© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved
"What are you talking about?" Cassie asked when he got to the SUV.
"Alex is our uncle, Cassie," he said with a sigh. "Dad's being a bit childish about it though. He doesn't like Alex because our grandfather divorced our grandmother and married Alex's mother or something like that."
"That doesn't make much sense, Sky," said Chad as the vehicle started to move.
"I know it doesn't," he agreed. "But that's what he and Jase have been fighting about all this time. Jase told Alex about the show and paid for him to fly here and audition. What I want to know is why no one told me who Alex was when he arrived."
"This whole thing is crazy," said Cassie as she clutched Kaleb's hand.
"We're going to get answers just as soon as we get back to the house," said Skyler. "Alex is being driven to the house, too."
"Do you think that's a good idea?" Chad asked. "If Dad's already pissed off about him . . . "
"Look," sighed Skyler. "We're going to get to the bottom of this and find out exactly what Dad's problem is with Alex. If it's just the childish answer I got at the club then I don't know what to think. There has to be more to it than that."
"What if we don't want to know what the real reason is?" Chad asked. "What if it's something bad?"
"We'll deal with it," said Skyler firmly. "He's family, Chad."
They didn't say anything else for the rest of the trip across Los Angeles. Chad felt stupid for suggesting that they might not want to know what the real reason behind their father's hatred for Alex was. After all, he was probably on his way to prison for heroine, he'd trashed a hotel room, had sex in the studio and basically been evil to the entire family for months. He was lucky that the family still accepted him. He decided then and there that whatever it was that made their father hate their uncle was irrelevant. He'd accept him as he was.
Alex was waiting for them when they got back to the house. Skyler asked him to come inside and there they found Ben and Jase screaming at each other again. When Ben saw Alex he stopped screaming and glared at Skyler. Skyler wasn't about to be screamed at so he took a deep breath and started to speak.
"All right," he said. "We're going to get this over with here and now. All parties involved are standing in this room, so let's have it out."
"What the hell is he doing here in this house?" snapped Ben.
"This is my house, Dad," he replied. "Alex is family . . . "
"He is not family," Ben said through clenched teeth.
"Look," sighed Skyler. "I don't know what's really behind this, but I can't believe that it's the childish reasoning that I heard at the club. You can't hate him for being your father's son."
"Sky . . . "
"Uncle Jase, I want to hear this from my father," Skyler said, raising his hand and silencing his uncle. "Let's hear it, Dad."
"Do you want to tell them about your past, or should I?" Ben asked, glaring at Alex. "It is in the past, right?"
"You're a heartless bastard, you know that?" Alex replied. "I did what I had to do to survive, Ben. It wasn't like any of Dad's family gave a shit whether I lived or died."
"Oh come off it," snapped Ben. "We didn't know about you! If you'd have come to us we'd have helped you. You didn't have to sell your body to survive, so don't start this."
"Really?" Alex said. "You seem to have a bad memory, big brother. I came to see you twice. Both times you sent me away with nothing more than 'have a nice life, Alex'."
"What did you expect?" he asked.
"What did I expect? I expected family," replied Alex. "You said I didn't have to do what I did to put food on my table, but you didn't even want to know me."
"So you made those movies to put food on your table?" Ben snapped. "What about a real job, Alex?"
"You know damned well that all I know how to do is dance," he replied.
"That isn't all you know how to do," hissed Ben.
"I'm not going to stand here and be insulted," Alex sighed. "We've been through all of this before. Yes, I sold myself on camera to put food on the table and pay my mother's medical bills so I could stay in school. Yes, I'm ashamed of it, and I'd give anything to go back and change the past. I can't though. I've tried to put it behind me, but you bring it up every time I see you. What the hell were you doing watching gay porn to begin with?"
Gay porn? Skyler couldn't believe what he was hearing. His uncle had made gay porn films to pay for his mother's medical bills? His own brothers wouldn't help him? What the hell was going on? He couldn't believe it. He looked from Alex to his father and then to Jase and back again.
"You don't want to be insulted," laughed Ben. "Well I'm sorry. You want to know how I found out? Well I'll tell you, smut king. One of the guys on my staff told me about your wonderful movie career. His younger brother was gay and found you on a website. I had to endure . . . "
"You had to endure what?" yelled Alex. "Did you have to endure men putting their hands all over you when you're not even gay? Did you have to sink lower than scum so that your mother could have chemo and radiation? Did you have to lose all of your friends when they found out that you were nothing more than a glorified whore? It didn't matter that I did it to pay medical bills, keep the house and eat. Fuck you, Ben."
He turned to Skyler saying, "Skyler, I'm sorry that you had to find out like this. I'd have told you if I had any idea that you didn't already hate me. I'll go back to the school and pack. I won't bother any of you anymore."
"Alex, wait," said Skyler, reaching out to grab his arm. "You don't have to go. Stay here, please. We're going to settle this. You are family, and that means something in my book."
"Thanks," said Alex, softening. "That means a lot to hear you say that. I don't want to cause any more trouble. I'm so glad I got to meet you."
"Alex, go back to the school," Skyler said quickly. "But don't pack. You're not going anywhere. Please don't do anything until I come talk to you. Promise me."
Alex looked at him for a long moment, wondering what his angle was. Surely Skyler would side with Ben. He was his son after all. He sounded sincere though, and Alex so wanted to know him. He wanted to be part of the family. He was so tired of being lonely.
"I promise," he said quietly.
They were all silent as they watched Alex walk out of the living room and through the hall to the front door. The house was so quiet that they heard it when the door closed behind him. Then Skyler turned to look at his father. He couldn't believe that his father was being so cold to Alex. He couldn't believe that his father would act this way toward anyone, not the man that he'd known for all this time.
"Skyler, what've you done?" Ben said. His voice was soft. The anger was apparently gone. He sounded more defeated than angry.
"Family, Dad," replied Skyler. "Alex is family. You know what that means."
"After what he's done . . . "
"Don't say that to me," Skyler said loudly, cutting his father off. "After what Chuck and Mom did to us I still took Preston, Dad. I got a beautiful baby boy from the hatred that I had to endure with my brother and sister. Family, Dad. It's all about family, and I can't believe that you would hold Alex's past against him. Dad, he's your brother."
"Skyler . . . "
"No, Dad," Skyler said, holding up a hand to stop him. "I don't want to hear it anymore. If you don't want anything to do with Alex then I'll respect that, but you can't dictate who the rest of us associate with."
"So you're going to let him into your life?" Ben asked, glaring at his son.
"Dad, have you not heard a word I've said?" Skyler yelled. "Jesus, Dad. How did I not know you could be like this?"
"Skyler . . . "
"No, Chad," he said, cutting his brother off. "This is ridiculous. Alex made a mistake, Dad. Is it true that he reached out to you and you turned him away?"
"There are things about this that you don't understand," said Ben.
"You've got that right," said Skyler. "I don't understand how my father, a man I'm usually so proud of that I'm in awe could be so hateful and petty."
"I don't have to listen to this," said Ben. "Tabitha, we're going home. Come on, Jason."
Skyler couldn't believe it. His father was walking out instead of settling this. He was beyond amazed. He watched them go without saying a word to stop them. What was there to say? His father simply wasn't the man he'd thought he was. It hurt, but it was apparently the way it was.
"Sky . . . "
"And you," Skyler said, rounding on his uncle and cutting him off. "I don't ever want to hear about how you're going to pack up and run off to Paris, Jase. This is your home now. Damn it, what is going on with this family?"
"I was angry," Jase said, looking at the floor. "I didn't mean it. I'm happy here. I'm not going anywhere."
"You're damned right you're not going anywhere," snapped Skyler. "I'm tired. I think we've been through enough tonight. I'm going to go talk to Alex and then I want to go to bed."
He walked out without even waiting for Jeff. He was so angry he wanted to hit something, but he just walked out of the house and told Brent that they were going back to the school. He was sure that Brent and the other security men had heard what was going on in the house. He couldn't believe that they'd screamed at each other over this. He thought about it all the way to the school. He also thought about Alex.
No matter what he'd done in the past, Alex was family. Family meant everything to Skyler, and he wasn't about to let his uncle walk away from the family when he knew that with time everyone would settle down. Alex would fit into the family. Skyler would see to it. He didn't like what he'd heard about Alex's past, but he could almost understand it. He owed the man a chance to explain himself.
This was the first time he'd actually been to the school since the renovations had been completed. It had been a high school fifteen years ago. Now it looked like a four star hotel with palm trees and fountains in front of the building. The huge parking lot was now grass and landscaped trees and bushes. There were bricked walk ways through the landscaping with stone benches set against flowerbeds. The biggest fountain was in the center of what had been the parking lot. Three sprays of water jetted up from the fifteen foot round base, six feet into the night before splashing back down to the pool that surrounded them. The garden was illuminated by carefully concealed lights in strategic places. The clear night sky allowed the moon to cast a pearly glow over the garden as well.
He hadn't come to gaze at the garden at night however. He got out of the SUV and followed Brent to the entrance of the three story white stone building. He saw the huge neon blue lighted sign that announced that this building was the Sky High Compound Los Angeles. On the other side of the entrance there was a matching sing that announced that this was also the temporary MTV Studio 6 Los Angeles. He sighed when he saw it. The deal had been struck, and he supposed they could erect any sign they wanted.
Just inside the entrance doors there was a reception desk. No one was manning it at this hour, but it looked large enough for eight people to be seated behind it to direct people to this office or that. It was constructed of a deep rosewood and contrasted the peach walls and teal blue carpet nicely. He shuddered when he saw the pictures behind the desk that lined the wall. They were all of him in various poses from each of his concert tours.
"Can I help you, Mr. Thomas?" a man's voice asked, startling Skyler. He turned to face a security guard dressed in a blue uniform with a neon blue badge that bore the company name with his name sewn underneath. Chance was the name sewn into the uniform.
"Yes, actually," replied Skyler, smiling at the six foot dark haired, blue eyed man. "I'm looking for Alex Thomas."
"Well I believe that he's in the residence wing," said Chance. "I can get someone to show you if you'd like."
"That would be great," Skyler said, smiling again.
"Main entrance to E wing," Chance said into his radio, smiling at Skyler.
"E wing, come back," responded a male voice.
"Yeah, Paul, I've got Skyler Thomas down here," he said. "Could someone come down here and escort him to the residence wing?"
"Skyler? Sure, Chance. I'll be right down," said Paul.
"Copy," Chance said into the radio. "Be just a minute, Mr. Thomas."
"Thank you," replied Skyler as he looked around the rest of the main entrance.
There was a waiting area to the left of the main desk with comfortable looking stuffed black chairs. There were potted palm trees in the two corners of the room that Skyler could see. More pictures of Skyler and other singers, actors and models from the Sky High roster graced the walls in the waiting area. In the center of the wall directly left a door opened and a tall blond haired man walked out. He was dressed just like Chance.
"Mr. Thomas, my name is Paul Cress," said the blond, extending his hand. "I'll be escorting you up to the residence wing. If you'll follow me."
"Thank you, Paul," Skyler said as he retrieved his hand.
Skyler followed the man back through the waiting area and through the door he'd come through. On the other side of the door was a bank of elevators. The walls and floor were the same as the waiting area and main entrance. Skyler hoped that the peach and teal blue motif wasn't predominant throughout the building.
They rode the elevator to the third floor in silence. Skyler wondered if Paul Cress didn't like him. It really didn't matter as long as the man performed his job professionally. Skyler was there to see Paul to begin with. He was there to have a discussion with his uncle. Uncle. That was still blowing his mind. He couldn't believe that he had another uncle he didn't know about. His father had told him that he and Jase were the only ones. Were there more waiting to surprise him in the future? He hoped not. He couldn't keep putting his relatives to work at Sky High. Sure Jase was a talented director. Alex was an awesome dancer as well, but that didn't mean that the rest of the would-be family had that kind of talent.
It was late so there weren't many people running around the residence wing. Skyler was happy to see that the walls in this wing were a different color. The color was a shade of blue that he'd not seen before, and the carpet was smoky gray and thick. The common area was set up like a pit. They stepped down two steps the the circular smoky couches. A huge screen took up almost all of the wall in front of them.
"Mr. Thomas, if you'll have a seat, I'll get Alex for you," said Paul.
"Thank you," he said, sitting down on the couch. It was very comfortable.
There was a remote control on the oval dark wood coffee table in front of him. He picked it up and pressed the power button. The screen came to life with the MTV coverage of the release party that had ended with the shocking news that Alex was his uncle. He switched it off quickly. Then Alex was coming through the doorway with Paul behind him.
"Sky," he said, coming to sit beside him. "Did everything go all right after I left?"
"Not exactly," sighed Skyler. "Alex, I want you to know that I don't blame you for any of this. I don't understand why my dad is being the way he is."
"He just can't let go of what I did in my past," sighed Alex. "It isn't like I'm proud of it or anything. I only did it to . . . "
"I know why you did it," Skyler interrupted. "I'm not worried about what you did in the past, Alex. I want you to stay here in Los Angeles and finish this competition, or whatever the hell it is. I don't want you to leave. I want to get to know you. You're family, and that's important to me."
"But my being here is causing trouble between you and your dad," he said, looking down at his knees.
"I'll worry about my dad," said Skyler. "Just please promise me that you won't pack up and leave."
"Sky, what about what's going on between Jase and Ben over me being here to begin with?" he replied.
"My dad and Uncle Jase are grown men," Skyler said firmly. "I've already had it out with Jase about his deciding to pack up and run away. I've had it out with Dad about this, too. I haven't had a chance to talk to my brothers and sister about this, but I know that they'd want you to stay. Spend some time with us, Alex. Get to know your great nephew. Please, Alex."
Alex looked at him silently for a few minutes, and Skyler hoped he was at least thinking about staying. He really wanted to get to know him, and he wanted Preston to know him. Sure he hadn't had near enough time to process any of what he'd heard, but he wanted the man to stay.
"I'll stay," Alex said finally. "I'll stay in the competition as well, but, Skyler, I don't want any special treatment. If I'm going to win a spot on the tour I want it to be because I've earned that spot. Not because I'm your uncle."
"Deal," replied Skyler, smiling.
"I really am so happy that I got to meet you," Alex said suddenly. "You have no idea how proud of you I am. I know I'm not much older than you, but you have to know how much it still blows me away to know that you have all of this talent."
"Thanks, Alex," he said. "Let's hope that I continue to make you proud."
After a short conversation with Jeff about why he'd left so quickly, Skyler settled into bed next to his lover and got some much needed sleep. The next day the arguing with his father and uncle resumed, and Skyler was ready to tell them both to just shut their mouths and not speak to each other.
Then it was time to start filming the first video from the soundtrack to the movie. Skyler was extremely thankful when Jase used all of the audience extras from the film and had Skyler record the song live for the video. Both Alex and Jeff were there for the video shoot and both were pleased with his performance.
Skyler was happy that Alex had taken the news of his and Jeff's relationship in stride. He didn't even bat an eye when he learned that Jason was gay as well. He talked to Skyler about the gay porn he'd done to pay for medical expenses, house payments, food and other expenses before his mother died. By the time he was finished telling Skyler the ugly truth about it, Skyler felt more sorry for him than ever. Of course gay porn would never have been something that Skyler would have turned to for money no matter how bad things got, but he understood that his values weren't the same as everyone else's. He still didn't judge his uncle for his past.
"Sky, I wanted to talk privately with you about something important," Kaleb said to him when they'd returned from the video shoot. He looked nervous, and Skyler wondered what it was that could have his friend so upset.
"Come on into the office with me, Kaleb," he said, putting a hand on his friend's back and leading him through the living room to his office. They sat down on the leather couch. "What's on your mind?"
"Well you know that Cassie and I said we were going to wait at least a year, if not longer to get married when we told you that we're engaged," said Kaleb.
"Yes," Skyler said, nodding for him to continue.
"Well with Chad's court case looming over us in a few more weeks, Cassie and I decided to go ahead and set a date," he said.
"All right," replied Skyler. It made sense to him. None of them knew for sure what was going to happen when Chad returned to court. The judge had already said he planned to make an example out of Chad. "So when's the date?"
"The fifteenth," Kaleb said quickly.
"Of this month?" Skyler asked, wide eyed.
"That's right," replied Kaleb. "Sky, you have to know that I didn't pressure Cassie into making this decision. She's the one that brought it up to me last night."
"Kaleb," Skyler said, putting a hand on the man's arm. "I didn't think for a minute that you'd pressured Cassie into anything at all, but you're talking about getting married in six days."
"That's right," he said. "Cassie and Tabitha are in the other room calling all over the city to find a venue and book caterers and all of that."
"Well you have my blessing," he said. "If that's what you wanted."
"That's part of what I wanted," said Kaleb. "The other part was kind of personal."
"All right," he said.
"You've been the best friend I've ever had in my life, Sky," said Kaleb. "When I needed something to turn my life around and stop me from making bad decisions you took me under your wing and gave me a spot on your dancer line up. You've supported my relationship with Cassie from the start, and you've always been available when I needed someone to talk to."
"That's what friends are for, Kaleb," said Skyler.
"Right," Kaleb said, smiling. "What I wanted to ask you is if you would be my best man."
"Of course," Skyler said quickly, smiling at him. "But what about Chad?"
"Well, Chad and I don't really know each other that well anymore," he said. "And I would really be happier if you were my best man. I love Chad just like the rest of you. He's family to me, but you're my friend."
"I'd be honored," Skyler said, drawing his friend into a tight embrace. "You know, that means it's my job to throw you a bachelor party."
"Cassie told me she'd kill me if I had one of those," Kaleb said seriously.
"I'll handle my sister," laughed Skyler. "Who are the other groomsmen?"
"Chad, Jason and Jase," said Kaleb. "Cassie asked me to ask Alex, but I'm not sure how your dad would react to that."
"Go ahead and ask Alex if you want to, Kaleb," Skyler said after a moment. "I'll handle Dad."
And they submerged themselves in wedding plans. Cassie was happier than Skyler had seen her in a long time. Chad was smiling a lot more as well, but there were times when Skyler found him brooding and looking down. He knew that it was going to be a while before Chad was back to his old self. He just hoped that if he could help, Chad would let him.
Ben and Jase stopped talking to each other completely. Skyler rarely ever saw his father at his house over the next six days. Jason was there every day though along with Drew. Ali was at the house a lot to visit with Jase. Skyler smiled as he watched the two of them. It was clear that they were trying to be a couple but keep it discreet. There was a lot going on around that house, but Skyler watched everything.
"Stop fidgeting," laughed Darby as Skyler stood before her as she kneeled to pin his pants. She'd worked hard every day to get the tuxes and dresses finished for the wedding.
"I'm not fidgeting," he replied. "I'm watching Jase and Ali."
"Cute, aren't they?" she asked. "I just hope that things can be that sweet with me and Chad soon."
"They aren't already?" he asked.
"Well, Chad's worried about court, and when he isn't worried he's planning things for the wedding like the rest of us," she replied.
"You've been awful busy lately, too," he pointed out.
"Sewing is simple," she said. "Designing is hard. Thank God I already had the wedding dress."
"What do you mean?"
"Well I made the dress a year ago for my sister," she said. "They eloped, which made me angry, but it worked out. Cassie loves the dress and she tried it on. Miracle of miracles, it fits her perfectly. The hard part was getting the tuxes ready. Yours and Alex's are the last of the bunch."
"Shouldn't he be here waiting for his turn to be a pin cushion then?" Skyler asked, smirking at her.
"Easy with the sarcasm," she laughed. "I'll stick you on purpose."
"We wouldn't want that, now would we?" asked Jeff as he peeked his head into the room. "Lookin' good, Blondie."
"Just wait till' it's your turn, Blue," replied Skyler with another smirk. "Is Alex here yet?"
"Oh yeah," sighed Jeff. "Your dad's 'watching' him."
Skyler sighed as well. He hadn't known that his father was even in the house. He could only imagine how uncomfortable Alex was with his disapproving older brother staring him down. This had to stop. One way or another it had to. He just didn't know how to make it stop.
"Go tell Alex to come in here with us," he said after a moment. "If Dad tries to follow him I'll tell him to go away."
"You sure?" Jeff asked, knowing how much Skyler hated to fight with his father.
"I'm sure," he replied, though he wasn't actually. This was all he could think of to make Alex more comfortable.
"All right," said Jeff, smiling. "You really do look good, Sky."
"Thanks," he replied, smiling back.
"This thing with your dad and Alex isn't getting any better I take it," Darby said as she continued to add pin after pin.
"Not by a long shot," sighed Skyler. "Dad needs to remember that this is my house, though."
"All right," she said, getting to her feet. "You can take that off now. I'm finished. I'll work on the alterations tonight. Should be done in the morning."
"Do you ever sleep?" he asked, smiling at her.
"Oh sure," she said, nodding. "Take it off, please."
"I'm going to need help," he laughed. "Let's wait till Jeff and Alex get in here."
"Right," she said, smiling. "I'll just go grab a drink. I'll knock."
"Thanks," he said.
"Did I hear that you need help getting naked?" Jeff asked, smiling big as he and Alex came into the office.
"Right," laughed Skyler. "Just help me out of the monkey suit and no one will get hurt."
"Do you want me to wait outside?" Alex asked, looking from one to the other of them.
"No," said Skyler. "I need help, besides I have underwear on. You know, if you get a spot on my dancer line up you'll be seeing a lot of us in our underwear or less."
"Right," said Alex, his ears turning red.
They helped Skyler out of the tux very quickly, but Alex tried not to look at his nephew. Then they were helping Alex into his tux and embarrassing him because help wasn't really necessary to put it on. It was taking it off with all of the pins in it that would require help. Skyler and Jeff laughed at his blushes though.
Two hours later, Darby had both tuxes and had gone upstairs to start her alterations to make them fit each of the guys. She'd already gotten Jase, Chad and Kaleb's so she'd be working for a while. Skyler felt bad about that, but she'd insisted that she would take care of the tuxes and dresses for the wedding.
They met at the Olympic Collection Banquette and Conference Center the next evening for the rehearsal and dinner. Of course the press followed them and shouted questions as they got out of their limos and headed for the building. They were met by a stately looking woman in a charcoal business suit. Her dark hair was pulled back, and her blue eyes were bright. She smiled at them when they came in.
"You must be the Thomas - Hassid party," she said to Ben. "Won't you come inside? The minister is already here."
The entire place was beautiful. The grounds that they were led to were surrounded by lush trees. There were lights in the trees that lit up the entire area. A white carpet had been rolled out all the way to the platform where the minister stood, adjusting his sound equipment. He smiled at them when he looked up.
Then before Skyler knew what was what, the minister, Reverend Tom Schultz, had them all in their places and instructed them on how to proceed down the isle. He had many instructions for Ben and Cassie before he was satisfied enough to run through a rehearsal. Kaleb asked him to substitute the words "Till dead do us part" for "As long as we both shall live" and he agreed. Then he followed them into the banquette hall to have dinner.
Bonita, Kaleb's mother, sat with Ben and Tabitha. She smiled at everyone she saw and winked at Skyler. He was just happy that his father hadn't said much of anything at all. He'd been afraid that he'd cause a scene because of Alex being there and ruin the night for Cassie and Kaleb. However everything went perfectly, and they were on their way back to the houses with no one having caused a problem.
When they got back to the house, Skyler led his friends to the living room. Jason followed their father through the house and out the back door to head for their house. He was supposed to pack an overnight bag and come back with Drew. Skyler wasn't sure if his father would allow it or not.
"So your dad is still pissed about Alex?" Mark asked as they all sat down in the living room.
"Sure is," said Skyler. "But like I told him, this is my house, we're all adults and we'll do what we please."
To Skyler's surprise, Drew and Jason returned with their bags. He eyed his little brother who shrugged and joined him on the couch, saying, "I think I might have to move in with you, Sky."
"That bad?" Skyler asked.
"You don't want to know," he sighed.
"Well come on," said Skyler. "This is supposed to be a party. Let's head to the dining room and play cards."
They played poker after they taught Jason and Darby how to play. They laughed and had a great time, but Skyler couldn't stop thinking about his father's attitude. He supposed there was just nothing he could do about it. After that he got into the game and had a great time.
Skyler put Drew and Jason in Cassie's room and let Alex have the spare guest room. Kaleb bunked with Mark and they all settled in to sleep. The girls were all at his father's house for the night. He slid into bed with Jeff after they'd checked on the children and said goodnight to the guys.
"Your dad's really going far with this," Jeff said as they held each other.
"He sure is," sighed Skyler. "I'm hoping that Jason was exaggerating about probably having to move in with us."
"What if he isn't?"
"Then he'll move in with us," replied Skyler. "It won't be too much longer and we'll both be leaving for the tour. What did your management say about you taking time off?"
"It's all set," Jeff said, grinning. "I'm going on tour with you. I told them I was, and then Justin said he wanted to take some time off to spend with his wife, and Nick wants to head out on the road with Jessica."
"That's great," said Skyler. "I was so not looking forward to heading out without you again."
"Well now you don't have to worry about it," he replied. "It'll be a bit odd to be on the road and not performing, but I think I can handle it."
The next morning, Kaleb was all smiles. He kept saying he was getting married over and over again at breakfast. It made the children laugh. Skyler was happy for him. He tried hard not to think about the fact that he and Jeff couldn't get married as he watched his close friend's excitement.
He went with Kaleb to pick his mother up at the hotel at noon. Kaleb went on and on about how excited he was and how he couldn't wait to get married all the way to the hotel and back. Bonita and Skyler shared smiles as they listened to him. Skyler was so happy for him. He hadn't seen Kaleb this excited even when he'd opened his school in Orlando.
They headed for the center at four. That gave them two hours to get dressed and ready. Jeff and Drew wouldn't be in the wedding, but they rode along with them. Skyler had fun getting Preston into his little tux. They took a million pictures of him once he was dressed. The boy loved to have his picture taken so he was all smiles for each one.
Once Skyler was in his tux he went to help Kaleb. The man was nervous now and couldn't tie his tie. Skyler laughed at him and reminded him that he couldn't wait for this all day long. Kaleb smiled weakly at him and then started to speak very quickly in Spanish. Skyler chuckled at him.
"Calm down, Kaleb," he said. "I can't understand what you're saying."
"I'm praying," replied Kaleb. "I'm praying that I don't screw this up."
"How could you screw this up?" he asked.
"By tripping and falling my face or something," Kaleb said seriously.
"Kaleb, you are one of the most graceful men I know," Skyler told him. "You're going to be fine. Besides, your mother will keep you upright."
Skyler thought it was awesome that Kaleb was going to walk down the isle with his mother before the rest of them. She was thrilled about it. He'd never heard of a wedding march like this one, but it was a great idea. He hoped that if he and Jeff ever could get married that Tabitha would walk down the isle with him.
That's when he noticed that his father wasn't with them. He was supposed to have come at five to get dressed and then make sure that the girls were getting along all right. Skyler hoped that his father hadn't decided not to even attend the wedding. That would ruin things for Cassie.
"How do I look?" Chad asked, dragging his attention away from Kaleb and his thoughts.
The pale gray tux looked awesome on Chad. His light pink tie and carnation were perfect. Skyler smiled at him and nodded his head. His own tux was a bit darker. His tie and carnation were a darker pink as well. He turned to look at each of them and found that Chad, Alex, Jason and Jase looked great in their tuxes. He smiled at each of them in turn.
Before they realized it was time to leave the room and get ready to walk down the isle. Skyler took Kristie's arm as soon as he saw her. She looked beautiful in her pink and white maid of honor dress. It was a full length gown that widened at her hips and covered her feet. Her hair was pulled back into a French Seam with pink pearls in the seam.
"You look amazing," he told her, kissing her cheek as she took his arm.
"You look dashing yourself," she replied, smiling.
They stood just behind Kaleb and his mother with Chad and Darby right behind them. Jason and Britney were behind them, Jase and Ali filed in next and Alex and Niki took up the rear. They let Kaleb and Bonita walk down the isle while he and Kristy held on to Preston and Jeff Jr. Alyssa made her way slowly down the isle spreading rose petals as she went. They waited until she was half way down the isle to send the boys after a quick rehash of instructions.
Skyler smiled as he watched his two sons walk down the isle, carrying their little pillows with the plastic rings sewn into the tops. He was so busy watching that he almost didn't take off after them in time. Kristy's light tug on his arm got him going. Red, white and pink roses were tied with pink and white ribbons and attached to each white chair on either side of the white carpet that was now littered with red, white and pink rose petals. An arch had been put up on the platform, and it looked as if it was made from roses, freesia and lilies; all in red, white and pink. At the very top of the arch there were beautiful pink and white orchids with deeper pink rose blossoms. The setting sun was their background as they faced the arch. He and Kristy separated to take their sides as the minister smiled at them.
Once they were all lined up on either side of the arch, the music changed to the traditional bridal march and they all turned to watch as Ben walked Cassie down the isle. She was a vision in white. The dress that Darby had designed was flawless white satin and lace. Her sleeves were delicate white lace that ended in ruffles at her wrists. The bodice was laced topped satin that hugged her perfectly. The dress tapered at the waist and flowed again down her legs like a beautiful white orchid turned upside down. The train of the dress behind her extended at least four feet. The veil that covered her face in the front extended in the back to join the train of the dress. Four of Kaleb's youngest students trailed her down the isle dressed in white dresses as they held her train so that it didn't touch the white carpet.
The bouquet in her hands was baby pink rose blooms surrounded by white freesia. It spilled down the front of her as she held it, completely hiding her hands. She was so beautiful that his heart felt heavy as he looked at her. He remembered all of the times he'd had to keep her from running into the street when they were children, all of the times he'd taken the blame for things that she had done just to keep her from Chuck's wrath and her excited smile as she beheld New York for the first time. Had it really been so long ago?
She turned her head to smile at him as she made her way to the arch. He could barely see the smile through the veil, but it nearly made him cry. He smiled back at her, trying to project how proud he was, how happy for her he was and how perfect he thought this was. His little sister had grown up. She was about to marry one of the greatest guys Skyler had ever met. He nearly lost his battle with tears as his father took her hand and placed it in Kaleb's when they reached the arch. He turned quickly to face the minister as the ceremony truly began.
He listened as they repeated their vows and applauded when Kaleb raised the veil to kiss his bride. The minister announced them as Mr. and Mrs. Kaleb Hassid to cheers from the crowd. They threw bird seed as the happy newlyweds made their way back down the isle to the banquette hall where the cake and food waited. Skyler and Kristy followed Alyssa and her brothers back down the isle, smiling so big their faces hurt.
Once everyone was in the hall, the wedding party gathered around Cassie and Kaleb to watch as they cut the cake and fed each other a small piece. Skyler was almost disappointed when they didn't smear each other's faces. He applauded with everyone else and then took his place at the head of the line to get the next piece before heading back to the table that the wedding party would share. He noticed that his father watched Alex like a hawk from his place at the parents' table and sighed. He hoped that there wasn't going to be a scene.
The roast beef was very juicy and tender, and the wine was perfect. All of them were talking about how beautiful the ceremony had been the entire time they ate. Skyler was thankful to Jeff and Drew when he saw that the two men were helping the boys with their food. He and Jeff shared a smile when Jeff caught him looking. Skyler was sure that Jeff was thinking the same thing he was. He was sure that Jeff was wishing it was the two of them tonight.
Skyler used his fork to tap his glass, getting everyone's attention. It was time for him to make his speech, and he stood to smile at Cassie and Kaleb. He noticed that his father made it a point not to look at him. It hurt, but that's not what he was there for. He was there for Kaleb and Cassie.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, smiling at the guests. "It's my duty as Kaleb's best man to give a speech about the happy couple. Let me tell you that it has been such a pleasure watching as their romance grew. I met Kaleb for the first time in Orlando when I was auditioning dancers for my then upcoming tour with my brother, Chad.
"He was a struggling dancer who was working part time at a gym as a junior trainer. When he showed up at the Viper Room I could tell from the way he walked that he was going to be a good dancer. What I couldn't tell that day, and didn't figure out for a while was that Kaleb could be a friend.
"He's been a great friend almost since day one, and when I saw my sister's eyes light up when he walked into a room I knew that we'd get here one day. I just knew it. There are no two people more suited for each other than Cassie and Kaleb. Kaleb has a strong will, and always does what's right. Cassie has a mind and spirit that soars. Together they're the perfect team. They dance well together, they sing well together and now we see that the love well together.
"So join me as I raise my glass to celebrate one of the most awesome couples in the world," he said, raising his glass and smiling at his sister's tear streaked face. "To Kaleb and Cassie."
The room erupted in response as glasses raised. Then the tables were cleared of dishes by the catering staff and the music began. Kaleb and Cassie made their way to the dance floor and Skyler was touched when he heard the music. They'd selected "Come What May" for the first dance. They looked spectacular on the floor as they glided effortlessly to the music. Everyone gave them their dance. Once the song had ended, Skyler and Kristy joined the rest of the wedding party on the floor with the bride and groom as Chad's "I'll Be" played.
Skyler waited while Ben tapped Kaleb on the shoulder to cut in so that he could have his turn dancing with the bride. Bonita happily glided into her son's arms as yet another song began to play. This time it wasn't any of theirs. It had touched him that they'd chosen one of his songs for the first dance. He smiled at Kristy as he thought about how perfect the whole thing had been.
"They look so happy," Kristy said.
"They sure do," he replied, smiling at her again. "I'm so happy for them."
"I am as well," she said. "I'll be happy for you and Jeff when the big day arrives too."
"That, I'm afraid is a way off yet," he sighed.
"It'll come," she promised. "There's no way that a love like yours and Jeff's can't be shared with the world. That day is coming, Skyler."
He leaned closer and kissed her cheek as the music played on. Then Kaleb tapped him on the arm to take Kristy away. They two men laughed at each other for a second. Skyler bowed before heading for the center of the dance floor to take his sister from their father. When he tapped Ben on the shoulder his father gave him such a cold look filled with fury that Skyler stepped back unconsciously. He felt dazed by the fury in his father's eyes for a moment before he remembered what they were supposed to be doing.
"Daddy, you promised," Cassie said softly, and then Ben let her go and walked away. Skyler watched him sadly for a moment before he took his sister in his arms and tried to smile for her.
"Congratulations, Cassie," he said. "I'm so happy for you."
"Thank you," she said, smiling finally. "I can't believe it, you know?"
"Oh I have an idea," he chuckled. "You look amazing."
"Darby did a great job with the dress, didn't she?" she asked.
"She sure did," he replied. "The woman is talented."
"That she is," she agreed. "She loves Chad, you know?"
"I do," he replied, smiling wider. "I'm happy for them. I just hope that Chad gets back to his old self. If she loves him now, just wait till she sees the old Chad."
"You'll watch over him while I'm gone, won't you?" she asked. The look on her face was one near panic. Skyler held her tighter.
"You know I will, Cassie," he said seriously. "I love him just as much as you do."
"I know," she sighed. "I've just been so worried about him since he was arrested and we knew for sure that it was drugs."
"I know the feeling," he replied. "We'll get through this, Cassie. We're strong."
"From your lips," she said as Chad tapped him on the shoulder to take her from him.
"May I?" Chad asked, smiling. He almost looked like himself again with that smile on his face.
"Absolutely," replied Skyler, bowing formally.
Before he knew it they were saying goodbye to the couple and throwing more bird seed as they climbed into the stretched white limo that would take them to the airport. Their bags were already in the trunk. Cassie didn't know for sure where they were going, but Skyler had helped Kaleb secure the resort in Greece. They'd be there for seven nights before returning to the States to celebrate Christmas with his mother in Orlando. Skyler smiled as he thought about it.
The next chapter will be posted soon.