The Butler - 12. Chapter XII
February 2nd, 2006, Greenwich, CT.
It was 10pm, and we were sitting in the den, with a nice fire going; Mr. Montgomery preferred a real fire as opposed to the state-of-the-art heating system. It had been installed several years ago, he’d told me. But every day, when the evenings were still long and the nights still cold, he asked for a fire to be lit in certain rooms. The dining room, his study, his own room, the den and the library. The heating system was turned up to heat the rest; it was turned off in those specific rooms. And mine. I found I preferred the real fire too.
Each evening, so far, we’d been sitting here, talking; I was off duty at eight, but from day one he’d invited me to keep him company, playing cards, watching TV, or, and this was mostly the case, just talking while he smoked one cigar. Always one. I’d taken to that routine it immediately; he was an animated conversationalist. So I’d change into less formal clothes, which usually just meant losing the tie and jacket and unbuttoning the top two buttons of my shirt, and join him in the den.
He taught me bridge. I taught him a few other card games. It was fun.
“No sir,” I replied, rising to refill his cognac, answering a question he asked me.
“No one? A young lad like you? You’re a handsome fellow, in the prime of your life; why not go out and look? There must be a special someone, somewhere.”
I offered him a grin.
“I think I’ve had enough to last me a few years.”
“Ah,” he replied, holding up the glass so I could refill it. “Thank you.”
He took a small sip and waited for me to return to my seat.
“My eldest son, Gregory, is also…how do I put this…one of your conviction? Gay, I mean.”
“As good an explanation as any, sir.”
Sometimes, he tried to be painfully correct, just to not offend. He smiled and went quiet for a few moments.
“When he told us, it was quite a blow...”
He sighed, clearing his throat afterward.
“He came home for the weekend, from Yale and blurted it out during dinner. Greg is… well, when you meet him, you’ll know what I mean; he has no patience, and tact isn’t one of his strong points.”
He smiled fondly, even though he clearly didn’t like that character trait of his son, because he shook his head compassionately.
“I can still remember it like it was yesterday. ‘Mother, father; I have an announcement’, he said.” He smiled a little sad. “The way he began; I looked at Helen and we both thought he would announce he met a young lady and planned to marry. My, were we wrong.”
He took another sip, looking into the fire.
“…’I prefer male company.’ Just like that; as if it was nothing.”
Mr. Montgomery mumbled the line again, several times, to himself, lost in thought.
“Of course, we were shocked. It was the last thing we expected.”
“You were disappointed,” I said, understanding.
He surprised me.
“Well…no, not really. It was a shock, yes, but a disappointment, no; we always wanted them to be happy; all of them. That they would find a love like ours, live their lives with passion and have no regrets, ever. No matter who their partner might be. So no, not disappointment. I guess I felt a little sad, because, and that flashed through my mind at that moment, he’d never experience the joy of holding your own child in your arms for the very first time. To see them take their first steps, ride their first bike. He’d miss out on that.”
“Not necessarily,” I said, slowly. “It’s quite normal for gay couples, these days, to have children. There are many options to choose from; adoption, or using a birthmother. Or a good friend who is willing to help out.”
“Would you want to have children at some point in the future?”
A question I’d been asked before.
“No. Some things are just not to be. I think that should be reserved to those who want it. Really want it, with all their heart. I don’t think it is reserved for just man and woman, that’s an outdated thought, especially in this day and age. With the right partner; who knows what can happen? Gay or straight; as long as it’s an addition to the love you have, it would make it even more complete, to pass that love along to your children. But no, not for me. No paternal bone inside this one.”
The old man smiled.
“Your response is too old for your age. But you’re honest, and you know yourself. That’s good. My son thinks like you do. I doubt he will become a father. Greg hasn’t introduced anyone to the family whom he might share his life with. Never. He prefers not to speak about his personal life. Business; that’s all he talks about. I wish he’d slow down a bit; take the time to find someone. I’m afraid he’ll grow into a bitter old man, never having experienced life like he should.”
This Gregory fellow sounded like a one-dimensional character to me. Single-minded, driven.
All his father clearly wanted was for him to be happy. I wish my father, a mean drunk who’d died of liver failure, had been as accepting as Mr. Montgomery and his late wife.
“I know he is capable of loving; he doesn’t show it, certainly not in company openly, but I see the twinkle in his eyes when he sees my grandson. I once even caught him in the nursery, sleeping with his nephew lying on his chest while he was in the rocking chair, holding him so carefully and tenderly. And these days, when he thinks no one sees it, he spoils him rotten.”
The youngest son, Seth, who I also hadn’t met yet, had a two-year old. If I recalled correctly, having heard the name once, his name was Jeremy.
“There’s still time,” I smiled, “who knows; he may surprise you yet. He may just meet someone, fall head over heels in love and slow down.”
Mr. Montgomery regarded me for a long time. Then he returned the smile.
“Oh, I certainly think so. The perfect…match is out there. Of that, I have no doubt. Even for him, and his somewhat…difficult persona.”
April 10th, 2006, Greenwich, CT.
It was a few months later, when I spoke personally to Gregory Montgomery for the first time by phone, meeting him shortly after. He had visited during the year but that always was when I was elsewhere. In all that time, I’d only spoken to his assistant, Alan, making arrangements, comparing his fathers’ schedule with his. He came occasionally to visit his father for a signature, and talk about some business decisions they had to make. Apparently his old man still had a say in some things.
Jr. was very brusque at first. Not someone to mess with, in any event.
He extended his hand, and offered a reserved smile. I introduced myself. His grip was firm and I chided myself for stuttering. He was imposing, even though we were equal in height; it was his presence. A real man, definitely not one you’d label as gay, on first meeting. Or ever, really.
“May I take your coat, Sir?”
He handed it to me, keeping the briefcase he’d brought in his hand.
“Glad to meet you. I wondered when my father would hire someone. I’d like to talk to you, after I finish my business with my father.”
“Yes, sir, not a problem.”
And with that, he disappeared into the study.
He grilled me for information about myself for at least an hour, telling me has just wanted to know a bit more about the person living with his father, taking care of him. His questions were very smart, inviting me to divulge more information than was asked. I had to be careful around him, I realized. But I didn’t want to be. I wanted him to know everything. I felt safe with him. He cocooned me in some sort of bubble of safety. His voice was deep, pulling.
I could understand his reasons for asking the questions and answered everything he asked truthfully, though at times I omitted some details I knew I should not divulge. I also lied about where I came from and actually felt bad about it. Well, it wasn’t an exact lie. I was born in Montreal. I just didn’t tell him we moved to New York when I was older. He assumed from that, I was a born and raised New Yorker. But I felt bad nonetheless. This wasn’t a man to not be truthful to.
He stayed for dinner, and asked me have his room prepared, wanting to spend the night here instead of returning to Chicago, which he decided he’d do early the following morning. He had also joined us later that evening, in the den, and turned out to be as much of a conversationalist as his father, who seemed rather pleased with himself that night. They both smoked a second cigar, causing Sr. to remain far longer than usual.
But something was…off.
Gregory Jr. was up to speed with all current events, courteous and quite dry, humor wise. His insight was razor-sharp, his questions cunning and shrewd, and at times I had the feeling he could look right through me. Often times he did look, just look, right up to the point it almost became uncomfortable. It was like he seemed to silently will me to say something I didn’t want to say, share some bit about myself I didn’t want to share. The moments were fleeting and passed quickly, forgotten the next, where he’d ask a question that drew me back into the conversation.
He didn’t seem to be the least surprised that I sat with them during dinner which, ordinarily, a butler does not do. Then again, Mr. Montgomery refused to call me that, instead introducing me as a companion.
“I’m glad you’re willing to do it; he’s all alone in this big house. So I thank you for that.”
He’d raised his glass in salute.
“You’re welcome, sir,” I had inclined my head and sipped my brandy. Again, he seemed oddly pleased I kept addressing him as such. He didn’t invite me to address him by name, and quite frankly, I liked the barrier it created. The man was dangerous, I could easily tell. And dangerous to my thoughts, too, if I let it. Often, I let my eye wander when he wasn’t paying attention to me. What I saw, I liked.
He had something but perhaps it was the non-sex year I’d endured. I made a vow, then and there, to go out and get me some much needed relief. Soon.
Gregory had been a much different man then. Engaging, passionate even and, I might have been mistaken (but I didn’t think so), appearing to be genuinely interested in what I had to say. And possibly interested in me. I saw it in his eyes; at times I saw this raw hunger appear, clamped down the next moment. It was thrilling. It felt like a possibility. But, perhaps, my mind was playing tricks on me. I definitely was going out, soon, and seek some companionship of my own. I needed it badly, apparently. Besides; a man like him was way out of my league. Like that would ever happen.
He was a good listener though, and we talked far into the night on so many topics I lost count, long after his father had retired to his suite. He’d been generous with smiles and laughter, inviting and open. Especially that; open. Quite the opposite from the visit he bestowed on us six weeks later.
By then, that open, engaging man had gone. A different, cold person had taken his place and I hadn’t seen him since. That same weekend, the relationship between his father and him iced over as well; it’d never been the same. He did visit, still, but he never stayed another night.
And things were about to get worse.
(There was inconsistency in this chapter which has been corrected)
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