1.20: Unanswered Questions

AN: This chapter does not have screenshots.  Also, apologies for disappearing.  Life worked against me, then I hit writer’s block, but I’m back now!

There were questions to be answered, this was for certain.  The kiss had shaken Diego to his very core, but not in a bad way.  No, he wasn’t concerned about being gay and any ramifications from such a discovery, but he was concerned that if he were gay that he didn’t realize it before Richie decided to plan one on him in the locker room.  As to why Richie felt that was appropriate is another question for another day.

Certainly there were ways for Diego to figure this out.  One obvious and glaring process would be to commence intimacy with Richie or another guy.  If he were gay, most likely the experience would be something that he would like. He could then answer the question and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was in fact gay.  Though, he could also be bisexual. That would also mean enjoying intimate moments with a girl. This, though, was something frowned upon only due to the fact he wasn’t sure he was ready to go that far with anyone at this moment.

He wasn’t concerned with how his parents would react.  There was a part of him that felt Nina would be over the moon to have a gay kid on her hands.  His father, Diego assumed, would also be accepting of this fact–though he knew that it would take Sergio a bit of time to process the information.  It wasn’t that grandchildren were out of the question. With 5 siblings, one being gay wouldn’t ever prevent the Alvarez family from becoming their own small army in San Myshuno.. Or indeed any other town.  Diego always felt like, as the eldest kid (by a whopping 2 minutes) he was expected to kind of be the heir-apparent to the kingdom.

Then he sat back in his bed and looked up at the ceiling and thought.  He went back to the kiss. He could still feel Richie’s lips pressed against his.  He was surprised by it, but he did kind of like it. That’s when his mind began to wonder.  He thought about that moment and where it could lead. The idea of Richie maybe becoming something more than a friend.  Maybe a boyfriend. Maybe a lover. Would this be something that would be okay for him? Would this be a thing where he thought he might be gay, led Richie on, then ended it after realizing he wasn’t?  How horrible of a person would that make Diego? Could he stand to lose his friend as a result? Would Richie even understand? Could Richie ever understand anything more than was he could see, hear, feel, touch, and smell?

No, he couldn’t move forward with Richie.  Not unless Diego was certain that he was, in fact, gay–or at least bisexual.  There was a friendship there. He actually liked hanging out with Richie. He couldn’t hurt him like that–it would be wrong.  

So many questions, none that could easily be answered.  Still, Diego’s mind did wander. It did wonder what it would be like to kiss Richie again.  Maybe, just maybe, that’s all that would be needed.

1-19: Questions

Normally, everyone child and teen is asleep before midnight on school nights.  It’s a hard-and-fast rule that Nina implemented.  The idea behind was to ensure the children had enough sleep for the next day.  Even Nina went to bed before midnight.  Sergio, when he wasn’t away, usually went along with the idea as moral support.  So it would be strange to hear anything or anyone making noise in the early morning hours.  Still, that’s just what Antonio heard through the wall: someone talking.

Antonio opened the door quietly, startling Diego a bit.  Then he walked over and sat down on the small love seat in Diego’s room.

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“Dude, you alright?” Antonio asked.

“No,” Diego said.

“What’s wrong?” Antonio said sitting down beside Diego.

Diego was quiet.  He just sat there staring at the blank television.

“Did Richie say he’s comin’ out with us Saturday?” Antonio asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” Diego said.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Antonio said.  

“Yes, Tony.  Richie is coming out on Saturday, but I think I’m gonna stay home,” Diego said.

“This whole thing was your idea,” Antonio said.  “You can’t leave me to do it alone.”

“You mean like you did when you ditched me in the house with Richie while you went clothes shopping?” Diego said.

“Uh…” Antonio replied.

“Thought so,” Diego said.

“Well,” Antonio said.  “This is great convo, bro.”  He stood up to walk away. Diego turned towards Antonio and spoke.

“He kissed me,” Diego said feeling a sense of calmness overtaking him after finally saying it out loud.

“I’m sorry?” Antonio said.

“Richie.  We were talking.  Like two bros talking.  And then he stood there.  And then he kissed me. Like, talking, then kissing.  And then awkward.” Diego said.

“No way,” Antonio said as calmly as he could, “like on the cheek?  He’s a strange kid. Maybe he’s like those exchange students from France?  Kissing on the cheek stuff?”

“Right on the lips,” Diego said.  “Then he left. He smiled, went in the back of the locker room and changed and left as if nothing happened.”

“Whoa,” Antonio said.  “What now?”

“I don’t know,” Diego said.

“Well, I mean, you can’t stop being his friend because he kissed you.  He’s really weird with people, so he may have just not known you don’t do that?” Antonio said.

“What?  No,” Diego said.  “It’s not really that, though… I’m kinda pissed he didn’t tell me how he felt.  I coulda handle that. This…. is different.”

“What’s different about it, D?” Antonio asked.  “It’s just like when Cindy Collins kissed you in 8th grade.  She just ran up and kissed you and ran away. What’s different?”

Diego cleared his throat.  “Uh, well, I kinda….”

“You kinda what?” Antonio said.

“I kinda liked it,” Diego said.  “At first I was kinda not into it, but then I don’t know.”

“Wait, dude, are you gay?” Antonio asked.

“I.. don’t know…” Diego said nervously.  “Like, I don’t know, Tony.”

“Well, if you’re gay, then that’s great.  More ladies for Tony the Love Tiger,” Antonio said.

“You’re an ass,” Diego said.  “But, what do I do?”

“Do?” Antonio said.  “Well, I don’t know, D.  I mean, I’m not good with this kinda thing.  Like, I’m totally here for you whatever, but I don’t know what to tell you, bro.  Like, if you like dudes, then like dudes. If you don’t, then don’t. Hey, bro, maybe you like both, eh?  Think about it”

“You’re stupid,” Diego said.  “But, uh, yeah… I don’t know if I like dudes or girls anymore.  I thought I knew. I don’t know anymore. How do you figure it out?”

I think you gotta mess around with a guy and find out,” Antonio said.  “I mean, I guess. I don’t know. I know I just liked girls and that’s it.  Hey! Maybe it’s like that. Maybe you already like guys, but you didn’t realize it till now!  Totally like that movie Sim and Out where that dude was dating a girl and was gonna marry her until some Hollywood guy shows up and makes him realize he’s gay. But instead of a famous Hollywood guy, you got a billionaire.  A strange, strange billionaire.”

“This is really messin’ with me,” Diego said.  “I mean, what should I do?”

“Uh, I’m not Dad, and my advice always kind of sucks, but I’d say you gotta find out if you like dudes.  And if you do, if you like Richie. It’s really obvious he’s gotta a crush on you. I guess you should figure out if you’re gay, bro.”  Antonio said.

1-18: The Richie Project, Part 2

“Dude, you totally left me alone with him,” Diego said.

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“I had to go and get some new clothes,” Antonio said.

“You should’ve been here, Tony.  You left me hangin’,” Diego said.

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“Hey, I told you to wait till later.  You didn’t listen to me.  Not my fault,” Antonio said.

“Anyway,” Diego continued, “I think I’m gonna talk to him after PE.  Talk to him a bit about maybe trying to make more friends and all.”

“You guys trying to help that Richie kid?” Sergio asked as he sat down.

“A little,” Antonio said.  “He’s acting like he doesn’t get life and we’re tryin’ to help him figure it out.  He’s a cool kid, but D and I can’t be his only friends.”

“Well, you and D do what you want to do.  Let me just say that this plan could backfire.  He likes you two.  He trusts you two.  I don’t know him that well, but if I were him and my friends were trying to get me to make more friends intentionally, I’d be pretty upset about that.  So, you could wind up losing him as a friend,” Sergio said.  “Unless that’s what you two want.”

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“Dad,” Diego said, “No, that’s not what I want.  I don’t think Tony wants that either,”

“D’s right,” Antonio said.

“Then, why not, just invite him out with you and your other friends.  Maybe he’ll naturally make new friends,” Sergio said.

“Good idea,” Diego said.  “I’ll ask him to hang out with us on Saturday when we go to see Simception.”

“Dude, I hope he doesn’t talk the whole movie,” Antonio said.  “He never shuts up.

Valley High School

“Richie,” Diego said.

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“Hey D!” Richie said with a smile.  “I see you shower after everyone else, too.”

“Actually, I usually do it as quick as I can, but I kinda wanted to ask if you wanted to go see Simception this Saturday,” Diego said. “I have……”

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“Oh, hell yeah,” Richie said interrupting Diego, “I was going to wait until my father got us a private screening, but it would be really cool to hang out with you on Saturday.  I mean, like, going to see a movie with my friend D.  Ha!  I’ve never been to a movie theater before.  Are the floors sticky?  If they’re sticky, I’m going to have to wear older shoes because I don’t want my new kicks to get sticky.”

“Well, it’s not just….” Diego said.

“Hey!  I’ll buy the snacks!  This will be real fun!” Richie said.

Diego continued to smile, “Richie, I want you to know that it’s gonna be me, Tony, and some other guys from school.”

“Oh, that’s cool!” Richie said.  “I mean, to hang out with the guys” he deepened his voice on the last part.  “You know, you’re really a good friend.  You bring me to soccer games and we see movies together and you showed me your room.  Hey, do you work out?”

“Yeah,” Diego said.  “My dad taught me.  Looks like you work out a bit, too.”

“Oh, haha!” Richie said.  “A little bit.  My dad has a personal trainer, but he never does what the trainer says.  But I get 30 minutes a week with him.  Just try to look good, you know.”

Diego stood up to walk over to the locker to get his clothes, Richie stood up behind him and followed.

“So, be at the penthouse around 5.  We’re all leaving from there because the theater is right around the corner.”

Richie smile, “Yeah, D, I’ll be there at 5.”  Richie stood there for a moment just kind of staring at Diego.

“Yes, Richie?” Diego asked

Then, Richie decided to do something no one could have ever expected…

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1-17: The Status Quo

The Alvarez residence was always brimming with activity.  With 6 children, it wasn’t hard to understand that someone was always doing something.  Though, as Clara began to approach her birthday, she also began to do things on her own.  

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Sergio and Nina still did as much as they could for her, but she began asserting her independence.

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Even Antonio helped Carla when feeding time came.  The Twins were like that, though Antonio seemed to be the one helping out.

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Nina busied herself playing with the kids.  

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Clara wanted to play video games when Nina was, but she hadn’t quite mastered how to actually use the controllers.

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The issue for Nina was that having four kids killed her figure.  She was never skinny, but she had a much better body when she first met Sergio.  So, she began to work out.

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Sergio even started to work out with her.

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And he ever helped with mentoring her.

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With Love Day hitting, Sergio and Nina finally found some time to be alone.

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And then Clara had her birthday.  

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Antonio baked the cake.  

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He was becoming a go-to on weekends for cooking.  In fact, he even wanted to be a master chef and was always inspired to cook often letting the family relax while he did so.

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It was beginning to feel that life was moving along in the Alvarez house.  Sergio was nearing his final game, Clara was old enough to go to school, and Nina was about to find herself alone with Sergio while the kids were going to school.

And while they were always spending quality time together, with the kids gone…

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..that time seemed to be used for more adult activities.

1-16: The Richie Project, Part 1

“I have no idea,” Antonio said.  “Like, we went from not having friends to having Richie hanging with us everywhere we go.”

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“He’s pretty cool,” Diego said.  “Strange, but cool. You remember how he was at the stadium?”

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“Dude, he went from this awkward kind of kid to this loud fan all of a sudden.” Antonio replied.  “I didn’t think he’d even like soccer. Now, that’s all he talks about.”

“Still, I feel bad,” Diego said, “I think he really doesn’t have any friends besides us.  I mean, did you see the way other kids were all about avoiding him?”

He keeps calling us Mexicans,” Antonio said.  “I think he just doesn’t get the world. We need to help him.  And I have a plan…”

Later that evening

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“Hey, Richie.  Yeah, it’s Diego.  Hey, you wanna come over, hang out a bit?  Yeah? Okay, then…. Oh, twenty minutes, huh?  Well…. yeah, sure. Okay. Yeah, we’ll buzz you in.”

It only took Richie about 10 minutes to actually get to the penthouse mostly because he was already hanging around the fashion district shopping with his butler.

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“I totally appreciate the invite, D.  Like, I can’t believe I’m hanging out in your place.  Wow, this is really awesome.” Richie said.

“Well, you’ve been so nice to me and Tony.  You’re a cool friend,” Diego said.

“So, this place.  It’s soooo huge. I mean, I think only 5 of these could fit in my parent’s mansion.  That’s pretty big. And, like, you have this big kind of open space down here.” Richie said.

“We like to hang out down here.  It’s where we all kind of chill,” Diego said.  “Sometimes we’ll play a video game against Dad or Mom.  Tony and I really like to beat each other.”

“That’s totally cool, D.  My mom and dad mostly just sit around in the living room or the den reading the newspaper or books.  They kind of just leave me alone.” Richie said.

Diego escorted Richie into the dining room where the two sat down.  For Diego, it was quite noticeable that Antonio was missing. All this was Antonio’s idea, now he’s nowhere to be found.  That was so Antonio.

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“So, do you all do your homework together?” Richie asked.

“Right here.  Though, sometimes Ana and Kiko sit over at the table by the pool window.  They’re total nerds. Done their homework in like 5 minutes.” Diego said.

“Hey, can I see your room?” Richie asked as he stood up and started walking over towards the stairs.   

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Diego jumped up and, without actually agreeing, walked Richie upstairs to his room.  Richie opened the door and looked around. They sat down on the couch inside the room.

“How classic TV home with your little kid pictures on the wall.  But look at this room. So small, but it’s so… like a small house!  You gotta a couch and a TV and a stereo. My room is sooo boring. It’s huge, though.  I have my own bathroom, too. But, man, I’d really be happy to have a room like this. All I have is this really big bed and the butler wakes me up by opening the curtains in the morning.  There’s no TV or radio in my room. I’m not allowed to have them. Dad keeps telling me that we spend more time together because of it, but…. Yeah, such a cool room, D!”

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“Tony’s is just like it, but he likes blue so it’s all blue.”

“Red is better,” Richie said.  

“It’s my place,” Diego said, “when my brothers and sisters get on my nerves, I come up here and turn on some music or watch a movie….”

“You’re the oldest, right?” Richie interrupted.

“Well, I’m 2 minutes older than Antonio.  Ana is gonna start at Valley next year and Alejo a year after her.” Diego said.  “Kiko and Carla are the youngest two. Carla is still a toddler.”

“Spanish families are always so big.  I knew this kid, Benitez, back in middle school.  He had 5 uncles, 5 aunts, a bajillion cousins, and like 7 brothers and sisters.” Richie said.

“Well, I guess because we’re Catholic.  Birth control is a no no,” Diego said.

“Oh…. ooooooh!” Richie said.

“Anyway, what I wanted to talk to you about….” Diego started to say

“Hey, D, gotta jet.  Told my parents I’d be home an hour ago.  Don’t want them to send the helicopter after me again.  Talk to you soon.!” And in a flash, just like at school, Richie was gone.

“I swear, that kid doesn’t listen,” Diego said.  “And where the fuck is Tony?”

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1-15: Fancy Running Into You

High School build credit:  Yuuangii: Japanese School.  It has been edited slightly for my use.

 

Students passed each other in the hallways, often avoiding eye contact because they were too busy staring down at the phone in their hands because why interact with people, right?  Locker doors smacked shut while friends and lovers mingled together in the hallways telling each other about what drama had hit the fan since the last time they spoke, about 45 minutes ago.

Sarah saw Derek talking with Stacy and Sarah asked Derek what that was about and Derek said that Stacy needed help with her Algebra test but really Derek just wanted to get laid.  Derek always wants to get laid. That’s what Derek is all about. I mean his name even begins with D and so does Dick, so yeah. Those were the kinds of conversations overheard in the hallways of Valley High School.  

It was the high school where San Myshuno’s rich and famous sent their kids.  It wasn’t a boarding school, but it was definitely private. From the outside it looked less like a high school and more like a prison.  At least that is what the students inside felt. The teachers, well, they were overpaid hacks who found solace in giving their students more work to do at home than in the classroom.  Why learn while inside school?

One student needed no introduction.  Richie Van Wallet (pronounced Van Wah-lay, like he’s French or something).  Some dude with more money than God plus Joel Osteen. He could buy and sell a city with the money he had sitting in the cushions of his couch.  He was old money, too. His great, great, great…. Something like that… grandfather helped build San Myshuno and their family owned a lot of real estate.  The kind of real estate empire that would make Donald Trump blush through all that fake tanner.

No one liked Richie and the feeling was mutual.  He didn’t need friends. He didn’t want friends. Money was his game.  He talked to no one, dated no one, and had a butler come to school to hand deliver his lunch.  There weren’t many kids at Valley High that even bothered to look in his direction.

Antonio and Diego marched into high school, kings at their primary school, peasants the moment they walked in the front door.  No one cared. No one looked. Well, almost no one. For some reason, a very fast-moving Richie Van Wallet accidentally bumped into Diego while Diego was busy trying to put his bookbag in his new locker.  The incident caused everyone in the hallway to stop moving. Richie had made human contact.

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“My apologies,” Richie said with a nice baritone voice that chimed like a well-made bell.  “I was in such a hurry to get to my class that I completely forgot that other people actually use this hallway.”  Apologies probably weren’t his strong point. “Wait, you are new here.”

 “Yeah,” Diego said.  “First day.”

 “I am Richard Van Wallet.  Again, apologies for running into you…..” he hung onto the last oo indicating he was awaiting a name.

“Diego Alvarez,” he said.

 “Alvarez?  Selvadoradian?” Richie asked.

“Spanish.  As in Spain.  My grandparents came over from Spain before my father was born.” he said.  “This is my brother, Antonio.”

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“Oh, look at you.  You’re twins!  How cute!  Double the awesome, right?  So, anyway, Antonio, Diego…hmmm…” Richie began.

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“Ethnic names.  Very modern, very now,” Richie said.  “Well, hopefully they won’t build a wall to keep your family out, though they really need to do something about illegals taking all our jobs.”

Diego raised an eyebrow as Antonio tried to keep himself from laughing.  “Richie,” Diego said, “Spanish from Spain. Not Spanish from Mexico.”

“Right, right,” Richie said.  “Yeah, we’re so backwards in the US, right?  Thinking everything in Mexico is Spanish. It’s really, uh, Mexican.  Hey, I have to jet. Classes and all. If you have 4th period lunch, you should join me.  Ta ta!” And with that Richie was off and speeding down the hallway.

“What was that?” Antonio asked in disbelief.

“I have no idea,” Diego replied confused and somewhat amused.

As the two boys turned, it became quite apparent they were now the talk of Valley High School.  On day one they had made an name for themselves. They became “Richie’s Friends.” A phrase no kid in Valley High School ever thought they would ever utter.  

Did you see Richie talk to them?  He’s a sophomore, they’re freshman.  Like, doesn’t Richie know the rules? And what was up with them saying they’re from Spain.  They sound like they’re from American because they’re speaking American. Don’t they speak Spanish in Mexico?  So why are things in Mexico not Spanish then?

“We should get to class, Tony,” Diego said.

“Good idea, D,” Antonio replied.

Fourth period was exactly when Diego and Antonio had lunch.  They made their way through the halls and found themselves a table to sit at and relax.  The first day of high school had been boring, but interesting. Most of the classes were simply laying the groundwork for what was expected throughout the year and the subject matter.

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“Anthony!  David!” was heard being shouted across the cafeteria.  Both boys turned and saw Richie walking over towards them.  

“Should we tell him?” Antonio said.

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“We already did, Anthony.” Diego said with a chuckle.

Richie came over and sat down across from the twins.  “It’s Anthony and David, right? Or was it Andrew and Donald?  I feel like that’s not right.”

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“Antonio,” Antonio said.  “Call me Tony.”

“Diego,” Diego said.  “Call me Diego. Or D.”

“D?  D? Like the letter?  Oh, that’s really informal.  I bet we’re good friends now, right?” Richie said with a smile.  “And Tony? I thought you two were Mexican, not Italian.”

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Antonio sighed, “Spanish.  Spanish from Spain. Spaniards.  Not Mexicans.”

“Oh, sorry, I’m just all kinds of out of sync today.  Turns out the butler can’t come to bring me lunch so I had to buy something here.  Never had the school food, is it any good?” Richie said.

Antonio pulled the sandwich from his bag while Diego did the same.  “We wouldn’t know,” Antonio said.

As Richie fumbled with his phone some more, eyes not even looking towards the twins, Diego leaned into Antonio and whispered, “This guy is weird.”

Antonio nodded.

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“So, like, you’re probably wondering why I asked you to lunch,” Richie said.  “My mother and father think I need to make friends and we hit it off so well in the hallway that we might as well be friends, right?  And then we can hang out and do stuff like go to movies and concerts. That’s what friends do, right?”

“Well,” Antonio said, “Yeah.”

“Great, great,” Richie said.  “I had no idea making friends was so easy.”

“Don’t you have any friends?” Diego asked.

“What?  Me? No,” Richie said finally looking up from his phone.  “I never had friends. I had people I hung out with, but those were always set up by my parents when I was younger.  Playdates when I was a kid. Then arranged entertainments when I was a bit older. My parents always said to watch out for people because we’re rich and they might try to take advantage.”

Diego looked around the cafeteria and then back at Richie, “But everyone here is rich, Richie.”

“Hmm, good point,” Richie said.  “I like you. You’re smart.”

“He’s a smartass, too,” Antonio said with a laugh.

“Shut up,” Diego said as his smacked his brother on the shoulder.

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“So, what’s your deal, who’s your parents.  I feel like I should know because my family knows everyone and I don’t remember an Albertson…, not.. that’s not right… Oh, Alvarez.”  Richie said.

“Do you watch sports?” Antonio said.

“I do.  I really love sports.  I was watching the US Open.  Golf is such a great sport. My father tells me I should learn how to golf.  Is your father a golfer? Oh, that’s great! Maybe he can teach me a thing or two,” Richie said.

“No,” Diego said.  “Soccer. My father plays soccer for San Myshuno FC.  Well, he won’t after this year. He’s retiring.”

“That’s really cool.  I feel like I should know who your father is.  My uncle owns that team. But, we don’t really talk to that side of the family anymore.” Richie said.  “Anyway, so we’re really getting to know each other.”

Diego took a bite of his sandwich and looked over at Richie.  Then he looked at Antonio. With a quick tilt of his head, he tried to get Antonio to talk to Richie.  Antonio was busy chowing down on his sandwich.

“Oh,” Antonio said after swallowing, “maybe you could come with us to a home game?  We have really, really good seats.”

“I can’t,” Richie said.  “My father said I can’t go to the stadium because of whatever happened.  I think he tried to sleep with my mother.”

“Your father?” Diego asked.

“No, silly,” Richie said with a laugh, “My uncle.  But…” he said thinking, “If I told him I made new friends and we were just gonna hang out at your place, he’d never know.  He doesn’t watch television, so he’d never know I was there. So, yeah, sure!” Richie said.

“Great!” Antonio said.

“Yeah, I’ll get our dad to get an extra ticket.” Diego replied.

“Fabulous,” Richie said, “so, I think I should go now.  Here’s my card,” he said reaching into a pocket and handed both Diego and Antonio his number on a business card, “hit me up with a text.  Phone calls are so 2000. Time for class.” And with that Richie disappeared in a flash leaving Antonio and Diego behind.

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“Tony,” Diego said, “that was the weirdest thing ever.”

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“D,” Antonio said, “I have no idea what happened, but I think we’re all best friends now.”

 

1-14: Holidays and Birthdays

Nina was thrilled that five children were now in school.  This meant that she could relax a lot more than she used to.  Yes, Clara did just become a toddler, but that’s one toddler. Not like it was before when there were 5 at various points on the toddler age range.  Diego and Antonio were also about to become teenagers–and the thought crossed Nina’s mind that at one point five kids will all be teens at the same time.  And she decided to take advantage of the fact Clara was napping to do some of her own.

Sergio had been having the retirement talk for awhile, but now his tone changed.  It stopped being a light-hearted conversation and became more in depth. The idea of not playing soccer was something that was both frightening and thrilling for him.  Since he was 10, he’s been on a soccer pitch almost every day of his life whether it be training or an actual match. As he started to turn 34, he was now in the window where retirement was definitely closer than ever and he had to begin to figure out what the next chapter of his life would be.

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That all depended on Nina.  He wasn’t giving her the final say in the matter.  Only Sergio would ever know exactly when was the right time to retire from pro soccer.  What he wanted to know was what Nina thought about various options he had.

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The first and biggest opportunity was to shift from being on the pitch in a player role to potentially going into a coaching role.  This had been discussed at length both with Nina and with the team. Though, if he was being honest, he never really saw himself as a coach.  The business end of the game was the thing he hated the most. And in spite of all the planning and training that coaches perform, handling contracts was part of the job.  That wasn’t his ideal next act.

Beyond coaching was transitioning from a player to a presenter.  Being the guy on television describing the match to the viewers. In his years of pro play, he’d developed a great rapport with the press.  He was comfortable in front of the camera. He had a natural talent for it. Like being a player, being a presenter meant traveling. This time potentially even more traveling than before.  While he would love to take that job, he didn’t want to be away from his children anymore. He wanted to be with them and to be there when they needed help or had questions about life.

The one thing he did know was that he was going to miss it all.  The sound of the fans in cheering and chanting. The thrill of a come-from-behind victory.  The smell of the pitch right after the rain. The camaraderie in the locker room. So much to miss.  So much to leave behind.

“Dad, if you retire, does that mean no more free tickets to home games,” Diego asked innocently enough.

Sergio laughed, “I guess.  I’ll have to ask.”

“Then maybe you should keep playing for a few more years,” Diego joked.

“What, is a roof over your head and food in your belly not enough,” Sergio said with a smile.

“It’s great, but they always gave us good seats,” Diego said.

Sergio them looked at Diego as the smile on Sergio’s face widened slightly, “Diego, I just think it’s time.  I look around the locker room and everyone looks so young to me now. I’m just ready to finally stop.”

“But I thought people retired when they were elders,” Diego asked.

“For normal jobs, yeah.  This is sports. You have to be able to keep up with the young players.  And, well, I’m just about able to do that. And if I don’t do it now, then I’ll miss out on even more time to joke around with you and your knucklehead brothers.”

“It’ll be cool to have you home more,” Diego said.  “But, just so you know, mom can be a slave driver. Better clean up after yourself if you’re gonna be home all day.”

“Oh yeah?” Sergio said as he stood up, “you think she’s bad?  Just wait till she comes to me to tell me you’re not listening to her.”  Then he made a funny face at Diego.

Diego laughed, “Well, then maybe you should keep playing a few more years longer.”

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Winterfest had arrived and the Alvarez household was prepared.  Garland and wreaths hung on the walls, the tree had been placed in a nice corner with a wide amount of presents awaiting their named recipients.  Sergio even brought out the candle centerpieces and set them up. Two nutcrackers bookended the kitchen breakfast counter.

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The morning saw the presents opened.  That was number one on the list.

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Everyone got something they wanted and it was a great time.

The grand meal was, as always, prepared by Sergio.  A big turkey dinner and the family even dressed up for it.

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There was mirth and merriment with kids singing carols and Sergio and Nina asking if everyone was good this year.

The big event was the arrival of Father Winter, who came about 45 minutes late.  No doubt even with flying reindeer, he winds up stuck in the San Myshuno air traffic.

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Everyone got more presents.  They had a grand time.

And then the day after, the household once more celebrated.  This time Diego and Antonio had reached the teen years.

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What was more, Sergio knew his own birthday was on the horizon.  This helped him finally make the biggest decision of his life. He was going to retire from pro sports.

1-13: Dear Journal…

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I’m thinking about retiring after this season.  I’ve done so much and I’m only 31. With San Myshuno FC I’ve been a league champion 4 times, a cup champion twice, and even played with the US National Team the last 4 years.  I have more money than I know what to do with. I have invested wisely and I’m getting a return on those investments.

I don’t want to be one of those guys who doesn’t know when to quit.  Yeah, I probably have 3-5 more years left in me. Yeah, I could still step out on that pitch in the Blue and Black in front of 90,000 fans and love every minute of it.  Yeah, I would love to win the league again. But when is enough enough?

There’s literally 10 soccer players I can think of who still perform at a top level after their young 30s.  Most of them, though, go on the club tour where they’re signed for a year or two to bring in some extra fans and to give their young players a boost.  I don’t mind teaching a new kid the basics, but I don’t want to be a sideshow. I don’t want to be someone to help draw a crowd.

Nina thinks I should keep playing.  Not that she doesn’t want me home. She does.  She wants that more than anything. She told me she’s tired of me being away for days or weeks at a time.  She wants to wake up next to me and kiss me good morning every day. She also thinks I would be stupid to retire from my dream before the dream is over.  

I’ll say it again.. When is enough enough?  

What isn’t enough is this place.  When we moved in, I had two kids and one on the way.  Now, I’ve got 5 kids and one on the way. We’ve renovated twice.  We’ve built more bedrooms. We did everything we could. I guess we could renovate again, but I don’t really want my house to become like a highway where it’s always under construction but never finished.  I do know one thing… I love my children with all my heart, but I don’t want anymore. I finally went to the doctor and had a vasectomy. That’s it. The Sergio Alvarez Baby Factor has gone out of business.

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I spoke to Uncle Juan.  He’s doing well. Andrés has found a woman to settle down with and moved out and while Uncle Juan loves the house, he wants to move.  I guess I could move everyone back to Brindleton Bay. That house has 7 bedrooms. It has a big yard and pool for all the kids to use.  They won’t be cramped up in this penthouse with a small yard outside.

The problem is the travel time from Brindleton to San Myshuno.  It’s a two-hour drive one way. I’m already gone from home enough now.  Do I really want to add 4 more hours a day to my time away from my wife and kids?

I think Nina wants out of San Myshuno, too.  She loves living in the fashion district. She adores having the best place in the whole city.  She just wants to have a place to relax. Motherhood has been tough on her. She’s still just as beautiful as the day I met her, but you can tell her patience is worn.  She’s ready for these kids to grow up and start doing more on their own.

Diego and Antonio are great with helping out.  They help with the toddlers and making sure they eat and are sleeping.  Those twins are amazing. I hope Ana, Alejandro, and Enrique are learning from their good example.

Nina is about to burst with the new kid.  I decided I didn’t want to know what the baby was going to be.  I have 4 boys. To be honest, I’d rather have one more boy, but I think Nina wants another girl.  She feels outnumbered. She tells me all the time that the amount of testosterone in the house is probably going to suffocate her one day.  What can I say, my father had one kid… a boy. My grandfather had 9 kids, all boys. It’s an Alvarez trait, I guess. We have boys. A long line of Alvarez men having Alvarez sons.  One day we’ll probably rule the world.

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Ah, man, I finally told Diego and Antonio that Becky had died.  It was the hardest conversation I’ve ever had to have with them.  I know they didn’t really know her, but you can tell when things affect kids.  Though, and I tell you that I couldn’t have ever expected them to say this, they told me that Nina was their real mom and Becky was only their biological mother.  Now, you tell me any kids that are smarter than them. Go ahead, I dare you.

But, they’re also sad about it.  They were hoping to finally get to know her and learn about her and their only living grandparents.  They wanted to visit her in New York and see all the sights. That’s just not possible now. I can take them to New York, but I think… I think it wouldn’t be the same for them.  Man, so many emotions all mixed together.

I had a dream last night.  It felt so damn real, but I had a dream last night.  I dreamt my dad was here. He was standing at the foot of the bed talking to me.  He didn’t say much, only that he was proud of me. I swear I could’ve touched him it felt so real.  He said that mama was so happy to have grandkids and wishes she could hug them. Man, I wish that had been real.  But it still made me feel like I’ve done the right things so far… even if they seemed like mistakes at the beginning.

Oh shit, Nina just hollered for me.  Looks like I’m about to be a father for the 6th time… kid’s on the way!

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Heh, Nina’s so happy… It’s a GIRL!  Clara Elena Alvarez Caliente.

I bought a VoidCritter game for the kids.  Ana is all over it.  Her brothers don’t seem to be into it as much as she is. She’s been busy training her whatever it is.  I’m glad she’s happy!

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And another birthday.  This time Alejandro has aged up.  Man, I’m kind of happy I have a new kid.  I’ve gotten so used to toddlers running around, I don’t know what I’d do without that!

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That’s all for tonight.  I’m so loving this new journal!   

1-12: Life Goes On

The news hit Sergio hard.  On Harvestfest morning, no less.  The call came in while he was sleeping.  Sergio’s only problem was he didn’t want to tell Diego and Antonio how she died.  He didn’t even want to tell them that she died.  Not yet.  Not until after the holiday.  There was no reason to ruin their holiday.

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“You know,” Sergio said with a sniffle, “I should be angry.  I should be angry as hell.  Who does that?  You don’t give up!  You fight the battle!  Yes, there’s no guarantee you can win, but you fight the fight!”

“Not everyone is like that,” Nina comforted.  “I mean, I don’t know her that well, but from what you tell me this sounds like how she is.  It’s the easy way out.  Now she’s got two babies that don’t have a mother because she was selfish.”

Sergio looked up, “What do you mean?  They have a mother.  They have you.  You’ve been a mother to them since day one, Nina.”  Then he sighed, “But I don’t know how to tell them.”

“Then don’t,” Nina said.  “At least not yet.  They know she’s their mother, but they don’t really know her.  Maybe it won’t be as bad for them.”

From his seat on the sofa he could hear Diego and Antonio laughing at something or other.  Sergio cleared his throat and dried his eyes.  Then he stood up and gave Nina a big hug.

“I’m so lucky to have a lady like you in my life,” Sergio said.

“I know you are,” Nina said.  “And you ain’t so bad yourself.”

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Then he changed and decided to deal with his grief by working out.  That’s how Sergio dealt with strong, negative emotions: he worked out.

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After an hour of working out, Sergio rummaged through the decoration bins, but there wasn’t much he could put up to give the place that Harvestfest feel.  So he put up a cornucopia, right in the middle of the dining room table and a giant rooster on the kitchen counter.

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“I have a nice cock,” Sergio said.

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Nina looked at it for a moment, “I’ve seen bigger, sugar.  But, it is very nice.”

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The sound of toddlers babbling and the pitter-patter of feet scurrying across the wooden floors meant that the whole house was finally awake.  Instead of dealing with a big dinner, the tradition in the Alvarez household was to have a grand breakfast.  This was in part because Nina often took the kids to her mother’s for the evening Harvest meal and because Sergio didn’t eat big after 3pm.  So, he waltzed into the kitchen and started to cook up a storm.

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The family togetherness lasted about as long as it took the kids to snag a serving with the twins sitting with Sergio and Nina at the dinner table..

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..and the toddlers setting up shop in the living room to watch kids shows.

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With breakfast over, Antonio started to clean up the dishes…

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And the toddlers decided it was play time…

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But it wouldn’t be the Alvarez household if there wasn’t a child and a birthday.  And such was this case with Ana, who finally aged up!

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“Daddy’s princess is a young lady now,” Sergio said with a smile.

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Later that evening….

“You know, Sergio, the kids are getting older.  Pretty soon Alejandro and Enrique will be older.  And we’ve got more time for each other these days.” Nina said.

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It didn’t take Sergio long to realize what kind of time she meant.

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“I should’ve castrated him when I had the chance,” Nina said the next morning as she looked at the results..

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