It's California and it's now, so he's never the only kid in school with two same-sex parents. At his new school, he sits next to Rain Demarco-Nwosu, who has pretty fluffy red-gold curls and gets into loud arguments with him over whether two moms or two dads are better. (He wins, or at least he thinks he does. Two dads let you have a puppy, after all. Two moms just name you after bad weather, so there.)
In middle school and high school, he will have a dozen different friends with two moms or two dads or, in one particular case, three moms and four dads, which he will never be able to truly figure out the logistics of. Katie won't talk about it much, although she will tell him after they're married that she enjoyed the hell out of Big Extravagant But Not Yet Legal Multi-denominational December Holiday, which she will be quick to point out is its exact full name and there won't be any shortening it.
And there won't, not in all of the years they'll be married. Which will be four.
It's California and it's five years from now, and Jeanne is calling him after school on a Wednesday and says, I'm getting married and he's wonderful, his name is Danny and he's a high school teacher and you should come, you should come.
Cody doesn't know how to react. He's got soccer cleats dripping muddy grass onto the kitchen floor and Sam bouncing all over the kitchen and barking happily and his mom is on the phone deliberately not saying, I'm getting married so now I'll be good at this mothering thing.
He mumbles something about homework and hangs up.
Shaun is the only one in the kitchen, says, That's how you end a phone call, kiddo, with equal parts concern and warning, but Cody waves him off before heading out back to rinse off his cleats with the garden hose.
He'll say no, of course. He'll call her up later and make the sort of excuses that only work when you're a kid – he has a soccer game on Saturday, the next-door neighbor's cat just had kittens, Shaun and Zach promised to take him to see the next Pixar movie – and he'll be able to hear Jeanne's disappointed frown over the phone even though she says it's okay, that Zach needs to send her video of his soccer games, that she misses him.
He knows it's okay, and he'll tell Zach, and when she says that misses him he'll lie and say he believes her.
It's California and it's ten years from now, and everyone is at Ella Cascada's birthday party playing Spin The Bottle, of all the tacky and outdated bullshit, and Cody's kissing another boy in the half-bathroom just off Ella's game room.
Cody hates Dean Decker, who thinks he's better than everyone because he's going to make the varsity football team this season in a cakewalk and he's built like a Pizza Hut with legs. And Cody likes Dean Decker, too, because he's openly gay and is big enough to not give a shit who knows, because he may have manhandled Cody into the bathroom with a, Come on, kid, let's get this over with, but his eyes grew bright and hopeful when the empty plastic Sprite bottle Cody spun landed quite firmly on him.
The door closes and Dean doesn't give him any warning, just plants one on Cody so fast Cody doesn't have the chance to protest. Which he doesn't want to, not really.
Dean gets into it a little too much, shoving him against the far wall and nearly going overboard before Cody calls it quits, and Cody will find out much later that Dean's had a crush on him since right before Dean came out of the closet. So, roughly since kindergarten, then, Cody will joke to his art-class buddies. But he and Dean will end up going on exactly two disastrous dates over the rocky course of the rest of their high school years, once in tenth grade and once in senior year. And even though Cody and Dean will have a knock-down drag-out fight the day after that results in Shaun and Zach being pulled into the principal's office two months before graduation with stern looks on their faces, Cody will lose his virginity that second date, or his "guy virginity" anyway, and it's awkward and strange and wonderful all at once.
But ten years from now it's California and Cody is realizing with every deft stroke of Dean's eager tongue that he might be a little bi.
It's California and it's fifteen years from now, and Cody gets a mumbled call on his cell phone from Katie at three in the morning. I've had way too much tequila, and you need to come find me, princess, I'm pretty sure I'm about to throw up on a homeless guy with a gun or a spatula or something.
He has a psych test at nine and a meeting with his adviser at noon but he goes, he goes, he goes in a strange surreal blur to the corner where Katie slumps in a dazed heap, downtown and drunk, broken up with her boyfriend and the world has clearly just ended.
Can I sleep at your place?
That's what she says and that's what she does, with Cody's roomie giving him the stink-eye from the other side of the room and Cody taking an uncomfortable sloping nap in a wooden desk chair not meant for that sort of thing.
He shouldn't be talking to Katie, not really, because they dated in junior year for about an hour before common sense took hold and broke them up, and now she's dating the quarterback and he's dating everybody. She's small and dark and nut-brown, like a squirrel in human form, that same perky troublesome energy, and somehow she only throws them both into mounds of trouble.
But he can't avoid her, not really, because they dated in junior year for about an hour before common sense took hold and broke them up, and now they're here at the same damn college, equidistant to as many parents as the both of them care to associate with.
Zach and Shaun will visit on Sunday because they worry about him, and they'll find Katie still sleeping there, two days after she collapsed drunkenly into his bed and fell asleep with a throaty impressive snore, one day after his roommate cried foul and went to stay with his buddies from the lacrosse team for the weekend. Shaun will cock an eyebrow, due to being impressed or surprised Cody will never know, but Zach will do what he always does, hovering and mothering, getting her fed, warning her against the evils of alcohol as though he's never had a drink in his life. And Cody will laugh at the both of them, unable to stop, grateful for good parents.
And it's Zach he tries to emulate when he urges her to the shower and fetches clothes from her dorm room, and it's Zach Katie gifts with a grateful hug when they get married for raising the the caring husband she's snapped up.
It's California and it's twenty years from now, and Cody smiles at Shaun and Zach and says, So which one of you wants to hold your granddaughter first?
They stand speechless with tears welling in their eyes long enough for Gabe to make a crack about the two of them being hopeless before sweeping Erin into his arms and cooing ludicrous intelligible baby-talk to his grand-niece.
Cody laughs and swears that he and Katie won't let Gabe anywhere near her if he keeps it up, and Katie gets a case of the rather pained giggles from the faces he makes, but they'll let Gabe near Erin all the time. He'll be the one who teaches her the bad words and sends her home to Mom and Dad, he'll be the one who uses her to get gorgeous younger women to give him their phone numbers, and in the end he will be the one taking Erin to the Ice Capades when the milk truck crosses the median and Katie never comes home.
But twenty years from now in California Erin will be small and wee with wide green eyes, and out of some cosmic coincidence she looks a lot like her grandpa Shaun.
It's California and it's twenty-five years from now, and Cody's crying when he bumps into Dean Decker, of all people, walking into a bar while Cody's stumbling out.
Cody won't remember much of it later, of course, but Dean will fill him in. He'll tell Cody he practically fell into Dean's lap and threw up on his shoes, moaned something about wanting to die and then passed out in the grass. Luck will have it that Dean knows of the accident through the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend and he drives Cody home after a bit of manhandling to retrieve his wallet.
At home Cody falls asleep on the couch, drooling onto a throw pillow while Erin sleeps peacefully in some grandparents' home, and Dean will be unable to bring himself to leave.
Cody will wake up, hungover and disgusting, and see Dean Decker asleep in the recliner, as comfortable as a worn old dog, and Cody will think, I wonder how that got there, and ponder, for the first time since high school, about maybe keeping "that."
It's California and it's thirty years from now, and Erin's school assignment is a family tree.
Cody jokes to Shaun and Zach that he may need to kill an entire tree for the amount of paper Erin may need to pull together a map of her family, her dozen grandparents who've been scattered to the winds but still pop into her life when need be, but in the end it will take only one sheet of paper four feet long, not all that much longer than anyone else's in her class, assembled with the help of her grandpa Zach.
It ends up in her bedroom afterward; one mom and two dads, a baseball team worth of grandparents and one energetic great-uncle, four feet of everything in paper and glue and fat round happy slashes of crayon.