The Swing of Things #9
"You look very nice," Rebecca said, brushing her hands over Tracey's sweater again, trying to get the last bits of stray lint from it.
"You look fine," Rebecca reiterated, stepping back. "And you're so lucky. Mom says The Great Swordfish is a very nice place."
"Well, Mom's the one who has people take her there, so she'd know," Tracey replied. "And speaking of Mom, where is she?"
"She said she would be home late again," Rebecca said. "I think she's dating someone but doesn't want to get our hopes up or something."
"I hate to say it, but I'm a bit past caring on that front," Tracey stated. "I mean, it's Mom's life and she's cool to do what she wants as long as it doesn't hurt any of us. I guess if she up and married some jerk who mistreated you or Vicky..."
"What about you?"
"I'm not going to live here forever," Tracey said. "I'm twenty. I'm going to need my own space."
"You have a girlfriend again?"
"No," Tracey said, feeling a little strange inside for not just up and explaining what exactly he was going through. Over the last month Rebecca had become his little confidant, yet he couldn't bring himself to spill the biggest of secrets to her. He guessed that he just didn't want to make her worry unnecessarily.
"Then can I come live with you?" Rebecca asked, smiling.
"You're better off here," Tracey replied. "Especially since I don't know when or where I'd be moving. But you'll always be welcome to visit."
Suddenly he remembered that dream of Rebecca in the old house, clinging to shadows.
"And no matter what, I'll always come to visit you too. Always."
"Tracey?" Rebecca beamed.
"You're the coolest brother ever. I hope you have tons of fun at dinner. Er, well, not fun, I guess since you aren't really going to a fun-type place. So have a good time and please tell me all about it tomorrow!"
Tracey chuckled. "I most certainly will."
"And don't forget to take the drawings, either. I'm sure everyone will want to see those."
At that moment, Tracey knew for a fact that someone would be very lucky to get to spend their life with Rebecca. For all her moodiness, her underlying compassion and motivation shone through at the most important moments. And to think for some reason she had almost given up on herself too.
Tracey took one last look at his youngest sister and was thankful to have someone so close that he could buoy himself to should another storm come.
"Tracey! Someone is here for you!" Vicky's voice rang through the house. Tracey had to admit that he hadn't even heard a car.
"I'll be right there!" Tracey yelled back, looking once last time at Rebecca, who gave him a thumbs up.
He grabbed the folder with his drawings in it from the bed and hurried down the hallway. Standing just inside the front door was Charlie. She was wearing a long, glittering dress that was more than likely being re-used from one prom or another. Still, without much in the way of accessories, it didn't look entirely out of place. Well, at least the part he could see. Her top half was covered by a thick, dark jacket.
And Tracey suddenly felt under-dressed in only a sweater and dress pants.
"You look good!" Charlie chirped, grinning. "And wait til you see Timothy. He definitely cleans up well."
"Thanks," Tracey replied. "You look good too. Are you awake enough for this?"
"As awake as I'll ever be. Though I have a bit of a strange feeling about the evening."
"That's because it's going to be strange," Tracey commented before turning to his sisters, who were standing side-by-side behind him. "And you two call me or Mrs. Grovces next door if anything happens."
"I'm just going to watch television," Vicky said. "And I don't care what Rebecca does."
"I'm going to get my grades higher than Vicky's could ever be," Rebecca shot back. "So there."
"On that note, we should leave," Charlie said. "Besides, Timothy is probably wondering if I've gone and died in here or something."
"Fair enough," Tracey said, walking around Charlie to open the door and grab his coat from the rack almost in the same movement. "See you two tomorrow."
"Behave!" Vicky yelled.
"Have fun!" Rebecca retorted. And as Tracey followed Charlie out, he was rather happy to not have to witness the fight that was bound to ensue.
"I hope you don't mind sitting in the back with Timmy," Charlie said as they got closer to the car. "I finally have an appointment to get my passenger seat fixed but not until February. I wish it wasn't warranty work so they couldn't just keep putting it off."
"But at least they'll fix it for free, right?" Tracey asked, reaching for the rear passenger door.
"Yeah, and if I raise a stink I'll get a loaner for a couple of days too," Charlie replied as she got in. Tracey opened his door and slid inside, finding himself next to a smiling Timothy.
Reaching over to pull the door shut, Tracey couldn't help but think that Timothy did look really good. Gone was the slacker-punk who seemed to happily live off of his sister, amusingly replaced by a respectable young man with hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. And a suit hidden partially beneath a leather jacket.
"You look good," Tracey said, hoping it wouldn't come across too awkwardly. He wasn't sure if his growing attraction was shared or if Timothy's constant flirtation was just in his make-up, much like it seemed to be with Ethan.
"Thanks," Timothy replied as Charlie started the car. It shuddered once but then the engine roared to life.
"Stupid thing," Charlie muttered. "Don't know why it does that."
"Something to do with the cold, damp weather we've been having?" Timothy suggested, rolling his eyes. "At least I crawl out of my textbooks often enough to have a bit of common sense."
"Be thankful I told you that you were invited," Charlie shot back, effectively silencing Timothy for a good chunk of the ride.
There was an awkward silence in the car, one Charlie tried to fill by turning on the radio. With school out of session, the college station yielded only soft static so Charlie started scanning through stations. She didn't linger on any one for more than a few seconds until Timothy yelled for her to stop.
"What?" Charlie asked, flipping back to where she'd been.
"Turn it up," Timothy ordered. "I love this song. It's Keeping Still."
"Keeping Still?" Charlie asked, deadpanning. "Right... I guess I forgot your one-time obsession with them."
"One-time?" Timothy shot back, incredulous. "I still love them. What happened was horrid. They could have changed music forever."
Tracey was suddenly stuck silent. He'd never thought to ask anyone else about Keeping Still that wasn't one of Caz's co-workers. Somehow Keeping Still had become a hush subject.
"Whatever," Charlie tossed off, seemingly annoyed.
"I like them," Tracey finally said. "But I'm not used to saying anything out of respect for Caz and his privacy."
"Huh?" Timothy said. Apparently, Charlie had never told him.
"Cassiel Wyler is junior backroom captain at work," Tracey said, trying to conceal his emotion over the whole thing. "Charlie didn't tell you?"
Timothy sat there, his mouth open. As they drove under numerous streetlights, the effect was nearly laughable. Johnny's voice filled the car where not a one of the occupants could find anything to say.
"I guess I didn't think too much of it," Charlie finally admitted.
"Didn't think too much of it? I'd love to meet him," Timothy said, his voice going from angry to sad. "But I guess it's more important to respect him and his privacy."
"He's a very down to earth sort of guy," Tracey said. "I can ask him if it would be okay to meet him for a couple of minutes. But don't be freaky about it - he's afraid he'll be asked to quit if people keep coming into the store looking for him."
"I understand," Timothy said softly. "I think it's nice to hear that he's doing well, actually."
Both Timothy and Tracey turned their attention to Charlie and what had suddenly caused her to curse. Up ahead, a pair of gates had just started blinking red before beginning their descent to block the railroad tracks from the street. Just their luck, hitting a train would delay them at least five or ten minutes.
"Fashionably late," Timothy said.
"Fashionably late doesn't exist," Charlie replied. "It was made up by late people who didn't want to look like complete idiots because they hit a train. And I could try to go around but it would take even longer. Henceforth, we sit."
"It's okay," Tracey said, checking his watch. "The restaurant isn't that far and we were a bit early to begin with."
Charlie glared back at him, scarier than he ever remembered her being.
"So who's your favorite member?" Timothy asked, turning his attention back to Tracey. "Mine's Johnny because I like his charisma. He has a brilliant je ne sais quas about him that most people cannot even begin to develop."
"Yes," Tracey replied, nodding. "That's exactly how I feel."
The train whistles once, twice before roaring across the intersection. It was moving quickly, but looked long. Charlie was tapping her fingers on the steering wheel, paying no heed to the men in her backseat.
At that moment, Timothy reached down to unbuckle his seat belt, letting it softly come unclasped. Tracey didn't know what to do as Timothy edged closer.
"I grew my hair out originally so I could look like him. I wanted to be him, truthfully. There were always rumors that he was, well, like me and I took alot of comfort in that," Timothy explained. "In high school there was nothing more I wanted than to be Johnny Danger, to be the center of everyone's attention and beloved by thousands instead of a scrawny little gay kid who was only good to pick on."
Timothy sighed and Tracey couldn't help but want to do something. Charlie seemed oblivious, focused on the train and not the soft conversation behind her. Tracey couldn't figure out why suddenly Timothy was spilling his guts. There was something in the way Timothy was looking at him...
He wasn't going to be afraid.
Reaching out, Tracey ran one hand down Timothy's cheek, barely surprised to find slight dampness.
The urge to pull away was gone, all Tracey could do was hold his ground as Timothy slowly leaned closer and very, very quickly kissed his lips. Tracey gasped and Timothy backed away as though he had been slapped.
"Damn, is thing ever going to end?" Charlie whined from the front, putting her head against the steering wheel. Ahead, cars were already turning around and trying to head back. The train seemed to be grinding to a halt.
"Sorry," Timothy whispered, looking out his window.
Tracey just sat there, fingers to his lips, replaying over and over what had just happened. There was nothing to be afraid of. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain. In all the nothing, there was something. And his penis had jumped to attention, ignoring the cold of the car in a sudden burst of barely containable excitement.
"Don't be," Tracey said, reaching over to stroke Timothy's arm. "Come back over here, please."
Headlights illuminated the car at that moment, letting Tracey see just how badly Timothy's eyes were watering.
"Are you sure?" Timothy asked in reply, looking completely unsure.
There was no reason to even pause to think.
Somehow, in an awkward meeting of confining coats and the small space of the backseat, Tracey found himself again being kissed, softly, on the lips, lingering... Unafraid...
Unafraid, he parted his lips, licking at Timothy's, asking for more, asking to go deeper, search for more than he was already finding. Tracey was startled at the energy pouring between them yet all he wanted was more. He wanted to keep going. He wanted to live out his fantasies and see the beautiful expressions on Timothy's face as he thrust deep inside...
Timothy parted his lips, letting his tongue meet Tracey's for just a brief, erotic flick before opening fully, letting himself be taken into a deep kiss. Tracey was in control now, arms around Timothy, holding him close but not tightly. He wanted to run his hands up into Timothy's hair but didn't dare out of fear of messing it up. That was his only fear. Everything else, his mind, his body... They were begging for more.
Finally, Timothy pulled away and they stayed there in the backseat, holding onto one another, Tracey softly running his hand down Timothy's back, forgetting that through the thick leather of Timothy's jacket, it wasn't likely that it could be felt.
Some sort of heaven...
"About time!" Charlie exclaimed. Both men jumped back just a bit before realizing Charlie had been talking about the train. "I guess that wasn't more than about ten minutes, was it? Less, I guess."
"Sure," Timothy said, his voice wavering.
"We won't be too late," Tracey said. "And really, I didn't mind the slight delay."
Timothy reached over and grabbed Tracey's hand, unwilling to let go as Charlie shifted the car out of park and headed on down the road. Somehow, Charlie had either been completely oblivious or completely unwilling to comment. And neither man seemed to really care just which.
Tracey squeezed Timothy's hand, amazed at the warmth flowing from it, through his entire body. He felt as though he was on fire, melting in a liquid heat that threatened to consume him. Why he hadn't done anything sooner gnawed at his mind before being pushed away by the realization that it really didn't matter because things were working out. Things were working on being downright perfect.
Now all he had to do was get through dinner.
Tracey happily recognized Tyler's car in the lot, meaning that at least they would not be waiting alone. They were just a couple of minutes early despite hitting the train and Tracey really did not want to stand around in the entrance-way to The Great Swordfish looking like a lost little git who should not be in that sort of place to begin with.
Timothy gave Tracey's hand one last squeeze before slipping away to get out of the car. As Tracey shut his door, Timothy was already beside him.
"We'll talk about this tomorrow? Alone?" Timothy asked, whispering.
"Yes," Tracey replied warmly. "Definitely."
"Hey! Slowpokes!" Charlie called, gesturing for the pair to catch up with her. If this was Charlie under stress, Tracey wasn't so sure he liked it. She really needed to mellow out a bit. For a flicker of a second he thought about giving her a nice clean new notebook and telling her to go for it. Maybe for Christmas, if Matthew hadn't gotten to her first.
"We're coming," Timothy replied, taking a running slide across a bit of ice on the parking lot and laughing. Tracey followed the same path but avoided the ice. The last thing he needed was to fall onto his ass just before dinner. And especially at a place like the Great Swordfish. Tracey also really hoped they would have something on the menu he both recognized and was willing to eat.
Charlie was still first in the door, letting it swing shut in Timothy's face. And that was the last straw. Unable to think of other terms in his mind, Tracey decided Charlie really needed a time-out.
Once inside, he grabbed Charlie's arm and pulled her over near where a tank of lobsters seemed to be silently praying for their lives.
"What's your problem?" Tracey asked softly.
"What problem? I..." And Charlie sighed. "I'm acting like an idiot, aren't I?"
"I'll try to keep myself in check," Charlie replied, smiling. "Thanks for having the guts to tell me. I just get stressed sometimes in these sort of situations."
"I see them!" Timothy announced pointing. "Leave the lobsters be and let's go."
"Sure thing," Charlie answered, scurrying off and leaving Tracey to yet again follow.
Their table was round and large, situated down in a sort of glassed in porch-area that seemed perilously close to the rushing water of the river that separated them from Canada. Glancing out through the night, Canada looked like a cosmic Christmas tree, all lit up and twinkling.
Billy was a surprising contrast to his casual self. Poured into a dress shirt and pants and with his blond mane bound in a series of etched silver rings, he looked like he had stepped from a magazine or movie. He waved at the three as they stepped down to the level of the porch.
Matthew was beside him, wearing similar clothing. And though Tracey was loathe to admit it, he knew Matthew was wearing touched of makeup and it made him look all the more appealing. Billy and Matthew made a downright beautiful couple, the sort that Tracey was instantly envious of. There was an aura about them that leaked off in every direction.
Again, Tyler had settled to Matthew's other side, cleaned up well himself. His choice in clothing mirrored Tracey's, but he at least had a blue sweater instead of a maroon one.
"We hit a train," Charlie said quickly as she shrugged her jacked off. In a heartbeat, Jameson was at her side, taking the jacket and hanging it on the back of her chair.
"You aren't late," Jameson said, smiling at her. "We were actually quite a bit accidentally early."
Charlie blushed, red visible spreading across her chest as well as her face. Her dress was a perfect fit and Tracey found himself wondering which sort of the many bras he dealt with daily she was wearing. And then he felt the urge to bang his head on the nearest wall.
Charlie took the seat next to Tyler, and Timothy beside his sister, leaving Tracey with one option, sitting between Timothy and Jameson.
Jameson wore his suit well and it was finally easy to imagine the man in a business environment. For all Tracey knew, which was little bordering on not-much, Jameson ate at places like this daily. Somehow in the flickering light coming from the oil-lamp on the table, Jameson's deep blue eyes stood out more than usual, contrasting his deep, ruddy red hair enough to make it look almost beyond the realm of natural.
Ethan was subsequently poured into the space between his lover and Billy, breaking the standard mode of dress for a vibrant silk shirt that shimmered in the light and threatened to cling to every last contour of his lithe body. With a demure little smile gracing his lips, Ethan looked both perfectly angelic and as though he was scheming something. Tracey had almost forgotten that he had brought a folder in with him, filled with the sketches he wanted to show to his pair of angels.
"Ethan," Tracey said, smiling as he sat down. "I have these for you. Your angels."
Passing the folder over to Ethan, Tracey wanted to momentarily sink into the floor, at least until he got some sort of approval from the exotic creature now curiously peering at the contents.
"Tracey!" Ethan gasped, reaching to push back his hair. A grand smile swept over his face as he passed the first sketch to Jameson. "These are amazing."
"What you said yesterday," Tracey explained, "it stuck with me. So now you have your androgynous angels."
"Can I buy these?" Jameson asked quickly. "Or were you going to do something else with them?"
"Let me see," Tyler said, holding out a hand.
"I haven't shown them to Timothy yet," Tracey admitted, knowing full well he had to be blushing a deep crimson. "And I definitely haven't thought about what I'd do with them."
"Pass these around," Ethan ordered, handing the sketches, one by one, to Billy. Soon everyone at the table was murmuring and Timothy, to Tracey's right, was just holding one and shivering, slightly.
"Can I have one of these?" Timothy asked, eyes watering again as he looked at Tracey. "It's so beautiful."
"Let him think on it," Jameson said. "I'm sorry to be rushing things. I hadn't realized this was your first showing."
"I did these last night," Tracey admitted. "Just for fun."
"You're really good," Billy said. "If you're interested in doing freelance work, emphasis on the free..."
"I'm sure Myra Z would love these," Ethan finished, still grinning.
Tracey couldn't believe it. He honestly hadn't thought of doing anything with his art besides giving it to friends. And now suddenly Jameson wanted to give him money and Billy thought they were publishable in at least a small, modest magazine. It was a bit much.
"I don't know..." Tracey said. "I never thought..."
"Think big," Timothy said, still clutching on of the sketches. In it, the pair of angels had full wings stretched and were looking upward. Tracey felt strongly about it too, despite having very little religion in his own upbringing.
"Good evening, how are you doing?"
All were a bit startled by their waitress appearing. The sketches were passed back to Tracey, who tucked them down onto the ledge of the grand window beside him. And then he had to figure out just what he wanted to drink.
With an hour to kill before half of the group had to be to work, they gathered back at Tyler's apartment to slide into work apparel and also to sort though details and goodbyes. Timothy had done little more on the ride back then just grab at Tracey's hand, all the more nervous apparently after seeing the artwork he had inspired. Tracey felt awkward too, especially since he seemed to be the only one who had no reason to change. The dress pants he was wearing were far from the best things he owned and he didn't care if they were destroyed. And he had a t-shirt beneath his sweater, so that also was no big deal.
So Tracey sat on Tyler's sofa, not even sure who he should be speaking to since Charlie was still hogging the bathroom and she had suddenly become the only one willing to say much of anything to him.
"Have you ever thought about any sort of career in graphic design?" Jameson asked suddenly, walking over to sit down beside Tracey. "Obviously you'd have to get through school, but there's a beautiful life to your work that would sell. You could even do freelance work for other magazines. Some of Remote Transmissions' other writers are doing that now. It's an excellent starting block."
"It's just a whole lot quickly," Tracey confessed. "Especially when you mentioned wanting to buy those sketches."
"I'd still like to, if you don't mind. Ethan means quite a bit to me and I have never seen such an impassioned likeness of him before," Jameson explained. "I know you'd like to give one of the group to Timothy and that's fine. But I'll give you five hundred dollars American for the rest of them."
"Five hundred?" Tracey sputtered back. That was nearly what one of his two-week paychecks equaled. It would certainly help him out in the long run.
"More than enough," Tracey replied. "I don't think I can even let you pay me. I just drew them because of what Ethan said about there not being any boob-less angels and then seeing him and Timothy laying together and looking so... ...perfectly posed."
"Five hundred," Jameson said firmly. "With a promise you'll do some finished pieces for me in the future. Do you do nudes? I'm more than willing to bet that Ethan would pose for you - you seem to be able to commit things to memory quite well."
Tracy turned instantly red yet again. "I... err..."
"Perhaps not just now," Jameson stated, smirking. "Why don't all of you plan to visit us in Toronto in a couple of months? You're more than welcome to stay in my condominium. It has a beautiful view of the water."
"I think you're overwhelming him," Ethan interjected, appearing at Jameson's side before pouring himself onto the sofa, mainly on Jameson but with his legs across Tracey's lap. The pair kissed, entrancing Tracey all the more.
So much in love...
And Timothy was watching from the kitchen, not very happy at the attention pulled away from him. Tracey caught Timothy's eyes and motioned for him to come over.
"We need to get going," Charlie announced as she came out of the bathroom. "Sorry I took forever. I kinda got stuck in my straps and was too embarrassed to call for help."
"I would have helped," Ethan and Timothy said in unison. The tension that had been growing in the room suddenly broke and everyone started laughing.
"Tracey, Timothy, Charlie, Tyler, since I doubt we'll be seeing each other tomorrow, I did enjoy our meeting," Jameson said. "And Tracey, if you'll just divide up those sketches, I'll have Matthew give you payment."
Tracey nodded and went to get the sketches off the table. He hadn't realized that Timothy had been guarding them from any of the many possible harms of Tyler's apartment.
"Have a good drive back," Tyler said, reaching out to shake Billy's hand. "And thank you, Billy."
Tracey wasn't sure he wanted to know. And then again, he couldn't remember ever getting so many hugs before in his life. As much as he didn't think men were much for hugging, there was little else to do than be swept into the flurry. In the end, Timothy was clutching his picture and everyone was heading out to the parking lot to head their respective ways.
"I'll take the car and pick you two up in the morning," Timothy explained once Tracey had slid into the backseat of Charlie's car and then wondered what Timothy would do for the evening.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!