Rose Water

Chapter 5


"So tell me, how did you end up with a son?" I ask as I move a fry around in a shallow pool of ketchup, my eyes locked on his. We have been sitting here for over an hour and I feel like it has been ten minutes. Time stops for him. If only I possessed that type of power.

"These two dykes I know wanted a kid. I came in a cup, and he was born nine months later," he says, short and sweet. I look over at the little one and smile, he looks just like Brian. "So, are you going to tell me what the fuck happened to your face or am I supposed to guess?" he asks. I stare at him as I put the fry down.

I can stop pretending that I am going to eat it. My mind starts to process exactly how much to say, how much to release. I shift in my seat a little and taste the bitter stain of anxiety and embarrassment. I feel my face flush completely before the blood rushes back with a vengeance.

"That depends on what bruise you're talking about," I say as I shift my eyes from his a little. I scratch at the base of my neck with my left arm and immediately regret it when I see his eyes glance at the bandage. I put my arm back down quickly and grab my napkin. I start folding it over and over, like an origami artist who has forgotten the next step.

"I got in a little fight at school and then my dad wanted to have a little talk," I spit out. The sound of my voice is flat and even, like what I am saying has no emotional attachment to me. "Little talk my ass," I whisper to myself and I know he hears me.

"Well, that's fucked up," he says and for some reason, some stupid reason I feel a little better about it. That he could sum it all up so neatly and efficiently. He doesn't seem to dwell, everything just is what it is... I like that. "My dad liked to talk too but I finally got tired of listening to what he had to say," he says.

He looks over at Gus and pulls him onto his lap, wiping his hands. We talk for a while longer before he pays for lunch and we leave the diner. He says that we are lucky we did not run into some person named Debbie.

"She's like my mother," he says when I ask him about her. He seems to guard himself and I can understand that, he doesn't know me. When we leave the diner he says that he needs to get Gus back to take a nap. "You want to come?" he asks and my heart is walking two feet in front of me.

"Sure," I say.


I see the small smile as it plays across his face. He wants to come to my place, to be with me. I shift Gus a little higher on my shoulder as I talk about Debbie. I can feel the ease in which we talk and it is nice, different, but nice.

Nice, God, I just said talking to a guy was nice. We walk along the sidewalk and before we can blink we are at the loft. I see him look at the building and down the sidewalk, like he is expecting something.

"Are you expecting someone? Or are you planning to make a run for it?" I ask. He smiles and adjusts his bag.

"The thought did cross my mind," he says as I open the door and hold it as he follows me into the building. I open the door to the loft and when he walks through I slide the door closed. I see him look around the loft, storing everything in his memory. "Nice place," he says and I know he means it. I move away from him and go to lay Gus down in his crib.

"Thanks, you can sit down," I tell him as I go and grab a bottle of water. I get him one too and join him on the sofa.

"Thanks," he says. We talk some more and I feel like I have known him for ages. We are so wrapped up in what were doing that we don't notice the time rolling by. Gus is up and playing with his toys and Justin is in the bathroom. He told me all about Shaun and his best friend Daphne and he told me a little about his father.

I notice the tears that swell in his eyes, right below the surface, every time he talks about his father. His eyes dance around the topic of Craig Taylor. I hear the water running in the bathroom and after twenty minutes I start to worry.


I flip out my phone as I pull into the office parking lot. I turn off the engine and press the speed dial button. The heated air is suffocating me and I roll my window down further to try and get a little more relief. I hear the familiar voice come on the phone and the day just got a little brighter.

"Hello," she answers and her voice sends shivers down my spine and straight to my cock.

"Hey baby," I answer. "I've been thinking of you. I miss you, why don't you come down to the office? We can go somewhere," I say as I feel the blood pumping through my veins. I can already smell her. I switch my phone to my other hand and wait for her to answer.

"Give me thirty minutes baby," she says before hanging up.

"Hurry," I say. I close the phone and wait for her to show up. I call my secretary and tell her to tell anyone who calls that I am busy, and that includes Jennifer; one of the perks of owning the company.


I am in the bathroom, in Brian's loft, demanding that my nerves come back under my control. I stare at myself in the mirror and I cannot believe that I have told this gorgeous man, this stranger, about my problems…some of them anyway. He didn't move or blink or tell me any bullshit about how everything happens for a reason.

I don't want to hear that shit, no one wants to hear that shit. People want you to listen. People want you to shut the fuck up and listen, even if they have nothing to say.

He listened, even if he wasn't really listening, at least he put in the effort it takes to pretend. I reach for the soap and I can see my hand shaking. Talking about Craig always does this to me. I talk about him and then I fall apart. I start to rub the soap around in my hands, over and over, the foam becoming thick and constant.

I place my hands under the water and watch as it starts to engulf my hands. I feel a pull start in the middle of my chest, not quite in my heart and not in my stomach. I blink to take away the feeling but it grows, like a cancer spot on your back that you don't notice until it's to late. I close my eyes…evoke.

I see the sketchbook that has fallen in front of me and I hold my breath, waiting for his next move. I have no idea what to do, I have never been afraid of him before, until now. "What the fuck is all this shit?" he asks. His voice is low and tight, like pressurized air, waiting for its release. I don't want to answer; I don't want to fuel his fire. Thoughts run through my head of what I will do if he tells me to leave, to get out; landscape.

"What the fuck is this?" he screams again. He stands up and the beer that he has in front of him tips over and spills, spreading across the table like a plague, cascading over the side and over my hands. "I asked you a goddamn question," he screams at me as he paces the kitchen floor.

I have no idea what to say. I am surprised that my art bothers him this much, maybe it's because he knows. Maybe deep inside he knows and instead of dealing with the real issue he is attacking one that is safe.

"Sketchpads," I say softly. I watch as he stops pacing, as he crosses the room and takes my glass in his hand, painting the wall with vitamin C. He picks the muffin up and throws it onto the floor. Motherfucker, I was going to eat that.

"Do I look fucking stupid to you? I know what the fuck they are, I am talking about the pictures of guys that are on every fucking page Justin," he says as he grabs the sketchbook off the stove and starts to flip through it, tearing out page after page. This is my moment, truth or dare. Do I have the courage to tell him the truth? Do I risk it all? I think, I think and I make it quick, my brain deciding before my heart has a chance to state its position.

"They are an assignment from the art club; we are studying the human form. The models just happen to be guys," I tell him and the taste of the lie in my mouth is bitter and dry.

"You are going to quit the art club Justin," he says. Anger, bitterness and shame are all patting each other on the back inside his heart. I can see the relief that washes over him as he gives his command. I see his breathing relax as he fills control wash over him and then I speak.

"No," I breathe. I regret it immediately.

"Justin… Justin, are you okay?" I hear Brian say through the door. I look down at my hands as my eyes try focus and the haze tries lift from my brain.

"I…I'm fine. I'll be right out," I say as I wash the soap off of my hands. I breathe deeply, my chest rising and falling quickly. I look at my bag on the bathroom floor next to me. I can feel the pressure inside, the pull. I reach for the bag and when I reach inside it is empty. The room seems to swell, stretching up in front of me. Hyperventilate.


I can hear the water running and the wild breathing coming through the bathroom door. I reach for the handle. "Justin, are you sure that you're okay?" I ask again. Silence greets me and then I hear the breaking of glass.

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