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    Superpride
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Best Men - 4. Chapter Four

I woke up upon hearing the alarm from my phone blaring on the nightstand. It took several attempts to reach for the device before finally turning it off. Stretching my legs, I then sat up and looked around. Everything that I brought from New York City that could fit in the trunk of my car was finally in the bedroom that I was staying for the month. Freddy’s bedroom. Surprisingly, the place was mostly barren with only the basics in terms of furniture like a dresser, desk, nightstand, and of course a bed. There was a framed picture of the whole family hanging by the door, but other than that the room lacked any real personality.

Standing up from the bed, I approached the window and pulled open the curtains. The early morning sunlight poured into the small room, giving the area more life and energy. I could say I was a morning person, never needing coffee to completely awaken me. With the sky a light blue and completely cloudless, I knew this was a perfect time for my daily run. I quickly opened one of the bags to pull out a plain shirt, a pair of jogging pants, and running shoes, which I changed into. After performing some simple stretches, I walked out of the bedroom and out of the house, leaving the front door unlocked since that was very common in towns like Beckett.

I decided to keep my jog in the neighborhood which was a great change of scenery versus the city. No need to stop every few minutes to cross a street, no twisting around people rushing to their morning jobs, and there was an absence of any loud noises from construction. I could only hear the chirping of birds and the sound of my own footsteps. The jog was very peaceful and gave me a break from all the conflicting thoughts I had due to the engagement party yesterday.

After what I believed was thirty minutes, I slowed my pace to a walk as I returned to the house. When I opened the front door, I was introduced to the wonderful aroma of breakfast. The scent of bacon lured me from the foyer to the kitchen where I saw Beth’s mother cooking by the stove. On the dining table was a pitcher of orange juice and a plate stacked with blueberry waffles. My stomach growled upon the sight of this scrumptious food, and the noise alerted her to my presence.

“Oh! Rick, honey! Good morning!” Beth’s mother greeted before flipping a pancake on a pan. “Did you sleep all right?”

“Yeah, I did. I woke up early and did my daily jog in the neighborhood,” I said, sitting at the table.

“That’s wonderful! Hopefully, all that jogging gave you an appetite.” Beth’s mother tilted the pan and the pancake slid down on a stack of other pancakes on a large plate. “I made blueberry waffles and bacon pancakes. All for you.”

“Wow. Thank you. You didn’t have to do this.”

“Oh, no. It was a pleasure.” Laying the plate of pancakes on the table, Beth’s mother then said, “Well, this food isn’t going to eat itself.”

I chuckled and filled my plate with both items. Beth’s mother poured a tall glass of orange juice for me before passing me a bottle of maple syrup, which I drizzled generously on my food. The meal tasted amazing, far superior to the frozen stuff I used to shove into my microwave that only cooked one side of the dish. I complimented the tastiness of the meal, and Beth’s mother smiled in appreciation as she ate her own food from across the table.

“So, Rick, how’s life in the big city?” Beth’s mother asked, patting her mouth with a cloth napkin. “I know you said you did freelance work. What kind?”

Looking at my food, I vaguely said, “I’m…an entertainer. I go to different venues that want someone to entertain their patrons. I also just go to the streets and perform. You’ll be surprised how generous some people are.”

“Oh, you’re a musician.”

“No…I mean, not really. Music often plays, but I also reenact scenes from popular shows and movies… I’m a puppeteer,” I finally admitted before drinking my orange juice.

“What’s that?” Beth’s mother asked curiously.

Placing my glass of orange juice down, I said, “I work with puppets, specifically with marionettes, the ones with strings that you use to control its limbs and other body parts.”

“Very interesting. How did you get into that hobby?”

I cringed at my livelihood being called just a hobby, but I dismissed it and said, “I was always interested in reviving a dying art. I also wanted to go on the streets and entertain people. So, I did some research and came across marionettes. After more research and many hours of practices, I’ve been able to make a living from making my marionettes move like they’re real people with just the manipulation of their strings.”

“Oh, that’s lovely. I’m actually happy that you told me this since Elizabeth is a teacher at the town’s elementary school and was hoping for—” Beth’s mother was interrupted by a phone that rang a gospel song. She apologized before answering her phone. “Good morning, Barbara! Are you still coming to today’s book club meeting…? Yes, it’ll be in my house this time… Oh, I see… No, no. I can definitely get that done before the meeting starts… All right. See you at four thirty. Goodbye.”

Ending the call, Beth’s mother frowned at her plate.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Looking up, her smiled faintly returned. “Oh, I’m fine… Well, I’ve just been told by Barbara that Regina can’t make it to the meeting today. She was the one who was supposed to bring the food in. I just offered to cook instead, but I need to focus on finishing the book which will take me until the meeting to finish.”

“I see… Would it matter if you just got something from Donohue’s bakery?”

“That would be much easier, but I can’t have the ladies thinking I opted to just buy the food rather than cook it.”

“Yeah, appearances are everything in Beckett.”

“Absolutely.”

Scratching my chin, I then suggested, “Maybe ask them to bake something that they don’t usually serve. I can go there and ask them if you want.”

“Would you? I’d do it myself, but this book needs reading and…”

“No problem. I’m happy to help.” Looking at the clock on the kitchen wall, I said, “The bakery should be open now. I’ll go change and head out right after.”

“Thank you.” Beth’s mother grabbed her purse. “I guess I should start finishing the book then. Here’s some money. I need at least two dozen of whatever the bakery decides to make.”

I nodded and accepted the cash money. I ate the last remnants of my breakfast and after excusing myself, I went back upstairs and into the bedroom. I changed into more appropriate attire before grabbing my phone and car keys from the nightstand. I was looking forward to getting out and reexploring the town I left five years ago, especially the bakery since they always provided the best-tasting cakes and other pastries.

After checking my appearance in the bathroom, I headed out in my car and drove for only five minutes before reaching the bakery which was located in the middle of main street. I could already smell a freshly baked aroma that was wafting from the store, which I followed. I opened the front door which chimed and entered inside. The place didn’t change at all, from the slightly scoffed linoleum flooring to the front counter that displayed their selection of pastries. There was a very homey vibe, which the coffeehouses back at the city could never fully emulate.

“I’ll be right there!” a woman called out.

“Take your time,” I replied, looking at their menu that was written with chalk on three blackboards.

A very young woman, perhaps still in high school, appeared at the counter. I didn’t recognize her, probably just a teenager working part time, so she could have enough money to go shopping.

“Hi there. Sorry for the wait,” the young woman said very politely. “How may I help you?”

“Oh, I’m looking for something that’s not on your menu.”

“Really? And what would that be?” she asked curiously.

“Something different. Something that would impress a group of mostly women in a book club.” Thinking for a moment, I then said, “Have you ever heard of pandesal?”

“Actually, I have. How do you know about it?”

“I live in New York City, actually. And over there I have friends from many different backgrounds, and a few of them are Filipino. They shared their version of bread rolls with me, and I wanted more ever since. I think that’s what I want. But if it’s too much trouble—”

“No trouble at all,” she said. “I’m going to have to find where the breadcrumbs are, but other than that, the staff and I can make it.”

“That’s great. Thank you.”

“No, thank you. I’ve been baking the same pastries for over a year now. I keep telling the owner of this bakery that we should introduce new items to the menu, but he keeps saying that the customers always order the same thing, and… Oh, sorry. I’m rambling again. I’ll start making those bread rolls now. It’s going to take a while, though.”

“No worries. I can wait.”

She smiled before retreating from the front counter. I heard her giving some orders, and I sat at a nearby table. I pulled out my phone and began checking my news feed when I heard the chime from the front door opening. I looked up and froze upon seeing, who else, Freddy in the bakery. He was wearing a plain shirt and dark denim jeans that formed perfectly around his ass. I sighed mentally, knowing that I shouldn’t ogle a man who could punch me in the throat if provoked.

Freddy was eyeing the menu, and I hoped he would just leave, so he wouldn’t notice me.

But then the young woman returned to the counter and said, “Your pandesal will be ready in an hour.”

Turning around, Freddy saw me. He then shook his head before directing his attention back to the menu.

“What can I get for you, sir?”

“A black coffee is fine with me. In a to-go cup if you can,” Freddy said, giving me the side eye.

“Of course. That’ll be three dollars.”

Freddy pulled out his wallet from the back pocket of his jeans. “Here’s ten dollars. Keep the change.”

“Thank you! I’ll start brewing your coffee right now.” The young woman pulled out a bag of coffee beans from a counter and started pouring them into one of the coffee brewers “Sorry that we don’t have any coffee prepared now. We usually don’t have any customers this early in the morning.”

“That’s fine. I’m in no hurry,” Freddy said, glancing at me again before focusing on his phone.

I could hear the coffee brewer begin its work, and the young woman leaned her elbows on the counter. “I haven’t seen you two before. Are you knew here or just visiting?”

“Yeah, we’re both visiting to attend Elizabeth Meyer’s wedding,” I answered, causing Freddy to scoff in response.

“Oh, really! I heard all about that. How do you know her?”

“I…was her ex- boyfriend,” I answered. “My name’s Rick.”

“And I’m her brother,” Freddy replied, leaning his hip against the counter.

“Cool. I’m Ariel by the way.”

“Hey, Ariel. How long have you worked here?”

“About a year now. My dad allowed me to be in charge of his bakery during the weekends.”

“You’re Donohue’s daughter?” Freddy asked.

“I am… His adopted daughter to be precise. My afro kind of gives it away that we’re not related.” Ariel chuckled, twirling a curl of her hair that was parted in the middle that was both wild and neatly kempt. “I used to live in New York City before I was adopted, right in the middle Queens. Which part of the city do you live in, Rick?”

“Manhattan. I have a small apartment right above a Chinese restaurant.”

“I miss the city. Small-town life is great too, but there are certain features that only a place like New York City can provide. Like the diverse food, the amazing street art, and the street performers as well.”

“I’m also a street performer.”

“Oh, cool! What do you do?”

“I mostly reenact scenes from shows and movies with my marionettes,” I answered.

“So, you play with puppets is what you’re saying,” Freddy interjected.

“Yeah, you can say that… But it’s much more than that. You have to manipulate the strings in such a way to simulate realistic movements in the marionettes, otherwise they’ll look stiff. And the way they are designed also influences how life-like they are, so I design my own. I have a few videos of a few of my performances online if you want to search for them.”

“I’ll do that right now,” Ariel said as she pulled out her phone.

Someone then called out to Ariel, and she apologized before walking away from the counter once again.

Freddy and I remained silent for a moment, and I had to ask, “So, Freddy, where are you staying at?”

“And why would you want to know that?” Freddy asked, his eyes still glued to his phone.

“Just wondering.”

Grunting, Freddy looked at me and said, “I’m staying at O’Leary’s bed and breakfast. Thought I could help a struggling business after what I heard… Where are you staying at?”

I bit my lower lip. “Just at a friend’s place?”

The twist in Freddy’s face showed that he didn’t believe me, but fortunately he didn’t call me out on my lie and or ask for any additional information.

“Can I ask you a question?” Freddy suddenly asked.

“Sure. Go ahead.”

Putting his phone away, Freddy placed an elbow on the counter and said, “If you could change anything from your past, what would it be?”

That was a strange question to ask, which I thought about for a moment before saying, “Well, if I could change anything, I would’ve stayed in Beckett after breaking up with Beth rather than being a coward and bolting to New York City to avoid the consequences.”

Freddy frowned. “So, you wouldn’t change the day you asked my sister to be your girlfriend instead.”

“That was going to be my first answer…but I think that if I hadn’t dated Beth, I wouldn’t have realized who I really was. It could be possible that I might not have come to terms that I was gay and that I might still be in the closet right now. You can say that she opened my eyes, and helping me see who I really am. I would’ve liked to thank her along with giving her an apology rather than wait five years.”

Freddy was quiet for a moment, and then he asked, “But what do you think of a person who already knew who they were and decided to hide it later?”

“I…I don’t think I have an answer to that question,” I said truthfully.

The coffee brewer started beeping, signaling that the coffee was finished. Ariel then returned and quickly poured the coffee into a to-go cup. After placing a lid, she handed it to Freddy who thanked her.

Freddy opened the door and was about to leave, but then he said, “I’ll check out those videos of yours.”

I didn’t say anything, surprised to hear something friendly coming from Freddy’s lips. Before I could respond, he was already out of the door, leaving me and Ariel who looked at me curiously. I smiled to myself and hoped that things would finally get better from then on.

Copyright © 2019 Superpride; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Perhaps Freddy is warming a bit toward Rick.

Imagine going into a far away small town bakery and running into a former New Yorker who doesn't have to be taught to make pandesal. I think Rpick would've been out of luck if Ariel's dad had been there instead.

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37 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

Well hes not a total dick...

Yes, perhaps Rick's answer showed to Freddy that his sister's former boyfriend isn't who he perceived him as. Hopefully, Freddy continues to loosen up as the wedding approaches.

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Just now, Superpride said:

Yes, perhaps Rick's answer showed to Freddy that his sister's former boyfriend isn't who he perceived him as. Hopefully, Freddy continues to loosen up as the wedding approaches.

Yes I can see by the end of the story one of these guys loosening up for the other😝😝😝

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29 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

Perhaps Freddy is warming a bit toward Rick.

Imagine going into a far away small town bakery and running into a former New Yorker who doesn't have to be taught to make pandesal. I think Rpick would've been out of luck if Ariel's dad had been there instead.

Freddy's stony exterior definitely softened a bit. Also, Rick was very fortunate to come across another New Yorker who knew who to make the Filipino bread rolls. Hopefully, the book club will be impressed.

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1 minute ago, Wesley8890 said:

Yes I can see by the end of the story one of these guys loosening up for the other😝😝😝

Haha! I had the very same thought as I wrote that comment, hoping someone would get the double meaning 😆

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55 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

Well hes not a total dick...

Of course he's not, he's just in love with Rick, always been!

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2 minutes ago, Tonyr said:

Of course he's not, he's just in love with Rick, always been!

There's definitely tension between the two men. Sexual tension maybe?

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I admit I did not see Freddy's torch for Rick until @Tonyr mentioned it in the last chapter comments.  Then things made sense.

I hope Rick's white lie about where he is staying doesn't come back to haunt him.

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5 minutes ago, Brokenbind said:

I admit I did not see Freddy's torch for Rick until @Tonyr mentioned it in the last chapter comments.  Then things made sense.

I hope Rick's white lie about where he is staying doesn't come back to haunt him.

It is known that Freddy's has snooped through Rick's social media when he mentioned how Rick posted pictures of him and Beth together. So, despite them not knowing each other directly since Freddy was already a senior in high school when he and his family moved to Beckett, Freddy was able to see through the mask that Rick put on while online. And it's quite possible that Freddy discovering where Rick is lodging at could create more conflict. At least Rick won't be able to snoop since the room doesn't seem to have anything worth looking at.

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2 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

Technically it's not a little white lie he is staying at a friend's house.

Very true. Beth's the friend. However, his vagueness might have some repercussions regardless.

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11 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

Technically it's not a little white lie he is staying at a friend's house.

Another good point.  I'm not doing very well here am I?  I need coffee to get my brain in gear.  And something nice.  Hmm - pandesal..?

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1 minute ago, Brokenbind said:

Another good point.  I'm not doing very well here am I?  I need coffee to get my brain in gear.  And something nice.  Hmm - pandesal..?

Pandesal is commonly eaten with coffee, so there you go. 😋

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3 hours ago, mikedup said:

Great chapter, I am glad that they at were civil with each other, interesting times ahead

Yes, hopefully this opens a new path for Rick and Freddy to develop some semblance of a friendship, and maybe even more. Thanks for commenting!

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Freddy is wrestling with his own path to awareness and yeah, he likes Rick....probably imagined he was him when he was boinking the butler.

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3 hours ago, FanLit said:

Freddy is wrestling with his own path to awareness and yeah, he likes Rick....probably imagined he was him when he was boinking the butler.

Very true. Freddy may already know who he is in terms of his sexuality, but when it comes to knowing other people like Rick, he definitely needs some reassessment rather than jumping to conclusions.  Thanks again for the comments!

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I think a bakery in a bigger city would be more resistant to just custom baking something they’ve never made before. I don’t remember what it tasted like anymore (after close to forty years), but there was a cake that a Filipino friend said was available from a Daly City bakery – I would have thought that cake would be more of a book club-type treat.

I know there's a small bakery in San José’s Japantown makes a great guava chiffon cake…
;–)

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3 hours ago, droughtquake said:

I think a bakery in a bigger city would be more resistant to just custom baking something they’ve never made before. I don’t remember what it tasted like anymore (after close to forty years), but there was a cake that a Filipino friend said was available from a Daly City bakery – I would have thought that cake would be more of a book club-type treat.

I know there's a small bakery in San José’s Japantown makes a great guava chiffon cake…
;–)

Yeah, Filipino pastries can be very interesting. For example, my mother has been eating a Filipino-style sponge cake called mamon that literally has shredded cheese on top haha. Other pastries are hopia which are similar to moon cakes and shortbread-like polvoron, both coming in a variety of flavors, which I enjoyed ever since I was a kid. There's even Filipino ice cream that also has shredded cheese mixed with an ube flavor, and it actually tastes really good haha. So, I'm not surprised there's a Filipino-style chiffon cake with guava. Thank you very much for sharing!

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It seems the two best men have started on a path of mutual discovery, but just like any new road, it is still 'under construction'.

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On 4/9/2020 at 10:41 AM, Will Hawkins said:

It seems the two best men have started on a path of mutual discovery, but just like any new road, it is still 'under construction'.

Yes, and hopefully any potholes will be filled before any cars of romance come driving through 😉

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hmm Rick design his own puppets ? may he can design one Freddy alike and one Rick alike, and start learning some voodoo,... 😜 

excellent chapter 👍

Edited by Danilo Syrtis
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On 7/24/2020 at 5:37 PM, Danilo Syrtis said:

hmm Rick design his own puppets ? may he can design one Freddy alike and one Rick alike, and start learning some voodoo,... 😜 

excellent chapter 👍

Haha! I haven't thought about it like that before.

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