This is Chapter 47 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Aloha", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Lindsay Peterson, and features Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor, Carmel and Maria, Gus, Others.
Rated PG for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Lindsay and Gus arrive in Los Angeles -- with a surprise for Brian. June 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"The closer we get to landing, the more I think this was NOT a good idea."
"Relax. I think it was a fine idea. Once we get to Los Angeles you'll see."
But Justin was right. And I was as nervous as he was about it. And he was extremely nervous.
The first leg of the trip was easy. We flew to Chicago and had a fairly easy connection to our flight to L.A. Justin didn't have much time to worry because he was preoccupied with Gus. And, of course, taking care of Gus was his rationale for coming on the trip.
Of course it was.
But once Gus settled down and pretty much slept the rest of the way, then he had time to fidget and fuss. He was much worse than the baby.
"What could he do? He could kill me, that's all. Or decide NOT to take me to England. That would be good. That's what I would deserve for pulling such a dumb stunt!" By the time we were flying over the Rocky Mountains he was babbling.
"Justin! Please! If you get upset then Gus will pick up your emotions and start to scream." Which was true. It often happened like that. Sometimes I feel the two of them have some sort of psychic connection. When I mentioned this to Mel, she told me I was just nuts. That's absurd, because WASPs are never nuts -- deranged, perhaps, or demented, but never nuts.
And neither Justin nor I could be classified as nuts for trying to put one over on Brian Kinney. Deranged, yes, but not nuts, as I've said.
The last two hours he played with his portable DVD player, popping movies in and out, but never finishing them. Or sometimes just rubbing the thing between his fingers and mumbling, "He's going to fucking KILL me!" until I finally told him to shut up or I'd have the flight attendant seat him out on the wing.
It didn't help that we'd traded our First Class tickets for Economy. We had three seats together, which helped, but the extra room up in the Snob Section would have been nice on such a long trip with a baby. But when Justin came to me with his proposal -- how could I say no? Even the loss of First Class would be worth it if I could successfully play matchmaker. Yes, it would be well worth it.
It seemed like we'd been travelling for days when we finally came into LAX. In was late Saturday afternoon and the airport was surging with people as we came down the concourse and into the waiting area. Security was tight as well -- I saw people in uniforms everywhere, many more than in Pittsburgh. That made me a bit nervous and I was glad we were on the ground.
I had the carry-ons and Justin had Gus, so when Brian first saw me he looked startled because he didn't see the baby. Then he stopped and looked beyond me. The first thing he did was smile. I saw it distinctly. Ah, ha! But then he seemed to realize what we'd done and that's when the stone face became set. He was angry. Controlled, but angry. And deceived. He looked down at me like I'd betrayed him and that really made me feel so badly.
But he never said a word. Two short, pudgy Hispanic women were standing with him. Carmel and Maria. I felt as if I knew them. I'd talked to Carmel many times on the phone. She pushed right by Brian and grabbed me and squeezed me so tightly I thought I'd pop.
"Oh, so beautiful Miss Lindsay! I have waited for this day!" She was nodding and squeezing and her mother stood by and she nodded and grinned. Brian just looked grim.
"And WHERE is that BABY?" she demanded. Then she caught sight of Justin -- who was trying to avoid Brian's glare. The poor boy looked like he would rather be anywhere else on this planet than facing him in this airport.
Carmel pushed by me and reached for Gus. She also regarded Justin. "Miss Lindsay -- you let this boy carry this baby? Men are useless with babies! You let your brother carry the bags and I will carry this baby! What's your name, chico?"
"Carmel, this is Justin."
"Give him to me!"
Justin hesitated, holding Gus tightly, like a talisman.
"You better do it or we'll be standing in this airport until it's time for you ALL to leave," said Brian. The way he emphasized ALL and then looked at me made me feel a bit ill. I smiled at him.
Justin handed over Gus.
We collected our bags. Then Brian pulled out his cellphone and made a call. "Security won't let the car sit -- so he's coming around to pick us up."
A white limousine drove up, just like in the movies. Brian and the driver loaded the bags in the back and we all piled in.
"I could get used to this! Wait until Mel hears how we are travelling in style!"
"Well, don't get too used to it -- it's a studio car. With so many people to cram in here, and the luggage, and the parking situation, I figured this was the best solution."
Carmel and her mother sat with Gus, while Brian and I sat together, and Justin sat in the front, next to the driver.
"So, Miss Lindsay, why did you not tell me your brother is coming, too? I have to get a room ready for him. And I don't know what he likes to eat!"
I smiled. "Oh, it was a spur of the moment thing. You know how it is."
"No, why don't you tell us how it is?" Brian squeezed my arm.
"Anything is fine. I'll eat anything," said Justin, venturing a look over the seat.
"Don't tell them that -- you can't even imagine what they might feed you," Brian said. "I'm serious."
"Don't pay attention to him. He's so fussy -- you never saw such a picky eater."
"They try to poison me regularly. They feed me roadkill burritos."
"Don't listen to him! He's a crazy man!"
The sniping continued like this as we made our way down an endless freeway. I soon found out that trading insults was the usual method of communication between Brian and Carmel.
Finally, we left the freeway and proceeded through some palm tree-lined streets.
"Oh, is this Beverly Hills? Truly?"
"Swimmin' pools and movie stars."
"This is so exciting!" And I was shocked at how excited I really was. It didn't seem real that we were on our way into some other world. Brian's other world. The thrill was almost criminal.
We drove up some winding roads, passing all styles of houses, some huge, but others very normal looking. I suddenly wanted one of those movie star maps, where you see where all the stars live. I wanted to ask, but I knew what Brian's response to such a touristy suggestion would be. I'd wait and ask Carmel.
"Brian, you look so GOOD!" And I meant it. He looked a thousand time better than he had when I first saw him in Pittsburgh only a few weeks before.
He shrugged. "I'm eating better. And working out again. That helps. And I don't have a million things hanging over my head. My teeth have finally unclenched."
I heard Carmel snort loudly.
"That's ONE of things that makes my teeth clench. YOU, Carmel!"
"Such a big man and such a big baby! Was he always this big a baby, Miss Lindsay?"
"Pretty much so."
"When you have a little baby like this -- that's the time to grow up. You hear me, Mr. Brian?"
"I hear you -- but I've learned to ignore the noise."
Justin started giggling and Brian's eyes were riveted to him. He shut up quickly, but then he gave me a little smile. I truly had no idea what was going to happen when we got to the house.
And then we were there. I wondered if Ron would be waiting for us. But there didn't seem to be any sign of him as we got out and the driver unloaded the limo and carried the bags into the house.
It wasn't one of those huge houses. In fact it looked rather small from the side -- we went in through the kitchen -- but it seemed to expand as you walked through. It was dark and cool inside, with lots of tiles and slate floors. And the pool was hedged off from the main building, making an enclosed area, with a bar and poolhouse.
"That pool looks like just what the doctor ordered. I'm glad I brought my bathing suit."
"Be my guest. Especially since you'll probably never see Gus again until it's time for you to leave town, you might as well take advantage."
Upstairs was lighter and brighter. "I thought this would be the best room for you and Gus. It's got the balcony overlooking the pool -- but I checked it. Gus can't get his head through the bars and it's too high for him to climb over. Not that you'll ever see him, but just in case. And a new crib for him to sleep in right next to your bed. And here's the bathroom."
"You've thought of everything."
"I tried." Brian set my suitcase and Gus' bag on the queen-sized bed. "I can't believe you're finally here." He turned around. "And I can't fucking believe that you brought Justin with you! Whose idea was THAT?"
"Well -- it was a collaboration. Sort of."
"Really. What about your plane tickets?"
"We traded them in. For Economy."
I could see his frustration mounting. "But I wanted you and Gus to fly First Class!"
"We were fine. Economy was fine. A little cramped, but no problem."
"What were the two of you thinking? Right -- you weren't thinking!" He was rubbing his forehead like it hurt. "How am I supposed to explain all this?"
I knew that meant explain it to Ron. "Carmel and her mother think Justin's my brother -- that's as good an explanation as any, don't you think?"
"I'm not making up some stupid fucking story and then have to make up MORE shit in order to cover for it!"
"Then just don't say anything. Why explain at all?"
Brian looked at me -- like I was nuts. There it was again. "You have no fucking idea, Lindz!"
I opened up my suitcase. "Well, while you are stewing away, I am going to use that pool. If you'll excuse me, please?" I pushed him out the door and closed it. Then I got into my new bathing suit.
The first thing I did when I went downstairs was go into the kitchen to check on Gus. He was toddling around, following a little furry dog with great fascination. The little beast was yapping at him and wagging his tail.
"He doesn't bite, does he?"
"Armani? Only his food. I think he thinks the baby is another dog." Carmel handed me a pad of paper. "You write down what he needs. Huggies? What size? What special things to eat? I will order them delivered."
"I have diapers and some things in here." I handed her Gus' travel bag. Well, if you can't beat them, join them. I wrote a few items on the pad and handed it back to her. "There's his cereal and a few juice boxes in the bag."
"I have juices and milk, too, and fruit. Lots of fresh fruit."
"That's a good start."
"Yeah, she feeds ME canned fruit and frozen juice. I see that Gus gets fresh." Brian had come in behind me. "Why don't you let things settle down in here and come out for cocktail hour?"
We went out to the pool and it was deliciously warm and breezy.
"I had the pool guy come out especially to clean the thing out for you. You can't believe how much shit these trees drop into the thing. The drain is constantly clogged up."
This conversation made me laugh and I hugged him. "I can't get over you talking about pool drains!"
"You're not the one who has to listen to the sound of that drain making sucking noises all night."
"I thought that's a sound you'd be used to."
I looked around. "Tell me you haven't put poor Justin in a box and mailed him home already?"
Brian sighed. "He's in the poolhouse. I thought that would be the best place for him to stay. The farther away from Ron he remains -- the better. Plus, there's a TV and computer and shit in there. He can keep himself occupied. Maria's in there with him, making up the fold-out."
"I'm glad you aren't mad, Bri."
"Who isn't mad? I'm fucking furious! But what can I do now? You've really put me on the spot, Lindz, and I'm not fucking joking."
"I'm sorry. I thought you'd be surprised."
"Surprised is not the word." He shook his head.
"And by the way -- where is...?"
"Ron? In Hawaii. He probably won't be back until Monday. If we're lucky."
"I've been anxious to meet him."
He frowned. "Sure. He'll be here soon enough. And thrilled with the little domestic drama going on, I'm certain." He went over to the bar and began pouring himself a large vodka. "I thought I wouldn't start on this until later -- but I fucking need it now."
"Brian -- we're going to have such a good time while we're here."
"I'm beginning to think this whole thing was a complete mistake. I can feel it in my stomach."
"Are you sure you don't have an ulcer?"
"If I don't have one, it's a fucking miracle."
"Then drinking alcohol is only going to make it worse."
"I'll tell that to my gastroenterologist."
I burst out laughing. "You're so funny!"
"You think I'm kidding? I have a fucking doctor for every portion of my anatomy, including the headshrinker. And not one of them does me a fuck's worth of good."
"Brian, you're turning into a hypochondriac!"
"If that's ALL I turn into it will be a fucking relief!"
"Why don't you come in swimming with me?"
"No, I have reserved the evening for some serious drinking time."
"Well, don't drink TOO much...."
"Please -- Lindsay. Could you save that for a bit down the road? I kind of have to work my way up to it -- if you don't mind?"
"Whatever you say, Bri," I said, smiling at the thought of poor Brian having to 'work up' his nerve. It was so cute. But I wasn't leaving this city without taking at least one good shot at getting pregnant again -- even if I had to get him roaring drunk first. I'd already put the idea to Melanie -- and she hadn't said no, exactly. Besides, I could feel my biological clock ticking and I wasn't about to wait until Gus was five or six. By then, who knows what could happen with the world?
I splashed in the pool while Brian sat in a lounge chair with his drink. Maria came out of the poolhouse, with Justin trailing after her. He was doing everything he could to avoid looking at Brian. To avoid giving him an explanation. To avoid his ire.
But as he sat and drank his vodka, he didn't seem all that angry. He seemed kind of resigned.
Justin was helping Maria light the fancy gas grill. She doesn't speak a word of English and Justin doesn't speak Spanish, but they were communicating.
"Lindsay, if you want your steak done any other way besides burned to a crisp, you're going to have to stand right there while they are grilling."
I hopped out of the pool and wrapped myself in one of the big towels I found in my bathroom. "I could get used to this."
"That's what they're hoping for. That you and Gus will move in and we'll all live happily ever after while they cook their inedible food and clean around us."
"I've told you before. It's a fucking plot."
Maria set the big wooden table -- it was too fancy to be just a picnic table -- and brought out all kinds of fruit and salad and a bottle of wine. And a highchair for Gus.
"I bought that especially."
"It's perfect." Brian was really going out of his way and I was touched.
He watched Maria and Carmel like a hawk as they cooked the steaks. As he said, theirs were charred beyond recognition, but ours were done perfectly -- medium rare for me, rare for Justin, and barely cooked at all for Brian.
"I can't believe that with your sensitive stomach you can eat that bloody meat."
"I need it to replenish my bodily fluids."
"Brian! That's disgusting!"
"It's the truth."
Justin made a hiccuping sound, like he was trying not to laugh. Brian glowered at him like a cranky bear.
"Here, chico -- you eat some more." Carmel piled more food on Justin's plate. "You are too skinny, just like this one here." She gestured at Brian. "All the crazy Anglo men in this town -- too skinny!"
"She means all the fags."
"I'm just translating. Jesus."
There was vanilla ice cream for dessert. Gus and Justin and I had some. Brian had another large vodka.
"What's on the agenda for this week?" I said as I stretched myself out on one of the lounge chairs and watched it get dark. Like I said -- I could get used to this treatment.
"Whatever you want to do. I have this photo thing Monday -- you're welcome to come along. It could be interesting. And Tess Hardy's invited us all to dinner at their house on Tuesday."
"Oh! A real movie star! I'm SO impressed." Maybe I wouldn't need that movie star map after all.
"Yeah, well...." He was sitting in the other lounge chair, swirling the ice around in his drink. I could hear Justin and the women inside in the kitchen, playing with Gus and laughing. "You let me know if you want to go shopping or whatever. I was thinking Disneyland, but Gus is still kind of small. He didn't seem to get much out of Kennywood when I took him there, I imagine Disneyland would be more of the same."
"It's the thought that counts, Bri. Maybe next year."
He gave me an enigmatic look, like 'Next year? You mean there's going to BE a next year?' He kept running his fingers through his hair until it was sticking out here and there. I wanted to smooth it down. I wanted to smooth all of his sharp edges down, but I knew that was impossible.
Finally, Justin came out. "I'm really tired. I think I'll turn in." The poor kid looked beat. And between all the travelling and all the stress, it was no wonder. He headed for the poolhouse, but then stopped and turned. "Thanks for not killing me, Brian."
"Hmn," he sniffed, not looking up. And Justin went into the poolhouse and closed the door. The light went on inside.
"Brian, now that he's out here, please don't make his life miserable!"
He squirmed in the chair. "I just don't like being put on the fucking spot, Lindz!"
"Sometimes you just don't know what is for your own good and what isn't!" I stood up and then leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I'll see you in the morning."
"Not too fucking early. It's Sunday!"
"It's Father's Day, in case you'd forgotten. And Gus and I -- and Justin -- are taking you out."
"Oh no you aren't -- I'm taking YOU out."
"We'll argue over that tomorrow. Right now I'm collecting Gus and going up to bed." And I went into the kitchen, retrieved my son, and went up to my room.
I put Gus down in the crib -- he was already dopey with sleep and drifted right off. I had left the door to the balcony open and there was a lovely breeze flowing over the house and a lot of country-ish night sounds. It was hard to believe we were in the middle of an immense city. I stood on the balcony and looked at the lights going far up the canyon.
The light in the poolhouse went out and I knew the jetlag must have finally caught up with Justin. The rest of the house was quiet, too. It was just after 1:00 a.m., California time, and I realized how late it was, Pittsburgh time.
Brian sat for a while longer, then stood up and stretched. From that distance he looked impossibly long and thin. He carried his glass back to the bar and I heard him fumbling around with the sink. The little dog, which had been curled up under his chair for most of the evening, circled at his feet. Brian picked him up and carried him back into the house, probably to close him up in the kitchen.
A minute later he was back out again. He slowly walked around the pool, moving chairs out of the way and looking at the ground, as if he'd lost something. Then he stopped and looked back up at the house. He couldn't see me in the shadow of the balcony awning. He seemed to be thinking about something.
Then he walked over to the poolhouse, opened the door, and went inside.
Continue on to "Have Your Cake", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, July 2002
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated July 14, 2002