C'est la Vie
"Morning, Bree," John said as Bree came into the Anderson-Morrison kitchen of the conjoined cottages.
"Hi," Bree replied plopping down into a chair at the kitchen table.
"That wasn't a very enthusiastic reply."
"I don't feel very enthusiastic."
"What's wrong? I made pancakes for breakfast," John said hopefully.
"It's not about pancakes," Bree replied.
"Then what is it about?"
"I'm here all by myself, and my whole family is somewhere else ... in Paris ... having a great time."
"What are we?" John asked. "Chopped liver? Aren't we family?"
"You know what I mean - Daddy, Dada, Gus, Ray..."
"Yes, they're all in France, and so were you." John set a plate of pancakes in front of Bree.
"But they're still there," Bree protested.
"That's correct," Bobby agreed, walking in on the tail end of Bree's grousing.
"I want to be there too," Bree declared giving the plate of pancakes a shove away from her.
"We don't always get what we want," Bobby informed her.
"I never get nuthin'!" John laughed out loud. "It's not funny," Bree stated with a scowl at her uncle.
"Briana Victoria Kinney-Taylor, do you know how ridiculous that sounds?"
Bree opened her mouth to refute what her uncle was saying, but nothing came out as she realized how pathetic any argument would sound. She shook her head. Finally she said, "You think I should be happy that I just got back from Paris, and not be complaining that I had to come home. Is that right?" she asked in a small voice while batting her long eyelashes at the two men.
"Got it on the first try," John declared.
"You're a very lucky girl, Bree," Bobby said gently as he sat down at the table with her. "There are so many people who will never get to Paris in their whole lifetime."
Bree heaved a weary sigh. "Sowwy," she said in her baby voice.
"What was that?" John asked with a frown.
"I'm sorry," she repeated in her normal voice.
"Better," John replied as he pushed the plate of pancakes back in front of her. "Now eat some breakfast and then it's off to school."
"Okay," Bree said slathering her pancakes with maple syrup. She took a big bite. "Yum," she said. "You make good pancakes, Uncle John."
"Thank you, my lady," John said making a flourish followed by a deep bow.
Bree giggled then her face turned serious. "I am sorry, you know. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am."
"I'm very pleased to hear that, young lady, because you should understand all the privileges you have."
"I do, Uncle John."
John pecked her on the cheek. "Now, where's that lazybones son of mine?"
"Right here, dad," Patrick said as he entered the kitchen. "I thought I'd stay out of the way till you got Bree sorted out." He gave Bree an evil grin.
"Nobody has to sort me out!" Bree declared.
"Sure," Patrick agreed, continuing to grin. "I'm ready for pancakes."
"Me too," Bobby said.
"Coming right up," John said.
Bree wanted to stick out her tongue at the annoying Patrick, but she decided to take the high road for now.
Breakfast continued in relative peace.
"I'm going out for a while," Michael said to JR. The comic store hadn't been very busy, and there was something Michael thought he needed to do.
"Okay," JR agreed. "Where are you going?"
"Out, just out."
JR shook her head as she watched her father turn abruptly and head for the door. She had to wonder what was going on in her father's head this time.
Michael walked out of the shop and headed down the street. He felt a weight around his heart, and he wanted to know what he could do to relieve it. He wondered if the person he was going to see could help him.
It didn't take long to arrive at the Jason Kemp Center. He hesitated for a moment before opening the door. As he stepped inside he saw the person he was looking for talking to the lady at the front desk. Hunter looked up to see one of his adopted fathers.
"Michael," he said, “what are you doing here?"
"Can't I visit my son?"
"Sure, of course you can, it's just that I can't remember the last time you came to the Center."
"I don't usually need counselling," Michael tried to joke.
Hunter noted something in Michael's face when he said those words. "But maybe you do today?"
"I ... I want to talk to you," Michael stammered.
"Come into my office," Hunter said gently ushering his father inside the small office and closing the door behind them. "What's up?" Hunter asked after he sat down at his desk.
"Does something have to be up?" Michael asked not knowing how to approach the reason he was there.
"It seems like it is, but take your time," Hunter said gently.
"I wanted to see you. You and Nick don't come to the house very often."
"You could invite us," Hunter said trying not to sound critical. He had trouble remembering the last invitation from Michael.
Michael's eyes grew large. "Has it been that long?"
"It's been a while."
"I didn't realize," Michael said with a tinge of sadness in his voice.
Hunter knew his father often didn't realize a whole lot of things. "I guess we've all been busy," Hunter said letting Michael off the hook.
"Yeah," Michael agreed. "Especially Ben."
"Ben's been back at the university for this semester."
"Yes, I know."
"You know? Have you seen him?"
"Once or twice," Hunter admitted, which was two more times than he had seen Michael.
"He talks to you?" Michael asked.
"He hardly ever talks to me anymore," Michael said sadly.
"Is that what's wrong?" Michael nodded. "Why do you think he's not talking to you?"
"He gets up early and leaves the house before I'm awake. He has no more than two words to say at dinner. He doesn't want to do anything I want to do. He spends all his spare time at the gym. He doesn't seem to want to be around me."
Hunter waited to see if Michael would say anything more. He wasn't going to give advice. He knew that would immediately get Michael's back up. "So, what do you think is going on?" Hunter finally asked.
"I thought you might know, since you said you'd seen him."
"We didn't really talk about you," Hunter said carefully. He and Ben had kind of skirted the real issues, but he knew all was not well between his fathers.
"I don't know what to do," Michael admitted in a small voice.
"Is there anything that Ben wants that you could do for him?" Hunter suggested.
"It feels like he just wants to be away from me."
"Why would he want that?" Michael shrugged. Hunter waited.
"He said I don't listen to him," Michael finally stated. "He was mad that I made a dinner engagement without consulting him."
"Does that happen often?"
"No!" Michael retorted, then, "Maybe," then, "A few times."
"Sounds like Ben would like you to talk to him before you commit to things like a dinner engagement."
"But he never wants to do anything. I like to entertain."
"Is there a possible compromise in there anywhere?" Hunter asked.
"Yes, compromise. You know, when each side gives a little to get a little."
"I think Ben wants to go back to the lane and he doesn't want me to go with him," Michael finally blurted out. "How can there be compromise on that?"
"I can think of a way," Hunter stated.
"Well, I can't," Michael said firmly. He stood up. This was accomplishing nothing. He should have known.
"Michael, you really should give this some serious thought," Hunter said trying not to sound preachy.
"Thanks for your so-called advice," Michael said sarcastically. He turned and opened the office door.
"Wait," Hunter pleaded.
"See you around," Michael said as he stomped out. He wouldn't be inviting his son to dinner any time soon.
“Hmm, The Fleur-de-Lis Gallery, they like realism around here,” Brian mumbled as he, Justin, Molly, Lindsay, and Mel climbed out of their hired car. The gallery was the last on their list.
“What are you talking about?” Mel snarled.
“The name of the gallery. First, The Renaissance and all their classical work. Then the Avant-Garde with their eye bleeding art work,” Brian began. He received a poke in his ribs from Justin for that last remark. Brian ignored him as he rubbed his wounded side. “And now the Fleur-de-Lis which appears to be overflowing with flowers,” Brian said as his opened the door to the gallery and popped in his head.
“Careful, someone may bop you in the head,” Justin warned as he pushed past his annoying spouse to enter the gallery. “Ooo,” he exclaimed as he began to explore.
“Oh, how pretty,” Molly said as she followed Justin around. Brother and sister slowly wandered around, exploring every nook and cranny of the gallery. They were soon approached by a gallery employee. When he realized who was in the gallery he quickly summoned the proprietor.
“I’m Adele Martine, it’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Taylor. What brings you to my gallery?”
“Please call me Justin; Mr. Taylor is my father.” Justin extended his hand to Ms. Martine.
“Justin, then,” she stated as she readily shook hands.
“I’m exhibiting some of my work at the Simone Gallery,” Justin began modestly. “We were wondering if this gallery wouldn’t mind displaying some of my floral pieces,” Justin asked with a coy smile. He automatically batted his eyes, slowly. Ms. Martine was mesmerized, until Brian stepped up closer to Justin and cleared his throat. Justin’s spell was momentarily broken only to be replaced by Brian’s. He stood tall, gorgeous, with an air about him that commanded attention, the type that usually made Justin melt. Fortunately, Justin wasn’t paying too close attention. He was focused on Adele Martine.
“Would you like to see samples of my work?” Justin asked.
“Yes, please,” Adele said, relieved to return to the safer topic of art rather than stunning men. She showed Justin and his party to her office.
“This is catalog of Justin’s floral work.” Lindsay handed Adele a tablet for her to look through.
“Lovely, just lovely. I’d take them all if I could, but we are a small gallery.”
“Then why don’t we go into the gallery to decide which ones will fit,” Lindsay suggested. Justin, Adele, and Lindsay went into the main gallery leaving Mel, Molly, and Brian in the office.
Standing, Brian made a suggestion of his own. “Take your time. I noticed a café down the street; we’ll wait for you there.” Justin nodded as they parted ways.
“I see you feature many female artists. Is that intentional?” Justin asked as they stood in front of several impressive pieces.
“Yes, it is,” Adele replied unapologetically. “Why do you ask?”
“The Bloom Gallery displays some lovely floral pieces done in an unusual medium,” Justin began to explain.
“Oh, Jamie!” Lindsay exclaimed. Justin smiled as he nodded. “Her work would be perfect here,” Lindsay stated with excitement.
“Do you have some examples of her work in that tablet of yours,” Adele asked with a smile. Lindsay laughed as she again handed Adele the tablet. The three crowded around to view Jamie’s work.
“Oh my, and you say this is all done in paper?” Adele was astonished.
“Yes, it is. The artist makes the dyes and paper herself,” Lindsay proudly pronounced. “If you agree to display some of her pieces, you’d be her first European gallery.”
“I like the thought of that,” Adele exclaimed. “Oh forgive me, Mr. Taylor, Justin. If you wish, I can wait a while before displaying Jamie’s pieces.” Adele blushed.
“Not at all; I wouldn’t have brought it up if I didn’t think this was the perfect place to showcase Jamie’s work,” Justin assured Adele.
“Thank you. I’d be honored to display you both. Perhaps a few small delicate pieces from Jamie. I see she has many bold canvases. My wall space is limited and I’d rather have Justin Taylor pieces on the walls,” Adele beamed. It was Justin’s turn to blush.
“I’m sure we can arrive at a wonderful compromise,” Lindsay stated with confidence. They toured the gallery again, talking of paintings and other works of art.
“I take it you were successful?” Brian asked as he stood when Lindsay and Justin approached the café. They were all smiles.
“Yes, we were,” Lindsay confirmed.
“And we got her to take a few of Jamie’s pieces as well,” Justin boasted.
“Jamie?” Mel asked.
“You remember Jamie, she and Leda are partners and have a little girl,” Lindsay reminded Mel. Melanie made a face as she nodded. She indeed did remember Jamie.
For the rest of the day, they enjoyed the fine weather, and pleasant company. After dinner they returned to the Simone Gallery to meet with Pierre to discuss their progress and plans.
“Will you be staying to see your paintings hung in other galleries?” Pierre asked Justin as they strolled the gallery floor. Justin graciously signed autographs and spent time with some gallery guests.
“No, I don’t think so. We’ve stayed longer than we originally intended,” Justin replied as he stared at the painting of Bree sitting on the rock by the stream, her toes dangling in the water, with just the top of her naked little bum visible. Justin stretched out his hand seemingly to caress Bree’s hair. Brian, almost sensing Justin’s distress, was at his side within moments.
“What is it, Sunshine?” Brian gently asked.
“I think I want to go home,” Justin replied. “But we should make some appearances at the other galleries.”
“Are we in a rush to get the paintings to them?” Brian asked.
“What do you mean?” Justin asked; Pierre was also curious.
“The Christmas break is in a few weeks. Have the paintings sent over. Gus and Pierre can supervise their arrival and placement. We can return with Bree then make the rounds. How does that sound?” Brian asked.
Justin blinked a few times then burst into a bright Sunshine smile as he flung himself into Brian’s arms. Brian laughed as he hung on tight.
“So does that mean you approve?”
“Yes, I do,” Justin agreed.
“And you, Pierre, do you approve as well?” Brian asked with a smirk and a grateful Justin still in his arms.
“Yes, I do, but forgive me if I approve at a distance,” Pierre said with a straight face then laughed.
“Understood,” Brian said with a wink. “Now I think it’s time to make some travel arrangements,” said Brian as he gently let Justin down. Brian and Justin said their good nights to Pierre and Mr. Simone then left for the night.
“They are an unusual couple,” Pierre mentioned to Simone.
“Unusual and most special,” Simone agreed.
“Can you talk or am I interrupting anything hot?”
“Oh Dad,” Gus snorted. “We’re down the road having a late supper.”
“Good. Are you and Ray enjoying your vacation?”
“Yes we are!”
“Not anxious to roll up your sleeves and get to back to work?”
“Not especially, unless the CEO and adman extraordinaire commands it so. Why?”
“Justin and I want to go home. We miss Bree and she’s impatient for us to come home.”
“I’m sure she is. So what’s this got to do with us?”
“Thanks to your idea, we have three galleries waiting with bated breath for Justin Taylor originals.”
“Not just my idea. Bree had input too,” Gus reminded his father.
“And don’t I know it! However, Bree’s in school and Justin and I will be leaving tomorrow night. This assignment could use a Kinney to supervise the overall endeavor.”
“And is that Kinney going to be me?” Gus asked with an ear to ear grin.
“Yes, it is, Sonny Boy. That’s if you don’t mind hanging around Paris for the next month,” Brian said with a smirk.
“It’ll be a sacrifice but I think I can handle it,” Gus said with a put upon woe-is-me voice.
“Oh yeah, a very great sacrifice. Finish out this week as part of your vacation. You and Ray are back on the clock as of the fifteenth. Get with Pierre, have the new Kinnetik Rose do the PR for the additional galleries. We’ll return during the Christmas break with Bree. Let her see your and her ideas at work. Consult her if you can. Make her feel a part of the action, so to speak.”
“I’ll email you the details tomorrow before we leave.”
“Okay, Pop, and thank you.”
“Thank you, Sonny Boy. You did a fine job; you both did. Now it’s time for this adman extraordinaire to take his partner to bed. Say good night, Sonny Boy.”
“Good night, Sonny Boy.”
“That your dad?” Ray asked as Gus disconnected.
“Yup,” Gus replied still grinning.
“And, this sacrifice?”
“We get to stay another month!”
“Woo hoo! This calls for a celebration.”
As Ray and Gus were celebrating with a fine wine, bold cheese, and sweet fruit, Brian and Justin were doing a little celebrating of their own.
“Mmm, amazing,” Brian murmured into Justin’s ear as they caught their breath.
“The next time we make love, I’d like it to be in our own bed,” Justin whispered.
“Your wish is my command,” said Brian before they drifted to sleep.
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