Even 7:30 seemed early when I shook Justin awake Wednesday morning. I was stiff, but Justin groaned as he stretched, then said, “Babe, I am sore!”
“It’s that lax living you have been doing rather than working like a real man,” I said, looking at him with what I thought was a disapproving face.
Justin laughed and said, “You know, when you try to look disapprovingly at me, you just look like you have gas.”
I attacked him and we started wrestling and, before we knew it, had fallen out of bed, Justin landing on his stomach and me landing with my ass on top of him. We had a soak in the hot tub, a half-hour hot, hot shower and quickly dressed to make it to breakfast at 8:30.
As we all were seated, Mrs. Metzer said, “Michael, I talked with Mr. Thurmond a few minutes ago. Sandy is still in limbo, but Mr. Thurmond will call back as soon he finds out something. Jess also called. He and Dakota went back to the gallery last night and got all the wall panels in place. This morning he has a TV interview and later a radio appearance. Dakota will direct the placement of the mounting hardware and then supervise the uncrating. Jess is expected to be back to guide you in hanging the pictures and Dakota will direct aiming the lights.”
“Sounds workable,” I said.
"Mrs. Metzer and I will not be joining you this morning,” Mrs. Crandall said. “We will be making sure everything for the reception is ready, and taking care of other details of the exhibition itself since you guys seem to have the space under control.”
“I think we do,” I responded. “If not, we’ll yell for help. Anything else we need to know before we go?”
“Only that Jess is arranging a private showing for you all Friday evening. I know you will have seen it all being put together, but you will have some time away from it so you can approach it again for the first time, so to speak.” With those words we were off for the gallery.
The work at the gallery went very smoothly and we were ready to uncrate and begin hanging the exhibition as soon as we had lunch. Jess walked in just as we started eating, excited about the exhibition which he had finally decided was definitely happening.
I thought we'd finish hanging the paintings quickly since the mounting hardware had been placed following Dakota's instructions. I assumed each of us would uncrate a painting, hang it on the mounting hardware, uncrate another and so on, finishing in an hour at the outside. It was not to be.
Mounting hardware had little to do with the process. As each painting was uncrated, Jess studied it as if he had never seen it before. He then followed it to its designated place and studied it after it was placed. THEN he decided whether or it it would be hung where it had originally been planned to be hung. Often as not, he had it taken down and moved to another place. Just because it was moved to a new place, didn't mean that was where it would finally land. After several others had been hung, it might have to be moved again. Finally, at 2:30, he said, "That's it except for the final painting." He pointed at the largest crate of all. It must have been four by six feet or so. He asked Adam and me to move it to the entrance.
The entrance door faced a blank wall. There were lights illuminating it, but it was just a stark white, blank wall. Jess gave me and Adam a nod and said, "Ok, you can uncrate the last painting. When the painting was uncrated, I could see it was the one pictured on the poster and brochures. Called ‘Swamp Shack,’ it was a painting of an old, weathered shack in the swamp. Trees, plants, and flowers surrounding it made it appear to be in kind of a natural, but mystic, garden. The painting held my eyes, but I was not able to say why. Finally, with some effort, Justin, Adam, John and I got the painting mounted on the blank wall to Jess’s satisfaction. I must admit, it made for a powerful introduction to the exhibition.
The last task was to mount small plaques beside each painting with a number and the name of the work and a price. I was amazed at the prices -- what did I know about original art? When I asked Mrs. Crandall later, she told me Jess Nixson was very much 'in', both with serious collectors and those who just wanted to impress people. "He's a damn good artist and his work is worth every penny," she said, "but I must confess, there are some, perhaps most, who don't know good art from bad, but who will pay the price to prove they are not only keeping up with the Joneses, but are ahead of them." I also asked why the paintings were not in numerical order. She laughed and said, "You had experience with Jess's way of hanging an exhibition. For the first one for which we had a catalog, the paintings were hung in the order in which they were listed and Jess almost went wild because they were not hanging in the order he felt they should be. You know, you all moved a lot of paintings from where they were 'supposed' to be."
When we finally finished at the gallery, we piled in the minibus and headed for La Casa, arriving shortly before 4:00. Before we left, Mrs. Metzer had told us to plan on a late dinner at 9:00, adding that Mavis would have snacks ready at 5:30 in the sunroom.
On the way, we decided we’d have a swim in the Gulf before showering, and headed for the beach as soon as we arrived at La Casa. After swimming awhile, we had a wild game of keep-away with a beach ball. Susan, Bobbie, John and Adam against Justin, Michael and me. In spite of our pointing out we had been outmaned and outwomaned, Bobbie claimed their victory proved again male superiority was a myth or a vicious lie. Fact of the matter was the two women were very fast on their feet and turned the game into a contact sport -- well, for them at least. Susan said all was fair in love and war and this was both. Furthermore, the drilled-in 'You don't play rough with girls,' maxim got called on our team many times. Adam yelled, "Remember I am on the girl's team! I'm putting your ass in the sand," as he tackled Justin and, in fact, put his beautiful ass in the sand.
"You better remember that beautiful ass you just put in the sand belongs to me," I laughed. "You hurt it and you pay."
"Gotcha," Adam responded as he pulled Justin to his feet and patted him gently on his butt.
With work at the gallery, swimming and then keep-away, we were pretty well worn out as we headed to the house a few minutes before six. As we walked toward the house, Adam said, "I think we have time for a quickie before a nap."
After bopping him on the arm, Bobbie said, "In your dreams unless you have someone else in mind. I am opting for no playing around and a nap -- after a snack."
As Justin and I showered, we exchanged some gentle kisses and expressed our love as we bathed each other's body, but had agreed that we'd follow Bobbie's plan. Besides, why have a quickie when later tonight we could make slow, easy, sweet love? So, after we had dried each other, we went to the sunroom for a snack, but soon were back in our room where we crawled in bed, wrapped our arms around each other's naked body and drifted into lullabyland.
I awoke before Justin and even though we had been sleeping together for months now, I still loved watching him sleep. My Justin was so beautiful. I’m sure no-one would call him classically handsome, but he was beautiful and, to me, breathtakingly beautiful. His raven-black hair was loose, spread on the pillow, a perfect background for his smooth dark skin. Asleep, his eyes' long lashes rested on his high cheeks. He was beautiful; he was strong; he was good; he was Justin; he was mine. As I watched, his dark, dark eyes slowly opened and met mine and, as they did, a Justin smile spread across his face. I leaned forward, placed a butterfly kiss on his soft lips and said, "I love you, Tehila*."
If possible, Justin's smile got larger and he replied, "And I love you, Lord of my Heart." He wrapped his arms around me, pulled our bare bodies together and kissed my neck below my ear -- one of what Justin called my sweetspots. He started nuzzling me in the same spot, but I pushed him away and said, "We don't have time for even a quick quickie and if you keep that up we'll be late. We don't want to be late here!" Justin laughed and agreed.
Once again, everyone gathered in our suite ready to go down for dinner. When we arrived, Mrs. Crandall greeted us and told us Mrs. Metzer would not be joining us as a problem had come up with the caterer for the opening reception.
After another delicious meal, we all gathered in the library. As we settled in, Mrs. Crandall said, "Seems vacation plans got shoved aside for you all. Sorry about that."
"Don't be,” Susan responded for us. "I seriously doubt any one of us would say we didn't enjoy the last two days very much. It was good to be doing something constructive together." There was agreement from all.
Mrs. Crandall said, "I am pleased you feel that way. This is a very important show for Jess and without your help, it would not have happened. Maybe, in the long run, the disaster was a blessing in disguise. The space now provides an excellent showcase for the paintings and I'm almost sure the fact that people got a phone call regarding the change in location will result in more who attend than might have been otherwise. Anyway, what about tomorrow? Michael, it seems things are still a mess with Sandy. Even though school is out, Mr. Thurmond thinks it best he stay in Elizabethton until something is settled. However, if nothing is settled before Friday, Sandy will be on a plane anyway. I am so sorry your time together has been taken from you. Marc and Justin, Daniel and Alex would like to spend time with you two. Daniel especially wants time with you, Justin, if you are agreeable."
"Of course," Justin replied. I nodded my agreement.
"If I were going to pick up Sandy tonight, it would be pretty late before we got back and, I'm sure, we'd have things to talk about, I suspect we'd want to sleep late. After that, if it's ok, I'd like for us to bike around the estate," Michael said, in denial.
"Talk? You're going to TALK?" Adam asked with a mischievous grin on his face. Michael became beet red.
"You're going to BIKE? Justin asked, incredulously. I just laughed. Justin had more experience with what Michael had SAID they would be doing and I sure had enough to know that one or both would hardly want to be biking tomorrow. A short time later, I noticed Justin talking quietly to Michael and Michael turning very red. When we got to the room, Justin said he had explained to Michael that regardless of how well prepared they thought they were, one or both would be doing the cowboy walk when Sandy was in residence. Michael thanked Justin who suggested they just spend time at the beach.
"John, Susan, Adam, Bobbie, Michael, any of you interested in snorkeling?" Mrs. Crandall asked, and got definite nods from all five, well, maybe not so definite, but a nod, from Michael. Poor boy was hurting. "Fine. A young man I know has just started up a business taking people snorkeling. I'll arrange for him to pick you up in morning. 9:00 ok?" More nods. Mrs. Crandall said goodnight and left.
After she left, Susan said, "Guys, I talked with Mrs. Metzer earlier and she said it would be fine if we'd like to use the ballroom. There's a great sound system there, of course, and plenty of music -- even some vinyl from our parents' and grandparents' day. Anyone interested? You can dance with anyone you like and not get talked about," she laughed.
Minutes later, we were in the ballroom. John immediately took charge of the sound system, but said as he got things set up, "I'll see that there's music, but I am NOT going to play DJ. I've got other things in mind!" He gave Susan a huge smile.
There were a few fast pieces played, then Adam asked, "John, got any make-out music?"
"Sure," John replied. I'm sure Adam was bowled over when the next tune was 'I Only Have Eyes for You.' As the song started, I noticed tears running down Michael’s cheeks and he turned and walked out of the room. My heart ached for him, but soon Adam and I were singing to Justin and Bobbie as we all slooow danced. John had heard Adam and me singing 'I Only Have Eyes for You' and I was not surprised when he had dug out a recording of the other song we often found ourselves singing, 'More'. As the song played and Justin and I danced, I held him close and sang to him softly, meaning every word I sang. Justin was my life.
We all danced, switching partners often. I was surprised when John and Adam danced with us gay guys -- but only for fast dances!
We wound down about 11:00 and found snacks and juice in the sunroom as Mrs. Crandall had promised and as we sat there, the discussion drifted to where we would be next year and whether or not our high school romances would last. "I know we are all very fond of our sweethearts," Susan said, "but how many high school romances last? Not many. I mean, Marc, you and Justin will still be together -- living in the same place, in fact living together. Michael and Sandy will be in school together and then still in the same town, but the rest of us will be separated and living in a whole different environment. Guess we all wonder about a lot of things we face and whether or not we'll be sweethearts next year is one of them."
"Yeah, I guess we think it's forever now but, yeah, how many high school romances last?" Adam asked.
That pretty much broke up the party, maybe so we could go and prove to ourselves and each other that "This is forever."
When we reached our room, Justin gave me one of his, 'I want your body' grins, raising his eyebrows and licking his lips."
"Yeah, Lover Boy!" I responded to his unspoken request and picked him up and carried him to our bed, covered his body with mine and we started kissing and rubbing each others crotch, which immediately grew larger. After a few minutes, I raised myself, allowing me access to Justin's belt, which I immediately removed. Soon I had removed his shirt and pants as well, leaving him is his trunk boxer-briefs, his equipment filling and straining against the pouch. He rolled over and proceeded to undress me as well, leaving me in red bikini briefs. Both trunks and briefs already had a dark, wet spot on the front, but it didn't matter as they were soon lying on the floor, unneeded.
It was some time later when we lay in each other's arms, my head resting on Justin's chest, when I started laughing and asked, "Babe, can you imagine being together now as we were the first time we were in this bed and having the control and restraint we did then?" I could feel Justin as he started chuckling. "I heard Mom and Clarisa talking about that right after the prom. Both really didn't believe we had waited, but I'm glad we did. Are you?"
"Yeah, if you can call what we did waiting."
"I was thinking about that this afternoon while I watched you sleep. I guess if you think anal sex is the only sex, we waited, but if you forget sex as sex and talk about love-making, we didn't wait on that. I like to think that most of what we do is making love. I mean when I sneak a quick kiss at school, I'm making love to you, don't you think?"
"Of course," Justin replied, kissing the end of my nose. "But methinks you are doing too much thinking and not enough love-making!"
I agreed and said so as I started kissing Justin's neck, then holding his arms above his head and burying my nose in his armpit to smell that Justin smell. A moment later he was groaning as I licked and kissed the same. We were both soon more than fully aroused and Justin make it very clear what he wanted. He wanted me to make love to him in a very specific way and made that plain as he guided my hand to his Lakota rosebud. I was more than happy to oblige and soon had my manhood buried deep in the light of my life.
After long, passionate love-making, we drifted off to sleep.
After breakfast Thursday morning, the minibus picked up those going snorkeling. Mrs. Crandall said Alex and Daniel would be coming out to La Casa to talk with Justin, so we just sat in the sunroom with her having another cup of coffee. She asked if we had definitely decided on going to ESU and we assured her we had. "We may transfer after the second year, but I want to take a business course focusing on merchandising and ESU has one. It's a good school and since I don't plan on having to impress anyone with where I went, I see no reason to spend a fortune to go somewhere else. We'll be living at home and maybe that is a reason for going away, but I think there're other ways of getting an 'away from home' experience," Justin told her.
"With the money we'll save -- even though I don't have to worry about that -- we could spend a year abroad or a year traveling in the US," I added. "For myself, at this point, I haven't the vaguest idea of what I might like to end up studying and doing. Seems foolish to spend major bucks at this point when I'll just be taking a general course anyway."
"Makes sense," Mrs. Crandall said.
A few minutes later, Alex and Daniel walked into the sunroom, holding hands. It was great to see couples and be a couple who felt free to hold hands. Not for the first time, I wondered why Mrs. Crandall was so gay-friendly.
"Good morning, gentlemen," Mrs. Crandall said, "coffee or tea?"
"Good morning. Thank you, tea for me, coffee for my soulmate here," Alex said.
Mrs. Crandall poured cups for the two and said, "I'm much afraid you missed the others. They are all off on a snorkeling adventure. Alex, you know who Sandy is?" Alex nodded. "Well, he was supposed to arrive last night at 1:00, but some teacher apparently did him an injustice and he didn't get to come. Maybe he'll be here tonight. I look forward to seeing Sandy again. He reminds me of a young puppy, full of life and full of himself."
"I can well remember when he looked full of neither," Alex said. "He really tugged at my heart the first time I saw him and the condition his own family caused and left him in. I am amazed that he seems to have suffered so little emotional scarring."
"I think Michael can take a lot of credit for that," I said. "Sometimes I think he babies Sandy too much but, then again, it seems to be working to the benefit of them both."
"Michael is the leash on Sandy's rambunctious puppy much of the time," Justin said. "I'm much afraid without Michael, Sandy would have dived into situations in which he really got hurt, physically and mentally. As it is, Michael is his protector, but allows him room to grow and develop."
"And Sandy keeps Michael from becoming a stick in the mud," I added. "As we have gotten to know Michael, I am more and more surprised that he did what he did at the prom. Michael is not, in the first instance, a risk taker, but he took a huge one then. Not only the kind of risk Justin and I took -- we knew we had support at home -- but Michael's family are religious fundamentalists and apparently real homophobes. So far he has them convinced his actions at the prom were a part of a prank but, sooner or later, they will find out he is gay and in love with Sandy. I don't know what will happen then."
"The good thing is, he has good friends," Mrs. Crandall said and Alex nodded in agreement. "Now I am afraid I have lingered over coffee as long as I can. I must be going. Daniel, I will send a picnic to the car for you four so you'll not need to come back for lunch."
"Thank you very much," Daniel said as we all stood.
After she left, Daniel said, "Alex and I have a place we love up the river. It is quite beautiful, private and has a good spirit. That's where we plan to go. My Jeep is out front. You two need anything before we go?"
"I definitely need sunscreen if we are going to be in the sun at all," I said. "Do we need bug stuff?"
"No, I'll take care of that," Daniel smiled.
I ran to the room and grabbed my sunscreen. Back downstairs, Daniel's Jeep was waiting for us and someone from the kitchen was placing a cooler and a picnic basket in the vehicle. Once we were all aboard, Daniel drove along the trail over which Justin and I had ridden bikes the day we had gone to Antwon and Sharky's place. Soon we left La Casa behind and were traveling along a bare trail along the river.
A Note About Scott: When I began writing A Special Place, I did not have an editor and it shows. After the second or third chapter, an Aussie, Scott, offered to edit. He has, since, edited every word I have posted and, to be honest, I will not post anything until Scott has performed his magic on it. Since we met via email in 2000 and in person in 2001, Scott has been not only a superb editor, but also close friend. After years of working for a desktop publishing company, he found himself without a job as the company folded. I don’t understand how Aussies handle going belly up, but the company is struggling to get going again and occasionally has work for Scott. He has to have another regular job to pay the bills and often finds himself working very, very, very long days. As a result, chapters are not his first or even second priority, but he does edit as he can. So not only have I been slow—for a number of reasons-- getting chapters ready, but also Scott must edit as he has time and energy. I know how I hate to have to wait for chapters of stories I am reading, but as we say in my family, TWLI—That’s the way life is—right now. May it get better in the near future!!