A special thank you goes to JD for all your help editing and your support-BJB
The minute I stepped aboard the train I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could think clearly for the first time in what seemed like forever. I had almost given in to John’s plea to stay in London, I saw his pain, but knowing that I was the cause of it made my resolve even stronger. I justified it by reasoning that I kept hurting him, and he needed a break from me.
Time away, time alone, time to think, sounded so sweet, and god knows was so necessary.
As I gazed out the window I reflected on the strange events that had led me to this place in my life. The new show, the sudden fame, and a new love all seemed to hit me at once. I was not ready for celebrity and even less to be in love and be loved by another man.
The sexual aspect still surprised me; I had never really been attracted to men, but John different. There was something both familiar in his touch, and yet exotic, and exciting. Each time we made love it I was not prepared for how natural, how good and how right it felt. Yet still, there was another part of me, the part that was still the good little son of a pastor, the side of me that felt ashamed, and some how less of a man for wanting that to continue.
When I planned my getaway it seemed like the best idea. Go back to where I began and see if that changed things. But now as the train got closer and closer to Scotland the plan seemed very flawed.
What the hell was I thinking?
The urge to turn back, to run back to John’s arms, and away from my looming family and all the associated drama made my heart race. I took a deep breath; pushing the panic down that was threatening to choke me.
In an effort to get out of my own head I wandered down to the dining car. There were only a handful of people nursing drinks, so I took a table towards the back of the car and ordered a pot of tea. Sitting in the dining car, sipping the hot, strong tea I watched the passing countryside and let my mind wander. It’s funny how something as simple as the ritual of having tea could make everything seem right in the world.
But of course it wasn’t.
The last of the tea was gone and the fugue state that I had fallen into was broken by the realisation that there was someone trying to get my attention. I heard someone clear their throat again, and I looked up to see a woman standing next to the table. She smiled and slid into the chair opposite me. “I’m sorry for the intrusion,” she explained, shrugging out of her jacket, “but the car is full up, this is the only empty seat.”
Strange…it seemed just minutes ago the place was practically empty, I guess I had been off in la la land for quite a while because true to her description, the dining car was very full.
She took a drink from her glass and regarded me, “you do talk right?”
“Yes, sorry,” I forced a smile, “hi, I’m David.”
“I’d have to have been under a rock to not know who you are,” she smiled very widely, “I’m Elissa. But don’t worry I won’t ask you for your autograph.”
I didn’t exactly know what to say next, so I played with my empty teacup for a moment.
“Do you read tea leaves?” she inquired after a bit.
“And what are they saying?” she leaned forward trying to peer into my cup.
“That I appear to be out of tea.”
She seemed to find that massively funny, her clear unabashed laughter rang through the dining car, causing a few people to look our way, after a while she gestured, “wait there” and came back with a full pot of tea.
“If I drink all that I won’t blink for hours and I will be in danger of floating away,” I protested.
“Blinking is overrated, and I can hold you down so you’ll stay put,” she quipped, then turned a lovely shade of red, “that didn’t quite come out the way I meant it.”
We were silent for a moment, then Elissa leaned in, “you really aren’t what I’d expected.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, you are really the first real celebrity I’ve ever met. I thought you’d be snooty and above talking to little ol’ me,” she pointed a finger at herself, “but you seem to be a regular bloke. Aside from not trying to pull me, that is.”
“I have never been suave enough to have a good pick up line, so you’re out of luck there,” I joked.
“I doubt you need one,” she laughed and then picked up her glass, “remember when I said I wouldn’t ask for your autograph?”
“Well, I lied. I have a niece who just happens to think you’re ‘dreamy’ and I’m on my way to see her, if you could sign something for her, I’d really appreciate it.”
“I’d be happy to, I don’t think I’ve ever been called dreamy before,” I laughed. Then it struck me, here I was only one hour out of London and oh my god, I’m flirting with this woman I just met. I pictured John’s face scowling at me and vowed to cool it, “how old is your niece?”
I could see over Elissa’s shoulder people queuing to get a seat in the dining car, so I used that as excuse to get away from her, etiler escort “thank you for the tea, it’s been a pleasure.”
I got back to my seat and tried to lose myself in a book, I had just gotten into it when Elissa took the seat across from me, “don’t worry I’m not a stalker,” she joked, “I’m just here to collect on that autograph. Remember? For my niece? Her name is Chrissie.”
With that she pulled out a small notebook and flipped it out, and handed me a pen, “I wish I had a photograph for you to autograph instead, she’ll never believe this.”
“You said you were on your way to visit her?” I asked, taking the notebook from her and wrote ‘to Chrissie, with love’ before scribbling my name and handing it back, “does she live in Glasgow proper?”
“Actually she’s meeting me, well my brother and her, at the train station.” Elissa carefully folded the piece of paper and slipped it into her purse.
“I’m not in any real hurry, I could say hi to her if you want me to.” I replied, fully aware that I was stepping back into flirting mode, but I couldn’t stop myself. Or, rather, didn’t want to.
“That would be lovely!” Elissa exclaimed, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I promise to leave you alone until we get to the station,” she stood to leave.
“Only if you want, but not on my account, I can always read this later.” I put the book back in my duffel bag.
The rest of the trip was a few attempts at conversation that trailed off, followed by some awkward silence, which in a way was reassuring to me. I felt disloyal to John for even flirting with someone else, and the fact that no spark was seemingly apparent made me feel less of a jerk.
When we arrived at the station I gathered my things and waited for the crowd to thin a bit before attempting to disembark. Elissa went on ahead and I lost her in the rush of people. I was just about to give up trying to find her when I heard a loud shriek just off to my left. I turned to see a young blonde girl, bearing a very strong resemblance to Elissa staring at me and bouncing up and down pulling on her father’s sleeve.
I walked over to her, “Are you Chrissie?”
She wobbled on her feet and then looked at her father, her eyes growing really wide, but said nothing.
Her father eyed me carefully, and then extracting himself from her tight grasp turned to her, “answer the man Chrissie…”
Elissa joining us saved Chrissie from having to say anything, “Chrissie, do you know who this is?”
Chrissie looked at me, and then nodded rapidly.
“Are you going to say anything?” Elissa continued.
Her mouth opened a few times, but nothing but a little half squeak came out. It was really hard not to laugh but I managed, “I heard you were a big fan, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”
Elissa did nothing to contain her amusement, “Chrissie, I’m sure David has someplace he needs to be.”
That seemed to trigger something in the girl because she leapt forward grabbed me in a tight hug and yelled loudly enough for the dead to hear her, “I love you!” and then she ran off to the women’s loo at high speed.
Elissa followed after her. Chrissie’s dad, who up until then had been watching me like I was about to rape his daughter, burst out in gales of laughter and tears sprang to his eyes as he doubled over holding his stomach.
I thought about making a quick exit and had started to do so when Chrissie’s dad stopped me; “if you’re not in a hurry I think you deserve a drink,” he gestured towards the women’s room, “She has all the mags, posters and that stuff of you from that show, and I think you just made her day, if not her decade.”
“I really should get going; I’m expected, but thank you for the offer.” I picked up my bags and was waiting at the taxi stand when Elissa came out of the station, handed me a slip of paper without a word, turned and went back in.
As I settled into the taxi, I unfolded slip and found her full name and phone number written on it. I knew I should just toss it, going down that path was a slippery slope, but instead I tucked it into my jacket pocket, daring myself to resist the temptation.
When I arrived at my destination I paid the driver and just stood there gazing at the house. I had spent most of my childhood years in this place but it seemed like another world. I looked up at the window of the bedroom that used to be mine, remembering gazing out at the world as I dreamt about getting out of there, getting as far away as possible.
After my mom died my dad became convinced that somehow his slight wavering of faith when it was announced she was terminal was a slight against God himself. By then my sister and brother were out of the house and it was just the two of us. I was barely twelve and my father had become so fire and brimstone in his grief that I couldn’t express my own without incurring his wrath.
As I stood on the sidewalk I remembered the nights of kneeling naked on the cold tile of the kitchen, trembling with the anticipation of that first blow. My dad circling me in ever eve gelen escort closer orbit, his voice booming as he yelled the quote regarding sparing the rod, and knowing that he wouldn’t.
I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and reminded myself that those days were past. I was no longer a young boy. I now towered over my father, my height being a throw back to some unknown ancestor. The years and a new woman in his life had considerably mellowed him, but still there was that little trace of fear in me.
I must have been standing outside longer than I had realised because the front door flew open and my stepmother came rushing out arms spread wide ready to envelope me in one of her famous crushing hugs, “David! Charles, David’s here!”
I was almost bent double by her actions as she pulled me to her ample bosom, but I maintained my balance. After a decent length of time I extracted myself from her and straightened up and picking up my bags followed her into the house.
My dad was sitting in the front room, a cup of tea balanced on his knees; he barely looked my direction until the commercial break. “Fiona get the boy a cup of tea,” he adjusted his glasses and patted the sofa next to him, “have a seat young man.”
I put my bags down and sat next to him.
He looked at me a moment, “far too skinny if you ask me. Fiona? Don’t you think he’s too thin?” he called out towards the kitchen.
Fiona poked her head back in the room, “they say the camera adds ten pounds, Charles. He doesn’t want to look fat.”
That seemed to settle that discussion, and Fiona came back bearing a cup of tea drowned in crème and sludgy with sugar. I took a polite sip and then set the cup down. The conversation came to a dead halt as the programme came back on. Fiona sat on the edge of the sofa arm next to my dad and became engrossed in the show, too. I am not much into gardening shows so I gulped down the last of the tea, trying not to wince at its cloying sweetness and stood to remove my jacket.
This action got my dad’s attention and he looked up at me, “I’ve been watching that programme you’re on. It’s not too bad, though I read somewhere you have a poof on that show. He doesn’t strike me as being ‘light on his feet’ but can’t always tell with those types. I never thought this whole acting thing would pan out for you, I had wanted you to go into the church like your brother, as you know, far more respectable career.”
Fiona’s gaze drifted to me too, “Mrs. Whitney tapes you every Saturday. She keeps telling everyone she meets that she’s changed your nappy.”
I smiled at that, “luckily I’m house broken now.”
My dad frowned at her, his hand reflexively opening and closing in a fist, “don’t interrupt Fiona! Anyway, you do seem to be enjoying some success and that’s good but don’t let it go to your head. I would hate to see you get corrupted and be one of those show biz types, becoming a Nancy boy and getting up to all things at all hours.”
Fiona waited, this time, until she was sure he was finished, then she patted his arm “David’s a good boy, aren’t you?” she smiled at me.
If you only knew, I thought. But instead I held my tongue.
Fiona stood up, “where are my manners? I suspect you’d like to get your things to your room and maybe a lay down before supper. Emily and her family are coming. Your room is ready for you. You know the way.”
I gathered my things and went upstairs; I hesitated before opening the bedroom door, trying to remember what it used to look like. As I stepped inside the room the images faded and a pretty generic room, done in neutral colours, greeted me. It featured a large bed with a hand knitted cover in earth tones. Definitely not a boy’s room any more, I mused, more like something out of “Country Living” magazine.
I hung up a few things, unpacked the rest and stretched out on the bed afterwards. The more I thought about this, the less this seemed like a good idea. Six weeks? My skin was already crawling thinking about spending the night, let alone six weeks.
As I settled in I heard my mobile beep. It was a message from John. I smiled as I read it, “I know you said only in an emergency,” it read, “but I am so desperate that even Mollie is starting to look good.”
I replied back, “you’ll live.” I lay back down and let my mind go blank.
I dreamt of John, somehow he had followed me here, and in my dream he joined me on the bed. I felt his hands exploring me, his familiar weight resting on me, while his mouth was on mine. I reached out and cupped him and felt his hardness grow, feeling my body responding in kind. The dream carried on the point where he had slipped under the comforter and was unzipping my jeans, taking me into his warm wet mouth, when I was jolted awake by the feeling that I was being watched.
I opened my eyes to see my sister standing in the doorway; she took my being awake as an invite to sit next to me on the bed.
“Were you having a bad dream?” she asked, “because you were really breathing hard.”
I sat up and hoped the comforter fatih escort hid my arousal, “how long have you been here?”
“Not long, the kids and hubby are downstairs, I just thought I’d come see my baby brother.” She took my hand in hers, “it’s good to see you! You really should visit more often.”
“The roads run both ways you know,” I countered.
“When you have a family you can’t always do what you want,” She gave a half smile, “I was sent up here to fetch you, dinner’s ready.”
After she left I went in the bathroom, splashed some water on my face and patted the wilder hairs back into some semblance of order.
The scene that greeted me in the dining room was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. My dad at the head of the table, Emily’s husband and children were scattered around and Fiona bustling in carrying a platter piled high with food. An empty place was right next to my dad, obviously where I was meant to sit, so I did.
The activity stopped as my dad said grace; everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes, I didn’t, instead I took the opportunity to get a good look at everyone. Instead of them being familiar they seemed like strangers, it was an odd feeling, it was like seeing them all for the first time.
During the meal conversation swirled around me, mostly about the weather, the children’s activities and where my father wanted to go on holiday. I pretended to follow along; offering a banal comment here and there when prompted and that seemed to keep them satisfied. But really the whole time I just wanted to run screaming, I had a lightening bolt of realisation that I just didn’t belong here anymore. It was hard to admit but aside from genetics I had nothing in common with any of these people.
Later on my sister motioned me to join her outside while she had a cigarette, “Where are you David?”
“Right here,” I replied, a bit confused.
“Physically, but I think you are somewhere else in all other ways. You may have fooled everyone else but you were miles away at dinner.” She took a long pull on her cigarette, “Martians could have landed in your mashed potatoes and you wouldn’t have noticed.”
“It may have added some flavour,” I laughed.
“Fiona, bless. She can remove the taste from anything can’t she?” She cracked a smile, “so tell me what brings you here? It can’t be for the gourmet cooking?”
“Maybe I just missed all of you.”
She shook her head slowly, “All right, that’s a ‘mind your own business Emily’ isn’t it?”
“Are you dating anyone these days?” Emily asked after a few moments of silence.
“Sort of, I’ve been kind of going out with someone, but I’m not sure about the future of the relationship. That’s really part of the reason I am here,” I admitted, “it’s complicated.”
She studied me for a second, “you’re running away from her?”
“No, that’s not it, it’s just…like I said, it’s complicated.”
Emily seemed to take that as the end of the conversation and headed back in. The air was growing cold and as I put my hands in my pocket, I found the piece of paper with Elissa’s number on it. I knew I should have just thrown in away. I wasn’t 24 hours away from John and I was contemplating calling up a strange woman for a date.
I crumpled the paper up, determined to toss it over the edge of the decking into the mass of underbrush beyond it but my resolve faltered. Instead I smoothed it out on the railing and folded it back up and placed it in my pocket once more.
I was just about to go back inside when my mobile beeped again, it was another message from John. All it said was, “is it six weeks yet?” I had specifically asked him not to contact me unless it was an emergency, and I figured replying would just encourage him so I erased his text and went back in to join my family.
Since the next day was Sunday, the conversation inside turned to whether or not I’d be attending church with the family. As Fiona tried talking it up, my memories of wearing an itchy wool suit, a heavily starched collar and the sun streaming in through the church windows practically begging to be played in, yet there I was stuck inside. Because my father was the pastor I had to sit through both services and the seemingly eternal gathering afterwards every Sunday growing up. I firmly declined, and I must have looked resolute enough because all that met my declaration was some glares and thin-lipped expressions, but nobody said a thing.
Soon after Emily left I made my excuses and went to my room. I was both keyed up and totally exhausted, but wasn’t quite sure why. I popped a sleeping pill and changed into my sleeping gear. As I got into bed, turning the lights out, I promised myself that I would give it a week; surely I could survive that with my sanity intact. Couldn’t I?
I’m not sure if it was the sleeping pill, or my state of mind but my dreams were very disturbing.
My first dream involved being in a field, in the distance was a farmhouse and somehow I was trying to reach it. I could barely make out a voice calling my name. I knew I had to reach the house before something bad happened but every step towards the house took me further from it. At one point the landscape shifted and it became an arid desert but it quickly shifted back to farmland. I crested hill after hill never got any closer. The house seemed to be running away from me.