C'est la Vie
"You're home," Michael said happily as Ben entered the house and dropped his briefcase by the door.
"Ralph and Jack from up the street have invited us for dinner. I said yes."
Ben groaned before he could help himself. "I wish you'd have asked me before you accepted. I really don't feel up to going out. I'm tired and I have papers to grade."
"Oh come on, you'll love it once we get there and relax," Michael assured him.
"I really don't want to go," Ben said with a big sigh.
"I can't go by myself. It's a couples' night."
"Then cancel for both of us," Ben snapped as he headed for the bedroom. He just wanted to have a shower and get into comfortable clothes.
"Bennnn," Michael whined.
"Not going," Ben declared before slamming the bedroom door behind him.
Michael's mouth dropped open. That wasn't like Ben at all. Something must be bothering him. Michael hesitated. His first instinct was to follow Ben and keep at him until he got what he wanted. But something told him not to do that. He decided to take a different approach.
When Ben came down from his shower, Michael had the table set and dinner simmering on the stove.
"I thought you were going to Ralph's," Ben commented.
"I called and told them you were not feeling well."
"I said I was tired, not sick."
"Whatever! I took some stew out of the freezer and it's just about ready. We can have a nice meal and a cozy night at home," Michael said with his best smile.
"That sounds good," Ben admitted.
"Sit down and I'll dish up the stew."
They ate in silence for a while. Michael was wondering how to tell Ben that he had invited Ralph and Jack to join them for dinner on the weekend. Ben was wondering how he could tell Michael that he was unhappy and wanted to go back to the lane as soon as the semester was over.
"Ralph and Jack were okay with us cancelling tonight," Michael said as he cleared away the dishes.
"Good for them," Ben snarked. He didn't really care how Ralph and Jack felt at the moment.
"They had also invited another couple who just moved into the neighborhood. They wanted to introduce us to them."
"Maybe another time." Maybe never, Ben thought.
"That's what I thought," Michael said with a smile. "So I told them all to come over next Saturday. We can have dinner with them then."
"We can?" Ben asked with a frown. "Didn't I tell you when I came in that you needed to talk to me before you made plans?"
"Well. yeah, but it's the weekend, and it'll be fun to meet new people."
"Fun for you maybe," Ben said shoving back his chair and standing. "I'm going for a walk."
"A walk? I thought you were tired."
"A walk," Ben stated through clenched teeth.
"I can come with you," Michael said hopefully.
"Don't bother," Ben said as he finished putting on his coat and hurried out the front door. He quickly strode down the street happy to be away from Michael before he really blew up. He was so glad he wasn't on steroids or he probably would have rearranged Michael's face. The man simply did not listen to anything he was told.
Michael cleared the table wondering what had happened. He had been looking forward to going to Ralph and Jack's for dinner. He had given in to Ben's wishes and cancelled. Then he had come up with the great idea of inviting Ralph and Jack and the new couple to their place the next weekend. How could he have done any more to accommodate Ben? Usually Ben was so agreeable. Michael couldn't figure out what was going on.
"That was delicious," Jacqueline said as she and JR finished dinner.
"Thanks, but it's just lasagna from the Italian restaurant down the street."
"And caesar salad and garlic bread."
"From the same place," JR chuckled.
"Want some help cleaning up?"
"What's to clean up? I already threw the containers in the trash."
Jacqueline shook her head. "We did use plates and cutlery."
"Dishwasher," JR said as the two of them loaded their dishes and utensils into the machine.
"It really was good," Jacqueline said. "We can get food from that restaurant any time."
"Glad you liked it," JR said in a monotone.
"Um, nothing," JR said shaking her head.
"You're not yourself. Something's going on. What is it?"
"Dad," JR said with a long sigh.
"Come and sit down," Jacqueline said taking JR's hand and pulling her over to the couch. "Tell your loving girlfriend all about it."
JR smacked Jacqueline on the shoulder, but they both smiled at each other. "I'm so lucky to have found you," JR said.
"I know, but you still need to tell me what's wrong."
"You don't want to know," JR said sadly, "and there's nothing anybody can do."
"Just tell me," Jacqueline said pulling JR against her.
"Dad ... is ... driving Ben away."
"What do you mean?"
"Dad's oblivious to how he treats Ben, and I really think Ben's getting to the end of his rope. I think he's fed up that Dad doesn't listen to him."
"Even Gentle Ben has his limits. Dad has a way of seeing the world from his own perspective and never from anybody else's."
"Don't I know it!" Jacqueline stated.
"Unfortunately you have been on the receiving end of it. I'm worried that Dad thinks everything is just fine between him and Ben. He doesn't see that Ben's unhappy."
"Tell him," Jacqueline stated flatly.
"I've tried, but I got nowhere."
"Do you want me to tell him?"
"Um, that might not be a good idea," JR said.
Jacqueline rolled her eyes. "He'd get the point if I told him."
"I know, but I don't want him to have a heart attack."
Just then the buzzer went off indicating that someone was at the door to the building. JR answered it and told the male voice to come up.
"Who is it?" Jacqueline asked.
"Oh shit! You don't suppose he's left your father and needs a place to crash?"
JR's eyes got very large. "God, I hope not."
JR opened the door and a tired looking Ben entered.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," he said uncertainly.
"We finished dinner a little while ago," JR said. "Have you eaten?" Ben nodded. "Come and sit down and tell us why you're here."
"Um, I can go in the bedroom if you don't want me to hear," Jacqueline offered.
Ben gave a wan smile. "I guess you two have some idea about what's going on. Please stay," he said.
"Did something happen tonight?" JR asked when they were all seated. Ben nodded. "You can tell me. I know it's about Dad."
"I ... I don't know how much longer I can hold on," Ben said scarcely above a whisper.
"You shouldn't have to if you're unhappy," Jacqueline offered.
"Jacqueline!" JR said in astonishment.
"You know I'm right."
Ben's brow wrinkled. "She is right. Maybe I have been pussyfooting it around the real issues for too long. I need to make some hard decisions."
"What are you going to do?" JR asked. She really hoped Ben wasn't going to break up with her father.
"I don't know for sure, but things have to change."
"Um, do you need a place to stay tonight?" Jacqueline asked. "We have a couch that's not too horrible. I've slept on it once or twice."
Ben smiled. "Thanks for the offer, but I need to go home. I'll let you know when I decide what I'm going to do."
"Okay," JR said, "but I'll understand one way or the other."
"Thanks," Ben said as he stood and got ready to leave. He gave JR a peck on the cheek.
"You really are so blunt sometimes," JR admonished after she shut the door behind Ben.
"I don't believe in waffling. Getting to the point makes more sense." JR scowled. "Am I going to be using the couch tonight?" she asked.
JR stared at her and then burst out laughing. "No you're not. I think Ben actually appreciated hearing it like it is."
"Truth is usually a good thing."
"Yes it is." JR gave her girlfriend a warm kiss.
Brian was trying to review a few contracts before they had to go to the gallery but he was distracted by Justin. And not in a positive life affirming way. Brian was tired of watching Justin pace around their hotel suite. He was especially annoyed with Justin as he pensively nibbled the skin around his thumb.
“Spill, Sunshine,” Brian demanded as he shut down his laptop.
“Hmm?” Justin replied with a bit of the deer in the headlights look. Brian sighed.
“What’s wrong?” Brian gently asked. Justin shrugged his shoulders. “Come here.” Brian patted his lap.
“I’m not a child,” Justin declared as he walked over to where Brian was sitting then made himself comfortable on Brian’s lap.
“No one said you are, however, you do appear to be a man with a lot on his mind. I’m offering to be your sounding board if you need one.”
Justin stared at his spouse and for a brief moment wondered where this pod person came from. Then he smiled brightly as he threw his arms around Brian’s neck.
“You’re always doing that.”
“Doing what, Sunshine?”
“Helping me even when I don’t realize that I need a little help. You’re always there.”
“That’s my job.”
“Thank you, you do it well.”
“In that case, what’s got your knickers in a twist?” Brian said, giving Justin a peck on the nose then gently pushing him off. Brian stood to get himself more coffee from their kitchenette. He waved an electric kettle in the air just in case Justin wanted tea then plugging it in when Justin nodded yes.
“Let me ask you something first. When are we going home?”
“Bree and Patrick are scheduled to leave early on Sunday. That will give them Monday to calm down. They return to school on Tuesday. John and Bobby are going with them. We can be on the same flight or not. That depends on you.”
“What about the rest of the entourage?”
“Lindsay and Charles are sticking around to supervise the distribution of your work to the various galleries,” Brian began.
“That was a brilliant plan the kids came up with,” Justin beamed with pride.
“Yes, it is. And I agree with Pierre, works of art should be experienced up close and personal. Your work is not only visually stimulating and I’m not talking about all those dick doodles,” Brian said while giving his non-repentant spouse the eyebrow. “Your work is almost tactile. The studies of the flowers in our garden, the bees buzzing around them, the birds in the sunflower field. You can almost reach out to touch a petal,” Brian described as he fixed his perfect cup of coffee and prepared Justin’s tea.
“After all these years, you still amaze me,” Justin murmured as he carefully came up behind Brian, wrapping his arms around Brian’s waist. He turned, still within the circle of Justin’s arms to kiss him. When the need for air became urgent, Brian released Justin then took their beverages to the small dining table.
“We have open return tickets. We can stay as long as you like,” Brian further explained. “The boys are staying on.”
“They do need a break,” Justin agreed.
“Yes, they do. They can stay in their suite for as long as they want. They also have an open return ticket. As for the rest of the entourage, Ted is going with the guys on Sunday. Cynthia informed me that she and her man are sticking around for a few more days.” Brian made a face.
Justin began to laugh.
“Apparently neither my bark nor my bite any longer impress her,” Brian scowled.
“Poor baby,” Justin teased. “Besides, that’s what you have Ted for.”
“He does put on a good show,” Brian stated with resignation. “I guess my Brian fucking Kinney, big bad mean boss reputation is all for shit.”
Justin laughed louder. “You were never mean. Ruthless, yes, mean, no. However, you still are big and bad,” Justin said as he innocently sipped his tea and waggled his eyebrows.
“Watch it, Sunshine, you might be causing trouble.”
“I can take you, Kinney.”
“You certainly can. And you will, later, after we decide to stay or go.”
“I’d like to stay for a little while longer. I want to visit the galleries Pierre has in mind to get a feel for them. That way I’ll know what pieces should go where. I’m curious to see if the Fractal video and paintings will be liked here.”
“I thought you’d want to do that. Pierre gave me some literature on each gallery. When you’re ready we can hire a car to take us. We see them all in a day or one at a time. See which one might want to house your Fractal art for a while. You call the shots, Sunshine.”
“I love you, you know,” Justin gushed.
“I know,” Brian stated smugly as he sipped his coffee.
“Mr. Bellerose,” Gui began.
“Guillaume, you have worked for us for several years, you may call me Pierre.”
“Thank you, Pierre, that is very generous of you. If you have a moment, I’d like to discuss your proposal.”
“Of course, let’s go into my office and be comfortable,” Pierre said as he gestured toward his office. Guillaume nodded. “Have you made a decision?”
“Yes, I have and I’d like to do it,” Gui replied with enthusiasm.
“Are you sure? You may be away from home for some time. What does your family say?”
“I have very little family so that is not an issue. I have created an agenda and itinerary if you’d care to review.” Gui handed Pierre a very professional looking report. “My notes are included. I see myself as an observer.”
“Yes, but you must feel free to contribute. Shane has assured me that everyone has input. If the opportunity arises you can put that to the test.”
“Of course,” Guillaume agreed as Pierre reviewed Gui’s report.
“As I see it, if you have no pressing obligations, you can start your adventure when you are ready.”
“My adventure?” Gui asked then thought about it. “You are right. This can be an adventure.”
“You can take your time. Reasonable expenses will be paid for by Kinnetik as well as your accommodations. Your purpose is to learn what makes Kinnetik so unique. Why their turnover is so low and most importantly how do they know which risks to take and ones to leave alone.”
Gui nodded as he listened, trying to take it all in.
“But all work and no play makes life so ordinary. You must take the time to enjoy yourself, visit points of interest. And when you’ve grown weary of living out of your suitcase, it will then be time for you to come home. And we will learn from you,” Pierre said with a smile.
“Yes, sir, and thank you again for your faith in me. I realize that I may have given you the wrong impression.”
“Guillaume, that is all past. As with our new venture, our new name, we begin again,” Pierre said as he extended his hand.
“We begin again,” Gui repeated.
Lindsay and Molly were at the Simone gallery. A potential collector had requested a private viewing; Lindsay and Molly volunteered to show the lady around. After a very satisfying sale, Lindsay and Molly decided to celebrate at a nearby sidewalk café.
“Uh, Linds, I think someone is trying to get your attention,” Molly casually said as she gestured to a gentleman standing just behind Lindsay’s chair. Lindsay turned around.
“Hi. No guard dogs today?” Sam asked.
“You know, Charles Higgins and Brian Kinney,” Sam snarked.
“I see,” Lindsay said as she laughed. Molly couldn’t help giggling. “Sam, may I introduce Molly Brenner. She works for Kinnetik.” Molly smiled her own sunny smile as she and Sam shook hands. “Sam, would you like to join us or are you just going to stand there as I eat this heavenly biscuit?”
“If you don’t think I’d be interrupting anything, I’d love to join you,” Sam politely stated as he grabbed an empty chair from the neighboring table then sat. A waitress quickly took his order.
“Sam, I don’t wish to appear rude but what are you doing here?” Lindsay asked.
“Eating a croissant and drinking coffee?”
“No, here, in Paris.”
“I came to the Bloom Gallery looking for Sidney only to find out that you own the joint.”
“And?” Lindsay knew there had to be more.
“I’ve been working, not on the scale of Justin Taylor, but I have several small pieces and sculptures too. I wanted to know if the Bloom gallery would take a few pieces on consignment.” Sam gave Lindsay a coy smile.
“Do you have any pictures with you?” Lindsay asked without hesitation. Although Sam Auerbach hadn’t had a show in years, he was still a popular artist.
Sam smiled as he took out his phone.
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