Farewell from the Bookshelf!
Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.
All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.
Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!
Painting Stephen is due in the first quarter, 2010, from DreamCraft.
The dozen paintings had disappeared with Barry Provine’s company van two days before. Prints of them were tacked to the corkboard on the wall which got the least direct sun; prints soon faded if the light got at them. John pored over them now, wondering what price Barry would be able to get for a collection of ‘truth’ that was at least five times more honest than the average art fancier could bear.
Too much truth. Too much honesty. What the world needed was fantasy, he told himself as he looked at the clock for the third time in twenty minutes.
His name was Stephen, and he was late. He was supposed to show up ‘around one,’ and it was two now. The late lunch John had set out had gone stale, and the wine he had opened to breathe was warm. No text messages were on the cell phone; no messages were on the machine.
With a smothered curse, John gathered the platter, bottle and glasses, and he was headed for the kitchen when he heard the grinding, rumbling sound. That vibration through the floorboards was long familiar. He would have known it in his sleep, and he swore again.
The lift was coming up, right up to the top floor; and since he got few visitors lately, and Barry was not due to swing by until there were fresh pictures to view, it was a safe bet the little tyke had decided to drift in an hour late.
Starting a working relationship angry was a bad thing to do, and John sought patience as he stretched plastic wrap over the spoiled platter and put the wine back in the fridge to re-chill. He leaned on the sink, looking out yhrough the long glass pane at the rooftops of the buildings opposite, and waited.
Only two studio apartments opened off the passage which led south from the lift shaft. The other one was empty. The renovators were in, ripping out walls, tearing up carpets. When they were done the studio would rent to another artist or sculptor, someone who needed the space and appreciated the light – but the light on John’s side of the building was better.
Three, two one: knuckled rapped on the door. It was fifteen strides from the lift to that door. John knew every knot in the timber floor. He gave the upturned glasses a speculative look and left them were they stood.
The door was open; he could have called to the little sprat to come right in, but some stubborn bone in his skull remained annoyed, and he permitted himself the luxury of a heavy tread, of swinging open the door and glaring at the little nuisance who could not even show up on time when he needed the work.
But the glare dissolved into an open-mouthed stare before he could wrap his tongue around even the first of the sharp words he had intended.
Fidgeting right outside was the most beautiful young man John had ever seen, and during twenty years in gay bars and clubs from San Francisco and New Orleans to Paris and Marseilles, he had seen greater beauty than most people ever imagined. And this young man was intriguingly shamefaced, wearing a pink blush and brandishing a handful of spent bus tickets.
I’m sorry, Mr. Templeton, I missed a transfer, had to wait for the next bus, and it was late. I got here as soon as I could.” The accent was West Coast; the timbre of the voice was light, tenor, sweet.
John hunted for his own voice, and for coherence. “You didn’t call.”
“Don’t have a phone on me.” Stephen patted his pockets. “Don’t actually have a phone. Well, I have one, but … you don’t pay the bill and you get kind of, uh, disconnected.”
A pang of remorse assaulted John. He had the decency to mentally deal himself a swift kick, and stood aside to clear the doorway. “Better late than never … and I know what you mean about the buses. My car needs fixing.” He waved vaguely in the direction of the basement, the garage where the Pontiac was still under dust covers in the further corner from the lights. No need to mention, it had been there for three months now, and would stay there another three, until or unless cash materialized out of the ether.
And if Barry Provine was even halfway right, it just might. With a tingling sense of awakening, John watched the young man step into the apartment – watched the way he moved, the swing of his slim hips, the curve of his cheek, the way he held his hands. He wore his jeans so tight, they night have been painted on, and they were old, soft, clinging. The pale blue teeshirt was baggy enough to float around him; the forearms were tanned, smooth. He wore his dark brown hair a little long, which John liked; it was deeply wavy, almost curly on his neck. His running shoes were comfortable, battered.
“How old are you – if you don’t mind me asking,” he prompted as Stephen came to rest in the middle of the apartment and turned toward him. “In any bar of mine, I’d card you!”
“I’m twenty-three,” Stephen told him with a self-conscious smile. “You want my driver’s license? I don’t have a car, but I do have a license!”
Twenty-three. What a glorious age. The perfect age, when a lot of the boy remained, but a lot of the man had taken root, and the combination was irresistible. “No, it’s … no.” John relaxed a little. Barry was much too careful to hire underage kids. “You just look young.”
“I know.” Stephen ducked his head, wrinkled his nose, mocking himself. “They keep telling me, time’ll cure that.”
“But not too soon,” John said wistfully.
Posted by Jade, on behalf of Jayne deMarco