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Mark Arbour

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  1. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 66

    You’re the first person who mentioned that! I wondered if anyone would notice.
  2. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 67

    I heard that song a few years back, and this scene has been stuck in my mind. It's hard to imagine Claire and Jack reacting positively to the tattoos. 😀
  3. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 67

    Will has decided to do his undergrad years at Harvard. I think that JJ and Will are like brothers who are still in their bitchy fighting mode (like they were 12), and it hasn't evolved into a more mature relationship yet.
  4. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 67

    We’ll presume he had more time with Tony. 😀. I think that at this point in his life, Will is much better off with ‘friends that fuck’ relationships.
  5. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 67

    September 19, 2003 Escorial Palo Alto, CA Will I collapsed on top of Tony, smashing my cum between us, panting as I gripped on to him, even as I felt his cock slide out of my ass. “Nice way to start my day,” I said. “Thanks for getting up for me.” It was pretty early in the morning for him, because I had school while he didn’t have shit to do. “I’ll always get up for you,” he said, and gave me a nice kiss. “What was with that, anyway?” “What was with what?” I asked, even though I knew what he was talking about. “You been acting like you barely want me around, and even yesterday you practically ran out of my room like it was on fire,” he said grumpily. “Maybe your big dick scared me,” I joked. “Never been a problem before,” he joked back, or tried to, but this was bothering him, and he deserved an explanation. “I think that sex is a big part of how we connect,” I began, but he cut me off. “You’re more to me that just a fuck,” he snapped. “Tony, I know that,” I said soothingly, to calm his ass down. “You’re more than a fuck to me too.” “Sorry,” he said, and looked away from me shyly, which was just adorable. “I thought about all the shit we went through, and decided that if we slept together, it would make things better between us,” I said. I should have probably given Stef some credit for his advice, but that wasn’t really important here. “Don’t you think it did?” “I think it did,” he agreed, “but I don’t know why.” “More shit to talk to Casey about,” I teased. “For me, it was my way, or our way, of putting all the past crap behind us. And it was a lot of fun.” “It was,” he said. “You remember when I ran into you on campus last semester?” I asked. “You were with that hot dude your dad was dating,” he said, referring to Marc Carmine. “I was,” I confirmed. “He asked me who you were, and I told him you were the guy who showed me that bottoming was fucking earth shaking.” He smiled at me for stroking his sexual ego. “You make it that good.” “We make it that good,” I corrected. “You’re important to me, and now I feel good about us. Don’t you?” “I do,” he said. “You don’t think Mason’s going to be pissed off at me, do you?” I asked. “He don’t really have a right to be pissed off, since we’re not together,” he said. His grammar got a little off track when he was upset, and that, along with his tone, told him that he really didn’t feel that way. “Yeah right,” I said dismissively. “I’m betting you and he will be back together again by May. A thousand bucks.” I held out my hand, challenging him to take the bet. He gave me a dirty look, but didn’t shake my hand. “Don’t you have to get ready for school?” “Don’t you have to call Casey?” I asked, getting the classic ‘Tony’ look, where his facial features looked like he was rolling his eyes, but his eyes didn’t roll. I got out of bed and that change of position got me totally focused: I threw on my clothes, went back to my room and hopped in the shower, got dressed, then got all the clothes and shit together that I’d need for the show tonight. I made it up to the kitchen for breakfast with fifteen minutes before I had to leave. “Good morning,” Stef said to me pleasantly as I walked into that room. “Good morning,” I replied, just as pleasantly. “You’re in a much better mood this morning.” “I am, courtesy of a wonderful talk, and thanks to Cialis,” he said. “Cialis?” I asked, confused. “It is one of the three erectile dysfunction drugs,” he said, and that made me smile as big as he did. “So Cialis worked, eh?” “It did, and I am most relieved, since JP had no success with Viagra or Levitra,” he said. “You’re usually lucky,” I said with a wink, even as I started eating. “I usually am,” he agreed. “And how did your evening go?” “I took your advice, and ended up having mind-blowing sex,” I said. “It appears we are having similar mornings,” he joked. “You two are in remarkably good moods this morning,” Grand said as he entered the kitchen, carrying his morning newspapers. “We all are. Probably because we all got laid,” I said. “That usually helps.” “Usually,” Grand said nervously, because he didn’t want to dwell on his sex life. I didn’t let that bother me at all. “I understand your plumbing is back in working order,” I said, trying not to laugh my ass off as I did. “I fail to see why my sex life is the constant focus of conversation, especially when people know how much I dislike talking about it,” he said in his bitchy way. That made me laugh, and Stef couldn’t stop himself from giggling. When we were finished teasing Grand, I took a few bites of food, then adopted a more serious tone. “I want to talk to you about tonight,” I said, broaching a topic I’d been laboring over. On the one hand, I wanted to give Grand and Stef a heads-up about John potentially baring his ass to the entire school, showing off his starfish. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be a total information whore, where John felt he couldn’t trust me anymore. I’d decided to tell them. “You have the floor,” Grand said. “Before I do, I need your pledge that you will not say or do anything about this deal,” I emphasized. “You are asking me to give you a wide level of control over what may be a morally challenging issue,” Grand mused, going philosophical on me. I didn’t have time for that, and Stef didn’t have the patience for it. “If it is that awful, I doubt Will would be putting such a proviso in his statement,” Stef said. I smiled at him, not just for backing me up, but for having such a positive attitude with me. “What he said,” I said to Grand in a smarmy way. “Very well,” he said grumpily, which was obviously faked. “John got a tattoo of a starfish on his ass,” I said. I pulled the picture up on my phone and handed it to Stef first, who started giggling. He handed it to Grand, who was having a hard time not laughing. “My grandson certainly has an attractive posterior,” Grand said officiously, which finally blew the lid off our facades, and made us all burst out laughing. “Most of your grandchildren do,” I said, then explained the context, why I was sharing this info with them. “So at the end of their shows, John and his band members walk onto the stage, they shout ‘We are Starphish!’, and then John turns around, pumps his fist in the air, and his bandmates pull down his pants. “He is going to do that tonight?” Stef asked, and seemed both horrified and amused. “That’s the plan,” I said. “Guess he could change his mind.” “If I had known that, you would not have had to persuade me to come back here,” Stef said, cracking me up. “You flew all that way just to stare at John’s ass?” I teased. “Not at all,” he said. “I am looking forward to seeing Jack and Claire and how they react.” “And that is why you can’t talk to anyone about this,” I said. “I do not understand,” Stef said. “Because it may get back to Uncle Jack and Aunt Claire, and they’ll put all kinds of pressure on John not to do it, and then he’ll think I ratted him out,” I explained. “Then why are you telling us?” Grand asked. “I figured if you knew what was happening, you’d be better prepared on how to handle it, and that you’d keep things positive,” I said. He pondered my words. “We will see if I have that power. In any event, thank you for sharing that with me. As you have observed, I will do much better with advanced knowledge. I have one favor to ask.” “Go ahead,” I said cautiously. “I would like to share this with your grandmother and Frank. I promise they will say nothing,” Grand said. “You are taking responsibility for them, so that’s fine with me,” I said. It’s not that I didn’t trust my grandmother, it was just that she was pretty tight with Aunt Claire. “Thank you,” he said. I got up and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I’m happy everything is back in working order.” “We will see you tonight,” Grand said dourly. “Try not to miss your cues.” “I dance almost as good as you do,” I said, being cocky. “As I mentioned, I will arrange your wardrobe for Saturday,” Stef said. “I appreciate that,” I said, and wondered what kind of wild-ass designer wear he’d try to stuff my body into, but then pushed that worry aside. Stef had excellent taste; I’d look great. I went out the front door to find Guillermo waiting for me with the limo and headed off to school, and to continue a long day that would ultimately see me on my way to New York. September 19, 2003 Menlo School Atherton, CA Brad Stent Hall was a large building that looked more like a mansion than a campus building, which is what it had originally been, but it was relatively unique for this part of the Bay Area. It was older, having been built in the years immediately after the 1906 earthquake, and had those ornate features that some people found so beautiful in older homes. Personally, I preferred much cleaner and modern lines, and felt that all that ornamentation was gaudy and impractical. “Doesn’t look very big,” Jake said, as we strode up to this big white building. “It was a mansion at one time,” I said. “Menlo has a student body of about 750, and this hall only holds 200. I wonder how they swung that, cramming all the attendees in here?” “Marie organized a Dutch auction to sell tickets. They bid them up from $25 per person up to an average of $50 per person,” Claire said proudly. “Parents whose children are here on scholarship got tickets for $10.” She said that last sentence almost defensively, which was no surprise after the scorn she’d gotten a few years ago over being a snob with the Bastille Party guest list. “Then that worked out well,” Mother said supportively. We got to the theater and meandered around, chatting with people and bidding on the silent auction stuff and otherwise contributing to this fund-raising effort. After we’d done enough of that, we found our seats: Jake sat to my left, while Jack was to my right. We were in the second row, sitting behind JP and Stef; Mother and Frank; and Jack’s parents, the Hobarts. Claire sat next to Jack, but spent most of her time chatting to the lady next to her, someone she knew from the Junior League. “Do you want to go up to the City when this is over?” I asked Jake. “Up to you,” he said noncommittally. “What’s your plan for next week?” “Go to work, come home, fuck you,” I whispered in his ear. “Glad we’re on the same page,” he said with a chuckle. Before we could expand on that and have a conversation about the bigger issue on how we were going to work out our schedules to be together, a gangling unattractive young man came up and did a number of lame magic tricks for us, then moved off to another part of the room to perform for a different small group of people. Ironically enough, Jack seemed to tense up during this magic show, which was strange for him, since he was usually pretty laid back. “What was that all about?” I asked Jack. “That was Jacob Bornstein,” Claire said, joining our conversation. “His mother threw a huge fit because he wasn’t included in the program, so this was the compromise.” She was clearly annoyed by the whole issue. “So he comes out here and does tricks for the audience before the show?” Jake asked, a bit surprised. “That was the compromise,” Claire said, letting even more of her irritation show. “Doesn’t matter who’s doing it, I hate magic,” I said. “Why?” Jake asked. “I have people trying to fool me and trick me all the time. Why would I want them to try to do that to me during my off time?” I said. I took no joy in being played. “You don’t see the intellectual stimulation of trying to figure out how those tricks work?” Jake asked. “It’s kind of like a secret. I figured you’d be all over that.” Claire and Jack thought that was pretty funny. “I do not,” I said severely, imitating JP, then laughed at myself. “You didn’t seem to enjoy it either,” I said to Jack. “That guy’s father is an asshole,” Jack said, almost a snarl. It was so out of character for him, Claire raised an eyebrow. “He’s a lawyer.” “If he’s a lawyer, it’s almost a given that he’s an asshole,” I said, getting a playful elbow jab from Jake. “Why’s this one piss you off?” “He’s a malpractice attorney, and he likes to sue me,” Jack said. “Does he win?” Jake asked. “No, and that’s probably why he has it in for me. The insurance companies are usually willing to settle, but I wouldn’t let them, and paid my own legal bills the last time he came after me. So he ended up doing a lot of work for nothing,” Jack said. “It is hardly fair to judge that poor young man based on how his father has acted,” Claire said. “I’m not trying to hurt the kid, I just don’t like him being around,” Jack said. “Better hope Marie doesn’t decide to date him,” I joked. “I think that’s very unlikely,” Claire said, with a bit of arrogance, since she clearly thought her daughter could do much better than Jacob. She was right. Our conversation was truncated when a boy and a girl came on the stage and introduced themselves as Link and Tracy, our emcees for the evening. Will had told me that the school play this spring would be Hairspray, so it made sense that the characters from that play would be here in this capacity. They rambled on about what a great show it would be, then introduced the first act, which was John’s band playing “Puff the Magic Dragon.” I was pretty surprised to see Ryan Grafton singing with them. “I didn’t know Ryan was part of John’s band,” I whispered to Jack, more of a question. “After we heard him sing at dinner, he got drafted,” Jack whispered back. “Marie drafted him?” I asked, chuckling to myself at how in charge she could be. She was more like her mother than either one of them was willing to admit. “No, actually John did,” Jack said. I looked at him, a bit surprised, since John was the lead singer, and lead singers usually didn’t like competition. “He and Ryan get along well, and sing together great.” “They do,” I agreed, and noted that they were both also very handsome, so that made them even more engaging. John was a lot like his father, and here was a great example of that, where he was less about winning and being competitive and more about having a good time, getting along, and having a better band. I cringed when I realized how different that was from my own personality. When John’s band was done, we all clapped loudly, and then Link and Tracy came back up to announce the next act. “Oh my God,” Tracy gushed. “You are all going to enjoy this next performance so much! Ladies and gentlemen, the Shirlees!” She gestured to a the right part of the stage area just as the curtains opened, revealing four people arrayed on the stage with the word “Shirlees” in big lights behind them. Kayla was the lead singer, so she was out front, while the rest of the “Shirlees” were behind her in a line: Jackie, Will, and Marie. The girls wore outfits that looked like they were straight from the early 60’s, like you’d see the Supremes wearing in their early years. Their dresses were sleeveless and fitted, and were a relatively soft pink color. They wore matching pink gloves that went almost up to their elbows. Will wore a black suit similarly designed to reflect the early 60’s, with a very narrow pink tie to match the girl’s dresses. Music began playing, but it must have been piped in, because they didn’t have a band backing them up. I wracked my brain to try and identify the song from just the first chords, while Jack saved me the brain power by explaining it. “They’re singing ‘31 Flavors’, but in a much slower tempo.” “I don’t think I know that song,” I said, trying to place it. “It was in that movie, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” he said. “The surfer guy was dancing to it with a hot chick.” I vaguely remembered that movie and scene, then put that aside and focused on the performance. ALL: Ahhhhh…. yie yie yie yie KAYLA: Got a baby who Can kiss in thirty-one flavors CHORUS: And we like tutti-frutti best KAYLA: I call him ice cream Joe He is the most delicious boy I know Every time his tasty lips are kissing mine He gives me thirty-one flavors CHORUS: And we like tutti-frutti best “Wow, they really have this down,” I said to Jake, admiring how well they were all doing. Kayla had an amazing voice, but she was backed up perfectly by Marie and Jackie, who were humming backup noises when they weren’t actually saying something. It was clear to me that Will wasn’t singing, which was a good thing, but their dancing was hilarious. Kayla didn’t dance much, since she was the lead singer, but Marie and Jackie danced so in sync with each other I thought I might be watching Gladys Knight’s Pips. Will danced well too, but did the exact opposite of what Marie and Jackie did, getting faux irritated looks from them. He was clearly set up to be the comic foil in this. KAYLA: I just love him so He's my confectionary ice cream Joe Every time I kiss him I feel mighty fine I love his thirty-one flavors CHORUS: and we like tutti-frutti best ALL: Pineapple peach Coconut and banana Some other eats Chocolate too I'm telling you that when we kiss He gives me thirty-one flavors When they’d started the line that ended in “kiss”, Will did a pivot and when he came back around, he was holding a horn, which he blew loudly just as the others sang the word “kiss”, drowning them out. Will’s mischievous look gave away that this was a planned double-entendre. After he did that, Marie and Jackie pretended to scold him, while the audience laughed. “I’ve never been with a guy who had tutti-frutti bodily fluids,” Jake whispered. “Sorry to disappoint you,” I joked. “I’m not complaining,” he said, and grabbed my hand lovingly. CHORUS: And we like tutti-frutti best KAYLA: I want the world to know How much I love my little ice cream Joe Every time I kiss him I feel mighty fine I love his thirty-one flavors CHORUS: And we like tutti-frutti best ALL: Pineapple peach Coconut and banana Some other eats Chocolate too I'm telling you that when we kiss He gives me thirty-one flavors This time Will did his spin, and had a kazoo in his mouth, which he blew, drowning out the word ‘kiss’. CHORUS: And we like tutti-frutti best KAYLA: I want the world to know How much I love my little ice cream Joe Every time I kiss him I feel mighty fine I love his thirty-one flavors CHORUS: yah yah yah yah yah yah yah yah ALL: Peach banana coconut Oh no they won't do…and then the song faded. The applause from the audience was mixed with laughter. “They did an amazing job,” Jake said to me, laughing. “They did,” I agreed. Before we could start talking again, an older African-American lady came strolling out onto the stage, shaking her head in a disapproving way. “Oh my God!” shrieked Tracy, “That’s Shirley Owens! She’s the lead singer of the Shirelles!” “Not bad,” Shirley said to Kayla, “but let me show you how it’s done.” The audience obligingly applauded. “I’m gonna need some backup singers,” she said to the four of them. “Me, me, me!” Marie, Jackie, Kayla, and Will said emphatically, as they jumped up and down. “You, you, and you,” she said, picking the three ladies. “What about me?” Will asked sadly. “Oh hell no,” she said, making everyone laugh. Will faked a pouty look and walked off the stage, then Shirley snapped her fingers, and the sign that said “Shirlees” changed as if by magic to “Shirelles.” They proceeded to serenade us with some of the Shirelles more well-known hits, including “Foolish Little Girl,” “Soldier Boy,” and “Dedicated to the One I Love.” It was really impressive how Kayla, Jackie, and Marie backed up Ms Owens so well. When they were done, we gave them a standing ovation. After that, for the closing number, all the performers, minus Ms Owen, went up on the stage where Ryan and John sang “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?” while the others backed them up. It was a poignant song, and sung incredibly well by all of them. I saw JP wiping his eyes, and looked to Jack and Claire, amazed at that display of emotion. “Mother picked this song,” Claire informed me. “This was the song Daddy had them sing at Andre’s funeral.” I nodded sadly, thinking of how tragic that must have been for JP, to lose the love of his life in an idiotic war. No wonder he was so disturbed by this new idiotic war. “That was fantastic!” Link the emcee said. “Let’s meet our performers!” “Great idea!” Tracy said. I hoped that they were a little less giddy when they performed Hairspray since they were being way too emotive, but then I chided myself for being overly critical. I’d spent so much time at Broadway plays I was unable to see nascent talent in amateurs. They went through the list of performers, including those who had helped behind the scenes. “And last but not least, we have to thank our band, Starphish,” Link said. John and his band mates, including Ryan, walked out onto the stage and formed a semi-circle around John. “We are, Starphish!” they shouted, and as they did, John pivoted, pumped his hand in the air, and the other guys pulled his pants down. He was wearing a thong, but clearly tattooed on his ass was a cute little starfish. “What a fucking dumbass,” Jack grumbled, so pissed off, which made me chuckle. I glanced at Claire to see her looking absolutely horrified that John would do this in front of this crowd, where a good majority of the attendees were her friends. This kind of public scene was just the kind of thing she detested. As we were grappling with what John had done, Marie walked over and stood next to John and pivoted around, revealing that her dress had no back. She was wearing a thong too, and had an identical starfish tattooed on her ass. “Christ,” Jack uttered, shaking his head. I sat there, trying not to laugh my ass off, watching my sister look both embarrassed and furious, while my brother-in-law was simply disgusted and annoyed. I wondered how those in front of us would react, and could see that the Hobarts were as shocked and dismayed as Jack and Claire, but I was pulled from my introspective observations when JP, Stef, Mother, and Frank stood up and started clapping. It was such a classy thing to do, and so typical of JP and Mother. While the others were worried about appearances, the four of them stood proudly behind their family, turning an embarrassing situation into a positive event. I immediately imitated their gesture, with Jake joining me, followed by a somewhat reluctant Jack and Claire, and even more reluctantly by the Hobarts, and the rest of the audience followed our example. After they were finished, the school principal came up and took the stage. “Normally, this talent show is a competition between the classes, but this year the seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshman banded together to put this on. Their cooperation shows, as this is undoubtedly the best talent show we’ve ever seen, and it has raised more money than any of the previous shows.” Those words were followed by thunderous applause. “I’d like to introduce the young lady who pulled off this amazing success, Marie Hobart!” Marie came out onto the stage wearing a longer black dress, very different than the one she’d worn during the closing number, and a different one than she’d just worn to display her tattoo. That must have been one really fast wardrobe change. “Thank you so much,” she gushed, then got serious. “I’d like to ask my brother, John, and my cousin, Will Schluter, to join me on stage.” Will and John dutifully walked out, only they hadn’t changed their clothes. “Will and I are seniors, and John is a junior. We’ve had it drilled into our heads how important it is to get an excellent education, and that’s why the three of us are here at Menlo. Our biggest inspiration to succeed academically has been our grandfather, Professor JP Crampton.” Will stepped forward and began talking, doing a relatively truncated description of JP’s academic career, much as he’d done at the party where JP announced his retirement. It was hilarious to see how much that irritated JP, although only those of us who knew him would recognize his non-verbal signs of annoyance. When he was done, John took the microphone. “When our grandfather told us he was retiring from Stanford, we wanted to do something special for him, so we would like to present this check for one million dollars to fund scholarships in his name, so other kids can go to Menlo and get an excellent education.” He handed a check to the school principal, which was followed by a rousing round of applause. Some gesture of acceptance seemed to be required, so JP stood up and took the stage. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank my grandchildren. I am very proud of all three of them. There is nothing as gratifying as watching the next generation succeed so brilliantly, and to outshine those of us who have come before them, which is probably why I have spent my career in the academic world.” He paused to give John, Marie, and Will a brief hug. “As a gay man, even in the university environment, my life has not always been easy, and while things are considerably better for those who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual, there is still much work to do. Here at Menlo, a young man named Matt Wolf found some anti-gay graffiti at a school construction site, and that young man responded by forming Menlo School's first Gay-Straight Alliance chapter. He graduated in 2000, and has left a legacy of tolerance and inclusion in his wake. I would like to thank my grandchildren for their contribution on my behalf, but more than that, I would like to match it, and ask that this check for one million dollars be used to establish a scholarship fund named after Matt Wolf.” He handed the principal another check for one million dollars, amid a standing ovation. That served to effectively end this event. As everyone prepared to leave, we found ourselves huddled together, and Mrs. Hobart took that opportunity to lay into her son. “Jackson, did you know your children were going to bare their posteriors in front of the entire crowd?” “No,” Jack replied in an annoyed tone. He found his mother tiresome at times. “Did you know they had those tattoos?” she asked, implying that he was an uninvolved and negligent parent. “It’s not like I see their naked asses, Mother,” he snapped back. Claire was really unhappy about this exchange, since it was possible that it could evolve into a scene, and be even more embarrassing. “I thought it was quite noble of them,” JP said. “To take the starfish, a symbol of your family, and so boldly display and embrace it, is a sign that both of them are very proud of their lineage.” “And that they both did it together was a remarkably sweet gesture of sibling solidarity,” Mother added. “Quite so,” Mrs. Hobart said, clearly unconvinced, but at least JP and Mother had silenced her arguments. Will appeared in jeans and a t-shirt, carrying his back pack. “Are you ready to go?” he asked Stef. “That was an excellent performance,” JP said, reminding him to be polite. “It was,” I agreed. I gave him a quick hug. “Have fun in New York. Be nice to your brother.” “I’ll be as nice to him as Stef is,” he said, so only I could hear him, and both of us chuckled at that, then he and Stef made their getaway for their quick trip to New York.
  6. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 66

    And you were always monogamous?😃
  7. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 66

    Well said, and with Tony, he seems to be at the same place Will is at.
  8. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 66

    You have no idea. Chapter 69.
  9. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 66

    September 18, 2003 Boston, MA Wade I was only into the second week of my second year at Harvard Law School, and this term was looking to be a ball-buster. I sat in my study, working on my latest project, even as my mind reeled off the things I still had to do today. I was fortunate in that this year, I had no classes on Fridays, but that was small comfort based on the amount of work it looked like I’d have to do. My phone rang, jarring me out of my study coma. I blinked at it for a ring, digesting that the caller id said it was Alex and that this was a call I should probably take. “Hello,” I said, trying not to sound dazed. “Good morning,” Alex said, in his typically cheerful fashion. “I hope I am not disturbing you.” “As a matter of fact, I was working on a project,” I said. “Then I have done you a favor,” he joked. “I cannot say that I regret giving up the rigor that was Harvard.” “As they say, no pain, no gain,” I responded, forcing myself to sound cheerful. “I know that you are very busy, but I have called to ask you for an especially large favor,” he said. “What do you need?” “I have spent this week in your mother’s compound, trying to track down my mother’s whereabouts. That has not been easy,” he said. “My mother was not helpful?” I asked. “It is hard to tell with her,” he said, making me chuckle. “In any event, I seem to have found her. She is at a nursing home in Blacksburg, Virginia.” My mind mentally generated a map of Virginia. “That’s in the far western part of the state, even beyond Roanoke, isn’t it? Near Virginia Tech?” “It is,” he said. “So what do you need?” “I am of a mind to go see her, and I was planning to go on Saturday, but I am reluctant to go alone. I am wondering if you would be willing to join me?” he asked. I could hear the excitement and the anxiety in his tone, something that was completely out of character for Alex, which told me just what a big deal this was to him. I had a ton of stuff to do, and what spare time I had I’d hoped to spend with Matt, Tiffany, and the kids. “Let me check with Matt, and call you right back,” I said, being both a dutiful partner, and stalling for time. “I do not want you to feel bad if you cannot go,” he said hastily. “I’ll call you back shortly,” I said, dismissing his concerns and ending the call at the same time. I wandered out of my study and up the stairs to our floor. I breezed through the rooms and since Matt wasn’t there, I went up another level, which was where the kids were. It was no surprise to find him there. Ever since we’d gotten back together, and especially after Bobby was born, he’d been SuperDad. “Hey there,” I said, and gave him a nice kiss. “I thought you were working on your project?” he asked. “I was, but I was interrupted by a phone call,” I said, with dread in my voice. “What happened now?” he asked nervously. “Did JJ and Stef actually punch each other?” “No,” I said, then laughed at the thought of that. “I think it would be more likely to be a slap-fight.” “Probably,” he agreed, then looked at me intently to tell me to get to the point. “Alex called, and he thinks he’s found his mother. He wants me to go down to Virginia tomorrow and go track her down with him on Saturday,” I said. “He can’t do that himself?” Matt asked. “He probably could, but I’m guessing he’s feeling a bit uncomfortable dealing with something like that in a foreign country,” I said. “He’s also probably trying to figure out how to escape from your mother’s compound, and needs your help for that,” he joked. “Very true,” I agreed. “So are you going?” he asked. “I don’t really want to, but I feel like I should help him out,” I said. “You want me to go with you?” he asked. “You have all kinds of stuff planned with the kids this weekend,” I said. “Tiffany will probably go postal if you bail on her.” “Probably, but I think she’d understand,” he said. “I think I’ll be fine, but I’ll leave it up to you,” I said. “I’ll think about it,” he said. I called Alex back and told him that I’d meet him in DC tomorrow, and that Matt may be joining me. September 18, 2003 Bryant Park Manhattan, NY JJ I was walking through the park with Britney Spears and her entourage. It seemed like I ended up hanging out primarily with former Mouseketeers, I thought, making myself chuckle internally. She was fun, but the rest of the leeches that hung around her were not. “Where are you heading now?” she asked me. “I think I’m going to check out Chado Ralph Rucci,” I said. I knew that was a little too highbrow for the people with her. “I’ll see you later on,” she said in her perky way. I gave her kisses on the cheek, and then shed her and her posse like a snake sheds it’s skin. That thought temporarily freaked me out, because I had visualized a snake, and I was terrified of those damn things. “Hey,” a vaguely familiar voice said, but not familiar enough to make me stop and pay attention. “Jeremy!” That he knew my name made me pause. I turned around and found myself looking at Luka, although that wasn’t quite right, since he was about 6’ 2”, and that meant I was looking up at him. When I’d first met him, I’d thought he looked like a young John Travolta, and without the chin dimple, that was a pretty good way to describe him. I forced myself to be relatively pleasant to this guy who had been the other man in my love triangle with John Carullo. “How are you?” I asked coolly. “I’ve been hoping to run into you,” he said, and he said it in such a positive and earnest way it was hard to stay mad at him. “I’m doing my show this afternoon. Will you be there?” “I already promised John I wouldn’t skewer your stuff just to be petulant,” I said petulantly. “I wasn’t worried about that,” he said, and seemed surprised. “I never figured you for a guy who was that petty.” “Thanks,” I said, even though I was. “I didn’t tell John that. I told him I wanted to get your opinion on my designs, but I didn’t know if it was alright for me to bother you,” he said. “I didn’t know that,” I said, and felt very confused. “He just told me you were worried I’d diss your ideas because of, well…” I didn’t really know how to describe our situation. “That is just one more lie from that guy,” he said bitterly, and that was finally an emotion I could relate to. “He bailed, left town, and all I got was a bullshit email.” “I did better than you,” I said ruefully. “I got a handwritten note.” “Bitch,” he said, teasing me, and making me chuckle. “I’m sorry you got hurt.” “Doesn’t sound like it was easy for you either,” I said sympathetically, although in reality, my sympathy was more for myself. “It wasn’t,” he said. “You want to get together sometime and bitch about John, and hate him together?” I laughed. “I think we’d have a better time if we just hung out,” I said, even though we’d probably end up slicing and dicing Carullo, and with my mood like it was, I decided that might be a good thing. “That would be awesome! Want me to call you?” That was cute, because it was his way of asking for my number. I handed him one of my cards. “This is so classy,” he said as he fondled it, caressing the smooth stationary. His fingers were incredibly sexy. “Just like you.” “I’ll bet you say that to all the guys,” I said, sounding cheesy, and embarrassing myself. “No, I don’t,” he said sincerely. “Good morning Jeremy,” I heard Bellona say. Luka gasped at being in the presence of the formidable queen of fashion. Of course Stef was with her. “Good morning,” Stef said to me frigidly. “And I have not met you,” he said to Luka much more pleasantly, making me feel like a total boor because I should have introduced him. “I’d know both of you anywhere,” Luka said smoothly. “I’m Luka Brazzi.” “Luka is a new designer, and he’s showing some of his creations this afternoon,” I explained. “Indeed? And when is your debut?” Stef asked, flirting shamelessly, just like he’d done with all the hot guys since he’d gotten here. “Two o’clock,” he said, and told us which tent it was in. “I had originally planned to see the Bill Blass tent,” Bellona said, “but I think I can do that later.” She’d evidently picked up on Stef’s interest in this guy. “That will be awesome!” he said, beaming with pleasure. “And will you be there?” Bellona asked me. “I will,” I confirmed. It was neat to see that perk Luka up even more. “Then we will see you there,” Bellona said, then she and Stef moved on. “Is he mad at you?” Luka asked me, referring to Stef. “He is,” I said. “You didn’t hear about the party?” “I heard about the party,” he said. “Dude, setting off the fire alarm was awesome!” He high-fived me, and that transformed my whole attitude toward him. “Stef didn’t think so,” I said, making him laugh. “I heard he had two dudes in bed, and your alarm went off just when they were about to,” he said, cracking me up. “No wonder he was annoyed,” I said. “John was banging two guys in his room.” He shook his head sadly. “Some dudes just can’t be happy with one guy.” “I have a brother like that,” I joked, thinking of Will, even though he probably could be with one guy. I thought of Zach and felt sorry for Will, then quickly moved beyond that because I was irritated with him and I didn’t want to feel sympathy for him. “I better go get ready,” he said. “Thank you so much.” “I haven’t done anything yet,” I said. “You will,” he said, winked at me, then took off toward the tent he’d be showing in. I wandered around the other tents, making notes as I went, just in case Bellona decided to quiz me later. I was kind of worried that she would try to freeze me out just to make Stef happy, so I figured that I should at least try to be prepared and show that I took this shit seriously. I got to the tent where Luka was showing his designs and was surprised by how many people showed up. It was expected to be a relatively dry affair, because it was a place for new and unproven designers to show off their stuff, but with Bellona and Stef there, the entire thing took on a new level of importance. I saw Stef and Bellona sitting up front, so I dutifully walked up to greet them. “Hello,” I said in a friendly way. “Jeremy, I am so glad you are here,” Bellona said, with her faux smile. “I saved you a seat.” “That was most thoughtful of you,” I said, and sat with her. “How do you know this Luka Brazzi?” Stef deigned to ask me. “He dated John Carullo,” I said simply, trying not to grit my teeth as I did. Bellona seemed to be enjoying this immensely. “Recently?” Stef asked. “Yes,” I said curtly. There were four designers, and Luka was the third. Each of them sent out five models. We sat through the first two, and I got nervous, because they were unimpressive. “And what do you think?” Bellona asked, with an edge to her voice. She was probably mad at me for dragging her to this thing that was a waste of time so far. “They are typical new designers. They don’t have a sense of their own style, and their stuff is put together in a discombobulated way,” I opined, as if I were an expert. “Certainly nothing to get excited about,” Stef concurred. Luka’s models came out next, and even if I weren’t determined to be nice to him, I’d have been impressed. His style was a combination of the stuff Kevin Carmichael was working on, merged with the things the Olsen twins had in the mill. I was stunned to see Bellona nod, something that was a huge seal of approval from her, and almost unheard of for a new artist. “He is quite good,” she said. “I like his edgy urban style, and the muted darker colors,” I said, in almost a stream of consciousness. We both glanced at Stef, who seemed very deep in thought. “A good way to put it. I am quite glad you convinced me to attend this event,” she said loftily. “I would appreciate it if you would ask him to chat with me later on.” “I will do that,” I said. The last group of models was better than the first two, but not as good as Luka. “I am heading back to California,” Stef said to me. “I will see you on Saturday.” I wasn’t aware that he was leaving; I thought it was his plan to stay in New York. He must have gotten pressure from our family to go to the talent show, which seemed like an incredibly lame choice compared to what was happening here. “Have a good trip,” I said simply. I went backstage where the models were, even though I almost had to throw a tantrum to get the security people to let me pass, and found Luka frenetically trying to get things put away and talk to his models. “Hey,” I said pleasantly. “Hey!” he said. “What did you think?” “It was really good,” I said. The models were looking at me, as if wondering why my opinion mattered. “You got a nod from Bellona.” “A nod?” one of the models asked with a gasp. “No new designer gets a nod from Bellona.” “Luka did,” I confirmed. “She wants you to chat with her.” “That is awesome!” he said, and gave me an exuberant hug that reminded me of Carullo, but I returned it warmly enough. “Thank you so much!” “You’re welcome,” I said. “Don’t forget to call me.” “I won’t,” he promised. September 18, 2003 Escorial Palo Alto, CA Will I drove up the long lane to Escorial, and smiled then grimaced when I saw that familiar Camaro with Missouri plates here. I sighed at the extra effort it would take to welcome Tony. I’d have to spend time with him and make him think I enjoyed being around him, all while being pretty exhausted from school, homework, and practice for the talent show tomorrow night. At least that part was going pretty well. We’d done three dry runs today and pulled it off seamlessly. Tomorrow after school, we’d do it live with the sound people. I decided to detour to Grand’s office, and found him there at his desk, looking at some papers. That the door was open told me he was available, and it would be okay to bother him. “Hello,” I said pleasantly. “Welcome home,” he said cheerfully. I blinked a bit, because he hadn’t been in a very good mood lately. “I saw that Tony got here,” I said. “He just arrived a few hours ago,” Grand said. “He is in the third bedroom in the south wing. My impression was that he was tired after his drive.” “I’ll stop by and see him anyway,” I said. “And how are you doing?” “I am fine,” he said dismissively. “You seem happier today than you were yesterday,” I probed, annoying him. “I am, or at least I was until you started pestering me,” he said playfully. “Stefan is planning to come home tonight.” “That’s great news,” I said. “I understand that is largely your doing,” Grand said. “I think it was actually your doing,” I said, since I was pretty sure it was the nice things Grand said about him, about being his soul mate, that was the thing that really convinced Stef to come back tonight. “When will he get in?” “I am not sure if he’ll make it by dinner, but we can hope,” he said. I left him alone and went down to check on Tony. I knocked on his door gently, not wanting to wake him up if he was napping. I waited for a bit, then knocked again. After a minute, he still hadn’t answered the door, so I was just about to go back to my room, when his door almost flew open. Tony had obviously just gotten out of the shower because he was standing there wearing just a towel, with his hair still damp. He looked as terrific as always, with his tanned skin and his fit torso. “Hey!” he said, and gave me a hug. “You made it!” I said enthusiastically, even as I hugged him back. It was impossible for me to be around Tony and not be attracted to him. It was only the fact that he was with Mason, and Mason was my friend, that helped me keep my libido under control. “Long ass drive,” he grumbled as he led me into his room. He sat on his bed and I sat in the chair near it. “Drove through the night and then this morning. Had to stop at a rest area and sleep for a couple of hours.” “Dude, you should have gotten a room,” I said. “I know, but I wanted to get here,” he said. “You were supposed to be here a couple of days ago,” I said, more of a question. “Ended up with some shit I had to deal with, and that delayed me,” he said, getting melancholy. “Is everything OK?” I asked, and marveled that I was doing the same thing with him I’d just done with Grand: trying to get him to tell me what was going on in his head. Then again, with Tony that had been almost a constant mission. “Mason and I broke up,” he said glumly. “Dude, I am so sorry,” I said sympathetically. “What happened?” “He wanted me to bottom,” he said. “I couldn’t do it.” Tony had always been a top with me, and he was really good at it. I had to calm myself down and not think about it. “Did you ever try it?” I asked him. According to Matt, even when he’d been slutting it up at Stanford, Tony had never bottomed. “No,” he said, and shook his head for emphasis. “It just…it just freaks me out.” “Did you talk to Casey about that?” I asked him. Casey was his psychologist. “Why would I talk to him about that?” he demanded. “Because it freaks you out,” I answered. “I mean, that’s what he’s there for.” “Not every guy has to be versatile,” he said defensively. “Why is it wrong that I’m a top?” “It’s not wrong at all,” I said, smiling at him. “Personally, I’ve been glad that you are, and that you’re so good at it.” He smiled back to thank me for not being a dick. “Mason seemed to appreciate it too. But suddenly it’s a big deal.” “Maybe he thought he was the guy you liked enough to give bottoming a try?” “You think he was testing me?” he demanded, all pissed off. “No, I think he was really into you, and he thought you were into him, and figured that you’d be willing to give it a try with him,” I said. He looked confused, so I tried to explain myself better. “Dude, I’m just guessing here, but that’s probably what I’d think. If I was with a guy and really into him, and he wanted me to try something, I probably would.” “I just couldn’t do that,” he said softly. “And that’s why I think you need to talk to Casey about it,” I said. I got a frown from him for my convincing conversation. “Won’t matter anyway, he already broke up with me,” he grumbled, changing the subject. “Talk to Casey,” I said, as I stood up. “I’ll see you at dinner.” “Thanks, Will,” he said. I got out of there as quickly as I could. There was something about him that attracted me like crazy, and the less time alone I spent with him, the better. I was surprised to find Claire and Jack came up for dinner, but I wasn’t worried about tension, since Tony, Klip, Gathan, and four other hockey players were here. “I understand that Stefan is coming home for the talent show,” Aunt Claire said to the table at large. “That is correct,” Grand said. “I checked with him, and his flight is slated to arrive at 9:00.” It was a really fun, masculine dinner, with Grandmaman and Aunt Claire adding enough class to keep conversation relatively inoffensive. I sat in between Tony and my father. I’d been worried that my dad would totally focus on Jake like he’d done with Marc, but instead he put himself into the general conversation, and was a lot of fun. I spent most of my time flirting with Tony. I told myself I was just trying to buck up his bruised ego after ending his relationship with Mason, but in reality I was being a total little bitch and putting on a show for Gathan, so he’d relay that back to Zach. I knew that Tony made Zach crazy jealous, and I was pissed off enough at Zach right now to fuel his green monster. I finished dinner, told Guillermo, our latest driver, that I wanted to go with him to pick up Stef, then went back to my room and grabbed my books so I could work on my homework on my way to the airport. I was walking up to the foyer when Klip stopped me. “Dude, I’m sorry Dillon had to bail on you,” he said. “He wasn’t mad at me, was he?” I asked. “No, he said he had a great time,” Klip said. “Why?” “I kind of got annoyed with him for trashing my room and just blowing me off to play X-Box live,” I said. Part of me didn’t want to talk about this, because it was like tattling on Dillon, but at the same time Klip knew him well, and I wanted his insights. Klip shook his head. “Kid’s an idiot. He drives my parents fucking crazy with that shit.” “With video games?” I asked. “Yeah, and with being a slob,” he said. “Dude, my mom was freaking out, trying to get rid of the ants in our house, and couldn’t figure out where they were coming from until she went into Dillon’s room. He’s a fucking pig.” “Well I’m glad we’re cool,” I said, lodging that info in my brain. It was probably a really good idea that he didn’t stick around; he’d have driven me fucking crazy. “I’m glad you don’t hate me for introducing you,” Klip said nervously. “Dude, you are not your brother, and besides, I’m glad you did. I had a lot of fun with him,” I said. “I should introduce you to Liam,” he said. “You’d like him.” “Then you should,” I said, raising my eyebrows suggestively. He chuckled and walked off, while I continued through the foyer and out the front door where the limo was waiting for me. Guillermo took the big Cadillac Escalade limo that Stef liked, which was cool because there was a lot of room to spread out, and because there was another row of seats behind the driver for staff members. Stef liked that because it meant the driver, his guard, and Julian could comfortably sit up front and he could still be isolated in the back. Guillermo was kind of a tool, and even when I spoke to him in Spanish, he didn’t say much. He wasn’t cute enough for me to force him into an uninteresting conversation. I put up the privacy screen and focused on my homework. We got to the airport early as planned and he parked, waiting for Stef’s plane, but I zoned out, knocking out my homework, until I felt the limo starting to move. I put away my books and waited for the limo to come to a stop, then hopped out to wait at the bottom of the stairs to Stef’s jet. The plane’s door opened and Stef came down first, like I knew he would. He had looked a little apprehensive when he first walked out, but got a big smile on his face when he saw me. “I did not expect you to come to the airport to welcome me back!” “I’m full of surprises,” I said, even as I gave him a big hug. “Thank you so much for coming back for the talent show.” “Your arguments were persuasive,” he said. Julian came down the stairs, looking grumpy. “I need to talk to Will, so you will have to sit up front.” “Terrific,” Julian said, and sulked to the front seat. We got in the limo, with the privacy screen still up. “I have dealt with him long enough; it is good to have a break.” I laughed. “I can imagine.” “And how are you doing?” he asked. “Dillon is gone, Tony just got here, Zach and I had a fight, and I’m doing a 3000-mile booty run tomorrow to hook up with Patrick Christian,” I summarized. “You have been quite busy,” he said. “Not as busy as you,” I teased. “Perhaps that is true,” he said, making me laugh. “I am having a hard time being nice to JJ at this point.” “Now you know what my entire life is like,” I said, making him laugh. “When you can stand to do it, if you beg him to forgive you, he will.” “I am really irritated with him for pulling the fire alarm and ruining my party,” he grumbled. “And I am really irritated with him for doing it just as the two studs I was with were about to ejaculate.” “Dude, his timing sucks,” I said, laughing my ass off. “The memory of the frustrated looks on their faces will probably be worth the annoyance of being interrupted,” he said, as he started to mellow about the whole thing. “Come on,” I said plaintively. “You know you owe him an apology and that you went a little bit overboard.” “I think he was just being sensitive,” Stef said in a snitty way. “Stef, two strange guys fucked in his bed and left cum stains,” I said. “You and I would be seriously annoyed about that, think about how JJ feels. He can’t even stand to put on a hard hat at a construction site because he’s sure little bugs will jump on his head. Strange semen is way beyond his ability to cope.” “Perhaps you are correct,” he agreed, caving to the inevitable. “And he caught Carullo in a threesome,” I reminded him. “He’s too insecure to handle that.” “His relationship with John is a hot mess,” Stef said, using an expression I’d never heard him say. “You’ve been hanging out with Paris Hilton,” I accused, making him laugh. “I find her to be charming and full of life,” he said. I liked her too, but JJ did not, and Darius was ambivalent toward her because she was a little too slutty and flashy for him. “John moved out, and went ahead and got a place in Bristol,” I told him. “Did you talk to him?” he asked. “Briefly,” I said. “He’d been pretty much this big ball of guilt. I don’t think anything I could have said would have made that any better.” “I tried to explain to JJ that he was too immature to deal with John and his issues,” Stef said, shaking his head. “It reminded me of you dealing with Tony when you were much less sophisticated.” “Yeah, and now that I’m older and more experienced, I run away from him because I’m worried that if I hang around with him, I’ll let him fuck me,” I said. “Perhaps you should,” Stef suggested. “Other than the fact that he is in a relationship with a friend of yours.” “They broke up because Tony wouldn’t bottom,” I said. “Then there is no real obstacle,” Stef said, but it was more of a question. “I’m worried that I’ll spark up those feelings we had before,” I told him. “Are you worried that those will be sparked on your part or his?” I thought about that. “I’m not really worried about that happening for me, because I know how he is. I’d say I’m happy with being friends with him, with where we are, but that’s not true either. When we’re together, it’s awkward.” “Understand that I am not trying to tell you what you should do,” he said. “I am conscious that would be a generally unsafe practice.” I laughed. “I get that. What do you think?” “You have told me that Tony isn’t very communicative. I suspect he may be one of those men for whom sex is a prime way they express themselves. I think that now that you have removed that from the equation of your relationship, there is not much left.” “You’re telling me I should fuck him,” I concluded. “I am saying you should think about it,” he said. The limo drove through the gates of Escorial and up to the front. “Thanks. That’s good advice,” I said, smiling. “I’ve missed having you around.” “We have some things to talk about,” he saw my worried expression. “You had asked me to do some introspection a while back, and I have done that. I plan to share that with JP, then we will talk on our trip.” “Cool,” I said. I walked down to my room, even as he pondered what he said. I took 20 minutes to take a quick shower and spruce up my personal grooming, then threw on a t-shirt and some sweat pants and walked down to Tony’s room. I knocked softly, but he didn’t answer, so I knocked more loudly, so loudly I thought I might actually attract attention. “Come in,” I heard him say drowsily. I walked in and closed the door behind me, pausing to let my eyes adjust to the limited light that came through the slightly opened curtains. “Hey,” he said in a happy way. “Hey,” I said, as I went over and sat next to him on the bed. “Why’d you wake me up?” he asked, even as he yawned. “I teased you all through dinner,” I said. “I felt bad about that.” “So you come in here to make it up to me by letting me fuck you?” he asked, joking. “That’s exactly why I came in here,” I said, even as I stood up. “You’re serious?” he asked, but the surprise in his voice was overridden by lust. I pulled off my clothes and climbed in bed with him so I was lying on top of him. “As long as you’re okay with that?” “Dude, I’ve wanted to be with you ever since the Bastille Day Party,” he said. I leaned in and whispered in his ear, just like he liked. “Come on Tony, shove that big cock up my ass and show me what a man you are.” So he did.
  10. I don't think John would be that worried about it. And Private Tim could be bribed. 🙂
  11. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 65

    I so missed your dry wit and commentary! I think Cody and Marcel must be thinking exactly that, and laughing, and Lou is probably scheming to avoid Thanksgiving at Escorial. Ace isn't married to any of those subsequent ladies...he's just got girlfriends. And Stef is safe for now.
  12. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 65

    He's a fascinating character, in that he seems to have this subconscious desire to do just that: to be alone. I'm not talking necessarily about his romantic relationships, I'm thinking of him in general. Kind of a lone wolf. I think your perception of Carullo is interesting, but I think he's actually quite typical. Someone from his background, raised in the world of football, would probably just assume that this was how grieving was. He'd probably assume that you just hurt for a long time, and eventually it was over, and you'd be fine. I don't think he grasps that this is something he should address and 'solve'.
  13. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 65

    Every once in a while I write a piece of dialog that cracks me up. This chapter has one of those: I imagine John does a pretty good impression of Claire, and after her comments at dinner the night before, he must have been totally cracking up.
  14. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 65

    September 17, 2003 Escorial Palo Alto, CA Will “So you going to have a massive party with all your brothers in Malibu?” I asked Darius as I walked him out of the house and to the waiting car. “Could have done that before,” he said. “Don’t want to do it now and fuck up my own house.” I laughed. “If you change your mind, let me know when it is.” He opened the door and was about to get in the car when he paused. “You going to call JJ?” he asked. “I figured I’d let you do it,” I said. He frowned at me. “I’ll give him a call.” “See if you can get him to chill the fuck out,” he groused. “Dude, I cannot perform miracles,” I joked, making him laugh. He hopped into the car and I shut the door behind him, then watched the car as it headed down the drive. When the lights vanished in the night, I went back inside and headed to my room. I was pretty surprised to see Jake Pike outside, knocking. “I’m right here,” I said pleasantly. “No wonder you didn’t answer,” he said. I opened the door and led him in, and over to my sitting area. “Are you here to try out the younger model?” I teased. “Right,” he said, rolling his eyes at me. “I wanted to talk to you.” His tone said he was being serious, so I modified my psyche to match his. “So talk,” I said, putting my playfulness aside. “I really like your father,” he said wistfully. “If I’m reading you right, you like him a lot,” I said. “You’re reading me right,” he said, grinning. “It’s obvious that he’s pretty into you too,” I said. “Seems that way,” he said casually, like it was no big deal, when it was. “I wanted to talk to you to make sure we didn’t have problems like you did when he was with Marc.” I smiled at him. “I think that both of you are a lot more together, but there are a couple of things that would help out.” “What are they?” “I told him when he was living in the City that it would be really nice if he made it back here on Sundays for dinner,” I explained. “That pretty much makes sure we get to see him once a week.” “That makes sense,” he said, “especially after seeing the dynamic at those dinners.” “No shit,” I agreed, thinking of the dinner tonight. “The other thing is that when he was with Marc, he stopped surfing. That’s a big deal for him.” “And for you,” he said. “It is,” I agreed. “It’s a passion we share. If he’s not hitting the surf at least once a month, that’s a problem.” “Plus it’s something the two of you like to do together,” he said, drawing all the wrong conclusions. “We do, but that’s not the issue. Look, he’s my favorite person to hit the waves with, but it’s not about him surfing with me, it’s about him surfing for himself.” “I understand,” he said. I wasn’t sure that he did, but he at least got my point. “And what can you do to make this better?” I blinked at him, because I hadn’t really thought about that. I wondered if that’s how I was, if I only demanded things from other people in relationships, instead of thinking about what they needed too. It irritated me that he’d made me feel like a douche, and even more because I probably was. I managed to put those negative emotions aside, and toss it back at him. “I don’t know. What do you think I can do?” “I think that you should try to do something with your father when you can, especially surfing, and I think you should come up and visit. The City isn’t really that far, and you can always spend the night,” he said. That was so cool, because when my father had been with Marc, he’d all but set up his condo in the City to exclude us. They didn’t even have a guest room. Jake was making sure I felt welcome. “I can do that,” I said, smiling at him and how he was handling me, then I got more serious again. “I may need your help with that.” “How so?” “Sometimes he gets in these modes where he tries to tell me how to live my life, and criticize who I decide to fuck. If I come up to the City, and he starts throwing that shit at me, I want you to back me up and tell him to stay the fuck out of my business,” I said. “I can try,” he said, which was hilarious, because it showed just how well he’d gotten to know my father already, and how he already knew how pigheaded he could be about things. “How is Dad doing with this deal with JJ?” I asked, changing the subject. He grimaced, probably because he didn’t want to betray my father’s confidence, but he seemed to relax after a second. “He’s conflicted, because it’s like his father is having a battle with his son. His solution is to try and smooth things over so there’s no major rift, and to try to heal the wound.” “Did he work out the deal with Stef to transfer the condo to JJ?” “I think so,” he said. “He was going to send JJ an email letting him know.” “Good,” I said. He stood up and so did I, and I gave him a nice hug. “We should talk more often,” he said, and I nodded, because we should, because I liked him, and because I was pretty sure he’d be good for my dad. He left my room, so I pulled out my phone and sighed, dreading this phone call I had to make to JJ. It only rang two times before he picked it up. “Hello,” he answered crisply. “Hey,” I said. “I heard about dinner,” he snapped. “Thanks for having my back.” I briefly wondered which of our family members he’d talked to, because he’d evidently gotten the scoop pretty fast. Even though he was being sarcastic, I responded like he hadn’t been. “You’re welcome.” “So basically, you and Darius told everyone I was a bitchy diva and a big tattletale,” he said. “Well yeah,” I said. “You are.” “Fuck you!” he yelled. “Next time you yell at me, I’m hanging up,” I said loudly. He said nothing, but I knew he’d heard me. “What was your end goal here?” I demanded. “What’s that supposed to mean?” “In your email, you said you wanted it to be established that the condo in Tribeca was yours. Isn’t that what you wanted?” “That doesn’t excuse what Stef did to me…” “Did you get what you wanted?” I asked him again, cutting off his rant. “I got the condo.” “Then shut the fuck up and move on,” I said. “No one wants a big family issue over this.” “Oh I get it. Because it’s me, and not you, there should be no drama and we should just forget about what I had to put up with,” he said in his snarkiest way. “No, what we’re saying is that there are probably other issues involved here, because Stef doesn’t usually act this way. So you being a total fucking asshole about all this doesn’t help him, or the rest of us,” I said rudely. “Whatever,” he said. “How are things with Carullo?” I asked. “I don’t know, and I don’t care,” he said, then ended the call. That answer told me a lot about what was bugging him, and that Stef wasn’t the only one who had other issues involved. September 17, 2003 Escorial Palo Alto, CA Brad “My life would be really nice if I wasn’t battling South American drug lords; and JJ and Stef would quit creating drama,” I groused to Jake. “You don’t think your life is very nice?” he challenged. I smiled at him. “You’re right. My life is very nice. You make it nice.” I kissed him, and then our clothes were off in no time and we were having amazing sex yet again. I remembered how I’d been this insatiable when I’d first started going out with Marc, but I’d been nowhere near as satisfied. We were lying there, enjoying the afterglow, when my phone rang. I looked at it with dread, saw the caller ID, and decided the dread was justified. “It’s Stef. I need to take this.” “I’ve got a quick errand to run,” he said. He threw on some casual clothes while I answered my phone, wondering what kind of errand he had to take care of. “Good evening,” I said, as I answered the phone. “And how did dinner go?” Stef asked acidly. “You should have been there,” I teased. “I have put up with enough complaining, pontificating, and moralizing from family members to last me a lifetime,” he said. “Then why do you care what happened at dinner?” I asked. “Are you going to tell me or not?” he demanded. “You’re in an unusually bad mood,” I chided, then stopped torturing him. “Dinner went about as well as I expected. I told Darius I was giving him the house in Malibu, the one Jeanine mostly lived in, and I told the rest of them we were going to give the condo in Tribeca to JJ.” “You did that without waiting for my approval?” he demanded, referring to the condo in Tribeca. “I think that you have other battles to fight, and in reality, the only people who have a right to complain about that transfer are Will and Darius,” I explained. Unlike Mother, he understood why that was without me explaining it. “They were both fine with it.” “I suppose you are right,” he agreed. “The general consensus at dinner is that both you and JJ are divas, and that no one really wants to get involved in your petulant spat,” I said firmly, because he had annoyed me. “He ruined my party by setting off the fire alarm, and I am being petulant?” he demanded rudely. “You are,” I said. “You breezed into his world, threw a party without even telling him, set up a veritable orgy so the guy he liked ended up in a threesome, and so poorly policed things that a couple was able to go into his bedroom and fuck in his bed.” “It is not my fault John Carullo enjoys multi-party sex,” he grumbled. “It is not, a point Will made quite clear tonight, but you are still responsible for the other things. You have behaved very badly, and your refusal to come to the talent show on Friday is only making things worse,” I said. Part of me found this conversation agonizing because of the love and respect I had for Stef; but part of me found it satisfying, because of the way he’d been able to hold my own idiotic behavior over my head in the past. “So you all convened, and agreed with JJ, and decided that I have behaved badly,” he said, the fury quite clear in his voice. “No, we all convened and decided that you behaved badly,” I said. “Claire said that she saw you ignoring all of your responsibilities and duties to this family, with no sense of remorse for your actions. She pointed out that in addition to this deal with JJ, by not coming to the event on Friday, you’re basically slapping Marie, John, Will, and JP in the face, and you’re embarrassing the family.” “That is what she thought?” he asked, outraged. “That is what she thought, and every single person at that table agreed with her. There were no exceptions,” I said. I rarely used my full power posture with Stef, but I was using it now. “Not even you?” he challenged. “Not even me,” I confirmed. “JP said that once you were done feeling embattled, and looked at things logically, you would ultimately agree with us.” “I am not so sure about that,” he grumbled. “I am. You are too smart not to do that kind of mirroring and self-evaluation. And JP said that, because he loves you, that when you do figure it out and apologize, he will forgive you,” I explained. “I am not sure why groveling is such a relished activity in this family,” he said, making me smile internally. He and JJ really were so much alike, it was no wonder that when they fought, it would get ugly. “Would you like to know what everyone else said?” He didn’t respond, but I knew he was listening. “They all agreed that when you did that, they would forgive you too.” “So JJ destroys my party, but I am the one who must beg forgiveness and slink on the ground to my family, while his punishment is that he gets to keep the condo? That is fair?” “That is fair,” I said. There was silence for a bit, but I knew he was just gathering his thoughts. “Thank you for relaying this to me in a relatively factual way and for letting me know where I stand.” “You’re welcome,” I said. We ended the call, and I was confident that JP was right, and that Stef would figure things out in the end, but for right now, he needed limited piling on. Jake came strolling back into my room, in his typically happy mood. “Hey. I’m back.” “I’m glad,” I said, and gave him a nice kiss. “Where did you go?” He smirked at me, giving me shit for being too curious about his errand not to ask about it. “Went to talk to Will,” he said casually. “You were going to try out the younger model?” I joked. He laughed. “That’s the same thing he said to me when I got there.” He laughed even harder when he saw how much that annoyed me. “I wanted to make sure he didn’t have problems with us like he did when you were with Marc.” That sparked a whole bunch of emotions in me, but rather than react like an idiot, like I would have before I pulled my head out of my ass, I processed them and dealt with them. It bothered me that he felt the need to get involved to try to manage my relationship with Will, and it bugged me that he thought I’d learned absolutely nothing from my prior relationship with Marc. All that was just a brief irritant, one that was blown away when I realized what he’d really done. Unlike Marc, he understood how important my relationship was with my family and especially with my sons, and he was going to put himself out there to help keep those strong. On top of that, his actions showed me that he was really into me, and he planned for us to be a couple for more than just a week or two. “What did he say?” “He said that we should be here for dinner on Sunday, and that I need to make sure you take time to surf once a month, at least,” he said. That was a pretty good recipe for keeping me grounded, and it had been the same things Will had scorched me about when I’d been with Marc. “Seems reasonable,” I said. “I should surf with him when I can.” “He explained to me that while that would be awesome, it was less about you doing that together, than you getting out and surfing, period,” he said. He was looking at me, because he probably didn’t get what Will was saying, but I did. “Water grounds me, being in the ocean is like a salve, and he knows that,” I said, in an almost detached way. “I asked him what he needed to do to help maintain your bond,” he said. I was surprised by that, since I usually got all the blame for fucking up our relationship. “What did he say?” “He asked me what I thought.” “And what did you think?” I asked. “I told him that he should make time to surf with you, and that he should come up and stay with us in the City whenever he could,” he said. Marc had all but blocked my family from our lives in the City, while Jake was rolling out the red carpet. “You did good,” I said, then we had sex again, only I was starting to wonder if we were making love. September 18, 2003 Tribeca Manhattan, NY JJ “Good morning,” I said to Jacinta pleasantly as I walked into the kitchen. “Good morning,” she responded, and seemed surprised that I was being so nice. After she’d had my back a few nights ago, and after she’d totally cleaned up the condo, she’d elevated her status in my mind to one approaching Rosa, and that meant that I would treat her nicer. “You did a great job cleaning things up,” I said to her sincerely. “Thank you, and thank you for getting it done so quickly.” “I am happy to do it,” she said, then got a little nervous. “I am thinking that I will take the extra money you are paying me and go visit my relatives sometime when you do not need me around.” I smiled. “I don’t know when that’s going to be, because I’m pretty sure I’ll need you around.” She got nervous, because she thought I was serious. “I’m teasing. Plan it whenever you want. I’ll be just fine.” “Maybe over Christmas,” she said. “That works, because I’ll probably be in California,” I said, even though I was seriously annoyed with most of those people right now. “Where are you from?” “Puerto Rico,” she said. I’d never been there, and I knew nothing about that island. “It’s nice and peaceful this morning,” I said to change the subject. “It is,” she said. “It is just you and me.” “John is already at work?” I asked, which should be evident, since he left earlier than I did under any circumstance. “Mr. John moved his things out yesterday,” she said. I stared at her, stunned by that. “He moved out?” I asked. “Yes. He came back with some men and took his things out,” she said. “I have not yet cleaned up his room. I am going to do that today.” “Thanks,” I said, and got up and walked down to Carullo’s room, with Jacinta trailing behind me. I’d gotten home late last night and hadn’t gone in to see him because I was still pissed off at him. We opened the door and the main area was empty of all his things. Even though the basic bed and furniture that had been there before he moved in were still there, the space felt sad and forlorn. “It is pretty clean,” Jacinta noted, which would be what was important to her. “It is,” I said, trying not to sound to somber. I looked in his closet, which was empty, and then into the bathroom, which was empty as well but for an envelope taped to the mirror with the word “Jay” written on it. I took it off, even as I looked in the mirror, which was something I normally enjoyed doing, but today I didn’t really want to look at myself. “I’m going to go get ready for my morning,” I told Jacinta, and strode back to my room to be alone and read his note. Jay, Thanks for everything you did for me. You gave me a place to live, and helped transform me from a stupid college jock into a guy with at least some class. I really enjoyed the time we spent together, and I really am sorry that I hurt you. I know I’m not ready for a relationship, and I don’t think you are either, but I hope you consider me a friend. I really care about you, and if you need anything, you just have to ask. I decided that I’d be better off moving up to Bristol now, and that way I can save on my commuting time. You’re always welcome to visit. Give me a call. John It was a nice note, and I really did care about him. He was probably right about him not being ready for a relationship, but I didn’t see how or why he could lump me into that category. I was ready to be with someone. I could make a commitment, a pledge, and be faithful. He was the one who had to fuck two other guys, not me. I let my anger with him shield the pain of losing him, then I took a shower and got ready to go to Bryant Park. Right before I left, I logged onto my computer and checked for emails, and found that I’d gotten a response from my father. TO: Jeremy Schluter CC: JP Crampton, Isidore Hayes, Frank Hayes, Will Schluter, Darius Schluter, Matt Carrswold, Claire Hobart, Jack Hobart, Marie Hobart, John Hobart, Wade Danfield, Cody Warren, Marcel Plaquet & Stefan Schluter. JJ, When we bought Will his house in Hawaii, I had meant to do something for you and Darius as well. I’m going to try to atone for that now. I have given the house in Malibu, the one you grew up in, to Darius, and I’m transferring the condo in Tribeca to your trust. It is now your home, and you can treat it as such. I understand your outrage over finding out there was a party at your condo, and I think you have every right to be upset that the party was so poorly organized and policed that strangers were able to go into your room and have sex. I think you deserve an apology for putting up with that, and for the way that disrupted your household. At the same time, I think that you could have at least tried to track down Stef and let him fix the problem before you set off the alarms. I imagine that by doing that, you created no small amount of gossip around the issue, one that is embarrassing to both you and Stef, whether you realize it or not. I also think it is reasonable for you to consider how you’re treating Stef, when he’s done so much for you. There are clearly issues he’s dealing with, and it would be better for you to try to help him through them in a loving way than by being so petulant. Dad I stomped my foot, enraged at how all of my family members were dealing with this, how they just let all of my problems and issues go unaddressed and focused on how it was my fault for being self-absorbed. I went to Bryant Park and tracked down the Olsen twins and their posse, and didn’t even bother to try and find Stef or Bellona. September 18, 2003 Atherton, CA Will “S’up?” John asked me as I sat down at our lunch table. “I think I kicked ass on my test this morning,” I said proudly. I was pretty confident that I’d moved that ‘B’ up to at least an A minus, but I’d have to wait until it was graded to be sure. “Doing better than me,” he grumbled. He wasn’t the academic overachiever that Marie and I were. “Last night turned out better than I thought it would.” “No shit,” I agreed. Everyone had pretty much pulled in their claws, at least for the time being. “You did good. Didn’t completely lose your mind,” he said. I found that annoying, that both he and Darius seemed to think I was this loose cannon. I honestly thought that when I did go off, I had a good reason. “Whatever,” I said, to shut down that conversation. “I cannot imagine that semen stains on one’s bed are not a significant issue,” John said, imitating his mother, and cracking me up. Marie walked up to us, with Jacob Bornstein trailing after her. Jacob was tall and skinny, with brown curly hair, a big nose, and brown eyes. He was pretty much a total dork. “I told you that there’s no room to schedule your magic act into the show, especially at this late date,” she explained as she sat next to me. “It’s not fair that you didn’t consider any other kinds of talent,” he said to her in his whiny bitchy way. “Talent?” I challenged. I didn’t like Jacob, especially after he’d gotten that DUI earlier in the year and all but killed the social life at school for a month. “I am talented,” he responded boldly. “You’re also a douche,” I said, getting snickers from everyone else at the table. “I’ll let you explain all this to my mother,” he said to Marie, a clear threat, but one that made him look absolutely pathetic. It was just what JJ would have done, and that made me more irritated with Jacob than I usually would have been. “Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you tell your cheap ass mother that we’re selling time at the talent show to raise money, so if she cuts a check for two hundred grand, you get five minutes,” I said. He gave me a dirty look and stormed off. “Thanks,” Marie said. “Now I can enjoy my lunch.” “I hardly think that treating someone so rudely will resolve the outstanding issues that face us,” John said, imitating his mother again, and making me laugh so hard I almost spit out my food. I’d just gotten my laughter under control when my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and was pretty shocked to see that it was Patrick Christian. He hadn’t called me unless he was returning my calls, and I sure as fuck hadn’t called him lately. “Be right back,” I said to my friends, then wandered away to a quieter area as I answered the phone. “Hey there!” “Hey Will,” Patrick said. God, his deep voice was sexy. “Hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time.” “It’s never a bad time for you to call,” I said, flirting with him. “I didn’t know what your plans were, but I was wondering if you were going to be in New York this weekend?” he asked. “I’ve got a thing to do on Friday night, but I hadn’t planned much beyond that,” I said, trying to figure out what he wanted. I had originally planned to go surfing with Dillon, but that was off the table now. “Why?” “It would be nice to see you,” he said, and it was cute that he was a little nervous. “So this is a booty call?” I asked. That made him laugh. “Duh,” he said, which was hilarious, because it made him sound like he was 10 years younger than he was. “It’s just been a really stressful week, and I’ve got a big show on Saturday before the closing gala. When you’re around, I’m just more centered.” “Let me see what I can do,” I said. “But keep Saturday open for now.” “I’ll do that,” he said. It was really sweet, and it was really flattering, that he’d called me. He had a lot of guys there who would jump in bed with him, but he’d called me because I was more to him than a quick and easy fuck. An idea developed in my head, one that may help calm some of these issues out. I thought it through during boring moments in my afternoon classes, then on my way home, I decided to give it a try. I dialed Stefan’s number. “Hello,” he answered in a very snippy way. “Hey,” I said pleasantly. “I have gotten scathing calls from everyone, so I suppose it is now your turn,” he said. Man did he have a bug up his ass. “Personally, I’m thrilled by all the shit that’s happened, because there is now absolutely no way you can give me crap for my sex life,” I said. “And now you are throwing bullets at me in a passive-aggressive way,” he snapped. “Stef, I was teasing,” I said earnestly. “I’m not trying to piss you off, but I had a plan and I wanted to see if you were up for it.” “I am listening,” he said calmly. “I got a call from Patrick Christian, inviting me out to attend his show on Saturday,” I said. “That is most interesting. You are aware that Ella has left, and moved to Milan?” “I heard that was her threat, but not that she’d done it,” I said. “He must be pretty much all alone.” “And he reached out to you,” Stef mused. “That is quite flattering.” “I thought so, and I thought I should try to make it if possible,” I said. “So what is your plan?” “I was thinking that you could fly back on Friday and go to the talent show at Menlo. Right after that, we can head straight to the airport and back to New York. It will take us a bit, but it would be overnight, and we should be able to get a decent night’s sleep on the plane before we get there.” “I am not sure that I want to be around all those people who, if this were the 1600’s in Salem, would be ready to burn me at the stake,” he responded in full bitchy mode. “Look, if you don’t go, it will look bad because you were hyped as one of our family’s guests, and you’re such a celebrity that gives the whole thing star power,” I said, feeding his ego. “You are kind to say that, but I do not think that is quite accurate,” he disagreed half-heartedly. “And the other big reason is that this deal is mostly for Grand,” I said. “And that is another negative, as he is not my favorite person at this point,” he said, being incredibly cranky. “You know, at dinner the other night I asked him how he felt about you fucking half of New York’s gay men,” I said. “I have not been that successful,” Stef said uncomfortably, because he was nervous about this line of conversation. “Grand said that while those men may have been lucky enough to experience one of the best lovers in the world, they only had your body, while he knew he had your soul,” I said. I knew he was smiling, even though I couldn’t see his expression over the phone. There was a lengthy pause in our conversation while he pondered my words. “I will see you on Friday at the show, then we will return to New York as soon as it is over,” he pronounced. “Thanks Stef. It will be really good to see you,” I said.
  15. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 64

    I think it's significant that when JJ went into Carullo's bedroom a few chapters ago and woke him up, Carullo's first word was "Joey?" Clearly this still weighs very heavily on his mind.
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