Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chapter 27

By morning the boys had one crib assembled and they decided that that was enough.


"After all," Amadeo said, reasonably as they sat around the kitchen table having breakfast, waiting for an update from the hospital, "There are only two of them and they're going to be tiny.  What does it matter if they share a crib for a bit while they're here, right?  By the time they're old enough and big enough to need their own cribs they'll be in toddler beds."  he'd joked.


"Brave words little brother," Carmie had said with a smile.


"Oh come on, Carm, you know I'm right."


"I know the lot of you are just being lazy."  she replied pointedly.  "Now come on guys, you have hours, maybe days to put the second one up.  You're smart boys, you can do it!"  she cheered, shaking imaginary pom poms.


Gabe huffed a laugh.  "I have a better idea, you smart *girls* put the crib together and us smart *men* will do everything else.  I like that idea better.  The cribs still have to be put up at Dan's house."  he groaned.  "We were gonna do it today anyway, so you ladies feel free to go right 
ahead and..."


"OK," Terri agreed happily, "You guys go right out and buy the diapers and the rubber pants and pins.  You'll have to make sure you buy enough to accommodate twins now so you can't just buy one package, then remember to set up the diaper delivery service, very important. Oh, and don't forget the liners so that Bethie and Dan can remove the poop more easily. And don't forget the spit up cloths!  Oh and don't forget to check and make sure they have enough clothes and undershirts..."


"OK! You made your point!"


"Oh, no no no," Carmie said, "You guys had a valid argument, we don't want it said that we didn't do our share.  So you guys just go on over to Dan and Bethie's house and get to cleaning.  If there are any dishes to be done I know you can handle it, then there's the laundry and dusting and vacuuming and making sure the babies room is clean and safe and..."


"Nooooo, that's OK, you've made your point!"  Con cut in.  "Smart asses,"  he muttered.


"Mouth," Carmella scolded.


"Sorry, *mamma*."  Con replied sarcastically.


"Constantin Patrizio," Terri said warningly, "That's enough now.  If you think I won't take you over my knee you'd better think again. Got me?"


Con took a breath and was about to make a retort when Amadeo spoke up.  "Guys!  We can all work on the crib, we can all pitch in with the cleaning and buying what needs to be bought.  We're all worried about Dan and Bethie and the babies, let's not start sniping at each other.  Mom and dad and Dante and Bethie are all counting on us, so let's not fall apart now, OK?" he said calmly.


Constantin had the grace to look embarrassed.  "Sorry Carmie.  Sorry Ter.  Guys."


Carmella sighed,  "Sorry honey, we're all a little on edge."  she said, looking toward the phone which had remained silent since their father had called the night before to let the kids know they'd gotten to the hospital in one piece. She glanced at the kitchen clock again.  "All right, I 
think it's late enough now, I'll give Gia and Danny a call to let them know whats going on.  Terri, you use dad's phone in the study and call Rene and Alex." she said, using her sister Santa's middle name since it's what she preferred.  "I called Bethie's folks last night."


"Sounds good." Terri said, getting up to head into the study.  She stopped long enough to give Con a quick squeeze.  "It'll be all right, hon.  Why don't you guys get started on the dishes and when we're done we'll figure out what to do next, OK?"


" 'K," Con replied, subdued, as he began to gather the dishes.


Gabe got up and began to pick up the silver and napkins.  He gently bumped shoulders with Deo, who'd begun to stack the glasses, as he walked past.


'Deo looked up enquiringly at his older brother.


"For a rotten little kid, you're not so bad."  he said quietly,  "And if you tell anyone I said anything nice I'll just tell 'em you were hallucinating from the stress." he finished with a half smile.


"Don't worry, I won't say a word.  No one'd believe it anyway."  Amadeo replied, equally quietly, shouldering his brother back before bringing the glasses to the sink where Con was already washing.


When the girls got back to the kitchen, Con and Gabe were finishing the dishes and Amadeo had just finished sweeping the floor.  They were all surprised when the door bell rang.  With a shrug, Carmie went to answer the door and came back moments later with the Jablonski's, bearing two large watermelons, Mr. Di Marco and his sons, hauling bushels of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs which still dripped water from being washed thoroughly minutes before, and Mrs. Witt, carrying what was unmistakably a large plate of her prize winning fried chicken.


"We figured you'd need a hand getting things ready for the new mamma and babies," said Mrs. Witt, "So we're here to offer our services." the older woman said with a smile as Carmie took the plate of chicken to put into the refrigerator.


"Thank you, all, so much."  Terri said, relieved.  Before she was able to say more, the doorbell rang again.  This time Gabe answered and was once again accompanied back to the kitchen by a crowd of neighbors, each bringing bowls or bushels of one thing or another, and offering to help get things ready for the babies.


Carmie smiled, stunned and pleased.  "How did you all know?"


Mrs. Witt leaned forward, and in a stage whisper said, "Sometimes it's a good thing to have nosey neighbors."  Then she winked and put a finger to smiling lips in a shushing gesture.


Terri and Carmie both hugged the woman and again thanked everyone who had just arrived.  


"How about if I put on a pot of coffee," Terri suggested, "Then we can sit and make lists of what needs to be done?"


"Sounds wonderful, my dear,"  replied Mrs. Witt, who, being a frequent guest at the Rossi's house, went directly to the correct cabinet and began taking out the coffee cups.


At that, the Rossi's immediately invited their guests to sit, running around to get leaves to expand the table, extra chairs, sugar, creamer, and spoons, and putting most of the contents of a tin of cookies that had been brought by one of the neighbors onto a large plate.  What had been a tense atmosphere became one of celebration and ease, as lists were made, volunteers organized and jobs assigned.


By two o' clock that afternoon, everything had been done that could be done.  The rest was up to Beth Ann and her doctor.  The neighbors had gone home but not without first demanding that the Rossi's call them at any time, for any reason, for anything.  


Mr. Di Marco threatened to take Angelo by the ear and escort him out that way if he didn't come along voluntarily.  "They have a lot to deal with today and I need you at home.  Understand?"


Angelo had gone reluctantly, with a sheepish grin and a wave to his friends.


Someone had, in all the hustle and bustle, cleaned and aired the couch, which now looked almost brand new, and a bouquet of fresh flowers sat in a vase on the coffee table .


Mr. Rossi called again at three to tell his children that there hadn't been much progress but that Bethie was doing fine.  With a chuckle that put them all at ease he informed them that Beth was actually doing better than Dante, who had just about worn a rut in the linoleum of the hospital 
room, where he would be allowed to stay with his wife until the actual delivery.  


"Dad said that Doctor Franz says that if she doesn't go into natural labor in the next few hours he'll induce, and the babies will be here sometime tomorrow."  Carmie told the others, relaying the message.


"Did he say why... ah, why it happened like that?"  Con asked, trying, uncharacteristically, to be discreet.


"He said that there's a small percentage of mothers whose water will break without any advance warning such as contractions or any sort of discomfort.  Beth Ann just fell into that percentage."


"She was so scared."  Gabe said quietly.


"Yeah, but you know, it could have been worse."  Amadeo said.  "I mean, she could have been alone when it happened.  As it is, she had mom and Mrs. Di Marco right there, the whole family around, Dan was right beside her the whole time.  There's no way anything was going to happen to her, not with Dan treating her like spun glass for the past nine months."  he'd smiled.


The others smiled and without realizing it, all glanced first at the clock and then at the phone before concentrating on their drinks as they sat around the kitchen table once again.


Terri laughed quietly,  "I almost wish now that everyone hadn't come.  We have nothing left to do but sit around and wait.  I don't know about you but it's killing me." she laughed again.


Carmie joined in,  "Oh I'm so glad you said that.  I was afraid I was the only one thinking it and I felt so ungrateful for even letting the thought cross my mind."  she said with a smile.


"Well," said Gabe, drawing out the word, "I can think of something we can do."


"Don't keep us in suspense, Gabie!"  Terri scolded.


"We went out and bought all sorts of things that the babies and Bethie are going to *need*, how about if we hit the stores and just buy fun stuff?  Little toys for the babies, something nice for Beth Ann.  If we're really feeling generous we can get Dante something even though it's all his fault poor Bethie got in this condition in the first place."  he joked.


The others enjoyed a good laugh at that before agreeing that it was an excellent idea.


"If you don't mind, I'll stay home in case they call with an update." 'Deo said, "But, I do have some birthday money left over that I'll pitch in toward whatever you guys want to buy, OK?"


"Sounds good little brother," Gabe agreed.  "We can check in with you now and again while we're out."


"I know dad doesn't want us to use the study phone except in emergencies but how about if when you call you use that number so that we can keep the kitchen line open for them to get through?"  'Deo asked.


"I don't think dad would mind if we did that just this once.  Good thinking, Dae."  said Carmie.


"All right then, let me go get the money.  Be right back."  he said happily.


When he got back to the kitchen, the others were shouting out ideas for gifts while Terri wrote them down in the columns she'd made for Beth Ann, Dante and the babies.  He grinned when he saw the three extra columns, one each for their parents, and one for Mrs. Di Marco.


"Keep that up and we're gonna end up buying presents for everyone who helped out."  Amadeo laughed.


"Actually,"  said Terri, drawing out the word much as her brother had done, "We thought that once Bethie and the kids are settled in we could throw a little Welcome To The World party and invite the neighbors.  We thought perhaps in a month's time.  What do you think, Dae?"


Deo smiled broadly.  This was so typical of his family.  If there was an opportunity to throw a party they'd find it.  They'd even been known to go so far as to make things up just to have a reason, such as the great 'Its Somebody's Birthday Somewhere' party of 1963.  "Great,"  he said, laughing as he handed his cash over to his sister.


"Well, have a good time, Dae."  Con called back over his shoulder as they prepared to leave.


"Um, do you think it's all right to ask Ange and Mi over to keep me company?" he asked, looking back and forth between Terri and Carmie.


Terri looked uncertain, "I don't know sweetie.  Mr. Di Marco seemed pretty adamant that Angelo was going to be home tonight.  You can ask..."


"But if he says no that means no, understand?"  Carmie added sternly.


"And no wild parties, young man."  Gabe said with mock severity.


"Yes sir," Amadeo replied solemnly,  "We'll keep it to a dull roar, OK?"


"That's my boy!"  Carmie laughed.


"All right, Dae, call Mr. Di Marco and ask.  The worst he can do is say no, right?"  Terri said with a smile, "Oh, and make sure that if Milo comes he leaves us some chicken!  Boy's a darned Hoover if you don't keep an eye on him!"


"Yes'm."  'Deo replied with a grin.


"Make it quick then, don't hold up the line."  she ordered before planting a quick kiss on his forehead and leading the others out.


Amadeo watched as his brothers and sisters got into the car and drove off, then turned back toward the kitchen to use the phone there.


"Excuse me, Mr. Jablonski?  Can Mi come and keep me company for a while? My brothers and sisters went out and I'm minding the phone." 


"Do you have permission to have company, Amadeo?"


Dae smiled,  "Yes sir, if you like I can have Terri call you when they get back."


"No,"  Mr. Jablonski said with a sigh,  "I believe you.  Hold on, son."


'Deo could hear it as Milo's father covered the mouthpiece of the phone to call to his son. Even with the mouthpiece covered Amadeo could hear his best friend's war whoop and very positive response.  Mr. Jablonski came back on, a smile clear in his voice as he relayed the message.


"Thank you sir.  Is there any particular time you want Mi back home tonight?"


"No, Amadeo,"  Mr. Jablonski replied.  He knew that if he gave Amadeo a specific time for Milo to be home, his son would be on the front porch at precisely that time.  "As long as he's not underfoot and not eating you out of house and home, he can stay as long as you like."


"Thank you sir!"  Amadeo nearly shouted,  "Bye!"


He hung up and quickly called the Di Marco's.  "Mr. Di Marco?  I'm minding the phone while Terri and the others are out shopping.  Terri gave me permission to have Ange and Mi over while they're out, if it's ok with you that Angelo can come over?"  he asked, hopefully.


Mr. Di Marco's voice was a little strange at first, "Did Angelo just call you a few minutes ago?"


"No sir,"  'Deo replied, confused.  "I haven't seen or heard from him since you all left earlier this afternoon."


"I don't think so, Amadeo. He's been sulking ever since he got home. I don't think he deserves any special treatment tonight."


"Sir?"  Amadeo said respectfully,  "Carmie told me if you said no, it meant no, and I don't mean to argue, but... it's just a little while if you'll allow it and, well sir, if he's here he won't be sulking there."  'Deo said in what he hoped was a deferential tone.  "Please, Mr. Di Marco?"  he asked, then remembering that Angelo was supposed to be under restriction he added,  "If it would make you more comfortable then Johnny and Paul could come too.  We're just going to be sitting here playing cards and games or watching TV."


He could hear it as Mr. Di Marco sighed.  "Let me call you back, all right Amadeo?"


"Yes sir.  Thank you."  He hung up the phone just as the doorbell rang.


" Dae!"  Milo shouted as he let himself in,  "Got any chicken left?"


Amadeo buried his face in his hands to hide his laughter.  "You are one in a million, Milo Jablonski, ya know that don'tcha?" he said as his friend entered the kitchen.


Milo looked at his best friend with a puzzled expression,  "I don't know where that came from but thanks, I think."


"What do you want to drink?  We got Coke, Tang... oh, and mom bought cherry syrup so we can make cherry Cokes at home.  Just take it from me and be careful how much syrup you put in, because it can get really nasty really fast."


"Great," Milo said around a mouthful of chicken as he rummaged around in the refrigerator to see what other treasures might be inside.


Amadeo held back a laugh and shook his head as amusement and affection for his best friend swelled inside him.


"Hey, where's..."  Milo began just as the phone rang.


'Deo answered it quickly, hoping it was news of Beth Ann.  "Hello?"


"Paul has agreed to bring Angelo over for a few hours.  They'll be there soon."  Mr. Di Marco said, somewhat abruptly.


"Yes sir. Thank you sir."  'Deo replied, worried at Mr. Di Marco's unusual tone.  Mr. Di Marco hung up before Amadeo could say anything else.


"Was that Ange?"  Milo asked.


"No, it was Mr. Di Marco," Amadeo responded, frowning a little at the phone,  "Ange is on his way over.  Paul's gonna be here too, so behave yourself."  he said playfully.


"Eh," was Milo's educated sounding reply.  "So, what do you want to do first?  Cards?  Board game?  What's on the boob tube tonight?" he asked, chewing and swallowing noisily as he sat at the table.


"Ugh, Mi, chew with your mouth closed, man!"


Milo responded by opening his mouth to reveal the half chewed chicken, bread and potatoes.


Amadeo closed his eyes and smiled.  He knew that anything else he said would just encourage his friend and it was best to ignore him at this point.


"I dunno, Mi, check the TV Guide.  Oh heck, I don't even know what day it is today!"


"Sunday," came the garbled reply.  "Oh, wait, Saturday.  Oh, heck, I dunno, just turn the TV on and we'll find out."


The two boys sat quietly on the recliners, munching popcorn and washing it down with Coka Cola.  It seemed as though it took a very long time for Angelo to get there but he finally arrived with Paul, matching scowls on their faces, Angelo absently rubbing his backside which had apparently just been swatted by his older brother.


"Hey, guys," Amadeo greeted them at the door, pretending not to have noticed any of it.  "Come on in, we're watching TV.  If you want a snack we have popcorn but if you're really hungry we have plenty of stuff in the fridge."


"Thanks, Dae."  Angelo mumbled.


"Yeah, thanks Dae."  Paul said, slightly more lively.  "Is everything OK here?  Is there anything else I can do to help get things ready for when Beth Ann gets out of the hospital?"


"Nah, we're good, Paul, thanks. Come on, sit and take a load off.  Can I get you anything?  Tang? Ni Hi?  Coke?  Beer?"


Amadeo laughed at the look Paul shot him at the last question.  "Just joking about the beer, Paul, honest."  he said with a grin.


"Better'a been, kiddo." Paul replied pointedly,  "Yeah, though.  I'd love a Coke.  Thanks."


"Ange?  Come on and help me get the drinks, all right?" he asked, looking to Paul for permission.  Paul nodded his agreement and the two boys went into the kitchen.


He went to the cabinet and took out glasses, then to the refrigerator for the bottles of Coke and ice while Angelo sat at the table and scowled.


"Ange, what's up, man?  Your dad sounded frazzled when I called and you just seem to be in this really foul mood.  Did you not want to come tonight?"  Amadeo asked, concerned.


"No.  I mean, yeah, I did.  I dunno."  Angelo replied with a shrug.


"Come on, man, what's up?  Somethings bothering you.  Spill."


Angelo shrugged again,  "I dunno, Dae.  Dad was happy last night about Beth Ann and all, but all day today he's been getting... jeez, I really don't know, he's just not himself. He's constantly biting my head off for every little thing.  I lost track of how many times he's whacked me today since we got home, and he even smacked Paulie one.  I mean, yeah, Paul told dad no but it wasn't like he said it with an attitude or anything.  Aw, hell, Dae, I dunno."  Angelo said, frustrated at his seeming inabilty to make himself clear.


"Come on, Ange," 'Deo said gently, "Let's get the drinks in there and sit and relax.  If you're still upset after awhile, we can come back in here 
and talk, all right?"


Angelo shrugged and nodded.


"All right then, you grab the glasses and I'll bring in the Cokes. Datti una mossa, bello." he whispered with a little grin.  He was pleased to see Angelo at least attempt to smile back.
(Get a move on, handsome)


"I was going to send out a search party."  Paul quipped.


"We had to take a run to the North Pole for the ice, sorry it took so long."  Amadeo smiled back.


Amadeo glanced toward Angelo now and again during the program to see if his mood were improving.  Milo and Paul were having a spirited debate about the show and didn't seem to notice Angelo at all.  Angelo slouched in the corner of the couch and watched the situation comedy as though it were news of a disaster.  Everyone came to attention when the kitchen phone rang and Amadeo ran to answer it.


"Hello?" he greeted breathlessly.


"Dae, Bethie just went into full labor."  said Johnny Rossi.


"Dad? What's wrong?"


"Nothing's wrong, son, just wanted to let you know she's gone into labor.  I'll call you again soon with updates. Gotta go now, 'Deo."  he said before hanging up.


Amadeo's stomach knotted.  His father had been calm and cool while delivering the news.  In anyone else that might not have been an indication that anything was wrong, but knowing his father the way he did, he knew that that calm control was the Drill Sergeant coming to the forefront, and not the expectant grandpa who would have been considerably more excited and vocal.


"Dae?"  said Paul, seeing his friend's face.


"Bethie's in labor,"  Deo replied, attempting to remain calm.  He glanced at his watch.  Five thirty.  The stores would be closed by now, his brothers and sisters would be on their way back with their purchases.  He worried about what they would face the next day. 


Paul didn't need to be a mind reader to see that something was wrong but there was no point in dwelling on it or making the situation worse, so he perked up and suggested that they get dinner ready, and perhaps play a card game while they waited for the others to get home.


Amadeo realized immediately what Paul was trying to do and smiled gratefully.  Soon the four of them were organized, setting the table, which still had the extra leaves in it from that morning, for nine.  


Terri, Carmie, Gabe and Con came in about a half hour later, happy and triumphant with bags upon bags of purchases.  


"We finished a lot earlier than we expected,"  Carmie said happily,  "I was getting worried because the clerks were getting antsy and I was sure they were going to tell us to put everything down and come back tomorrow..." she hesitated when she saw the forced smile on her little brother's face.


"What happened?"  she asked, suddenly tense.


Terri looked between her little brother and her sister, then at Paul.  She tossed aside the bags she'd been holding and grabbed Amadeo by the arm with a little more force than she'd intended, wincing in sympathy and rubbing the spot on his arm when he winced and flinched.   "Sorry sweetie." she said.  "Now tell us honey, what's wrong?"


'Deo took a breath.  "The Drill Sergeant called. Bethie's in full labor."


The Rossi children took a moment for that information to sink in.  Their little brother hadn't said 'Dad'.  Johnny Rossi was only 'The Drill Sergeant' when someone was in trouble.


"Carm, let's you and I take a trip to the hospital." Terri said calmly,  "Gabe, Con, put this stuff away, OK?  We'll call you with any news when we get there."


The two women picked up their purses and kissed their brothers goodbye, promising to call soon.


"Don't forget to eat, guys.  No sense starving yourselves, it's not going to help."  Terri said, then the two of them left without another word or a look back.


Paul looked at Amadeo,  "Dae, do you want me to call dad and ask if we can spend the night?  Do you want the company?"


"Please?"  Amadeo replied gratefully,  "But use the study phone, OK?  Just in case someone tries to call from the hospital in the meantime."


"Will do. Be right back."


He was back moments later.  "It's all good, Dae.  Dad says it's fine and for us to call him if we need anything."


"I'll call home too, Dae,  I want to be here if you need me, OK?"


"Thanks Mi."


A little later the boys all sat around the table, picking at the warmed up chicken and potatoes.  Even Milo, whom everyone called the original bottomless pit, seemed to have no appetite.


They tried half heartedly to play games and watch TV but no one was really interested.  By ten, Con and Gabe had gone to bed. By eleven Milo began to yawn widely.  "I'm sorry guys, I just really can't stay awake anymore. I'm gonna hit the hay, but you call me as soon as you hear something, 'K?"


"Sure, Mi, go ahead, there's no sense losing sleep either, it's not gonna help anyone.  Your stuff is in Vani's old room.  I'm gonna sleep on the couch just in case the phone rings during the night."


"'Night guys,"  Milo said as he headed up the stairs.


"Paul, you and Ange can bunk in Dan and Bethie's room if you want.  The bed is big enough for the both of you.  Beth painted it lavender but your eyes'll be closed and you won't even notice it if you decide to stay there."  'Deo joked.  "There's stuff in the lower left hand dresser drawer that might fit you if you want pajamas."


"Sounds good, thanks Dae.  Ange, you ready to go to sleep?"


"Not yet, Paul, please?  I'll be up in a little while, promise."


"All right.  Like Dae said, there's no sense losing sleep, don't stay up too long."


"OK, Paulie, thanks."  Angelo said, smiling a little for the first time that night.





Amadeo and Angelo sat on the couch, side by side, eyes glued to the show on the television but neither of them had a clue what they were watching. 

Eventually Angelo turned toward his friend, reached out and took his hand.


Amadeo smiled and looked at his boy.  "What's up, Ange?  Did you figure out what's been bothering you today?"


"I think I figured out what was eating dad, and now I feel guilty for not figuring it out before and being a lot nicer today."  Angelo said, sadly.


'Deo looked expectantly at his friend.  


"Bethie is having twins.  Mom and dad lost Petie.  Now mom's been gone for about a day.  I don't think they've ever been apart that long except for the times when mom's been in the hospital.  Then we find out there might be something wrong with Bethie or the babies which has got to be bringing up all sorts of bad memories for dad.  He's probably been all worried and stressed and all I did today was act like a brat and aggravate him when he needed me to be understanding..."


"Shhhh, Angelo, calm down." Deo said gently,  "Your dad is going to be fine.  It is stressful, and you're right, this has got to be setting off all sorts of memories, not only for your dad but for your mom too, and I'll bet he's been wanting to go and be with her and he's upset because there's really nothing he could do to help even if he went."


"I'm proud of you."  'Deo continued, seeing that Angelo was becoming more upset.  "For putting aside your own concerns and thinking about your dad and how he feels.  Tomorrow when you go home, ask how he feels, see if he wants to talk, tell him you're there for him, and apologize for being a brat."  Amadeo said with a smile at his boy.  "He loves you, il mio angelo, he'll understand. Mi capisci?"
(Do you understand me?)


Angelo nodded and leaned into Amadeo, who wrapped his arms around his boy and rested his chin on top of his head.  With a final warm hug he released his boy.  "Help me clean this mess up and then get to bed."


They tossed the remains of the popcorn out of the kitchen door for the birds and washed the glasses.  They cleaned the table and floor, working together comfortably and quietly.


"Well, good night then, Ange."  'Deo said, struggling to keep his eyes open.


"G'night, Dae."  he replied, leaning toward Amadeo, hoping for a good night kiss.


Before they knew it they were standing in the middle of the kitchen, arms wrapped around each other, each unwilling to be the first to break the kiss, until they heard a sound behind them.


Amadeo and Angelo turned toward the noise, only to see Paul, who looked at them expressionlessly.  Amadeo immediately shoved Angelo behind him to shield him from what he was sure was going to be the older boy's wrath.


"Paulie..." Angelo began, voice shaking with fear.


"Paul, it's not his fault..."  Amadeo said, placing himself more firmly between the brothers.


"Guys,"  Paul interrupted, holding his hands up to stop them, "It's OK.  I've known for a while now, and I'm cool with it. Relax."


"You... you knew?  How?  When?"  Angelo asked breathlessly. 


"I walked in on you two one day at the house.  Don't worry, I didn't say anything.  I figured when you were ready you'd tell everyone yourselves."


"I... I can't."  Angelo said quietly.


"Ange, I can't speak for everyone, for myself, it's all good.  Mom and dad?  I think they'll understand, especially since she was always there for Uncle Pat.  She knew and she loved him anyway..."


"But what if it's different now?  What if she can't stand the fact that one of her own sons is... is... you know."  Angelo asked, needing an answer and afraid of getting it at the same time.


"Angelo, there's a lot more to this than you know, lots more.  Mom'll understand, but like I said, I'm not going to say anything to anyone, not til you're ready."  his expression changed to one of concern,  "I need to ask you guys something though.  I don't want you to get upset, but I need to know, OK?  Can you be as honest with me as I've been with you?"


Amadeo took a deep breath and nodded.  He saw Angelo mirror the gesture from the corner of his eye.


"Have you guys... have you guys had sex?  Did you use protection?"


The two younger boys looked at each other, guilty, embarrassed, and Paul became worried.  Then Amadeo spoke up softly.


"We... we've touched... and kissed."  he stopped to take a breath, unable to look the older boy in the eye.  "We both know what sex is supposed to be like between a man and a woman but... we don't know how it works between guys... we don't know if we did or not."  he finished, blushing deeply.


Paul looked over his shoulder to make sure the coast was clear.  "Think your dad'd mind if we used his study to just talk for a little while?"  he asked.


"As long as we don't go into his desk or touch his stuff," 'Deo shrugged.


"OK, let's go talk then.  I don't think this is gonna take long."


The three boys went into the study and closed the door, then they made themselves comfortable on the chairs, the two younger looking toward the elder for enlightenment.


Angelo's eyes became wider and wider as his brother quietly explained what he knew of sexual relations between men.  Amadeo sat, hand poised beside his mouth as was his wont, occasionally swallowing a little harder than usual but otherwise silent.


Angelo was the first one to speak up.  "No, Paulie," he said softly, "We never did anything like that.  We didn't know..."


Paul took a deep breath and let it out slowly, relieved.  "Look," he said, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.  "I know you guys aren't babies, but I need to tell you this.  It's human nature to want affection, to want to hug, kiss, touch... there's nothing wrong with that, don't ever let anyone tell you different.  But while you're not babies, you're not adults either, and... going that extra step... being completely intimate like that... that's something you guys need to hold off on til you're older, til you're actually adults... understand?  Can you do that?"


Amadeo nodded, then cleared his throat.  "Yeah, Paul.  We can do that."  He said, standing up.  He held his hand out toward the older boy.  "Thank you, Paul, for explaining things to us, and for protecting our secret.  Thank you."


Paul shook the younger boy's hand and then pulled him into a hug.  "You're good to Angelo. You're good *for* Angelo.  I think you're good for the whole family, Dae.  Thank *you*." he said, releasing him so that he could look Amadeo full in the face.  Then he looked past 'Deo toward his little brother,  "It's way past your bedtime little boy," he said with a smile,  "Come on.  We'll see him again in the morning." he said, putting an arm around his little brother's shoulders, " 'night Dae."


"G'night Dae," Angelo echoed with a sincere smile and a little wave.


" 'night guys." Amadeo replied, feeling happier and more relaxed than he'd felt all day.  He went back into the living room and laid down on the couch, hoping for the phone to ring soon, and yet dreading it at the same time.  He said a long prayer for everyone at the hospital, asking special blessings on his sister in law and her babies.  He fell asleep mid prayer.



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