Miranda walked around the room. Disapproval in the frown she gave her husband. Rob walked over to her, took her hand in his. “What are they doing with a bar” she demanded her voice loud enough for the boys to hear. “They’re not old enough to drink yet.”
Carson could feel her disapproving gaze upon him. His eyes sought out Britland who looked miserable. He cleared his throat ready to deflect the mother’s disapproval to himself when to his surprise Felix spoke up.
“It’s mine” he announced “my dad had an interior designer come before we moved in.” He shrugged “I may have led them to believe we were over twenty-one.”
Miranda nodded staring at the bar. “That explain why you have a bar but not why it’s fully stocked.”
“Well…” Felix hung is head staring steadily at the floor.
“Mom” Britland cried “what difference does it make? We’re all adults here.”
“Son” Rob patted his wife’s hands “you shouldn’t have alcohol at all. It’s not a matter of being an adult. You’re not old enough to drink.”
“You could get into serious trouble young man for supplying alcohol to underage kids” Miranda snapped at Carson
“Hey” Britland gripped Carson’s shoulder “just because he’s the only one of age doesn’t mean he’s the one buying it. For all you know I could have a fake ID.” His voice quivered remembering the first time he had used it. The night he met Carson.
Rob held his hand out “hand it over.” His voice was firm and authoritative.
Reaching into his back pocket for his wallet Britland searched for the ID. He hadn’t wanted it when Felix gave it to him. Now he’d do anything to keep it if only to prove a point to his parents. He caught the grateful look Felix was giving him and sighed. No matter what he couldn’t let Felix or Carson be the fall guy in this. He should have realized his parents would disapprove of them having the bar in their apartment. It would do no good to tell them he never drank but the one time. He walked the short distance towards his parents. “It’s not what you think” he mumbled handing his dad his fake ID card.
Taking the card Rob snapped it in half. “I hope not son.”
Miranda took several bottles from the bar and walked towards the kitchen. “Mrs. Olivia you can’t just dump it out” Felix protested.
“Are you saying this alcohol is your?” she asked setting the bottles on the counter.
“Err” he sucked in his breath. If he admitted it was his he’d have a visit from his parents. “Maybe Carson minds” he stood with his back stiff refusing to look at the purple haired male.
Carson raised an eyebrow smirking a little as he said “nope I don’t mind at all.” He chuckled a little at the low moan that escaped Felix’s closed grim lips.
An hour later Felix stood staring at the bare floor boards where his bar once stood. He should have moved it to his room before Britland’s family came. He knew they were strict but hadn’t realized to what extent. He curled his fingers into fists as he stared at the empty space. He wanted to scream or cry. Something to give vent to this heavy hollow feeling in his chest.
He stomped his feet feeling like he was four years old again. The preschool teacher found his candy stash. He smiled as he remembered trying to shove the bag into Britland’s hands. The blonde cried all the way to the front of the classroom where the teacher ordered him to throw the sweet treats into the trash can. He would always remember the wide-eyed horror-stricken expression on Britland’s face as he complied. That had been the last straw. Felix smiled as he remembered throwing himself on the floor, arms and legs thrashing wildly around. Screaming like someone was killing him. The teacher ordering him to stop that quickly turned into pleas but nothing worked. At least nothing until his parents arrived. The low rumble of his father’s disapproving voice cut his screams down to a whimper than intermittent sniffles. It had been the last time his parents came to one of his tantrums.
He always envied Britland. His parents cared what happened to him. He didn’t have to do anything to get their attention. They were at every school function while he scanned the audience in a futile hope of seeing one or both of his parents. Britland’s parents never failed to commend him or applaud his accomplishments. He felt an unusual pang in his chest like he had let them down. He never felt that way about his parents. He didn’t much care for the feeling.
Turning he headed for the door. He needed to go out. He needed something to distract himself from this hollow feeling. He didn’t feel regret. He laughed at people who did. He…needed a drink. A few hours of carefree fun. Something that he didn’t require him to think. Only two things that helped quiet his mind in situations like this, alcohol and sex.
He left the apartment keeping his head down while he waited for the elevator. The last thing he needed was to run across the sex crazed lady across the hall. She had broken up with her significant other and had been clingy and needy. As soon as the elevator doors opened he walked in bumping into the Crystal on her way out. “Excuse me” he mumbled reaching out to steady her.
She looked him up and down “are you alright?” she asked.
Dropping his hands to his sides “fine” he mumbled stepping aside to allow her past.
“I haven’t seen you around a lot lately” her cheeks reddened “not that I’ve noticed. I mean….” she snapped her mouth shut remembering the last time she had seen him he looked like he had spent the night inside a dumpster.
Shoving his hands in his pockets he avoided her eyes. “Been busy” he muttered stepping into the closing elevator doors. He could see the perplexed hurt in her eyes. He hung his head feeling drained. She was better off not getting involved with him. He wasn’t good for her.
“You like him” Miranda smiled up at her son
Britland stopped on the path they were walking along. He gazed into the distance “I…don’t know” he mumbled not ready to admit it even to himself.
Taking his hand she guided him to a bench “are you afraid your Dad and I won’t approve?”
“It’s not that” he protested with definite shake of his head. “We’re just friends.”
She rolled her eyes at him “I’m not blind. I’ve seen the way he looks at you.” She squeezed his hand “I am concerned though.”
“Mom” he leaned away from her “don’t.”
“Don’t what” she demanded blinking “he’s quit a bit older than you.”
“He’s twenty-two” he sat up “that’s not too old.”
“Four years” she pointed out “he’s a lot more experienced than you. He can…”
“Drink” Britland stood up and walked a short distance away. “Is that what you’re worried about? That he’ll turn me into an alcoholic?”
“He did purchase all that alcohol” Miranda said “he’s not a good influence on you or Felix.”
“That’s not true” he objected “Felix is the bad influence not him.”
“You shouldn’t let him interfere with your relationship with Felix” Miranda persisted “you’ve been best friends since preschool.”
“I know mom” he crossed his arms “Felix isn’t who you think he is.”
“Felix is a good boy” she insisted “we’ve known him since you and he were little.” Her eyes took on a far away look as if she were seeing two little four-year old boys giggling in front of her.
“I know mom but” he didn’t want to throw his best friend beneath the bus but he didn’t want Carson there either. While he dithered in a state of uncertainty his mom was already onto the next thing.
“I always kind of hoped you and Felix would get together.” She glanced up at him to see how her words affected him.
“Mom” he gasped “don’t even go there. Felix and I that’s just … gross.”
“You and Felix have always had a special bond” she continued.
“You’re not listening” Britland could feel his frustration level rising “we’re friends. Nothing more. That’s it. Don’t make it into something it’s not.”
“I’m not” she protested disappointment heavy in her words. “Are you sure Felix is into girls? He hasn’t had one over the entire time we’ve been here.”
“You’ve only been here a day” Britland pointed out “he’s never had one steady girl. He has hook ups. A lot of hook ups.”
“Oh” she blinked looking away.
“Sorry” he felt impelled to say something even though he really didn’t know why.
“It’s not your fault” Miranda put a hand to his cheek “you love who you love. I know that better than anyone.”
“So you’re not disappointed…”
“Maybe a little” she laughed “I had so many hopes for little green-skinned pinked haired grandchildren. I suppose now” she looked over her shoulder towards her husband and Carson, “I’ll have to settle for purple instead.”
“Mom” he protested his cheeks burning as he watched his Dad and Carson turn towards them and wave.
Carson lifted a hand to wave at mother and son. He hoped they’d be joining them. He had the uncomfortable feeling that he was about to be interrogated by Britland’s Dad.
“You like my son” Rob nodded towards his wife and son before turning and inviting Carson to follow him.
Short of being rude Carson followed “we’re only friends.” His voice was gruff like he hadn’t drunk anything for days.
“Uh huh” Rob gave him an appraising once over before saying “that’s not what I meant. I’ve seen the way you look at him when you think no one else is looking.”
“I assure you I only have the best of intentions towards your son” he stammered. His eyes darted around as if he feared a trap.
“Relax” Rob advised “I’m not going to read you the riot act or give you the standard Dad speech. I am however concerned for whoever you and Britland are covering for.”
He moved his shoulders up in a small shrug. He kicked at a tuft of grass with his toes. “If it makes a difference I never go to clubs or bars when I’m out with Britland.” He could feel his cheeks burning as his words dribbled from his mouth. Why had he felt impelled to say that? It’d only reinforce the idea that he liked Britland for more than a friend. He did but that didn’t matter if Britland didn’t reciprocate his feelings.
“If you feel that way towards my son. Why don’t you tell him” Rob asked dropping the other subject in favor of this. “Life is short. Too short to let opportunities pass you by. I know my son. He’ll dither in the realms of indecision until your both old and gray before he makes a move.”
Carson grunted “I don’t want to come on too strong…”
“Just be honest” Rob advised “his mother and I weren’t happy with his decision to move here or his choice to become a model. I’m still not sure it’s the right one for him. He’s old enough to make his own decisions so he has to come to that realization himself. I’ll support him no matter what. It’s his life. If you want to be a part of that life you have to step up and make a move.”
Carson swallowed. He never expected Britland’s father to advise him on his love life. Most of the time father’s want to protect their children from would be lovers. “I…” he licked his lips “what if he doesn’t feel the same?”
Looking over his shoulder Rob chuckled. “Britland gives you the same look his mother used to give me. It’s all in their eyes even if they don’t know it themselves.” He turned back to face the young man beside him. “Trust me. He likes you. I wouldn’t tell you that if I didn’t think you felt the same way.” He turned to walk back towards his son and wife. “If you hurt him I’ll tell my Dad. He’s a retired detective who still has many contacts in the Bridgeport police department. They’ll make your life miserable.”
“Yes sir. I mean so sir. I…” Carson swallowed more shook up than he cared to admit. “I won’t sir. I won’t hurt him”
“That’s all I ask” Rob smiled easily up at him “that’s all I wanted to hear.”
“Did you talk to him” Miranda asked leaning into him.
“I did” he kissed her cheek “he loves our son.” He felt her pull away from him. She walked a short distance away “what’s wrong?”
“Is he good enough for him” she asked turning in his harms. Leaning her cheek upon his chest listening to his steady heart beat “what about all the drinking?”
Tilting her chin up he smiled into her eyes. “Carson will take care of our boy. He won’t let him do anything crazy.”
“How can you be so sure” she demanded “Britland is too young and inexperienced. Carson’s older and can lure him into all sorts of things.”
“You worry too much” he leaned forward kissing a soft kiss on her forehead. “Do you trust our son?”
“Yes” was the ready answer despite the flash of doubt in her eyes. “I want to. I really really want to.” She sighed wrapping her arms around his waist “he’s all alone in this city, modeling and now this…”
“We raised him to be able to make his own decision” Rob pulled her closer “we raised him to know right from wrong. He’ll make good decisions. He’s not perfect. He’ll make mistakes.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of” she cried “what if all of this is just one big mistake? What if he gets hurt?”
“Then we’ll be there to help pick up the pieces” Rob laughed thinking of the threat he made Carson.
“What” Miranda demanded looking up at him “what’s so funny?”
“Oh I just told Carson if he hurt our son my Dad would sick the police on him” his eyes twinkled with mischief. “I felt like the bad ass father putting the fear into the guy her dared to date his daughter only it was my son.”
“Good” she laughed with him more at ease now than she was before.
They walked side by side along the path. Carson’s shoulder’s occasionally bumping into Britland. The sky was turning colors as the sun began to set. Glancing over at his companion Carson said “I really like your parents.”
Britland gave him a curious look “you do?”
“What’s so surprising about that” he demanded his voice low as if he were afraid of being overheard.
Sighing Britland looked at his shoes “Mom thinks you’re a bad influence on me and Felix….all that alcohol.”
“Doesn’t matter” Carson took his hand and squeezed it “your parents love you. Do you know how much I envy you that?”
As he spoke he turned his face away. Moved Britland put a hand up to wipe away the glittering tears from Carson’s cheeks. “I’m sorry. Your parents should be ashamed of themselves for the way they treat you.”
“Thank you” he mumbled blinking to get the steady flow of tears under control. His chest was tight and heavy.
“I’m sorry” Britland pulled Carson close rubbing his hand in small circles over his back “I shouldn’t have brought them up.”
“You didn’t. I did” Carson sniffed taking a step back his long hair sticking to his face where his tears hadn’t dried yet. “I was thinking of your dad. He warned me if I hurt you his Dad would contact his connections in the police department.”
“Better be careful then” Britland advised “Grandpa can be a pretty intimidating.” He looked at Carson touching his long hair tucked behind his pointy ear. “Did you ever find out what happened to your brother?” He asked hoping he wasn’t going to upset him again.
Shaking his head Carson drew in a shaky breath. “I told you all I knew. It’s so long ago…” He walked away as if distance could ease his mind.
“I wonder…” Britland smiled as an idea came to him. He could ask his Grandpa to look into the old case or ask someone else to do it for him. He knew it would ease the pain Carson was in. Knowing was better than not knowing. For now he decided to keep it to himself. He didn’t want to raise Carson’s hopes for no reason.
“There’s something I want to say to you” they both said at once. “You first” they said in unison.
Laughing Carson shook his head “why don’t you go first” he suggested.
“No you go first” he shook his head glad for the reprieve.
“Ok” Carson took a deep breath as if he needed fortification. Looking across the park he saw Britland’s parents walking hand in hand a picture of what love was meant to be. A soft sweet smile spread across his face as he turned to face Britland. “I like you” he blurted out forgetting the rehearsed speech he had planned on saying.
“Do you mean I like like you or” Britland took a hesitant step forward eyes glued on Carson’s face amazed at how red Carson’s face was becoming “like you as you’re my best friend.”
“I like like you” he took a gulp closing the gap between them “like I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love with you.”
Britland ran his hands up to Carson’s face caressing it between his hands. “We can fall together” he offered feeling the heat rise to his cheeks.
“Does that” Carson leaned in close his breath caressing Britland’s skin as he tilted his face up to meet his. Softly Carson brushed his lips across the blonde’s, leaving them both wanting more. “Does that mean you like me too?”
Moaning in response Britland pressed in closer bumping his nose into Carson’s in his clumsy inexperienced way. “Sssorry” he mumbled eyes wide with worry as Carson brought a hand up to cover his face. “Did I hurt you?”
Carson’s shoulder’s shook as he shook his head, hand clamped over his nose. He let Britland pry his hand away. Smiling as his hand revealed he was alright. Britland’s cheeks turned emerald-green. Carson ran his index finger along Britland’s jaw line “I love this color on you” he tilted Britland’s chin up. Staring down into the blonde’s half closed eyes, his long eyelashes framing his green eyes. His breaths were blowing across his skin in rapid pulses in sync with the beating of his heart.
“Kiss me already” Britland pleaded when he couldn’t take the suspense any longer. The longing was heightened by the earlier feathery touch of Carson’s lips across his. His rapid heart beat emphasized his desire for more. All his senses were on fire. Centered on the man holding his face between his hands. Everything seemed to have slowed down to a miserable crawl then everything came to life. His entire body felt like it was on fire as electricity pulsed through it as Carson leaned in and gave him what he wanted. The kiss. His first kiss. One moment he was floating the next he was crashing down to earth. Then floating again. It was strange and wonderful leaving him with a feeling that he had found the place where he belonged.