we're good to go."
Ryan took a deep breath, but smiled at the twins and the kids as they got up to put on their jackets. He put Castiel into his carrier for safety, making sure the large kitten had enough food and water. He thought to himself they’d need to get a new carrier soon as he had about outgrown the one they had.
“Little Jake, can you and Jare pack up the games before you join us at the gazebo?"
"Sure," Jare said as he and his brother haphazardly threw pieces into the correct boxes, not caring if the covers fit or not. Soon they had their jackets on as well and had joined the throng.
James showed up with Jeff, Mutt, Adam and Torren in the golf carts to take everyone to the gazebo. Dono held little Angela on his knee while Topie cuddled their little Zander who was nearly seven months old.
Ryan asked Coral softly, "Can we walk?"
His future husband wrapped a comforting arm around the young man again and squeezed gently. He looked at James. "Would you mind terribly if Ry and I walked to the gazebo? It's been a full day and we just need to clear our heads a little."
The older man said, "No, I don't mind. By the time you get there Duke and Harry will be there too."
Ryan smiled gratefully at the resort owner and said softly, "Thank you."
James looked at both men and said, "You're welcome."
"Great, thanks," Coral smiled. "Mom, dad, Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell... well, everyone," he continued with a laugh, "we'll meet you all there in just a few minutes."
Coral was nearly as relieved to see everyone head out in the golf carts as Ryan seemed to be. "Need to talk, Angel?" he asked.
Ry nodded. "I'm sorry my parents are bein' such jerks."
"They are hard on you, kid, but you've been holding your own remarkably well. I'm very proud of you for controlling your temper despite the jabs your parents have been throwing at you since they arrived. You're showing them the admirable adult you've grown into, and not the hot headed, spoiled child they see you as."
A sudden thought hit Coral and he began to laugh.
Ryan asked, "What are you laughin' about?"
"Did you ever see the original Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? The one with Gene Wilder as Willie?"
The younger man shook his head. "I don't think so. I think I only saw the Disney version."
"Well in the original the Oompa Loompas did a lot of singing. One of the songs went like this... he took a breath and sang, 'Who do you blame when your kid is a brat? Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat. Blaming the kids is a lie and a shame. You know exactly who's to blame...”
“ 'The mother and the father'. "
"Your parents would rather blame you for your childhood behavior than themselves. It's easier for them to deal with, than to admit their own shortcomings. Keep that in mind when you talk with them."
Ryan grinned. "So, my parents are to blame if I'm a brat? Can I use that the next time I lose my temper? I'm not to blame...blame it on my mother and father?"
Coral smiled back and petted his boy's hair. "Let's call it 50/50. What you did as a young child was just you being a child. Their inability to deliver what you needed as you grew was their responsibility. And no, you can't use that on me, because I know you've grown as a person, and I do and will hold you responsible for losing your temper. You're a fully grown adult now. Remember that and don't let them tear you down."
Ryan smiled at the petting, but then frowned as Coral continued. "But there's been a couple of times I wanted to unload on them, you bein' here helps though, not because I'm afraid if you correct me, I know you'll never truly hurt me, but because I love you and I wouldn’t want to deliberately disappoint you. Castiel has helped too. I can think of how much he needs me too and depends on me like I do on you." He hugged his husband to be and kissed him.
Coral wrapped his fiancé in one of his all-encompassing hugs and kissed him tenderly. "I love you too, Angel. Now let's head over there. You ready?"
Ryan bit his lower lip, but nodded. "Yeah...as ready as I'm ever goin' to be."
"That's my boy," Coral replied fondly. He put his arm around Ryan's shoulders and they walked, Ryan's head on Coral's bicep, toward the gazebo.