This is Chapter 12 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrator is Emmett Honeycutt, and features Cynthia Llewellyn, Dr. David Cameron, Michael Novotny, Hank Cameron, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Emmett needs an office. Pittsburgh, May 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
I need an office.
I mean a REAL office. With fabulous pastel walls and trendy Italian furniture and a receptionist at the front desk. And I'd have a private inner sanctum with a big, butch walnut desk and I'd sit behind it and bark into my phone things like, "Maisie! Get me the Llewellyn/Judson file! STAT!"
I've always wanted a receptionist named Maisie. She'd have a big blonde bouffant and file her nails and chew gum as she sat at her desk and answered the phone and said, "May I help you?" to people who came in for their appointments.
Wait -- I think STAT is for doctors. I learned that on 'E.R.' But who cares? It sounds good!
"Emmett? I said that I'd like those pear tarts for the appetizer."
"Of course." I blink and come back down to earth. "Pear tarts. Fabulous choice. They're yummy!"
"Is everything okay, Emmett?" Cynthia asks. "You seem a little stressed out today."
"Busy, busy, busy!" I reply. "Like a little bumble bee."
"Maybe we should reschedule?" Cynthia's pretty face frowns. She's so focused on the task at hand. It's inspiring. I can see why she was Brian's assistant. Focus is his middle name. Well, one of them anyway.
"Oh, no, honey! We need to get this information down now. I want to finalize the menu and then I can line up everything else."
That's when we start getting down to brass tacks -- checking off the items on my To-Do List. Cynthia, as usual, is totally prepared. She has her own list, which she compares with mine.
"Did you talk to the florist?" she asks.
"Taken care of," I pronounce smugly. I indicate Number 5 on my list. At the top is printed "Llewellyn/Judson Wedding -- Saturday, August 2, 2003" in a pretty font with lots of curlicues. It was Vic's idea to get a computer -- a cute purple iMac! -- and print out everything so it looks nice and professional.
Now all we need is an office. Instead of a table in the corner.
"You guys want another drink or something?"
It's Freddy, that cute bartender in the khaki wifebeater. He's always so helpful, if a little bit gruff. But I like gruff. It's tres macho!
"No, thank you," sighs Cynthia, glancing around uneasily. It's starting to get a tad noisy in here. "I'll just finish up what I have." She indicates her Perrier with a twist.
I guess it was a mistake to convene at Woody's on a Saturday afternoon, but it's so convenient -- and the drink specials are so good! -- that I couldn't resist. When I first started meeting clients here it was a bit awkward. Freddy kept giving me dirty looks until I'd order something. And my clientele aren't the usual denizens of this dive -- brides-to-be and their moms and society matrons planning anniversary parties aren't the norm on Liberty. A few of the guys thought I was hosting a drag queen club and wanted to join! I had to set them straight -- so to speak! -- and let them know that I'm a serious businessman doing serious business. Or as close to serious as I can get! So we sit in the corner between the pool table and the pinball machine -- and facing away from the porn on the television! -- and all is well. So far. Kind of.
The real problem -- if you can call it a problem -- is that our party planning business is really beginning to take off. I can't keep meeting my clients in Woody's or at the back booth at the diner or at Vic and Tim's teeny tiny kitchen table much longer.
But until then...
"I'll have another Mudslide," I tell Freddy. "A Virgin Mudslide this time. Not good to get tipsy too early in the day." I lean over to confide in Cynthia. "I don't want to be so sloshed that I pass out before I go to Babylon tonight. It's Slutty Saturday!"
"Sounds like a Must-Not-Miss occasion," she replies, raising an eyebrow in a very Kinneyesque manner.
"Oh, it is! I adore Slutty Saturday!" Freddy brings me my drink and I take a sip. "Dee-lish! Would you like a taste, Miss Cynthia?"
She laughs. "No thanks, Emmett. Nothing more." She checks her watch and stands up, straightening her tasteful blue Donna Karan frock. Cynthia always looks so put-together -- I admire that. "I have to get going. I'm flying down to New York tomorrow for a second interview with Hopkins, Horowitz, and Makepeace. Brian says they're one of the hottest up-and-coming agencies on Madison Avenue. I think they're going to offer me a job!"
I clap my hands. "Ooo! Wonderful! A new husband AND a new job! And in the Big Apple, too!"
"I don't have it yet," she warns. "But Brian called Mr. Makepeace personally and made a pitch for me, so I have high hopes. If I get it I'll start in September, right after the honeymoon."
Honeymoon! Such a romantic word! "And where are you and the dishy Mr. Judson going to fu... I mean, to celebrate your wedded bliss?"
"Hawaii," she confirms. "Brian set it up all up. We're staying in a private house on Maui. He says it's beautiful! And it isn't costing anything. It's Brian's wedding gift to us!"
"Wow," I say. And I mean it. That must be the place Justin told me about. The house where Jimmy Hardy and his family vacation and where Justin stayed with Brian when he flew out to Hawaii after Christmas. "I bet it's an amazing place if it's good enough for Brian! That's a very generous gift."
"Brian's been a real doll," Cynthia confides. "No one will ever know all the things he's done for me over the years. I owe him so much. My career. Meeting Scott -- Brian introduced us on the set of that Woody Allen movie he filmed last fall. My new job -- I hope! And now my honeymoon." Cynthia hesitates, but then she leans down to whisper in my ear. "Don't tell anyone, but Brian is going to give me away! He doesn't want too many people to know because he doesn't want my wedding to become a media circus, but I think it's all right if I tell you, Emmett. After all, you're my wedding planner!"
Sweet Jumping Jesus! Brian Kinney walking down the aisle! In a church! At a wedding! I know he's not the one getting married, but this is mind-blowing for a guy who hates anything to do with marriage on principle!
"My lips are not only sealed, my dear, they are glued, stapled, and riveted shut!"
"They better be!" Cynthia scoops her wedding notebook into her Coach bag. "Or you'll have Brian Kinney to answer to!"
That makes me shudder. I'm not cowed by Brian Kinney the way most people are, but I'm also not an idiot. Being on the wrong side of Brian is not the place anyone wants to be, especially not on a happy occasion like a wedding.
"Call me when you get back from New York, hon," I say. "I'll have the menu finalized by then. And we can go over some other details."
"Sure thing," she says. "But maybe we can meet at my apartment -- or my mother's place? Not that Woody's isn't... um... interesting, but I think my mom would feel more comfortable somewhere else."
I nod. "Got it." I mentally cross Woody's off my list of places to meet. If it's too much for a fruit fly like Cynthia, then it's way over the top for the rest of my clients. Like I say -- I need an office! STAT! Maisie! Get on it quick!
After Cynthia leaves I sip my Virgin Mudslide and go over my appointment book. I can't believe how many events we have simmering. Next week is an opening at the Sidney Bloom Gallery and a birthday party out in Monroeville -- on the same night! That's going to be a bitch. I'm going to handle the gallery, while Vic covers the party. We have four weddings coming up in June and three more scheduled for July, plus Cynthia's in August. And requests for information are coming in every day. We're going to have to hire more servers. And I think we need a real bookkeeper, too -- I don't want the I.R.S. coming after us! And I want to set up a website, so that's another thing I can't do myself. I jot down a note to ask Michael about that. He'll know.
Being a high-powered business tycoon is fucking exhausting!
"Emmett -- I was hoping I'd find you here."
Surprise isn't the word for how I feel as the infamous Dr. Dreamboat, a.k.a. David Cameron, slips into the seat recently vacated by Miss Cynthia.
"David, what are you doing here?" Woody's isn't the kind of place David hangs out in on a Saturday afternoon. He's more the exclusive sports club type. And Woody's is anything BUT exclusive.
"I was just at the diner. Debbie told me that you might be holding court over here."
I like David -- generally. But there's always this note of condescension in his voice when he speaks to me. Like I don't understand that he's talking down to me. I may be a white trash pansy from Hazelhurst, Mississippi, but believe you me, I know when someone is being uppity to me. But David is Michael's boyfriend. Or partner. Or whatever. I prefer lover, but I know Dr. Dave would think that's common. Partner, then.
I smile sweetly. "How may I be of service to you, Dr. Cameron?"
"Michael tells me that you plan parties."
"Michael told you correctly, sir!" Business! Whoopee! David is loaded, so he'll want a high class -- i.e., expensive -- event. "What do you have in mind? A party for your wine-tasting friends? Or is Hank's birthday coming up? Or is Senator Baxter up for re-election?"
"None of those." David clears his throat like he's nervous. That's not like him. He's not a nervous kind of guy.
I wait. "Yes?"
"A wedding," he says, finally. "I want you to plan a wedding and reception."
I have to admit that I'm floored. "A... a wedding?"
Now David seems more confident. "To be held at my house. I have a large backyard and I'd like the ceremony to be held there. Then a buffet supper in a tent. Something like that. And music, too. A string quartet. Or a harp. I want it to be intimate. Close friends only. Maybe fifty people at the most. But I want everything top-of-the-line. Can you do that?"
"Certainly." I get out my pad and write "Dr. David Cameron Wedding" at the top. Then I pause. "And this is for you... and Michael?"
"Of course." He sits back and crosses his arms over his chest, almost defiantly. "Who else?"
I add "Michael Novotny" to the top of the pad. "What date were you thinking for this event?"
He ponders. "I'd like it as soon as possible, but I understand that's probably not feasible. How about August? The beginning of August?"
I take out my datebook and open it to August. "I already have a wedding scheduled for Saturday, August 2nd." Yes, Cynthia's day of nuptial bliss!
"It doesn't have to be a Saturday," he says. He glances at the calendar. "What about here? Tuesday, the 5th?"
"Tuesday?" Well, why not? There's nothing written in stone that says a wedding has to be on the weekend. "You're the doctor, Doctor!" I laugh as I pencil in the date.
But David only stares back at me. He's not a big laugher, our Dr. Dave! "Money is no object, Emmett, but I'll need to okay every detail. I'll also want to see all of the receipts."
"Obviously." What does he think? That I'm some flighty queen who will spend his money like a drunken sailor? I happen to be a professional!
"You and Vic will also be guests, of course. I was a little hesitant to use you because of your connection to Michael, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided that you would know our taste better than some stranger. Besides, I know your business is just getting off the ground... My friends throw a lot of parties. A recommendation from me might help you out."
"Indeed," I reply. I want to make a snarky comment about how Vic and I are doing quite well, thank you, but then I remember that the customer is always right. This is business, as Brian would say, it's not personal. "Vic and I do the best job possible for all of our clients, but we'll make certain that you and Michael have the finest we can provide. I guarantee that."
"I thought you would." David reaches across the table and takes my hand. "It's a deal, then?"
"A done deal," I agree, shaking on it.
David's handshake is very determined. Very butch. He's a hot guy. Too bad he can be such a jerk sometimes.
"And why isn't Michael here to discuss this?" I ask the obvious question.
"I'm telling him about it tonight. At Papagano's. Over a romantic dinner." He takes out two red velvet ring cases and opens them. Two platinum rings are nestled inside. "And I'll show him these. I'll get the date engraved on them now that it's set. August 5th, 2003."
Suddenly I feel a little queasy about all of this. Poor Michael! Steamrolled again by the Good Doctor!
"He'll be delighted," I lie. "The rings are beautiful."
"And the wedding will be, too, Emmett. I know I can count on you."
"Yeah," I say. "From your lips to God's ear."
A beautiful, classy wedding for my best friend. What could be better?
So why do I feel like a fucking traitor?
"Bullshit!" Vic exclaims as he sets a plate of cranberry and pumpkin muffins on the kitchen table for Tim and me to taste. "Lord knows I like David and think he's a well-meaning guy, but I hate the way he leads Michael around like a little dog on a leash. Brian was right about one thing -- every time Mikey gets together with David, he loses all sense of himself and becomes an appendage. David's image of the perfect little wife. And that's not Michael. Or at least it shouldn't be."
"Maybe the wedding was Michael's idea?" Tim suggests, reaching for a cranberry muffin. Leave it to the dishy but saintly ex-Father Tim to try to see the positive aspects of a crummy situation -- or to give Dr. Dreamboat-Turned-Titanic the benefit of the doubt.
"Um -- no," I reply. "David is taking him to dinner tonight to spring it on him. Believe you me, this wedding was NOT Mikey's idea."
"Blindsided," Vic mutters. "That's David's style. Hit and run. By the time Michael knows what clobbered him, he'll be barefoot and pregnant, stirring spaghetti sauce at the stove!"
I almost spit my iced tea all over my muffin. "I could have done without that image in my head, if you don't mind?" I tell Vic. "The thought of Michael with a baby bump gives me the willies!"
"Michael may not be pregnant, but he's certainly acting like some downtrodden wife whining to Dr. Phil!"
Tim rolls his eyes. "I told Vic to turn off the television while he's working on his recipes. The other day I came home and he was crying about something he saw on 'Oprah'!"
"I was not crying!" Vic insists. "I was chopping onions."
"Whatever," Tim says dubiously.
I finish my ice tea and stand up with new determination. "That settles it. I'm going over to the store right this second and warn Michael about David's wedding plans!"
Tim touches my arm. "Emmett, I'd leave it if I were you. This is between the two of them. It's never good to get involved in other people's relationships."
Vic snorts. "So says the man who got Brian and Justin back together!"
"I didn't get them back together," Tim protests. "I only gave Brian some information about Justin I thought he ought to know -- and things progressed from there."
"And that's what I'm planning to do -- give Michael a little information." I pick up an extra muffin for the road. "I like the pumpkin better than the cranberry," I say to Vic. "I think the cranberry muffins are a little dry."
"I'll work on them," says Vic. "Good luck, Em. And give my regards to Michael."
When I get to Red Cape Comics it's almost 5:00 -- Saturday closing time. There's only one kid in the store. Good -- that means I can talk to Michael in peace.
But then I see that the kid is David's son, Hank. He's around 15, skinny, with a long, kind of goofy face, and shaggy hair. Michael says he's into playing sports -- hockey, skateboarding, skiing, all that jock stuff, just like David. He's slumped on an old sofa that Michael has in the back of the store and he's reading -- no surprise! -- a comic book.
"Em!" Michael cries, coming around the counter and giving me a big hug. "What the heck are you doing here?"
"Just a social call," I say lightly.
"I'm so glad you're here! ! You and Vic have been so busy party planning that I hardly ever see you anymore!" He turns to the boy on the sofa. "Hey, Hank! You remember Emmett, don't you?"
"Sure," Hank shrugs. "I guess. Hey." Then he goes back to his comic.
"Hey yourself. Listen, Michael -- can we talk? For a minute or two? In private?"
"Well..." He frowns. "I was trying to finish up some stuff before I close up."
"This is important. Please?"
"Okay, let's go into the office. Hank? Could you watch the store for a few minutes?"
"Sure," comes the reply. "I guess."
"That boy is quite the conversationalist," I say as I follow Michael into the office, closing the door behind us.
"He's 15, Em. They don't have a lot to say to a couple of old geezers like us."
"Well!" I huff. "Speak for yourself! I'm still clinging to my golden youth, however faded it might be!"
Michael laughs. "You don't look a day over 29, Em! I swear!"
"I still AM 29! And don't you forget it!" Then I laugh, too. "Remember Brian's 30th birthday? And that Death Day Party we had at the funeral home? What a fuss he made over it! Such a drama queen! Seems crazy now."
But Michael's face turns serious, like he's remembering it all differently. And what he's remembering isn't so funny. "Yeah, crazy." He pauses. "Then Justin got bashed right after that."
"Oh." Yikes! I forgot about that. It was right after Brian's birthday. "But that's all water under the bridge now."
"Have you heard from Justin lately?" Michael asks suddenly.
"A few days ago," I inform him. "I got an e-mail from him. They're settling into the desert nicely. And he met Clint Eastwood! And -- wait for it! -- Patrick Swayze is there, too, and, according to Justin, he and Brian are bosom pals! Patrick 'Dirty Dancing' Swayze! He and Brian riding around on horses, all sweaty and butch! Wouldn't you just die to see that?"
"Yeah," Michael says glumly. "Patrick Swayze."
Something is up. This is not the excited response I was expecting. "But Brian probably told you that already."
"Brian's met him before. It's no big deal." Michael shakes his head slowly. "And no, Em, Brian hadn't told me about it. The truth is, I haven't heard a word from Brian. He and I... we haven't really spoken in a while."
This is news to me! "Haven't spoken? What do you mean? Since when?"
"Since before he and Justin left for L.A. Brian and I had a disagreement about..." Michael bites his lip. "Some stuff."
"About what, for heaven's sake?"
"No," says Michael, stubbornly. "It doesn't matter now."
This is certainly a new twist. I bet it has to do with Michael and David. Or maybe not. You never can be sure with Michael and Brian -- their relationship has more layers than one of Vic's big buttercream wedding cakes.
But I can't forget what I came here for. So I steel myself for some hard truths. And that means putting on my rough-and-tumble, non-nelly bottom voice. "Listen, sweetie, I came over here on a mission. I need to tell you something. Something you need to know."
"Tell me what, Em?"
Michael looks at me with that puppy-dog face. Those wide, brown eyes. They look so sad. So vulnerable.
I think about when we were living together. We'd sit around in the evening and watch the tube and talk about our hopes and dreams for the future. I was full of all kinds of fantasies about The Perfect Man. The Mr. Right who would erase the memories of all those Mr. Wrongs I'd had to suffer through. But Michael was always a little quiet about what he wanted. He'd only say, "I just want to be happy, Em. If that's possible."
I thought it was because he was still pining after Brian that made him so glum. And maybe that was the reason. Or maybe it was hard for him to see a life for himself with a really great guy. It's not like he had many role models for a long-term relationship. But then none of us did.
Then he met David and things seemed to change. When Michael was first living with David he seemed so happy. They had some problems, but nothing they couldn't have worked out eventually. But then David decided to move to Portland and strong-armed Michael into following him. And we all know how THAT turned out!
And I won't even mention Ben. I really, truly thought that would work out. I guess I was wrong.
"I just want to be happy, Em. If that's possible."
Michael being happy. So maybe I'm making a big mistake. Maybe Dr. Dave taking Mikey's life into his hands is what he needs. Maybe that's really what Michael has been looking for all these years. A big, strong Daddy to take care of him and give him all the things a little gay boy dreams of. Or at least what THIS little gay boy always dreamed of when I was growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Hazelhurst, Mississippi. A beautiful house with all the trimmings. A ready-made family. A hunky partner who is also a doctor! Be still my heart!
And now that Brian is gone -- and Professor Bruckner is nowhere to be seen -- perhaps that's exactly what Michael wants. Exactly what he needs. Sure, David is a tad domineering. Even a tad arrogant. But then so is Brian and Michael loves Brian to pieces! I always thought that's why Brian and David didn't get along -- they were WAY too much alike! So maybe that's what Michael likes about David. The fact that he takes control. Then Michael doesn't have to worry about making a mistake. He leaves it all in the Good Doctor's capable hands.
So maybe what Michael needs right now is David's big romantic proposal in a fancy romantic restaurant. Candles on the table. Violins playing in the background. A lovely Italian meal with lots of wine. And then David will bring out those two rings and tell Michael that his future is settled.
Who am I to spoil that? Especially when I doubt it will ever happen to me.
"What?" he repeats. Those big brown eyes gaze at me.
I can't do it. "Nothing, Mikey. Nothing at all. Be happy. Be very, very happy. And you have a wonderful dinner tonight, you hear?" I push the door of the office open and head for the exit.
"Emmett! How do you know David and I are going out to dinner tonight?" he calls. "Em! Wait a sec! What were you going to tell me?"
But I just keep going. This is no time to lose my nerve. No time to look back.
No time at all.
Continue on to "Private Universe".
©Gaedhal, August 2007.
Posted August 29, 2007.