THE COLOUR OF COLLARS
“Eben!” My boss yelled and I quickly flittered to her side.
“I need you to head out to grind 19 section 21 to check to the water pumps, I’ve been getting some erratic readings from the equipment and you’re the only one here who knows what's wrong with them.”
I held my tongue as I gather the tools I'd need and grab an assessment sheet. Grind 19 section 21, Elaine loved to speak all enginery like that. Is it so hard to say Cloister Street Park? The only reason she's sending me is cause I have redesigned those damn water pumps just to keep them from breaking down instead of replacing them but you know ‘budget cuts’. Two words that send chills down anyone’s spine expect for the people doing the cutting.
I don’t mind grind 19 section 21. I like that area; if I was a deceptive man I’d let those water pumps breakdown more often. There is a reason for that.
Cloister Park Precinct.
Don’t be nervous. There is absolutely nothing to be nervous about. Nothing at all.
I’m simply accompanying my lover to dinner at his mother’s house.
A family dinner. With evert single one of his sister.
Max’s voice brings me back, I’m holding onto the steering wheel even though I’ve already parked and switched off the engine. I turn my head to face him and find him watching me with a bemused grin on his face.
“You’re incredibly cute when all anxious like this.” He quips his grin stretching wider obviously very amused with my current predicament.
“What did you expect? Me to be calm? I feel like I’m heading into a guerilla battalion.”
Max quaffed at my analogy, “I never took you for a chicken shit Mr. Keegan.” He chuckled poking me in the ribs.
“You wait until you meet my family. Then we’ll see you’ll be laughing.”
Max stifled another giggle before his features rearranged themselves seriously. He took my hand in his and held on tight before speaking.
“You're right Niko. There are many of us, we’re loud and chaotic when all together. Everyone is always in each other’s business, personal space is an illusion inside that house. Some of us speak our minds a little bit more frankly than we should and for the most part we wear or emotions on our sleeves but whatever else we are. We’re already in love with you. You’ve got nothing to fear.”
I’m kissing him before I even know it. The darkness of the car giving the moment an intimate and private feel. I pull back, click my seatbelt open and nod to myself before opening the car door. Lets get this over with.
Walking up to the front door Max’s eyes count the cars parking along he street.
“Looks like everyone’s already here.” I hear him say but my attention’s gravitated towards the motorcycle parked along the side of the house.
“Who the biker?” I ask, my eyes searching for make and model in the lines I can see from this distance. Entirely matte black with very subtle elegance to the model. Max followed my gaze as he rang the doorbell.
He frowned. “I don’t know.”
Suddenly all my thoughts about the bike evaporated as the door swung open and blinking light as well as deafening sound flooded us.
I arrived early, so I could calm myself before Max arrived. He’s usually late for these things anyway, bringing home a new man to introduce is certainly going to aid that.
Aunty Clea immediately sequestered me in the kitchen as soon as I entered. She had me chopping veggies and washing salad within seconds. I mostly listened as she chatted away about the girls, Aria's pregnancy and every single new development happening in the family. I smiled as she rattled on. I have a lot of memories of sitting at this table doing exactly what I’m doing now while she did exactly what is she’s doing now. In a blink all those years of lose contact fell away.
After a while the conversation turned to Max.
“Do we know this new guy he’s bringing?” I ask, probably the first question I've ventured throughout Aunty Clea’s soliloquy. I didn’t know if I was trying to make my question sound too casual or if my voice betrayed anything but she turned to face me handing me a glass of wine.
“Nikolas Keegan, apparently they went to high school together. Maybe you remember him?”
I was three years behind Max and although we attended the same school we each had our own click of friend to hang out with. Not that we ignored each other or anything, we weren't that kind of family. He always had my back. I set my potato peeler down as I tried to remember a Nikolas Keegan.
“You mean…” My eyes widened, nah it could never be him! “… Nik Keegan?” I ask incredulously “Tall, dark blond?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Niko is gay?” I know my mouth must have dropped to the floor. Flashes of a handsome albeit quiet guy popped into my head. Nik was one those kids everyone knew but no one really talked about.
“It would seem so.” Aunty Clea nods sitting down beside me at the kitchen table. I guess my shock at this revelation too obvious for her.
She reached out to hold my hand. “Eben, does Max being gay still bother you so much?” her voice quiet and as ever nonjudgemental. I kept my eyes down on the half peeled potatoe in my hand.
“No." I shake my head, I take a deep breath "Truthfully?”
I feel her nod more that I see it my eyes still focused on the root in my hand.
“It never bothered me Max is gay. I never loved him any less.”
“But… you seemed so uncomfortable when he came out. You don’t visit as often or even call him anymore.”
I look up into her confused yet equally trusting eyes.
“Max came out in College right, I was still in high school. He used to come home every weekend to visit and I’d always be here.” I loved those weekends.
“Then you stopped coming.”
“Dad still lived at home then Aunty Clea.” I said her eyes harden at the mention of my dad. “You know what he was like but really you don’t know half if it…”
“He stopped you from coming here?”
I don’t know what made me do it but I reached up and pulled me shirt down revealing a zigzag scar under my left collarbone. “I really didn’t have a choice.” I muttered. I couldn’t show her the other scar. I can never show anyone that one.
“I guess when I left college and finally got a place of my own I was still…”
We didn’t talk much after that. I resumed peeling potato’s and she took her place behind the stove again. With a freshly filled glass of red wine. I think Aunty Clea needed to process what she’d seen. My father had never been silence about his distaste toward gays. Though I think the family just thought it was macho talk more than anything else. They never knew what when on behind closed doors. A few years ago my mom finally kicked him out and now they’ll never need to know why either.
I could tell Aunty Clea knew that this wasn’t the entire reason for my reclusiveness of recent years. I did appreciate that she didn’t push the matter for the time being.
We both had a lot to think about.
Annette was the source of the squeal deafening our ears, her wildly curly hair a medusa like crown on her head as the light from the hallway blinded us. Annette was the middle child or nr. 3 as my mom likes to introduces us. You know sequentially.
A second later I’ve been deserted on the front door step. Niko already being whisked inside, I’d have laughed at his frightened expression but I don’t think he found it amusing.
As expected it was all chaos inside. A very overwhelmed Niko was handed from one sister to another receiving kisses and hugs even Byrne clamped on his legs which made movement difficult for him. Funny as all hell to watch though.
I have my own engulfment of hugs and kisses to wade through but all eyes are on Niko. Quite right so he’s amazing to look at. A few seconds later mom comes flying from the kitchen.
“Is this our Niko?” She thrilled.
Our Niko… Already he’s our Niko.
They were so excited that I finally brought someone home I don’t think it would have mattered if he were blue skinned with white hair or three head shorter than I. Niko didn’t know he was the first man I’ve ever introduced to them.
Jackson and I crossed glances smirking.
“You think he’ll survive the next few hours?” he asked greeting me in a side hug.
“He better. You did as I recall.”
“I did and look at me now husband and father.” I shoved him playfully picking up Byrne who’d finally noticed I was in the room too. After sufficient cuddles and questions I released the three year old to go hang on Niko’s legs again.
“Where is Gilles wasn't he coming to? I thought Niko wouldn’t be so swamped if there were two new introductions in one night.”
“He came over for dinner yesterday apparently, don’t worry his reception was equally as enthusiastic. Clea forgot some vermouth she needs for dinner so he’s out getting some.”
“Probably relieved to escape.” I grinned. “Hey, whose bike is that outside anyway?”
I turn to the voice coming for the kitchen doorway and I almost dropped the glass of wine Jackson had just given me.
“Eben!” I shove the untouched glass back to Jackson before I grab Eben in a bear hug almost lifting him off the floor. “It’s so good to see you! How are you doing? You still at the same job? You’re driving a motorcycle now? Do you have a leather jacket to go with it and a helmet, you are wearing a helmet right? You look good! Have you been working out?...” I’m firing so many questions at him even I can’t remember the ones I’ve asked and which I haven’t.
He smiles amused with me, though still a little stiff in this return hug. “Hi Max.”
“Calm down Max, give the kid a chance to breath.” Jackson slaps me on the back good-naturedly.
For the next hour, I have Eben all to myself on the couch. I try to get him to talk about his life but he’s always been more reserved than the rest of us. So we laugh and joke about anything else to keep him talking. I’m just happy he’s here. It’s been so long since I’ve seen him. Gilles eventually joins us while girls are still swamping Niko.
Poor man, I catch a few ‘help me’ glances from him but you know he’ll just have to get used to my family if he’s to stay. I know it’s kind of like throwing him to the wolves but these wolves don’t bite, they just chatter. By the time dinner is over they’ll know more about than I do probably. His parents birthplace, his grandparents names and his childhood pet's gender.
The evening goes on without a hitch. Eben seems more relaxed than I’ve ever seen him though I notice mom being a little more fussy around him than usual. Niko sandwiched in between the ever questioning Byrne and Gilles. They all seem to hit it off well.
I sit back during dessert and watch everyone sitting around the table.
This is my family.
Loud, rambunctious, hectic and loving.
A knock on the door distracts me and I head to the front door wondering who the hell that could be at this time of night.
Detective Brian McAdams sighs as he turns into at the quiet street searching for nr. 55. He could have had a patrol car come along at this time of night but now that this was his case he couldn’t just leave it the blue’s.
A few things catch his attention as he walked up the path across the lawn towards the front door. One: how quiet the street and the house seem to be. Two: How many cars were parked in front of it and three: the matte black Suzuki Katana 6000 parked at the side of the house.
He knocked once and waited.
A nervous looking man in his early thirties opened the door. The house McAdams walks into is deadly silent. You could almost hear a pin drop as they entered the living room.
Three things catch McAdam's immediate attention as he surveys the room. One: there were eight adults with one pregnant female and a little boy about three sitting around on the couches and chairs. Two: zeven of these were blood related the other a husband, the seceratry and the electrician. Plus someone unseen fixing drinks in the kitchen by the sound of it. Three: The box with a towel draped over it sitting on the coffee table.
McAdams gently started to lift the towel when the little boy’s voice demanded to see what was in the box too. He was quickly taken into the kitchen and left with the relative in there.
Good thing I hadn’t eaten, McAdams thought.
“Family pet?” He ask as he identifies a headless feline in the box. Schrödinger had nothing on this cause the cat had most definitely not alive when placed inside.
“Yes.” The older woman, the matriarch of brood croaked. “Batman, I’ve had him for years.”
The mother’s house and the mother's cat. “Was there a note?”
Wordlessly the husband hands me a splattered note already encased in plastic for forensic protection. “CHEATER” the letters bold and angry against the white paper it was written on. Signed T.S.
McAdams talks to everyone in the room. When it was the secretary turn his questions became more in-depth. How long had he been seeing Miss Hastings? Was it the first time he visited her family?...
Max had been stoic and the electrician stuck at his side. McAdams took a long look at the two of them as he took their statements. They looked very suited together. Though the stress levels had climbed to a new high for both of them they held constant physical contact. No matter how small.
McAdams also noted that they were both very handsome men. A great looking couple. He quickly swallowed those thoughts and surveyed the room.
“Did I speak to everyone?”
“Eben’s been keeping Byrne busy in the kitchen you haven’t seen him yet." An elder sister gestured disappearing into the kitchen and reappearing with the little boy in her arms before McAdams had reached the kitchen door. The little boy had fallen asleep and with McAdams permission they left to put him to bed.
Brian gasped as he entered the kitchen.
Oh my god.
“Eben the detective needs your statement. Thanks for watching him.” Aria took Byrne from my arms and I heard her ask the detective if it was ok to leave as he’d already gotten their statements.
I waited for the detective to come in stirring my by now cold cup of tea. Lia had said Max was having a hard time at work but I could never have imagined…
“Eben Hastings?” the detective’s voice had me look up and I could feel my eyes widen as I took in the sight at the door.
“Err…. No.” I croaked when my voice decided to present itself again, the man frowned at my admission. “Not Hastings, Surette. I’m a cousin not a brother.”
The detective took a chair next to me and sat down. He’s never been so close to me before.
He cleared his throat before speaking, “So Eben Surette?”
“Ebenezer actually Eben for short.” I confessed as he nodded an scribbled my name into his notepad.
“I’m detective Brian McAdams, could you please tell me in your own words what happened here tonight?” I did as he asked all the while trying not to stare.
I never thought I’d be able to put a name to the face. Up close he looked so much more like a cop than he does from across the street. He was tall, lean and rough looking. Rough in his unquenched manliness more than his dress, which was impeccable to say the least. Jet-black clipped hair, a permanent shadow framing his face with dark blue eyes.
The held my gaze firmly while I spoke.
We drove home in silence. Max didn’t argue when I pulled up at my place instead of his. I guess where’d he be sleeping from now on wasn’t up for debate for either of us.
Just as silently we entered my home. Preforming the arrival rituals on automatic. Keys in the bowl, coats on the hook, shoes left by the door. From the hallways we made our way the bathroom brushed our teeth looking at each other through the mirror as we stood side by side. Shedding our clothes in the bedroom placing them on a chair and each crawling into bed on our favoured side.
Lights out, arms open and a seamless meld of two bodies against one another. I held his head and stroked his back as he clamped on tight. I felt him shudder over and over again. But he didn’t cry. He didn’t sob. He didn’t utter a single sound. After a while the shudders stopped and his breathing evened out.
I tried to follow but sleep evaded come for me. I did all night long. I watched the light start to brightend behind the curtains as dawn approached. I couldn’t sleep cause all I wanted to do was hold him and live through every second of him being in my arms. Prayed there wouldn't never come a day he wouldn't be.
Brian avoided the elevator of his apartment building and climbed the six flights of stairs to the sixth floor instead. He had nothing against elevators but he preferred the workout the stairs provided him even though by now it was the dead of night.
He’d dropped off the box and note for forensics and sat at his desk at the precinct writing out the rapport of tonight’s events. His key slide home effortlessly and he discarded his outerwear at door. His small living room lit only by the light and careful rumblings of the fish aquarium. Sprinkling in some food and checking the filter system he left the living room and headed over to the bathroom. Again a small affair but sufficient for a bachelor. The shower however was a heavenly retreat. Wide enough for his big build and comfortable enough to relax in.
Once the hot water hit his bare skin he felt his muscles loosen up. The hot water streamed down his chest, along his groin and trickling down to the feet. Turning about he felt the heat of the water caress his shoulders running down his back and the curve of his ass.
Feeling the water pelt down he let a long deep sigh escape his lungs. Several images came to mind all at once. Eben Surette sitting in kitchen. Eben talking staring him right in the eyes. Eben donning his leather jacket. The smell alone… Watching him as he drove off down the street on his bike.
There was something innately sexy about Eben Surette. Brian couldn’t figure out what it was though. Sure he was handsome but he’s seen and been around many men he’d through handsome before. In that respect there wasn’t anything special about Eben.
Yet it only took one look and Brian had been transfixed. The instant attraction vividly clear in his eyes. Standing naked in the shower feeling the soap he used sooth his skin Brian’s mind wandered to imagines he hadn’t seen. Images only a lover would ever witness.
Eben undressed or undressing to join him in the shower. The hot water not only pelting down on Brain’s fair skin but on Eben’s dark complexion to. The water rushing down his chest, soapsuds running down the muscles of his back and curve of his sculpted cheeks as they dripped down along his legs. Their chests pressing together so they could both enjoy the hot water before it ran out.
Brian could feel his hand moving along his own erection, thinking of how the lips he’d stared at tonight would feel against his skin, his chest, his neck and especially his mouth. How the feel of a warm body against his would be like. Holding a man, holding him close, feeling the rise of his chest as he breathed and his body relax against him.
He came without warning. No telltale rise or rush to speak of. It was violent and kneejerking as he place a hand against the tiles for support. Recovering he slowly turned and slide down the tiles walls slumping on the shower floor. Brian pulled his knees up and buried his head in his arms as the water continued to pelt down on him.
The man cried thick sobs as he thought about what he’d just let happen. What he’d just done.
He shouldn’t be like this.
He shouldn’t be thinking like this.
He shouldn’t be wanting a man.
Any man. Least of all Ebenezer Surette.
He’s worked so hard to abolish these thoughts yet they always returned. The worst thing was they weren’t just sexual thoughts. Brian didn’t only imagine sleeping with a man, he imagines living with one. Spending his live with one, sharing the good and the bad.
Yet here he sat, under a stream of cooling water crying for a man he wanted so vehemently yet would and could never have.
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