Searching for Gilead384
Searching for Gilead384
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Searching for GILEADA Novel
By David G. Hallman
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 David G. Hallman
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Would you like to dance?" asked a hesitant voice behind me.
I was standing on the small landing, halfway up the flight of stairs between the dance floor and the balcony lounge, my preferred place to people-watch at the Arches.
Turning around, I found myself face-to-face with the current number one titleholder on my "completely-out-of-my-league" list, the category for guys too good-looking to possibly notice me. At the clubs, my friends and I would rate the hotties in a system of ascending inaccessibility as "possible if he's drunk enough," "only if you pay him," and "completely out of my league." For me, it was a game born of looking in the mirror at home and always being disappointed at the nerdish appearance of the bespeckled geek looking back.
This god who had just now spoken to me stood about two inches taller than me. His dark brown eyes perfectly matched the colour of his dense and immaculately groomed head of hair, no doubt tended by a hair stylist considerably more expensive that the corner barber who looked after my blond brush cut. His white polo top hinted at a modestly sculpted torso—attractively slender, not skinny. From my previous months of ogling him, I knew that the thin waist led down to a copious basket, buns made for grabbing, and firm thighs, all of which were on display, thanks to the stylish type of pants he usually wore.
I had on a slim-fitting pair of jeans and was relieved that he was looking me in the face. His unanticipated proximity had produced a spontaneous hard-on. He threw a quick glance at my tight white T-shirt. I subtly flexed my pecs and biceps. My addiction to working out was equal measures of health consciousness and vanity.
"Okay," I mumbled. "Let's dance." I hid my surprise at his surprise.
He headed down the steps, and I followed, hoping that my friends would see whom I was accompanying out onto the dance floor.
I was a regular at the Arches on Sunday evenings, the end of the weekend, free from the Friday and Saturday night dating pressure. We all went there just to have fun with our friends and dance to the pulsating beat of the reigning disco divas.
The DJ had just thrown on Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby," the full seventeen-minute version. That meant that I had a quarter hour before I needed to fret about whether Mr. Perfect would signal that he was up for another dance or nod thanks and wander off. Though we were bouncing around within a few feet of each other, I studiously avoided eye contact, particularly with Donna's explicit lyrics pounding over our heads. I became familiar with the floor pattern between us and the shoe styles of those around us.
As the song wound down, Mr. Perfect took a hold of my shoulder, pulled me closer, and yelled over the music, "Another?" He tightened his grip. I nodded yes, far more enthusiastically than I had intended. He threw his head back and laughed.
After a few more songs, he reached over, grabbed my hand, and hauled me off the dance floor over to the bar. He pulled out his wallet and leaned in close enough so I could hear him without his having to shout. "What can I buy you?" I could feel his warm breath graze my cheek. I didn't respond. He looked at me quizzically and then came closer and repeated the question. I jerked my head toward him and closed the three inches separating our faces, pecking his lips with a quick, unabashed kiss.
He stepped back and frowned.
Shit, I blew it.
After an interminable pause, he held out his hand and said, "Hello, my name is Jonathan."
I shook his hand, in a state of panic.
"Tom," I replied soberly.
He smiled, squeezed my hand a bit tighter, and said, "I've seen you around. You're cute. Nice to meet you, Tom. Finally."
I smiled back. "I think that I've noticed you before too."
We continued to talk; my nervousness subsided enough to allow a more secure Tom to emerge.
We returned regularly to the dance floor, especially for the slow ones.
We met for lunch on Tuesday.
I treated him to a movie on Thursday.
On Friday, he invited me to his place for dinner. I stayed over.
By Saturday, we were a couple.
Chapter TwoThe family Sunday dinner at 4 May Crescent was a jacket affair. If Walter Compton could have enforced his druthers, it would have included a tie as well. Women were expected to wear dresses. Not that there were often women, other than Margaret, doyenne of the household, in attendance. Since Jonathan's unequivocal declaration of his gayness on his sixteenth birthday, and with his twin brother's seemingly voracious appetite for female company that never extended to morning breakfast, Margaret had little chance of trading neighbourhood gossip with potential daughters-in-law over Sunday pot roasts.
As we walked from the parked car, I scanned the heritage homes and storied mansions of Rosedale, nestled amongst jack pines and monstrous oaks, each with impeccably manicured lawns and gardens. I had rarely ventured before into Toronto's preeminent enclave of traditional wealth and privilege.
Jonathan casually let it drop that I was the first boyfriend that he had brought to Sunday dinner since he had come out seven years earlier. I stopped dead in my tracks and glowered at his back. He travelled a step or two ahead before he realized that I wasn't by his side. He turned and, with the flicker of a smile, asked, "What's wrong, dear?"
"It didn't occur to you before now that this titbit might be rather a big deal to me?"
Reaching back and grasping my hand, he said, "Don't worry. It isn't a big deal. They're going to love you. Trust me. Anyway, it's about time they saw some concrete evidence of my fagolaness."
"Can we have a conversation about this before I enter the lion's den?"
The tremor in my voice brought him up short. He reached down and took my other hand in his. "Listen. I didn't mention it before because I figured it would freak you a bit."
"I've never brought anyone home for Sunday dinner because I've never had anyone to bring home for Sunday dinner."
"This is supposed to be your reassuring speech to me?"
"I want to share you with Jeremy and my folks."
"Well, okay," I said. "Just promise me you won't leave me hung out to dry."
"One more request. Give me a kiss right here in the middle of prissy Rosedale. That's the one thing that will stiffen my spine. It is my spine that I mean."
Jonathan looked around. There was no one in sight. He leaned in and kissed me full on the lips. He stepped back and smiled. "There. Now let's get going. I don't want to keep my family waiting for the grand unveiling."
Jonathan let go of my hand as we passed through the wrought iron gate and walked up the semi-circular drive. A massive limestone portico extended from the front door. He rang the doorbell. Who rings the doorbell and waits to be let in to their parents' home? I wondered. It was an important clue. The door opened, and Mrs. Compton, martini in hand, smiled. Her hair, pulled back from her face, was wrapped in an elaborate pillbox creation on top of her head, adding to her already imposing height. Miniature pearl earrings and a necklace complemented her flawless skin, a surprising amount of which was visible above the deep V-neck of her black silk dress. I hoped that thinking of her as Mrs. Compton would repress the usual facetious streak in my conversation. I reminded myself not to comment on her Sunday afternoon libation.
"Darlings!" A composite salutation.
What has Jonathan told her about me?
We stepped into the vestibule, and Jonathan gave his mother a peck on the cheek. "Mother, I'd like you to meet Tom Fischer. Tom, this is my mother, Margaret Compton." She leaned over and tilted her head to the side. I mimicked my boyfriend's kiss on her cool-as-ivory cheek. She straightened up, looked into my eyes, smiled again, and turned to lead us into the living room. Not a drop of vodka spilled. Jonathan gave my baby finger a little squeeze. So far, so good.
"Walter. Jonathan and Tom are here," she called out quite naturally.
"I'll be right out," a gruff voice responded from another room.
The living room oozed old money. A large oil pastoral scene in an ornate gesso frame dominated the wall over the open fireplace. It looked like an early Turner. I thought I'd try to surreptitiously check it out later. It looked like I would have a great deal of sleuthing to do. Intriguing art hung on every wall, ranging from old European masters to an impressive Rothkoesque painting over the sofa. The principal seating was of the oversized, large-armed variety, upholstered in a soft taupe. A massive oriental carpet covered the floor. It would have been overbearing in most rooms, but the size of the Compton living room accommodated it with ease.
Margaret saw me studying the rug. "Do you like it?" she asked. "Walter and I bought it in Tangiers on our honeymoon. It's more than a hundred years old. It's called a kingdom carpet because it was made for one of the royal family members. The Moroccan royal family, that is," she said, smiling. "All the patterns mean something in Arabic culture. The salesman did explain them to us. He took us through this absolutely lovely tradition of sitting on the carpet in his store and drinking tea together, a symbol of hospitality, as the carpet was about to change hands. We knew it wouldn't fit in our apartment back home, but we figured that when we came to buy a house to start a family, we'd just have to get one with a room large enough to handle the carpet."
I ventured my first intimacy. "I like your sense of priorities, Mrs. Compton."
"Do you now?" she replied noncommittally, and she studied me for a moment.
"Mother, don't bore Tom with stories about all your stuff."
I turned toward Jonathan and, with an expression of contrived horror, said, "You call this 'stuff'? Jonathan, am I to assume that you did not inherit your mother's exquisite taste?"
Not missing a beat, he replied, "Well, I chose you, didn't I?" Jonathan bit his lip.
Okay, that was way too blatant an endearment, way too soon. The following silence was awkward. I glanced at Margaret. She was looking benignly at the two of us, enjoying our moment of discomfort.
"So, where's my scotch, Margaret?" Walter's robust baritone voice broke into the living room's fragile ambiance, his words slightly garbled because of the smouldering cigar clenched in the corner of his mouth.
Margaret, quite deliberately, allowed another few seconds to pass before turning to the butler's table and picking up one of several crystal decanters. "Tom was just complimenting me on our décor, dear. He seems to appreciate its provenance more than our own flesh and blood does."
Walter rolled his eyes and tossed his cigar into an ashtray. "Oh God, Margaret. What was it this time? The cloisonné collection? Your grandpa's Matisse?"
Matisse! I glanced furtively around the room. Walter grabbed my hand and started pumping. "Listen, kid. Don't let her seduce you like she has me. Over the years our quote unquote décor has cost me a fortune, just to hang on a wall where nobody notices it or to sit on a table and gather dust." He dropped my hand, crossed his arms and rested them on his protruding stomach, and scrutinized me for a moment. "I'm Walter Compton. Who are you again?"
"Yes, uh, sir, very glad to meet you. I'm Tom. Tom Fischer. A friend of Jonathan's."
He turned to Jonathan. "So this is the young thing you've been buggering."
Margaret lifted the freshly poured scotch as if preparing to throw it into his face, and Jonathan looked ready to punch him.
Walter, laughing, almost choked, his substantial frame bouncing underneath the burgundy velvet smoking jacket. "Just kidding! You should see all your faces. You'd think I had blasphemed the whole cotton-pickin' holy family." He nudged me with such force I almost lost my balance. "You see, my boy. My wife has these social sensitivities, and she seems to have corrupted this son of mine."
"Who exactly is corrupting him?" Margaret said quietly as she crossed the room to hand Walter his drink.
I glanced at Jonathan. He was ignoring her comment.
"Where's my other son, by the way?" said Walter, deftly changing the subject and the atmosphere.
Jonathan looked at me and explained. "Jeremy is notorious for being late."
Walter took a gulp of his drink and, still in the process of swallowing, said, "It's the artistic temperament. Time, deadlines, money mean nothing to the kid. What did I do to deserve this? One son up to his elbows in paint and the other son with his head in the clouds, communing with Socrates and Plato and all those other Greek buggerers." His laugher erupted again, and he spat a few droplets of Glenmorangie onto the kingdom carpet.
"Let it go, Dad," Jonathan chided.
The front door opened. It was clear to me that identical twins don't necessarily observe protocol identically. Jeremy strode into the room, looking stunning in a handsome tailored suit that set off an athletic frame similar to the one with which I was becoming intimately familiar.
"About time, boy. I think I'll institute a system of demerits for every minute you're late."
"Wouldn't work, Pops. Mom would make sure I didn't suffer." Jeremy sauntered over to his mother, gave her a big hug, and planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek.
The Compton sons were the spitting image of each other in stature, hair colour, facial features. I couldn't verify everything. I wasn't close enough to discern the hue of his eyes and was discrete enough not to glance down below the waist.
Margaret put her hands on Jeremy's shoulders, turned him around to face me, and said, "Jeremy, I want you to meet Tom. Jonathan's 'friend.'"
Jeremy strode across the room and clasped my hand in his. We shook hands firmly; his grip was naturally strong, mine consciously so. "Well, well, old man," he said to me. "On behalf of the family, I wish you the best of luck. It's about time that somebody corralled Jonathan and made an honest man of him. I can tell you it will take a load off our minds."
"That's rich," retorted my new boyfriend, "coming from the quintessential non-committer."
"That's my prerogative, indeed my calling. I am betrothed to my art. Also, as your elder, it's my responsibility, my sacred duty, to ensure that you get well and properly shackled. By the way, Tom, you shouldn't count on too much of a dowry from this old geezer," titling his head toward his father, with his gorgeous brown eyes locked on mine.
Ignoring the rapidly accumulating presumption that Jonathan and I were long-as-you-both-shall-live partners, I interjected. "Elder? I thought that the two of you were twins."
"Two minutes," Jeremy replied. "I popped out of Mommy dearest two minutes before the laggard here had finished prepping his hair and was prepared to make his fashionably late entrance."
"But I understood that you are the tardy one in the family," I responded.
"Touché!" Jonathan cried, smiling at me with appreciation. Walter applauded, ashes from his recently retrieved cigar dropping onto the floor. Margaret chuckled as she headed toward the kitchen. Jeremy just looked at me.
Dinner was exquisite. Margaret served the meal in the massive dining room, each dish arriving at just the right moment and temperature. Wine glasses and water goblets were replenished on cue and coffee poured with the dessert. There was such effortless grace in her manner that she accomplished the hosting unobtrusively while maintaining a presence in the conversation. The pearl necklace never wavered.
"Thank you, Mrs. Compton. That was just delicious," I said, touching my lips with the Irish linen napkin to dab any crème brulé residue.
"Tom, for the last time, please call me Margaret. If you don't, I'll start thinking you are a slow learner." Her affectionate glance offset her scolding tone.
"Sorry. Of course. Thank you, Margaret."
Jeremy dropped his fork, letting it clatter loudly on the china dessert plate, and cleared his throat. "So Dad, is your trip to Santiago next week still on?" he asked.
Excerpted from Searching for GILEAD by David G. Hallman Copyright © 2011 by David G. Hallman. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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