THE QUIET MEN
Ok, don't get too spoiled. I just wanted to get the first three chapters posted rather quickly so here it is. Don't think this will continue, because it won't. Even I don't write that fast!
Chapter 3: Brian's POV
The Doc Marten store in Covent Garden is three floors of steel-toed shoes to fit every mood and one floor of clothes. I can safely say there is not one item of clothing or footwear that I would buy for myself in this whole ultra-modern establishment. Sitting on a leather bench on the ground floor, I feel ancient. I watch bizarrely fashioned young people come and go, carrying out the ubiquitous yellow and black drawstring Doc Marten bags and I realize how past it I really am. Frankly, Justin is a bit past it for this crowd, too. Because he's smallish and has a baby face, he can pass, but early twenties is older than most of these patrons. I'm sure these punks think that I'm someone's father. Well, I am, but he's not here, and Gus is too young for this scene. Thank God.
Justin finally comes down, carrying three bags, and I shake my head, but say nothing. It's his money after all, and three pairs of Docs cost less than one pair of Prada boots. Where is he putting all this, however? His luggage is already overflowing. "Why didn't you ship them home?" I ask as we walk out into the cobblestone square. Adjacent to the Doc store is a huge theater and across the square are long, enclosed shopping stalls that feature unique gifts and specialty items. I bought some cashmere-lined leather gloves there when we first arrived, and an old book on European history. He tries to hand off a bag to me, but I decline to take it. His pack mule, I am not.
He sighs and readjusts his burden. "I may want to wear them while we're here. Can we get something to eat? I'm starving!"
"There's a café on the third floor over the stalls. How about that?"
He winces, mentally considering climbing three flights with all his bags, but he agrees. He needs to get his well-shaped ass into a fitness program. He is beyond the age where youth alone will keep him lovely. I nag him about it fairly often, but when we get home, I'm buying him a membership to my gym. I don't want a pudgy boyfriend. Shallow, yes, but there you are. He looks great now, but I notice a few signs of slippage are beginning to show. The café is crowded, but we get a small table overlooking the square after a short wait. We order the special of the day, Shepard's Pie, and a couple of pale ales by the pint. The music being played on the sound system is soft American jazz, and I'm being cruised by an older man at a table across from us. Shit, it seems the men cruising me get older every day. I give him my death ray glare and he shrinks back and leaves me alone. Justin giggles.
"What's so funny?" I ask and he shrugs.
"Even now, at your advanced age, and even here, you get cruised."
"So do you, blondie."
"Yes, but I'm still young."
I glare at him. It's his favorite barb directed at my rampant vanity. So I'm 35. Old enough to be president of the whole fucking United States of America. Not that I couldn't do a better job than most of the idiots we elect. I weigh the same as I did at 25, my waist measurement hasn't altered, I have no excess flab or sag, and an eye tuck is still a few years away. Seriously considering a hair tint, however, because when I stare at my hair in the mirror, I see some silver among the auburn. And when I stop smiling, my face doesn't follow suit immediately. The little cracks and lines remain in place after the smile fades. It's a good thing I have a partner. I've now reached that plateau where men are ridiculous when they go to clubs like Babylon and hit on younger studs. I remember being the younger stud hit on by men my current age and just laughing in their faces. Never wanted to be one of those pathetic hawks. I figured I'd be dead by now. Since I'm not, being off the market voluntarily has a lot of appeal.
Our salads arrive and I take the tomatoes out of his while he trades the radishes out of mine. It's unspoken, but we know how the other likes his salad. We know how the other likes just about everything. A couple arrive at a nearby table, looking harried and tired with a two- year old cause for that fatigue wailing about some babyish annoyance. Justin and I exchange the look of resignation that people who want a nice quiet meal without the intrusion of other people's kids use so often. The mother catches the look and gives me an apologetic sigh. I feel sorry for her and bad for being critical.
"I remember when my son was that age," I lean over and say to her. "Sometimes nothing would make him happy. They just get it in their heads that they're going to be cranky, so they are."
The intrusion of a new person seems to quiet the kid, who stares at me as if I just walked off a spaceship. His mother smiles. "How old is your little boy now?"
I mentally calculate, but Justin answers for me. "Gus is five, almost six."
I can't believe it. I can't believe my baby is that old, that he'll be starting first grade next fall. It's a little scary. I see a look pass between husband and wife. They are wondering if these two faggots are raising a child together. I'm sure they disapprove. Fuck them! Justin reaches over and pats my forearm, soothing me. Once again, he read my mind. "Is this your only one?" Justin asks and the wife pats her belly, which looks pretty flat to me.
"I'm in the club. Four months along. We were hoping Justin would be toilet-trained before the baby came, but Justin appears to have his own ideas about that."
My partner laughs. "My name is Justin too. Proud to say I'm fully trained, however."
"Well, mostly," I quip.
Okay, so now we have to have introductions all around. Her name is Kelly, and her husband's name is Mitch. They've been married for four years and live in the Islington parcel of London. Mitch is an architect and Kelly illustrates children's books and paints murals in homes. Since Justin is an artist when he's not in charge of our art department, the parallels are interesting. I have to begrudgingly admit I like this couple, especially since little Justin shut up and busied himself with a bread stick.
"My brother's gay," Kelly announces. "He and his partner have been together for seven years and they've adopted two kids. I think it's grand. They're wonderful parents. Is your son with you on this holiday?"
I sigh. "He lives with his mother and her partner. We're here on business."
"Oh, I see. You make a very striking couple."
We hear that all the time. We do, I guess. The opposite angle works. Tall, and not so tall, dark and blond. It works. "Thanks. So do you two."
Her husband smiles. "I was just reading about this new medical technique where they can take the sperm of two males and alter the structure of one of them, using a donor egg, and replace the egg donor's DNA with the donor male's DNA and fertilize it with the sperm of the second male and thus the two men can conceive a child together. The child will always be female, because during the substitution process, the Y chromosome that selects male gender, is necessarily replaced with a double X, but the whole thing sounds brilliant! Naturally, you have to have a female willing to take the fertilized egg and implant it in her uterus and carry it to term, since we aren't equipped for that. However, that wrinkle doesn't alter the baby's genetic makeup. It's been done successfully many times. I know America doesn't sanction it, because of your retro religious prohibitions, but the EU permits it. For a price, of course."
I stare at Justin who is looking at me with undisguised horror. The elephant in the room has just crashed into our table and is eating our food and drinking our ale and making a regular nuisance of himself. Two weeks early, he is, and he's as rude and public as hell. "Excuse me," Justin gets up and heads for the bathroom. The husband reads our discomfort and says,
"Sorry. Have I stepped in it?"
"Mitch, you are so dense at times!" His wife chides him, and I shake my head and get up, following my partner into the john. He's standing at the sink, staring at his reflection in the mirror. He looks a little pale, and a lot nervous. I come up behind him and wrap my arms around his waist, resting my chin on his shoulder.
"Forget about it. He had no clue," I reassure him.
"No, but it felt like he dropped a house on me. What are the odds of something like this happening?"
"Slim and none. We are incredibly unlucky sometimes. Look, it doesn't change anything because a perfect stranger tells us about some article he read. We still have a two-week cooling off period to get through."
He turns in my arms to stare at me, his baby blues narrowing with introspection. "And you're determined to adhere to that agreement, right?"
"Right," I say firmly.
He wiggles out of my embrace and strides over to the door. "Fuck you, Brian," he shoots in parting, and I sigh and follow him out, thinking this is going to be one long fucking day.
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July 25, 2004