by Tim Mead
Although he'd indicated he wanted Cedric to go to work right away, Tyrese had actually given him a week and a half to get settled. Cedric extracted permission from Tom Nielsen, his landlord, to paint the walls in his condo (after getting the colors approved). In these discussions he discovered that the co-owner of the building, who had the other condo on the top floor, was none other than Adrian Lynch, the restaurateur. All of Cedric's dealings about his condo had been with Nielsen, however, who complimented him on his choice of color scheme.
Cedric decided he wanted to take his time in selecting furniture. He'd brought his television, computer, and stereo from home. He left his flat over the garage behind his parents' home otherwise un-scavenged because his mother insisted he keep it for what she expected would be frequent visits. Which suited Cedric fine. He'd enjoyed decorating and furnishing that place. And he expected to derive as much pleasure from fixing up the new one.
He wanted good stuff. So for starters he bought a king-size bed (with no headboard), an expensive knock-off of an Eames chair with its matching ottoman, stools for the breakfast bar, a hutch for his computer, and a comfortable office chair. The flat-screen he hung on the wall of the living room. He placed the "Eames" chair facing it. He also bought a floor-standing lamp to put beside the chair, at least temporarily.
He made a trip to Detroit to buy towels and bed linens. He wasn't about to settle for what the local department stores had on offer.
And he painted away all the builder's white, covering the walls with a shade called mocha and the woodwork with a lighter shade the paint company called latte.
One afternoon while he was in the paint department of Lowe's he saw two men conferring over the color of a wood stain.
"This will look better with the cherry, don't you think?" The speaker was a thin, unprepossessing person of medium height.
"You're the expert. It looks good to me." His friend was a strikingly handsome man of over six feet, with broad shoulders, narrow hips, black hair, and blue eyes. He smiled down at the shorter man.
The smaller man selected a can of stain, and the two walked away. Cedric noticed they were walking closer together than two straight men would have. The taller one gave the other one a hip bump. The little guy looked up and grinned. Both had amazing butts, but it was the smaller man's Cedric watched until the couple was out of sight.
He found himself envying the relationship the two appeared to share. He could remember back when he and his little lover were together, when it wasn't just the sex but the easy companionship . . . .
Putting two coats of paint on the whole condo took a while. He saved some time by not bothering with the blue tape. His hand was steady enough that he could do the cutting around window and door frames without getting paint where it shouldn't be.
He didn't go out for lunches on those painting days, but he cleaned up and went out for supper, trying a different chain restaurant each evening. He walked, so he didn't hit the cluster of eateries near the interstate exit. In the process, however, he passed Nellie's, the gay bar Digby Gautier had mentioned. And one evening, not really interested in watching the Tigers game on television, he went to another bar he'd spotted, The Cougar.
It was a typical campus watering hole, decorated with sports memorabilia from Colby State teams as well as similar things from the local high school. At 9:00 on a summer weeknight, it wasn't crowded, so Cedric didn't feel guilty about claiming a booth. When a perky blond with a bobbing ponytail took his drink order and came back soon with his Amstel Light and a bowl of beer nuts, he relaxed and looked around the room. The clientele, male and female, were wearing polo shirts or tee shirts and shorts, mostly khaki, though a couple of the guys were sporting the awful new plaid Bermudas that were just coming into vogue.
It was a warm evening and as he indulged in people-watching, enjoying the sight of the college-age bodies, especially the male ones, he went through his beer quickly.
As he set down the empty brown bottle, someone slipped into the other side of his booth and put a fresh bottle of Amstel in front of him. The stranger was a thin man with white hair and hazel eyes. Nice eyes. Cedric couldn't be sure because the guy was now sitting, but he estimated his height at an inch or two under six feet. About 60, he guessed.
"First of all," the stranger said, "I'm not trying to pick you up. If that was my intention, I'd be at Nellie's." He grinned, and his eyes twinkled.
He held out his hand. "I'm Harvard Clay, Professor Emeritus of Theatre Arts, but my friends call me Harv."
"I'm Ced Jones, Professor. Nice to meet you. And thanks for the beer."
They shook hands briefly. Cedric noticed that Clay was drinking scotch. He was still puzzled by the friendliness of the old gentleman, and his suspicion must have showed on his face.
"I haven't seen you in here before. Oh, damn! Sounds like a pickup line, doesn't it? I've got to work on that. I'd really like to ask about you, but perhaps I should explain myself first."
Cedric grinned. "I think we've established that you're not hitting on me. So explain away."
"I retired at the end of the spring term. I have no close family. I don't hunt, fish, or play golf. I like the climate here, so I have no desire to go to Florida or Arizona. I've lived in Colby for 32 years. It's home." He looked at Cedric, who nodded his understanding.
He's got to be older than he looks, Ced thought.
"When my dean and I talked about what I was going to do in retirement, I told him all that. He said he hoped I wasn't just going to hole up somewhere. I explained I couldn't imagine doing so. He thought a moment and then asked me to be on campus and around town to talk with people. He suggested I should still be sharing what he was kind enough to call my wisdom and experience even though I'm no longer teaching classes or directing plays. It would be good for me, he said, and good for our students."
"Sounds like a great idea, sir. How's it working out?"
"Please, call me Harv. It's only been a couple of months, but I'm having a ball. I hang out at the Commons or one of the local coffee shops. Sometimes I sit on one of the campus benches. I run into students and former colleagues on campus and in town. Evenings I come here or to Nellie's. I try to strike up conversations whenever and wherever I can."
"And . . . ?" Cedric didn't quite know how to ask if there were those who were put off by the age gap.
"And I'm delighted by how many people seem happy to chat with me. Perhaps they're just being kind. But in two months I've become something of a campus character. Everyone calls me Harv now, not "prof" as they used to.
"Well, Harv, it's good to meet you," Cedric said, gesturing with his bottle.
"Are you waiting for someone, Ced?"
"No, sir. I'm new in town."
"From the looks of you, I'd say you were a grad student."
"Sorry, no cigar. I'm an attorney. I'll be running the Colby office of the James Law Firm."
Harv snorted. "No you won't, not unless Tyrese has fired the Bott woman."
Cedric almost choked on his beer. "Oh, you know Ms. Bott?"
"Indeed. She's legendary. The students don't have any reason to know her, but Tyrese James is the most highly-respected lawyer in town, so many of us have gone to him for wills, powers of attorney, and such. I don't envy you having to work with her. If you don't stand up for yourself, you'll be working for her!"
Harv's information confirmed what Cedric had feared, but he didn't want to badmouth a co-worker, especially one he didn't know well, so he didn't say anything.
"Where are you from, Ced? Where'd you go to school?"
"My home is in Shaker Heights, I did my undergrad work at Kent, and then law in Ann Arbor."
"Oh, so Tyrese went to the best source for young lawyers, huh?"
"Indirectly. I got my degree just over two years ago. Since then I've been working for my father, who's also an attorney. Mr. James told my father about the opening, Dad suggested me, and here I am."
"Have you met Tyrese's partner?"
"Oh, yes. Digby's . . . colorful. I liked him a lot. He's a good cook, too."
"Wait till you hear him play the sax!"
"I wouldn't think there's a lot of classical music written for saxophone."
"Not a lot, no. He's a first-rate clarinetist, too. But I'm talking jazz. He's not like Boney James and Kenny G who play soprano sax. Digby plays alto and tenor. And he really `gets down' if that term isn't hopelessly obsolete."
"I'll look forward to hearing him."
Just then a couple paused at their booth, a thin, studious-looking guy and a girl with an attractive face but a flat chest.
"Hi Harv," the guy said, grinning.
"Well, Jared and Grace. How are you two this evening?"
"We're good. We decided we'd studied long enough so we thought we'd come and have a drink and watch people. Things are really slow around here in the summer."
"Let me introduce my new friend, Ced Jones. These are Grace and Jared, though I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember your last names."
"He's Plumley and I'm Karponik," Grace said, offering Cedric her hand.
Ced's brain misfired briefly and he thought for a moment she was describing her friend and herself.
"Would you two like to join us?" he asked.
"Thanks, but there're some friends of ours over there, and we'd better go say `hi' to them," Jared said. "Nice to see you, Harv. Good to meet you, Ced."
Grace smiled, and they made their way to the other side of the room.
Cedric and Harv returned to chatting, getting to know each other as new friends were wont to do. When he finished his beer, Cedric was about to offer to buy another round, but he noticed Harv had hardly touched his scotch. He yawned involuntarily and realized he was tired from the day's painting and didn't need more alcohol.
"I'm glad you came over and introduced yourself, Harv. Being new in town it's good to meet folks. And thanks for the beer. But I think I need to go home and crash now. I have another full day of painting ahead of me tomorrow."
"You're welcome, Ced. I've enjoyed getting to know you. And I'm sure we'll see each other around in the days to come. Right now, however, I'm going to stick around for a while. No point going home yet. At my age, it doesn't take much sleep to keep me going, so I'll see who else might show up."
The two shook hands and Cedric left.
As he walked back to his condo, Cedric thought about Harv. Single, apparently. At least he'd not mentioned a wife. But straight. At least his comment about Nellie's seemed to indicate that. Nice old guy. And the retirement he'd chosen for himself sounded like a fine idea. Cedric had thought from time to time that it would be good to live the life of a professor. Although Trey, who'd just finished his first year as one, said he spent all his time doing preparations and reading student papers. So maybe Harv had found the perfect life: he could enjoy the rich campus life without the sometimes onerous work of being a prof. Not bad.
He decided he'd look forward to seeing the old gentleman again.
The reference to Nellie's had reminded him that Digby and Tyrese had promised to take him there. He knew where it was. If they didn't call soon, he might check it out on his own.
As he came into the lobby of his building, he saw two men getting on the elevator. The door started to close.
"Hold the elevator, please."
One of the two men put his hand out; the door hit it and slid back.
"Thanks," he said, looking at the two men. Both a couple or three inches shorter than Cedric, one looked to be in his thirties, the other about Ced's age. The older guy was thinnish with red hair. Not auburn like Tim's, but what the English would call ginger.
Dammit, Jones! After all this time why must you still compare people to Tim?
The younger man had a boyish face, beautiful chocolate eyes, and light brown hair. "You must be our new neighbor," he said.
"Yes. I'm Ced Jones." They shook hands
"I'm Blake Bellamy, and this old fart is my lover, Adam Craig.
Adam blushed as he offered Cedric his hand. "You'll have to overlook Blake. He's twenty six going on thirteen."
The car came to a stop at Cedric's floor. All three of the passengers stepped into the hallway. All three of them headed in the same direction.
"Oh, you guys must live across the hall."
"Yep. We were going to introduce ourselves, but we didn't want to intrude. We couldn't help noticing that you've been painting."
"Was it the smell?"
"Yes, and one day you were working with the door open. We saw you on a ladder, using a roller up near the ceiling. Nice abs!"
Adam elbowed his partner. "Blake! Behave yourself or I'll send you to bed."
Blake grinned. "Yes, Pappy." He turned to Cedric. "Why don't you come in for a nightcap? Or coffee, if you'd rather?"
Adam smiled and nodded. "Yeah, Cedric. We'd like to get to know you better."
Cedric's instinct was to plead fatigue, but he found he wanted to become better acquainted with these attractive, friendly men. Besides, he was here to get away from the past. To build a life that would make him forget.
"If you don't mind, I'd like that."
Adam unlocked the door and they went into their condo. In layout it was a mirror image of Cedric's. But unlike his it was fully furnished. The pieces were simple and modern. What caught the eye was the long wall of the living room, which had a flat-screen television surrounded by shelving for books, CD's, and DVD's. The wood was a rich cherry. Under the TV was a long, low cabinet of the same cherry with doors on the front in a simple style that, having lived most of his life in northern Ohio, he recognized as Amish.
"Blake and I sometimes have a nip of Jack Daniels at this time. But we have beer, wine, just about anything you'd like, actually," Adam said.
"Jack's fine if that's what you're having. I take mine neat."
"Coming right up," Adam said. Then he turned to Blake. "Don't ask him anything interesting until I get back."
Cedric chuckled. "Okay, why don't I ask about you two while Adam's out of the room? What do you guys do?"
"Adam's a prof here at the university, and I'm a student. He says I've become a professional student. But I got a late start. Worked a while between high school and college. And changed my major. And picked up a second major."
"Sounds like a professional student to me."
"You're probably right."
"What does Adam teach?"
"English. His specialization is the Lost Generation. You know, Hemingway and Fitzgerald and their contemporaries?"
Damn! "Um, yeah. I knew a guy who taught that at Kent."
Adam came into the room with a small tray and set it down. He handed a square old-fashioned glass to Cedric, another to Blake. Then he took the remaining one and sat down.
"Are you talking about Timothy Mead?"
"You know him?"
"Yeah. Blake and I have been there to visit him and his partner, Max, and they've been here."
Double damn! Cedric took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself.
"How do you happen to know Tim Mead?" Blake asked.
"Oh, I had a class with him."
"Did you know the Reverend Max, his partner?"
"They weren't together when I was one of Dr. Mead's students, but I've met Father Hewitt."
Blake took a breath to say something. Adam looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "You're not going to say `small world' are you?"
Blake grinned back. "Wouldn't dream of it. I was going to ask Cedric what brings him to Colby."
Cedric explained about his job with Tyrese. Blake and Adam followed up with questions about his parents, his undergrad years at Kent and asked where he'd gone to law school. They didn't seem to be nosy. More like neighbors being friendly.
"Anybody special in your life, Cedric?" Blake asked.
"Call me Ced, please. And no, there isn't."
"Well, we know a lot of people in the gay community. We can introduce you around."
Adam's ears got red. "You're making an unwarranted assumption, Blake. We don't know whether Ced's gay or not, and it's none of our business if he is."
Blake sighed. "Yes, professor." Then he turned to Cedric and smiled. "I hope I didn't offend you, Ced. You're working for a highly visible gay lawyer who used to date a tranny and now has a highly visible partner, for starters."
Cedric nodded. "Yeah, I've met Digby. He's cool. They're both cool. But the lawyer in me agrees with the prof here. The fact I know them doesn't necessarily imply that I'm gay."
"I may be getting in over my head here, but I'd also cite the fact that you're now living in the condo Adrian and Pinky have been holding on to. One doesn't have to be gay to live in this building, but I'll bet anything they'd never have rented out that last one to someone who isn't family."
Chuckling, Cedric said, "There's no big secret. I'm gay and I've been out since I hit puberty. But I'd like to know the story about my condo."
"We can't enlighten you there. We just know it's been vacant as long as we've been here, and word around the building is that there's been some sort of disagreement between the owners about what to do with it."
"Well, I'm glad they decided to rent it to me. I think I'm going to like it here."
They chatted a while longer. When he left to go across the hall he got hugs from both his new friends.
Later, lying in bed, he felt good about meeting Harv, Adam, and Blake.
It's good to get to know people in Colby . . . for personal and for professional reasons.. But what are the chances, he asked himself, that I'd come here to get away from the past and wind up living across from guys who know Tim and Max?
He lay on his side, the side he was always on when he went to sleep. After a while he rolled onto his back.
God! Tim and Max have actually been here, have actually visited Adam and Blake. In this building. Across the hall.
He had seen Tim occasionally after the hit and run, but he hadn't seen Tim or Max since he'd recovered his memory of the time when he and Tim had been lovers . . . when he'd been happier than he'd ever thought he could be. What if Tim and his lover came to Colby again? He'd just have to be elsewhere. Assuming he had any forewarning.
It was quite a bit later before he finally dropped off to sleep.
Cedric was nervous. It was his first day on the new job. First up was finding out whether Ms. Bott was as prickly as she had seemed the day of his interview.
She was. More or less.
Although he stopped in a bakery and picked up half a dozen donuts, he still arrived fifteen minutes before the office was supposed to open. He had no key, so he hoped she'd be there. Since she worked for him, he shouldn't have to impress her. But he felt as if he did.
She was there when he opened the door.
"Good morning, Ms. Bott."
"Good morning, Mr. Jones." She stood up and came around her desk. She didn't offer to shake hands. Angel had taught him that was the woman's prerogative, so he kept the donut box in his left hand, his right at his side.
"I brought some donuts. Please help yourself if you'd care for some."
"I'm diabetic, Mr. Jones."
Ms. Bott handed him a ring with some keys, which he took with his free hand.
"These are the master keys to this office and your office as well as to the wash room at the end of the hall. I'm afraid we share it with the people in the insurance company. Fortunately, they're reasonably . . . responsible."
"Thanks. Are you ready to put me to work?"
He thought he saw a flicker in her eyes, but she merely nodded.
"I've put all the current case files on your desk. You have no appointments today. Mr. James said to give you a day to acclimate yourself."
"Thanks. I'll study them. Is there any likelihood anyone will just come in without an appointment?"
"Yes, it happens."
"Well, if so, I'd like to see them. One of the reasons I took this job was to work with clients."
"Very well, Mr. Jones."
"You could call me Cedric."
"No, I don't think so. It wouldn't be appropriate."
Cedric stifled a sigh. "If that's the way you feel."
He knew her name was Martina Bott and Tyrese had referred to her as Marty. It seemed unlikely, however, that he'd be calling her anything but Ms. Bott for the foreseeable future.
"I've made coffee. It's in the copier room. There's sugar substitute and non-dairy creamer. If you want some, help yourself. If you want to bring cream, there's a small refrigerator in there as well. I bring a lunch and keep it in the fridge. Mr. James usually has his lunch at Adrian's when he's here. We don't close the office during the noon hour. Since I'm here and on duty, I leave at 4:00. Promptly at 4:00. When you leave is between you and Mr. James, of course. Is there anything else you need?"
"No, I don't think so." He almost called her "ma'am."
"You can put the donuts in the copier room with the coffee. Unless you're going to eat them all this morning."
Even though he had no plan to eat all six of the donuts, he went into what was now his office, set the box on his desk, and looked around. The room was pleasantly but not ostentatiously furnished. The gray carpet looked new but it wasn't posh. The chairs in the waiting room were upholstered in a nubby cranberry fabric. On the walls were lithographs of Lake Erie lighthouses. Ms. Bott's desk and Cedric's own were a dark wood rather than metal with Formica, and they, too, looked new, but they weren't intended to impress.
Cedric suspected that someone, most likely Tyrese James, had selected the furnishing to be unobtrusive. Nothing was threadbare or tacky, but neither was it ostentatious. As if the client was to be comfortable, wasn't to get the idea that he'd be supporting the attorney's lavish life style.
When he was in Toledo for his interview, he had seen Tyrese's law library, which looked to be extensive. He had wondered whether he should bring any of his law books to Colby, but a whole wall of his office was covered by shelves full of books, some of them showing a good bit of wear. If his research needs went beyond what was available here, he could always use the boss's library. Or for that matter, he realized, it's not far to Ann Arbor, with all the resources of Michigan Law available to alumni.
There were files for about a dozen open cases, which he spent the morning studying. Only one of them involved anything litigious. The others were mostly paperwork jobs. From notes in the folders he learned that Tyrese had a flexible billing system. It seemed the billable hourly rate varied from client to client, based apparently on the person's ability to pay. Cedric was reminded of his buddy Mark's father in Florida. Stan Mason worked primarily with the poorer section of the small community where he and his lover lived . . . the community of which he had been city manager until his relationship with Doug had caused him to lose that position.
At lunch time Cedric walked to a nearby Subway shop where he got himself a sandwich and iced tea, which he took back to the office. Ms. Bott didn't invite him to eat with her, so he took his food into his office.
He finished going through the case files by mid afternoon. After that he sat there wishing someone would come in. But no one did.
Ms. B stepped in at 4:00. "Tomorrow you have a will, two living wills, a power of attorney, and Mr. and Mrs. Bosco are coming in to get to know you since you'll be taking over their divorce."
"Damn! We do divorces?"
"Whatever our clients need, Mr. Jones."
Cedric stayed until 5:00 because a client might possibly come in. He was also afraid Ms. B. would come back and find the office closed.
Thursday morning of his first week Cedric got a call at the office from Tyrese.
"How are things going, counselor?" he asked.
"So far, so good, boss. The only glitch is that the Boscos were supposedly having an uncontested divorce."
"But they can't agree on who gets what."
"Yeah, I was afraid that might happen. You'll have to be an arbiter."
"An arbiter with no authority."
Tyrese chuckled. "Well, there is that. I've advised them each to get a lawyer, but they're too cheap. If you're patient and impartial you can probably help them work it out."
"Without coming to blows, hopefully."
"Of course." He paused. "Anything else we need to discuss?"
"Everything else seems to be more or less cut and dried."
"Good man." Pause. "What are you doing this evening?"
"Nothing important, why?"
"Well, Digby and I want to get together with you, but he has a gig tomorrow and Saturday, so those evenings are out. I have a supper engagement here in Toledo this evening but will be free later. We thought we might meet you at Nellie's at 9:00 for a drink since you're available."
"You know where it is?"
"Yes, sir. I've been past there a couple of times."
"If you keep calling me `sir,' I'll have to start calling you `boy.' Do you want that?"
A chuckle. "'Boss' reminds me of the DiNozzo character on NCIS. And I can't stand him!"
"What would you like me to call you, Mr. James?"
Tyrese laughed. "Tyrese will do, Cedric."
"So we'll see you tonight at 9:00 at Nellie's?"
Nellie's looked like most other college bars, with tables, booths, a small area for dancing, a pool table, and darts. But it had fewer TVs and no sports memorabilia. There was a neon rainbow flag over the dart board.
Although the sign over the entrance and a smaller one over the mirror behind the bar said "Nellie's," the name was painted in gold script on the front window as "Nelly's."
Digby and Tyrese were sitting side by side in a booth near the front when Cedric arrived. Both were wearing collarless tees. Digby wore shorts. Cedric couldn't see Tyrese below the waist. Digby had on a fair amount of bling, but Tyrese wore only his diamond studs.
Cedric slid in across from them, and they shook hands.
"Cool place," he said. "I'm surprised it isn't busier."
"Well, honey," Digby replied, "it's summertime and the hordes are off doing whatever hordes do in the summertime. Besides, it's early. Business will pick up in an hour or so."
A blond in a blue polo with the name of the establishment embroidered on it and khaki shorts which showed off his package stopped by the table.
"Hi, Mr. James. Professor Gautier. What'll you have this evening?"
"Hey, Keith!" Tyrese looked back at Cedric. "You first."
"I think I'll have a glass of white wine, please." Although he'd learned to enjoy wine as a teen at home, he couldn't help remembering all the pleasant times he'd spent drinking wine with . . . him.
"Cedric," Tyrese said, "the house white is swill. Believe me, you don't want it." He looked at Digby, who nodded. The waiter was nodding, too. "Keith, why don't you bring us a bottle of the Simi?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sure we have some cold. Be right back."
All three men watched Keith's ass as he skirted past tables on his way to the bar.
"I'm surprised a tavern would have Simi on hand."
Digby rolled his eyes toward Tyrese. "They do it for the man."
"You know Simi?" Tyrese asked.
"Score one for the new boy," Digby said.
"While we're waiting, could one of you explain the difference in the spelling of the name of this place?"
"When it first became a gay bar it was Nelly's with a `y.' But it was sold a couple of years back, and the new owners wanted to spell it with "ie." They changed the signage, as you can see. The regulars made such a fuss they decided to leave the old spelling in the window. But that was their only gesture. You'll notice the paper coasters and the menus have the newer spelling."
"Why did they change it?"
Digby's chuckle rumbled. "They say the new way seems more gay. The times, they are a'changin'."
Keith reappeared with a frosty bottle and three stemmed glasses. "Edna says she'll keep your fancy wine on hand, seeing you're such good customers, but you don't get a silver bucket filled with ice to put it in. This isn't Adrian's." He blushed. "Those are her words, not mine."
Keith uncorked the bottle, poured a bit into one of the glasses and then looked from Tyrese to Digby.
"Fill it up, boy. We don't need that tastin' ritual shit," Digby said. Then he flashed a dazzling grin at Keith. Keith grinned back. "One bottle won't go far with three of us, so check back."
Keith said, "Sure will, professor." He filled the three glasses and went about his business.
"Digby, is Keith one of your students?"
"Not one of my students, but he's a music history major. I think his instrument is piano."
Tyrese raised his glass. "So, Cedric, how is your first week going? Are you surviving Ms. Bott?"
"Oh, she's all right. As long as I do exactly what she tells me to."
Tyrese had more specific questions about how Cedric was settling in to the job.
Finally, however, Digby objected. "You two can talk shop at the office. We suppose to be off duty here."
"Okay, my brother, what do you want to talk about?"
Digby shrugged. "Anything but the law."
Cedric, who'd been looking around as they talked, said, "I see Professor Clay over there. He's amazing!"
"Where?" Digby asked.
"Over there with the two lesbians."
"Oh, yeah, thass Harv."
"Cedric, you're assuming facts not in evidence." When Cedric merely looked puzzled, Tyrese continued. "You have no way of knowing those two ladies are lesbians."
Looking his new boss straight in the eyes, Cedric replied, "With all due respect, counselor, you have no way of knowing they're ladies. Unless you're acquainted with them, that is."
Digby rumbled again. "Touché."
"Yes, you've got me there. I should have said `women.' We can agree that they are women, can't we?" Tyrese asked, smiling.
"Well, they could be in drag."
Tyrese humphed. "I suppose I pay you to be picky. I merely meant to suggest that two straight women or one straight and one gay person might just be here conversing over their beer."
"Your point is taken. One shouldn't assume."
Digby finished his wine, refilled his glass, topped up the others, and looked around for Keith, who appeared instantly.
"Another bottle, I think."
"Yes, sir, coming right up."
"Cedric," Digby said, sounding more like a professor than a jazz sax player, "You're going to be good for this man. I refuse to engage in hair-splitting discussions with him. But he's your boss, so I suppose you have to."
Tyrese elbowed Digby. "Hey, he started it!"
"Okay, let's talk about something else. How do you know Harv Clay?"
Cedric explained and then they moved on to other topics
When they left Cedric had had four glasses of wine. He wasn't drunk, but he was glad he had walked to Nellie's/Nelly's, for he had a nice buzz on.
Back at his apartment he turned on his computer, which he'd left on standby, toed off his Birks, and checked his email.
There was one from his sister, Keesha, full of news about herself, her husband, and their two children. She ended by asking him to tell her all about what Colby was like and how he was getting on in his new job.
Another was from his old friend Francis, who'd split a while back from his partner, Rodney, and was now single. He lived and worked in Boston. They kept up via email even though it had been several years since they'd seen each other. Francis, too, was curious about how Cedric was doing in Colby.
A third was from Trey Withers, who was a soul brother even if he was wealthy, white, and from Richmond. Cedric settled into his chair, eager to catch up with what had been going on in his friend's life.
If you want to email me about this chapter, please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org . Be sure to put the name of the story in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam. Thanks. --Tim