People filed into the 1920s Craftsman nestled in a downtown Phoenix historic district. Most were armed with gift bags or bottles of wine with bows affixed to the neck. All wore big grins above the turtlenecks or cardigans they donned against the blustery late autumn afternoon. An excitable, merle Yorkiepoo on hopping hind legs greeted each new arrival on the porch. Of the cars stretched up and down the tree-lined street, there was a conspicuous preponderance of small hybrid and electric vehicles.

Hector and Peter received their guests in the great room they had created by demolishing the walls that previously divided a living room, family room, and kitchen. Gifts piled up on the soapstone counter of the kitchen island, which was large enough to be its own continent within the sea of old world charm and new world luxury that the couple had painstakingly curated over the past year. Soft jazz played on an unseen Alexa. The centerpiece of the entire space, a massive spanish-tiled fireplace was prepped with logs, but unlit beneath the reclaimed driftwood mantel despite the dreary weather.

Guests mingled and made small talk in between trips to the antique dining table for appetizers. Its drop leaves fully upright for the occasion, it held platters of shrimp cocktail, aged cheeses, exotic fruit, and fresh, organic veggies. The aroma of fair trade Bolivian coffee that percolated on the bar top made its way to every nose in the house. Clad in black tuxedos with green ties and cummerbunds, waiters circulated amongst the revelers with flutes of champagne, as well as sparkling cider for the non-drinkers.

Fifteen minutes after the arrival of the last guest, Hector cut through the conversations around him by clinking a fork against his glass. Only when the most boisterous conversationalists finally took notice did he begin to speak.

“Distinguished guests,” he greeted with as much force as his thin voice would allow, “Thank you all for coming today. Even you, Dorothy.”

Polite chuckles and several catcalls arose from the crowd as a skeletal woman with severe eye makeup and a shock of silver running through her spiked, jet-black hair affected a deep curtsy in response.

“As you all know, Peter has been hard at work honing this diamond in the rough into the jewel you now see today,” he continued, gesturing at his sheepish husband who was attempting to disappear behind him. The size disparity between the couple making the spectacle absurdly hilarious, another wave of laughter rippled through the crowd.

“It was a team effort,” the towering architect demurred.

His voice was a deep, throaty bass that didn’t match his demeanor. The vertical stripes on his grey suit may have been slimming, but they also made him loom even larger than his six foot six frame normally did despite his cowering.

“Shush,” Hector chided him. “Peter did everything. Drew the plans. Selected the finishes. Met with all the contractors. I just paid the AMEX bill and yelled at people on the phone.”

Another chuckle from the crowd.

“Accept your flowers, honey,” he insisted, raising his glass. “To Peter!”

“To Peter,” the crowd echoed back.

Peter took a reluctant half bow as everyone took a sip of champagne or cider.

“But this isn’t just a housewarming party,” Hector continued when the voices died down. “We fibbed a little bit on the invitations. Peter and I invited all of you here today to make an announcement.”

The crowd tittered.

“Oh my God, you’re adopting,” one guest gushed.

“Where from,” another demanded. “Russia? Africa?”

“No, no, nothing on that front yet,” Hector corrected them. “We are still buried on all the waiting lists. Things have gotten more complicated in the last couple of years, but we remain hopeful. China is looking promising.”

He held up crossed fingers before lowering his hand and taking Peter’s.

“This is a gender reveal party,” Peter boomed, finding his voice.

The crowd stared back at the smiling couple with blank stares.

“Gender reveal,” a slight man in a top hat and overcoat asked. “You just said there was no baby?”

“No, we just said the adoption hasn’t been approved yet,” Hector clarified. “This is our baby!”

He made sweeping gestures in all directions, The guests followed his hands, confused.

“What, the house,” one asked with a derisive scoff. “You can’t be serious.”

“Why not, Chad,” Hector replied, offended. “Didn’t you name your car Christine?”

“Well, yes, but-“

“But what,” Hector pressed. “You assigned it a name.”

“It’s not the same,” the man squeaked. “I just named her for fun.”

“Ah, but why did you presume your car is a her,” Hector followed, well-practiced at the art of cross-examination.

“Come on, Hector. It’s a teal blue Tesla with cream leather interior, not a jacked up Ford.”

“That’s sexist and you know it,” he sang to the tune of the ubiquitous Right Said Fred tune.

“It’s a model Y, Chad,” he said with the air of a closing statement.

“But not an XY,” Chad sniffed, taking a step back in defeat.

“Anyone else have thoughts about this,” Hector quizzed his guests. “How about you, Daniel? I saw that look. Need I remind you that you refer to your hairless cat as ‘Them’?”

“Yeah, because They have nine lives,” A small disembodied voice answered. “Get it?”

“Look,” Hector announced. “It’s twenty twenty four, and the world has gotten scary enough. Half the country wants to cosplay the 1950s as it is. I didn’t expect our own friends and families to judge our choice to respect the right of our home to self-identify.”

“You’re right,” Chad said, reemerging from the crowd. “Hector, Peter, I am sorry for my closed-mindedness. I respect your choice and did not mean to offend you.”

“Thank you, Chad. No offense taken.”

Murmured approval went through the crowd.

“A house may not have an identity,” one surmised. “But a home is different. You pour your love and energy into a home. A home is a living thing. Of course it has feminine and/or masculine energy. Why wouldn’t it have a gender?”

Everyone looked at the mousy speaker, stunned, but nodding. Those standing near him pat him on the back and narrow shoulders.

“Percy,” Hector exclaimed, grabbing the wincing man in a fierce embrace. “You spoke!”

“Well, should we get this show on the road,” Peter asked, raising his voice above the din.

Replies to the affirmative rang out.

Peter withdrew a long lighter from his jacket pocket. He approached the fireplace and bent the long way down to the hearth. He turned to the throng of guests with a raised eyebrow, and touched the lighter to the firestarter brick beneath the waiting logs as cheers erupted.

“To the back yard,” Peter bellowed, leading the way as everyone hurried out of the house through the french doors, past the koi pond and herb garden to the lawn. There they craned their necks to watch the roofline.

“Pink smoke for a girl,” Peter announced. “Blue smoke for a boy!”

The anxious crowd waited.

“Definitely a girl,” one voice assured those around him. “Did you see those curtains?”

“Definitely a boy,” another challenged. “I haven’t seen that much red oak since the 1987 Boy Scout jamboree.”

Peter was about to return inside to make sure the fire was actually lit when the first few faint wisps of smoke appeared. Guests shushed each other as all attention turned to the chimney.

Cheers and I told yous went up as a light stream of pink trickled out of the roof. Only to be followed by opposing voices cheering as a trickle of blue chased it.

Peter cast a squinty-eyed look at Hector as a full rainbow of color billowed out of the chimney.

“What the fuck, Hector,” he whisper-scolded his partner. “What happened to green?”

They had settled on the home being gender neutral, at least until their tenth anniversary of home ownership, when the home’s identity would reveal itself organically rather than having one forced upon it. They had not even discussed its orientation.

“Oh lighten up, silly,” Hector responded with a glint in his dark eyes. “If Bob and Tina can fly that flag upside down and blast AM radio sermons every weekend, we can have a big gay house.”

He let the party-goers enjoy the spectacle for another minute before heading back inside to extinguish the fire. It was a no-burn day after all.


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