Once we all get in the boat, we head out into the middle of the lake, where the water is deeper and the fish radar is showing a school of fish below. We all cast off into the water and settle in for the day.
My dad used to bring my brother and me to this same lake when I was growing up. Most of our summers were spent out on the water. I have a lot of good memories here, and it feels good to share this place with Brandon. It makes me feel closer to him.
“I think you got something, bud,” I tell Brandon as I watch the end of his pole bend slightly.
“How do you know?” he asks, looking from the pole to me.
“Watch the point of your pole,” I tell him, and his eyes move to the pole. The end moves again.
“What do I do?” he asks quietly.
I look around the boat and see that everyone is focused on Brandon and me. “You’re gonna give your pole a tug. If something is on there, you want to make sure that it’s hooked good and tight. Then you’re gonna start reeling it in,” I tell him.
He nods then does as I said, giving the pole a firm tug before reeling in the line.
“It’s heavy,” he says, his body and arms flexing as he fights against the fish that is determined to get away.
“You can do it,” I tell him, standing at his side, coaching him the whole time—letting him know when to release some and when to bring the line in.
It takes a good half hour to get the fish to the top, and I’m surprised to see a giant bass break the surface of the water.
“Holy shit,” Asher says, leaning over the side of the boat.
“That’s one big fish!” Nico laughs and Brandon smiles looking over at me.
“Get the net,” Cash tells Trevor.
“You did good, Kid,” Trevor tells Brandon, leaning into the water to help Asher scoop out the fish.
“Well, you caught dinner,” James says.
The smile that was on Brandon’s face disappears in an instant. “You mean we’re going to eat it?”
“Hell yes, we’re going to eat it!” Asher smiles bringing the fish onto the boat.
“I never agreed to eating fish. Didn’t we bring hot dogs or something?” Brandon asks, making me laugh.
“This is like the Wild West, Kid. You live off what you catch,” Trevor tells Brandon, and all the boys laugh when Brandon shudders.
“You did good, bud,” I say, bringing Brandon’s attention to me. “I’m proud of you.”
“It was cool,” he says. Then he looks back at the fish then to me again. “Are you sure we don’t have hot dogs?”
“I may have a pack in the cooler,” I tell him, squeezing his shoulder.
“Thank God,” he mumbles under his breath, making James and me laugh.
“So, what college are you going to?” Cash asks Brandon. We just finished dinner and are now all sitting around the bonfire.
“I’m not sure. I may stay local and just do some business classes,” Brandon tells him then looks over at me. “Joe said that, if I worked hard and proved to you both, he would talk to you about me managing Teasers.”
“Did he?” I say. It doesn’t surprise me that my brother would say something like that. I know he has been thinking about stepping back from the club just like I have.
“Well, he said that you guys are old,” Brandon says with a smile, making me smile into the beer I just brought to my mouth.
“Didn’t you just turn eighteen?” Cash asks, and Brandon nods. “You think you can run a strip club?”
“I don’t think I can. I know I can,” Brandon says, and pride fills my chest.
“You’re a kid,” Nico says.
“That doesn’t mean anything.”
“It does when there are naked women around,” Trevor says.
“So, are you tryin’ to say that Mike sleeps with the women who work at the club?” Brandon asks. “Or that Joe does?”
“I didn’t say that,” Trevor says, looking at me.
“Well, then, why would you think that I would do that?”
“You just turned eighteen,” Cash repeats.
“I think he could do it,” I say.
All eyes come to me.
“Look at it this way. Joe and I opened teasers when we were in our twenties. I have never slept with or even touched one of the women who work for me nor do I want to. It’s a job and nothing more. I think that, if he went to school, got some business classes or management classes under his belt, he could do good by the club and the girls. I know that he is young, but if he continues down the road he is on now, he will do amazing things one day,” I say and turn to look at Brandon. “If you prove to me and Joe that you really want to run the club one day, I would be honored to hand the reins over to you.”
I watch as his eyes go soft and a look I often see from his mom appears on his face before he looks away. I now know that I will do anything in my power to make sure he succeeds in whatever he chooses for his life and fully understands what my mom said to me when I told her that I wanted to own a strip club.
“All I have ever wanted was for you to be happy, son. So if this is what makes you happy and is a reason for you to get out of bed every day, then who am I judge it?”
From that moment on, my mom was my biggest ally, and I know that I will be that for Brandon.
“Thanks,” Brandon says quietly.
“How do you think Brandon would feel about you guys living with me?” I ask Kat.
We have been going strong for a few months. Most mornings, when I get off work, I just come straight to Kat’s. Even if I’m just going to be sleeping, I like knowing that Kat is in the next room. I can’t stand being away from her. The idea of her moving in with me has been floating around in my head for some time now. Her townhouse is nice, but my house is nicer. I also have more space. Brandon wouldn’t feel like we are living on top of him like he does now. I remember what it’s like to be a teenage boy, and no way would I want my mom’s room next to mine.
“You want us to move in with you?” Kat asks, her already large eyes getting larger.
“We basically live together now. I just figured we should make it official.” I shrug like it’s not a big deal even though my gut is twisting and my heart rate has sped up.
“Are you sure you want that?”
“Yes,” I say immediately.
This is the next step for us. At this point, we’re just putting off the inevitable. We spend all of our free time together and I never go home to my place anymore when I get off work unless there is something I need to do.