Chapter 5: Brian’s POV
I’m finally alone with my boy.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted to see Lindsay. I’ve missed her. And while I don’t care if I ever see Melanie again, she has behaved pretty well (for her) during this visit. The only poison I’m getting from her is her poisonous glare. The forked tongue hasn’t made an appearance yet. Michael’s kid was very needy, clinging to me without invitation, which made Gus mad. He wanted my undivided attention, and that was pretty much my plan, too.
But men are a rarity in this house, something exotic, so I can’t blame the kid for finding me irresistible. At least in Pittsburgh the dykes had male friends. Gay, yes, but still male. There was a dick influence in the house. Here, their world appears to be all female all the time, except for poor little Gus. I worry about that. It’s not that I think dykes can't be good mothers, or that Gus will grow up twisted, but I still think a gender balance helps with any child.
Now I’m alone with Gus in his room, huddled up in his bed, with the pop-up version of “The Night Before Christmas” open between us, an early gift from me. He smells so sweet, that “clean baby” smell that nothing else can mimic, even though he’d be pissed at me for thinking of him as a “baby”. He feels familiar in my arms, that little bundle of muscle and grit. But I swear to God he’s grown in the short period of time that we’ve been apart.
I kick off my shoes and fold a pillow behind my back. I’m tired, more tired than I thought, and being here with him is soothing. “Read it to me, Daddy,” he says as the first image pops up with a man in a nightshirt and stocking cap going over to a window.
“Why don’t you read it to me, Gus? I’m tired.”
“Cuz I don’t know all the words.”
“Make them up,” I pull him against my arm, watching his creative mind take over the challenge.
“This man wakes up because Santa Claus and his reindeer are making noise at his house,” he says with a slight condemnation in his voice for Santa’s antics. He then explains the collateral information. “See, the mouse is asleep there, too, Daddy, inside his little mouse hole. And the children are dreaming about candy and stuff.”
The next page pops up. I’m into his version of the tale. This one shows the fat man’s sleigh and reindeer. “See this is where Santa Claus and his reindeer land up on the roof. Have you ever seen Santa on the roof, Daddy?”
“Can’t say that I have, Gus.”
“You have? When?”
“I don’t remember, but I have,” he says firmly, and I see no reason to question him. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in time, Gus’s rendition of the poem put me to sleep. When I awoke, the only light on in the room was the carousel nightlight that cast a carnival shadow on the walls. The blanket was pulled over both of us and he slept cuddled up to my mid-section. This small twin bed wasn’t meant for a man my size, let alone a man my size and his squirmy son.
I carefully sit up, repositioning him on the pillow, and then swing my feet to the floor. I consider settling back down, even though I have a luxurious room waiting for me at the Four Seasons. At this moment, there's no guy I’d rather spend the night with than Gus. Well, maybe one, but that’s not happening. There’s an incredible comfort I get from my son, one I really undervalued until he was gone. There is such a connection there, such a pull, that it makes me wonder again how my own father could so completely disregard his connection to me. Sad.
I slip into my shoes and kiss his plump cheek. He squirms a little, but doesn’t wake up. I’ll have more time with him tomorrow and facing morning’s light with the lesbians is more than I can stomach right now. I make my way downstairs in this little salt box house of theirs that is so like their old house in Pittsburgh that it’s eerie. Or maybe it’s just that any house with their shit in it will end up looking the same. The only thing I really like about their décor is the painting Justin gave them. I wish I had that painting.
I plan to get my coat, and slip away in my rental car to go to the hotel, and return tomorrow at a sensible time. But Lindsay surprises me. She’s seated by the fire in the main room, reading a novel. Wrapped in a red velvet robe, she looks a little like Mrs. Claus when the Clauses were newlyweds. Or maybe Gus’s reading made a bigger impression than I thought.
“I thought you might be down for the night,” she says with a smile. “I didn’t have the heart to wake you.”
“I think I outgrew twin beds a few inches ago,” I sit down on the couch, straightening my hair with both hands. “I hope they held my room for late arrival.”
“Want to call?”
“No, it’ll be fine. How many people travel to Toronto for Christmas? The hotel will be empty.”
“I’m glad you came here, Brian. It means so much to Gus.”
I glance at the Christmas tree in the corner, the colored lights twinkling with more merriment than I feel. “I miss him, Lindsay. I need to have more time with him.”
“You’re welcome any time, you know that.”
“Not as long as Melanie shares your bed. But look, I have a business to run, two businesses to run. I thought it might be nice if we worked something out where Gus could come stay with me occasionally.”
“And who would take care of him when he was there?”
“I would,” I respond with a scowl. “I’m not incompetent.”
“No, but like you said, you have two businesses to run.”
“I’d make it work.”
“It would’ve been easier if you’d kept that big house in the country. Your loft isn’t really set up for children.”
The Tudor Mansion rears its ugly head once more. I’ve done some stupid, impulsive things in my life, but that was one of the dumber moves. How long before that ridiculous house turned into “The Shining” and I was chopping down doors with an ax and chasing Justin through the maze? What was I thinking? Once again, I’m grateful for his foresight. I’m also thankful for his mother’s ability to get the deal canceled and keep my loft for me. I owe Jennifer big time for that, and I know it cost her a fortune in commissions.
“My loft is fine,” I tell her. I’m not letting her get away with that one. “So what do you think?”
“I’d have to talk to Melanie. He has school, we’re trying to get him settled here, so it’s not all that easy.”
“When you left, it was with the understanding that I’d be able to see Gus, remember? I pay child support like clockwork, Lindsay. I deserve better than this. You promised you wouldn’t let him forget me. You promised he could come see me.”
“I’m not saying he can’t. I’m just saying things are a little different, now, Brian. You didn’t keep that nice house with all the room, and you were part of a stable relationship, then, and now you’re not.”
I can’t get my brain wrapped around this logic. “I can only see my son if I have a country place and a partner?”
“Your sexual escapades are not exactly the right atmosphere for a boy, Brian.”
“My sexual escapades have nothing to do with Gus. I would never bring that around him, I think you know that.”
“I thought I heard voices,” I tense as Melanie comes downstairs in her drawstring pajama bottoms and wifebeater, the little “man” of the family. “You’re still here?”
“Not for long.”
She sits on the arm of Lindsay’s chair with a proprietary air, as if I’m competition and she’s pissing on her stump to mark her territory. “What’s the problem?”
“The problem is I was trying to explain to Brian that it’s not as easy for Gus to spend time with him alone in Pittsburgh now that he’s in the loft and has no partner.”
“What would he do with him?” Melanie observed with a shrug. “Take him to Babylon?”
“I don’t need that shit from you,” I remind her. “Look, you promised me, Lindsay. I’m asking you to live up to that promise.”
“And I’m telling you things changed since then. It’s not as if Justin is coming back, Brian.”
That hits me like a speeding bullet. “How do you know?” Whether it’s true or not, what the fuck? Why would she say something like that? Does she know how hurtful it is? Does she know how important hope, even when it’s unlikely, is for me?
“When I told him he needed to get his butt to New York…”
“When did you tell him that?” I interrupt.
“What?” Her innocent look has an edge of tension, as if she realizes she said too much.
“When did you tell Justin he should get his butt to New York?”
“About the time that article came out praising his work.”
“That same article that you made sure that I saw?”
“It was a milestone for him, for any artist.”
My gaze travels to his painting over their mantle. I remember looking at it in their home in Pittsburgh when they were packing, and being told I hope I knew what he was sacrificing for me. At the same time, he was being told he needed to move to New York? A very unpleasant truth that’s nagged at me for some time just crystallized in my thick head.
“What were you more jealous of, Lindsay? Justin having the success as an artist that you never had or Justin having me?”
“What are you talking about?” She responds with a glare as Melanie laughs.
“It’s his colossal ego again, getting control of his mouth. Haven’t you heard? Everyone wants Brian Kinney, at least for a little while. They soon learn that it’s not worth keeping. Justin did, Michael did, even you, finally, saw him for what he is.”
I stand and slip into my coat. I suddenly feel like a pawn in a very ugly game. A game with no point that I can see, other than to drive a wedge of uncertainty between two people in love. I’m ashamed that I let myself be manipulated, even a little. I always knew Lindsay had unrequited feelings for me. I never let myself believe they colored her feelings for Justin. But when I combine that with her frustrated career as an artist confronted by his talent, the whole thing becomes painfully clear. This isn’t the time or the place. I need to get away by myself and think. I feel betrayed.
I feel really betrayed.
I don’t continue the fight. I just leave. I want to see Gus tomorrow. I don’t want that door slammed in my face. I need to think about the rest of it, about my options. I get in the car and drive towards the hotel. Without considering the hour, I reach for my cell phone and dial a number. Finally, he answers. Sleepy voice. I suddenly can’t think of anything to say. I want to hang up, but he says,
“Brian, I know it’s you. I have a ring assigned to your number.”
I smile slightly. “What is it?”
“Save the Last Dance for Me.”
I wonder if he can hear my heart break across the miles?