When I awoke the next morning, it was in a room so bright and cheery with its’ lemon and white colour scheme and arranged flowers, that it almost made me want to puke.
Sunlight streamed in through the open French doors that led out onto the balcony, which only compounded my feelings of nausea, but what topped it all off for me was the little wren which was sitting on the balcony railing singing happily away to itself, oblivious to the incessant pounding that was going on inside my head.
I lay there just looking around me at everything in the room, thinking that Charlotte had definitely had her way with this one. All things considered though, she actually hadn’t done a bad job on it.
To me, this whole scene looked, and sounded, much like a scene from one of those very old, very homey sort of black and white movies that were made in the nineteen fifties. You know? All apple pie and homespun family values, where nobody would say anything worse than ‘darn it!’
They’d certainly get a shock if I opened my mouth now and said what I was thinking!
I allowed myself a wry smile at this thought, with my mind suddenly filled with this image of something like that movie that Jim Carry did. You know it! Shit, what was it called?
Oh yeah. The Truman Show!
Then I began to wonder if this little scenario that I now found myself in wasn’t all some big set up, and somewhere out there some family, in black and white of course, was sitting in their living room and watching me! Dad would be wearing his best business suit and have his hair all slicked back with Brylcream. Mom would be in her favourite red and white checked apron, with an apple pie in the oven, and have her hair in a perfect perm. Little Johnny would have his hair slicked back, just like dads, while little Mary, well, she would have dimples and these cute little blonde pony-tails.
Yeah. It all sounds just so peachy. Right up until we come back after the add break and fade in onto the bedroom scene.
As the camera slowly pans in, zooming straight past my little warbling wren on the balcony rail, straight through the open doors, it then stops and hovers at the foot of the four-poster bed, while sugary-sweet melodies are playing in the background.
You can see that there are two people there, cuddled up to each other. First one would roll over and face the camera, still sleeping. Yeah, you can see that that is me.
Then the other would roll over. That would be Paul.
Mom and dad in the living room would both gasp at the same time, with Mom’s hand going up to cover her mouth in horror.
“Martha! There’s two men in that bed!” Dad would say, totally aghast that such filth could be shown on television.
“Yes, I can see that dear!” Mom would reply.
I think that’s when the kids would probably get sent straight to bed, while dad would immediately change channels on the old General Electric television set and strongly consider calling the television station to express his disgust!
Mom, both disgusted and embarrassed would leave the room immediately, sounding flustered as she says that she needs to check on the apple pie.
What mom didn’t know though, was that just after she went back to the kitchen, dad got up from his comfy chair, turned down the volume on the television and switched it back over to check out me and Paul!!!
Yeah, that would be a laugh.
Quick! Someone call J. Edgar Hoover! Or Senator McCarthy! Or someone!
Jesus, the things that go through your mind at ungodly hours of the morning, when your brain still ain’t quite functioning yet!
I threw back the quilt and sat up, swinging my legs over the edge of the four-post bed and running my hands through my short, though untidy hair.
That quickly solved my first problem, as my movement sent my little warbling friend scurrying for cover, but it didn’t do anything for my second problem, which was this god-almighty headache I had.
Just what were we all drinking last night?
Paul was nowhere to be found, so I got to my feet and staggered into the ensuite wearing only my boxer shorts, found the bottle of heavy duty Aspirin and quickly washed down a couple of tablets.
A quick check under my armpits told me that I needed a shower, so I stripped off and turned on the tap, stepping under some delightfully hot water which rather quickly helped wash away some of my troubles.
When I had finished, I stepped out and pulled a clean, lemon scented towel from the rack (more fucking lemon!) and proceeded to dry myself, with the commotion in my head now down to little more than a dull roar by the time I had finished.
Isn’t it marvellous how a shower and a change of clean clothes can make all the difference? By the time I started down the stairs I was feeling a little more like my old self, but I still hadn’t actually bumped into anyone yet.
I could hear some muffled noises coming from the rear of the house and I could smell something cooking, so I followed my senses and headed for the kitchen and pushed open the swinging door.
They were all there, seated at the rather large, old-fashioned kitchen table, Jonathon and Charlotte, Joel and Sasha, and Paul of course. There was also someone else, who I hadn’t officially met yet, but knew enough about her from the photographs I had seen and from what everyone had told me about her.
For a moment I thought it was the woman that had just stepped out of my nineteen-fifties fantasy… complete with apron and perfectly placed hair. I glanced quickly around the room, half expecting to see a camera somewhere, but thankfully found there was none.
It was Joel who saw me first, welcoming me by saying cheerfully, “Geez, look what the cat’s dragged in!”
All heads turned my way, and Paul got up and came over to me, giving me a quick hug and a kiss, while everyone else chorused me with a warm “Good Morning Dave.”
“Good morning sleepy head,” Paul said to me.
He looked up at me with those beautiful blue eyes of his, which really seemed to be sparkling this morning, and said, rather excitedly, “Of course it is. But before you can enjoy it, there’s someone you have to meet.”
He then proceeded to drag me towards the woman who was standing by the stove, holding a skillet with sizzling bacon and eggs in it, in one hand and an egg lifter in the other.
She was younger than I had imagined her to be. And she was much more beautiful than I had imagined her to be as well. She had an almost regal presence about her. An almost indefinable quality that I am certain would have had men swooning after her in her younger years.
It was easy to see why Jonathan turned out the way he did.
“Dave, this is Candice. Jonathan’s mother. Candice, this is Dave Baxter,” Paul blurted out, introducing us.
I held out my hand to her, much as I would for any woman that I would meet, but all she did was place the skillet back on the stove and then turn and face me.
“So. This is the guy who has caused so much trouble for my baby boy?” she said, with hands firmly planted on her hips. “He certainly doesn’t look like much!”
There was a gasp from somewhere behind me. And a giggle. While Jonathan said, “Mother!”
“Well, it’s so nice to finally meet you too Candice,” I said, rather grumpily.
I had seen the glint of mischief in her eyes, almost daring me to respond in kind, so I couldn’t disappoint her now, could I?
Slowly her frown dissipated, to be replaced by a warm smile, which I soon returned.
“I like him! He’s got spunk, this one,” she said, while turning to face everyone else.
“Honey. You have no idea,” offered Paul, quietly, which only caused me to blush, while a ripple of giggles and laughter swept around the table, leaving Candice looking somewhat perplexed.
She ushered both Paul and I back to the table, which I found to be cluttered with empty plates and mugs of coffee, then returned to the stove and served up some fried eggs and bacon on a plate, before then placing it on the table in front of me.
“Have a good breakfast dear, then maybe you won’t be quite so grumpy for the rest of the day,” Candice said to me.
I looked at her with what must have been a bemused expression on my face, while across the table Jonathon was trying to stifle a giggle.
“Just what have they been telling you about me?” I asked her.
“Nothing much at all, David. I can assure you of that,” she replied.
“And how did you know I was ready for breakfast?”
“We could hear the water running,” Jonathon said. “So we figured you wouldn’t be far away.”
I just shook my head and picked up a knife and fork that were also on the table in front of me, while Paul fetched a cup of coffee for me. While I ate then, we all sat and enjoyed what was left of the morning, sipping coffee and chatting away in their sunny kitchen.
Candice proved to be something of a surprise packet. She was, I thought, a wonderful lady, with a wicked sense of humour, despite the fact that she had gone through three husbands and a trip to the Betty Ford Clinic, all of which we found out about from her family during the course of the morning, although, judging by the look on her face, I’m not quite sure that any of it was something she wanted known to Paul and me.
She obviously was a woman who doted on her two boys, however I did sense that while she was extremely fond of the partners their sons had chosen, there was an underlying sense of ‘something’ that wasn’t quite right. At first I thought that maybe it was just my imagination, but the more I sat and listened to them all, the more certain I became. She was also one of those people who called a spade a spade, and didn’t mince words. Whatever she thought, she said, regardless of the consequences.
With a little more than a week left between now and the wedding date, I figured that it might be interesting to see what evolved between now and then.
“So, Dave,” Candice said to me. “They tell me you haven’t finished your next story yet. Is that correct?”
“Not entirely,” I replied, while taking a sip from my coffee cup, as all heads turned my way.
“You mean, you have actually finished it?” Jonathon said eagerly.
“More like he hasn’t started it,” Paul said.
“Oh,” Jonathon replied, the disappointment clearly showing.
“What’s the matter then?” Candice asked. “Don’t you want to write any more, now that you’ve made all your millions?”
There was a sharp intake of breath from beside me and l looked up at Paul who was looking at me with that same concerned expression that a parent would have if they were worried about their child. I reached across and touched his hand, reassuring him that it was alright.
You see, the mere mention of my earnings from my writing was usually enough to send me off into a little tizzy fit. It had happened before, where I had gone off the deep end and told someone to mind their own fucking business, and no doubt it would happen again.
It wasn’t going to happen today however. Not here. Not amongst these people.
“Have I said something I shouldn’t have?” Candice asked innocently.
“Of course you have mother,” Jonathon admonished. “When it comes to how much he earns, it’s nobody’s business but his own.”
“It’s alright Jonathon. I’m not going to chuck a tizzy fit today,” I said quietly, casting my mind back to the last time I had gone off the handle at someone, which just happened to have been at a party at which Jonathon and Charlotte had been attending.
“She shouldn’t ha…..,“ he started to say, but I cut him short.
“Truly Jonathon, it’s alright,” I said to him, then turning once more to Candice I said, “It’s not a matter of not wanting to write Candice. It’s simply that I can’t write any more. Well, not at the moment anyhow. Every time I get an idea and sit down to try and put in into words, I get about as far as turning on my computer, and then that’s it… nothing happens!”
She was silent for a moment, while she considered what I had said, then said, “Well, maybe you just need to forget about trying to write and think about something else for a while?”
I was about to say that that was what I had been trying to do, but then she added, “Or maybe it’s just that you have too many other distractions around you?” while looking directly across at Paul as she said this.
I sensed Paul shifting uncomfortably in his seat, and so I reached across and placed my hand on his knee and looked up into his eyes. Apparently it was my turn to try and comfort and reassure him.
“Honestly mother,” Joel snapped, “you can’t help yourself, can you?”
“What? Darling, I just call it like I see it. You know what I’m like.”
“Yes, we do,” Jonathon added. “And we’d appreciate it if you would tone it down a bit in front of our friends.”
To tell you the truth, having Jonathon and Joel coming to our rescue like this kind of surprised me, but I have to admit that I did enjoy it.
I didn’t think Candice was a bad person, I quite liked her in fact, but sometimes people that are as blunt and to the point as she obviously is, do tend to get ones nerves sometime. I had dealt with people like her before and it was time, I thought, that we laid our cards on the table and found out just where we stood with each other. It was time for a little emotional blackmail.
“Can I tell you something Candice?” I asked.
She looked at me with her eyebrows raised enquiringly and said, “Yes?”
“I like you. And I like your family,” I said, as I looked around the table at the faces staring back at me. “I class them all as amongst the best friends I have, even those that I’ve only just met.”
“And so you should!” she said rather indignantly. “They are wonderful boys.”
“Mother!” Jonathon scolded.
“I’ll do you a deal. How about you go about minding your own business when it comes to matters such as Paul, my money, my writing and me, and I’ll go about minding my own business about you, and won’t ask you how come you can’t keep a husband, or your hands off a bottle!”
The was an audible gasp from across the table and I glanced briefly in that direction to see Sasha looking horrified, with her hands covering her mouth, while Jonathon and Joel were both looking rather bemused, and Charlotte was studying me intently.
Candice looked at me thoughtfully for a long while, saying nothing, but with what I thought was rage building up inside her. But then she just smiled at me, with a smile so warm and inviting that it unnerved me.
“Jonathon, darling,” she said.
“Where on earth did you find this man? He is an absolute treasure! You know, maybe it’s too bad you aren’t gay after all!”
It was just at that moment that the workmen arrived to finish painting some of the rooms for Charlotte and Jonathon, so there was little that could be said after that last comment made by Candice.
The women all excused themselves and left the table to go and supervise the renovations, leaving Jonathon and Joel and Paul and me all sitting there at the kitchen table, looking totally dumbfounded.
“I can’t believe that our mother just said all that,” Joel said, once they were safely out of earshot.
“You and me both,” Jonathon said quietly, then turning to me and saying. “She’s not normally like this you know?”
“Oh, I believe you,” I replied. “She’s certainly a character though!”
“Yeah, you could say that.”
Paul remained quiet through all this, obviously with Candice’s words still playing on his mind, but when Charlotte stuck her head around the door a few minutes later and asked for his opinion on a colour, he soon detached himself from his seat and followed her into the living room, giving me a wink over his shoulder as he did so.
“That’s a very special guy you have there, Dave,” Jonathon said as he watched Paul disappear through the doorway with his fiance.
“Yeah, he is, isn’t he?” I replied.
“And he and Charlotte seem to be getting on famously.”
“Yeah. I think that they have found, in each other, true friendship.”
“Well, I’m glad. It means that you’ll both be in our lives for a while yet then.”
“Geez, you didn’t think I was going to run away or anything do you?”
“No, nothing like that. It’s just that I know that things between you and Charlotte haven’t always been perfect…..”
“Haven’t we been over this territory before?” I said, cutting him short.
A grin came across his face and he said, “Yeah, I think so.”
“Just so you know,” I said. “I love Charlotte dearly, and while we may not have seen eye to eye on everything since we’ve gotten to know each other, we are good friends, and will be for a long while to come, I hope!”
“Yeah. I hope you are too!”
“Jesus you pair,” Joel interjected. “Just what the fuck is this? Why don’t the pair of you just go upstairs while the girls, and Paul, are otherwise engaged and just get it over with?”
“Wha…,” I started to say, then stopped, when I realised what it was that he was meaning.
I looked from Jonathon too Joel, and back again, with both of them grinning like madmen. Sometimes I got the impression that they liked getting me wound up, like giving me the old ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine, and I hoped that this wasn’t going to be one of those times.
It was just then that Charlotte returned, seeing the three of us all looking as guilty as hell and eyeing us suspiciously. She stood there appraising us for a moment, before Jonathon said, “What’s up babe?”
“I just wanted to remind you about cleaning the basement out,” she said to him.
“Sure thing,” Jonathon replied. “The guys here can help me. How’s the painting coming along?”
“Your mother doesn’t like Apricot,”
“Errr… which particular shade of Apricot?”
“All of them,” she said with a grin, then turned on her heels and returned to her workers.
“So that’s why we were invited up a week early then huh?” Joel said after Charlotte had left. “You only wanted some slave labour!”
“Of course,” Jonathon answered. “Now, we’d best get to it before she finds something else she wants done.”
Begrudgingly we dragged ourselves to our feet and followed Jonathon out of the kitchen and down the hallway, past where the workmen and the women, and Paul of course, were all discussing paints and colours, with Candice looking like she was taking charge, while Charlotte looked like she was growing more and more frustrated.
Paul spotted the three of us standing at the doorway and rolled his eyes skywards, which only made me laugh, at which the conversation stopped and everyone looked in our direction.
“I thought you three had something to do?” Charlotte said to us.
“Alright… alright… we were just going,” Jonathon replied, while trying to hurry us away.
We left them with their troubles and headed towards a doorway in the hall, which proved to be the entrance to the basement, and followed Jonathon through it and down some timber stairs, which creaked with every foot step taken.
“Well, at least no one will be able to sneak up on you down here then,” I said to Jonathon.
“Yeah, I suppose that could prove handy sometimes.”
There was one small light at the bottom of the stairs, which Jonathon had turned on from the top before we started down them, but the rest of the basement was largely in darkness. The only other source of light proved to be several small windows along the front and side of the house at ground level, through which was coming a pale, almost eerie, glow.
At first I thought that they were frosted glass but on closer inspection, after running a finger along one which was near the base of the stairs, I found that it was a build up of many years of grime.
When we reached the bottom of the stairs we found ourselves in a rather large basement, which we soon found to be filled with bric-a-brac, boxes and old furniture, once Jonathon picked up a flashlight and turned it on.
“And she wants this cleaned out by when?” Joel asked, while standing in the middle of the room with his hands on his hips and looking all around.
“Charlotte just wants it cleaned out, so I can move a lot of my junk down here from upstairs. Once it’s cleaned out and renovated, it’s going to be my very own little hideaway, den, workshop, play room… or whatever you want to call it,” Jonathon replied.
“Hey, I like that idea,” I said to him. “Are there any other ways in or out?” I asked, looking around me.
“Yeah, there’s a set of steps over in that corner, which lead up to a hatch that opens out into the back yard,” he said, pointing past a pile of boxes off to my right.
“And what are we going to do with all this junk then?” Joel asked. “There’s not even enough room to swing a cat in here!”
“How about we cart it down to the shed in the yard, and from there we can throw it out later. Unless Charlotte has another idea for it!”
“Well, how about we start by opening up the hatch and carting all the smaller stuff out, then we can look at everything else,” I suggested.
“Sounds good to me,” Jonathon replied.
“So, just where the hell did all this come from, anyway?” I asked, as Jonathon opened the trap doors, bathing the room in early afternoon light. “Haven’t you only just moved in here?”
“We inherited it all,” Jonathon replied. “The previous owners just didn’t want to take it with them. Too much junk I guess. Lord only knows what’s actually in here, but I guess Charlotte will have a good look through it before it goes.”
We set about sifting through the boxes and carting it up the stairs and out onto the back lawn, separating it all into two piles. Definite junk. Probable junk.
As the afternoon wore on, our piles were growing bigger and bigger, which eventually left us with more than enough room to swing a cat in!
When we were almost done, Charlotte stuck her head in the door to see what we were up to and to let us know that they were all going shopping for curtains… among other things!
“Paul too?” I asked curiously.
“Of course darling,” Charlotte replied with a wicked laugh. “He’s one of us now!”
“Oh boy, I’m not sure about this.”
“Trust me Dave. He’s in safe hands,” she added, then left us to it.
“Hey! What’s this?” Joel asked, while shining the flashlight into the depths of the room, in the direction from where Jon and I had just come from. We put the cupboard down in the large room, then soon re-joined him, with each of us peering over his shoulder and looking at the spot where the flashlight beam was shining.
There appeared to be a doorway, or passageway, that had up until a few minutes ago been covered over by the cupboard and the boxes that we had just moved.
Jonathon took the flashlight from Joels’ hand and took a couple of steps forward, holding the flashlight well out in front of him, as if it were a weapon that would protect him should he be attacked by whatever evil may be lurking in the shadows.
“I’ve got to tell you Jon, this place down here gives me a weird feeling,” I said to him as I followed him closely.
“Wimp!” he said to me, while briefly glancing back over his shoulder at me. Even in the darkness I could still see the grin on his face.
“Well, what is it? Do we go in, or what?” Joel asked from behind me.
“It’s another damn tunnel,” Jon replied. “What do you guys reckon? Should we take a look?”
“Well, I suppose I’m game if you are,” I answered.
“I figured you would be, even if you are all freaked out,” Jon replied. “Joel?”
“Yeah, what the fuck!”
“What do you mean freaked out? I said I was game if you were.”
Cautiously, Jon brushed aside some heavy cobwebs and peered deeper into the opening, then one by one we entered the abyss, unsure of how long it had been since anyone had ventured inside there.
It was dark, and narrow and low, and we had to stoop over to avoid hitting our heads on the stone ceiling.
“Watch out for dead pirates,” Joel said, half jokingly, but at the same time I was sure he was also half serious.
“You fuckin’ Goonie,” Jonathon called back over his shoulder to him.
My laughter at that comment, which was a reference to one of my all time favourite movies, seemed to echo throughout the tunnel, making it seem even spookier.
After we had gone about fifteen feet we came to a bend, which we first peered cautiously around, before continuing forward.
“The realtor told me that these old places all had tunnels under them,” I heard Jonathon say. “I just didn’t know if I should believe it or not.”
“What were they for?” I asked.
“Escaping from the soldiers during the wars, and hiding and stuff,” Joel said from behind me.
“Well, they wouldn’t have had any luck trying to escape along this one,” Jonathon said. “Take a look up ahead.”
We looked at the spot where the flashlight light was shining and all we could see were bricks.
“It’s been blocked up,” Joel said.
“Ya think?” replied Jonathon.
“Here, give me the flashlight,” I said to Jonathon, taking it from him and going further down the tunnel to investigate the wall that confronted us, with them both hot on my heels.
“It looks like it’s been here for hundreds of years,” I said to them.
“I wonder what’s on the other side?” Joel said.
“A tunnel,” Jon answered, to which he then received what sounded conspicuously like a belt up the side of the head.
I allowed myself a grin, which went unseen in the near darkness, then said, “Well, it looks like this is about as far as we go today. If you two boys have finished clowning around, we’d best get back and finish cleaning out the rest of the basement, otherwise Charlotte will come down on us like a ton of bricks.”
“Charlotte? Never!” Jonathon cried.
“You want to be the one to test her out?” I replied. “I mean, Joel and I can tell you that you made us do it. You were the one who forced us to go outside and sit in the shade drinking beers.”
“Very fucking funny,” he answered.
I led the way back down the tunnel, with Jonathan and Joel right on my arse. They were so close in fact that I could almost feel their breath on my neck and when, just as I was about to go around the bend in the tunnel, I felt a hand grab hold of one cheek and give it a squeeze.
Under normal circumstances that was something which I probably would have enjoyed, but under these circumstances however, it felt rather strange. It actually sent a shiver down my spine which, given the surroundings wasn’t entirely out of place.
I stopped in my tracks and spun around to face them, shining the flashlight on their grinning faces as they stood side by side.
“O.K.? Who’s the smart arse?” I asked, flicking the flashlight from one angelic face to the other.
“What do you mean?” said Joel.
“I don’t know what you are talking about!” added Jonathon.
I felt like laughing and joining in their little charade, but seeing as it was all at my expense anyhow, I wasn’t overly keen on pursuing that idea.
In the end, after not getting any idea as to which one of them it was, I turned and continued on down the tunnel, part excited and part worried about what it was that had just happened. But part curious as well.
“One of them did WHAT?” Paul exclaimed, when I told him that night what had happened in the basement.
He had just arrived back from the shopping expedition with the girls and we were getting ready to go downstairs for dinner.
“I’m bloody serious,” I replied, as I pulled on my favourite blue shirt.
He looked at me for a moment with a lop-sided scowl on his face, then finally said, “You aren’t wearing that for dinner are you?”
“And why not?”
“Because its getting a tad old darling.”
“So, we have a guest for dinner tonight, and we all need to make a good impression,” he replied, while digging a crisp clean white shirt and blue sports jacket out of the closet.
“Is that all you’re worried about? You don’t care that I was possibly groped in the basement by your competition? And what guest?”
“A Senator no less! He’s Candices’ latest squeeze,” he answered with a wicked grin, then came over to me and started undoing the buttons on the shirt that I had just finished doing up. “And no, I’m not worried about the competition, because I know that there isn’t any. Unless maybe it’s Joel. He could be a bit of a dark horse that one!”
“Joel? You’ve got to be joking?”
He shook his head. “No, I’m not. You didn’t see the way he was looking at you today. I’ve seen that look before, remember?”
“And there I was thinking that it was Jonathon that grabbed my ass and all my Christmases had come at once.”
“You wish!” he said, before disappearing into the bathroom to have a shower before dinner, while I finished getting dressed, in clothes that I swore hadn’t even been packed.
When he emerged a few minutes later, with only a towel wrapped around him, and another slung over his shoulder I was sitting on the settee, an old piece with a chintz covering, flicking through a House and Garden magazine, which just happened to be laying around.
I glanced up at him as he walked past me and noticed him grinning down at me.
“You look nice,” he said to me.
In one swift movement I grabbed his towel and pulled it from him, leaving him standing there naked, save for the jade coloured pendant which hung from around his neck, almost sparkling. With his blonde hair spiked this way and that and his smooth body almost glowing in the light being reflected from the walls of our lemon coloured room, he was almost good enough to eat.
“Well, you don’t look so bad yourself, you know babe,” I replied, letting the towel drop to the floor beside me.
Paul held out a hand toward me and I reached up and took it, then pulled him to me. We finished up with him sitting in my lap as naked as the day he was born, with one arm around my shoulders and the back of one hand gently caressing my cheek.
“If I do have any competition here in this house,” he whispered to me. “All I can say is… BRING IT ON!”
Then he kissed me… just as Jonathon knocked on the door and walked straight into the room, without saying so much as a word.
I don’t know which one of the three of us got the greatest shock, but seeing the look on Jonathon’s face when he saw us, well, that was definitely worth the price of admission.
Embarrassed, and apologising profusely, he backed out of the room, his head turned sideways, trying to avoid looking at either of us.
Paul got to his feet, picked up his towels and some clothes, and retreated once more to the bathroom. My last view of him just before he closed the door, was seeing his grinning face.
“It’s safe now Jonathon,” I called out. “You can come back in now.”
The bedroom door opened and an anxious looking Jonathon stuck his head around the door, nervously looking from side to side, as if he were afraid of seeing another naked person.
“God. I’m so sorry,” he said to me.
“Don’t sweat it,” I answered. “We should have had more sense than that.”
“Errrrr……it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.”
“No, I don’t suppose it would have been,” I said.
I could see that he was clearly flustered by this, constantly looking around the room fidgeting, and so I led him out through the French doors and onto the balcony, an area where, for some reason, we always seemed to be able to talk more easily.
“What’s up?” I asked, trying to lead him back in the direction that he had wanted to go, before he found himself all distracted and flustered.
“I just wanted to talk to you about this afternoon,” he said to me.
“About what?” I asked innocently.
“You know perfectly well what about,” he answered.
“It’s alright. I wasn’t worried by it,” I answered, trying to put him at ease.
“You may not have been. But I was. And still am, if you must know,” he answered.
He looked off into the rapidly falling darkness, to where distant lights were starting to emerge to brighten up the lives of their owners, but with his face hidden by shadows I couldn’t make out any expressions, or try to gauge what it was he might be thinking.
“Well?” I urged.
“You do want to know who it was don’t you?”
“Quite frankly Jonathon, I don’t care who it was,” I replied. “I found it mildly amusing. Perhaps even a little intriguing. But I’m not going to let it engulf me, or send me into a bottomless abyss of self doubt. It was just one of those things that happens between friends. Nothing will come of it, of that I am sure.”
“But how can you be so sure?”
“Because I’m already in love with someone else. And as much as I once wanted more from my relationship with you, I know that that was never going to happen. I’ve, errr… resigned myself to that fact.”
“There’s something you need to know though,” he replied.
“Jesus, you aren’t going to tell me that you love me after-all are you?”
“Hell no!” he exclaimed
“It’s about Joel.”
I immediately thought back to what Paul had said just a few minutes earlier.
“You need to know something about him. You need to know that he’s Bi!”
“You’re joking, right?”
“No. I’m not. I just wanted you to know that, because I don’t want to see anyone get hurt. Especially not you or Paul.”
“Thanks very much. I really appreciate that,” I replied.
We sat there in silence for a few minutes more, and I couldn’t help but feel that there was something more that he wanted to tell me. It didn’t look as if he was going to though, so I thought I might try and press him a little.
“Can I ask you something?” I asked.
“Last night, when we were all sitting on the front porch talking, and you nodded off to sleep…”
Immediately I caught the flash of light on perfect teeth and straight away I knew the answer to what I was about to ask him.
“I thought so,” I said to him. “You were listening all along!”
“Well, I did nod off briefly,” he replied. “But when I woke up and the two of you were talking, well, I figured I’d best just have a listen to what big bro had to say.”
“No, you probably don’t actually,” Jonathon replied. “See, ever since we were kids, Joel has made a habit of hitting on my friends.”
“You want to know how the very first ‘JTT is Gay’ rumour started? I was twelve, Joel was thirteen. I had a friend named Nathan Gray. He came over one weekend and ended up spending more time with Joel than he did with me. Not long after that a love heart appeared on a wall in the school toilets… JTT loves NG.”
“Now you are joking, right?”
“I’ve never been more serious. As you can imagine, seeing as we had the same initials, and seeing as it was me that was friends with Nathan, it didn’t take long for things to take hold.”
“That’s just too incredible to believe!”
“You can always ask Joel,” he replied, chuckling softly to himself.
“Ask Joel what?” Paul said, as he came out onto the balcony just at that moment.
Jonathon got to his feet and smiled down at me, then gave me a wink.
“Dave can tell you later, if he wants,” Jonathon said. “Right now though, I’d best go have a shower before mother and her illustrious guest arrive.”
“I think you’re too late,” Paul replied, pointing.
Jonathon and I both looked in the direction in which he was pointing, seeing a set of car lights coming up the drive.
“Shit,” Jonathon said. “O.K. then guys. I’ll see you downstairs in a little while.”
“Sure thing,” we both answered simultaneously, as Jonathon disappeared into our bedroom and we turned our attention back to the car.
As it drew closer we could make out that it was a limo, no less, and we watched as it drew up outside the front door, just below us and to the left.
The driver got out and dutifully opened the door for his passengers, who proved to be Jonathon’s mother, and a tall, slim man, with silver hair, dressed in a neat suit.
“Jesus, Paul, you didn’t tell me it was THAT Senator!”
“I thought you’d get a kick out of that!” he cheekily replied.