THE QUIET MEN
CHAPTER 23: Brian's POV
As we stand together, staring out at the Irish coast, some things become clear to me. First, I'm Irish. I feel it now, for the first time. The Irish sea has meaning to me. The land, the stone walls, the abandoned cottages, all tell a story to me. The light, the mist, the scent of Ireland, all are familiar to me. I'm rooted in this land, for better or worse. I'm an Irishman. Something about this coastal panorama has touched the pagan in me.
Second, I've given myself over to Justin Taylor. Whatever separation between us that existed because I held something in reserve, feared a total commitment, protected some small corner of my heart is now gone. He owns me. I need the feel of his flesh to come alive, the sound of his voice to stay in tune, the sight of him to spark my soul. I'm a man who was never meant to fall in love, a bad bet, a loner, a hedonist, a non-romantic. I think if a man like me slips and falls, he never gets up. He's down for the count along with the one who tripped him. He opened my heart and with it, he opened my life. I can never go back to the way I was, because I see now just how lonely that lifeis in comparison to where I am now.
"I'll do it," I declare, my voice muffled by his hair as the wind ruffles over us.
"Do what?" He asks without turning to look at me, his body pressed to my torso, his head under my chin.
"You know, the elephant. I'll do it. If we can find the right doctors and the right surrogate, I'll do it."
Now he turns, his expression more questioning than excited. "The time isn't up."
"I don't care."
"Because I don't think I could ever love you more than I do at this exact moment in this exact place and I want to have a child with you."
This is true. But I can't tell him the rest, what is equally true. There isa dark side of my sudden urgency. I fear that I may not be around much longer. I want to grant him this wish that means so much to him so that even if I die before we can make it happen, he'll be comforted with the knowledge that my commitment to him was complete. Will I renege if by some miracle I emerge from this madness intact? I don't know. I don't see how I could, and still keep our relationship alive. There are so many holes in the plan that I'm not too worried about it, anyway. Finding a surrogate is a huge gating issue, and even if we do, the medical success rate of the procedure is slim. So the concession on my part has a lot more to do with wanting to comfort my lover than it has to do with wanting a baby.
He looks like he's going to cry but then he throws his arms around me in a stranglehold. I gasp and smile as I pry him off of me. He wipes his cheeks on the back of his hand and says, "Is it because you're scared? Worried?"
Damn, he knows me so well. "No, Justin. It's because this is what I want," I assure him.
"No matter what our friends say? No matter how they taunt us and call us dykes? No matter how cluttered a baby makes our lives?"
"No matter what." Cringing, internally.
"Can we name her Brianna?"
"Don't push it."
He smiles and kisses me, long and deep, the kind of kiss that would be the prelude to more if not for the fact we're on an open bluff with no sheltering hiding places in which to do the deed. Holding hands, we walk back to the car. Ronan smiles at us as the driver resumes his trek. "You two lads are truly smitten."
I shrug. "You should have met me before he domesticated me. You'd never have believed it possible."
"I'm happy for you both."
Justin is beaming with such pure happiness that he lights up the grey day. I think of his old Sunshine nickname and smile. This really did mean a lot to him, his extreme happiness makes that clear. I'm pleased that I can do thisfor him, can do something to make him so happy. Even though I know the chances of it happening are almost nil. "May I tell her?" he asks and I sigh.
"If you feel you must."
He does. She seems enthralled as he explains the agreement we just reached, the medical procedure, the intended result. "So you'd need an egg and a womb, right?" She asks and Justin nods.
"There has to be an egg. The DNA of the donor is destroyed and replaced with the DNA of one of us. But the structure of the egg remains so that it can be fertilized by the other one of us. And once the conception is done, the egg has to be implanted in a surrogate womb to gestate, since neither of us have the necessary equipment to carry a baby."
"Praise God," I snark, and continue. "Just as important, the woman has to be willing to give up any and all claims to the child. The child would be ours, not hers. We don't want to deal with a mother making claims. So choosing a good friend is almost impossible. She'd be around the baby, around us, it just wouldn't work. I donated sperm to create Gus, and despite the fact it was supposed to be no strings, but there are so many strings between us that we could play a host of heavenly harps."
"You could hire some woman, I suppose," she observes. "Her DNA wouldn't be involved, so you wouldn't have to worry about her genetic issues."
"That's probably the only way. Hire her, pay her living and medical expenses, and give her some cash to compensate her and make her go away after the baby is born."
"Is it legal, then?"
"The surrogacy is legal. The method of conception is not practiced in the U.S., although it is in many E.U. countries."
She shrugs. "Doubt if it is in this E.U. country. We're so smacked down by the almighty Church here. Eons behind the times on social issues like abortion and contraception. I can't see the Church sanctioning this procedure, which means it won't fly in Ireland."
"You're probably right," I agree. "Ireland is pretty old world. In more ways than one."
We all share a laugh.
"I always promised Jimmy I'd carry a child for him and a lover, if he ever had a permanent relationship. Can't say I would bow out completely from the child's life, but then, Jimmy would never ask that of me, and I'd never impose. The child would be theirs. But Jimmy is a will o' the wisp when it comes to romance. At least he was..." her expression saddens and I reach over and pat her hand.
"We'll find him. He'll be fine."
"From your lips to God's ear."
The motion of the car and my own inner peace lull me to sleep again. When I awake, we're stopping for lunch. Ronan and Justin have obviously arranged something that has them both smirking with a shared secret. Someone else arranged for the sun to break out of the mist. The sea has given way to the Wicklow mountains and we enter the gates of a formal estate after the driver pays a fee.
"What are we doing?" I demand to be let in on the plan and Ronan smiles.
"One of Ireland's little treasures, cousin. It's Powerscourt, the most beautiful gardens in the country. The mansion house was gutted by fire in the seventies, but the gardens remain as beautiful as they were when first planned in the early eighteenth century. The mountain you see in the back is the Great Sugar Loaf mountain, which creates an amazing panorama. You have to see it, Brian. You're here, learn that all of Ireland isn't monstrous fey and faerie clubs."
"But I'm hungry," I complain, not one for sightseeing.
Justin knows me and giggles. "It has a lovely café, I've been assured." Only a heathen could be unmoved by the vista we see as we drive to the car park. Acres of formal gardens along with discrete signs pointing the way to such whimsical sites as the Pet Cemetery, the Triton Lake, the Pepper Pot Tower and the Japanese Gardens. We see the shell of the burned out Italianate mansion on the horizon and park in the pebbled car park that hasa few tour buses and some automobiles, but not many. There's a tidy series of outbuildings where we can go through a cafeteria styled line and pick up a decent lunch, eating at a table overlooking the Walled Gardens. When we're through, Ronan insists Justin and I explore on our own for awhile, that she's seen it and she wants us to discover it together. I like Ronan, did I mention that?
We walk hand-in-hand past the rows of glass greenhouses in the Walled Garden, to an elaborate tiled stairway that leads from the mansion house to the Triton Lake. We stand at the top of the stairs to take in the majesty of the scenery. Two huge statues of Pegasus guard the entrance to the lake, that is a round manmade body of water with a spiraling water spout in the center that flows from a statue of Triton. Lily pads float on the surface. Before reaching the lake and the Pegasus guards, there are geometric hedgerows enclosing patches of formal, floral plantings. Beyond all this orderly beauty plannedby man is the wild natural beauty of the valley that fronts the peaked mountains in the distance. We stand there, holding hands, taking it all in. Incredible.
"Did I tell you that I'm Irish?" I tease him and he laughs.
"Funny you never mentioned that when we drove through the slums of Dublin."
"It is funny, isn't it?" I respond as we walk towards the water. The formaltours have come and gone from this area, and we are virtually alone, as if we own this slice of paradise. He makes me pose by one of the Pegasus statues and takes my scowling picture. When we reach the lakeside, I stare at the serene surface of the water and feel at peace.
Until a hand breaks the surface.
Pale and graceful fingers precede a lithe arm and a stunning woman's face and torso. Her bright red hair streams about her in the water like tentacles. Her eyes are moss-green and her bare breasts are perfect and tipped with pale nipples. The cold of the water, and the day, have no effect on her at all. She's joined by two of her sisters, one fair, one dark, both as beautiful as she. They all reach towards us, and Justin takes a step towards them, fascinated.
"Come, Justin," the redhead beckons. "Visit our world with us."
He seems drawn, but I push him back and say, "Water nymphs. Dangerous stuff, these ladies. Pull you under and trap you in their watery kingdom. Unseelie Court. Stay away."
He looks askance. "How do you know?"
I shrug. I don't know how to answer that, but I know I'm right. "Step back."
"They sent the wrong gender if they mean to pull me under water," he quips and I smile at him.
"Gender doesn't seem to matter with fairy magic."
"Go home, Brian!" The blonde nymph commands and I just smile. They quickly disappear beneath the surface as other tourists approach.
"Shit, they're everywhere," Justin observes, looping an arm around me as we walk away from the water.
I smile. "The tourists?"
"You're certainly blasé about this, all of a sudden."
"Why panic? Why act like it doesn't happen? You're right. They're everywhere. We have to be on our toes at all times."
"Keep walking, don't look back. Walk towards the Pet Cemetery," a voice commands. Justin recognizes it.
"Resist," he whispers to me. I want to look, but I don't. I want to argue but I don't. Instead, I follow the path to the Pet Cemetery, holding tightly to my lover as we hear the ominous footsteps follow along behind.
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July 25, 2004