Betad by: Charity
On the last weekend of June, they headed to Nice to meet Sam’s parents.
Michael felt the excitement bubbling in his abdomen, what if Sam’s parents didn’t like him? Sam was convinced that such an option would be impossible, but Michael did not dare to fully trust it. Wouldn’t Sam’s parents want their son to have a partner with a similar social background? Wealthy and successful, one who mastered the proper etiquette and manners that were required in these circles.
Michael kind of wished Sam had been from an ordinary middle-class family, wealthy people made him nervous. In New York, he had seen and met several who were too accustomed to their privileged position, the idea that money could be used to buy anything they desired. A young man like him was only for their desires, an object whose feelings were insignificant. Of course, Michael realized that the side he had seen was not the whole truth, yet at the same time he was haunted by the thought of them looking down at him. But Sam seemed so gentle and ordinary, maybe their family’s property was more moderate than he feared.
They arrived in Nice by plane, the day was beautiful and sunny, warmer than it had been in Paris. There was car transport arranged by Sam’s parents from the airport to Sam’s parents’ villa. Michael watched the scenery quietly from the car window; palm trees, blue skies, people walking on the streets, the traffic. They were driving on a road with a direct view to the beach with turquoise sea and from afar he could see the small shapes of people walking there. Michael smiled. ”It’s beautiful here.” He stated and Sam took his hand, squeezing gently.
“We can go for a walk together later this evening, there’s a private beach that is closed to tourists. Tomorrow we can go there for a swim if you like?”
Michael gave a curious look to him.
”I didn’t know you could close a whole beach like that.” He said and Sam chuckled.
“Trust me, sometimes it’s better. The people in the residential area use it, so it’s much calmer and more enjoyable to visit. Much cleaner too.”
Michael nodded. So, a private beach for the rich and privileged people. He decided not to say it out loud.
Before long they drove to a green residential area with beautiful villas, each seeming grander than the next. The driver stopped the car for a moment in front of an impressive and beautiful iron gate, talked something into the radio on its side before the gates opened and they got to drive through them.
Michael swallowed thickly as they drove down the dirt road that led to the light peach-colored stone house, the garden was well maintained, the lawn trimmed to perfection, a little further Michael saw the glazed terrace and a pool.
”Well, are you ready to meet my parents?” Sam smiled, turning to him, and Michael faced his boyfriend. He tried to smile even though he was undeniably nervous. If this villa belonged to Sam’s parents, then they were wealthier than what he had been prepared for.
They got out of the car; Michael’s legs felt weak, so nervous that he wouldn’t be able to make a good impression. In that sunshine, the house felt so big and grand, a place he could surely never belong to with the horrid past that he had, how could Sam’s parents ever accept him? Sam walked beside him. The front door opened and a beautiful, elegantly dressed middle-aged blonde-haired woman stepped out, smiling softly at them. She looked kind and Michael relaxed a little. Her husband soon stepped outside after her, standing now by her side. He was older than his wife, tall and gray-haired, slender. The man smiled just as softly it seemed and though he made Michael feel slightly more nervous than she, he was still warmly welcomed by them both.
”Wonderful to see you, dear, it’s been such a long time!” The woman hugged her son warmly before turning her full attention to Michael. ”Welcome, can I hug you as well?” She asked, reaching out and Michael nodded a little more timidly than he would have liked, accepting her gentle embrace.
”Now just look at you, Sam didn’t exaggerate on the phone at all.” The woman chuckled softly, and Michael looked at his partner in embarrassment. ”You are very handsome, my dear.” She told him and Michael’s cheeks flushed adorably.
”Thank you,” Michael answered shyly and accepted the firm handshake that Samuel’s father gave.
”Gregory Wentworth and my wife Ellen. Pleased to meet you, it was about time for Samuel to settle down.” The man smiled so that the lines on his temples deepened. Overall, the couple gave a very charming appearance on the outside. Michael did not sense any arrogance in them, only gentle curiosity.
“Michael… Michael Wills…” He replied, surprising both himself and Sam, using his real last name for the first time in a long time. It felt almost surreal to say it out loud now. ”Pleased to meet you as well.”
“Well, come on in,” Ellen gestured towards the entrance. ”And don’t worry about your luggage, Albert will take care of them.” She hurried to say as Michael looked in the direction of the car where the man who had been driving them was picking up their luggage from the trunk.
”Is Lisa already here?” Sam asked as they walked inside, referring to his older sister.
”Yes, she arrived this morning with Joshua, she’s currently on the beach with him,” Ellen answered. Joshua was Lisa’s three-year-old son. ”She promised to return in time for dinner.”
“You can go upstairs to freshen up and rest for a moment if you want? Then join us in the living room when you are rested. Dinner is served at seven, would you like something to eat before that?”
”No, thank you, we ate on the way.”
Sam led Michael upstairs to the guest room that had been prepared for them. Albert brought their luggage soon after and then left them alone. The room had a balcony overlooking the pool, Michael opened the door to take a closer look at the outside area. ”What do you think?” Sam whispered behind him, wrapping his arms around his waist, kissing his neck.
“I’m almost speechless… I didn’t expect anything like this,” Michael admitted. ”Is this house rented or not?”
”No. This house has been owned by my parents for almost ten years,” Sam answered. ”Sometimes they rent this to others when they’re at home.” Michael nodded.
”It scares me to think what their house will be like then.” He whispered and chuckled softly.
“This is too much… The kind that an ordinary person can only dream of, and I am ordinary…”
“You’re so much more than ordinary, Michael…” Sam whispered, and Michael smiled, lowering his hand on his.
“Well, my life has indeed been far from ordinary so far, the wrong choice of words, I think … If your parents knew of that past…”
”They would still accept you.” Sam hurried to say and turned so that they were face to face with each other. ”They don’t know what happened to you, it wasn’t my business to tell, but I wouldn’t think it’s bad for them to know.” Michael looked at him hesitantly.
”Maybe they think you’re with me out of pity,” He wondered, and Sam snorted at this.
”My parents know me better,” Sam said sternly. ”And don’t underestimate yourself, or me for that matter!” He grabbed Michael’s hand. “I wouldn’t start a relationship with mere pity, the whole idea is silly! If I felt pure pity for you, I would have offered my help, not my heart.”
Michael felt embarrassed. “I’m sorry… I’m still overwhelmed by everything that’s happened, for all of this, I feel like I don’t belong to a place as grand as this …”
”Relax,” Sam said reassuringly and hugged him. “What we own or don’t own tells us nothing, it’s material. I understand my family is privileged; they understand that too. Don’t judge them or me for what we own.”
”You got it wrong; I don’t judge… But I admit I have some prejudice…”
”All right, I understand, and those prejudices will break soon, you’ll see.” Sam smiled and planted a kiss on his nose. ”Enjoy now, Relax and enjoy, that’s all I ask.
”I’ll try.” Michael smiled.
”Let’s start by taking a shower together?” Sam suggested grinning
“Okay…” Michael replied, leaning forward to kiss him.
“Okay…” Sam laughed softly in the kiss.
Later, they sat at the dinner table with Sam’s family. They had their housekeeper who took care of both cooking and serving. Michael tried to relax, caught the eye of the woman who served them, and smiled softly while whispering his thanks. Samuel’s family seemed at ease in their position, and although everyone was dressed smartly, the atmosphere was relaxed and joyful, with no hint of stuck-up or excessive pride in their manners.
”Where from England are you, Michael?” Ellen asked, looking at him curiously.
”I’m from Plymouth, Devonport to be exact,” Michael answered.
”There’s something familiar about you, I thought you might have been from London, but… Maybe I’m just imagining seeing you before.”
”Or it’s just because I sent you a picture of us a month ago.” Sam chuckled softly at the mild embarrassment he saw on Michael’s face.
”That’s probably it,” Ellen admitted and smiled. ”And what about your parents, what do they do for work?”
Michael tasted his wine while attempting to calm down. It felt strange to talk about his family, painful.
“My mother is a Spanish teacher; her mother was from Spain… And my father, he’s an architect, he is originally from Ireland. They met during their studies in London and ended up living in my mother’s hometown.”
”So, you have pretty fascinating lineages.” Sam’s sister took note, observing him with a gentle smile gracing her lips.
“I guess you could say that,” Michael admitted, smiling back at her. “I spent many summers in Ireland as a child with my grandparents. I haven’t visited my grandmother’s hometown yet, unfortunately, that part of my family has remained distant.”
”I’m sure we can soon remedy that as well.” Sam looked at him with a loving smile and Michael looked back at him with the same gentleness that made Sam’s sister sigh with delight.
”Oh, I’m so happy my brother has finally found someone so wonderful!” Lisa breathed. Michael blushed a little but was pleased to hear her voice her acceptance for him this way.
”Sam said you’re currently working as a waiter and you’re soon starting to train as a chef?” Gregory asked. Michael smiled and nodded.
“It has been my childhood dream and I am lucky that my current work community supports me in my dream. I don’t know if I still have enough energy to apply for a good school, but I will gain experience through my job and maybe someday later I’ll be able to attend cookery school to make it official. ”
”It’s always good to have goals.” Gregory smiled.
”And do you have any siblings?” Ellen wondered and Sam found himself chuckling softly
”Easy on the interrogation, mom!” He pointed out with an amused tone.
“I’m sorry if…” Ellen started. “Of course, I do not mean to make you feel uncomfortable, Michael. I’m just curious, we both are. You’re the first boyfriend that Sam has officially introduced to us.“ Ella smiled softly and glanced at her husband, who nodded while tasting his wine.
”I don’t mind,” Michael assured. ”I had a sister, but she died just a few days old, and my mother couldn’t have any more children.” He responded in a slightly hesitant tone when he wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to tell. He hadn’t talked to Sam about the matter, but now the past seemed to have rushed back to him so strongly in the last couple of days, that…
He had been five years old when it happened, the whole family had been waiting for the newcomer, but the birth had started a month too early and had been difficult. The girl had persevered for a couple of days before she had died. He remembered his mother’s grief and his desire to make her smile again not knowing how to succeed in it. He had finally drawn her a picture where his sister had been sitting on a cloud and told his mother that God would take good care of her, that she was happy there in heaven.
His mother had burst into tears and at first, Michael had been scared he had done wrong in giving the picture to her and thus upsetting her. But she had soon hugged him tightly, thanking him and saying he was right; she was in a better place now, being looked after and waiting until they would see each other again. Everything had a purpose, including suffering and loss, although it was difficult for people to understand at times.
“I’m sorry,” Ellen said, and Michael smiled a little and nodded. ”However, your mother is lucky to have you, I’m sure she’s very proud of you.” She added and Sam lowered his hand to his thigh under the table, rubbing it comfortingly for a moment. Michael couldn’t answer, he didn’t want to start telling them how he hadn’t seen his family in nearly five years. He felt the burden of guilt on his shoulders, and began to realize what Sam was trying to tell him; his parents did not know his fate and, despite everything, would probably want to know. He had allowed Ricky to poison his mind about the matter too effectively.
After dinner, they moved into the living room for drinks. Gregory offered Irish whiskey and although Michael didn’t particularly care about whiskey, he recognized the man’s polite enthusiasm as he emphasized that he had gotten it straight from Ireland and so he accepted the glass. He couldn’t help but to think back on his father, he would have appreciated the gesture, the proud Irish man that he was.
Ellen and Lisa were enthusiastically sharing memories of Sam’s childhood, some of which made Samuel’s cheeks flush quite sweetly as the others laughed benevolently. Michael listened curiously to learn these stories and smiled lovingly at his partner. He was comfortable enough to stroke Samuel’s knee affectionately in front of his family and the gesture did not seem to startle them at all, quite the contrary. The atmosphere was relaxed and accepting, loving and Michael enjoyed it greatly.
Gregory talked eagerly about his hunting hobby. ”Have you ever been to hunt, Michael?”
“No, my dad and my grandfather did go hunting together from time to time, but I was never interested. I like fishing more. My mother’s father was a fisherman and sometimes as a kid, we went boating together. It’s been years though since I last went fishing.”
”Well, then you’ll both come with us to our family’s fishing cottage in the lake district, won’t you?” Gregory was excited. The term: fishing cottage reminded Michael of a small fragile shed-like building somewhere on the edge of the lake but was quite convinced it was not the case.
“Of course,” Samuel smiled and grabbed Michael’s hand. ”It’s a wonderful place.”
”And a lot of fish to be had!” Gregory added.
“I’d love to see the place,” Michael smiled.
“Good, then it’s settled. The first week of September, Is that time suitable for you?” Gregory asked and Samuel thought to himself that they could combine the trip with a visit to Plymouth to visit Michael’s parents. He hoped Michael would be ready for it soon.
”I think we’ll be able to arrange it, right, Michael?” He asked and Michael nodded cautiously. Returning to England in just three months? Would he really be ready for it? He wondered.
”I have to ask for some time off work, but I think it can be arranged.”
The evening had darkened and the air-cooled as they later walked towards the beach with Sam. Sam looked at his partner, who walked silently beside him, a thoughtful expression on his features while looking at the surrounding scenery. Sam knew Michael was reminiscent of his past and would have liked to get closer to the thoughts and memories that traveled in his mind now.
“I like your family,” Michael said, breaking the silence. ”I don’t know if it was silly to mention my sister at dinner.” Michael finally spoke aloud. ”I hope they didn’t get a weird impression of me; I admit I was kind of nervous because I wanted them to like me.”
Sam smiled and grabbed his hand. ”They adored you, that was obvious!” Sam laughed. “My father wouldn’t have invited you to our cottage if he hadn’t liked you…. And no, you didn’t say anything stupid, I’m glad you were honest… But you haven’t mentioned your sister to me before?”
Michael glanced at him and smiled a little sadly. “It’s been so long; I was only five years old. I had hoped for a sister and often wondered what she would have turned out to be like or what kind of a big brother I would have been. Maybe… if Maria had survived… it might be silly to wonder about what-ifs, but maybe I wouldn’t have left home so easily…“ Sam stopped and pulled Michael close, hugging him. ”But if I go down that line of thinking there are a million other different paths or choices that would have led to a completely different outcome,” Michael muttered in Sam’s embrace. “If it hadn’t been for Jack, would I have lost my mind? If I hadn’t encountered Jean, would I have already ended up dead? … If… ”
“Shh…” Sam whispered. ”We’re here now.” He said and Michael looked up at him, nodded, and smiled.
“We’re here now… I’m grateful for you Sam, maybe I would never have met you without anything else and that thought is…” He shook his head. ”I’m so glad I found you, the idea that I hadn’t is painful.”
“Likewise…” Sam whispered, and they kissed each other slowly. The wind was soft and fresh, blowing gently from the sea and the shoreline was already visible. The place was quiet at the time of the evening, maybe if the evening had been warmer there would have been others, but Sam was grateful they were allowed this moment alone.
They finally sat down on the sand and looked out to sea. ”The first boyfriend you introduce to your parents?” Michael asked with a smile. ”Is that true?” Sam looked at him, responding to his partner’s smile before grabbing his hand, stroking his palm softly with his thumb.
”It is. I have met others, been in short relationships and some of them my parents have met but I never introduced them as being nothing more than my friends.” Sam clarified. “My last relationship before you… His name is Daniel, we’re still friends, he always wanted more but I knew I couldn’t give it. I thought I was happier with my freedom… But that was before I met you.” Michael smiled a little overwhelmed, looking down at their joined hands.
“Then I know one of your friends who isn’t going to like one ounce of me…” He whispered with a shy smile and Sam chuckled softly.
“Well, it’s at least safe to say that Daniel is going to like you more than Jean can ever learn to like me…” Sam grinned, and Michael looked at him with a hint of amusement but didn’t know what to answer. “I’m quite foolishly and helplessly in love with you, Michael Wills…” Sam whispered to his ear. “I always enjoy our conversations… which are often much more multi-level than with anyone else… and that… and everything else… Every day I learn more about you and thirst more and more… “His lips caressed Michael’s cheek and neck lightly, making the younger man smile and close his eyes for a moment.
“Mo ghrá thú,” Michael finally whispered, opening his eyes and smiling at Sam’s confusion “I love you,” he clarified, and Sam smiled, touching his face.
”Gaelic?” He guessed and Michael nodded. ”You know how to speak Gaelic too?”
”Just a few phrases, I’d like to learn more… But it’s easily forgotten because there are so rare opportunities where one could use it.”
”It’s a beautiful language,” Sam admitted. For a moment they looked at each other, the air felt fresh, and Michael felt happiness bubbling inside him. It was the kind of moment he wanted to bottle up and keep in his memory for always. He tilted his head back, closed his eyes, breathed air deep into his lungs, and Sam looked at him in rapture.
Michael opened his eyes, looked at him, and grinned before getting up from the sand. He kicked his shoes off, “let’s go swimming, Sam?” He challenged, taking off his shirt.
”Now?” Sam wondered in amusement. Michael nodded.
”Now!” He said and was already running towards the shoreline. ”Or are you afraid your clothes will get wet, Sam?” Michael teased before diving into the water. Sam hurriedly began to take off his shoes and his shirt before following his partner who had disappeared beneath the surface for a moment and stood up laughing. ”This is refreshing!” He shouted and Sam followed him into the water.
”It’s cold!” The blond man pointed out with a smile.
”Don’t be such a wimp!” Michael laughed and splashed water on him.
”What are you shouting there, Paddy?” Sam teased back remembering that Michael had once pondered that he was more Irish in his blood than English or Spanish. Getting past the feeling of chill, Sam swam to his beloved who greeted him with an eager kiss, wrapping his arms around him.
”Watch your words, Sam… especially if you ever meet my father… He’s Irish in both spirit and blood even though he no longer lives there.”
”Is it possible that you would introduce me to your father?” Sam asked with a smile while brushing his fingers in Michael’s wet hair.
”I’ve been thinking about it – more and more every day – I’m scared, but I want to see them,” Michael confessed, making Samuel smile wider.
”Don’t be afraid, I’m with you.” He promised, stealing a new kiss from his lips. ”In September we are going to England anyway… But we can always visit them earlier if you like?”
Michael was silent for a moment, trembling with sudden cold. ”We better get back to the shore.” He said and turned to leave, Sam soon after. Michael glanced at him. ”I’m thinking about it, Sam… First, I guess I have to gather up the courage to call them.” He said as he got out of the water.
”You will,” Sam assured. The air felt even chillier in the wet clothes, they looked at each other’s shivering forms, laughed, and got closer to each other. Michael kissed him.
”Should we go back to the villa?” He asked.
”A good idea.” Sam grinned and planted another kiss on Michael’s nose. He was sure that he’d get to meet Michael’s parents before the winter came, all that was needed was a few gentle nudges to bring the matter forward.