I sat down, smiling as I looked at my family-- my wife, my four beautiful daughters, and our only son. The dim light of the electric fireplace made their skin seem to tan, flicker and burn as the flames moved.
"Well, River," I said, "out with it. Who is the lucky girl?"
I was so excited-- finally, my son was going to get married. He was almost twenty-eight, and I thought he'd already waited too long. But now, it was the best news I could've recieved. At long last, I could pass on the engagement ring my mother gave me to my son.
"That's just it, Dad," he said quietly. "He's... he's not a girl."
The smile fell from my lips. "What?" I asked quietly, shifting in my chair.
"He's not a girl," River repeated quietly. He moved a few dirty-blonde out of his face."
"Girls," Maybelline said, "why don't you four step out for a minute?"
"Mother," Margaret, the eldest, began.
Maybelline hardened her eyes and motioned for them to leave. They each obeyed, albeit Margaret lingered for a moment or two. After they had passed through the dark wooden doors, I looked up at my son.
"River, you know that I support you in just about everything you do," I said quietly. "You know I fought for gay rights every day in the Oval Office and that I still fight for them in the Senate."
"Yeah, Dad, I know," he huffed. His blue eyes flashed darkly as he looked away. "But let me guess-- it would look bad on your career and all that crap."
"That's not why your father's upset dear," my wife said kindly, placing a hand on his shoulder. She looked at me and shrugged with one shoulder, raking a hand through her dusty brown hair. "Go on, Richard. Tell him."
I closed my eyes and prayed silently for a moment. Please, God, I thought, make this easy. I opened my eyes and looked up at them both. Standing, I moved towards the neatly-arranged bookshelves, reaching for a small box-- my mother's jewelry box.
"I can't give you the ring, River. I want an heir."
The words were out in the open now. Maybelline rubbed River's back, but he shrugged her off. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that I want a grandson with my last name," I said quietly. "I don't want my bloodline to die."
"It wouldn't die!" River scoffed. "You have four daughters and six grandkids already!"
"He wants a grandkid with our last name," my wife said quietly. "Your father just doesn't want the name to go extinct in the male line on this side of the family. His brothers nearly destroyed everything your father had worked for, and he wants to be sure that there's always an Atwood man around to do what needs to be done."
"You're both crazy!" River hissed at us. Maybelline moved to my side, nervously glancing between us. "You'd stop me from getting married-- for that?"
"I can't stop you," I said quietly. "But I can withhold this ring and my blessing."
River shook his head. "Why?"
"Because I have worked far too hard for far too long to not have just one thing from my children: a blood heir." I ran a hand over the back of my neck, trying to figure out how to explain it. "I love you, River, I really do," I said. "But if this is the one thing I ask of you, please do it. Life for you has been easy because your grandmother and your mother and I scrimped and saved to change how college worked in America. You have everything you could want for-- clean air, cheap schooling,the right to be heard-- because we made it happen." I looked at him tearfully. "Please just do this one thing for me."
River shook his head.
'No. Not if it means giving up the man I love."
"What about a surrogate?" Maybelline asked quietly. "Would you approve of a surrogate?"
"I... I'd have to talk to Avery," he answered. "But even if he said yes, why would I do it? Just to make Dad happy?"
"Because you would love a child with all of your heart," my wife answered. "Since you were little, you've wanted four boys and one little girl. You'd talk to my mother and your father's mother about it all of the time."
"I'll think about it," River grunted. "But I want the ring."
"I want an heir," I answered quietly. "Promise me an heir... and you can have the ring."
"Then we're at an impasse?" he asked.
"I guess we are."
"I'll talk to him about it. If he doesn't want kids, that's all there is to it," River answered.
"Fine," I said. "And if he does, you can have the ring."
"Good," my son said, "because you aren't invited to the wedding. Goodbye, Dad."
I shook my head as he stormed out of the room. "He'll come around, Maybelline," I said quietly.
"For your sake, I hope so," she replied, kissing my forehead. "If you're lucky, you may just have an heir..."
This in no way reflects my views regarding the LGBTQ+ community; I myself am a heteroflexible.