Over the next years Everett and Katie kept busy with the architecture business, while around them, everything seemed to change.
All of Rett’s younger siblings were now engaged to be married, as was his younger cousin Vincenzo.
Natalie (25), Rett’s younger sister, had moved to Del Sol Valley with her fiancé Rhys (31) to become an actress, fully endorsed and supported by Liam, further assisted by him schmoozing his old connections on her behalf to give her a good boost into the limelight. Hard to tell if her accelerated success was because of her father’s help or due to the talent inherited from him, but her career took off well and fast. Rhys had always been an avid writer. When he began getting recognition for the screenplays he had written, and Natty was finally nominated for an award, they got married.
Rather than have everyone fly out to Del Sol Valley they got married in a smaller group, just immediate family, then held a large reception at the “La Rosa Rossa” restaurant in Willow Creek, which was now owned and operated by the youngest Cameron sibling Brianna and her fiancé Deacon, who met in culinary school.
Brianna (19) and Deacon (23) had needed a few attempts to realize they were ready to take their relationship to the next level. After moving into Rett’s original home in Willow Creek, which was just up the road from their restaurant, they got engaged within the year. Once they achieved proper recognition and a four star rating for their restaurant, they tied the knot, too.
Jake (22) and his fiancee Kassi (21) lived with Rett’s parents at the big home in Brindleton Bay, which now felt empty and too quiet with all the kids moved out, except Jake and now his fiancee.
It was blatantly obvious that Rett’s parents were just watching all their kids with hawk eyes, nothing unusual for them, but now for different reasons than before. All kids were successful in careers that suited them, Jake was a scientist, Bree had the restaurant and Natty successfully followed in Liam’s footsteps in acting, while Rett’s architecture business was doing well.
But no signs of grandchildren yet.
Not even now that the two girls were married, one boy engaged, only the oldest kid, Rett and girlfriend Katie were still trailing far behind.
While Everett kept closely in touch with his immediate family, Jake just showing up at the office one day unannounced was unusual. Rett’s inner alarm bells went off, while he kept calm on the outside.
Jake now smiled at him, but the smile did not reach his eyes. Yeah, something was up.
“Hey, sorry, I meant to call, but … I was in the area and … I never really had seen this place from the inside during business hours and it’s a nice day out … hardly any wind …” Jake rambled on incoherently.
“Sit.” Everett offered, his eyebrows drawn together, eyeing his younger brother. Something was wrong.
“You’re not buying my story, are you?” Jake now asked Rett.
“Nope. Guessing you had a fight with your better half and now you are here at big brother’s to get input on how best to crawl back apologizing, cause Lord knows I have lots of practice with that.” Rett referred to his relationship with Katie, which had not always been as smooth as one would hope, partially because of how young they were when it all first started and in part because of her emotional baggage and his battle with depression.
“Kinda … it’s a bit more complicated though … I don’t know how to say it … I feel like I should explain, but think I’d choke on the words…” Jake was obviously stalling.
“Jeeze, just say it. I have literally known you all your life, Jake.”
Jake gave Rett a strange look, somewhere between fearful, regret, disappointment and resignation, then intensely watched Everett staring at his hands, before he said
“Rett, I am gay.”
Everett’s eyes got big, wondering if it was a joke or serious, but after looking at and searching in his brother’s eyes he realized he meant it.
“Okay. How long have you known?” Rett decided to remain matter-of-fact about it.
“Pretty much all my life…” Jake told him quietly.
“Then why the hell did you get engaged? To a girl I mean?!”
“I just wanted to be normal. Fit in. And not disappoint everybody, especially not mom and dad. Or you.” His words faded into a whisper.
“Disappoint?! Are you crazy? How is that supposed to disappoint us? What disappoints me is that you hid it for so long and dragged Kassi into it. You told her already, right?”
Jake shook his head.
“Jake! Come on now. You have to tell her. Make things right with her. Jeeze, she lives at mom and dad’s with you. That’s just totally messed up. What were you thinking?”
Jake hung his head, and Everett realized that a lecture was the last thing Jake needed now.
“Look lil bro, it’s okay. We all mess up. But you really need to be fair to Kassi. And you have to tell mom and dad. You know why. They are on hot coals waiting for whom pops out the first grandkid.”
“Which is why I had this plan. When I saw how upset they were when you told them you wanted to wait so long … I thought I could marry Kassi, have a child with her, then tell her the truth, we get divorced and mom and dad have an heir … and I can go live my life …”
“Bad plan! What the hell, Jake?! Really bad plan. How in the world did you ever dream up this steaming pile of crap?! WAIT – You … ummm … didn’t get started on that already, did you?” Rett’s eyes were about to fall out of their sockets.
“No. I wanted her to be a Cameron first …” Jake told him deflated, Everett relaxed a bit.
“Ok, back that idea up into the garage and burn it. Yikes! You go home or take Kassi out and tell her, as gently as you can. Then you tell mom and dad. And the girls. I mean our sisters should know …. “
“Can you go with me, Rett. Please.” Jake interrupted Rett.
“To mom and dad’s for sure. Kassi is something you will have to handle yourself. We cannot team up on her with that!”
“Can you come over tonight? Without Katie? I mean, I like her and all..”
“Yeah, sure. 6 PM okay?”
Jake nodded, got up and glanced over to the bar in the corner of Rett’s office.
“No. You need a clear head to get yourself backed out of this shit you rode yourself into up to your eyebrows, Jake. Afterwards I take you out drinking if you want me to. But not before. Hey, and don’t worry. Mom and dad are gonna be great about it. You know that. They don’t give a shit whom you date or love. All they want is for you to be happy. We all do. You know that, or at least you should, you screwball!”
“Yeah, I DO know all that … Hey, thanks Rett. I’ll see you tonight, right?”
“Count on it.”
The brothers hugged, then Jake left.
After Jake left Rett went to tell Katie the plan, omitting Jake’s coming-out for now until his parents had been told. Katie would hear the rest later.
At 5:50 PM Everett steered his car up the driveway of his parents’ home. Everett’s dog Shadow came running out the front door, agile for such an old animal, greeting his original owner followed by Jake who had to have been waiting for Everett behind the door.
“How did it go?” Rett asked when greeting Jake, but could already read in his brother’s face that it had been traumatic.
“As expected. She already moved out. It really hurt me to hurt her like that, Rett. She is such a wonderful girl. But you were right, I messed up bad doing it like this. Feel like shit now.”
“Well, it’s gonna be all smooth sailing from there. Mom and dad will be fine with it, you’ll see.”
“What will we be fine with?” Liam, their father, appeared.
“The retirement home we picked out for you guys.” Everett joked as he and Jake walking past their dad into the house.
“I’ll give you retirement home, kid! I am not even 50 yet, you brat!” Liam play-punched his son.
They joked a litte more, as they all settled into the living room, where the boys’ mother joined them.
After the usual small talk, Rett waited for Jake to lead into his news, when nothing happened, Rett made the start.
“Mom, dad, Jake has something he wanted to tell you guys…”
“Oh, you set a date?!”
Both parents guessed – in the worst wrong direction possible.
Jake groaned, shaking his head.
“Tell them!” Everett urged him.
Their parents’ expressions had changed from the usual contentment, as the atmosphere at home – growing up and now – had always been a kind, happy and friendly one, to looks of suspicion.
Jake swallowed hard, then looked at his feet, shook his head then looked at Rett
“I can’t. I cannot do it.” Jake jumped up, looking like he was going to run.
“Fine. He wants to tell you that he broke up with Kassi, because he had been living a lie all his life, in order to make everybody happy. But the truth is that..” Everett took over, but was interrupted by Jake
“I am gay!” Jake almost spat out the words.
Silence fell, his parents staring at him, then his mother jumped up and hugged him, her husband immediately behind her.
“Oh baby, why did you not tell us sooner? You do not need to pretend anything, ever, thinking that would make us happy. The only thing that makes your dad and me happy is knowing all you kids are happy, safe and healthy!”
His father agreed, but could not help reprimanding him for getting engaged against better knowledge.
“Should I … move out?” Jake asked, shyly.
“What?! No. You stay here for as long as you want. All you kids are always welcome here at home.“ Liam told his sons.
“But if you ever do think about moving out, maybe into your own home, remember that your brother could design you an awesome home for a very comparable rate. Let me give you my card…”
“Goodness Rett!” his mother interrupted him, trying to suppress a giggle.
“What? I gotta eat too. Especially since that whole legacy thing was just put on my shoulders by him, so he may well do me a favor too.” Everett grinned.
“Screw you, Rett!” Jake grinned.
“Sorry, wrong audience for that. And even for a Cameron, I think that would be a little too weird among brothers..”
“Don’t say that too loud. If you were to dare to dig too deep around the hidden spots by the old Cameron family tree I am not sure that what you’d find would be gold. More likely it’d be a banjo.” Liam chuckled. Like every family, the Camerons had their black sheep. Some history was unknown, some best stay buried. Deep.
As expected, the news were received well by their siblings. Even Kassi would eventually forgive Jake and they’d become friends again.
Jake seemed chipper and relieved and after just a few weeks he started dating. This time not for show, but for love.