Most of their friends turned up to their celebratory drinks and were all full of excitement and congratulations for Justin and Craig.
Edward & Romel were first to arrive, with Juanito. Andy and Dean came with Thomas, because Jared was working. When Raj arrived he gave all his friends a hug but it was obvious he did not have one to share with Juanito. As usual Jeremy and Brett were the latecomers.
“Is this all that is expected?” Edward asked.
“I think so.” replied Justin
“Then, now that everyone has a drink in hand... Listen up ladies...were here tonight to celebrate the expansion of Catering with Benefits into the restaurant business. Please toast Craig and Justin, our friends with benefits.” He said as he winked at the group.
“Craig and Justin.” The group echoed Edward’s words and Thomas added “Let’s get down to some serious drinking and make our friends rich.”
“Ah thanks for the sentiment Thomas, but there’s three things wrong with that. Firstly we haven’t taken over yet, secondly we are shouting the drinks tonight and thirdly, we haven’t bought the bar, only the restaurant.”
“So what happens with the bar?” asked Andy.
“The owner will continue to run it until he finds a buyer.”
“How much does he want for it?”
“I don’t know exactly, but my Dad’s got the figures in his office, why?”
“I have a little money set aside that’s looking for a good investment and I know a very good barman who I believe is ready to upgrade to bar manager.”
“You mean Dean?” asked Justin.
“What, me?” asked Dean
“Why not.” replied Andy, “I have confidence in you and I’ve always wanted to have my own private bar attendant.”
When Craig noticed Dean withdraw a little and look somewhat shocked he said “Are you feeling ok Dean? You look a bit pale.”
“Um...me...yeah ok.” he replied slowly.
Craig took control of the situation by asking “Are you diabetic or have low blood pressure history?”
“No, I’m just a bit overcome by Andy’s offer. Nobody’s done anything like that for me before.”
“Sorry mate, I should have discussed it with you first. I thought you’d be thrilled.”
“I am, that’s just the point. I’m beyond thrilled.”
“Well, get the rest of that scotch inta ya and we’ll squeeze more information out of these two businessmen.”
Craig gave Andy and Dean, Prentice’s contact details. He also advised them to talk to his father, who had the financial information about the bar.
Justin wanted to take them all on a tour of the building, but Craig suggested they ask the duty manager, Warwick to do that. He was happy to do so, but to avoid annoying the restaurant patrons by looking like a group of tourists he took them in two groups, thirty minutes apart.
While the first group were on their tour, Dean and Andy were busy discussing possible plans for the bar. That left Romel and Raj to chat with each other. Romel opened the conversation with “Raj, we haven’t had a chance to talk since your breakup with Juanito. I noticed how cool you were towards him when you arrived tonight, so I guess you’re still hurting.”
“I’m sorry, was it that obvious?”
“No need to be sorry, if it’s because he’s my cousin. If you’re hurting that matters to me more than Juanito being a relative.”
“Thanks Romel, you have always been an understanding and supportive friend. I value that. But it can become complicated when...well as they say, blood’s thicker than water.”
“Maybe so, but you are my friend, which means I have chosen you, family you don’t choose. You just have to take them as they come.”
“You are right about it still hurting. I know I was the one to end the relationship. I felt I had to under the circumstances, but I do miss him. You know we had a really good time together in that month while I was looking after the neighbour’s house. I learned to deal with his past as a sex worker, and even admired him for choosing to give it up. But when he went back to it, without telling me, I couldn’t cope with that. I’m not sure if it was the going back to sex work or keeping it a secret. If he had talked it over with me, especially as it was only with one client, then I might have learned to deal with it.”
“Isn’t it often the way with relationships, the secrets cause the problems. Edward and I have been lucky that way.”
“Is it luck or honesty that’s important, Romel?”
“I like to think honesty but what I mean is we have been lucky in that we have not encountered situations where we needed to keep secrets.”
“You two do seem to have a solid relationship. Despite age, race and cultural differences you two have made it work so well. I envy that.”
“Thank you Raj, you are a keen observer of human relationships and will make someone very happy. I hope it is soon.”
“I’m not so sure. You know, I once had eyes for Tristan, but got nowhere with that. I don’t think he even noticed my attentions. So when soon after, Juanito showed an interest in me, I was smitten. We were similar age and both Asian, so I thought we had a better chance of making it work. I just didn’t see the other side of his personality till later. There was also the issue of him pretending our sex sessions were professional engagements.”
“What do you mean?”
“He would say things like ‘how do you like it Sir’ or ‘leave the money on the table’. I know now it was meant to be either a joke or role play, but at the time it made me feel very uncomfortable, especially as he was a sex worker.”
“I didn’t know about that, I can see how that would be off-putting.”
“I just wanted him to care for me, maybe even say he loved me. The sex was great but when he’d ask me afterwards how it was, it seemed like he just needed reassurance that I was a satisfied customer.”
“I think Juanito has made changes in his life recently. Edward and I have been very straight forward with him and demanded he mend his ways if he wants to succeed, and so far he has kept his promise. He’s now back studying as well as working for Craig and Justin. He seems to be settling down very well. Maybe the next thing he might be looking for is a partner who understands his past and is willing to accept him on that basis.”
“Are you touting for him Romel?”
“No, that’s usually Edward’s job to be matchmaker. I want both of you to be happy, whether that is together, or with others.”
“I’ll give your advice some consideration.”
“It wasn’t meant to be advice, just an observation. But, if I can help in anyway, just ask.” concluded Romel.
“Thanks Romel, you’ve made me feel a bit better. Hey, looks like the tour group is returning.”
“Edward looks happy. I wonder what he has discovered.”
“What makes you think he has discovered something?”
“That’s one of the benefits of a close relationship; you learn to read your partner’s signals and their moods.”
“See, I would have thought he was just smiling at something funny.”
“You’ll learn how it works when you’re in a good relationship.”
When Edward returned he was all excited about the function room. Speaking to Craig and Justin, he said “You guys are going to be able to have weddings here without doing off site catering. You know most people don’t use churches anymore for weddings. Now there are licensed wedding celebrants they do marriages anywhere, and most churches won’t do gay weddings anyway. You guys are certainly in the right place for gay weddings.”
“He’s right” added Justin “remember how wonderful it was to be at Max and Charles’ wedding and they had a marriage celebrant.”
“I wonder how you get a marriage celebrant’s licence?” asked Edward.
“I don’t know.” replied Craig, “There must be info online. Why, are you interested?”
“It’s a thought.”
Andy took Dean home to his place that night. They were both so excited about Andy’s proposal, sleep was the last thing on their minds so Andy made a big pot of coffee and they sat down with paper and pen to do some serious planning.
“Andy, I heard the boys talking about their bank loan, will we have to do that? I’ve not had any experience at getting loans. Man, that’s some really scary stuff.”
“I hope not. Until we talk to Craig’s father we don’t know how much they want for the bar. And I don’t really know what a fair figure is; I’ll have to make some enquiries about that. However, if it’s more than I have in savings then I wouldn’t want to proceed.”
“So we may not get the bar after all?”
“I’m not saying that. I have a substantial amount put aside and if it costs more than that, then it’s probably overpriced.”
“Andy...I don’t wish to pry...you have made a very generous offer to me tonight, but may I ask how you come to have so much in savings?”
“Of course you can ask, it’s no secret. Until I came to live here with Jared, I had not paid rent for twelve years. Not since I moved into Jonathan’s place at Potts Point. Not only did I live rent free, but he paid all household expenses including food and drink. He was also very generous and bought me a lot of clothes and other person items. All this time I was earning a good wage at the jewellery studio. I didn’t live a high lifestyle or go on expensive holidays. I didn’t even buy a car. I just saved my money and now I have something worthwhile to spend it on.”
Dean went all silent again, so Andy asked “Are you having second thoughts about managing the bar?”
“No, I’m really looking forward to it.” he replied, then looked at Andy through misty eyes and added “It’s just...that I’m...I can’t believe you’d spend your life savings on me.”
“Hey, I’m doing this for both of us. I’m not spending it on you; I’m making an investment in a business.....and in you. You’re a damn good bar operator and I’m lucky enough to have the capital, so between us we will make this work for us.”
“Thanks Andy, how can I be so lucky to find in one man, a friend, a lover an investor and the love of my life..... Oh shit I said it.” and looked down.
“Dean... Dean...look at me.” Dean raised his eyes slowly and heard Andy say “I love you Dean...There, now I’ve said it too, so it’s official, we’re in love.”
“Shouldn’t we have something more than coffee to celebrate this moment?” asked Dean.
“As romantic as that may be, we have to do a lot of planning if we’re going to be business partners.”
“So where do we start?”
“How about a name for the bar?
“Andy and Dean’s, no. Andeans?”
“I think that’s the name of a mountain somewhere.”
“Fuck! this is harder than I thought. How about....”
They put aside the task of naming the bar and discussed cash flow and staffing matters before agreeing there was not much more they could do until the talked to Craig’s father and got all the financial info about the bar.
“Ok, that’s all the business we can do tonight, so how about that drink now?” suggested Dean.
“I had something else in mind to celebrate.”
“Does it involve consumption of fluids of a non-alcoholic kind?”
“Most definitely it does.”
“Shall you serve first or will I?”
“We could do it simultaneously.”
Over the following week Craig and Justin secured their bank loan, finalised the contracts and took over the restaurant two weeks later. They made no initial changes at all to staffing or the menu, much to Justin’s annoyance.
“But can’t I at least ask him to drop the phony French accent?”
“Ok, it is a bit patronising, but don’t be rude about it, just suggest it politely.”
“Francois, or whatever your name is I need you to do something for me.”
“Yes, Mr Jhustin.”
“The accent, we would like you to drop that, we don’t like it and it seems too much.”
“But Mr Jhustin it is my real accent. I’m sorry if you don’t like it.”
“How come you have a French accent?”
“It’s very simple, Je suis francais.”
“Justin, he’s trying to tell you he’s French.” answered Craig.
“Oh pull the other leg Frankie.”
“I don’t understand Mr Jhustin. I didn’t touch your leg.”
“Francois, Justin does not believe you.”
“But it is true, I can show you my passepor.”
“He means passport Justin.”
“Oh, then how long have you been here?”
“About a year and a half, I have only three month left now before my work visa expires.”
“Well, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding Francois, but does that mean you’ll be leaving us in three months.”
“Qui, oh I mean yes.”
“I understood that one. That is good then.”
“Good that I am leaving?”
“Yes...no...I mean it is good that you will go home you must miss being away from home.”
“As you say Mr Jhustin.”
When Francois left the office Justin said “Oh fuck, I messed that one up, didn’t I?”
“Yes you certainly did, but it’s all part of the learning process. He’ll get over it, maybe even have a laugh, at your expense.”
“I’m not sure I will though. I feel a right shit.” Craig did not reply. “Should I take your silence as you agreeing with me?” Craig just shrugged his shoulders.
“Maybe I should leave telling Charlie to change the menu up to you.”
“I think so.”
When Craig discussed the menu with Charlie he replied “Oh thank god for that. I really don’t like this French cooking. Sure I can do it, but it’s not my preference.”
“Oh that’s not fair. I get to look like a right dickhead when I talk to the staff about changes and you get to look like a saint.” said Justin
Charlie looked bemused. “Justin had a little misunderstanding when he told Francois to drop his accent.”
Charlie burst into laughter and when he recovered said “You should have asked me first, I could have told you that. Before you bought this place I told you I was in your corner, so use me.”
“Thanks Charlie.” said Justin “I’m gonna need all the help I can get learning this management stuff.”
“So, what did you have in mind for the menu?” asked Charlie.
“I know this expression is a bit overused and difficult to define but I would like modern Australian.”
“I know what you mean and I can work with that. How about I come up with some suggestions and we look at them next week.”
“I know this cooking thing is between you two as the experts.” said Justin “But can I make a suggestion.”
“Of course.” replied Craig.
“This might sound strange coming from me about the French menu, but I was thinking if you change the menu suddenly we might lose our regular customers before we get new ones that like the new menu.”
“Yes, go on.” Charlie asked with interest.
“If you just introduce the new dishes one at a time and delete the French stuff one at a time, then...”
Charlie interrupted “That’s brilliant. We slowly change our clients’ tastes from the old menu to the new. You’ve got a good partner here Craig.”
“Thank you Charlie. The scales are slowly tilting from brawn to brain.” Charlie, again looked confused, so Craig said “It’s a private joke.”
Two weeks later Andy paid cash for the bar, signed a lease on the premises, had the liquor licence transferred, installed Dean as manager and named the bar simply “Dean’s”
Next Chapter - The Bitch is back. - Is there a doctor in the house? - Brett and Jeremy are....well... they ‘re just the usual Brett and Jeremy.