Birthday Dare

by Rick Masters

Chapter 50

After breakfast time seemed to move very slowly, then sped up dramatically throughout the day. Mike and I didn't talk much more about the issue before us but rather filled our time together talking about and doing other things, which probably gave rise to the apparently erratic passage of time. Both of us did find, however, despite our earlier decisions, that the arrival of the director from Dick's company and the arrival of Mike's father, Dan, along with the unexpected arrival of Dan's partner in the business, did make us feel rather nervous.

"Hi, guys. Sorry to spring this on you. It was a late thought, and Jordan agreed to come along at the last minute. I was concerned my thinking might be a bit biased if it came to having to make a decision. This way we can make it together," Dan explained.

"Hello, Mike. It has been quite some time since I last saw you. It's good to see you again," Jordan said, extending his hand towards Mike. Turning towards me he added, "And you must be Steve. It's good to meet you, too. I hope this will not be too traumatic for the two of you."

Dad introduced his director to us. The man shook our hands and then lent in and gave each of us a kiss on the cheek. He whispered, "I can see why you two are attracted to each other." He straightened up with a smile and both of us blushed. Taking charge he said, "You can call me Derek. Are the two mothers joining us for this discussion? I think we should get started."

"You better believe the two mothers are joining in," Mum answered as she walked through with a tray with teas and coffees on it. She was followed by Michelle, who had a tray with a plate of biscuits and some beers and glasses. "Let's get the refreshments sorted, then we can continue undisturbed," she concluded as she put the tray down on the coffee table in the sitting room.

Our dads offered us beers, but we both chose coffee. The two mums had tea, and the four men plumped for beer. Watching Derek swallow a mouthful of beer I had to admit that I would not have thought he was gay. There was nothing in the way he moved or spoke that suggested it.

Having swallowed his first mouthful of beer, Derek took the lead again. "Believe me, Steve and Mike, when I say that it is not our intention to cause you two any trouble. Some of the other directors are insisting that you be part of the publicity we are trying to gain, but I don't believe they'll force us to withdraw our offer if you two refuse. However, having two young men such as yourselves showing that the centre can and does help young people is part of the aim of our publicity through the donation. Mike, you want to say something?" Mike had put up his hand as if he were in class and wanting permission to speak.

"I think we can make this meeting easier if we tell you what Steve and I have discussed. We are already out to a select few people, some of whom go to our school. We want to be able to be a couple at school, and that means coming out to all and sundry. We've decided to do that, but we thought that waiting until the presentation to the centre is made might make the others go a bit easier on us, as there will be that bit of notoriety surrounding us. If there is going to be a delay in the publicity then we might just come out to some of our friends before that and let it filter out. So really our only concern now is that no mention is made of the reason we ended up at the centre in the first place, just that we went looking for advice. People can then assume that it was for advice on coming out."

"That is a very courageous step to take and I commend you. I came here this evening expecting to tell you that we would go ahead with our donation even if you guys refused to be a part of the publicity. Sorry, Dan. I couldn't tell you earlier, because I really only made my mind up on the way over. I can see the point in having a bit of fame to come out under, and I agree that it could help in smoothing the way for Steve and Mike. I propose we try to get this done as quickly as possible. I think we could arrange our side by Wednesday. How about you, Derek? And would that be soon enough for you two?" Jordan interjected.

"Yes, we can make the announcement anytime and work out the logistics with the centre after that. I'm sure the media will be able to get there in time to give us coverage. Shall we aim for late Wednesday afternoon? Would that be okay for you boys to get there, and soon enough for you to show your love for each other nationally?" Derek asked with a huge teasing smile on his face.

Mike and I turned to look at each other. We didn't have to discuss anything. We both knew that we would agree to that, so I turned back and said, "Yes, that will be fine with us."

Jordan raised an eyebrow and was about to ask how I could answer for both of us when Dan said, "They have this thing between them, Jordan. It will be fine."

That caused the second eyebrow to rise, and he said, "Remind me not to play bridge with you guys if you partner up." Everyone chuckled. "Well then, thank you, boys. Now I am going to give you my persuading talk that I had prepared just so it doesn't go to waste." That got some more chuckles.

"While I am well aware of the circumstances and how much your fathers were involved in getting our two companies to make donations to the centre, we are very aware that it started with you two. We know that most kids tend to sit back and expect everything to be done for them. Because you two didn't follow that pattern, something good is happening. It will help a lot of other people who are experiencing difficulties, often through no fault of their own. We wanted to show what young people who are willing to get off their butts and do something can achieve and hopefully encourage more young people to do the same. We are worried that the leaders of tomorrow will still be sitting back expecting it all on a plate."

"And that is it in a nutshell," Derek added. "Steve, Mike, it's not going to be easy for you. No matter how famous you are there will still be bigots out there who want to take a shot at you because you're gay. I act straight more than I do gay because I know that it could kill our business if some of our clients knew that I'm gay. I don't believe that we would gain as much from the more accepting client base as we would lose from the bigots. Both of you have great parents, and you can be as proud of your parents as they are of you, but should you need further help either ask your father to come to me or pick up the telephone and call me directly. I will do everything in my power to help you, not so much because you are gay, but because you deserve it with your attitude towards life and others. I am proud to be associated with you."

"Hear, hear," Jordan added as he clapped his hands. "And the same goes for me. Send a message and I will help in any way I can, but knowing Dan, and I'm guessing Dick is no different, I doubt there is much that you might need help with that they can't handle."

"Well now that you come to mention it, we will both be going to university in a year or so," I said and grinned. "Just teasing," I added after a short pause.

"Oh, Steve, you are incorrigible!" Mum said, embarrassed.

"No, really, I am just joking, Mum. We're not used to this sort of praise, and I had to say something before I either burst with pride or burnt up with embarrassment," I responded.

"Steve, you might have been joking, but you should take that idea seriously. There are a lot of companies who sponsor young folk through university. Some of the sponsorship comes with understandable strings attached, but not all of it. I have connections with companies who are involved in this sort of thing. After the dust settles on this event both of you come and see me. We'll have a chat about your future, and I'll see if any of my connections can help. Of course you will have to go through the same selection process as any other applicant, but you might have an advantage with the publicity from this event and good letters of recommendation from business leaders," Derek said.

"Thank you. I don't know what else to say but thank you," I said meekly.

"One other thing. You guys are both over seventeen now, so what would you think about finding some holiday work? We don't have anything at the company, but some of my friends do, and I could put a word in for you if you want it," Derek added.

"Thank you, that would be great. We could start saving a bit towards our uni costs," Mike answered for both of us.

"We'll keep our ears open too. It would be better not to take a partner's child on, to avoid accusations of nepotism, but we have friends in the business world who would gladly employ somebody with our recommendation," Jordan added.

"There's one more thing that we need to discuss. At the presentation, you two are going to be highlighted; the media will be after you for comments and statements. I would like to suggest that you take the humble approach and keep it simple. Say that you feel honoured or privileged to have had a part to play in getting the donations from these two companies and you want to thank the companies for their generosity. And leave it at that," Derek suggested.

"Yes, I agree. We will have had a bit to say before you two speak, and a lot of what you might want to say will have already been said. There's no point in repeating it. Rather leave us to take the hard questions," Jordan concurred.

"That's fine by me. I would rather not face the media at all, but I know we can't be at the front and not get a bit of it," I said.

"Yes, we will certainly be happy to leave you to tackle the hard questions. We might even refer some to you, if you don't mind," Mike added.

"Good. That's settled then," Derek said. "Dick, will you come and see me on Monday? There's another matter I would like to discuss with you."

"Yes, of course. What time?" Dad replied.

"When you have a few minutes to spare just give Veronica a call. She'll tell you if I'm free, and you can come on up," Derek said.

"Okay, I'll do that."

Derek and Jordan left within a few moments of each other, leaving our two families together once more.

"I don't feel much like sending my wife home to cook. What say we all go out to a carvery or pub for a meal together?" Dan suggested.

"I second that idea," Mum chipped in quickly.

"We could consider the Mostert Carvery," Dad said with a sly grin on his face.

"If we go to that one, the male chef is on duty tonight," Mum retorted.

"Touché!" Dad admitted defeat. "Anyone got a preference?"

There was a fair bit of discussion, during which almost every food establishment within a twenty-mile radius was mentioned. It was finally settled, after a few phone calls to check availability of table space, to go to the Toby Carvery in the next town; the one for our town was fully booked.

When we got there we had to wait a short while for our table to come free. While we were waiting Derek arrived with another man. He could not miss seeing us as the waiting area formed a part of the entrance vestibule.

"Dick, it seems great minds think alike," Derek said smiling. "I would like to introduce Rupert. Rupert, this is Dick, who works for my company, and his good wife Ruth. This is Steve, their son, and his boyfriend, Mike. I've talked about them quite a bit. And these are Mike's parents, Dan and Michelle. All of you, this is my partner and soul mate, Rupert."

Rupert stepped forward and there was the usual round of handshakes and "good to meet you". Then Derek said, "If they are able to accommodate us with you, would you mind if we joined you? I would like Rupert to have the opportunity to get to know some of those I have been talking about lately, and it will give me the opportunity to get to know you all a bit better."

"I don't have a problem with that. Are you alright with it, dear?" Dan asked Michelle.

"That would be lovely," Mum said, and Dad nodded his agreement.

"What about you two? Are both of you happy with that?" Derek asked us specifically, which made us feel good.

"Yes. It will be nice to share our table with you," Mike answered. I nodded in agreement.

"Good. I'll go see what can be arranged." Derek took off, leaving Rupert with us. We stood in silence for a bit.

"I hope you don't mind, but Derek has shared some of what you discussed tonight. Derek uses me as a sounding board at times." Rupert broke the silence. "Steve and Mike, you are doing a brave thing and a good thing. I hope you do not take too much hassle from your peers at school. I wish that I had had the courage to come out when I was that young. I might have had a very much better life. As it was I was constantly on my guard in case something I said or did let the cat out of the bag."

"Yes, but the people back then were a lot more conservative. You could have had a worse time and been ostracised by nearly everybody, even some of your own family," I said.

"That's true, but Derek and I could have been together more in our teens," Rupert said.

"You've known Derek since you were teenagers?" Mike asked.

"Derek and I have known each other and been good friends since we were five. We didn't discover that we were both gay and in love with each other until we were looking at universities and thought that it would be great if we could go to the same university. Somehow it just slipped out and we had our first kiss," Rupert told us.

"My. That is both sad and happy at the same time," Mum said.

"There's more to that story, but I want Derek with me before we share any more," Rupert said.

"Share any more what?" Derek asked as he returned to us.

"Our life story," Rupert answered.

"Oh, there will be time enough to bore them with that later. If half of us are willing to sit on a bench seat then they can seat us now." Derek said. We all agreed, so the waitress took us through, showed us where to sit, and explained the way the carvery worked and the upgrades and perpetual drinks we could have. Mike and I immediately headed for the bench seat, as we felt we were more suited to working our way along it. Mum and Dad joined us on the bench, and I noticed that Rupert made sure he was sitting on the end immediately opposite Mike so that I would be opposite Derek, with Dan and Michelle next to Derek and opposite my parents. All the males took the upgrade in size but both mums stayed with the standard plate. After our drinks had been delivered we headed up to the carvery to get our main course as none of us wanted a starter first. At the end of the meal Derek announced that this had been a business meal and it was going on his expense account, which pleased our parents.

Derek reminded dad to see him on Monday at work, and we parted company once more and headed home. Mike was riding in our car as he was staying the night, so we said goodbye to his parents at the same time as Derek and Rupert. On the way home, Dad suggested that we might want to watch something on the tele, but he and Mum were pretty tired and were going to take themselves to bed. Mike said that he still needed more rest than before his surgery and we would probably also go straight to bed.

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