Do you want to know what it is that I love about New York?
It's the people. And the hustle and bustle. And the fact that the place is alive. Fairly humming. I am sure that there are other cities around the world that are much like it. I just haven't found one yet.
And do you want to know what it is that I hate about New York? Especially around this time of year?
It's the cold. The snow. The Christmas trees. And all those god-damn Christmas Carols!
You can call me a cynic if you like. But that's just me. Christmas just ain't my favorite time of year I'm afraid. And now that its over, and so too is New Years, I get to look forward to everything that the year will bring, and wish that I was some place else. Preferably someplace where the sun is shining. Some place warm.
Some place like this beach I now found myself staring at in the travel agents window, while snow swirled endlessly around me.
"Where the hell is Daydream Island?" I found myself asking the girl behind the counter, just a few moments later.
She smiled sweetly at me and said, "It's in Australia, sir."
Picking up a brochure, I quickly thumbed through it. White sands. Blue seas. Palm trees waving in the breeze. It looked and sounded just perfect.
I turned and looked out the store window, at the people huddled up against the cold. At the swirling snow. The icy streets.
"Yeah, it would be nice at this time of year, wouldnt it?" I said, more to myself than to anyone else I think.
The girl behind the counter said, "Yes, it would," which quickly snapped me out of my daydream.
I left the travel agency, with the brochure lodged firmly in my jacket pocket, and once more headed in the direction of my apartment. It wasnt far to walk on an ordinary day, but in this weather, with snow still falling steadily, it became a treacherous obstacle course of people and traffic and ice. But as I made my way along the street, my mind kept flitting to the image of that sun-drenched beach, half a world away.
And it's not like I couldn't afford to go there. Or anywhere for that matter. After the success of my debut novel and the mega-bucks deal I had signed for the film rights, I suddenly had a freedom that I had never before experienced. But as for Daydream Island, it will probably have to remain just that, for the moment at least. It's just that there was something coming up that I needed to be here for, in New York.
Maybe afterwards. Yeah. That would be nice.
As always, I attracted a few stares on my walk home, as people I didnt know thought that they recognized me. I always enjoyed watching their faces. First there was the glimmer of recognition when they realized that they knew my face from somewhere. Was I an old friend? Someone from their apartment building? Someone from down the street?
Then there was the uncertainty, which you could see wash over them as they struggled to think of where it was that they knew me from. Then that was usually followed by either a complete dismissal, often accompanied by a shrug of their shoulders as they realized they didnt know me after all, or an open-mouthed stare as the penny dropped.
Sometimes it was fun. Sometimes it became a problem, but not often. I didnt usually get bothered by anyone, but occasionally I would be asked for an autograph, or on real bad days I might be taunted by some homophobe redneck.
It didnt worry me too much nowadays. I suppose it came with the territory. You know fame and fortune and all that!
Anyway, it was while I was watching one face that another came zooming by. One that I knew all too well. It was the face of a friend of mine and it was plastered on the side of a bus, smiling out at everyone. I stopped and stared as I watched the bus disappear down the street, allowing myself a wry smile only when it finally turned a corner.
My dream. My vision. It was now a reality, and in just a few short days we would be walking down the red carpet at the World Premiere of "A Time For Change."
As I covered the few remaining blocks to my apartment, I cast my mind back almost six months to that last night of filming in Hollywood, and what that night had brought me.
Jonathan and I had both played hooky from the traditional post-wrap party, only to be busted by some over-zealous photographer on the steps of my favorite little Italian restaurant, with my hand resting on his shoulder as we gazed deep into each others eyes at one in the morning.
Even I had to admit it was a great photo. Hell, I even have a framed copy of it. I also have to admit however, that when it appeared in the following afternoons newspapers, we all had a different opinion of it then.
"A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN" was what one headline had read. Another was "WRITER AND STAR HAVE A GAY OLD TIME." But I have to admit that my own personal favorite was "JONATHAN SAYS ITS TIME FOR A CHANGE."
Anybody who knew us, knew us to be friends and that was it. He was even engaged for Christ-sake, not that that matters in this day and age I dont suppose. Anyway, Jonathan was great. He said hed been through all that sort of shit before and it didnt bother him much any more.
All I could think about was how much damage I had done to his career.
Anyway, we both laughed it off eventually and the studio got some free publicity out of it. Things quickly died down after that, although not before I had gone and written myself off in this little gay bar I had found called OReillys, thinking that the world was about to end for one, or both, of us.
And that was where I met Paul. He had blonde hair and the deepest blue eyes that you have ever seen.
I had actually met him the night that Jonathan and I had been snapped, but I have to say that when I went back there the following night, intent on doing my liver some serious damage, I was pleased that he was working.
Of that particular night I actually cant remember too much, except that I know Paul helped me get home. Oh, and he ended up staying the night. And the next night. Then a few days later he flew back to New York City with me.
Now that was a turn-up for the books! And hes still here.
Things turned out all right after all.
When I reached the apartment building I stood under the cover of the front awning and brushed the snow from my coat, said "Good afternoon," to James, our daytime doorman, then walked into the marbled foyer.
It wasnt what you would call a grand place, well, not by modern standards anyway, but in the two years since I had moved into it, it had truly become home. I rode the elevator up to our floor, the seventeenth floor, Apartment 1703, where I knew that Paul would be waiting for me, and let myself in.
"Im back," I called out to him, to which he stuck his head around the doorway at the end of the hall and gave me a wave and flashed that familiar cheeky smile that I was beginning to love.
We had plans for the evening. There was a new show opening on Broadway and thanks to my new found celebrity status, I had managed to procure a couple of good seats. This was something special that I had been promising Paul ever since he had arrived and we had both been looking forward to it for several weeks now.
"Anything exciting happen?" he asked as he came out and greeted me with a hug.
"Nah, not really," I replied. "I stopped by a travel agent though!"
I fished into a pocket and pulled out the brochure and handed it to him.
"Australia? Cool," he replied.
"I thought you might like it," I said as I hung my coat in the closet, then walked towards the kitchen, with the intention of pouring myself a mug of coffee, something strong, hot and black to restore some warmth to my bones. "Anyone call?"
"Yeah," he casually answered, whilst thumbing through the brochure. "Someone from the studio wanting to confirm that you were going to the premiere. Something about seating arrangements."
"What did you tell them?"
"To go and get fucked. You wouldnt be going!" he answered.
My head snapped suddenly towards him and I found myself staring once more at his radiant smile.
"I thought that might get your attention," he said, grinning. "They just wanted to know how many seats you would need."
"Oh," I replied. "How many did you tell them?"
"I, err, didnt. Theyre going to call you back."
I looked at him for a moment, noticing what I thought was uncertainty in his eyes. Or maybe it was fear, even. Im not sure which. But suddenly I felt as if I needed to hold him close to me.
He was standing there staring at me, as if he were waiting for me to do something, and so I started to walk towards him. Just as I did however, the telephone rang right beside me and instinctively I reached out and picked it up.
"Hello," I said, without taking my eyes off Paul.
"Hi Dave, its Martin, from the studio. I called earlier but you were out," the irritatingly squeaky voice on the other end of the line said to me.
Now if there was one thing in the world that really did piss me off it was when some junior office assistant, whom I had never even met, started talking to me as if he were my new best friend.
"Martin who?" I asked, rather testily.
"M-Martin errr C-Callaghan, Mr. Baxter," he stammered, instantly realizing his place in the scheme of things. "Im Mr. Richardss assistant, from New Edge Studios."
"Oh," I replied.
"I, ummm, was just calling to confirm numbers for the premiere on Friday night," he continued.
"I see. How many seats do you think Ill need?" I asked him.
"Errrr I dont know. Just the one I suppose?"
"No. Wrong answer," I said bluntly.
I dont know why, but I was starting to enjoy making this guy squirm. I suppose it was something to do with the fact that the studio had given me so much trouble when we were going through the motions of putting the movie deal together. When I held out, wanting to have my vision made the way it was originally intended, they had tried every trick in the book to screw me.
In the end I won, of course, but it was something I would never forget, even though it seemed so long ago now.
Then I remembered the kid on the other end of the line stuttering and stammering, not knowing what he should say next, and I realized that it wasnt his fault. Hell, Id never even met the guy. So I reckoned that I had better back off a little.
"Listen kid," I said to him. "Just tell your boss that Ill need three seats, OK. One for me, one for my assistant, and one for my date."
I winked at Paul, who was still staring at me with uncertainty.
"Err all right then. Ill pass that along. Thank you," he answered, and then hung-up, obviously pleased to be rid of me.
"Your date?" Paul asked me, his eyebrows raised in curiosity.
"Yeah," I answered. "Ive invited my mother along. She was nagging me about it when she called the other day. Are you O.K. with being known as my assistant? I mean weve never really discussed exactly our relationship, have we? Nor have we been very public about it for that matter. Weve just "
"Existed?" Paul asked.
"No Paul. Weve done more that just exist," I said, as I walked over to him and put my arm around his waist. "Its just that Ive never really said to you, or to anyone else for that matter, that you were more than just a friend."
Suddenly he pulled away from me and went to the window, staring out into the murky afternoon.
"Whats wrong?" I asked him.
"Do you think you ever will? You know, tell the world what I mean to you. Hell, will you ever tell ME what I really mean to you? Am I your partner? Am I your lover? Or will I always just be your assistant?"
I didnt know what to say to that. I just stared at him, with my mouth open.
When I didnt answer, Paul turned around and glared at me, the fear in his eyes quickly being replaced by anger.
"I err ," I started to say. It was my turn to stutter and stammer now.
Paul opened his mouth as if to say something, then shut it again, then turned and walked away.
I listened as his footsteps grew softer as he disappeared down the hall. Then I heard the door slam, and once more I was alone.
I didnt enjoy the opening night on Broadway as much as I had thought I would. Well, at least the first half of the night anyway.
Paul eventually came home to the apartment, as I knew he would, and we went out just as we had intended, but suddenly, with every move I made, I was conscious of what people would be thinking of me. Or of us.
I found myself watching his every move, and questioning my every move. To the point where it was actually driving me to distraction. Just what exactly was Paul to me? What were my real feelings toward him? For the first time that I could recall, it actually worried me.
That I cared about him, that went without saying. But should it? And did he know that? And why then, couldnt I say it?
During the intermission we chatted with people we knew, or who apparently knew us, but I couldnt concentrate on their small talk, I was too busy being consumed by my own worries. And just then two things happened. It was a feeling like riding the crest of a wave, only to then be smashed onto a rocky shore. Or like being kissed, while being punched in the stomach at the same time.
Firstly, I spotted Jonathan and Charlotte across the crowded foyer. They were smiling and looking young and beautiful, and they were heading toward us, hand in hand.
Secondly, it so happened that just at that moment, as I watched the two young lovers walking toward us, I realized what my problem was.
I still had feelings for someone else.
"You said you would call," Jonathan said, as he thrust his outstretched hand toward me.
"I did try," I answered, shaking his hand. "But you were always away filming somewhere."
"You know Charlotte dont you?" he asked, still grinning at me.
"Yes," I answered, and leant forward and kissed the offered cheek. "Its good to see you both again."
Charlotte was gorgeous. Even I had to admit that. I had met her just once before tonight, it had been while we were in Hollywood completing the movie and she had flown in for a couple of days to visit Jonathan.
"So, what are you doing here?" I asked.
"Same thing you are I suppose. And weve got the premiere on Friday night, dont forget? So I had to come back to town anyway."
"How could I forget that? Do you remember Paul?" I asked Jonathan, gently placing my hand in the small of Pauls back and re-introducing them.
Jonathan shook his hand, then looked at him for a long moment before his eyes lit up.
"The bar?" he asked.
Paul nodded and grinned.
"God, that seems like so long ago now," Jonathan added. "That was a great night, wasnt it?"
"It sure was," I replied. "Although we didnt exactly think so the next day."
Jonathan laughed. "You were the only one who was panicking about that whole deal. It didnt bother me too much, Ive seen it all before, but hey, the studio loved it."
"I still cringe when I think of it. But I have to admit, some good did come of it," I said, as I placed my arm around Pauls shoulders.
"And so it seems," Jonathan replied with a grin.
"Have you seen the finished product yet?" I asked him, referring to the final cut of the film.
He nodded, but with a mischievous glint in his eye.
"How about you?" he asked.
"Yeah, they flew us out about a month ago for a screening with the director and all the studio heads."
"And do you approve?"
"It was everything it was meant to be," I answered. "Its perfect."
"Im glad you liked it. It was important that we got it right. Your vision man, we had to get that right."
"And you did. The part was written for you and you pulled it off."
We all chatted for a few minutes more, before we heard the distant sounds of the orchestra warming up again and noticed people starting to drift back into the theatre.
"So, what are you guys doing after the show? Were hitting the town. Would you like to join us?" Jonathan asked us.
I looked at Paul, who simply shrugged and gave me the old whatever you want to do look.
"Wed love to," I answered.
"Good," Jonathan replied, beaming. "Meet you here after the show then."
We all returned to our seats after that and I quickly looked around the theatre, trying to spot where Jonathan and Charlotte were seated, eventually finding them in a private box almost opposite where Paul and I were sitting. Jonathan noticed me and waved. I waved back.
Then the lights went dim and the second act started.
Every now and then through the second act, I looked across at Jonathan, seeing his youthful features illuminated in the pale light of the theatre. I thought I caught him looking at me on a couple of occasions, only to quickly glance back towards the stage.
Was that my imagination? Or was it just wishful thinking? Who knows, but for the remainder of the evening I found myself thinking thoughts that I had thought I had put behind me quite some months ago.
And now we were going out on the town with them after the show.
I didnt know if that was wise or not, with these feelings gurgling away inside me once more, but there was no way that I was NOT going to go.
Despite my fears, the four of us enjoyed our night out after the show. Charlotte proved to be a total charmer and dazzled us all. Paul seemed to be in awe of Jonathan, although I did catch him looking warily at me on a couple of occasions. And Jonathan and I pretty much picked up where we left off, as firm friends.
At two a.m. we bid our friends farewell on the steps of the last nightclub that we had dragged ourselves into and caught a cab back to our apartment, where Paul and I soon collapsed into our bed with barely a word being spoken between us.
Over the next few days I made every effort to talk to Paul as often as I could and show him that I did care about him and thankfully our relationship returned to what was basically normal. All the while though, I had these nagging doubts still in the back of my mind, eating away at me as the week wore on, leaving me feeling as if I was slowly being driven crazy.
I did my best to put these to the back of my mind, but every time the movie was mentioned or I saw Jonathans smiling face on the television, or on the side of a bus or in a newspaper during what turned out to be a huge promotional build up to the premiere, they came back to nag me again. And again. And again. While I constantly found myself wondering if what Paul and I had was the real thing, or if he was just another passing phase in my life.
Then, before we knew it, it was Friday evening and there was a limousine waiting at the front of our apartment building.
I was standing by the door, dressed up in a tuxedo and feeling totally stressed out at the thought of walking down that red carpet with thousands of people looking on and with cameras flashing.
"Are you ready yet?" I called out to Paul, and just then he appeared in the hallway, wearing a tuxedo and looking like a million dollars.
He stood there and held his arms out in that age old how do I look? pose.
All I could say to him was, "Wow. You look fantastic."
He walked towards me, grinning, then when he reached me he stopped and straightened my bow tie and said, "You dont look too bad yourself."
I leaned across and gave him a quick kiss.
"What was that for?" he asked.
"Do I need a reason?" I answered, then brushed a piece of fluff off his shoulder and opened the door for him.
After the build up that the city had seen throughout the week, which to me, having never been involved in anything like that beforehand, had been nothing short of amazing, I was glad that we were finally heading to the theatre and it would all be over in a few short hours.
As we got closer to the theatre the traffic grew heavier and I started growing more and more nervous. Paul placed his hand on mine, which I found was trembling.
"Relax," he whispered.
I looked into his eyes and saw nothing but kindness in them. Then immediately felt guilty about the doubts that I had been, and still was, having about our relationship.
"Its going to be fine," he said to me, trying to reassure me, squeezing my hand as he did so.
"I wish that I shared you confidence," I replied.
The whole event was orchestrated with the precision of a military operation. The car was stopped and my door was opened, and as I stepped out into the evening, I was blinded by a wall of photographers with cameras flashing.
All of a sudden I felt like Hugh Grant in one of those very last scenes in that movie Notting Hill, where he nervously stepped out with Julia Roberts at the premiere of her new movie.
I was so glad that my mother had called to say she had come down with the flu and couldnt make it. If she had of stepped out into this she would have no doubt had a heart attack.
I took a few steps and then looked behind me and found that Paul was there, looking about as nervous and apprehensive as I felt. I so wanted to reach out and hold onto his hand. To hold him and have him hold me, but I knew I couldnt do that. Not just now anyway.
As we made our way along the red carpet, there were people cheering, people screaming, people jostling to get a look at all the stars and important people, people thrusting autograph books under our noses.
"Just keep smiling. Keep walking. And wave every now and then," I heard someone say behind me. I turned around and saw it was Jonathan, walking hand in hand with Charlotte. Finally, someone I knew.
"You do this often?" I asked him when we finally reached the relative safety of theatre.
"Hehe. Yeah. Often enough," he answered.
I just shook my head and said, "I dont know how your nerves can stand it."
"Like I said, you get used to it after a while. The price of fame, remember?"
I managed a grin for him.
Paul stayed right by my side and we were all soon introduced to the invited dignitaries, such as the Mayor and various other politicians, and shortly afterwards were shown to our seats, which proved to be right behind Jonathan and Charlotte.
There were some brief speeches, then the house lights dimmed, then my vision sprang to life on the silver screen in front of us all. For two hours we sat, enthralled by what my story had become. We laughed, we cried, we rejoiced with the characters whose lives I had become so familiar with over the past few years, and when it was over the applause from the crowd was nothing short of being deafening.
Jonathan turned to me and held out his hand, which I gladly shook.
"You were brilliant," I said to him.
"It was your story that was brilliant, Dave. If it wasnt for the story, there wouldnt have been a movie. Just you remember that. These studio assholes will take all the credit, just you watch them, but its the story man, thats where it all starts! Without the story, the rest of us are just nobodys."
Somewhere to my right a camera flashed and I thought, "Oh, no. Not again."
Someone behind me slapped me on the back. People were jostling with one another, trying to get close to us all.
I heard someone say something about Oscar. It didnt register at first, but then it dawned on me that they were talking about THE Oscars.
After that everything was a blur. We were swept up in the excitement of the moment and carried away with the crowds. At some stage, several hours later, I found myself alone on a balcony, leaning across the railing and holding a glass in my hands and just breathing in the cold night air and looking out at the city lights.
Behind me the crowd partied on into the night, I could hear the muffled noise from the party coming through the closed glass doors. Jonathan was somewhere in there. So too were Charlotte and Paul, along with anyone else who had anything to do with the movie and the evening.
To be truthful, I was just glad to have a few minutes alone. But then I heard one of the doors open behind me, letting the noise of the party spill out onto the balcony and interrupt my peace and quiet.
I turned around and leant back on the railing to see who it was and found Jonathan standing there, a glass in his hand and looking as appealing as ever.
"Need some company?" he asked. "Im sick of all the pretentious crap thats being shoveled about in there."
I smiled at him. "I got sick of that about an hour ago. Thats why I came out here to where it was quiet. To where I could just sit back and relax."
He came over and propped himself against the railing beside me and together we watched the throng of people mill about inside the room. I felt Jonathans arm brush against mine, sending a tingling sensation through me. I wondered if he felt the same thing.
"Shit," I thought to myself. "I cant let anything happen here."
Up until now I had managed to keep my feelings for Jonathan in check, but I doubted if I would be able to continue to do that whenever I was near him. Sooner or later I would slip up and embarrass myself, just as I had told him I would when we had first met on another balcony quite a few months beforehand.
Nervously, I glanced across at him and saw him take a sip from his glass. He was gazing into the room, his thoughts obviously elsewhere.
"Look at them," he said. "Studio executives, wannabe executives and hangers on, strutting around as if they were the ones who were the real heroes tonight."
"Since when did you become New Yorks chief cynic?" I asked him.
He looked across at me and grinned.
"It sort of rubs off on you after a while. Just remember that will you?"
"Yeah, thats one lesson thats stowed safely away in here," I replied, tapping my temple with my fingers as I did so.
"They just dont get it do they?"
"Whats that?" I asked.
"Well, they might have the money to be able to put projects like these together, but they dont have a talented bone in their bodies. Its people like you who are the real stars, I believe. Then its up to people like me, to try and portray to the audience what you say, with quite a bit of help from the directors, of course."
I watched as he took another sip from his glass.
"You and Paul seem to be doing alright?" he commented.
"Yeah. I think we are. We have our ups and downs, but basically were doing O.K.," I answered.
"Hes a very lucky guy," Jonathan replied.
I glanced at Jonathan, who gave me a wink, and I was about to ask him why he thought so, but just then both Paul and Charlotte came out onto the balcony, arm in arm, and joined us.
"So there you pair are?" Charlotte said, as she wrapped her arms around her fiancé and kissed him on the cheek, obviously half-tipsy from whatever it was she had been drinking.
Paul leant against the railing beside me and I placed my arm around his shoulder. It felt comforting, yet with Jonathans words still ringing in my ears I couldnt help but feel slightly guilty.
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