Alexa Chapter 25: The New Normal

Alexa Chapter 25: The New Normal

Following the apartments night of celebrating, which got a little, OK a lot, out of hand, Jenny and I decided we needed make the rounds and tell our parents and Mary. We decided that my mom would be first and we made our way down to Faribault in the morning. Mom was surprised as we pulled into the yard at about 10 AM. We were barely out of the car when she began in on us again as to why we were there. Jenny and I each exchanged hugs with my mom and let her push us into the house and to the kitchen table. Jenny and I looked at each other and instantly we both hid our hands so as not to tip of mom. “So, what’s up you two?” Mom said as she took her seat.

Jenny and I looked at each other and she nodded at me with her eyes. I took a moment to screw up my courage and then began in. “Well mom, yesterday, um you see, Jenny and I, I mean we...” The words didn’t want to come out. I could see that mom was getting a bit frustrated with us. Jenny squeezed my leg under the table as my hand wasn’t available. Finally, I decided I just need to say it. “Mom, yesterday Jenny and I got engaged.” Silence. Mom’s eyes opened wide and slowly her mouth opened but nothing came out. Just as her mouth reached full open she creamed out “Om my gosh!” and left her chair and hugged the two of us. She sat back down. “You have to tell me everything! Where did you two propose? Who proposed? Who else knows?” We sat there and began telling the tale of our engagement. I don’t think mom could be any more excited and then she started getting ahead of herself a bit by asking when and where the wedding was going to be. Jenny and I just giggled at that,

As we were sitting there, Danny happened to walk in. I could see that grin on his face as he looked over at the two of us he knew. “Jen, I thought you were smarter than this?” Danny said to my fiancée, and as usual Jenny had to shoot back. “I am smart, now it’s your turn to get smart.” I began to giggle as a horrified look came across my brother’s face. “Don’t be giving her any ideas you two.” My brother warned the two of us as we laughed away. But he did come over and give both of us hugs and congratulate us. He looked at Jenny again. “You’re stuck with her now, you know that?” He asked Jenny as he pointed at me. As I stuck my tongue out at him, Jenny wrapped me in a tight hug and with a big smile looked at my brother and said, “I know, Isn’t it great?” Danny rolled his eyes and walked out of the house.

Following lunch with mom we pried ourselves away from her and continued our journey of informing the family. We made it back to the lake midafternoon and expected to find Mary, but instead we found Marty. He was just pouring himself a drink as we walked in. “Girls! Your home. Can I get you something to drink?” He asked. But as he turned we could see it wasn’t just his typical Bourbon Marty was pouring himself, he had a bottle of champagne in his hands. We just stared at him with our mouths agape. I was the one who was finally able to ask “How?” Marty laughed. “I had a lunch meeting this afternoon at AJ Dunham’s and guess who my waitress was? She started talking to me like I knew what was going on. So, you did it Alexa? And I take it you two are here to tell me?” Jenny and I looked at each other in shock. I turned back to Marty. “Um actually Marty, she asked me.” I informed him. It was Marty’s turn to be shocked. “You asked her?” Jenny stood there proud as a peacock, and confirmed that. Marty shook his head and handed us each a glass and hugged each of us. He proposed a toast to us and as we brought our glasses up, he noticed the ring on my finger. His eyes got real big. He looked over at Jenny and in a very quiet voice he asked, “You got the ring?” Jenny just nodded. “That, that is amazing, and perfect. I bet your grandmother said this, but if there was someone who should wear that ring besides her, it’s you Alexa.” Marty told me, that made me feel even more special. I could see him get a bit misty eyed and then the grunt came out and he tried to change the subject. “So, are you two going to go down and see Frank and get a ring for Jenny?” I got a bit sheepish as Jenny flashed her ring. “I ah, um. I went there” I started in “But I got nervous. I’m sorry Marty but it seemed a little too much for me. I wound up down at the jewelry store I bought our necklaces at. I’m sorry about that.” I did feel bad. Marty has done so much for me these last few months and not to use his advice bothered me a bit. But when he caught sight of the ring I picked out from my little jeweler he was more than surprised. “That’s a beautiful ring Alexa. You must tell me where that place is.” And then he stopped and looked up from his daughter’s hand. “Wait a second. When did you get a ring Alexa?” I muttered under my breath yesterday. Marty stood back and looked at the two of us. A smile crept onto his face and he began shaking his head. “So, let me get this straight. You both had rings. You both were ready to ask each other and somehow you both had thought about doing it on the same day.” The grin turned into a laugh. Jenny and I just stood there looking at each other a bit confused. “If there were ever two people more perfect for each other it’s you two. Tell me do you two share a brain?’

We finished our glasses of champagne while my future father-in-law continued to tease the two of us about our simultaneous decision to propose. As soon as we were done with our glass with Marty, we grabbed the bottle and started to make our way to the guest house so we could inform Mary. As we were walking for the door, I can feel Marty’s hand on my shoulder. I turn and I can see a smile on his face and a tear in his eye. He leans down and kisses me on the cheek. “Welcome to the family, again. Just keep making my little girl happy.” Marty says. I reach up and give him a hug that I swear may have caused some internal injuries. I thank him once again, but decide I need to lighten his mood a bit. I look at him and ask, “Does this mean I get to call you Daddy now?” A grin came to his face. “Not on your life” I walked on to the patio and found Jenny standing there. “I heard that one. I was worth the try.”

We walked into the back door of the guest house where Mary lived during the summer. The term guest house is only applicable because it is smaller than the large house. The two-bedroom house was larger than Barb Fahey’s house back in Faribault. We left the bottle in the kitchen and went into the sitting/living room where we found Mary sitting by the window reading a book. Jenny spoke first. “Grandma, can we talk to you for a second?” Mary put her book down and a knowing smile came to her face. “Of course, you can.” Mary said cryptically. I had the feeling that she knew already but she wasn’t letting on. Jenny and I sat on the couch across from Mary. Jenny started talking and for once I felt a little small around Mary. “Grandma, we thought you should know.” I could see Jenny take a deep breath. “Yesterday Alexa and I got engaged.” A smile that was big as Chicago over took Mary’s face and she came over and wrapped us both in a hug. Mary released us but the smile never left her face. Turning to Jenny. “This calls for a celebration! Go get some Champagne.” Jenny nodded and went to retrieve the bottle we had left in the kitchen. After a toast to our future, Mary took a sip and then looked at her glass. “What is this? Some cheap champagne your father bought Jennifer? Go to the wine cellar and into the chilled room and get a bottle Cristal.” Jenny looked at her grandmother for a second. “Scoot young lady” Mary said with a stern glare. Jenny put her glass down, gave me a quick kiss and was out the door.

Mary and I sat there for a minute and she kept looking at me with a wide grin on her face. Finally, she stepped up to me and gave me another huge hug. I was in shock, Mary and I had a great relationship, I mean I was closer to her than I was to any of my grandparents. But this was so un-Mary. She finally let me go and sat me down on the couch. She sat down and took my hands in hers. “Alexa, you know that I think that you are the best thing that has happened to Jennifer, but I also think you may have been the best thing that has happened to this whole family. I have seen it. All my children just seem to light up when you are around. And so do I. If this was anyone else, I don’t know if I would have so readily given up that ring, but you deserve it. You are a very special young woman; just promise me you will take care of my granddaughter for the rest of her life.” Mary said and then sat back like she was waiting for me to say something. Not wanting to disappoint her, I began in.

“Mary, you know that Jenny is the most important person in the world to me. I will do everything in my power to make her happy for the rest of our lives, I promise.” I state. Mary once again wraps me in her arms and as she is I can see a tear on her cheek. Mary hugs me even more and then sits back up. “Welcome to the family Alexa. If you ever need anything, even just someone to talk to, I am here for you. Now pull yourself together, we don’t want Jenny to think we have been down here crying away.” Mary admonishes me and I step over to the powder room and check my face. Just as I’m returning, Jenny walks in and the smile she has suddenly increases tenfold as she sees me standing there. We both move towards each other and share a rather long kiss. “Enough of that you two. We have some serious things to discuss, like when are you getting married. I don’t want to wait around like I have had to with Julie. I think it should be in the spring.” It was funny to see the excitement on Mary, but it was the best reaction I could ever have dreamed of from this woman who has supported me.

The next few days were spent just reveling in the joy and enjoying our time at the lake. Every day I felt stronger in two ways. My health was getting better and Jenny became a little more relaxed with it. We began having a little more fun, both discreetly and out in the open. We would take the boat out, go shopping, enjoy lunch and enjoyed our love for one another, but that was all about to end unfortunately. School was getting ready to start up again, so Jenny and I decided that our little summer break was over and we figured it was time to move back to the apartment full-time. As we started to get all our things organized we realized just how much stuff we had either accumulated over the last month or brought from the apartment. We decided we need to get some boxes. This proved to be another point of teaching young Miss Thompson more about being a ‘normal’ person. “Where do you buy boxes at?” Jenny asked. I instantly began laughing only to be met by the pouting toddler that would come out when I tease my fiancée.

“You don’t buy boxes babe, you get them for free,” I told her. She looked at me kind of funny before I dragged her downstairs to my car and we drove into Wayzata where our first stop was the liquor store. We were in luck because they were stocking the shelves that day so there were lots of boxes. After grabbing 5 or 6 and stuffing them in my car we went back to the house and began packing up our various clothes, movies, books and trinkets. While we knew we did not have to take everything, but we did want to take as much as possible. When we were done, we loaded my car up and the two of us both drove into Minneapolis and to our apartment. We decided we would leave one of the cars in the parking garage for the next few days until we came back from our last fling at the lake the upcoming weekend. I was the first to arrive and I pulled up to the curb outside the apartment. Grabbing a box, I began walking into the building when I heard two familiar voices from behind me.

“Hey Steve, check out the ass on her,” I heard from the moron Brandon. While I think he was trying to be discreet, he was still loud enough for me to hear. He then got a little bolder and started to try some lines on me. “So, honey, you new to the building? Why don’t you get your things put away and then we will head out for a drink?” As I got to the door I stopped. I couldn’t wait until Brandon figured out who he exactly was hitting on. I decided to put on a little show, I bent at the waist and put the box down giving Brandon and Steve a good shot at my rear. I then stood and spun around and faced my two former nemesis.

“I don’t think that Jenny would care for me going to have a drink with you Brandon, but thanks for the offer.” I told him in the most coquettish voice I had. As I was saying this, two people emerged from the building. I turned and looked. Jenny was standing there laughing away at the two dipshits from down the hall, but the person next to her had fire in his eyes.

“I thought I told you two to leave my sister alone!” The look of terror on Brandon and Steve’s faces was priceless. They turned and high tailed it as fast as they could. Danny looked at me. “Why is my little sister such a tease?” He asked and then flashed me his smart ass little grin before bending down and picking up the box and heading inside. Jenny just wrapped her arms around me and gave me a long kiss. “He is right, you are a tease. One sexy hot tease. Just promise me you won’t tease me like that.”

“Never“ I told her. “Except for when you deserve it” and I laid a long kiss on her. As we broke the kiss I asked her, “When do we tell those two idiots that we are engaged.” This caused Jenny to laugh uncontrollably. “I don’t know, but we are going to be together when we do it. I want to see the looks on their faces.” We shared another quick kiss and headed to the car to get more boxes. Once again, our love shining through. We held hands and walked to my car before each grabbing a box and heading upstairs.

That night we settled in to our ‘normal’ life like we had never left. I made dinner that night and the four of us sat down. I had missed cooking and getting back into the swing was as therapeutic as anything. We sat down to a dinner of Chicken stir fry that was loaded with vegetables, the kind of food my brother loved to turn his nose up at. “God, you have gone girly Lex. What’s all this vegetable crap, you hate vegetables.” My bother chimed in. I told him to shut up and that vegetables were good for you. He just laughed and I told him to shut up again. Katie groaned at the two of us. “Home for just a couple of hours and you two are already at it.” This caused laughter from Danny and I and a question from Katie to Jenny. “Are you sure you want to be part of this?” Jenny giggle and gave me a kiss. “Does that answer your question Kate?” Jenny said.

As we sat and talked, I asked Danny what he was doing there “Going to the State Fair, bright and early. Have to go see the big pig.” I began laughing and Katie just rolled her eyes. We both knew about my brother’s love of the ‘big pig’ at the State Fair. It had started when a friend’s family had raised the biggest boar of the year when he was about 13. Ever since that, Danny had to make the trip to see it. The boars were anywhere from about 1100 to 1300 pounds and just laid around, but Danny had to see it. “Big Pig?” Jenny asked and Katie went on to describe it. Jenny became a bit excited. “I want to see the big pig! Let’s go Lex! I ‘ve never been!” Silence descended. “You’ve never seen it?” I asked. Jenny got a bit bashful. “I’ve never been to fair.” I wrapped an arm around her and began apologizing, I tend to forget sometimes that she has led a life that was different than the way I was brought up. I gave her a quick kiss and rubbed her cheek and watched her smile as I asked. “Do you guys mind if Jenny and I tag along?”

So, the next morning we were up, showered and ready to go at 8:00 AM to hop one of the many busses that ran between the Minneapolis Campus and the State Fair Grounds. It had taken me some time, but I was able to convince Jenny that this was not a fashion show and that we would be doing a lot walking, almost as much as the Magic Kingdom. Danny and Katie finally came out and after Danny and Jenny got their morning teasing out of the way we headed down and caught the bus. I have always loved the fair and now I was taking my fiancée to experience it for her first time. We got off the bus and proceeded into their fairgrounds. The one thing about coming during the morning on a weekday was there were far fewer people, but the numbers would still swell to over 150,000 people visiting the fair that day. We decided to make our way to the pig barn so we could see the ‘big pig’. The hard part was as the four of us made our way down Liggett Street, the rides of the Midway caught Jenny’s eye. I was able to drag her past that but we got held up at the horse barn. Jenny had to go in, much to the frustration of my brother. We walked the aisles and checked out the Percherons, Arabians and Quarter Horses. Us three girls marveled at the size and beauty of these animals but my brother just pouted behind us. We all took turns at teasing him about it. Katie finally had enough of it, turning to me and Jenny she said, “Come on you two, let’s get the little baby to his piggy before he starts crying” A growl came out of my brother, trying to be as kind as possible he told Katie to be quiet.

We walked into the Swine Barn and the smell hit us. Not a bad smell, but one that Danny, Katie and I were used to. Jenny commented about it and plugged her nose. I kidded her that she was acting like a princess, which earned me at first a hip check and then a hug and kisses of attrition. She pulled me in and said, “I’m not the princess, you are. My princess” and the kisses became much deeper and passionate. Our moment was broken by Danny, “Jesus you two! In the pig barn for Christ sakes?” Katie rolled her eyes and pulled us away from each other and the four of us proceeded on to catch the winner of this year’s largest Boar Contest. The Grand Barrow was raised by the Zimmer family in Dassel. The pig weighed over 1100 pounds and Danny was like a little kid he was so happy. He went over and petted it, knelt and tried and look it in the face and even had Kattie take a picture of him with it. Kattie refused to have her picture taken with both the pig and Danny until he pouted. Jenny took the picture but was not that interested in having our picture taken with Porky. We decided to leave the two lovebirds, Danny and the pig, alone with Katie and decided to make our way around the rest of the swine barn. Not only were there other pigs but also many of the sheep were housed there. As we walked through checking out the sheep, we got to one of the pens and I instantly got nervous. I realized that we were standing in front of my cousin Ashley’s sheep. I forgot mom had said something about her raising one. I looked over at Jenny and said we should get going. “Why? There are more to see. I want to check them out.” I pointed at the sign that hung above the stall and I watched as the information sunk in. We started to move quickly towards the exit when we ran right into Ashley. “Ah hi Ashley” I murmured as my 15-year-old cousin stood there. What shocked me was that she was smiling. “Hi Alexa!” she said excitedly and tried to give me a hug. I felt that there was nothing to do but return it. She then said hi to Jenny before coming back to me “So how have you been? You look great!” I was confused, was one of my Quinn cousins being nice to me? I looked at Jenny and then back at Ashley. “So, I heard the two of you are engaged! That’s so great have you set a date yet?” Jenny told her no, even though by the look on her face I could tell she was in just as much shock as me. “Well Jenny, welcome to the family, just watch out for the men. I wish I could talk longer but I have to get my sheep ready for judging.” Ashley gave me another hug and ran off. As I was standing there dumbfounded, Danny came up from behind with Katie.

“Who was that?” Danny asked. I turned and looked at my brother “That was Ashley.” The confessed look I had took over his face. “Ashley Quinn? Our cousin?” he asked and I just nodded. “She hugged you?” I could only nod. I looked over at Jenny and watched a smile creep across her face. She grabbed my hand and lead me out of the Swine Barn, head held high and as proud as can be. I knew that she was thinking it was another example of how more people were beginning to accept me, but his was my cousin. A cousin I had never really been close to and she was the first Quinn outside of my immediate family who had accepted me as I was. I remember the sad look on her face when mom lost it on her dad and the other Quinn uncles. But now, she was very accepting. Jenny and I looked at each other once again and big smiles came across our faces. Instantly we both knew what we wanted to do and ran to the sheep barn and looked for the show times. We waited for Ashley to come out and show her sheep and cheered her on. I could see my Uncle Bob and Aunt Karen sitting there looking at Jenny and me in confusion as to who was cheering their daughter on. Finally, I could see a look of recognition on their face as they saw Danny and Katie follow us in and cheer Ashley on too. When it was done, Ashley came over and thanked us for cheering her on. “That was so cool. That has never happened before but it was great” she told us as she hugged me and attempted to hug Danny. Before her parents came over, I wanted to ask her why she was being so friendly, so different than the rest of the Quinn’s.

“Well mostly because I have always liked you and if this makes you happy, so what. I have friends in high school that are gay, and it doesn’t bother me, so why should it bother me if my cousin is transgender.” I hugged her once again and thanked her for making me feel part of the bigger family again. As she stepped back she said one of the ultimate truths. “Besides, most of the uncles are dicks. They should never have acted that way to you or your mom. They should only care if you are happy.” I thanked her and gave her another hug. Just as we were breaking away from each other, I saw my Aunt Karen approach our little group. “Come on Ashley, your father wants to get going” Karen said as she lightly dragged her daughter away. Ashley could not be stopped. “Bye Alexa, Bye Jenny congratulations again. See ya Danny” my young cousin called out. I stood there smiling about gaining an ally in the Quin family. I watched her mother begin to scold her, but I also could see Ashley ask why. She turned one more time and waved before disappearing out of the show barn. I looked down and realized she had slipped me a piece of paper and it was her phone number. I knew that today would not be the last time I talked with my young cousin.

Following our viewing of the sheep judging, we continued up Judson Avenue and stopped at the Miracle of Birth Barn where we got to see all kinds of newly born animals. We had just missed a calf being born but it was neat to see the barely hour old calf already suckling up to its mother. It was fun watching Jenny pet and touch the other young animals. She giggled and squealed like all the little kids who were there petting the animals. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the joy on her face. Danny came up next to me and put his arm around me as we watched both Jenny and Katie pet a baby sheep. “You’re pretty luck Alexa” he said to me as we watched our girlfriends. I wrapped my free arm around his waist and told him we both were. Danny hugged me with one arm as we watched my roommates and I realized there was no pulling away from me by my brother, just the two of us smiling and laughing at our girlfriends. I didn’t even tear up, I just allowed my smile to become as big as the girls,

Following the Miracle of Birth Barn, we went next door to the Dairy Building where we marked off one thing on the to do list and started the thing that made the State Fair famous. After viewing the busts of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her court carved in butter, including watching the Dairy Princess from Dakota County pose for her carving for a bit in the 40-degree cooler, we went to the Dairy bar where we each got some form of ice cream and began our trip of gluttony. Jenny and I each got a malt, hers strawberry and mine chocolate and made a pact that each had to eat everything the other did. For me this wasn’t as big a deal as it may seem, but it would be an adventure for Jenny. So, for the next five hours, if one of us saw something we wanted to eat, we would either buy two or buy one to share and the other would have to eat as much. It gave me chance to introduce Jenny to all kinds of delicious food. Food she had never really tried due to her upbringing. She loved the Tom Thumb donuts fresh out of the distinctive machines and the Pronto Pups. What surprised me is that she really didn’t care for the French Fries from World’s Greatest French Fries or the About a Foot-Long Hot Dog. One of the arguments of the day was when I ordered fried onions on the dog. “You can’t order those Lex, those are disgusting. I’m not going to kiss you if you do.” I kidded her that she was missing out with the onions and I tried to kiss her after a bite only to be pushed back. It was only after I used some breath spray that I could kiss her but I could see she was still on me about it.

Around two o’clock, it was decided it was late enough in the day where we could enjoy something to drink, so we made our way over to Café Caribe in the Commissary Building. We found a table and Katie and I volunteered to go up and get some beer. As we sat at the bar waiting for our pitcher of beer, two guys came up on the other side of Katie and recognized her. ‘Katie Fahey, how the hell are you?” One of them asked. Instantly I recognized the two as Trevor Lundstrom and Mike Quist from Faribault. These were two meatheads that we had graduated from high school with. My locker had been next to Mike’s all through high school as lockers were assigned alphabetically. They were never really very nice to me in high school and if they ever figured out it was me I would become more fodder for their ridicule.

Trevor was the first to speak. ‘So, Katie, I hear you been seeing Danny Quinn?” Katie nodded but then Mike jumped in “Well you know she wouldn’t be seeing that fairy Alex. How is that little queer doing?” I could feel Katie’s hand reach back for me as I began to seethe over these two idiots. “Yeah I heard about him. Does he have a boyfriend now?” Trevor asked as the two laughed away at me and my changes. That was it! I could take no more. As Katie was getting ready to admonish them I pushed her to the side and stepped up to face my detractors head on. Mike instantly started hitting on me. “Hey babe you are pretty hot, what’s your name?” he asked in that same slimy way he always had. “My name? My name is Alexa. Alexa Quinn. That’s right. And even if I was interested in guys it wouldn't be with you. I heard that you couldn’t even get it up for Julie Johnson, the hottest chick in school. Besides I’m engaged to a woman that you two could only dream of. You see that blonde sitting over next to my brother? Well that’s my fiancée dumb ass.”

“Bull shit!” They both said at the same time only to be rebuffed by Katie standing there. Our pitcher was delivered and Katie and I turned away and headed back to the table. A bit of my long forgotten male ego came back to life and I walked up to Jenny and planted a deep kiss on her. As we broke I could see the tender smile on Jenny’s face and I turned and waved at my two high school classmates. They shook their heads in shock at the sight of me and Jenny. I could also hear Katie telling Danny what was going on and instantly my brother shot up from the table, knocking his chair to the ground. Fear overtook the two idiots and they began slinking away from the bar and out the open side of the Café. Katie and I both took our seats and sat there with smiles on our faces. Jenny grabbed her chair and moved it closer to me. Danny continued to stand and stare out the entrance of the Caribbean themed beer garden until I think he lost sight of the two.

Jenny was the first to speak. “What was that out all about?” She asked. By this point Katie was laughing away. “Your fiancée is one mean bitch Jenny. Alexa and I graduated with those two idiots and they began asking about Alex and what happened to him and calling him names. I tried to stop her but she just went right up to them and tore them apart.” Jenny looked at me and a huge smile grew on her face as I tried to calm down from my latest high school reunion. Danny began muttering away. “Was that Mike Quist? I graduated with his brother Jake, little prick. All them Quist’s are little fuckers.” Jenny wrapped an arm around me as Danny began speaking up again. “So, you stood up to them? Good! The word will get out about you that’s for sure.” He said with a grin. Danny poured us each a beer a proposed a toast “Here is to Alexa. My baby sister. Don’t mess with her, that bitch is crazy” he said as we all began laughing. I locked eyes with my brother and I could see a proud smile on his face and I got a nod from him. I began to tear up a bit, but I then looked over at Jenny whose smile once again put me in a warm comfortable place. We quickly drank our pitcher and decided to have a second before heading out into the fair to see more sights, eat more food and as Danny said, “see if my sister can get in anymore fights.”

The passing of Labor Day weekend marked not only the end of summer but it was also the lead up to school starting up. There was one event that was going to happen before that though, and one that an agreement had already been agreed on. By some odd fluke by the creator both my and Jenny’s Birthdays are in September Mine is the 8th and Jenny’s is two weeks later on the 22nd. After a lengthy discussion, we decided that we would split the difference and celebrate on the 15th. We planned on dinner with both of our parents and would be exchanging gifts then. After buying the engagement ring, I was a bit tapped out so I decided that I would get her something more from my heart. Clothes were a given and I had already gone and visited Sarah once to pick up a few things. One was this simple red A-line dress with three quarter sleeves. It was basic but I knew she would look absolutely stunning in it. I also picked out a pleated cream-colored skirt that had a floral pattern on it with a vine running through. But that wasn’t enough. There was one more thing I wanted to get her. Something that would be something she never had before. So, one day before class I went on line and ordered the special gift. I was almost giddy about it. I couldn’t wait to see her in it.

Besides thinking of more gifts to buy my fiancée, a term that still gives me goose bumps, I had to get serious about school. My last semester had pretty much been a disaster academically. I had kept up my grades despite the fact I was rarely, if ever in class. I had also discovered something I think I that wanted to do with my life, and my degree in English would have very little to do with it. But I knew I had come this far so I looked for a way to make it easier. I had signed up for two independent writing classes which allowed me not attend classes and work on my own but I still had a lecture class that I needed to take on early American Literature, and I was not looking forward to that. And it was this class that began my final year of college.

I walked in to the lecture hall and found a seat towards the front of the room. As I sat down I could hear some comments from a couple guys behind me. “Check her out Zach. I wonder if she has boyfriend.” Even though I have no interest in any one else, especially some guy, it still gave me a little boost to be looked at as a woman and not some freak. I sat up a little prouder until I heard the voice of another guy from just over my shoulder. “Dude, that’s a guy not same babe.” Laughter was emanating from this moron. I turned to see Tim Hurley, a guy who I had in a few classes before. “Don’t you guys read the paper or watch TV? That’s the freak who sued Java Express because he said he was a she.” I tried to remain calm, but then he started in on me again. “So, tell me Quinn, do you have a boyfriend yet? Been dating? Have you had it cutoff yet?” It was then I did lose it. I turned and let loose on him. “What is your fucking problem Hurley?” The lecture hall went quiet and all heads turned towards me. “Do you enjoy belittling people? What you just said is harassment. Harassment that is bad enough to get your ass kicked out of school! If you want to know the truth, I have found someone. The same person I was with before, Jenny Thompson but now we are engaged, you addled mined little piece of shit!” Just then, Professor Grayson walked in the room as I was finishing up my rant and looked obviously disturbed by what he saw.

“Alex, I mean Alexa what is going on here?” He said with a very upset look on his face. That was when a voice from the side of me answered. “That guy back there was saying some pretty nasty things to Alexa.” I looked over and did not recognize the guy. He was tall and skinny. He looked like a basketball player. I had never met him before but he seemed to be standing up for me. Professor Grayson asked the tall young man exactly who was saying those things and half the room pointed at Hurley. I watched him slink back into his chair. Even the two guys who started all of this pointed at Hurley. I could see anger come into the usually meek professor’s eyes. He calmly looked at Hurley and told him to leave the class immediately and to report to his office in one hour. Tim tried to gather his things and slip out quietly, but there were a few other people who began to mock him. As much as I wanted the little turd to get all that was coming to him, I didn’t feel especially happy about the way that he was being treated as he left. The class seemed to calm down a bit and soon we were discussing the topic of American Literature in the late 18th Century.

As class was breaking up, several other students came up to me simply to say hi and offer support. Not one of them was mean, no one said a snide remark. The smiles were plentiful. It was a feeling that was completely foreign to me here on campus. I had always been seen something of an oddity, but now I was being welcomed in for the first time ever. I got a bit nervous as the warm wishes were broken up by Professor Grayson asking me if he could have a moment. I said good bye to the people that had gathered. One girl, Megan Gibson asked if I wanted to meet up sometime after class for a cup of coffee and go over the notes for the class “Of course not at Java Express.” She said by the way of a joke. I told her maybe after next class as I was busy. She smiled and said she would see me on Friday. I went down to the front of the lecture hall where Professor Grayson was waiting. First, he asked me if I was alright and I told him yes before we moved into a discussion over one of my independent writing classes, which he oversaw. He gave me some options on topics for my writings and we set up a time to meet once a week to go over what I have accomplished. As we were wrapping up, Professor Grayson took a moment. “Alexa, I have known you since you were a freshman. Back then you were a timid little kid. Worried about making mistakes. I know last year was difficult for you, as was reflected by my grade in 17th Century Poetry, but you have come a long way. If there is anything you need, please ask. And as for Mr. Hurley and others like him, don’t let them get to you. You have more supporters than you may think.” I thanked him for his kind words and the topic ideas. I grabbed my things and headed out with a spring in my step.

The rest of the start of school seemed to go well. The comments like that of Tim Hurley’s were not as common as I thought they would be. Most people accepted me. It was the comments like those of Brandon and the two guys in my class that seemed to become more frequent and were starting to weigh on me. It made me feel better about myself and proved to me how far I had come in my journey, but I felt guilty about them. I felt like I was betraying Jenny. While I would never even think of acting on any of their offers, the offers themselves made me feel like I was betraying her love for us. I spoke with Debbie about this and she told me it was natural for me to attract some attention. “You have become a lovely young woman Alexa. Yes, young men will be attracted to you. But has any of this attention affected your feelings towards Jenny?” She asked.

“Not one” I told her “If anything my love for her has grown even stronger, but still I feel like I am doing something wrong.” Debbie nodded and then asked me a few questions. “Do you remember before you two started seeing each other and maybe making some of the same comments about her that these young men are making towards you now? Maybe sitting in Coffman and she came walking through or when you had those two roommates and she and Katie came over? Do you think that her feelings towards that Trey person changed? Probably not. It’s the same here. Sit down and talk to her. As lovely a young woman as she is, I am sure that young men still make comments about her. I am sure that all your fears will be for not.” I shook my head and knew I would take this advice to heart. My counselor and I continued with our normal conversations, but in the back of my head I couldn’t stop thinking about Jenny and how I was going to confront this subject. As I sat there a plan came to mind.

That night when Jenny got home I had a dinner of Baked Halibut and a salad waiting for her. Katie was at work tonight, so we would not be disturbed. I had decided to go all out. I had a bottle of Chardonnay chilling on ice and all the lights out except for a few candles. I put on the dress, the Royal Blue A-Line dress that I had purchased on that first time I went out as Alexa. Jenny came thought the door and her breath stopped for a second “Lex what is all of this for?” Jenny asked as I moved towards her and gave her a long, deep kiss. “We haven’t been alone, since we got engaged. We always have something going on or someone around.” Jenny smiled and pulled me in. I began trying to speak again but the words wouldn’t come out. Jenny must have known something was on my mind and just placed a finger over my lips. “I forgot how beautiful you look in that dress Lex. So, what are we having?” Jenny had a comforting smile on her face. It started to relieve me of my concerns a bit and getting me to think about dinner was enough to let me try and function somewhat normally. I led her to the table, where I served up our dinner. The next thirty minutes we spent just enjoying each other’s company. When dinner was done, Jenny looked at me “Alexa, what’s wrong?” I could still see the love in her eyes, the care she felt towards me.

“It’s um, it’s just I feel a bit guilty right now.” I babbled not knowing what exactly to say. ‘It’s like this, you know how Brandon made those comments about me when he didn’t know it was me the other day? Well, he hasn’t been the only one to make those kinds of comments. And they make me feel good and when I do I feel like I am betraying you. I’m sorry.” I looked down and thought I was going to begin crying. I was sure that I would hear Jenny begin to laugh again, but instead I felt her hand on my face and soon I felt her finger under my chin and slowly begin to lift it. A moment later we were staring into each other’s eyes. I saw nothing but love in them. “Do you feel anything for any of these guys?” She asked, I shook my head. “Have they changed your feelings for me?” I once again shook my head. “Would it help you to know that I hear guys make comments about both of us all the time but all it does is make me love you more?” I nodded my head at that questions and she continued. “Well I do and I love you more every time I hear them, because I know our love is stronger than anything in this world. I love you Alexa and if people think you are attractive it just makes me a little prouder, a little cockier to know that the beautiful person they are talking about is with me. It happens. So, don’t worry about it. I hope it makes you feel good. You deserve all that attention. People, especially guys can say whatever they want about you and me but all that matters is what we share.” Another kiss from this beautiful woman let me know that life was fine and that I had nothing to fear. Jenny slowly stood up and reached for my hand. I took it as I stood up and the two of us moved off to our room. The dishes can wait until latter.

A few days later was the day of our big birthday dinner. It wasn’t just going to be the parents, but Danny and Katie as well as Mary were joining us. We debated about asking Julie and Andrew but decided to keep it smaller. One thing I think Marty was nervous about was where we would want to go. Part of that was because Jenny and me were teasing him unmercifully about it. One afternoon when we were out at the house Jenny announced, “We should go to Ruth Chris’ That place is excellent!” Not to be out done I chimed in “No we should go to Morton’s. Their Porterhouses are wonderful.” We could see Marty get a bit nervous and we would calm down for a few minutes and then start in again. “Hey Lex, we should go to Murray’s. Get a silver butter knife steak.” And then it was my turn. “Or better yet, the St. Paul Grille. Their Bone in Ribeye is to die for.” We let those comments fester for a few days and then on the 12th Marty called Jenny. Jenny put him on speaker. The nervousness and frustration came through the phone. “All right you two, I have had enough of this taunting. Where do the two princesses want to go to celebrate their birthday?” Jenny and I fought hard to suppress our laughter. We had already decided a long time before. We looked at each other and I counted down using my fingers 1-2-3.

“Rosato’s!” We both yelled.

There was dead silence from the other end of the phone. I began to wonder if we may have given Marty a heart attack. After about 15 seconds, I finally spoke to my father-in-law to be. “Marty? Are you OK?” Silence hung for another couple of seconds. “Ah yeah I ‘m fine. Are you sure you don’t want to go somewhere else?” Jenny handled this one “Nope. We talked it over and there are very few places we think we should go and since Katie will be coming with rather than working, AJ’s is out. Rosato’s is home to us Daddy. We have been going there since we started seeing each other.” More silence from the other end. Finally, Marty began speaking “You two are mean do you know that? Here I am selling stock off making sure I can afford you two and you pull out Rosato’s. It will be taken care of it. What time?” We told him seven and ended the call.

Friday the 15th of September dragged almost as bad as the day back in February that we went to Florida. I was giddy to not only share time with those people I cared so much about but also to be able to give Jenny the gifts I bought her. I did continue buying her things when I know I shouldn’t have but I wanted to shower her with gifts. I had planned to get up early to make Jenny breakfast in bed. When I woke up I was sad to see her not there. I got out of bed and slipped on my robe. As I was walking out of the room, the unmistakable aroma of bacon filled the air. I walked into the kitchen and found Jenny hard at work mixing up some scrambled eggs. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Making the most wonderful person in the world her birthday breakfast in bed, but you are already up! What are you doing?” She asked.

“Getting up to do the same for you.” I told her. We shared a kiss and a hug. I took control of the bacon awhile Jenny continued the eggs. I began to tell her some things to throw in. “You should throw in some onions, garlic, green peppers, maybe some mushrooms. Oh, and a little cheese. Those eggs will be wonderful.” Jenny turned and looked at me. “Listen here young lady I will worry about the eggs, you just watch that bacon so it doesn’t burn.” Jenny commanded me, which natural I wouldn’t let go without some good-natured ribbing. “Oh yes great mistress of the kitchen. Is there anything else I should do like strain the orange juice to make sure there is no pulp in it? Maybe guard the toaster so the toast is a perfect golden colored?” Jenny suppressed the laughter as she looked back at me. “Listen missy, I can take back all those presents I got you so I would watch it!” We broth broke into a giggle fit at that point and shared a hug and a deep kiss. “Happy Birthday Day” Jenny said to me, which I returned. It was as we moved in for another kiss that Katie made her appearance.

“God, you two! First you two wake me up with you cooking and your arguing then I come out here and find you two making out in the kitchen. It’s enough to drive someone to drink!” Katie said. “So, what’s for breakfast? If you two are going to wake me up you better feed me!” Katie stated. I threw some bread in the toaster and pulled the bacon off and drained the grease so Jenny could start the eggs. I got Katie a cup of coffee and placed it in front of her. I warned her not to get used to the service. In no time, everything was ready and the three of us were at the table enjoying our breakfast and lamenting the upcoming school day. Jenny and I let Katie use the shower as the two of us returned to our room where we celebrated our birthdays a bit longer, but is wasn’t long before we had to break way from each other and get cleaned up for today’s academic pursuits.

I entered the apartment a little after 3 PM only to find no one there. I started to strip off my light sweater when there was a knock at the door. I answer to find my brother alone on the other side. Panic begins to take over “Where’s mom? You were bringing her up. You didn’t forget her, did you?” My brother began to laugh. “Would you just relax. I had to come up here and get a few things for work, so mom is driving up separate. It will be OK. Mom does know how to operate a car.” Danny tells me as he pushes past me, grabs a beer from the fridge and plops down in the living room chair. “Gee Danny, have a beer, take a seat. Is there anything else we can get you?” The Danny grin takes over. “If you have some chips or pretzels that would be great!” I can only shake my head as I go into the kitchen and find a bag of pretzels and throw them at his head. He whines as they hit him. “Sorry did I hurt you?” I ask mockingly. I watch as Danny reaches into the bag and chucks one at me. Looking around I need some ammunition, I find a bag of rice cakes and grab one and zig it at his head. He reloads with more pretzels and I launch another rice cake. Soon an all-out food fight has begun. Katie comes in ‘Stop it you two!” She yells out which causes Danny and I to break out in laughter. Katie just shakes her head.

As I head back to the bedroom to change a thought suddenly crosses my mind. When Danny and Katie were playing house last month, Danny had to have a key. Where is it? Ever since me and Jenny moved back he has knocked on the door rather than just come in. That wasn’t right. I made a note to bring that up to him.

I had just slipped my sweater off when I felt two hands wrap around me. I lean backwards into Jenny and she begins to nuzzle my neck, driving me to new levels of passion. I think I began to purr as I acknowledge the affection of my fiancée. I turn and face her and share a long kiss with her as I allow my hands to roam over her body. Unfortunately, Katie iterrupts us, “Come on you two! If you are going to take a shower get moving so we can go!” We both laugh and start undressing each other. Jenny begins dragging me out of the room. “Jenny!” I say “We can’t shower together! Danny and Katie are here!” She smiles at me and gives me another long kiss. “Screw them. If they want to take a shower together let them! It’s our birthday. We can do whatever we want!” And a few minutes later we were doing exactly that. We return to our room and begin getting dressed for the evening feeling relaxed and satisfied. As I was putting on my dress while I waited my turn at the vanity a question I had thought of popped into my head. “Hey babe, do you have a problem with Danny having a key to the apartment?” Jenny looks at me funny in the reflection of the mirror. “Doesn’t he have one?” I tell her I thought so but also tell her how it seems that I am always answering the door when he comes over. “Well tell him to use it!” After we get dressed we head out the living room. Jenny looks at her future brother in law.

“Danny, do you have a key for the apartment?” he nods. Jenny continues to go on “Well use it. We can’t be answering the door all the time when you come over!” Danny looks at her and then begins speaking “Well since you guys were back I thought it would be weird if I just walked in any time I wanted.” Jenny just shakes her head as she walks over towards him. “Danny let’s look at this. This is your girlfriend’s apartment plus it is your sister’s and her fiancée’s. I think we can trust you.” Jenny says as she moves to the kitchen as she passes Danny I see her reach out and slap him in the back of the head. “You know Lex is right, you are a meathead.” Jenny states and heads off to get us a couple of drinks while we wait for Katie. Danny turns and gets on Jenny “You better watch it lady. Just because you are joining this family doesn’t give you the right to hit me.” I walk by him and give him the same head slap. “Ow! What was that for?” he yelps out.

“For being mean to your future sister in law, you bozo.” I tell him as Jenny hands me a drink and Danny another beer. A mini argument breaks out between the three of us. Katie finally walks out of her room ready to go. She laughs at us. “What caused all this?” Katie asked as Jenny and I tried to gain control of ourselves, which was nearly impossible when Danny began to whine “They hit me!” Not only did this cause my fiancée and I to lose it but Katie as well. I spoke up first and through the laughter explained that I had asked Danny had a key and then Jenny had yelled at him to use and quit making us answer the door all the time. Jenny chimed in “As we told him, look who lives here. His girlfriend, his sister and his sister’s fiancée. Are we worried about him?” Katie began to well up a bit “Thanks guys” she said. “But enough of that! It’s present time!” And Katie reaches around the side of the couch and pulled out a couple of gift bags and placed them in front of us. “This is just part of it. Do you know that you two are the absolutely worst people to shop for?” Katie told us as we began to giggle. Inside each bag were a few boxes. I opened the first one to me and found a beautiful lilac cashmere sweater. Jenny opened a box that was similar and received a similar sweater, but pink. “Figured you two could share.” Katie said with a laugh. We also each opened a box to find similar Nike Dry fit Viking quarter zip shirts. “Those are from me.” Danny piped up. “Figured you could wear them on Sundays.” We thanked my brother. It was then Jenny and I exchanged presents form each them other, that is all but one, which we agreed we would bring to the restaurant. As I expected it was mostly clothes, though Jenny did whisper to me that here were some other gifts in the room that were not for public viewing. The two of us shared a giggle and a kiss.

We decided we would catch an Uber ride downtown and have a drink before we met up with the parents and Mary. “Let’s go to the Nankin and have a Wanderer’s” Jenny said. Katie and I readily agreed. Danny though wasn’t so sure. “What is a Wanderer’s? Some chick drink?” Danny asked as only he could. We laughed and tried to explain what they were. Our Uber driver showed up quickly and the four of us piled into the Chevy Tahoe for the ride downtown. We got Danny into the Nankin where he at first reluctantly ordered one of the magical punches that packs a wallop. At first, he was skeptical, but about halfway through it his view changes. “Hey, these things are pretty good. How much booze is one of these things?” he asked. He found out a few minutes later as he got up to use the restroom and stumbled off. When he came back he thought we needed another round, but we told him no. We practically had to drag him to Rosato’s.

We entered one of our favorite restaurants to find both my mother and Jenny’s father waiting for us. “And where have you four been?” my mother asked. The three of us girls laughed while my brother spoke up that we had been to the Nankin to have a drink beforehand. My mother shot all of us the motherly look while Marty laughed. “Be careful with those Wanderer’s. They can sneak up on you.” Danny got a bit embarrassed while me and my roommates began laughing at my brother.

It was odd that we had to wait for anyone to seat us, Paul is usually right there. I began to get a bit suspicious, as did my partner. We continued our wait for another minute or two and then finally, Paul showed up “The birthday girls are here!” Paul said in his usual manner. Mom began to giggle as she had never met Paul before. “And I see the birthday girls are doing a good dead by bringing a crotchety old man to dinner with them!” Marty just stared at his friend as if to tell him to be quiet. “Wait. Are we short one?” Paul asked and at that moment, Mary came walking through the door. Paul instantly greeted Mary as he would any of the rest of us. Now that we were all here, we were led back to a table that I had never seen before. A Large table was set up to one side, all decked out with balloons and streamers. A banner that said ‘Happy Birthday hung over two chairs that each held a silly tiara on them. Paul escorted Jenny and I to the special seats as our parents took seats next to us, but in a bit of a change, mom sat next to Jenny and Marty sat next to me. Paul grabbed the bottle of Chianti that sat nearby and poured everyone a glass and then yelled into the back “Mama”. Out the door came a woman who appeared in her 80’s that was barely above 5 feet tall. She did not look happy until she saw our group’s 85-year-old stand up. A warm smile came upon the woman’s face “Mary” she exclaimed with which Mary returned with a “Carmela”. The two Octogenarians hugged like the old friends they were and began speaking, in Italian. Something I didn’t know Mary could speak. It was neat to see their sons both smile as the two old friends talked.

When the two were finished, Mrs. Rosato returned to her son’s side. “Since it is the birthday of two of our favorite customers and old friends of the family you will have a special meal tonight, made by Mama. There is Lasagna, Garlic mashed potatoes, Tuscan steak, A wonderful antipasti selection and in honor of the birthday girls, Mama’s homemade Ravioli” And soon the food was coming out of the kitchen. All of it served family style and the food was passed around. My mother had never been here and was impressed with not only the food but the service. And how could you not be impressed with the food? It was delicious and there was so much of it. It was great watching everyone laugh and enjoy each other’s company. It was one big happy family, the kind I always hoped for. Jenny and I just looked each other and smiled and squeezed each other’s hand a little tighter.

When the food was done, and the special birthday Tiramisu and espresso had been served the presents began. Mary’s gifts were the first. Two boxes were presented to us. I could see some nervousness in my partner’s eyes and I am sure she saw it in mine. We opened them up simultaneously and found matching solitaire diamond earrings. “Thank you, Grandma!” Jenny said, which was followed by my own thanks to Mary. “I wasn’t sure as what to get you, but I knew neither of you had anything like this.” We both quickly shed the earrings we were wearing and put in the ones we just received. Mom was the next to go. And once again two small boxes came our way. We anxiously opened the small boxes. Inside we found matching Silver Pandora bracelets with 3 charms each on the bracelet. They each had the letters ‘J’ & ‘A’ and a special heart shaped charm with our birthstone in it. Before I could get up and hug mom, Jenny reached over and began to thank her. “I know it’s not fancy, but this is perfect for the two of you” My mother said and soon my mother she was being hugged by both Jenny and me. I could see a tear come to mom’s eye as we let her go.

Marty asked to go last, like he knew something was up, so Jenny and I decided to share our last present to each other. We both giggled as we began tearing off the paper. I opened the box and my eyes went wide. I turned and looked at Jenny and she had the same shocked expression and we began to giggle as we hugged each other. Danny was the one to ask what it was. At the that point we each reached into the boxes and pulled out women’s cut, personalized Vikings Jerseys. Both Jersey’s had the number ‘1’ on the back. Mine said ‘Lex’ across the name strip and of course the other said ‘Jenny’. As we were laughing at the thought that we both had bought the same gift we caught Marty out of the corner of our eyes shaking his head. “You two are something else. I know I have asked before but do you share one brain? I can’t believe you each thought of that.” Marty’s laughter got even harder before he began speaking. “Well you two will be able to use you gifts as part of my gift. You both know we are corporate sponsors of the Vikings. Well on October 29th the Vikings are playing the Browns in London and the two of you are going.” We both shrieked and instantly began hugging Marty. “Okay you two. Okay calm down. I will need to go over a little early so we can leave on the Sunday night flight and we will comeback Monday after the game. It will give you chance to see your friends and maybe that group you are always playing around the house.” The thought of seeing Nikki and Sarah had never occurred to me and must not have occurred to Jenny either because we both shrieked again! This was definitely the best birthday present I had ever received.

As we sat down we both once again thanked everyone for everything. Soon the conversation returned around the table. I sat back and just watched the events around me. A smile came across my face. Soon the biggest reason for my smile leaned back and cuddled into me. ‘What are you smiling about?” Jenny asked. I waved my hand at our family as they enjoyed each other’s company.

“This has got me so happy. I have gotten to spend my birthday with our family at a place we love. And I have you with me. A year ago, I could never imagine this and it’s all because of you. Thank you, Jenny, for everything. For putting up with me, for taking care of me but mostly for loving me. I don’t know if life could get any better.” Jenny smiled and looked at me.

“It will get a lot better than this.” Jenny told me as I could see the love in her eyes. “It will get better because we will be together. I love you Alexa. Happy Birthday Babe.”

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