This is Chapter Twenty-four -- "Miss Lindsay"
The other stories in the "Wayfarers" series.
Features Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor, Lindsay Peterson, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian writes a letter to his former fiancée. Pittsburgh, May 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.
Pittsburgh, May 1859
"My Dear Miss Lindsay," Brian wrote.
No, that wasn't right. He took another sheet of paper and began again. "My Esteemed Miss Peterson."
Brian stopped. That sounded so formal. So cold.
He picked up the first sheet of paper again. "My Dear Miss Lindsay: I wish to inform you of my decision to take a position in the city of San Francisco. As much as it pains me to leave this fair city and those people who are near and dear to my heart, I must not let this splendid opportunity to advance in my chosen profession pass by."
"What are you doing?" said Justin, peering over Brian's shoulder and wrapping his arms around Brian's long, slender neck.
"I am attempting to write to Miss Lindsay," Brian sighed. "I am too cowardly to call on her in person and tell her that I am leaving town -- so I must resort to using my skills as a writer instead."
Justin frowned. "I don't see why it's so difficult, Brian. Simply say that we are going to California and that you'll write to her when we reach our destination."
Brian laughed. "It is obvious that you have never been entangled with a female, Justin. Because you do not simply write a woman a short note saying you are leaving town forever and, therefore, goodbye!"
"Why not?" asked Justin.
Brian rolled his eyes. "Because you don't. It isn't gentlemanly. Besides, the female might decide to come after you."
Justin's eyes widened. "You think that Miss Lindsay might follow us on the stagecoach all the way to California?"
"You never know, Justin," Brian said darkly. "Females do not think the same way as men. They are not logical creatures. You can never predict what they might do. And if Miss Lindsay felt that I had wronged her in some way, she might well track us through the wilderness in order to take her revenge -- or at least get an explanation."
Brian turned back to the sheet of paper and scratched out another sentence. "Our friendship, dear lady, has meant much to me over the years and I hope it has also meant much to you."
"That's pitiful, Brian," Justin commented as he nuzzled at Brian's ear.
"Will you STOP looking over my shoulder? Please?" Brian set down his pen in frustration. "This is hopeless! Perhaps the two of us can sneak out of town in the dead of night and hope that by the time Miss Lindsay realizes that I am gone we will already be in San Francisco."
"I don't understand why you are so concerned about this woman, Brian," said Justin. He walked over and stretched himself out on the bed like a languid, golden cat. "You never see her anymore and, except for sending you those invitations to her afternoon tea parties and Sunday musicales, she never writes to you. Why should she even care that you are quitting Pittsburgh?"
"Again, Justin, you don't understand the female mind," Brian explained. "Lindsay and I once had an 'understanding.' I had hoped that we would become officially engaged and then be married, but her parents would never allow her even to consider the first step. We met in public, but had to keep our emotions in check and our attachment to each other a secret. I was not exactly the kind of sterling prospect that the Petersons had pinned their hopes on for their youngest daughter. Tom Miller considered me to be his protégé, and he and his wife, Clementine, had taken me under their wing socially, introducing me to Society as an 'extra man.'
"An 'extra man'?" Justin huffed. "What the hell is that?"
"Ask your mother, Justin," Brian said, shaking his head. "It is a fellow who doesn't quite fit anywhere in Society, but who is well-spoken and decently dressed enough to fill a seat at a dinner party or stand up with the ladies at a ball. I was young and, if I do say so myself, good-looking. I could dance, carry on a conversation in French, and kiss an elderly lady's hand with the best of them. Yes, those were skills that Reynolds had taught me well and I used them to get many a free meal in an elegant house. I was a favorite with the wives of the important men of Pittsburgh. But none of them ever made the mistake of thinking that I was a suitable husband for their precious daughters."
Brian rubbed his eyes as he remembered those days when he was welcomed into the houses of the wealthy, but still not accepted by the people who lived in them. Brian was decorative and amusing, but he was always an outsider. To the women of Society Brian was a charming novelty, but he was also a man without connections -- no family, no fortune, and no prospects. And to their husbands Brian was a parasite who they tolerated only on the surface -- and only as long as he knew his place. Few of them knew his background, but even those who did not made it clear that Brian Kinney was a lower class Irishman and a Catholic -- something that would never be accepted by Americans of good Protestant stock.
"I met Miss Lindsay at a dinner party at Tom Miller's house about a year after I began working at 'The Clarion.' Clementine Miller had invited me to be her 'extra man' and talk engagingly to the ladies. Miss Lindsay was seated across from me that night and she was singularly out-spoken and flirtatious, which was unusual for girls in her set. Young ladies of good family are supposed to be giggling non-entities, but Lindsay expressed her opinions forthrightly. She was also tall and blonde and beautiful, which fired my lust as well as my romantic imagination. After dinner I played a few hands of whist with the females while the men retired to their cigars and brandy. A few weeks later I was invited to a musicale at the Peterson house. Then we met at a ball at another house belonging to a wealthy friend of the publisher of 'The Clarion.' We saw each other frequently during the next three years, but we were only rarely alone. The Peterson girls never went out in public without their mother or an elderly aunt as chaperone. But we wrote to each other constantly and passed the letters secretly through a servant. I was convinced that I was in love with this woman and that she was my only hope for happiness in this life." Brian sighed at his own youthful folly. "Finally, I begged Lindsay to elope with me."
Justin sat up on the bed and crossed his arms over his chest, pushing his lips into a pout. He knew that Brian had once wished to marry this Miss Lindsay Peterson, but that didn't mean he wanted to hear the details of Brian's thwarted romance. "Obviously, the lady realized that it would never work!"
Brian turned around and gave Justin a sharp look. "Lindsay left the house one morning in April with only her small valise. I was waiting on the deck of the steamboat and had our passage booked to Cincinnati. She was halfway to the dock when her father and two of his servants caught up with her. They dragged her back home and the next day sent her on an extended visit to her aunt in Boston. Her father also went to Mr. Joshua Mitchell, my boss at 'The Clarion,' and told him that if I did not stay away from his daughter, that he would then hire his own printing press to publish my sordid past and all of my misdeeds and distribute them free to the general public on every street corner in town. Mr. Mitchell suggested to me that I would be advised to break off my 'understanding' with the young lady and refrain from any further attempt at courtship with females 'above my station.' And that was the end of that."
"Good," Justin said under his breath.
But Brian's ears were sharp. "You may say that now, Justin, but imagine how I felt. I believed that this truly was my last chance for happiness. That if I could marry and take my place in Society, that my future would be secured. Then I might truly forget what I had been and re-create myself as a fine citizen and loving husband -- and even a father."
"Brian...." Justin interrupted.
"No, Justin, you must understand how it was." Brian stared down at the letter. "I felt that I was alone in my unnatural desires, destined forever to live outside the world of decent folk. I had believed that a normal life, a life within the natural order, would save me from living forever alone and despised. But when Lindsay turned her back on me, when she was afraid to continue to defy her parents, I knew that she did not love me enough to risk her position in Society. She was not willing to... to escape her parents and their prohibitions by joining herself to me."
Brian swallowed the lump in his throat. Even after five years the memory of Lindsay's final rejection still stung him to the core. "And I knew that my last opportunity for a normal life was denied to me. I was in a black mood for a long while afterwards. I had not been in such a state since... since after Reynolds died. I drank and avoided company. I began to miss work and neglected to turn in my assignments. Finally, Tom Miller came to see me. I was living at a boarding house a few blocks from here. It was a disreputable place and perfect for someone who wished to lose himself in evil thoughts. But Tom shook me out of my stupor and talked some sense into me. He sent me on a trip to Harrisburg and then Philadelphia to do a story on some political shenanigans there that were liable to affect Pittsburgh. It was the first real assignment I had been given that was not connected with the sporting world and I found it a relief. I came back with a good story and Tom sent me to do more like it. I moved from the boarding house to a better hotel and decided to refrain from any further attempt at courtship or mingling with genteel society. I still saw Miss Lindsay on occasion, usually at one of Mrs. Miller's receptions or some party at Joshua Mitchell's house. The Petersons still moved in the same circle as the Millers and the Mitchells -- and, as Tom Miler's protégé, I was still invited as well. But Lindsay and I only spoke to each other as distant acquaintances. Finally, I stopped going to those events. It was too painful to see Lindsay and be unable to express the emotions that I felt for her. And I no longer wished to waste my time among people who would never accept me."
"My parents know the Petersons," Justin pondered. "I am sure they have been to our house, but I don't know which of the daughters is Miss Lindsay. I never paid much attention to that sort of thing."
"Lindsay is the younger and taller girl," said Brian. "They are both lovely blondes, but the eldest girl, Lynette, is a flighty piece who married some man who is in business with her father. Lindsay, however, is still not married. It's said that she has an 'understanding' with another man connected to her father, some fellow named Shaw. She had better marry this man soon because she already has the reputation of being an old maid. Although it is not polite to discuss the ages of young ladies, she is, in fact, older than I am."
"She's still waiting for you," Justin replied, an edge of exasperation in his voice. "For you to come and marry her!"
Brian stood up from the desk, turning the letter over on its face. "You may be right, Justin. But I know that I can never marry her or any female. So if she is still waiting, then she will be waiting for a long, long time."
Brian went over to the bed and sat on the edge. Justin was lying there clad only in his shirt. It was May and too warm for flannel underdrawers. Brian ran his hands along the boy's slim body, reaching underneath the shirt to find his already firm cock.
Justin leaned over to turn down the oil lamp next to the bed, leaving only enough light to cast a warm incandescence over the proceedings. Justin was sorry that Brian's marriage hopes had been dashed. Well, not sorry. He felt empathy for Brian's disappointment, but he was also happy that Brian had never tied himself down to some female. Then Brian would not have been in the barroom by the wharf that night when he rescued Justin from the bargeman. He would not have been free to take Justin back to the hotel. Not free to make love to him. No, Justin didn't give a damn if the Peterson daughter lived and died an old maid as long as she didn't think that she could ever get her hands on Brian. Because Brian was HIS man! And no one else's!
And just in case Brian had forgotten that fact, Justin set about reminding him.
Brian walked into the lobby of Clarke's Hotel, a fresh copy of that morning's 'Clarion' under his arm. He had some work to do on a story and then he planned to explore his financial situation. To look over his assets and see what was valuable enough to sell for ready cash. Also to begin deciding what he was going to take with him and what would be left behind. Brian had never thought that he was heavy on possessions, but even so not many of his fine clothes and his leather-bound books would fit into the small bag that would be permitted on the stagecoach.
He looked up at the sound of the voice and saw Miss Lindsay Peterson standing up from her seat on the lobby sofa.
"Lindsay! Whatever are you doing here?" He was shocked to see his former fiancée there, especially without a chaperone. The Petersons always observed the strict proprieties of society, one of which was that young ladies of breeding did not meet alone with gentlemen.
Lindsay took out an envelope with a trembling hand. "I received this epistle this morning, Mr. Kinney," she said. "It stunned me."
"I should have informed you of my decision in person." Brian swallowed nervously. "I apologize for that, Miss Peterson."
"Then this is TRUE? You are leaving this city?" said Lindsay with great passion. "You are going West, never to return? Tell me that this is a mistake! That you wrote it in a moment of depression and don't mean to proceed with this mad scheme!"
"But it IS true, Miss Lindsay," Brian replied. "I have already given my notice at 'The Clarion' and am currently making arrangements for my passage to San Francisco."
Lindsay looked around the lobby. A man stood behind the desk and a few others loitered near the entrance, chewing tobacco and making use of the large brass spittoon. "We cannot discuss this matter in such a public arena, Brian. Let us go to... to your room where we may speak in private."
Brian was taken aback by Lindsay's suggestion. "You wish to visit my room? Just the two of us."
"We MUST talk of this, Brian!" said Lindsay in desperation. "Please!"
Brian offered his arm and led Miss Lindsay up the stairway to his room on the second floor. He opened the door with his key and ushered her inside. The room was fairly tidy, the bed had been made up by Sara and the chamber pot emptied by her son, but still this place was hardly a suitable spot to entertain a lady.
"Please have a seat," said Brian, gesturing to the settee.
Lindsay removed her hat and unbuttoned her coat. Brian took them and hung them on the peg next to the door. He set his own hat and frock coat on another peg. Then he locked the door.
Lindsay sat upon the settee and glanced around the room. She took note of Brian's books and papers stacked on his desk. A few of these were volumes that she had given him as gifts. The door of the press was ajar and she saw Brian's beautiful coats and colorful waistcoats hanging inside. Brian always looked so stylish and his clothes fit him so well, she mused. When they were together Lindsay had always been only too aware of his body. That was something that was not to be thought of by a lady, but Lindsay could not help but think of it. Even being in the same room with Brian, all these years after they had long ceased to be a courting couple, caused her own body to quiver with nervous anticipation.
"So, Miss Lindsay," said Brian, uneasily. "How are your parents?"
Lindsay stood up swiftly. "Damn my parents! You cannot be serious about leaving! About going so... so far away! You cannot!"
"But I do mean it, Lindsay," Brian assured her. "I have been offered a position in San Francisco and I have accepted it. We leave within the month."
Lindsay blinked her large brown eyes. "We? Who are you going with, Brian? Is it the trollop from that saloon? That Miss Mae?"
Brian smiled. "No, it is not Miss Mae. It is a friend of mine. A young man who wishes to seek his fortune in the West."
"Brian, take me with you!" she pleaded. "I have some money of my own. We can be married on the way, just as we had planned before. There is nothing to keep me here! Brian, please! When I read your letter I almost fainted!" And Lindsay threw herself into Brian's arms, leaning against his body longingly.
But Brian looked away. "That scheme was doomed to fail, Lindsay. And it did fail. Then you turned your back on me. You did not try to fight for our relationship, but instead you let your parents order your life as they wished for it to be. And your father threatened me. Threatened to disclose my past to everyone. And I know that you could not stand to be under such scrutiny. Of course, among the lower orders of society my story has already long been common knowledge. We would have been shunned by your parents and all of their set had we wed. But I know that a young lady such as yourself cannot live on the margins of polite Society and be truly happy."
"I could have!" Lindsay exclaimed. "I know I should have been braver and defied my father, Brian. I tried. I should have tried harder when I returned from Boston, but... but by then our estrangement seemed assured. You would not even look me in the eye on the occasions when we met."
"It is just as well," said Brian, pushing her away from him gently. Once he had felt a burning desire for this woman, but now he felt only pity and a nostalgia for his old tender emotions. "I have eschewed feminine companionship for the most part since the breaking of our understanding. And that is for the best. A marriage between us would never have satisfied. I realize that now. My nature is not inclined that way."
"That is a lie!" Lindsay insisted. "My father told me horrible lies about you, but I didn't believe them! I never believed a single word! I KNOW what I felt when we were together was a true kinship and deep passion! You DID love me, Brian! You DID desire me! I know you did!"
"Yes," answered Brian, truthfully. "I did then. But it was a passing fancy. It was the ardent and naive emotions of youth that blinded me to the truth about myself. I will never be married, Lindsay. It is not my in my nature. Your father was correct in what he said about me."
"I do not believe that!" insisted Lindsay. "I know that you love me, Brian! And I love you! It is not too late for us to be together!"
Lindsay pushed herself back into his arms and kissed his mouth hungrily. They had kissed only very furtively and very chastely when they were courting, but this was nothing like those tentative kisses. Years of Lindsay's frustration and pent up emotion were pressed into that kiss.
And Brian responded to her. He had always saved a place in his heart for Lindsay. He had spent years dreaming about her and, although he had bedded many women, he had never ceased to wonder what this particular woman would be like. If she could erase all trace of his other lovers, both male and female, in his mind and in his heart. Yes, even Justin. After all, he had loved Lindsay for many years and Justin only a few short months. Perhaps one was merely animal lust. But which one? The woman or the boy?
He felt that this was his final chance to know the truth about himself. And Brian cast aside all of his good sense in order to find out.
Justin came back from class whistling.
There was only one week left in the term and then he would graduate. His father still believed that he was going to Dartmouth in the fall. Apparently his mother had told Jeremiah Taylor that Justin had capitulated to his demands and his father had been satisfied that his wishes had prevailed.
Since then Justin had avoided the family home except to retrieve small items from his room that he was quietly selling at a pawnbroker's establishment not far from Clarke's Hotel. So far he had gotten $50 in cash for a number of china figurines, a silver-plated candy dish, and an ugly print of nymphs and shepherds dancing in a Grecian glade. He had his eye on other items in the house as well. And the attic was full of unwanted odds and ends, including furniture and boxes of clothing, that no one would ever miss. Justin merely had to calculate how to get them out of the house and over to the pawn shop without any of the servants catching him.
Justin unlocked the door of their room and opened it.
"Justin," said Brian in surprise. "I wasn't expecting you so soon!"
Brian was standing next to the press in his trousers, his white lawn shirt in his hand. And sitting on the bed in a white cotton chemise was a woman with long golden hair. She was wiping the tears from her eyes with one of Brian's embroidered handkerchiefs.
"I am here at my usual time," said Justin, staring at the woman. "Class lets out at 3:00 and I came here directly -- as I always do."
Justin knew that this woman must be Miss Lindsay, Brian's former fiancée. Or perhaps not so former, because here she was. Both of their faces were grim and the woman had been crying. And... they were both in a state of undress. That could mean only one thing....
"Brian, what is going on here?" Justin demanded.
Lindsay stood up and reached for her dress, which was draped over the back of the settee. "I must go." She dabbed at her eyes again. "Brian -- please change your mind!"
But Brian turned away as he put on his shirt and began buttoning it up. "I'm sorry, Lindsay. If you want to believe that I am a cad, then so be it. But this must be our final meeting."
"Brian!" said Justin. "Answer me! What is she doing here?"
"Justin, this is Miss Lindsay. She is leaving now." Brian turned his back on both of his lovers.
"Brian, you cannot be serious about taking this... this BOY with you to California?" Lindsay spat through her tears. "Are you deranged? You cannot be... be sleeping with this... this PERSON! You cannot possibly prefer him to ME! Especially not now!"
Brian turned around slowly. "Justin is going with me to San Francisco. We are partners. I am sorry for giving in to my emotions before, but I had to be certain that I was making the correct decision. I did not want any doubt to hang over our future together. And now I know that I am making the right choice -- the only choice. I'm sorry, Lindsay."
The woman strode across the room and slapped Brian soundly before bursting into tears again. "You ARE a cad! A horrible, immoral blackguard! I hope that you and your catamite burn in Hell! I hope that you both DIE in the wilderness and your bones are picked clean by the buzzards!"
Lindsay turned away, buttoning up the front of her dress and buckling her belt around her waist. Then she sat down on the settee and pulled on her boots in silence.
Justin stared at Lindsay with his mouth agape. Brian had slept with this female! In THEIR bed! Justin searched his lover's face, but it was a blank.
"Brian! How could you do this? Explain yourself!" Justin persisted.
"We will discuss it later, Justin," said Brian, his voice remote. "I think Miss Lindsay had better go now."
Lindsay stood up from the settee and straightened her dress and hair. Brian took her hat and coat from the pegs by the door and helped her on with them. She glared at Justin, but when she looked up at Brian her eyes filled with tears once again.
"I hate you!" she whispered.
"I know," said Brian. "And you should. Farewell."
He began to open the door, but Lindsay pushed it shut again with all her might. "Take me with you, Brian! Don't leave me behind! I beg you!"
Brian moved her gently back from the door and opened it wide. "I'm sorry, Lindsay. I truly am."
And with that Lindsay stiffened her resolve and walked out. She did not look back again.
Brian closed the door behind her and locked it.
Justin stood in the middle of the room, his head wheeling. He stared at the unmade bed and then he looked at Brian. "Brian, why? Why did you do it?"
Brian's mouth was set into a thin line. "I had to know, Justin. I thought I was in love with Miss Lindsay for so many years and when we were courting I idealized her and set her on a pedestal. After all, she was a fine, well-bred lady and I was an Irish whore. I knew that I would never be worthy of her. And I knew in my heart that I could never marry her. That I should never marry any female. But I had to know the truth -- and so did she. Now there is no doubt in my mind. It is not Lindsay that I love," Brian said. "You know that more than anyone."
"Then... then... we are still going to California? Together?" asked Justin. He realized that he was sweating with anxiety.
"If you still wish to, Justin," Brian replied. "That is... if you still wish to go with ME."
Justin took a deep breath. There were many things about Brian that he still didn't understand, but one thing that he didn't doubt was that he loved Brian. And that Brian loved him. No matter what had happened in the past or what had happened with that woman. She was a part of the past. And Justin was the future. San Francisco was the future. THEIR future.
"Yes," said Justin, putting his arms around Brian and holding him tightly. "Let's go! As soon as possible! I want to leave this place and this life behind."
"We will," Brian whispered. "Soon."
"Ethereal, the last athletic reality, my consolation, Walt Whitman, 'Calamus'
I ascend, I float in the regions of your love O man,
O sharer of my roving life."
Walt Whitman, 'Calamus'
Continue on to "The Incident -- Part I".
©Gaedhal, June 2004.
Posted June 19, 2004.