This is Part 4
The other sections in "The Angel Stream".
The Fieldstone Inn, March 2005
Brian and Justin found the side structure, where books and prints were located, much less of a zoo than the main building of the Antique Market. The crowds were thinner and less manic and the dealers more relaxed as they sat on folding chairs, reading, chatting with customers, or going through piles of musty books, trying to determine their values.
Brian still wasn't crazy about the whole idea of antiques and collectibles, but at least with books the items themselves had an intrinsic value rather than just a being a worthless object to stick on a shelf and collect dust.
A hand-painted sign indicated Charlie Newberg's booth and Brian and Justin headed directly for it. Charlie was a man in his 50's with long, greying hair in a ponytail and Ben Franklin-style glasses perched on his nose. He was perusing a stack of old encyclopedias, sniffing and making mumbling sounds as he leafed through them.
"Water damage," he huffed to no one in particular as the pair approached his booth. "Half the pages are stuck together and three of the volumes are missing. Why would anyone think that these are valuable? They're garbage!"
"That's what I've been saying all day," said Brian. "Until we came in here."
Charlie snorted. "You been over at the main building? In the market for some fake 18th century furniture? Or broken china?" Then Charlie laughed shortly. "Or plastic toys from McDonald's?"
"We've already seen that stuff. Not interested today, or tomorrow, or ten years from now," Brian asserted. Finally -- someone as cynical as he was! For an old breeder hippie, Charlie Newberg didn't seem half bad.
"We're looking for art prints," Justin piped up.
"Original stuff or reprints?" Charlie asked, tossing the warped encyclopedias on the ground.
"It doesn't matter," said Justin. "I'm an artist, not a collector. I'd just like something interesting."
"Let's see what we have, young man," said Charlie, standing up slowly. Brian noticed that he walked with a limp.
The man motioned Justin over to where he had prints stacked on a table. "These are mostly old magazine prints. This group is 19th century. These over here are early 20th century."
"I like these," said Justin, pulling out some of flappers posing against blocky-looking backgrounds. "They look Art Deco."
"You have a good eye, young man," said Charlie. "Those are from around 1926. And here are some from World War II. Most of these are advertisements."
"Brian!" Justin called him over. "Look at these old ads. They'd make an interesting display for your office at Vangard. Can't you see them framed and hanging on your wall?"
Brian looked over the ads. Justin was right -- they might be an interesting choice for an office in an ad agency. Brian marked the use of scantily-clad pin-up girls to sell everything from soap to automobiles to war bonds. Yes, they used sex to sell everything back then, too. But Brian also noted a distinct lack of hot, scantily-clad guys.
"Maybe," said Brian. Justin sorted out some of the prints with growing excitement. Once that kid got his mind on something he was as focused as a laser beam.
"This one from the turn of the century," Justin pulled out a Coca Cola ad featuring a woman in a long, sweeping dress drinking a bottle of Coke. "And this one from the 1920's. And the 1930's." He was selecting ads from every decade and laying them out on the table. "You could have a progression showing the history of advertising. And you could end it with one of your own campaigns, Brian!"
"That's actually a pretty interesting idea," said Brian, studying some of the prints Justin had selected. All of them featured attractive people using their sexuality to sell the product. Even the woman in the Coke ad with the long dress had a seductive look in her eyes as her lips caressed the bottle of cola.
"You in advertising?" Charlie Newberg asked Brian.
"I'm with the Vangard Agency," Brian replied as he watched Justin arrange the prints. "In Pittsburgh."
"I worked in publishing for almost 10 years in Philadelphia," said Charlie. "That was after I got back from Vietnam and out of a rehab hospital. But I hated the pressure. It got to me after a while. Can't deal with the pressure." The older man's face darkened. "I don't make a lot of money doing this, but I don't have any of the stress I used to. Books are quiet. And people who like books are quiet. They don't push you. You know what I mean?"
"I think so," said Brian. "I understand what you mean about pressure. The ad game is nothing but stress and noise. Sometimes you need a little peace and quiet. Like around here." Brian thought about the Fieldstone Inn. The quiet room with the hearth. How the mountains looked from the window. And the big, soft bed.
"Yeah, this is a nice area," said Charlie. "I sell a lot of stuff over the internet out of my house these days, but I still come to the Market on the weekends. How are you doing over there, young man?" he asked Justin. "Find what you're looking for?"
"These are my favorites," Justin told him. He had nine prints laid out on the table. "I'm trying to decide which ones I can afford. Are they all the same price or does it depend on how old they are?"
But before Charlie could answer, Brian stepped in. "We'll take all of them."
"Brian, I was only going to get a couple!" Justin insisted.
"They're for my office, aren't they?" Brian reasoned. "So we need all of them. And I'll pay. You're right, Justin, they'll be a good conversation piece. I'll have Cynthia send them out to be framed."
"Sounds like a good idea." And Charlie Newberg smiled for the first time. "That's a real nice collection of prints."
Brian winced. "Don't say collection! That's what those doll and furniture people do -- collect crap. This is an investment. And it's decor for my office."
Brian paid for the prints and Charlie wrapped them up. "You fellas coming back tomorrow?" he asked. "If you're interested in first edition books, I have some fine ones."
Brian shrugged. "It depends on what else there is to do around here. And as for rare books, I don't really have a place for that sort of thing. I live in a very modern loft and old books don't really fit my lifestyle."
"Well, if you ever change your mind here's my card."
Brian took the card from the man. All the dealers had cards. If you spent the entire day in the Antique Market you'd come home with your pockets bulging with the things.
"I think it's time for lunch," said Brian, shepherding Justin and the package of prints outside and back to the Corvette. "Get out your guide to the local hot spots."
They got into the car and Justin looked down the list of local restaurants as Brian revved up the Vette's engine. But then Justin started to laugh
"What's so funny?" asked Brian. "Other than you conning me into buying all those prints?"
"You don't do collecting, Brian. You hate old junk!" Justin grinned. "What do you call the Vette? It's a collectible! A vintage car. And you paid plenty for it!"
"That is completely different!" Brian maintained. He was stung by the comparison. "My Corvette has nothing in common with a broken G.I. Joe or a bunch of slutty-looking Barbie dolls!"
"Keep talking," said Justin, smugly. "Collector."
"Yeah, YOU keep talking," said Brian. "You'll pay for that smart mouth. I'll have to fill it with something. Something really big."
"Promises, promises," Justin sighed as the Vette peeled out of the parking lot and headed up the winding road into the mountains.
The Fieldstone Inn, March 2005
After a mediocre lunch of overcooked burgers at the Red Kettle Café in Wiley, Brian and Justin didn't return to the Antique Market. Instead they decided to drive up into the mountains and have a look around.
There were a number of places along the road that were indicted on the map as 'Scenic Views,' but Brian was dubious. "I don't need some bureaucrat from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to tell me what view is 'scenic' and what view isn't worth a look. I'm not an idiot, after all!"
"They're just letting us know where there are good places to stop," Justin pointed out. "Otherwise we'd drive right by them without knowing." Justin studied the map. "Go a little further up this road and there's supposed to be a park. We could get out and walk."
"I forgot my hiking boots," Brian returned. "And my Cub Scout uniform."
"We don't have to go very far, Brian," said Justin. "I'd like to see the view."
Brian turned in at the sign for the park, which was little more than a glorified rest area. There was only a small parking lot, rest rooms, a picnic table, and a sign board with a map tacked onto it.
"I think I've tricked here," Brian commented as they got out of the Vette. "Or somewhere that looked just like it off the Pennsylvania Turnpike."
"Doesn't seem too busy," said Justin, noting the deserted parking lot. He checked the map on the board. "If we walk up the path a way there's a lookout. It says you can see most of the valley from there."
Brian sighed melodramatically and shook his head.
Justin turned and gazed at Brian. His face was a mask of disappointment.
"If you want to leave, Brian, then say so," said Justin, dejectedly. "I thought this weekend was your idea. But it's obvious that you hate everything about this place -- the inn, the Antique Market, the town, the food, everything. So why don't we go back to Pittsburgh? That way you can be safe in your loft. And I can go back to Dartmouth a few days early and stay in the dorm until Spring Term starts on Tuesday. Okay?"
But Brian didn't answer. He was staring down at his Prada boots and couldn't look Justin in the eye.
"I said it's okay if you want to leave," Justin repeated. "Didn't you hear me?"
"I heard you," said Brian, suddenly taking Justin by the elbow. "Come on. Let's walk."
The gravel trail was just wide enough for two. They walked in silence as the trail became steeper and the trees that had pressed thickly on either side began to thin out. And then they were at the end of the trail.
Justin could smell the difference in the air as they approached the lookout. They were much higher than Justin had imagined and the view was dizzying. A wooden fence arched around an outcropping of flat stone that leaned over the valley far below.
"Wow!" Justin breathed. He moved forward for a better look.
"Justin! Be careful! Don't get too close to the edge," Brian warned, clutching at Justin's arm. Brian wasn't afraid of heights himself, but he also wasn't certain how safe this area was. The wooden fence didn't look very secure and he could see where some rocks from higher up the mountain had slid down to the lookout during the harsh winter months.
"Are those the Appalachians?" Justin asked, pointing to the dark range looming in the distance.
"I think so," said Brian. "We're only in the foothills. Those are the real thing over there."
"When I was a kid a friend of my parents quit his job to walk the Appalachian Trail," Justin said. "I remember my dad telling my mom that the guy was crazy. But I thought it was great, like a real adventure. To decide to do something like that and then just do it. The trail starts up in New England and ends somewhere way down South. It took him a year to walk the whole thing."
"I think I'll pass on that stroll," said Brian, putting his arm around Justin's shoulders. "Like I said, I forgot my hiking boots." But it really was beautiful, Brian thought. And so quiet. The loudest thing you could hear was the wind sweeping down the valley. "Look! There's a hawk!" Brian pointed to a bird soaring on the currents high above the lookout.
"It looks too big for a hawk," said Justin. "Maybe it's an eagle? I wish we had binoculars so we could see it up close."
"Next time we'll have to come better prepared," said Brian.
Justin glanced up at Brian. "Next time?"
Brian shrugged. "You never know. I bet this place looks pretty once all the trees get their leaves. And then in the fall when the colors turn."
"I'm sorry I bitched at you in the parking lot," Justin said softly. "I know you're having a terrible time and are only doing all this stuff because... well, I'm not really sure why you're doing it, actually. But I'm having a wonderful time, Brian. I wanted you to know that. Even if we pack up and go back tonight, it'll still be one of the best times I've ever had in my life. And that's because we're together. That makes it special."
Brian brushed his fingers across Justin's face. It was windy and chilly at the lookout -- it was still March, after all -- but Brian felt a warmth moving through him. Like something that had been frozen for a very long time was thawing deep inside.
"No, Justin," Brian replied. "I was only having a momentary queen out. I don't want to go home tonight. Besides, the room is paid for through Monday morning. It's just that I feel like I'm too far outside my comfort zone. I'm not used to all of this. The country. The people. All this fucking nature. And that big, ridiculous bed."
"I like that ridiculous bed, Brian," Justin informed him. "And the fireplace. And the Antique Market."
"I know," Brian nodded. "That should really worry me." But, strangely, it didn't worry Brian. He wasn't certain why it didn't worry him. Brian was usually less than tolerant of people's tastes that did not mirror his own.
Justin wrapped his arms Brian and leaned his head against his chest. "Maybe you don't mind me so much, Brian. Maybe you might even get used to having me around -- if you let me stick around a while."
"I don't know, Justin," Brian replied. "But I don't think it's my choice anymore. Something is going on. Something that scares me."
Justin smiled. "I don't think you're afraid of anything, Brian."
"No," said Brian. "Only everything that I can't control. And that puts me in a tight little box. That's the way I've lived my life -- hiding in that box. Do you know that my mother still doesn't know I'm gay? And I only told my father when I knew he was going to die."
Justin was surprised to hear that. Brian was the most out person he had ever met in his life -- except maybe for Emmett Honeycutt, who seemed to have been born out. "Then you understand what's going on with me and my father."
"Yes," said Brian. "I understand perfectly. That's why I've never pushed you to do anything about it. I put on a good front, but underneath I'm a fucking coward. I tell other people to come clean, but I can't face my own goddamn mother and let her know the truth. And I can't face the truth about myself. That I'm fucking lonely and miserable a lot of the time. I say that I value honesty over everything else, but if you can't be honest with yourself...." Brian paused. There was a tightness in his throat. "I'm trying. But it's difficult."
Justin slipped his hands under Brian's leather jacket and rubbed his back through his sweater. He felt so strong. Brian's body looked thin, but his arms were like iron and when he moved Justin could see every muscle, like in a Greek statue. Being in those arms made Justin feel safe. But it also gave Justin strength, too. Justin knew that he couldn't hide behind Brian. Because Brian was human, too. Vulnerable. That in many ways Justin was the stronger one. More grounded. More certain of who he was and who he wanted to be. While Brian, who seemed so confident and fully-formed, was still searching for himself.
"It's getting late," said Brian. "Let's go back to the inn and get cleaned up. We have reservations at one of those places on your list of hot spots. Let's see what culinary delights the locals can dish up."
"I'm ready," said Justin. "And next time we come up here we'll bring the binoculars. So we can see all the way to the mountains."
Yes, thought Brian. I want to see as far as I can. See something I've never seen before. Even if it's right beside me.
The Fieldstone Inn, March 2005
Justin was so tired he couldn't move.
Of course, he didn't really want to move.
He was stretched out on top of Brian in the big bed in their room in the Fieldstone Inn and Brian was slowly stroking his ample ass cheeks. That felt good. Everything felt good, even if they both were completely exhausted.
Justin knew the Fieldstone Inn was a popular spot for honeymooners, but he doubted that even the most avid of breeder couples had ever given the canopied bed quite as much of a workout as he and Brian had that night.
They had actually started in the Corvette after they left the restaurant where they had eaten dinner. It was an Italian place and Justin had wolfed down a large plate of excellent linguini in white clam sauce, while Brian ate his vegetable risotto with much more restraint.
"You do realize that this isn't your last meal, don't you?" Brian had remarked as he watched Justin put his dinner away.
"I know," he replied. "But it's so good!"
The restaurant was a small, family-run enterprise and the more Justin dug into his food with obvious glee, the more the waitress, who was also the daughter of the owner/chef, brought him more. More salad. More of the crusty garlic bread. And more wine. A lot more wine, until Justin was definitely tipsy.
At the end of the meal the chef himself brought out two large cannolis. "On the house!" he told the pair. "Because you have enjoyed your dinner so much!"
"You mean there's still food left in that kitchen he didn't eat?" Brian said in disbelief.
But Justin kicked him under the table and grinned at the chef. "Thanks! It looks great. Everything was great!"
Justin ate his cannoli straightaway, but Brian had his wrapped up to take back to the hotel. He admired Justin's appetite, but he didn't share it. While he enjoyed good food, he rarely stuffed himself. Food had never been a priority in the Kinney house while he was growing up. His mother was an indifferent cook and his father washed everything down with booze anyway, so Brian tended to think of food as something peripheral to his existence. While Justin ate, Brian thought about the empty refrigerator in the loft. Well, empty except for beer, juice, Perrier, and a supply of poppers.
Once out in the Vette they decided to drive a bit before going back to the hotel. Now that Brian knew his way around the area he wasn't afraid of getting lost and having to ask some locals for directions. He hated the feeling of not knowing where he was.
It was a clear, chilly night. The full moon illuminated the landscape -- farm fields and the hills that rose into mountains as they drove. They found another 'Scenic View' rest area not far from the inn and made out there like a couple of teenagers. Of course, Justin had never made out with anyone, not even his sort-of girlfriend, Daphne, when he was in high school, and that made it all the more exciting. The only problem was that the Corvette's gearshift kept getting in the way.
"I used to have a Jeep," Brian explained after the knob of the stick had poked them for about the tenth time. "That was a real Fuckmobile. But this thing...."
"Then why did you switch to the Vette?" Justin sighed as he zipped up his pants.
Brian shrugged. "I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I remembered seeing these cars when I was a kid and thinking that you had to be a pretty cool guy to drive one. I'd made some extra money at the time and wanted to buy something totally useless and extravagant for myself. Hence, the Vette."
"I still think it's the perfect Fuckmobile," Justin grinned. "But if you don't mind, Brian, can we go back to the inn? If we stay here I'm going to be black and blue in the morning!"
"You're going to be black and blue anyway when I get through with you," Brian promised. But he also drove directly back to the Fieldstone Inn to move what they had started in the Vette up to another level.
And now Brian was thinking about how content he was. That was a strange feeling. When you thought about Brian A. Kinney the last word you thought about was 'content.' Driven, maybe. Successful. Definitely hot. Or troubled. Fucked-up. But never content.
He gently caressed Justin's ass as he lay on top of Brian in the hideous Laura Ashley-strewn bed. Brian had fucked his share of asses in his life -- enough for a roomful of more repressed gay men -- but rarely had he ever stayed like this afterwards, allowing himself the satisfaction of the moment.
Justin stirred, shifting his head slightly and softly kissing Brian's chest. The little hairs around his nipples tickled Justin's nose. It felt wonderful.
"That was great," Justin murmured.
"Of course," Brian replied. "I'm always great."
"You're so funny, Brain," Justin said. "On one hand you're such a fucking egotist, but on the other hand you're so insecure that you don't trust yourself to let go for even one second."
"Seems I let go a number of times this evening," Brian retorted. "Both in your mouth and up your tight little ass."
Justin sighed. "I don't mean let go sexually. That's not your problem, Brian. I mean emotionally."
"Ah, emotions!" Brian really wanted a cigarette. Or, even better, a joint. But there was no smoking allowed in the inn. "Sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you!"
Justin pinched Brian's right nipple gently. "Stop! I know you like to make a joke about everything, but emotions are real. And they aren't only for straight people. I've seen you with Gus. I know how strongly you can feel things, Brian. You can fool other people, but you can't fool me. I'm onto you."
"You're onto me, huh?" Brian sniffed. "I wasn't aware that there was a 'me' for anyone to be onto."
"Keep telling yourself that, Brian," Justin replied. "The Perfect Facade. The Mountain of Ice. The Fuck Machine. Brian Fucking Kinney. But I know better. I think that's why you keep me around -- so the truth will never get out."
"You certainly talk a lot, don't you?" Brian said. But there was no annoyance in his voice. Only a quiet acceptance of Justin's assertions.
"Do you ever wish that you could stop time?" Justin asked. "Freeze the moment so that you could stay in it forever? So we could stay?"
"Sometimes," Brian conceded. "But if we freeze this moment it would like admitting that it was the culmination of something -- or the ending."
"And this isn't the ending, is it, Brian?" Justin said.
Brian shook his head. "No, it isn't the end," he said seriously. Then he laughed. "Besides, I don't want to be frozen in time while I'm surrounded by gallons of fucking Laura Ashley marshmallow fluff!"
"Marshmallow fluff, Brian?" That cracked Justin up. "I don't mind the fluff at all. I want you to fuck me again in the middle of the fluff. I want to melt into the fluff with your cock inside me!"
"Jesus," Brian moaned. "I've created a monster."
"I know," said Justin. "I know."
Continue on to "Spring Break -- Part 5".
©Gaedhal, June 2005.
Posted October 29, 2005.