January 7th, 1989
Gabriel’s grandparents’ house
Woke up early (ish) in Gabriel (and Scottie’s) old room, think I’ve spent more time in that room than Gabriel has on his visit home! The brightly painted yellow bedroom holds remnants of their young lives; school projects, sports trophies, and old photographs. Gabriel was a lovely looking little boy, with the biggest smile.
Liza cooked us a huge breakfast, then we packed up the car, and went on our merry way.
“Enjoy yourselves, and phone me when you get there,” she said, waving, as we pulled out of the driveway. Liza blew a kiss, and Gabriel beeped the horn.
It was yet another gorgeous day, and I thought of mum, and how much she would love this weather, especially at this time of year, when she’s typically not at her best. A convertible would have been perfect for the long drive, but instead, the air conditioning was on.
As usual, we talked about all kinds of things, and I like how Gabriel asks lots of questions, and appears genuinely interested in our conversations. We talked a lot about Ben, and Gabriel’s (maybe) girlfriend, Maria.
“Are you missing Maria?”
“I thought I would, but I don’t.”
I thought his words were rather telling. Either that, or he was lying, but I felt he was being honest.
“Do you miss Ben?”
“He’s always floating around in my head, somewhere, but the intensity of how much I miss him varies.”
“But you’re not together?”
“No, we called it a day, right before I left. I cried all the way across the Atlantic.”
“That’s crazy. Sounds like you still have it bad for him.”
“To be perfectly honest, yes, I do.”
I think the fact that Gabriel and I are each only here in Florida for a short time makes it much easier to be open about things we might not typically discuss, if we had just met, and lived in the same place. Soon, Gabriel will be heading back to California, and I’ll be going home to England.
After a while, I asked Gabriel if he minded opening the windows because the air conditioning was giving me a headache. Felt so much better with fresh air, but it was difficult to hear each other on the motorway (Gabriel calls it the highway, but apparently in California they’re called freeways) so we sang along to the radio instead.
Gabriel knew every word to ‘Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,’ and sang it in such a heartfelt way. That’s not really my kind of music, but each time I joined him in the chorus, he smiled over at me. I have no idea who sings it, and didn’t want to embarrass myself by asking, because it’s obviously a favourite of his.
When ‘Need You Tonight’ came on, it was my turn to sing every line, and even although Gabriel didn’t know the words, he moved his head in time to the music and played his fake harmonica in all the right places. I told Gabriel that when I went to see INXS in London with Ben, quite a few of the girls tossed their knickers onto the stage, and that began an entire conversation that lasted for the rest of the drive!
We arrived at his grandparents in the early afternoon. They came outside to greet us, and were very welcoming. They have American flags all over the place, and figurines galore. The air conditioning was blasting so much that I actually felt cold within a few minutes of arriving. Grammy (as she introduced herself) wasted no time showing me to my room. The double bed looked very inviting, and I wanted to crawl under the fluffy pink blanket just to warm up.
Sitting in the living room with Gabriel, I heard Grammy and Grandpa (they insisted that’s what I call them) arguing, with raised voices, in the kitchen. I looked at Gabriel, and he shook his head.
“They’ve been this way my whole life. They were married for over thirty years, got divorced, and remarried.”
I opened my mouth to speak, although I didn’t know how to respond, when Grammy and Grandpa came into the living room. They were still bickering.
“What do you wanna do?” Gabriel asked.
“Let’s go for a walk. Five hours in the car was quite a lot.”
Grammy stared at me. “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know, I just feel like going for a nice walk.”
“We don’t walk here,” his grandparents said, in unison.
“Let’s go for a drive, and I’ll show you around,” Gabriel said, with a wink.
When Gabriel and I got in the car, I was thankful that he didn’t reach to switch on the air conditioning.
“I’m sorry we’re not walking,” he said, rolling down his window.
“That’s ok.” As soon as I said it, I realized my words had come out sounding more disappointed than I actually was.
“I’ll make it up to you.”
“No need to,” I said, sticking my head out the passenger window for a few seconds. “I can’t believe how tall the palm trees are. By the way, where are we going?”
“I’m taking you somewhere really cool. I know you’ll like it.”
The hotels dotted along South Beach were a combination of dingy, and deluxe, but either way, I was mesmerized by the art deco architecture. We walked on the beach for ages, and wow! Not a lot of fabric on that beach. Even the men wore G-strings! I would never have the nerve to wear next to nothing like that. Although, maybe if I give up the cookies it might be an option (a highly improbable option.)
Music was pumping out of the multitude of bars facing the beach, and we sat outside one, watching the world of supermodels and gorgeous guys galore, swan by.
“So?” Gabriel asked. “What do you think?”
“I love the vibe. And the views aren’t too shabby either.”
Gabriel nodded his head yes, and grinned.
“But, of course, you brought me here for the archi…” I suddenly got a fit of the giggles and couldn’t finish my sentence.
Gabriel cracked up laughing, and clinked his Margarita glass to mine. “For the architecture.”
“The reason we’re here. Right?” I asked, keeping my expression as serious as I could muster.
“Sure,” he smiled.
Ah, that gorgeous smile of his.
After being out in the sun for hours, G & G’s house felt like an igloo. Gabriel promptly produced one of his sweatshirts for me to wear, ah, thank you! Grammy said we were going to a relative’s for dinner, and from the way she talked, it sounded like we were just going down the street.
We got in the car (of course) and within twenty minutes, the landscape began to change as we moved farther away from the city. Such huge, open spaces, with lots of billboards, some of which advertised churches, which amused, and confused me.
Uncle Earl (looks just like Gabriel’s dad!) and Aunt Suzi introduced me to at least a dozen people in their living room, and Uncle Earl kept patting me on the shoulder, saying, “we wanna hear you speak in your British accent.”
I was very tempted to go on some diatribe about the Queen, and scones, and tea and telephone boxes, but instead, I smiled sweetly and kept my mouth shut.
They had a “cookout” in what I expected to be the back garden, but it looked more like a field. There was a massive, wooden picnic table, set up with every condiment known to man, and I’ve never seen so much meat in my life. It would be every vegetarian’s nightmare.
I felt like I was being interviewed with all the questions the various family members were asking me. Then Uncle Earl stood up and told us to “eat up good” so we could “go riding.” I assumed he meant horses, but it was quad bikes. I was hesitant to ride by myself, so Uncle Earl told Gabriel to, “sling her on the back of yours.” I had to hold my tongue, to stop myself from saying, “why don’t you just have Gabriel drag me by the hair back into the cave?”
The air felt refreshing on the back of the quad, as Gabriel raced across the field. At the far end, “the boys” (average age 52) wanted to stop for a beer (conveniently pulled from their pockets.) Gabriel declined all offers of beer (nobody offered me one!) and said we would meet them back at the house. Halfway across the field, he stopped the quad bike, shut the engine off, and turned to face me. We sat like that for a while, kissing, and I held onto him much tighter on the way back.
At the house, there was more food to be had, mostly dessert, but I was too full to indulge in anything else (although I’m wishing now I had a slice of the Key Lime Pie.)
Before long it was time to leave, and Gabriel asked his Grandpa if he’d like him to drive.
“No way,” he boomed, “nobody drives my Caddy.”
Gabriel and I sank into the plush leather on the back seat of the huge car, and nodded our heads at each other, in acknowledgement, while G&G fought all the way back.
By which time, I felt like I was suffering from hypothermia.