THE LEAST OF THESE...         

The caterers had set up their barbeque pits on the lawn between the great house and the pool, and the aroma wafted across the hilltop to the pavilion where all our friends had assembled. We had positioned the seats so that when Davey and I faced each other, everyone would be able to look past us and see the river valley spread out below. Though the sun was climbing, a cooling breeze blew under the shade of the pavilion.
Chase looked me over and straightened my tropical shirt. He also made sure I hadn't soiled the white trousers. Then he adjusted the gold and jade necklace Davey had given me that morning for my birthday and squeezed my shoulder. “You look great, Bent. You ready?”
I smiled and nodded nervously.
He patted my back and we stepped into the pavilion. From the other side, Davey entered with Larice. Whereas my shirt had a black background, Davey's background was deep blue. The white gold and lapis necklace I had given him for his birthday two weeks before was snug around his strong neck, and on his wrist was the promise bracelet that matched mine. He smiled.
His almost-white hair parted in the middle and fanned back over his ears and down his neck. His brow was almost noble and the line of his jaw elegantly strong. But the gentle smile was still all Davey, and my heart swelled.
Davey told me that morning, as he told me every morning, that there was no possible rival in the world for my good looks, and though I credited his opinion as one colored by love, I was confident that I cut a good figure. We would look sharp together.
As Knox's students played from the corner, we approached each other and met in the middle. Amy shoved four and a half year-old little David forward, holding the pillow upon which sat our two rings. “Hi, Daddy,” he whispered loudly, smiling up at me. “Hi, Uncle Davey.”
Little David had a thick head of curly black hair and strong, dark eyes that dominated otherwise delicate features. His mouth was like mine, but his smile he learned from Uncle Davey. And this morning, the smile was up to full brightness. Davey and I both mussed his hair.
Davey bent to pick up the gold ring he would be giving me, and I picked up the white gold one I would give to him.
Chase, a step back from me, wore a shirt with a red background, as did little David. Larice's dress, loose because she was pregnant, was of the same cloth as their shirts. She stayed a step back from Davey. Little David sat down at our feet as we turned toward our friends.
Davey and I took turns relating how we met, our lives together, and the promises we exchanged four and a half years earlier on a bluff overlooking Olmos Basin.
“Today is my twenty-first birthday,” I concluded. “It's time for me to keep a final promise.” I turned to Davey. “I told you that I would marry you on my twenty-first birthday and today, in front of all our friends and family, I am taking you as the one person I want to share my life with. In a sense, we have always been life mates, Davey, and for the last four and a half years, we have forsaken all others to be faithful to only each other. We are already together. But now, I want to make our vows public and call upon all our friends to bear witness to our promises and support us in our life together.”
I held out my hand and he took it. “David Carlson,” I said. “Today I take you as my life mate. By our love, I claim your body and your life as mine till death takes us.” Then I lowered my voice. “And I ask you to claim me; my body, my mind, my heart, my life. I belong to you and will always belong to you. No one else will ever share my bed or my heart or my future. Love has bound my life to yours, Davey, with unbreakable ties. I will never leave you. And I will seek your good over my own every day I live.” Then I stood tall, and spoke clearly for all to hear. “I am a man, and make this promise as a man. I will never break it.”
Grinning from ear to ear, Davey held up his other hand and I took it. “I love you, Michael Bentolli,” he said. “I always have and I always will. Today, and for the rest of my life, I belong to you. I promise to never give my body or my heart to anyone else, ever. I give you all that I am and all that I own, and I promise to never leave you.” He stood up tall and spoke clearly for all to hear. “By our love, I claim your body and your heart as mine until death takes us. We don't break promises, Michael, and I will never break this one. I am a man, and today I take you as a man, to be my life-mate.”
And then, repeating the formula spoken countless times by countless couples, we exchanged our rings.
Larice began the applause, and Chase yelled loudly over it. “Well kiss him, Bent. Everyone expects it.”
Davey and I smiled at each other and leaned our foreheads together. “A little one?” I asked.
Davey grinned and then I knew what was coming. He wrapped his arms around me, planted his lips on mine, and bent me over backwards.
* * * * *
I held up my hand to admire the wedding band once more in the fading sunlight. A light breeze swept over the terrace, and Davey snuggled closer to me on the couch, a leg over my middle and an arm across my chest. His head lay on my shoulder and I nuzzled his hair, breathing deeply through my nose.
I scratched his back with the hand I had rested behind him. Then he lifted his head and smiled at me, moving his lips to mine.
Holding the kiss, Davey moved on top of me, and his hair fell around our faces like a curtain of golden light, caught in the setting sun. When our lips parted, his blue eyes smiled down into mine. I spread my legs and he settled between them. And we wrapped our arms around each other.
“Hey, Old Man,” I said softly.
“Hey, Old Man,” he echoed back with a smile.
“Have I told you,” I asked, looking up into his deep blue eyes, “that I'm desperately in love with you?”
He brushed his lips across mine. “I know,” he whispered.
He spread his mouth over mine and I opened to him. His hips moved between my legs and we moaned quietly to each other.
The sun descended beneath the horizon and the stars gathered to watch. The breeze wrapped our bodies in a flowing embrace and, from below the terrace, the surf beat a rhythm to the movement of our bodies. And we made love under the open sky.

As I write this, I have a job possibility that could sweep me into a new career. If that happens, I need to be free to pursue it with all my time. If it doesn't happen, then I need more time to find a job. Either way, I needed to bring The Least of These to a close a few chapters ahead of my original target. My apologies for a couple of loose ends.
I would like to ask a favor of The Least of These readers, and that is this… If you have enjoyed the story, please take a moment to send me an email saying so. I will never release your email address or use it for spam. But what I would like to do is to copy out the bodies of any thank you emails and paste them together into a bouquet of thanks and then send a copy to each of my two editor friends who spent so much time helping me.
Of course, I may keep a copy myself, to refresh me on warm South Texas afternoons.
My thanks to you, my reader, for having hung in there with me to the end of the tale.

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