His aunt blinked and blinked again. If the situation wasn't so serious William would have found her reaction a novelty. It took a lot to shock Victoria Quinn and he'd managed to do it.
"...I see. You're gay…" she said blankly. "I can't say I saw that one coming."
That wasn't a rejection so William pushed on. He had gone too far to stop at just confessing.
"Are you okay with my orientation?" he prompted.
"Give me a moment to readjust," she ordered and William fell silent.
"Did you know about this?" she turned to his uncle.
"He told me just now," he said with a nervous twitch.
She hit his arm lightly and glared at him.
"How come you get to know first?" she demanded.
William dared to look at her. Her reaction wasn't anything he had been predicting. After what seemed like an age, she turned to look at him again.
"I have been trying to find some suitable girls for you- obviously I can't do that anymore," she paused. "As for giving my approval, do you really need it?"
"You're an important person to me," he replied honestly. "It would mean a lot to me if you gave me approval."
"Of course I approve," she answered immediately. "I just don't know why you kept it quiet for so long."
His aunt approved of him.
He had done it.
There was a light feeling in his chest and he smiled widely. Then he saw his aunt was waiting for his answer with a raised eyebrow and hastened to explain himself.
"I was in denial about it for a while. I also felt like I wouldn't be able to run the company if everyone knew I was gay. I've been paranoid for years."
"You hid it well," she sniffed. "I would have kept it quiet if you told me."
William squinted at her. He had the faintest impression that she didn't care about his gayness, she was just annoyed at not being told before. He hadn't been expecting that at all. He was now wondering why he had been so nervous.
"If your… orientation made the shareholders pullout: tell them where to go. Your attraction to men doesn't mean you can't run a company."
"Hear, hear," his uncle chipped in like he was in parliament.
His aunt picked up her teacup again and resumed drinking her tea calmly.
"You should have told me about everything a long time ago. I could have got you some help in your teenage years. It's not healthy to keep it bottled up."
It was becoming apparent that there were a lot of things he would do differently if he could live his teenage period again. He had made things worse for himself by trying to keep everything a secret.
"I'm touched that you felt you needed my approval though," she said in a softer voice. "I tried my best to be a good parent to you in your parents' absence."
What was sure to be an emotional moment was interrupted by the arrival of Eliza. She announced her presence with a squeal when she saw William. He still marveled at how different she acted as his second in command compared to how she was at home.
"You should have told me William was here," she said cheerfully with a long look at her mother and William could tell she was analysing if he had told her yet.
Aunt Victoria glared at her. "I bet you already knew he was gay."
Eliza approached the table and sat down next to William.
"Please Mum, I worked it out quite a few years ago," she said with an eye roll.
The look that her mother sent her way would have made a lot of people faint. Eliza took it in her stride and poured herself a cup of tea. William saw her look at the bread and butter pudding and waited for her mention Noah. The pudding was clearly made by a professional and not his aunt.
"Did 'he' make this?" she asked casually.
Aunt Victoria's head spun around to stare at him.
"You have a boyfriend?"
William itched the back of his neck nervously. He was one hurdle down, he could deal with this one.
She stared at him and cut herself another slice of bread and butter pudding as if she needed to reaffirm it was made well.
"Will I get to meet him?"
"I'll bring him round at some point," he said.
"Within the next month please," she requested. "This is the first time you've been here in four years and you drop this bombshell. Don't let it take four years for us to meet your boyfriend."
"I've met him," Eliza interjected.
Her mother sighed. "How many times do I have to tell to have better sense of timing?"
"I'll bring him here soon," he promised before the two of them could start arguing.
"He's already met Aunt Mel- he'll be fine," Eliza reminded him.
"That bloody woman!" his aunt cursed. "I'm like sugar and spice next to her. I won't be horrible to your boyfriend; you probably wouldn't be here today to confess without him."
It was certainly true. He would have kept his gayness quiet for the rest of his life without Noah around to give him a push. His life would be very bleak without Noah.
"Tell him I will be very nice to him if he gives me his recipe for bread and butter pudding," she added.
Noah definitely had a magic touch with baking if he had managed to provoke that response from his stalwart aunt.
"I will. Do you still like it as much as you did?"
"I haven't changed my tastes much," she replied and caught her husband and daughter rolling their eyes. "I have Eve's Pudding occasionally."
William haven't even heard of that. It had to be another old fashioned dessert. Whatever it was, he was sure Noah could ace it.
"Can you get N- I mean your boyfriend to come up with a new dessert Mum would like?" Eliza requested.
He felt for her. She had to be bored of the desserts in the Quinn household. He would definitely ask Noah to do some new product development.
Then something came to mind.
It had been completely forgotten in all his nervousness about coming out to his aunt.
Noah was the son of the Quinn family's rival.
Even he had taken a while to completely trust him. His aunt would be much worse and might even reject him because of that. She was very into keeping to Quinn family values and accepting that he was dating a Charles might be impossible for her.
Would it matter?
As she had said, he didn't even need her approval and she had accepted his gayness.
He would just have to avoid mentioning Noah's parents for as long as possible.
"Do you know how Charles Confectionery is going with opening their own pȃtisserie?" His uncle asked with a sense of timing as poor as his daughter's.
Naturally William had no idea. Noah didn't know anything or if he did, he wasn't saying it. It was now it should be. It would be odd to get insider info through his boyfriend.
"All I know is that it's not going to be like ours," he said diplomatically. "I happened to see Mr and Mrs Charles at my pâtisserie and we had a brief word."
"That woman is crazy," his aunt commented. "I feel sorry for her husband."
Noah's mother had certainly been enthusiastic about everything. William knew his aunt abhorred people like that.
"I have respect for them from a business perspective," his aunt continued. "I just don't like them personally."
It was becoming harder to think of telling her that he was dating their son.
"Victoria, leave them alone," his uncle said. "Don't drag William along with your opinions."
His aunt lapsed into silence and then rapidly changed the subject.
"Are you staying for dinner? It would be nice to see you for longer."
William wasn't adverse to the idea, he just already had plans with Noah. It was the final episode and climax of the TV show they were watching and he was anticipating it now he had completed his goal.
"I'm seeing my boyfriend tonight," he replied.
Was that disappointment he could see on his aunt's face? She really did like he more than he had ever believed. It felt odd now to remember being convinced that she didn't love him.
He left the house an hour later with a happy feeling in his heart. He had done the impossible. Aunt Victoria approved of him being gay. He felt ready to tell anyone.
Noah was waiting for him at the end of the street. The sun was now setting and the sky was lit up in attractive shades of red and orange which highlighted his boyfriend's looks. William smiled and linked hands with him. He really was lucky that Noah was in his life.
"I'm guessing that it was success?" Noah said after analysing his face.
William stood on his tiptoes and pulled him down for a kiss. He now had enough confidence to kiss him openly in public.
"It was a success."
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