This is Chapter Twenty-two -- "The Decision"
The other stories in the "Wayfarers" series.
Features Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor, Jenny Taylor.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian tells Jenny Taylor of his decision to leave for San Francisco. Pittsburgh, April 1859.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Jenny Taylor was home to receive callers, as was her custom on Tuesday afternoon. She was reading her correspondence when the servant woman came into the parlor and informed her that a man wished to speak with her. A Mr. Kinney.
"That Irishman," muttered Jenny, setting down her ivory letter opener. Whatever could the fellow want? "Please show him in, Hannah," Jenny instructed the maid.
Justin had been away from the house even more than usual after his argument with his father, and Jenny was worried about him. She had inquired discretely and was relieved to find that he was still attending his classes at St. James Academy. But Jenny also knew that things were about to come to a head. Graduation Day would mean that Justin must give in to his father -- or else break with Jeremiah completely.
And Jenny could not fathom that happening. Could not even consider that her son would reject his own family, his own blood kin. It could NOT happen! Must not.
Unless... unless this Irishman had a hand in her son's decision.
"Mrs. Taylor," Brian Kinney said as he entered. He was dressed soberly in a dark gray suit and he clutched his hat nervously in his long fingers.
"Please sit yourself, sir," said Jenny Taylor with excruciating politeness. "Shall I call the girl to bring tea?"
"No, thank you, ma'am," said Brian. He sat awkwardly in the chair that Mrs. Taylor indicated. Everything in the room was tasteful and delicate, like Jenny Taylor herself. Tasteful, delicate -- and uncomfortable.
But that was all right. Brian didn't need to be comfortable. He wasn't there to drink tea or make small talk. He only wanted to say his piece and then get the hell out of that house. The place had a stuffy, oppressive aura that reminded him of the Peterson home, where his former fiancée, Miss Lindsay, still lived with her hidebound, grim-faced parents. The very air in such houses felt stale to Brian. He would be glad to get away into the country, into the Frontier, where he could finally breathe freely.
"I am surprised to see you here, Mr. Kinney. Justin is not present right now, if you have come to speak with him," said Jenny Taylor. She leaned slightly forward in her chair. She did not want to appear as anxious as she felt, with her heart hammering and her palms beginning to sweat. Her stays seemed to be cutting into her sides as she struggled to keep her composure.
"I know that, ma'am," Brian swallowed. "He is at school. Which is where he should be."
"At least we agree on one thing, sir," Jenny returned more sharply than she had intended. "The importance of Justin's education, I mean."
"I must tell you, Mrs. Taylor, that it was a struggle to convince him to return to St. James Academy after the set-to he had with his father." Brian began twisting the brim of his hat anxiously. "Did your husband tell Justin that he could not attend college? Did he truly do that, ma'am?"
"I do not see that it is your business what my husband says to his own son, Mr. Kinney," Jenny replied, her face flushed.
"Perhaps it is not my business, Mrs. Taylor," said Brian, raising his voice slightly. "However, I... I care about him. I care what happens to your son. I care that he get his chance to attend college. And I care about his future and whether he is able to exercise his God-given talent as an artist. As YOU should care, ma'am. And as your husband should care."
"Do not presume to lecture me, sir!" Jenny returned hotly. "I ought to know what is best for my own son!"
"Yes, you ought to," said Brian. "So why don't you show that you know it? And why don't you act upon it, Mrs. Taylor?" Brian stood up suddenly and began striding about the parlor.
"You take too many liberties, Mr. Kinney, for a man who has no right even to speak on this matter!" Jenny retorted.
Brian had been in many fine rooms in his life and this one was certainly expensively furnished. It was not extravagant in the ways of New Orleans or Charleston or even New York, but it was still designed to impress the eye, from the delicately carved chair that Brian could no longer endure to sit upon to the Persian carpet on which he was pacing. Brian glanced at the walls and noticed some painted landscapes hanging there. He knew that Justin already could produce better than these pedestrian works. So what might the boy accomplish with the right teachers? The right inspiration?
Brian took a deep breath. "It is true that I have no right to speak, Mrs. Taylor. But someone must speak up for your son. Someone must speak the truth in this house. Your husband wishes to lock Justin up into servitude in his office. Your son was not made for work like that, Mrs. Taylor, and you know it!" Brian looked at Jenny with fire in his dark green eyes. "I myself served my time in such an office and it was grueling, thankless work. But the thing that sustained me was knowing that it would lead me to a better life and a vocation that I could be proud of. I have worked to that end for ten years and I now know that I can ply my trade as a writer anywhere and not feel inferior to any man in my profession."
"I am happy that you have found success, Mr. Kinney," Jenny said coldly.
"I may have found success and a future that I can be proud of, ma'am, but it is Justin who concerns me. Justin's future is another story. Your husband -- with your compliance -- would deny HIS future! You both condemn him to a life that will kill his soul -- if it doesn't kill his body first!" Now Brian's anger was rising.
Jenny bolted from her chair, fearfully. "What has he said to you, Mr. Kinney? Has my son threatened to harm himself? Tell me the truth!"
"Only in moments of extreme emotion," Brian admitted. "But Justin is a passionate and headstrong young man and such men of passion often act rashly." Brian faced Justin's mother directly. "Don't force him into a position where he WILL behave rashly! That is my greatest fear. That he will harm himself heedlessly. And..." Brian faltered. "And I fear that I won't be there to stop him. And I will not be there... very soon."
Jenny put her hand on the man's arm. "Then... you ARE going away?"
"Yes," said Brian, shortly. "To San Francisco. I will be giving my notice at 'The Clarion' and then I must settle my affairs here in Pittsburgh because I will probably not return. The journey West is a difficult one and I don't see myself making it twice." Brian paused. "I was set to travel to California once before. In '49. The Gold Rush was on and... and there was money to be made there." Brian stopped, his face pained.
"In 1849 you must have been quite a young man," Jenny said, seeing the look in the man's eyes.
"I was not yet 20 years old. But... we never made it to California." He looked down sadly. "We had hardly even begun the journey before it ended."
"Is that when you lost your parents?" Jenny asked. She had done a little bit of asking among her friends and found that Kinney, who had courted one of the Peterson girls -- against her parents' wishes -- was an orphan with no known living connections. Or none that could be spoken of in polite Society.
"No, they were already long lost to me. This was the loss of something more. My mentor and my guardian. My whole existence. My entire way of life." Brian looked up at Jenny. "But now that journey will begin again -- and this time I hope for a better outcome."
Jenny sat back down on the settee. Her head felt light. "Have you told my son that you are leaving soon?"
"No," said Brian. "I am too much the coward. But I must tell him eventually. And when I do... that is when he will need you the most, Mrs. Taylor. To be his ally. To support him and understand his choices in life. To let Justin know that you wish for him to be happy! You CAN temper your husband, Mrs. Taylor -- I know that you can! If you can convince him to allow Justin to attend college, then perhaps Mr. Taylor will see that his son is his own man. A few years in a man's life can make a great difference. Your husband may have a change of heart when he sees that your son can be successful AND happy."
But Jenny shook her head sadly. "I doubt that, Mr. Kinney. My husband does not change his mind once he has decided something. Especially if he is already convinced that he is correct."
Brian swallowed. "Then you will lose your son. ma'am. I don't know how or when, but you WILL lose him." Brian held out his hand to the woman, but Jenny Taylor did not take it. "So," sighed Brian, turning away. "I bid you good afternoon then."
And Brian left the house, hoping that he would never have to return to it for any reason on earth.
Jenny Taylor did not see her son, Justin, again until Thursday afternoon. She heard the door of his room open and she hurried from her upstairs sitting room to catch him before he once again fled the family home.
She found Justin rummaging through his closet, pulling out odds and ends of clothing.
"Justin! What are you doing?"
"Deciding what I want to take with me, since I plan never to return to this house after today!" he replied angrily.
"What... what do you mean by that?" Jenny cried.
"I have come directly from Father's office. I told him that I refused to go to Dartmouth and demanded that he allow me to take my place at the Eclectic Institute for the Fall Term." Justin looked up at his mother. His blond hair was wild and his face bright red. "He informed me that I could go to Hades for all he cared, but that he would never pay my fees for any college but Dartmouth. He also said that he wasn't about to have an idler in his house, doing nothing to earn his keep. So I told him that demand was easy to comply with, since I had not been residing in his house since Christmas!"
"Mother, it's true -- and you know it is!" Justin huffed. "I told Father that he would never have to see my 'idle' face at his table again! And he laughed at me! Well, we shall SEE who has the last laugh!"
"Justin," Jenny pleaded. "You cannot go now!"
"I AM going, Mother. Watch me!" And he began tossing clothes and other effects out into the middle of the room.
"Justin, please! I beg you! Ask your Father's forgiveness!"
"Never, Mother! I shall never ask that! Let him ask MY forgiveness!" Justin pulled out an old valise and shoved some shirts and underdrawers and shoes into it.
Jenny's desperation was at a fever pitch and she lashed out. "So, you would leave your home -- your family -- for that Irishman?"
"I already have, Mother," said Justin, calmly.
"And what will you do when he leaves this town and you find yourself abandoned? Then you will see what he truly is! A sinner and a cad!"
Justin looked up at his mother. "Brian would never do that to me," he replied.
Jenny glared at her son. "He is already making plans to do so. He is leaving for California. And leaving YOU behind!"
Justin recoiled. "That's a lie!"
"It is not," Jenny answered. "He told me so himself."
"You?" Justin stared at his mother. "Why would he say such a thing to YOU?"
But now Jenny faltered. "He... he wanted my help. He asked me to convince your father to allow you to attend college. He wanted me to be your... your ally. That is what he said. But I told him that the situation was not mine to change."
"When was this, Mother? When did Brian say these things?"
"Only two days ago," Jenny replied. "In the parlor. He called upon me and told me that he was taking a position in San Francisco. That he was decamping from this city and would never return. And I wished him good day!"
Justin sat down heavily on the bed. "That letter. It must have been the offer from San Francisco. No wonder he seemed so melancholy after he read it! And he wanted our likenesses taken. It all makes sense now!"
"You see, Justin, he has been preparing to abandon you all this time! He told me about that job offer two months ago when I came to that hotel and... and saw you two there together. He tried to enlist me to his side even then." Jenny touched her son's pale cheek. "Can't you see that he has always wanted to turn you away from your family? To follow some pipe dream? Being an artist? It's folly! He obviously follows such ridiculous dreams himself. Journeying through the Wilderness to California? There is no civil society out there! It is nothing but outlaws and savages! And despised outcasts -- like himself!"
"Yes, Mother," said Justin, slowly. "Outcasts. Like Brian. And like myself, as well." He looked up at Jenny. "Because I am going to California, too! With Brian! It's the only possible course of action."
"Justin -- no!"
"Yes, Mother." Justin smiled. "We'll go together, the two of us. I won't need to attend college after all. The Frontier will be my classroom. I won't need a studio or a master. Nature will be my teacher and my subject. That is the answer to this dilemma!" Justin stood and pushed the battered valise aside. "I won't be needing those things after all, Mother. You must travel light on the stagecoach! Yes, very light, indeed!" Justin's eyes were shining.
"You cannot mean it!" Jenny cried in alarm.
"Yes, I can, Mother!" Justin cried. "We ARE going West -- Brian and I! We can make a life for ourselves out there. I know we can. And we can be happy there in a way that is impossible here, where people are so judgmental and fixed in their views. You know it's the truth, Mother. I will never be happy living the life you and Father have mapped out for me. First it would kill my soul and then it would kill me."
Jennifer pulled out her lace handkerchief and wiped her teary eyes. "That is what Mr. Kinney said. But it doesn't have to be true! Your father will come around. He will understand -- eventually."
Justin shook his head. "No, Mother. Father will never understand me. And he will certainly never understand the two most irrefutable certainties in my life -- my art and my love for Brian. He will never accept either one. But I can't live without both of these things."
Jenny looked at her son with defeated eyes. "I will never understand this either! I cannot believe that you can... love this horrible man! This dirty Irishman! Please, Justin! Consider the ramifications of this choice! You will be forever shunned by all decent people!"
Justin stood up and kissed Jenny on the cheek. "Goodbye, Mother. I will let you know when we plan to leave and where to address correspondence. I hope that you will write to me in San Francisco, because I will write back to you. I want you to know about my life. Because I DO love you, Mother. It is just that I love Brian more. And that is as it should be when you become a man. You leave home and cleave to your beloved. That is what you have taught me. And that is what I will do!"
Justin left everything behind as he departed from the Taylor homestead for the last time. And he was whistling as he went.
He looked up from his desk at 'The Clarion' to see Justin standing in front of him. "Why aren't you in class? It's not yet 2:00!"
"I didn't go to school today," Justin admitted. "I went to my father's office to ask him to come to terms with me."
Brian exhaled deeply. "And did he?"
Justin's face was pale. "No, he did not. In fact he told me to go to Hell. He used gentler terms, but I understood what place he meant. So I returned home to retrieve some more of my belongings."
"Justin, please sit down for a moment," Brian said. The moment he had been dreading was at hand.
"No, Brian, I don't need to sit. I need to begin making my arrangements -- and so do you. Have you given your notice here at 'The Clarion'? If you haven't, then you should do so soon."
Brian stood up. "What do you mean?"
"For when we leave for California, of course!" Justin retorted. "You don't plan to take off without giving notice, do you? That's not very professional, Brian!"
Brian gaped at the boy. "How... how do you know about...?" Brian frowned. "You read my damned letter, didn't you?"
"No," Justin answered. "I didn't read it, Brian. But it was the one from San Francisco, wasn't it?"
"Yes, but how do you know?"
Justin raised his eyebrows. "Brian, you can't tell my mother something like that and expect her to keep it secret! When she saw me packing up some of my clothes this afternoon she couldn't wait to inform me about what a cad you are. How you ruthlessly seduced me and were now going to abandon me to my sad Fate! I felt like the heroine of a popular romance novel! All that was missing was the snowy landscape and me stumbling along, clutching a wailing baby in my arms!" Justin burst out into laughter.
"I'm delighted that you find this situation so amusing," said Brian. He began stuffing his copy into a leather portfolio. "I think I'll go back to the hotel. It is evident I won't get any work done here."
And Brian walked out of the newsroom, with Justin at his heels.
"Why are you so angry? Brian! Stop a moment!" Justin pleaded. But Brian merely stepped up his pace until he reached the portals of Clarke's Hotel. There he paused and turned. Justin was right behind him. "Brian -- what is wrong with you?"
But Brian's face was strained. "Go back to your home. Your mother is correct, although she should not have betrayed my confidence by telling you. You know the truth now. As soon as I can secure the rest of the funds I need for the journey and renounce my position at 'The Clarion' then I am leaving."
"Good!" said Justin. "Then I don't have to face any more pathetic scenes with my father! And I won't need to look for a job in this city, either. There is sure to be plenty of work out in San Francisco, even for a young man without any skills. But I'm a very quick study. I could always work in a cafe or even a saloon like the Rosebud. Even I can carry a tray!"
Brian turned away and stomped through the lobby and up the stairway. Justin followed, taking the steps two at a time and beating the man to the door. Justin pulled out his own key and unlocked it.
"Justin, go home!" said Brian, tossing his hat in the corner and dropping his portfolio on the little desk in resignation. "Better that you leave now and save us both a raft of trouble."
But Justin bounced on the bed, pulling off his shoes. "This IS my home, Brian, at least for the time being. It has been for a while, but now I have officially informed my mother that I was never returning to the house where she and my father live." Justin's voice softened. "I AM going with you, Brian. And then our home will be in California, where two can live as cheaply as one. I think Benjamin Franklin said that."
"Benjamin Franklin knew nothing of California! Don't be a brat!" Brian ran his long fingers through his hair. "I don't have enough money for two fares. And you cannot leave your family behind. All you think of is adventure, Justin! But this is a dangerous and dirty journey. And I truly don't know what is at the other end. I may not be able to support myself, let alone you!"
"I said I would seek my own employment! I don't expect you to support me," Justin huffed. "I'm a man, after all. Don't treat me like a child. Don't make the same mistake my father has made. Don't discount me, Brian."
That caused Brian to pull up short. He HAD been treating Justin like a child with no rights of his own. Treating him like someone to be ordered about and expected to obey, regardless of his own wishes. Brian had been in that situation and he well remembered the feeling of helplessness it engendered.
Brian sat down on the bed, feeling a dull ache beginning in his head. Justin put his arms around him, gently. "We will find the money for the coach. We will make the trip together. You don't really wish to leave me behind here, at the mercy of my father? I know that it would kill you to leave without me, Brian. I know that is why you were so sad when you got that letter from San Francisco. It was what you have been hoping for -- a new job and a new start in life. But you didn't want to leave me behind. That is why you were so forlorn, and why you had our picture taken. Because you love me and want me to be with you always." Justin looked directly at Brian, but the man could not meet his eyes. Justin continued, more softly. "You might well take off alone, but I would be right behind you, even if I have to walk all the way, following the track of the stagecoach. Of course, I'd rather ride inside with you and save my delicate feet, but I'll get there any way I can. What's the name of that journal in San Francisco where you plan to work?"
"'The Independent,'" Brian replied.
Justin nodded. "A perfect name. That is what I shall seek out when I stagger into the city, a poor wayfarer, covered with dust from my long walk -- Mr. Brian Kinney at the office of 'The Independent.'"
Brian sighed. "I actually believe that you would do it, too."
"You know that I would." Justin began unbuttoning Brian's shirt. It was one of his nicer ones, white cambric with embroidered collar and carved tortoise-shell buttons. But would it be suitable for life in the West? Perhaps they should buy all new clothing made of buckskin and leather. With raccoon caps! That was much more suitable for the Frontier life!
Brian sat passively as Justin undressed him. Then Justin got up and bolted the door. He did not want Sara's idiot son wandering into the room to empty the slops bucket while they were in the midst of making love. That had happened a number of times and Justin was beginning to think that Jeb was doing it on purpose in order to watch them!
"Justin, wait," said Brian, staying the boy's wandering hands. "You have never lived the way I have. Not knowing a real home, or even where you might lay your head that night. You have never known what it is to realize that you are down to your last dollar and don't know when the next one will come into your hand. You have lived in privilege and I... I'm afraid that you romanticize the hardships we are likely to face. Because once we have gone West, there will be no turning back. No running home to your mother or begging your father for help. We will know no one there. It will be us, only. Can you handle such a life? Truly?"
"Handle it? I welcome it!" Justin grinned. "Perhaps in the West I can live like a man and not like a boy. I won't be forever under the shadow of my father." Justin looked into Brian's eyes. "And you won't have the Past hanging over you like a shroud, Brian. You won't have bad memories crowding out the good things we have together. A new place means a new life. A new chance -- for both of us." And then he kissed Brian as a seal of that promise.
Justin searched his way down his lover's long, golden body, kissing and tasting as he journeyed. He played his tongue over Brian's lengthy prick until it stood firm, leaping eagerly into Justin's grasp.
"Now we truly are partners, Brian, if we are to travel together. Do you agree?" Justin asked, stroking the member until it was practically crying for relief.
Brian laughed. "How can I deny you anything when you are holding my peg for ransom? Yes! I agree, you trifling whelp!"
Justin leaned over, his face close to Brian's. "Then finish the job, Brian. Perform that final act. There is no use to wait any longer!"
"Justin, I... I don't think that...."
"Then don't THINK! Just do it!" Justin insisted. "If we are to be outlaws in this world, the two of us, then don't deny me! Please?"
But Justin didn't wait for his lover's answer. He reached over to the bedside table and took up the jar of rosewater cream. He and Brian had often smeared it on one another before they rubbed themselves together until they spent in noisy satisfaction. Now he coated Brian's prick, up and down, until it was slick as an eel. Then Justin daubed the cream on himself, touching as deeply as he dared into his ass. Brian had often delved there, gently and carefully, with his fingers and even his tongue, but now Justin desired something much more.
Brian turned Justin over onto his back and spread his pale legs wide. "Lean your feet on my shoulders and I'll take the weight of them. Now wrap your arms around me and hang on. If you want me to stop, say so and I'll immediately retreat."
"No! No retreating!" Justin whispered. "You said there was no turning back. So do not! Press on!"
"Never fear," said Brian, kissing him deeply.
So Brian pressed on, slowly, inch by inch, until he breached the final barrier of Justin's virginity. Justin gasped and felt himself filled as he had never been before. "Don't stop now! Don't!"
"You're right, Justin. There is no stopping now," Brian murmured. "Some would say that this is the gate to Hell and we have both entered it. But I was lost there a long, long time ago. And you...."
"No, this isn't Hell!" Justin breathed. "This is another place. Not Hell at all. Please! Please!"
And he thrust back against Brian's movement, meeting him in that place that wasn't like Hell at all. It was a new, untouched place, where they both would be living from that moment onward.
"Camerado, I give you my hand! Walt Whitman, 'Song of the Open Road'
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give yourself to me? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick together as long as we live?"
Walt Whitman, 'Song of the Open Road'
Continue on to "The Newsroom".
©Gaedhal, March 2004.
Posted March 21, 2004.