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    northie
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Soul Music: Love Encountered - 3. Preparations

Tony and Geoff are separately making their preparations for Geoff's visit. We get to learn more about both of them.

A response to Prompt 381 which posed a descriptive challenge.

In the pale, early light of a winter's morning, Geoff stared glumly at the rack of hangers in his wardrobe. Usually, clothes weren't something that he worried about. What he wore for work didn't vary that much – a long-sleeved shirt and formal trousers – and everything else he owned was a mismatched conglomeration of things acquired over time. If he wasn't at work, he pretty much wore whatever came to hand first. This morning, though, what he chose to wear was a subject that loomed large in his mind. It was Sunday, and that meant his visit to Tony.

He had no idea how he should dress to … what? Attract Tony? Make himself desirable? Geoff grimaced sadly. He was so obviously lacking the particular gene which meant gay men should all have good clothes sense, along with flawless colour co-ordination skills, and flair. A small voice in the back of his head questioned why he was so bothered. Surely Tony was more interested in him for who he was, not what he wore? The voice was easily drowned out by the clamour of Geoff's usual insecurities.

He hadn't slept well – his mind had refused to stop going around in circles – and when he woke early in the morning, he'd found it impossible to get back to sleep again. After a while, he was so restless, he gave up trying. Which was how he came to be standing in his underwear this Sunday morning, staring at his clothes, and failing to come to a decision. Geoff growled in frustration with himself. Make your mind up time. He lunged, and grabbed a newish pair of jeans and a patterned shirt Helen had persuaded him to buy. The shirt was rather more in your face than he was used to, but Helen had insisted vigorously that the pink in it brought out his skintone … Or, something along those lines. A shirt was a shirt to his mind.

His stomach wasn't happy – that was a feeling he knew well. Geoff stopped in the middle of dressing to consider how uncomfortable he thought it was. Opening night bad, or merely difficult solo bad? Hmm … Breakfast was going to be OK. However, he'd going to the toilet at regular intervals. Irritating, but manageable. He'd been working on controlling his performance nerves, but Geoff knew those strategies wouldn't help him now. They centred on him knowing the piece properly, practising his part until he knew it well, and so, being confident that everything he was going to contribute would be good. It was OK for those who turned up every week to rehearse – he was lucky if he had more than one rehearsal. He knew it was the unknowns which really got him going, and that summed up his visit to Tony. Geoff looked at the untidy mess that was his bedroom. The living room wasn't much better – housework was not one of his favourite occupations. What if Tony's house was clean, tidy, organised? Prepped, almost … Geoff knew he'd feel out of place

He finished dressing, and padded downstairs into the kitchen. Coffee. He needed coffee, even though that would add to his need to go to the loo. Better that than feeling like death warmed up. Not for the first time that morning, Geoff gently rubbed his eyes. They felt like minute pieces of grit were floating on the surface of the eyeball. Hopefully, it would improve as the morning wore on. The red-eyed look wasn't attractive in any circumstances. Now, what was he going to eat? Tony had invited him over for the afternoon and an evening meal, so lunch was his business. Geoff knew that he'd only want a sandwich at midday. So, how about a cooked breakfast? That was a weekend treat, usually, when he had time to bother with the frying pan.

He had second thoughts when he bent down to look for the pan. The jeans he was wearing weren't his usual ones, and the bending made him conscious that they were tight around his middle. Geoff sighed. The decision was made for him when he opened the fridge – no bacon, or fresh mushrooms. A fry-up wasn't possible without either of those. Muttering under his breath, Geoff closed the fridge door, and instead, reached for the cereal packet. At least it wasn't one of the sugary brands – moderately healthy, perhaps? He added a banana for good measure.

Trying to keep himself from gaining weight was one of his constant battles, and had been since his teens. Geoff didn't consider himself fat – more … beefy. That was his favourite description of himself. Certainly, he wouldn't be considering a career as a male model anytime soon. He grimaced. What did Tony see in him? Really … What did he have to attract someone like Tony? Geoff started to munch his way through the bowl of cereal. It was OK, but it had nothing to offer against the salt tang, and texture of a crisp rasher of bacon.

He guessed Tony had had other boyfriends – they hadn't spoken about that, or many other topics yet. Tony was a great-looking guy, out-going, pleasant. Just the sort of man Geoff looked at longingly, but would never dare approach. He'd had his share of being humiliated by guys who thought they could do better. His friends seemed to take that sort of thing in their stride – something he couldn't understand. Geoff wasn't jealous or anything. It was just, he knew his lack of experience in love – and in sex – was going to put him at a disadvantage. Yes, he'd had the usual, fumbling explorations when he was at school, and he'd sucked off a couple of guys when he was first at university, but nothing else.

Another reason he kept away from social media sites was because they increased his feelings of inadequacy. Geoff flushed. It was hard not to feel that someone somewhere was keeping a tally. In which case, he was failing miserably. He sighed. … Don't forget he made the first move – remembering Helen's comment made him smile briefly. Yes … but. Oh well. Geoff gave himself a shake. His chances with Tony were hardly going to be improved by thinking along those lines. OK … What was he going to for the rest of the morning?

Arming himself with another mug of coffee, Geoff sat back down at the kitchen table. Wasn't it amazing how even the aroma of coffee could lift his spirits? He spent a moment breathing it in before taking a gulp. It was now fully light, just about. He gazed out through the back window onto his long, narrow garden. Living in an old-fashioned terraced house, he was lucky to have so much garden to play with. So many of his contemporaries were stuck in flats or converted houses without any greenery to call their own.

Really, he should use at least some of it to grow vegetables, but he loved flowers too much. It was one of his pleasures in the spring and summer months to go round, seeing what was flowering and breathe in the scents. Unfortunately, there wasn't much that needed doing in December – he'd already planted the bulbs for next spring, and he couldn't face doing any clearing up there might be. Well, he could do some practice, or catch-up on his reading … Somehow, Geoff didn't think either of those would be suitable. He couldn't settle to anything.

His shirt sleeve caught his eye in the wan sunlight. Helen – he'd ask Helen what she thought of his choice of clothes. Geoff still wasn't convinced by what he was wearing. What was the time? Nearly nine thirty – still quite early by Helen's standards for a Sunday. He'd send her a text. Geoff located his phone, took a selfie, and included it in his message.

Hi, this OK for visiting Tony? Feeling nervous. Don't know what to do myself this am. G

He settled for playing a game on his phone while he waited for Helen's reply. He was poised to win a level when the ping of the return text threw his concentration. He opened it immediately.

Geoff!! You're not going out. Wear what you'd normally wear on a Sunday. Can't believe you woke me up for this. It'll be fine. Relax, and have a good time. H xxx

Geoff sighed – Helen confirmed his suspicions. He went upstairs to change.


Tony nudged his front door closed with an elbow as he tried to manoeuvre several bags of food shopping towards the kitchen. He'd done his usual weekly shop with the addition of what he'd decided to cook for Geoff. A text the day before had elicited basic information on Geoff's likes and dislikes, but, of course, that had been one of the topics Tony had hoped to talk about the previous Wednesday. Not the most auspicious start to what he hoped would be their relationship. Well, whatever. Tony shrugged – he had high hopes for a good day this time. It was Geoff who was likely to be thinking about their previous encounter when he arrived. It was also pretty certain he'd be nervous and wound up. Tony went through his plans for the rest of the day as he put away the shopping.

It was a clear, sunny day, so a shortish walk would be good to start with. They could chat as they strolled in the park. It would be more relaxed – any looming silences could be broken by commenting on the sights and sounds around them. Tony loathed having to force conversations. From their first meeting, he knew Geoff had an endearingly funny, self-deprecating manner. One of the stories Geoff told against himself, had him in stitches. It was just a question of getting him to loosen up. Tony thought some music-making might help to achieve that. Geoff had mentioned he was a pianist as well as percussionist, so Tony was looking forward to doing some singing with a proper accompanist for a change. It was always odd, singing on his own. A vocal line unsupported by the piano – most of time it wasn't what the composer wanted. And that applied to modern ballads as much as classical lieder or arias.

Mentally, he started flicking through his sheet music. He didn't want to make assumptions about Geoff's ability – if someone was already nervous, there was nothing more calculated to make it worse than giving them something difficult to sight-read. Mozart, perhaps? Or, some of the Haydn 'folk' music settings … Certainly not Britten or Schubert. How about some of the twentienth-century English folk music revivalists? Tony finished his putting away, and checked the time. He better turn his attention to what he was going to do for their supper before he started on his music collection. Hours could pass by, once he got lost in the world of lieder.

Earlier, Tony had been on the point of getting out all his recipe books in the search for inspiration, but he stopped himself. Dazzling Geoff with a display of his culinary skill was not what the day was about. Showing off could wait for another occasion, when hopefully, they were at ease together. Quite apart from anything else, he didn't know anything about Geoff's kitchen skills. If he wasn't that good, as Tony suspected, it would be rude to sort of rub his nose in it. He decided on something filling, but reasonably healthy, savoury, and which could be left to cook without him faffing around. The day was for them to get to know each other better, and Tony didn't want to spend much time working in the kitchen.

A tatie pot was what he had in mind. Tony smiled. That was his northern heritage coming to the surface. A slow-cooked meat and root vegetable stew, topped with sliced potatoes – as the name suggested – he could get it started before Geoff arrived. It would go in the oven before they went on their walk, then he could finish adding the few extra ingredients at intervals once they were back. He'd decided not include the black pudding – it wasn't everyone's cup of tea. Himself included, if he was honest. The thought of all the fat and pig's blood turned his stomach. In all, it would be cooking for some three hours or so, making it perfectly timed for an early supper. Hopefully, they'd both be hungry after their activities. He was looking forward to the two of them eating together. The kitchen seemed lonely without someone else there, and Geoff, with his love of food, seemed a perfect companion.

Tony assembled his ingredients and started work. As he quickly browned the flour-coated, seasoned mutton, and then the onions, the smell of them cooking immediately brought his mum to mind. A tatie pot was one of her standbys, appearing regularly, but always eaten with glee by him and his sister. Tony sighed. Seven years after her sudden death, he still missed her, and it only needed something like that sensory memory to bring her back. It didn't upset him – it was more a question of acknowledging his loss over again. He vividly pictured her, cooking something on the Aga in their large kitchen. In the winter, the warmth coming from the range added to the sense of comfort and homeliness he always associated with her and food.

Tony put the meat, onions and stock into the oven to cook slowly – the leeks and everything else would be added later. He looked at his watch. Just time to prep the veg before Geoff arrived. Tony started dicing the carrots. His mum had accepted his sexuality without hesitation. In fact, it appeared that she'd already worked it out for herself. Tony smiled to himself – she was smart, his mum. Which was more than could be said for his dad. Tony sliced the potatoes with increased vigour. Grrr … When he came out to his parents, his dad had listened in silence – he didn't ask any questions – and then proceeded to act as if Tony hadn't said anything at all. Him being gay was a topic that didn't exist. They hardly spoke any more. Not surprising, really … Tony was happy – his life was as he wanted it, pretty much. If Geoff could be persuaded to be part of it, Tony thought he would be content.

As he placed the covered, prepared veg back in the fridge, Tony wondered what it would be like to cuddle up to Geoff. To wrap his much leaner frame round Geoff's, or the other way round – either would do. He thought he would like the solid yet rounded mass of Geoff's body. Not the hardness of worked-on muscles, or the softness of fat, but somewhere, wonderfully, in-between. While he enjoyed having sex – who didn't? – Tony adored the kissing, cuddling, and mutual explorations which came before or after. In fact, that on its own was enough when he wanted to express his feelings for his partner. Tony smiled wryly. He'd been about to use the word love just then, but none of his previous relationships had ever got that far. Geoff? Well … he could hope.

Tony looked at the time again. Geoff should've been there by now.


Geoff checked the address again: 53 Melrose Avenue. Well, this was it, and there was no number fifty-three. Oh, for fuck's sake. He'd obviously managed to get something wrong when he wrote it down. With a sigh, he got his phone out, and called Tony's number.

Hi, Geoff. Everything OK?

Geoff cursed himself for an idiot. “I wrote your address down wrong, Tony. I'm in Melrose Avenue now, but the house number I've got doesn't exist.”

There was a pause. Melrose Avenue?

“Yeah.” Geoff knew then what was coming. Fool, complete fool.

It's Melrose Close, Geoff. Geoff flushed red. Look, it's not a problem. You're only a couple of minutes away.

Tony gave the simple directions, and Geoff set off again at a brisk a pace as he could manage. He got to Tony's new-build semi only slightly out of breath – but still flustered – and rang the doorbell. Tony appeared swiftly, and greeted his guest with a couple of light kisses, right out on the doorstep. Geoff tried his best to respond in kind.

Tony looked at him with affection. “Come inside, Geoff.” He could feel his guest almost quivering with nervous tension as Geoff passed him to go inside. Tony closed the door behind them, and took Geoff's coat. “Geoff?” The other man gulped, and looked at him. “This isn't a test, or an audition. However much you may feel it is. I'd just like us to have a good time. OK?”

Geoff nodded, then gulped again. “Err … yeah, of course.” A nervous smile showed Tony that his short pep talk hadn't really cured Geoff. He thought for a moment. “Let's go through to the kitchen.” And he led the way.

As Tony opened the door, a wonderful aroma of cooking food wafted out, promising so much. Then as they entered, the low winter sun was shining in, illuminating a homely, messy, lived-in kitchen. Geoff looked around for a moment. He saw nothing had been tidied up specially – some work of Tony's was still spread out on the kitchen table, and the worktop still had utensils on it. Now he managed to focus on Tony himself, he wasn't wearing anything smart, only what Geoff imagined he'd wear on any Sunday. And the food! Geoff took a deep breath – it smelt wonderful. He loved eating lamb, or mutton – it didn't matter which. He started to relax – maybe, just maybe, he would enjoy himself.

My thanks to Parker Owens, whose insightful comments made this a much better chapter than it would have been otherwise.

If you enjoyed it, please leave a comment. Or, even if you didn't.

Copyright © 2017 northie; All Rights Reserved.
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Oh, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I so identify with Geoff, I could live in his mind. You are  good to invite us into the lives of these two people. 

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I am greatly enjoying your story.  My friends would say that I was never lacking in self-confidence, but I certainly recognize the inner dialogue going on in Geoff's mind.  I think that you have his inner voice down perfectly.  And, wouldn't we all like to be Tony!

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If you enjoyed it, please leave a comment. Or, even if you didn't.

So much nicer than the badgering that appears at the top of most pages these days regardless of whether I’ve been Commenting regularly or not.

 

 

I know exactly what Geoff was feeling like. I have pretty much the same doubts and insecurities myself. My therapists have not cured my of my doubts.  ;-)

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It's cute how Tony's wishful thinking runs far ahead, while Geoff is barely believing in his luck. I'm sure he'll be all flustered over Tony's wooing.

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Okay... I found this adorable... in a charming, realistic, and sympathetic way. I really feel for Geoff here. His insecurity is heartbreaking, and while I can't claim to have that same insecurity, I can still relate to the nerve wracking task of choosing the right clothes for early on dates. Tony's consideration for how Geoff might be feeling, and how important it was for the date to go well, had me really liking and rooting for him even more. He has a challenge ahead of him to build Geoff's confidence, but I have faith he is the right one to do it. They are such an appealing couple in how you've painted them... I look forward to more. Cheers, northie... well done... Gary....

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On 18/08/2017 at 0:48 PM, Parker Owens said:

Oh, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I so identify with Geoff, I could live in his mind. You are  good to invite us into the lives of these two people. 

And you, my friend, are so good to do all the work that you do on it. :)  I'm glad you're enjoying it as well.

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21 hours ago, donaldbirwin said:

I am greatly enjoying your story.  My friends would say that I was never lacking in self-confidence, but I certainly recognize the inner dialogue going on in Geoff's mind.  I think that you have his inner voice down perfectly.  And, wouldn't we all like to be Tony!

Thanks for your praise - exactly the sort of thing that makes an author's day. Yes, Tony is the sort of person many of us would like to be ... I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

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19 hours ago, droughtquake said:

 

I know exactly what Geoff was feeling like. I have pretty much the same doubts and insecurities myself. My therapists have not cured my of my doubts.  ;-)

Doubts and insecurities are part of many people's lives - some deal with them better than others. Certainly, social media sites don't help, in my opinion. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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19 hours ago, Timothy M. said:

It's cute how Tony's wishful thinking runs far ahead, while Geoff is barely believing in his luck. I'm sure he'll be all flustered over Tony's wooing.

Not that Tony is blasé or anything, just more optimistic. Geoff? Well, Geoff will continue to be himself, for the present, at least ... ;)

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@Headstall I'm glad you found it adorable and realistic - the first without the second would have me worried. ;) Social anxiety is quite common - it's whether you're able to surmount it or not. I'm so glad you're enjoying the story. :)

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