Leaving the apartment Britland had no clue where he was going. He didn’t want to sit in any cafe or restaurant he couldn’t afford to purchase anything on the menu. Shopping was out for the same reason. Maybe a library or a park. Some place he could sit. The bottoms of his feet were killing him. He hated to admit he might need some sort of inserts to keep his feet from swelling to the size of balloons from a day of standing and posing on them for hours on end.
He limped towards what looked like a public park. His eyes greedily soaked in the tall leafy trees, the green grass, flowers, the buzzing of bees, the chirping of birds and squirrels running around calling to each other. He took a deep fortifying breath. Taking it all in. It felt like home. A hundred little things he hadn’t noticed he’d miss all came crashing down on him like a wrecking ball. His face contorted as he fought to keep from crying. It had only been two days since he left Riverview and he missed it already. At that moment all he wanted to do was go home.
It wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t feel like he had no home here. Somehow having the image of Felix doing their neighbor on the couch wiped the idea of that apartment being home out of his mind. He just couldn’t get rid of the mental pictures or the sounds of her screams out of his head. He closed his eyes willing himself to calm down. It’s not he end of the world. He could have the upholstery cleaned. His mind skipped to more unpleasant thoughts like what if they hand done the deed in other places? The kitchen counter where he prepared and ate his meals? What if…don’t go there he mentally chastised himself. He was better off not knowing. He’d just have to adjust. Sanitize everything before he used it.
“Hey” a familiar voice called from behind him “fancy meeting you here Goldie Locks.”
Taking a deep breath Britland turned to meet the model he had worked with all day. “Hey Carson” he mumbled pretending to glad to see him.
“Whoa what truck ran you over?” he asked “I’ve had livelier greetings from the crazy bird lady over there and she only talks to birds.”
“I don’t feel like talking about it” Britland bristled under what felt like unfair criticism.
“Fair enough,” Carson shrugged “you just looked like you could use someone to talk to.”
Britland watched him turn as if he meant to walk away. “Wait” he called “I’m sorry. I’m just in a bad mood. All I wanted to do was go home and sleep. Now I…” he sighed looking away cheeks warming under the interested scrutiny of the other man.
“I take it the roommate had other plans” he said with understanding.
His shoulders lifted in a listless half-hearted shrug. “You could say that. He…never mind” he shook his head. “Let’s just say I’ll never be able to look at my couch or neighbor the same again.”
“Oh” Carson’s eyes twinkled “I think you need a new friend.”
“I whole heartedly agree” Britland laughed releasing the pent-up tension he’d felt from the moment he opened the apartment door. “What are you doing here?”
“Can’t a guy just go to the park because they want to?” Carson asked somewhat defensively.
“I guess” Britland could sense he had some how touched upon a sore subject. “I didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just….I didn’t expect to see anyone I knew here.”
“You hungry?” Carson asked changing the subject “I know about this little Italian Restaurant that’s only a block away.”
Britland’s stomach chose that moment to growl at the thought of food. “I really can’t afford it. I’m barely going to make my share of the rent.”
“It’s my treat” Carson assured him throwing an arm around his shoulders “Come on it’s the best in town.”
Britland could feel his reserves slipping as he looked into Carson’s kind sensitive eyes. “Alright you win. Only because I’m starving and can’t go home.”
A grin spread across Carson’s face “great. You won’t regret it.”
Felix knew when the door opened that it would be Britland coming home. He pushed in a little harder causing the woman beneath him to moan louder. Her moans intoxicating him as he glanced up in time to catch the horrified expression on his friends face.
Felix was an exhibitionist as heart. Loved to have an audience in everything he did; especially sex. Pity his best friend was such a prude. Maybe in time he could get wear away Britland’s reserves, loosen up his puritanical ways. That was doubtful to happen anytime soon judging from the way Britland bolted from the room.
It wasn’t until after the lady from across the hall left that Felix found his mail tossed haphazardly on the floor. Picking it up he rubbed his chin wondering how it had gotten there. He had dropped it on purpose when he set the pretty girls groceries down in front of her door. It was her he had been expecting when he answered the knock at his door. Had the girl come by when he was preoccupied? Had she seen what he was doing? Was she responsible for the girlish screech he heard? At the time he thought it was Britland which only heightened his pleasure.
It was more amusing when he thought it was his uptight childhood friend. Not so much now. Why did it bother him that she may have seen him earlier? Normally he’d hope it would impress the girl with his prowess to make a woman scream with pleasure. He doubted with this girl that it would win him any brownie points. Why did that thought concern him?
Tossing the mail on the counter he glanced at the couch. No doubt Britland would want him to get it cleaned. Grunting he dismissed the idea. If Britland wanted it cleaned he could do it himself. It’s not like it was the first time and he doubted it would be the last. He chuckled at the thought of what his friend would think if he only knew. Britland would either learn to accept his ways or leave.
He dismissed any thoughts of his friend in favor of a long relaxing shower. The scratches on his back stung as the water ran over his back. The lady from across the hall sure knew what she was doing. The girl from last night hadn’t been much of a lay.
Images of the pretty girl from down the hall came unbidden to mind. He bet she was an innocent in the ways of pleasing a man. He want to fill in the blank pages in her book of experience. He could teach her many things. Moaning he switched the dial to cold. He needed a clear head before he went to thank her for bringing his mail to him.
“Quit picking at the table-cloth” Carson whispered across the table “they had them imported from Italy.”
“Oh” Britland dropped his hands into his lap where he fidgeted with the nails wishing he had just gone home. He could feel the hostile glare from the maitre d from across the room despite the fact they had been seated in a far off corner behind a huge leafy plant. “Maybe we should go” he suggested scooting his chair back.
“Not until we eat” Carson grabbed his hand “just relax and enjoy.”
“But I…” Britland scanned the room noting the waiter was heading in their direction. He pulled his hand away. His eyes glancing at the menu of incomprehensible Italian. His mouth dropped open as Carson ordered for both of them in fluent Italian. His heart raced imagining what it’d be like to listen to Carson speaking to him in Italian in a moment of heated passion. His face flushed with heat as he felt Carson’s eyes gazing at him with an expression he didn’t quite understand. It was an expression he had seen a million times from girls coming onto Felix though.
He turned away breaking the connection, the spell that was being weaved between them. He didn’t even know if the guy was gay. He didn’t know anything about him other than he was a model who helped him out of a bad situation the night before.
“You’re going to love the risotto and the bruschetta is to die for” Carson enthused.
“How often to do you eat here?” Britland wondered.
“Almost every night” Carson shrugged as if it were nothing “my Auntie owns it.”
“Aw” Britland smiled “that explains why the maitre d let us in without the prerequisite tie.”
“You guessed” Carson laughed “crabby face probably things your my boyfriend.”
There was something in the way he said it or the look in his eye that had Britland looking at him with interest. “Do you bring a lot of guys here?” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer to that question.
“As a matter of fact” he paused as the waiter returned with the wine Carson ordered with their meal “no I don’t. You’re the first.”
“Then why would the maitre d assume we’re a couple? I mean we could just friends.” His cheeks flushed as Carson smiled over at him making him realize what he said “I mean we are just friends, right?”
“Do you know how adorable you are when you blush?” Carson asked making Britlan turn an even deeper shade of green. “He know’s my preferences” he gave Britland an intense appraising gaze “I’m gay. Do you have a problem with that?”
“Nnnno” he stammered taking a gulp from his wine glass.
“Go easy on that” Carson advised his eyes sparkling in the candle light “a fine wine is to be sipped. Savored. Not gulped.”
Coughing he patted his mouth dry with the cloth napkin “sorry.”
“What made you want to become a model?” Carson asked taking a sip of his wine. Breathing in its aroma with a practiced air.
“A lady at the mall said I had the look they were looking for” he replied “I didn’t have any other idea what I wanted to after graduation so I took her up on it.”
“Graduation? From college?” Carson frowned his eyes going from Britland’s face to the wine glass and back again.
Britland reached for his glass than thought better of it. “Not exactly” he mumbled staring glumly at the table feeling as if the magical evening was about to come to a disastrous end
“You don’t mean high school, do you?” when Britland nodded he grabbed the wine glass “no wonder you had no clue how to appreciate fine wine.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t…” hi mouth snapped shut as the waiter returned with their meal. He stared glumly at the steaming plates his appetite gone. He knew he had ruined a perfect evening along with the beginnings of a friendship.
“Go ahead and eat” Carson encouraged all anger was gone from his voice and manner.
Lifting his fork Britland took a hesitant bite of the risotto. “Mmm this is good” he praised the meal in lieu of the apology he felt he still owed.
“You don’t have to walk with me.” Britland expected Carson to nod and go on his way.
“I’ll go as far as the park,” he said walking beside him, their shoulders brushing each other.
They turned into the par where several homeless people were setting up for the night in the shadows. He watched as Carson walked over to a grungy older toothless man. “Thanks Harvey for watching my camp.” He fished in his pocket for some loose bills to hand to the man. Harvey hobbled off into the dark. Turning Carson smiled at Britland who was staring at the transaction. “It’s no big deal” he shrugged “I lost my apartment a few days ago. My roommate decided he wanted his girlfriend to live with him rather than me.”
The thought of this gorgeous man sleeping like a homeless person made Britland feel more than a little sick. “Why can’t you just go home?” he asked.
Carson made a bitter sound that might have been a low chuckle. “As if my parents want anything to do with me. They kicked me out once I came out as gay. It was cool though. At the time I already been planning on moving out. I just didn’t expect my roommate acquiring a girlfriend so soon.”
Shaking his head Britland reached over grabbed Carson’s forearm preventing him from leaving. “You’re not sleeping out here” he protested.
“I’ll be alright” Carson shook his hand off “it’s not like I haven’t done it before.”
“No” he said almost shouting. His shout drew several curious looks from nearby people.
“Keep your voice down” Carson hissed “I don’t want to give up my spot because the locals don’t trust me.”
“You can stay with me” Britland insisted not listening to Carson’s protests. His pulse raced at the thought of this handsome man living with him, someone he just met the night before but he couldn’t let him sleep outside in the park.
“What about your roommate?” Carson asked giving in “won’t he object?”
“Probably” Britland shrugged as if he didn’t care “if he can have sex all over the damn furniture I can have a friend stay.”
Carson raised an eyebrow at the unusual outburst. “Am I your friend?” he asked curious.
“Of course” Britland nodded looking at his feet “you did save me from possibly embarrassing myself last night at the club. You helped me out today when I was so nervous I couldn’t think straight. Dinner tonight even though you were upset when you found out I lied about my age.”
“It wasn’t so much the lie but worry for my Auntie” Carson explained “she lets me eat at her restaurant free of charge. I don’t want her getting in trouble by serving alcohol to someone underage. She could lose her liqueur license.”
“I feel terrible about that” Britland apologized again.
“Don’t worry about it” Carson shrugged moving to collect his things “if you’re sure your roommate won’t mind. I’d love to sleep on something other than the ground for a change.”
“I don’t care if he does mind” Britland asserted hoping that would be the way he still felt when Felix confronted him about it.
Felix threw Britland’s door open. “Who the hell is that guy?” he demanded.
Sitting up Britland stared at him with a confused sleepy look on his face. “What guy?” he asked his brain fuzzy from sleep.
“The guys you brought home last night,” Felix yelled “what’s he doing here?”
Rubbing his eyes Britland yawned. “He didn’t have any place else to stay. I said he could stay here.”
“You what?” He shouted “you had no right to invite a stranger to live here without my permission.”
“What about what’s her name you screwed on the couch?” Britland shot back.
“That’s different” Felix scoffed “she doesn’t live here.”
“Neither does Carson” Britland said “he just needs a place to stay until he finds a place of his own.” He stood up feeling at a too much of a disadvantage with Felix towering over him. “We have that extra room. We could use the extra cash. Expenses split three ways is better than two.”
“That would be a plus” he conceded grudgingly. Walking to the door “net time ask before bringing some random guy home.”
“Like you asked before having random sex on our furniture and floor” Britland asked.
Shrugging “that’s different. Doing the neighbor was spur of the moment. Bringing home hippie dude is another.” His eye brightened as a mischievous grin spread across his face “unless…did you two have hot passionate sex last night?”
“OMG no” Britland shook his head “I’ve just met him. Unlike you I don’t make it a habit of jumping into bed with every guy I meet.”
“Have you ever jumped into bed with anyone?” Felix asked his eyes shining bright with curiosity.
“That’s none of your business” Britland stammered as his cheeks flared a deep emerald-green.
“Dude I’ve got to get you laid” Felix laughed turning coming face to face with their new roommate. “You just might be the one to do it.”
“To do what?” Carson asked eyes shifting to Britland.
“To pop our boys cherry” Felix chortled pushing past the stunned model.
Felix’s words hung heavy in the awkward silence. “If you want me to hit him I will” Carson offered breaking the silence bringing a relieved grin to Britland’s lips.
“As much as he deserves it no” Britland sighed sitting heavily on the edge of his bed rubbing his hands over his face. “He can be a jerk sometimes” he admitted as if it were a revelation.
“From what I’ve seen that’s being generous” Carson said coming to stand in front of Britland. “If this is going to make you uncomfortable I don’t have to stay. I was doing ok in the park.”
“Absolutely not” Britland protested glaring up at him “I’d worry about you all the time if I let you stay in the park. What kind of friend would I be if I let you do that? I can handle Felix. He’s harmless.”
“If you say so” Carson chuckled “the offer still stands. I can still hit him if you want me to.”
Shaking his head Britland stood up. “No Felix isn’t so bad.” Smiling he said “I’ll keep it in mind though.”
“Alright” Carson moved towards the door paused. “He wasn’t wrong though…” he waited for Britland to look up at him. “I do want to get to know you more than just friends.” He laughed at the mixture of confusion, embarrassment and desire that flitted across Britland’s expressive face deepening the color on his cheeks. “I do love it when you blush.”
When the door closed behind Carson, Britland stared at his reflection in the mirror. What did a guy who looked like Carson see in him? His eyes were too large although they lacked the distinct inky blackness his father and Grandmother had. His skin was green another hold over of his alien ancestry. He hated it His hair was blond, which was the only feature he liked about himself.
He bit his lip. Was he cut out for this lifestyle? He just invited a practical stranger to live in his home. Although that stranger was nicer to him than his so-called best friend has been. Still he couldn’t help but wonder if he had done the right thing. He was distracted by the ringing of his phone. “Hello” he said expecting a telemarketer from the unknown number flashing across the screen.
“You should have heeded my warnings” the voice was deep almost mechanical. It was like they were speaking through a device made to alter voices.
“Felix is that you?” Britland asked “this isn’t funny.”
“It’s not meant to be funny” the voice hissed “stop modeling before someone gets hurt. No one wants to see the abomination that is you.” There was a pause before the voice continued “freak.”
He tossed the phone done with a loud clatter on the dresser. That wasn’t Felix. It couldn’t be. For all faults Felix had never called him a freak. Not once in all the years they had known each other.
He was in too deep to just quit. He had signed a contract. He needed the job. The exposure. If he bailed on the contract that would be the end of his career. He couldn’t do that. His parents were already disappointed in him. He didn’t need to be a failure in his chosen career added on top of everything else.