“Honestly Papa, you’re worse than a teenager with that phone. Will you please put it down so we can finish our game?” Baelfire Gold felt himself slipping into Full-Frontal-Dad-Mode as his father shot him a look before snapping his cell phone shut and rolling the dice.
Henry had been put to bed hours ago despite his drowsy protests that he wanted to watch the ball drop and had remained blessedly quiet ever since. Emma was called into the station soon after—something about “vandalism” and “public menace,” which usually meant someone was egging the mayor’s house again. Which is how the two Gold men found themselves alone, playing a seemingly endless game of Monopoly, on New Year’s Eve.
The eldest Gold’s cell phone had done nothing but buzz with incoming text messages, which was odd enough in it of itself, but the fact that he answered every one of them with a minute of reading them was astounding to Bae. Usually it took him a good fifteen minutes to type out a short reply with his ancient flip phone, now Raymond Gold was texting with the proficiency of a fifteen year old girl talking to a crush.
A small realization began to dawn in Bae’s head, Holy Mother of God, it had finally happened.
“So Papa,” Bae said casually, taking the dice from his father while he moved his thimble piece, “who is she?”
Immediately Gold’s head snapped up, his sudden movements nearly sending his phone off the kitchen table.
“S-she?” he stuttered, “There’s no she! Why would think there’s a…I mean not that there couldn’t be one. It’s just…is it that obvious?”
“Papa, I have seen nothing but the top of your head since you got here. Either you’re talking to your girlfriend or have somehow downloaded Flappy Bird to that dinosaur you call a cell phone. So…” Bae waggled his eyebrows, “who is she?”
Gold sighed, held-wishing he had a less observant son, but couldn’t help but smile at the thought of calling Belle his girlfriend.
“Her name is Belle, she’s the librarian at school.”
“A librarian, huh? And has she read the Harry Potter series?” Bae had been reading the first one to Henry for the past month much to Gold’s delight.
“She went as Hermione Granger on Costume Day and has very strong feelings about Severus Snape.” That particular debate almost made him late to his own class and ended up lasting the rest of the week.
“Granger’s always a good choice.” Bae nodded sagely, “Though I’m a Luna man myself—always a sucker for a blonde.” Gold chuckled.
“So what else? Does she have a fantastic son too?”
“No, she doesn’t have kids. She’s uh, she’s a bit younger than I am.”
“Oh? And how much is ‘a bit’?” Bae asked, abandoning all interest in the board game now. His father, who had dated maybe twice in his son’s life, was now had a young sweetheart? He couldn’t wait to tell Emma.
“She’s thirty-two.” Gold half-whispered, as if he was waiting for some sort of condemnation for his good fortune. The age difference never really bothered him and it bothered Belle even less. Jefferson had practically shoved them into a closet together, so he obviously didn’t object. The rest of the world, however, was less likely to be so diplomatic or insane, which was the only reason why Gold didn’t rent a billboard declaring his feelings for the beautiful Aussie.
Bae let out a low whistle. “Wow, Papa. I didn’t know you had it in you. Did she have plans for tonight?”
“I think she was going out with some friends…So, you’re okay with…this?” he asked, gesturing weakly to his phone.
“Actually…” Bae paused, “no. I’m not.”
Gold swore his stomach sunk to his shoes. Bae had always been so open-minded. He had hounded him for years to put himself back out there after Milah left. The number of times Bae threatened to sign him up for online dating was practically in the triple digits.
Bae must have been able to tell his father was starting to implode and decided to put him out of his misery.
“I cannot believe that you have been sitting here for the past four hours drinking non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice and playing a frickin’ board game with your adult son when you could be ringing in the New Year with your new girlfriend! Have you lost your mind?!”
Bae’s sudden changes in disposition were starting starting to make Gold dizzy.
“Well, I…we always spend New Year’s Eve together.” he defended weakly.
“Yeah, when you didn’t have a thirty-two year old that you were supposed to be kissing in…” Bae glanced at the time, “half an hour. Jesus, Papa!”
Bae had leaped from his chair at the declaration of the time and instantly grabbed for his father’s coat and scarf. Gold followed his son in to the foyer of the house, still a bit stunned at the recent turn of events.
“So I am…going?” he asked.
“Yes. You are going to go and apologize to your girlfriend for texting her when you could have been spending time with her, then you are going to kiss her at midnight and then you are going to give me a full report tomorrow morning.” He paused, thinking a moment. “Unless you end up spending the night. I don’t need that visual image.”
“Bae!” Gold scolded his son before turning a deep shade of crimson. By this point his son had all but tied his shoes for him and was now holding open the front door. The cold air brought Gold back into reality. He was almost out the door fully when he turned back to look at his son. How had his boy grown up to be so wonderful and so unlike himself?
“Bae, I,” His son interrupted him with a quick but fierce hug.
“I know, Papa. I love you too.” He released him and the older man made his way down the front steps. Once he had made it to his car, Gold rolled down the window.
“I’ll call you in the morning, son!”
“I’ll hold you to that old man! Tell my future step-mom I said hi,” Bae called, “And don’t forget to use protection!”
The middle finger that answered his remark was all the confirmation Bae needed that his old man, after all this time, might actually have found someone special.
Belle had just snuggled under her favorite blanket, ready to watch the ball drop, and glad to be in her apartment again to unwind from Granny’s New Year’s Eve party. It was always fun to be around Ruby and Mulan and a few other friends that she didn’t see much outside of school, but it was also nice to change out of her heels and slip into her oversized pajamas for the night. A glance at the clock told her it was just a few minutes until midnight and she selfishly wished Raymond was there with her. He was spending the evening with his son and his family, and as much as she wished she could have met them tonight, their relationship was a little too new for her to making demands to meet the family. They had been texting each other all night, which made the evening bearable, even enjoyable, and Belle could hardly fault him for wanting to see his grandson.
Several frantic knocks at her door paused her train of thought. Belle sighed, slightly annoyed that she had to abandon her blanket nest so soon, but her spirits instantly lifted once she saw who it was through the peephole.
Hastily, she undid the chain on the door and ripped open the door, almost taking his hand to her nose as he prepared to knock again.
“Hey,” she said. When had she become out breath?
“Hey,” he replied, obviously flustered about something.
“I thought you were with your son.”
“I was but he reminded me that I needed to do something.” Belle furrowed her brow. “Okay, and that would be…” Brown eyes met her blue ones.
Without any other preamble, his lips were once again on hers. She thought she might have heard fireworks going off in the distance, but as she stood there, in her ratty old pajamas, being kissed by a man who never failed to surprise her, she didn’t much care what year it was. Raymond Gold was hers, and they had nothing but time.