This WIP is my greatest procrastination tool. He! If I keep this up, I may very well finish writing it when I'm supposed to be doing something else. I hope you do enjoy it though. And many thanks to all the people who continue to read this story. Seeing your messages come through my inbox is a wonderful motivator for me to keep writing. Once again, please keep in mind that this is a first draft and I don't have a beta, so the story still needs a lot of work. Critiques would be great, because they tell me what I need to do to improve.
Chapter 5: a mother's right
The two young men spent the rest of their time together formulating their defence, acknowledging that their parents would probably not be thrilled with their plan. The resistance they were going to deal with was further emphasised by Eric when Ben phoned him to update him on the meeting with Michael and their travel plans.
"Do you really think that your Mom is going to be OK about her little lamb going off to parts unknown?"Eric said as soon as Ben phoned him about the plan.
"Come on, we're not going to Mogadishu or some other place far, far away," Ben scoffed, though he knew deep down that Eric was right. 'And your Dad is going to raise the safety issue: you would stand out in a small town all by yourself. With Michael for company, you'll be even more visible. And how are you planning to hide the guys who follow you everywhere?"
'They can dress inconspicuously. We can dress to make sure that we blend in," Ben suggested, a question hanging at the end of the sentence.
'Maybe. But you will have to convince your parents. And you can't be a wuss and let them badger you into doing what they want, because if you let them, they will continue to do so even after you're married and that can't be good for a marriage."
"I suppose that means I'll have to assertive and all that shit. And you know how hard that is with my parents."
"Yes, you will have to stand firm. They said you're old enough to marry. That means that they have to recognise that you are a grown man, who is old enough to have sex and run his house and have lots and lots of sex."
Ben chuckled. That was the one big advantage of getting married: get laid without having to worry about your parents finding out. Because they do know you get laid regularly. You can even get laid under their roof. Huh! Life was definitely changing, and some of it was for the better. Interestingly, his best friend was also changing.
"Say? What's with you lately? You've been pushing me quite a bit to do stuff, when before you would just have stayed quiet," Ben asked.
"We're not kids anymore, Benny –boy. Once we start varsity, we're going to have to deal with real life problems, not just high school crap. And our parents won't be there to do it for us. So I made a New Year resolution that this year I'm going to step up, act like the man I want to grow into. And I'm not going to leave my best bud behind when I do it.'
"Huh. Thanks, I think."
'Ja, that's gratitude for you."
The meeting between Michael, Ben and their parents took place in one of the Kravitzes' living room, a big, opulent room which had smooth yellow walls offset by highly polished oak floors. The walls were highlighted to dramatic effect by a series of well-placed lamps. Michael and Ben shared one of the long Versace fabric-covered sofas, which were separated from the other sofas and chairs by a granite-topped coffee. One of the maids had brought in a coffee tray and Mrs. Kravitz poured for everyone, but so far, the people in the room we more interested in arguing about the road trip than actually sipping their hot drinks.
Michael's parents had agreed very easily to the road trip plan. They knew that once Michael had decided on something, he was unlikely to change his mind. And he was an adult and did not need their permission. So he would do whatever he wanted, whether they liked it or not. They were also grateful that whatever he did want to do involved Ben, so in the great scheme of things, they would still get what they wanted. But Ben's parents reacted pretty much the way Eric predicted.
Mary Kravitz especially, was a very unhappy woman. It was bad enough that Michael and Ben wanted to go on a road trip, instead of a nice, safe vacation spot in Mauritius, Seychelles or even in Europe, she said. But touring South Africa, in a car, sleeping in hotels and bed and breakfast facilities of unknown quality, eating who knew what? Touring small towns where they would stand out like sore thumbs even if they were not a same-sex couple?
"No. Absolutely not," she said flatly.
"We weren't –"Michael said, but Mary interrupted as if Michael did not even speak.
"I don't understand why you would want to go on a tour right now, when there is so much we need to do to get ready for the wedding, set up your household and for Ben to start school. Secondly, the kind of holiday you're proposing is out of question. A road trip, Michael?" she stared at Michael, her look indicating that she was disappointed that he could sink that low. "We thought you were a responsible young man who would take care of Ben, make sure that he's safe and happy and the first thing you do is drag him across the country-"
"He's not dragging me anywhere," Ben interrupted. ""I want to go on this trip. It's a good way to enjoy the summer and to spend time with Michael. And I don't like the fact that you're implying that I'm incapable of taking care of myself, as if Michael is my baby-sitter, not my potential partner."
"Honey, I was not implying-"
"Yes you were," Ben cut her off. Ben took a deep breath. He was very nervous, but he was also getting angry. At that moment, Ben felt Michael's hand clasp his and their fingers entwine, but Michael didn't say anything. He just squeezed Ben's hand, sharing his strength and support. "I get it. I am young and have led a very sheltered life. And Michael has been around the block a few times."
Michael snorted, suppressing a laugh. Ben looked at him, smiling.
"Not that kind of block! You know what I mean. Michael is older, has gone through university, lived away from home a long time. So of course he would know more about stuff than I do. But, he and I decided to try this relationship thing, see if we can build a friendship, and it won't work so well if I still live in my parents' home and my mother still tries to orchestrate my movements."
"I wasn't trying to orchestrate your movements," she denied hotly, a bit embarrassed that the usually quiet and obedient Ben was publicly calling her on something that she did automatically.
"Son, you know we love you and your sisters and I want what's best for you," Jason Kravitz entered the fray.
"I know you do. And you and Michael's parents made the big decision about whom we would marry and spend the rest of our lives with. But it's time to let go now. Michael and I need the freedom to work things out ourselves from now onwards."
"True, but as your mother said, why a road trip? Why don't you try a different holiday plan?"
"A different holiday would mean doing things and interacting quite a lot with other people, whereas with a road trip, Ben and I will be in a car together for hours," Michael said.
"And why would that be a good thing?" Sandra, Michael's mother asked.
"It's a good way to get to know each other," Ben said. "Michael and I have to make a decision in a month about whether it's really a good idea to spend the rest of our lives together. And if we can't be friends and companions and spend a month together amicably, what kind of couple would be?"
"I understood that the decision was already made," Jason said, looking concerned.
"Yes we did... do agree. But I'm not going to bulldoze Ben into anything. We're going to spend time together and if, afterwards, he feels that he can't spend the rest of his life with me, I'll give him the space. We may decide that he needs time and we'll revisit the issue. Or if we are completely incompatible, I will let him go."
'We agreed-"Michael's father ground out angrily.
"Yes, YOU agreed. Now it's time for Ben and I to assess the situation and for him to have the chance to make an informed decision," Michael said.
"Let's not belabour that point," Jason said. "I believe that they will find out that they are compatible, so we have nothing to worry about on that score. My biggest concern is security."
"Ben and I will draw up a rough travel plan, with details of all the places we plan to stop either to view or to spend the night. Security people can then follow us, or even go ahead of us in some instances, so that they can keep an eye on us," Michael said.
"I'll also keep the GPS on my watch activated at all times. And we can take my Jeep, which also has a GPS you can activate to track us."
"You're low-jacked?" Michael, asked, genuinely shocked. Intellectually, he'd known that Ben did not have as much freedom as he did, and had to have security guards wherever he went, except in school. And yes, they were inconspicuous, but they were always there. But, he'd never considered that there were even more leashes keeping Ben tethered to his parents.
"Many South Africans are monitored through their cellphones, you know that," Ben said dismissively, as if having your movements monitored 24/7 was not a big deal. Because of crime, lots of parents use services like Look4me to keep track of their kids through their mobile phones, and couples also track each other."
"True. But you're OK with being tracked by GPS in addition to being followed? What about privacy?"
Ben laughed. "What privacy? I grew up knowing that I was tracked everywhere I went. At some stage I realised it was not normal – Eric is definitely not followed by people and is not low-jacked. But by then, I had also seen enough movies about the spoilt rich kid who ducked his security detail and got nabbed by kidnappers that I was not tempted to try it." Ben grimaced, his expression taking a self-mocking cast."And my life was so boring that there was nothing to duck for even if I was tempted."
Michael grunted, thinking about the ramifications for his own life.
"Does that mean that the security people will also want to track Michael?" Michael's father asked.
"We will have to talk about that Michael," Jason said. "This marriage will make you one of my kids and therefore, vulnerable to attack. And while I can respect the fact that you're to being more independent and private, we will have to take some protective measures or some people may use you to get to Ben."
"We can discuss it when we come at the end of January," Michael said. "For now, let's focus on the road trip and the security plans for that. In the end, it was decided that the boys would firm up their travel plans and then consult with the head for the family's security.
Mary, however, was still not sold on the trip, even if she was outvoted.
" And what about the wedding? How will Sandra and I get anythning done when we don't know what the grooms want and they are not nearby so we can consult them?" she asked.
"Don't worry Mom. We can have a big meeting before we go, so we can decide on the major issues, and then you can phone us when you need us," Ben said.
"Fine then. We'll do it like that. But it's not ideal," Mary said. After a few minutes of small talk, Mary stood up.
"If you'll excuse me, Michael and I need to chat about something," she said firmly, inclining her at Michael.
"Mom!" Ben exclaimed.
"Mary!" Jason warned at the same time.
"What? I just want to talk to Ben. He's marrying my baby boy and I need to know as much as I can about him before the wedding. I need to make sure that you'll be in good hands," Mary said.
"Don't worry. She can't kill me because she'd be left without a son-in-law," Michael joked.
Exactly," Mary said.
"And in view of that, Ben, you are also invited to dinner at our home tonight, so we can grill you a little," Sandra added, smiling. They all laughed, but Ben was not convinced that he should not worry about Ben and later, about what Ben's parents would want to talk to him about.