"Nelson! What are you doing here?" his mom yelped, pulling him into a hug.
"Surprise!" he said. "Dr. Max here?"
"No, but he and Amanda are coming by tomorrow. Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
"Everything's been kind of crazy, with getting ready for school, and work, and Kyle getting hurt. I just sort of threw this trip together. We're going to surprise him tomorrow for his birthday."
"Well, that's wonderful! How are you?"
"I'm good," Nelson said, following her into the living room. "Have you talked to Dad lately?"
Nelson shifted from foot to foot. "I…er…broke up with him," he said, chuckling. He didn't know how else to put it.
"He came to California. Just showed up one night, and we had an argument, as usual. He took off, but I went to his hotel the next day to talk to him. Really talk to him."
His mom nodded and motioned for him to sit next to her.
He didn't really know how to continue, it was so bizarre what had happened. "I don't really know how to explain what happened…."
"Just tell me what happened, and what you're feeling," his mom said gently.
Nelson smiled. He'd always been able to talk to her, but in the last year she'd really come to understand how damaged his relationship with his father was, and how much it hurt him. "I've always thought it was me," he started. "You guys started fighting when I started wearing earrings and pink t-shirts to school, so then the divorce happened. And then he never really wanted to spend time with me. I would spend my weekends at his house watching cartoons, while he was locked in the study. So then, when I got older, I guess I started blaming him for everything. Every time I screwed up, it was my 'Daddy Issues' fault, not mine. Well, I don't know what happened when he showed up that night, but something in me…clicked. All at once, I got that he was a bastard, yeah, but I didn't have to be. So I told him about myself the next day. I basically took him hostage and drove around the city, telling him about the parts of high school he missed, about this past year, about my new job, about Manny," Nelson smiled as he said his boyfriend's name. "About how I was afraid I'd screw up and make Dr. Max leave you like he did…"
"Nelson," his mom said, taking his hand.
"I know. I just talked. I talked until I was exhausted. I didn't blame him for anything, I just filled him in. I told him I wished he had been around, and that I still wanted him around if he wanted me. In my mind, I kept telling myself that the ball was his now, he could see me if he wanted to. So by the time all of that crap was over, it was about…one in the afternoon? Yeah, 'cause we grabbed lunch and I asked him how work was going. Actually, that's not true. I asked him what his job was, and he told me how it was going as he filled me in."
"Wait, you didn't know what he does for a living?" his mom asked, astounded.
"Nope. Never cared. All I knew was that it meant he didn't have time for me. So we had lunch and then we went to Manny's art show. I introduced him to some of the people we hang out with, and he bought one of Manny's paintings." Nelson pulled out his phone and showed his mom a picture of a painting on a wall. "He hung it above his couch, apparently."
"So, what do you mean you 'broke up with him'? This sounds like you guys were making progress."
Nelson chuckled again. "I guess 'broke up with' wasn't exactly the right term. I took him to the airport the next day," Nelson continued. "I told him that I wasn't going to wait around for him to be the dad I've always wanted, but if he wanted to see me, or talk to me, I was totally up for it. He said he'd think about everything. He sent me the picture the next day, but I haven't heard from him since." Nelson stopped and took a deep breath. It had taken his entire trip to pluck up the courage to tell his mom that he had finally stood up to and, in essence, been dumped by his dad. Again. But he'd done it. He looked up at her, waiting for her response. He didn't know what he was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn't what happened next.
"I'm proud of you."
Nelson just stared at her. It wasn't the tear-filled "I'm sooooo proud of you!" that had happened at graduation. It was calm, sincere, and earnest. She was looking at him like he'd just won the world series, or found the cure for cancer.
"I'm proud of you."
Nelson didn't know what to do or say, so he hugged her.
"Jason's little sister will be there too," Nelson told Amanda as Dr. Max drove them all to Jason's house.
"Us old people aren't going to be crowding your space?" Dr. Max asked with a laugh.
"Nah, Kyle's parents and Jason's mom will be there. And what are you talking about 'old'? Age ain't nothin' but a number!" He was about to break into the Aaliyah song when they pulled up in front of the house. "Ms. Jay!" Nelson yelled as he got out of the car. He ran to Jason, planning on bear hugging him, but Jason caught him around waist and threw him over his shoulder.
"Into the house before you blow the surprise!" Jason laughed. "Hi Dr. Max!"
Nelson was able to squiggle out of Jason's grip by the time they reached the kitchen. "Hi there Missy!" he said, hugging her. "This is Amanda, Dr. Max's daughter."
"Hi!" Melissa said. "Want to come play Wii?"
"And thus, a friendship was born," Nelson chuckled.
They all waited in the kitchen for Kyle to get there. Jason's mom went to the door when the bell rang. "Hi you guys! Come on in."
"Good night for a housewarming party, eh?" Kyle's dad said.
Jason nodded at Nelson and the two of them walked into the hall, Jason carrying Kyle's rainbow and Skittles decorated birthday cake.
"Well, you know I'm up for any party where there's cake!" Nelson said.
"Surprise!" everyone else yelled.
Kyle stared for a moment, then his face split into a grin. He grabbed Nelson in a hug. "No way!"
"Way!" Nelson said. "Now blow out your candles and let's eat!"
Kyle laughed and complied, keeping an arm around Nelson.
Nelson steered Kyle into the kitchen with the rest of the party. "So good to be home," he said, smiling.
LbN: Hope you liked it! There will be a sequel sometime in the future. Reviews are much appreciated :), and thanks for reading!