Summary of Part Fourteen: Truth: Justin is sick with worry anticipating the talk Brian says they need to have, certain that Brian is having a fling with Zander and now wants Justin out of his life. Instead, Brian makes good on Shaughn’s suggestion and admits to Justin that Justin is his first, last and only love. Secure once again in his relationship with Brian, Justin tells Zander point-blank that he is not going to Rome. Then, just as the boys are planning to head to Boston for the weekend, Lindsay drops in unexpectedly with a child care request. Brian agrees, ready to cancel Boston, but Justin pushes Brian’s buttons until he decides that Gus should come with them to meet his grandfather.
Part Fifteen: Pee Trumps Drool
When Justin insisted that I should at least tell the Munchers we are taking Gus to Boston even though I had no intention of asking their permission, I didn’t argue with him. And I might even have done as he suggested, if Lindsay had been home when I swung by to pick up Gus. But she wasn’t home, it was Mel who pulled open the door when I knocked – and she immediately started hassling me for being late. I wasn’t late. I told Lindsay I’d be there between twelve and one, then a morning budget meeting had run a bit longer than planned – but it was still only twelve-fifty-five when I pulled up at the house.
Naturally I didn’t explain about the meeting to Butch-Mama, I make no excuses; besides, I wasn’t fucking late. Then she harassed me about Gus’ diet, warning me against feeding him fast food from McDonalds, as if I’d ever eat there myself much less feed that crap to my son. By then my back was up, and I declared that I’d feed Gus any damned thing I wanted to.
Which didn’t calm the bitch down but only raised the decibel-level of her character assassination, as she waved her fucking finger in my face and added the clincher, “And no damned orgies at your place, Brian, not while Gus is staying there.”
“If I decide to have an orgy, I’ll make Gus wait in the hall,” I sneered, looking down my nose at her.
When she drew breath to snipe at me again, I suddenly remembered that Mel was probably upset about her dying aunt and maybe that added to her normal everyday bitch-mode where I’m concerned. So I raised a hand and waved it in the air to erase the animosity, and lowering my voice, I forced myself to smile and promised, “No orgies. Healthy food only. Reasonable bedtime.”
Mel continued to glare but she huffed an exasperated sigh and said shortly, “Good. Let’s load up Gus’ stuff – if you have room in that ridiculous little sports car.” I followed her upstairs and I didn’t complain as we carried large armloads of clothes and toys and assorted child-related crap downstairs. Mel was surprised when I stopped and pulled out a key to unlock the new four-door Lincoln Navigator parked at the curb. “It’s a rental,” I shrugged, deciding not to explain that I’d leased the unquestionably – and embarrassingly – family-esque car for those times when I’ll be transporting Gus. I’d been serious when I told Justin I want to spend more time with my son, and this will make it a lot easier.
We loaded all the kid paraphernalia into the car and set up the child booster seat in back. As Mel dumped a large bag of toys on the floor, I asked mildly, “Is that everything?”
Sourly Mel frowned, “Don’t forget Gus.”
Forbearance is not in my nature but I ignored the taunt and silently followed her back into the house and through the hall to the kitchen where Gus was sitting at the table.
“Hey, Gus,” I leaned over his shoulder and pretended to take a bite of the apple he was holding in one hand. Instead of pulling away, he held the apple toward me and urged, “Eat, Daddy!”
“No thanks, Sonnyboy. Have you finished your lunch?” I could see the remains of a sandwich and a half-full glass of milk.
“Finish your sandwich,” Mel ordered. “You have to start eating the crusts, all the good bread nutrition is in the crust.”
Christ, I remember that mother-argument from my own childhood. The recalcitrant look on Gus’ face told me his feelings about nutrition. So when Mel turned away toward the sink, I grabbed the crusts and stuffed them into my mouth. Gus giggled but I quickly held a finger to my lips in a shushing gesture and he immediately stopped laughing and was sipping his glass of milk by the time Mel turned around to look at us. She raised a suspicious eyebrow but said nothing, and when her back was turned again, I swiftly chewed and swallowed the bread.
Then Mel was hustling Gus into his jacket and she leaned down to hug and kiss him good-bye. “Mommy will see you Sunday and Mama will be home Monday or Tuesday,” she informed him. “Be a good boy for Daddy, won’t you?”
“Yes, Mama,” he agreed solemnly, then he reached for my hand and led the way down the hall to the front door. I thought there might be tears from Gus as we made our last farewell at the car, but he seemed content to be driving away with me, which naturally felt pretty damned good.
Brian arranged to take the afternoon off to stay with Gus and when I get home, I find them sitting on the floor in the living room watching cartoons. As I slide back the squeaky loft door, they turn to look at me. Gus leaps to his feet and runs pell-mell to meet me and when I hunker down he flings himself into my arms.
Gus likes being with us. Brian says it’s probably at least partly because he’s surrounded by women all the time. That sounds kind of sexist but it could actually be true. I mean, it’s great to have two mothers and all, but his preschool teacher and babysitters and his mothers’ friends are all women, so maybe Brian’s right and it’s a relief for Gus just to hear deep male voices for a change.
Brian has joined us at the door and as I stand up, he hugs me from behind, nuzzling his face in my neck and the back of my head. “Thank God, relief troops,” he whispers in my ear, making me smile. Actually he’s very patient and affectionate with his son. I shouldn’t be surprised really; even though he fools most people with his façade of pretending to be an asshole, I’ve always been on to him.
“So,” I ask, “Is it okay with Mel and Linds that we’re taking Gus to Boston?”
Brian straightens up and heads for the kitchen. “Why wouldn’t it be?” he asks over his shoulder.
“You didn’t tell them, did you?”
“They left Gus in my care this weekend, they didn’t stipulate anything about not removing him from the state. So stop worrying.”
I’m not worried, I’d just like to avoid a lesbian confrontation scene somewhere down the line, but I decide to drop it for now.
“What’ll we do about dinner?” Our flight leaves at nine in the morning so we’d already decided to stay in tonight, make it an early evening.
“Soup and sandwiches.” Brian adds, “I picked up a container of chicken noodle, it’s Gus’ favorite.”
We make dinner, or rather Brian and Gus sit on the stools and watch me heat soup and make tuna sandwiches.
“Not too much mayo on mine,” Brian predictably orders.
When I set down the platter of sandwiches, Brian puts one on Gus’ plate, then grabs a knife and cuts the crusts off his bread.
“Why’d you do that?”
“Too healthy,” Brian makes a face and shivers. “Right, Gus?”
“Yes!” Gus agrees eagerly and adds, “You eat it, Daddy!”
Somehow we all get ready on time and we’re at the airport at the appointed hour. There’s one good thing about traveling with children – you’re loaded onto the plane first. I might have to fly more often with Gus. You also get excellent service from the stewardess. Of course I always do anyway, but with Gus sitting next to me, I don’t have to bother being charming.
He’s beside himself with excitement; he was breathless as we three stood at the gate and watched through tall windows as our plane taxied forward. When asked, Gus admitted that he's never been on an "air-pane" before. Shouldn’t a father know that about his child?
Between us, Justin and I have our hands full corralling the little ball of restless energy in the airport, and I’m glad he settles down a bit once we fasten our seatbelts. Justin has the window seat and Gus is strapped into the seat between us for take-off. Once we’re airborne, Justin’s going to switch places so that Gus can look down at the ground.
The takeoff is a tad bumpy but Gus loves it, he looks up at me and giggles with delight as the plane shivers with the power of the jet engines. "Vroom vroom!" he cries delightedly and I return his smile. I'm relieved that he's a good flyer, and once the seatbelt sign is off and he switches places with Justin, Gus jabbers excitedly as he looks down on top of the clouds. Justin's leaning over him, they're sharing the view from the porthole window, and at one point I hear Gus ask, "Is this where Jesus lives?"
I would've been at a loss to answer that question, but Justin says easily, "No, heaven's much higher up, planes can't fly that far." Even though I'm wondering how Gus knows about Jesus, considering one mother doesn't go to church and the other's Jewish, still I'm impressed with Justin's response, and I can't resist reaching over to caress his hair. Justin looks over his shoulder and smiles so beatifically, I wonder if maybe heaven really is outside the window - Justin looks positively angelic. Luckily that's just a disguise.
Halfway to our destination, Gus turns away from the window and announces, "Gotta pee!"
"We'll be landing soon," I tell him, "Can you wait?"
"No - gotta go now!"
"Justin will take you," I decide high-handedly and Justin nods okay, but Gus will have none of it.
"No, Daddy, you do it," he insists, crawling over Justin's knees and grabbing hold of my arm with both hands. "Hurry," he adds, "Hurry, Daddy!"
Resigned to my fate, I release my seatbelt and stand up in the aisle. Gus slides out behind me and reaches for my hand, so I take it and turn to lead the way down the aisle toward the narrow bathroom in the bulkhead. The door opens as we approach and a tall man with wavy brown hair slightly graying at the temples emerges. He's out of my age range but he's a looker, and he blinks when he sees me, a slight smile turning up the corners of his mouth.
"Hurry, Daddy," Gus reminds me, and the man looks startled, then glances down and spies the little gremlin hanging onto my hand. The man's smile widens and he excuses himself, holding the door so that Gus and I can enter. There's barely room to turn around and lock the door.
It's noisy and there's light turbulence so both of us are unsteady on our feet. When I lift the lid of the toilet, suddenly Gus becomes frightened, I guess by the strangeness of the bathroom and the noise and movement of the plane. He wraps both arms around one of my legs, throwing me off balance, and I have to grab onto the sink to stay upright. Not that there's any room to fall down.
"It's okay," I assure him, "You're okay. Pull down your pants and pee."
He buries his face against my leg and mumbles something, I can't make out his exact words but it appears that he's afraid he'll fall into the toilet and be flushed away into the clouds beneath the plane.
"You're okay," I assure him again, "Daddy will hold onto you. Pull down your pants."
Another mumble into my leg lets me know that he is a big boy and his pants have a zipper.
"Yes, you are a big boy, Gus, so act like one. Let go of my leg, turn around and pee."
Finally Gus lifts his face up to stare at me and I give him an encouraging smile. But still he won't let go. "You pee too, Daddy," he insists.
"Okay," I agree, unzipping my pants, taking out my dick and aiming it toward the toilet. Gus has seen it, sometimes he showers with me or Justin, I believe children should be comfortable with nudity instead of making it shameful, and we've peed together many times. Having two mothers is all well and good, but a boy needs a man to teach him toilet etiquette.
Finally I feel Gus's stranglehold loosen and he manages to unzip his own pants and turns to face the toilet, still leaning heavily against my legs, which makes it damned awkward for me to piss. I'm finished and Gus has just begun when a sudden jolt of turbulence gives the plane a hard shake. Gus cries, "Daddy!" and turns to grab onto my leg again.
"Gus, look out!" I exclaim, trying to step backward to avoid the piss spattering on my shoes, but he manages to sprinkle both my shoes and his own. For some reason Gus thinks this is hilarious and he giggles delightedly.
Gritting my teeth, I manage to bite back a string of curses as I turn Gus around to finish his business, then I reach over and slam shut the toilet seat, pull up Gus' zipper and lift him up to sit on top of the toilet, and I turn to the sink. Pulling several paper towels from the dispenser, I step backward out of my shoes onto dry land. There's barely room to bend down and pick up my shoes one at a time and swipe at them with towels dampened in the miniature sink. I remove Gus' shoes and dry them too. We’re going to smell like a popular fire hydrant.
I realize Gus has gone quiet and a glance in the mirror shows that he’s looking apprehensive. "You okay?" I ask him as I shove the dirty towels in the waste bin and turn to put the shoes back on his feet.
"Daddy, you mad at me?" he asks, his eyes big and round and his chin unmistakably trembling.
"No," I assure him, "Of course not."
"I peed on our shoes," he feels obliged to point out.
"That's okay," I shrug, "Justin pees on his shoes all the time."
"Ready to go back?" When he agrees, I reach around him to flush the toilet, then push open the door and lead the way back up the aisle to our row. Justin was reading a magazine but he looks up and smiles as we approach.
In his wonderfully carrying voice, Gus announces to Justin (and to everyone within earshot), "I peed on our shoes!"
"Oh!" Justin's speechless for a moment, then as Gus clambers up on the seat, he comforts him. "That's okay, Gus, accidents happen."
"Yeah," Gus agrees, "Daddy says you do it all the time."
Quickly I open my mouth to defend myself but a glance at Justin's blushing face makes me snap my mouth closed again.
"You do realize," he informs me, as Gus climbs over him to peer out the window, "That there will be retribution for that?"
Lowering my voice, I wonder, “What could be worse than what I've just been through?"
"I'll think of something."
Justin smiles then and nudges his shoulder against mine. Then suddenly he makes a face. Wriggling his nose and pulling sharply away from me, he raises his eyebrows and demands, “Is that – “
“Yeah,” I confirm, “Eau de toilette.”
When Brian called his dad to ask about bringing Gus with us this weekend, Shaughn was very enthusiastic about the visit and about meeting his grandson. He offered to pick us up at the airport so we wouldn’t need to rent a car. Brian refused at first – he has this hang-up about being independent, but I pointed out that since we are staying with the Shaughnessys, there’s really no need to have our own car, and finally he agreed.
Our flight arrives on time at Logan and we join the throngs heading toward baggage claim, Brian's carrying Gus in his arms and I'm close beside them. We glance around to determine which carrousel will dispense the luggage from our flight and discover that it's already turning. Brian sets Gus down and asks me to hang onto him, and we're concentrating on the bags spewing out of the machine so we're taken by surprise when suddenly we hear, "Brian, Justin, there you are!"
It's Shaughn of course and Barbara's with him. They greet us with enthusiastic hugs and I spare a moment to wonder how Brian is bearing up under all this affection pouring down on him. He claims to disdain "all that touchy-feely stuff," which is seriously funny considering how much he's always touching, patting and hugging everyone in our group. When I glance sideways at him I see that he's smiling, and after I collect my own share of Shaughnessy hugs, Brian reaches down for Gus, lifting him up in his arms once more.
"This is my son," he says proudly, "Your grandson, Gus."
Wisely the couple don't grab onto Gus, they just smile at him and say, "Hello, what a handsome young man you are!"
Suddenly shy, Gus says nothing, just sucks on a finger and stares with big round eyes. But when Shaughn extends his hand, Gus hesitates only a moment before accepting a handshake, though he pulls his fingers away quickly and throws both arms around Brian’s neck and holds on tight.
“Go to Justin for a minute,” Brian tells him, “While I get our bags.” Gus loosens his grip and allows me to hold him. We all make disjointed polite conversation about the weather and our flight till finally our bags appear and the Shaughnessys lead the way to the exit and through the parking lot to their car. They’ve even installed a booster seat already so we can stow the one we brought from Pittsburgh in the car’s trunk, then we all get in, Brian and I in back with Gus, and we’re off.
Justin, Gus and I are wedged in the back seat as Shaughn drives home from the airport. It’s early afternoon and though Linds has told me Gus doesn’t take naps much anymore, I notice that his eyes are heavy. He jabbers about the scenery for a few minutes but I’m not surprised when he soon quiets down and a glance shows that he’s fallen asleep.
Justin’s in the middle, the booster seat on his left and me on his right. Everyone murmurs quietly so as not to disturb Gus. Another glance shows that his head has tilted to the side, resting on Justin’s left shoulder. Justin will probably have kiddie drool on his sleeve at the end of the journey. That’s okay; pee on the shoes trumps drool on the shoulder.
Normally while I head off to the gym on Saturday mornings, Justin sleeps in, playing catch-up on sleep time after a week of long hours at his IFA studio. With the quiet in the car and the desultory conversation, I can tell that Justin is fighting like crazy to keep his eyes open, but he’s losing the battle. Finally I slip my arm across the back of the seat and lean in closer, whispering in his ear, “It’s okay, sleep for a few minutes.” He says nothing but in a moment I feel him giving in, he relaxes against me, resting his head on my shoulder. In about thirty seconds he’s gone.
A few minutes later, Barbara turns around in her seat and starts to say something to us, then she catches sight of my snoozing boys, each of them out like a light. She smiles at me and murmurs, “They’re sweet.”
I nod agreeably, letting myself relax a bit more. The back seat’s cramped for a man with long legs but even so I’m enjoying the quiet ride. Having Justin slumped against my side feels amazingly comfortable, though it’s strange to realize that I’m riding in a car driven by my father while I’m holding onto my lover right behind him, with my son asleep a couple feet away.
Finally I’m becoming convinced that Shaughn is for real, that his acceptance of me and of Justin is real. Naturally I don’t give a fuck whether he’s okay with it or not, I’ve never given a damn whether anyone accepts me. But I have to admit that it feels kind of good anyway.
After we’re settled in the guest cottage – the Shaughnessys have squeezed a small child’s bed underneath one of the windows for Gus – we get ourselves and Gus cleaned up and move out to the patio for a late lunch by the pool. Like last time, everything’s very casual and it’s great to see Brian so relaxed.
“Carolyn’s at Symphony Hall already,” Barbara explains her absence. “There was a problem at rehearsal last night so they all had to go early today for an extra run-through.”
“What time’s the concert?” Brian asks as I eyeball the attractive array of food Barbara has set out on the table. There’s green salad and potato salad and a platter of sandwiches, and there’s steam rising from a large tureen of cream of tomato soup.
Shaughn answers, “Eight o’clock, but we’ll need to leave here by six or six-thirty, city traffic’s heavy that time of day and the parking lot fills up quickly.”
“Daddy!” Gus is seated on Brian’s right and he’s pulling impatiently on Brian’s sleeve. “Daddy, I’m cold!”
The day is sunny but a cool breeze has picked up and I’m aware that I’m also feeling a bit chilly. “I’ll get a sweater for you,” I offer, scooting back my chair and starting to get up.
“No,” Gus insists, “I can do it!” He hops down off his chair and heads for the cottage.
Brian gets up to go follow him but I grab his arm and say, “Brian, he’s a big boy, let him do it himself,” so he sits back down again but turns to watch Gus hurrying across the grass.
“He’s running too fast, he might fall down.”
“Brian, he’s fine, you’re overreacting,” I say mildly, then just to be funny I can’t resist digging at him, “You’re such an old worry-wart.”
Stung by my criticism, his mouth snaps shut but he doesn’t turn around, instead he keeps watching Gus run toward the cottage. Barbara and I exchange indulgent smiles across the table, then I glance over my shoulder to see that Gus has reached the cottage and is pushing open the door. Suddenly we see him trip over the threshold and hurtle headfirst into the cottage.
“Gus!” Brian exclaims.
We hear a scream of pain that catapults Brian out of his chair like an explosion. Still clutching his dinner napkin, he strides rapidly across the grass toward the cottage, the rest of us right on his heels.
We arrive in seconds to find Gus lying face-first on the floor, and when Brian throws himself down onto his knees beside the boy, Gus raises his head. A wound on his forehead is bleeding profusely, the blood running down his face, and he’s wailing.
“Move, Brian,” Shaughn orders calmly, “Let me see him.”
Brian looks dazed, almost panicky, he stares at us unseeing for a moment, and I feel my breath catch in my throat when it occurs to me that maybe Brian is remembering kneeling beside somebody else with a bloody head injury.
Then Brian blinks and shakes his head, he focuses his eyes on Shaughn’s face. In seconds he’s moved aside to make room on the floor for the doctor. “You’re okay, Gus, you’re okay,” he murmurs reassuringly, keeping a hand gripping Gus’ shoulder as Shaughn kneels down and takes Gus’ face in his hands.
While I stand in the doorway uselessly wringing my hands, Barbara has the foresight to rush into the bathroom and return with a clean washcloth which she gives to Shaughn. He holds it to the wound, applying pressure to stop the bleeding, and asks Barbara to check for other injuries. She’s beside him on the floor and carefully feels Gus’ arms and legs to see if anything’s broken.
“I think it’s only his head that’s hurt,” she concludes.
“Only!” Brian exclaims, raising his head to glare at me. “This is your fault!” he spits out and I’m shocked, I can only stare back at him and shake my head.
Barbara ignores him, she continues, “He must’ve hit his head on the edge of the chest when he flew through the door.”
In a few moments Shaughn pulls back the washcloth and announces that the bleeding has slowed but hasn’t stopped. He inspects the wound and says, “I think it’s superficial, but he’s going to need a couple stitches.”
“Superficial!” Brian exclaims, “There’s so much blood.” I can tell that he’s forcing himself to be calm so he won’t upset Gus more than he already is.
“Head wounds always bleed profusely,” Shaughn assures him. “But it wouldn’t hurt to have a CAT-scan, just to be sure there’s no concussion. Here,” he stands up and lifts Gus in his arms, handing him off to Brian. “You carry him, and keep up the pressure on the wound. Mount Auburn Hospital is just a few minutes away, we’ll take him to emergency.”
“Mommy!” Gus wails, clutching onto Brian’s arm, tears mixing with the blood on his face. “Mommy! Mama!” he sobs. I move close to Brian and put a hand on Gus’ foot but Brian pulls away and walks out the door without a glance at me.
The four of us head for the car, but instead of putting Gus in the booster seat, Brian holds him on his lap in front, while Barbara and I pile in back, then Shaughn is backing out of the driveway and heading toward the hospital, which Barbara explains is only minutes away.
“Want Mommy!” Gus sobs, crying and hiccupping, “Want Mama!”
“They’re not here, Gus,” Brian says firmly.
“Shh, Gus, you’re okay. You’re with Daddy, I’ll take care of you.”
“Want Mommy! Want Mama!”
“They’re not here,” Brian repeats, “Remember, Gus, your mothers are in Florida. Daddy is here and you’re going to be okay, I promise.”
Gus is still crying but he’s calmer, at least until we get to the hospital. Shaughn is known here and he pulls strings to get us in immediately. He leads the way through the door to the examining room with Brian right behind him holding Gus, who has again begun to wail.
I start to follow but Barbara touches my elbow and says, “We’d better wait here, Justin, there’s not room in there for all of us right now.”
“I want to be with them!” I explain. “I want to be with Brian.”
“Let’s sit down,” she suggests gently, and with a big sigh, I turn and follow her to the row of chairs against one wall of the waiting room.
I’m silent for a moment, then I blurt out, “Brian blames me for this. He said it was my fault!”
“He was just scared,” she assures me soothingly. “People say things like that when they’re in a panic.”
I don’t reply but I can’t forget the look Brian gave me, can’t forget that he said, “This is your fault!” Maybe he’s right, maybe it is my fault because I insisted that Gus could go by himself to get a sweater. I’m feeling pretty fucking miserable while we sit on uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room.
It seems like forever but it’s really less than an hour until Shaughn comes through the door and holds it open for Brian, who’s carrying Gus in his arms.
Barbara and I jump up and move toward them. I’m studying Brian’s face to see if he’s still angry. He just looks tired, and Gus looks even more tired, there’s a bandage on his forehead and his head is resting on Brian’s shoulder, his face is red and looks swollen from crying; he’s quiet now though he shudders an occasional deep breath.
I’m almost afraid to ask so I’m glad when Barbara does it. “How is he? Any concussion?”
“The CAT-scan was clear,” Shaughn reports, “But the doctor wants Gus to take it easy, stay in bed most of this afternoon and evening. He’s got three stitches in his forehead and a large bruise, but otherwise he’s okay.”
“I’m staying with Gus, of course,” Brian tells Barbara, “But you and Shaughn don’t need to miss the concert. And Justin can go with you.”
I still can’t speak, and Brian’s not looking at me. I want to be mad at him for blaming me but I’m feeling too guilty.
“Don’t be silly, Brian,” Barbara puts a hand on his arm and squeezes. “We’ll stay home with you, Carolyn will understand – she plays lots of these concert dates.”
“No,” he starts to say but Shaughn cuts him off.
“Let’s go home – we’ll decide about the concert later.” So we follow him out to the car, with me bringing up the rear. I feel like Brian doesn’t want me to get near him. We resume our places in the car – Brian in front again hanging onto Gus – for the short drive home. When we get out of the car, we all follow him to the cottage and watch as he settles Gus on the big bed and sits next to him.
“Gus, are you hungry?” Barbara moves close to the bed and kneels down till she’s at eye-level with him. “How about some nice warm soup?”
Gus turns his head away and murmurs, “Want Mommy. Want Mama.”
Brian sighs. “You know Mommy and Mama aren’t here, Gus. They’re far away. You’ll see Mama on Monday.”
“Mommy,” Gus repeats, “Mama.” And he begins to cry again, but quietly.
I move closer to the bed and whisper so that Gus can’t hear, “Brian, can we call them? Maybe if Gus talks to them on the phone - “
Brian raises his head and glares at me. “I’ve already lost one ball,” he whispers viciously, “Do you really want you-know-who to come here and cut off the other one?”
“I - “
“And if,” he adds, “You dare say you fucking TOLD ME to tell them I was bringing Gus to Boston, I’ll - “
I’m saved from hearing what Brian’s going to do to me when Shaughn interrupts to say roughly, “Brian, none of this is Justin’s fault. I think you know that perfectly well, so why don’t you stop making him feel bad about it?”
Both Brian and I are shocked into silence, and I wait for the outburst sure to follow. Nobody tells Brian Kinney what to do and gets away with it.
Brian stares at Shaughn for a moment, he opens and closes his mouth a couple times, then suddenly he drops his eyes and looks away. Blowing out a big sigh, Brian says quietly, “You’re right. It’s not Justin’s fault.” He glances up at me and smiles slightly. “Stop feeling bad,” he orders brusquely. “And just fucking go to the concert.”
Before I can say no, Shaughn interrupts again. “What about this phone call Justin suggested? Is that a possibility?”
Brian doesn’t answer immediately, he’s thinking. Then with another of his weary sighs, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his cell. “Here,” he says to me. “Take the phone outside and call them. Get all the screaming over with before you bring it back.”
I take the phone from him and he tells me he programmed in their emergency number, so I move outside and Barbara comes out behind me. “I’m going to heat up some soup for Gus. What does he like?” I tell her chicken noodle and she moves around the patio and into the back door to the kitchen.
Alone in the cool afternoon breeze, I walk far away from the cottage and punch in the Florida number.