My phone rang, pulling me out of my morning slumber. “Hello,” I said groggily.
“Will, sorry to wake you,” I heard Jake Pike say.
“You’re not sorry at all,” I joked. He chuckled.
“We moved like lightning on this. We got the trust set up, and they accepted the contract on the condo. We close on Friday,” he told me. He was all stoked, because he’d done a good job and he knew it.
“That’s awesome! Great job!”
“Thanks,” he said. “We’re still working on those other units. I’ll keep you posted.”
“Sounds good,” I said.
“In the meantime, I e-mailed you the signed contract and the registration info on the trust. Take a look at it and double check that it’s the way you want it.”
“I’ll look at it and let you know, but I’m sure it’s fine,” I said. We ended our call, and I stretched out, chuckling as my morning erection tented the blanket way up. I got up and hopped in the shower, cleaning up and jacking off at the same time, then went up to have some breakfast. The staff was pretty surprised to see me up this early, but they cheerfully made me food while I sat there watching lame-ass cartoons. Not a very intellectual start to the day, I joked to myself.
I went back to my room and logged onto my e-mail. I reviewed the stuff Jake had sent me, and it was good, so I sent him a response telling him that. I was just about to log off when a new message popped up on my computer. This one was from Zach. I smiled even as I opened it, but my smile faded pretty fast after I read the first few lines.
When I moved down here, we talked about how we’d be, and we decided we’d be like we were in New Jersey. I can’t do that. You gave me four options. I went with the second one, but it’s not working, so I have to pick the fourth one.
I’m not ready to talk to you about this. Don’t call me.
I sat there, stunned, as I stared at the computer. The fourth option, as we’d discussed on our drive to LA, was that we were over, and that we weren’t even friends. What the fuck was going on with him?
That calm train of thought didn’t last long, as I felt my anger surging. What the fuck? He was breaking up with me by sending me an e-mail? And he told me not to call him? Not only did he not do it in person, he wasn’t willing to even talk to me about it? Seriously?
The rage surged through my body, even as I picked up my phone and hit the speed dial. I heard his phone ringing, and then it went to voice mail. I hung up and called back, and it still went through to voice mail. I did that seven times, but he refused to answer the phone.
Well, if he wanted to have this discussion via e-mail, so be it. I hit ‘respond’ and gave full vent to my feelings.
I can’t believe you fucking did this with an e-mail. I can’t believe you fucking did this at all. I guess you got everything you wanted from me, and then you just tossed me aside. I was there to help you out through high school, to buy you shit, to help out your family, but now that you’re a big-time NCAA football player, I can just go fuck myself. You’re a fucking piece of shit.
Not only that, you’re a fucking liar. Remember the last time you pulled this shit? Remember when you tried to do this on the phone, even though I was in Claremont? Remember? You fucking promised me you’d never do that again. You fucking promised me that. And you lied to me. You’re a fucking liar.
I hope you love football. That’s probably all you’ll ever have. Go fuck yourself.
My hand guided the mouse, moving the cursor over the ‘send’ button, but right before I clicked it, I stopped myself. I remembered in the past how I’d done this, how I’d flown off the handle and sent some blistering e-mails out, and how I’d regretted them. My e-mails to Tony came to mind, and remembering that nightmare relationship freaked me out even more. What if he hadn’t sent this himself? No, the language was too specific, and it was something that only he and I knew. He’d sent it, but did he mean it?
The only reason for him not to talk to me was because he didn’t think he could justify this, or if he didn’t think he could handle the conversation. Or maybe he didn’t want to put up with my temper, and my ranting. Or maybe he really didn’t want to do this, and he knew that if he had to face me, he’d melt. That made me smile for a second, until I remembered that he was breaking up with me. Regardless of why he wouldn’t answer his phone, the only way to find out what was going on was to talk to him. If he wouldn’t answer his phone, then I’d have to track him down.
I closed my laptop, leaving the message unsent, and packed it along with a few other things into my backpack. I sighed, forcing myself to seem calm and composed, then went out to talk to the staff. Carmen, the cook, was in the kitchen, so I picked her for my conversation. “I’m going down to LA for awhile. Call me if you need me.” I tried to keep my voice upbeat and chipper.
“OK,” she said with a smile. I got into my Ferrari, fired it up, and flew down the driveway way too fast. Right before I drove through the gate, my phone rang. I was going to ignore it, but I saw from the caller-ID that it was JJ. I stopped the car and answered the phone.
“Hey,” I said, totally unable to sound cheerful.
“Sorry to call you so early,” JJ said. Those six words stunned me, and totally changed my mood. First of all, he sounded like he’d been crying, and secondly, he was being really polite. Neither one of those was typical behavior for him.
“No problem,” I said, pushing my own issues to the side while I talked to him. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know what to do,” he said, almost sobbing.
“What happened, JJ?” I demanded, now really worried about him.
“They published an article about Alex and me in the paper,” he said. “It’s in the Daily Mail.”
“It had to be that bitch Mary Ellen. Said I was trying to steal her husband,” he said.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I demanded, fully outraged.
“No,” he snapped. “So Alex saw the paper, and dumped me. He left me here in London and hurried up to Bridgemont.”
“So you’re in London, all by yourself?”
“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I lost Alex, and my career is over.” He was despondent, and clearly unable to be reasonable. I knew his moods. There was nothing I could say to him right now to make this better. Shit, there was probably nothing I could say to ever make it better, ever.
“What are you going to do?”
“I have to get out of here, but the press is staking out the house,” he said. And then the tumblers in my brain started to function, even as I turned the car around and drove back up the driveway.
“Alright, can you stay there for a little bit longer?”
“Alex said I can stay as long as I want,” he said sarcastically. “So fucking nice of him.”
“No shit,” I said, so pissed off at Alex. “I’ll come get you.”
“You’ll come get me,” he said skeptically.
“I’ll come get you,” I said. “I’m going to call the FBO and have them get Dad’s plane ready, and I’m going to leave as soon as I can.”
“You sure?” he asked. “Weren’t you going to LA to hang with Zach?”
“No,” I said firmly. “We’re not together anymore.”
“What?” he asked, stunned.
“He sent me an e-mail this morning, breaking up with me,” I told him. I parked the car and strode back in the house and went straight to my room.
“Are you kidding me?”
“I’m not kidding,” I said. “Look, I have to pack and snag Dad’s plane. I’ll call you from the air. Just stay put.”
“OK,” he grumbled.
I called the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) that managed my father’s plane. Since my father had flown commercial to China, the plane should be available. “Hi, this is Will Schluter. I need to use my father’s plane.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Schluter,” the man said. “His plane is out on charter.”
“Charter?” I asked, stunned.
“He told us that since he wasn’t using it for a month, we should charter it out,” the man explained. That was incredibly annoying, since he never chartered out his plane. The only reason he’d done that is to keep me and JJ from using it.
“Well, I need a plane to fly to London and back,” I told him.
“Your father told us that any family charters needed to be approved by him prior to departure,” the man said nervously.
“Oh he did, did he?” I asked, even more enraged. I shook my head in disgust at what an idiot my father was being. The funny thing is that this would have worked with JJ, who would have let Dad’s actions stop him from chartering a plane. With me, they just pissed me off.
“I can contact him and check…”
“Don’t bother,” I said, and hung up the phone.
There was another FBO in Paly that we’d used before. For some reason, my father had switched to his new place. I wasn’t sure if Stef was still using these people or not, but this guy was really friendly when the receptionist put my call through. “What can I do for you, Will?”
“I need to fly to London, and I need to leave as soon as possible,” I told him.
“Let me see what’s available,” he said, and I heard him clicking the mouse as he looked at his computer.
“I want the most expensive plane you have,” I said.
“You sure about that?” he asked.
“I’m sure,” I said.
“There’s a modified Boeing 737, and it’s nice. We can probably get that ready for you in two hours,” he said. His tone told me there was no way he thought I’d go for that.
“Perfect,” I said.
“Just so you know, this thing will cost you $15,000 an hour to fly.”
“Fine,” I said.
“I’ll see you within two hours.” We hung up the phone, and with that, I’d gotten my first satisfaction of the day. Depending on how much I used this plane, it would cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000 a week. I packed a suitcase quickly, and since I wasn’t sure how long I’d be gone or what I’d be doing, there was a considerable amount of stuff. But I travelled enough that it was pretty rote. I called the garage and told them I’d need a ride to the airport. I could have driven myself, but I didn’t think my suitcase would fit in the Ferrari.
“I thought you were driving to LA?” Carmen asked, as I lugged my bag to the front door. Armando took it for me and put it in the car along with my backpack.
“Nope, flying to London to pick up JJ,” I told her. I gave her a quick hug, and settled into the limo for the brief drive to the airport. My mind kept trying to take me back to Zach and to the fact that I’d lost him, but I forced it to stay focused on JJ. The car pulled up to the FBO and Armando deposited me and my bags in the lobby.
The guy who I’d talked to met me there, smiling. “You’re gonna like this plane.”
“Cool,” I said, forcing myself to smile. We took care of the paperwork, while one of their porters took my bags and put them in a golf cart, and then he drove me out to the plane. Boeing 737s were pretty much everywhere, but there weren’t all that many used as private jets.
The pilots were already there, doing their pre-flight stuff. “I’m Henry,” the pilot said. He was an older guy, probably about fifty. “This is Allen, my co-pilot.” He was younger, probably in his early thirties.
“Will Schluter,” I said, and shook their hands. “I need to pick up my brother in London and bring him home.”
“We may run into some flight time rules with that,” he said. “We’ll talk about that on the way there.”
“Perfect,” I said.
“Which London airport?”
“Whichever one is closest to downtown,” I said.
“I’ll get us cleared into Heathrow Airport,” he said. “It’s the closest airport that can handle this plane.” He turned back to his logs and got back to planning our flight. There was a flight attendant on this plane, a really attractive young woman named Kelly.
“Let me show you the plane,” she said. This thing was a flying palace. It had three bedrooms, a full bathroom, a dining room, a kitchen, and a big open area with lounge chairs. My father had a Gulfstream V, and Stef had a Falcon. The Falcon was bigger, but they were both standard corporate jets. The big drawback was that they were narrow, like a long skinny tube. But this one, shit, it was wide and spacious. By the time she finished our tour, we were ready to take off. I chatted with her as the plane roared off the runway and into the sky, heading east. As soon as we were on our way, I pulled out my laptop, and of course the first thing to come up was the screen where I’d written Zach my nasty response.
“Can we get Internet on the plane?” I asked Kelly.
“We can,” she said. She showed me how to set it up on my computer. She looked at my e-mail as she did; it was almost unavoidable. “Pissed at someone?”
“You have no idea,” I said with a smile. I logged on and got back on my e-mail. I deleted the text that I’d already written to Zach, and instead, simply wrote ‘OK’ and sent it. I smiled to myself, telling myself that I was confusing the fuck out of him. He’d be expecting a rant like the one I’d just deleted. Instead, he got a two-letter response.
I should be in tears, an absolute basket case, over losing this guy that I loved. I paused for a minute to think about that. I did love him. I’d fought it for a while, tried not to fall in love with him, but it had been futile. He was too fucking gorgeous, but more than that, he was just so perfect for me. We meshed together so well, and that wasn’t even thinking about the sex. I really had thought that he was my soul mate; that he and I would someday end up like JP and Stef. But he’d dumped me hard this morning, with a terse e-mail and no explanation. Why wasn’t I more upset? Why wasn’t I totally freaking out? I decided that the reason I was so calm about it was because I didn’t really believe that I’d lost Zach. This whole situation seemed so bizarre, and so surreal. He’d ultimately talk to me about it, and I’d ultimately figure out what had happened. And when the dust settled, we’d be back together.
Did I even want that? That was a whole different line of thought. For him to send me that e-mail, he had to be feeling some pressure, unless I was willing to believe that he really didn’t love me anymore, and I wasn’t ready to go there yet. So if I was right, he’d done this under duress, and that meant it probably had to do with football. That was the big problem, the big obstacle, to us being together. He couldn’t be a college football player and be out of the closet. He was an amazing running back, and was almost guaranteed to end up in the NFL. If he came out, that dream would be over. So time after time, he’d chosen football instead of me, and that’s probably what he was doing right now. Is that the life I wanted? Did I want to be with a guy who wouldn’t acknowledge that he loved me, and who would toss me into the gutter whenever he got worried about his ‘straight’ reputation?
I pulled my head out of my own introspection and called JJ back. My first priority was to get him the hell out of London. I let myself worry about his problems, and that distracted me from my own.
July 19, 2003
A knock on my door interrupted my despondent pity party. I wiped my tears away and tried to look presentable. “Enter,” I said, and then got pissed at myself for sounding like Alex.
“Mr. Schluter, will you want anything for dinner?” Carter asked me in a very polite way. “If you like, I can bring something up here.”
“Thanks,” I said. “It would be wonderful if you could do that.” I was hungry, but the last thing I wanted to do was to go down and sit in that ornate dining room all by myself and eat food.
“What would you like?” I quizzed him about my easy options, and agreed on poached salmon. “I’ll have that up shortly.”
“I really appreciate it,” I said. I wasn’t sure why I was being so nice to this guy. Maybe because he was the only guy in England who would talk to me. Maybe I was just desperate.
“I’m happy to be of service,” he said pleasantly. “If there’s anything else you need, you have but to ask.” Was he flirting with me? Christ.
“Thanks,” I said, then pulled out my phone, as if I had anyone to call. Carter left and I sat there on the bed, looking at the phone, wondering what I should do. Will said he was coming to get me. That almost made me laugh. He was like a knight hurrying to save a damsel in distress. Only then I remembered that I was the damsel in distress, and it irritated me that he was just another guy who thought I was some delicate flower who couldn’t take care of himself. The phone rang and I saw that it was Alex calling me, but I let it go to voicemail. I really had nothing to say to him. It rang again, and I was about to hit ‘end’ to send it to voicemail again, but this one had a different number. I probably shouldn’t answer it. It was probably some fucking reporter. For some reason, I hit the ‘talk’ button. “Hello,” I answered nervously.
“Hey JJ, it’s me,” Will said cheerfully. Sometimes he was just so fucking happy it made me want to puke. I’m trapped in London, stalked by the paparazzi, with my relationship and career in ruins; his boyfriend, the love of his life just dumped him, yet he calls me and acts all pert and chipper on the phone. I silently wished I were dealing with Darius, who would call me and we’d talk in clipped sentences for less than a minute and have everything figured out; but then again, it was unlikely that Darius would drop everything and fly to London to bail my ass out.
“Cool,” I said in annoyance. “What’s the plan?”
“I chartered a kick-ass plane. It’s fucking huge, like a palace in the sky,” he said. He waited for a reaction from me, but got nothing. I really didn’t care about the fucking plane; I just wanted to get the fuck out of here. “We’re on our way to London, and we should be there in about nine hours.”
“When did you leave?” I challenged.
“About 45 minutes ago,” he said.
“Don’t you have to stop for fuel?” That was a standard deal when we flew in my dad’s plane, or in Stef’s.
“Nope,” he said. “This is a 737, and part of the modification was adding extra fuel tanks.”
“That will get you here about six in the morning,” I said, as I looked at the clock.
“We’re flying into Heathrow Airport,” he said. Why couldn’t he just come into London City Airport? Like he was some fucking psychic, he answered the question I didn’t even ask. “The 737 is too big to fly into the smaller fields.”
“I’ll have to figure out a way to get myself there,” I said, thinking about how to accomplish that.
“Can’t they give you a ride?” he asked. Like I was too stupid to call a fucking taxi, or hire a limo.
“I can get a ride, but I really don’t want to deal with the fucking reporters,” I snapped. “They’re camped out all over the place, just waiting to attack me.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” I said. “When Alex left, he could barely drive through them, they were so busy taking pictures and yelling at him.”
“Maybe they’ll just assume that you were in the car with him,” he said.
“If that’s the case, why are they still here?” I asked acidly.
“Good point,” he said. “So what happened?” I told him about the article, and told him about my conversation with Alex. He listened intently, and asked questions about it, but didn’t give me any advice, which was pretty unusual. “What’s your plan?”
“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” I told him. “I just have to get the fuck out of here.”
“Alright, after we get you, where do you want to go?” he asked.
“I don’t care, as long as it’s in the US,” I told him. I just wanted to be back on home turf.
“Then I’m your travel agent,” he said, being perky.
“This isn’t a fucking vacation,” I bitched.
“Well it is now,” he said. I was beginning to wish I’d just hauled my ass to the airport and caught a plane home.
“Fine. What’s the FBO?” I asked. He put me on hold and got the info, which I wrote down, and then we hung up.
Carter came up with a tray and set it up on the desk in my room. “I’m very sorry about the press, Mr. Schluter. I hope you won’t let that sour your opinion of England.”
He was being really charming, and he was pretty cute, so I smiled at him. “We have asshole reporters in the US too,” I said. “I just have to figure out a way to get past these idiots without being mobbed.”
“If you like, I can help you with that,” he offered.
“You can?” I asked, hiding my suspicion.
He nodded. “I usually park in back, by the mews.” The mews was their fancy name for garage. “I’ve got a fastback. You could hide back there, and they probably wouldn’t see you.”
“I need to be at Heathrow Airport by 6am,” I told him.
“I’ll stay here tonight, and we’ll leave at 5am,” he said. “If it works, you won’t be hounded. If it doesn’t, it’s no worse than a taxi.”
“Good point,” I agreed. “Thanks so much for helping me out.”
“It’s no problem at all, sir,” he said.
“Jeremy,” I insisted.
“Jeremy,” he said, smiling. Then he left me in peace to eat my dinner and mope.
July 20, 2003
God, it was early. I’d been here for four days, just enough time to get my body clock set on English time, then I’d had to fuck it all up by rousting myself out of bed in what was to me the middle of the night. I’d had to pack up all my shit, get myself ready, and be prepared to leave before fucking sunrise. I rolled my eyes at myself in the mirror. It’s not like I’d slept all that much anyway. I’d mostly stayed awake, making myself miserable, thinking about how sucky my life had become.
There was a soft knock on my door, and I opened it myself. “Are you ready, Jeremy?” Carter asked, emphasizing my name.
“I’m ready,” I told him. He looked skeptically at my three suitcases, but I’d already figured that problem out. “This suitcase goes with me.” I pointed to one of the smaller ones. “I’m hoping you can have the other two shipped home for me?”
“I’d be happy to do that for you,” he said cheerfully. He grabbed the suitcase I was taking, and I slung my satchel bag over my shoulder. “Let’s go.”
“Let’s go,” I echoed.
He led me downstairs, and down into the basement, a part of the house I hadn’t seen before. From there, we went through a tunnel to the garage. He had what we would call a hatchback, so he helped me situate my suitcase and my body into that tight space. For once, it was lucky I was short. He left the back seat down so I could see out, and so I could get some air. “Comfortable?”
“Extremely,” I lied, getting a chuckle. He pulled out of the garage and went slowly. I didn’t know why until I heard him honk the horn and yell at people. I scrunched away from the opening so no one could see me.
“Fucking paparazzi,” he grumbled. “Get out of my way!” That was a yell. He finally was able to move faster, and then he sped up. “God, they’re awful, but now we’re away.”
“Thanks again,” I said. We were quiet on the drive to the airport, while I just lay there in his hatch area, trying not to get bruised from the bumps and turns. My phone rang, and I recognized that it was the plane’s phone. “Hello,” I said.
“We just got here,” I heard Will say.
“The plane is there,” I said to Carter. “Good timing,” I said, ostensibly to both of them.
In five minutes, we arrived at the airport, and Carter was able to get me straight into customs and immigration. They didn’t give me any problem. Carter handed my suitcase to the ground crew, and I handed him an envelope. “What’s this?” he asked.
“Directions on where to ship those suitcases,” I said. There was also £500 inside, but I didn’t tell him that. “Thanks for your help.”
“If you come back to London, ring me,” he said, and gave me a piece of paper with his name and phone number on it. “I’ll show you the part of town you haven’t seen yet.”
“That sounds like fun,” I said, even though there was no way I’d do that. I should give his name to Will. I followed the ground crew guy out to the golf cart where he tossed my suitcase in back, then shuttled me the short way out to the plane. Will was there waiting for me. He gave me a big hug, and this one I actually appreciated, then he helped me walk up the steps so I didn’t fuck up my ACL any worse than I already had.
“It’s good to see you,” he said. “This is Kelly.” She was the flight attendant, and very attractive. He went into the terminal for some reason, while Kelly showed me around the plane. Will was right; this was a fucking palace in the sky. No sooner had she finished the tour than Will returned, carrying some newspapers, and looking pretty flustered.
“What’s that?” I demanded.
“I’ll show you in a minute,” he said, blowing me off. “Let’s go,” he said to the pilots.
The 737 started moving, while Will and I sat in the lounge area. He waited until the plane took off, then he handed me the newspapers. There was the Daily Mail, only this time they had pictures of Alex and me standing together, shirtless, looking out the window. A few other tabloids had picked up the story as well. “JEREMY SCHLUTER’S LOVE TRIANGLE” the headlines screamed. I tossed the papers on the table and just shook my head in disgust.
“I’m sorry, JJ,” Will said. Meaningless words, even though he had good intentions.
“Where are we going?”
“We’re stopping in New York to give the pilots a break,” he said.
“That’s good, since I left most of my clothes in London,” I said. “I’ll have to go shopping.”
“Did you call your manager yet?” he asked.
“No,” I snapped. My manager was the one who handled my career, and was probably more like an agent. He booked me into competitions, and he handled my interactions with the US Figure Skating Association (USFSA). “I’ll do that when I get to New York.”
“That’s fine,” he said. He was looking at me, all worried, and that was annoying.
“I’m fucking exhausted,” I said. “I’m going to take a nap.”
“I’ll wake you up half an hour before we land in New York,” he said. I shuffled back to one of the bedrooms, and actually managed to doze off.