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Christian McKenzie furiously slammed the back door of the house and stormed across the patio in search of his bike. He found it in the middle of the back yard, laying in the grass where he had carelessly left it earlier when returning home from school. Now, it was to be his lifeboat, rescuing him from the storms of living with an irrational mother, an apathetic father, and a contemptuous sister.
the bike quickly to the gate in the wooden privacy fence did little to
the fury raging inside him, the hurt, the embarrassment, the
burst through the gate, mounted his bike in the carport of his family's
house, spat on the Country Squire station wagon parked to the side, and
“Would you please quit running the water in the bathroom so long when you get home from school?” his mother had sneered. “What are you doing in there for so long?”
He hated her. As he crossed
intersection on which they lived and headed south from 26th
He had been unable to respond, his stutter becoming so bad that he couldn't even form the words he wished so badly to hurl at her. Slamming the back door was the only way he had of expressing his frustration and anger.
He knew where he was going.
It was where
he always went when he needed to escape and find peace and serenity and
in solitude. He slowly coasted past the large imitation English Manor
the imitation Tudor homes, and the one place that stuck out in the
neighborhood, the imitation Frank Lloyd Wright house bang in the middle
this imitation English architecture. Though he thought the other houses
area were pretty and they gave him a sense of security and well-being,
the flat, angular house in the middle of the block, with its strange,
windows and wide, flat planters, the horizontal lines, and the dogwoods
azaleas around it, that really struck him. The house had been on the
months and he wondered why it had taken so long to sell. He had noticed
moving van the previous weekend on one of his rides through the area,
hadn't seen the new owners. It didn't really matter. They were probably
more of the same, lawyers or stock brokers or oil investors. Those were
only people who lived in the neighborhood near the Gardens, those or
had inherited everything from their lawyer, stock broker, or oil
parents. They were the people with the privilege of living near the
people who could never appreciate how wonderful the place really was.
truly understood the beauty of the
He could see the old mansion
top of the hill behind the houses that lined the south side of 28th.
The Westport Gardens had
in the twenties, during the city's oil heyday, as an English style (of
what else?) castle to serve as the home of one of the early oil
pioneers of the
area, a man who grew up on a farm in Indiana and who came to Westport
money. Having made it, he set out to buy the class he felt he deserved
After a decade of being a big fish in a small pond, his wife had grown
the limitations of
There were two contemporary
a style completely incompatible with the imitation
Christian entered the side door into the new lobby in the North Wing. The security guard, an elderly man who spent most of the day dozing before the three small black and white televisions in front of him, stirred as the boy passed and grunted a greeting. Christian grinned, relieved to be back in what he considered his natural environment.
The elderly lady behind the counter smiled at him. Her white blouse and dark coat were accented with a string of pearls and her blue hair was perfectly coiffed, not a single strand out of place. Her collar bore a nametag with "Grace" printed in elegant handwriting. A small transistor radio on the counter beside her played The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun.”
"How was your day, Christian?" she asked.
"D-d-don't... ask, Mmmrs.... Lllinley" he replied with a shudder.
"Oh, the struggles of eighth grade."
She waived him on past, as she had long since stopped charging him an admission fee so late in the afternoon. She knew of his love for the Center and that he was there almost every day.
He walked toward the entrance to the old mansion. From somewhere inside, he could hear a piano and from the style of the piece, the rapid, mathematical precision, he guessed it might be Bach, though he didn't recognize the selection.
In the passageway between
the North Wing and The House, he paused to read the notices taped to
One caught his attention because of the name. It welcomed Daniel
the new director of the
Beside that was another announcement of the fall school program at the Center, named "Express Yourself," designed to allow young people to “find ways to express the hidden creativity buried inside and to let it flower and burst forth through art, music, theatre, and dance." There was a more detailed explanation of the program beneath and flyers repeating the information on a table underneath. Christian picked one up, but his heart sank as he saw there was a fifty dollar enrollment fee.
Folding the flier in half, he strolled into the main hallway of the first floor of The House, past a room devoted to English ceramics of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, another containing cameos from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and a third displaying a collection of art nouveau and art deco nick-knacks. The piano grew louder as he approached the "Great Hall” and the sitting room. He paused beside a heavy stone archway and gazed into the room.
On the far side, several couches and leather chairs were arranged before a giant fireplace, unused in the mid-September warmth. Opposite the fireplace, nearer to Christian, he could see, sitting before a Steinway concert piano, a boy, perhaps his own age, his back to him, in a bright paisley shirt, with blue pants and a wide white belt. The boy’s feet moved back and forth on the pedals within the wide bellbottomed cuffs of the pants. However, it was his hair that grabbed Christian’s attention and refused to let it go. It was impossibly blond, with a pearl-like sheen, thick, long, and straight, hanging down over his ears and just touching the wide collar of his loose shirt. From behind, he could see it was probably hanging over his face as well, for every few second he seemed to toss his head to the left. It was celestial, so much more beautiful than his own hideously orange-blond hair.
After a moment, Christian realized the piece was about to end. Reluctantly, he turned and walked quietly through the hall and back to the passageway to the North Wing. He slipped to the right and out the door at the back of the new lobby.
himself on the north side of the old “Norman” portico.
He strode toward the concrete benches in the middle and saw that one of
French doors was open. As he sat on down, he heard the music come to an
waited, listening carefully, but heard only the soft rumble of traffic
Who was the boy? Christian had never seen him at the center before. Indeed, he had never seen anyone like him before. From the back, he was stunning. He was beautiful. He was… getting an erection
Yes. Christian realized nervously that he was growing erect in his tight, boring, straight-cuffed nerd-pants. He sighed and opened the flier in his hands, hoping to take his mind off the source of his problem.
Enrollment in the program ended that weekend. Classes were to be held on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at four o’clock, the first on September 14th. That was the next day. He realized it was too late.
There was something appealing about the idea, learning to express oneself, to “release the creativity that was trapped inside.” He wasn’t certain just how much creativity, if any, was trapped inside him, but it might be fun to find out. However, there was no way. Enrollment had already closed and, besides, where was he going to find the fifty dollar fee? He was good at saving his allowance and not blowing it on movies, records, and junk food, as his peers at Whitman Junior High did. However, he knew he didn’t have fifty dollars and there was no chance his parents would ever fork over that much money for something they would consider so impractical. He sighed and gazed outward at the white gazebo beyond the koi pond.
“Are you going to Express Yourself?”
Christian turned to the voice, the angelic voice, to his left and saw, The Boy.
There was no other boy in the world. There was only The Boy.
Christian flushed, his face growing as red as his freckles, the damnable freckles that were still sprinkled across his nose and cheeks. He fought for a breath and struggled to speak, his stutter almost too strong.
“I… I’m sssorry?”
The Boy paused a moment, blushed shyly, and smiled with perfect lips, pink and soft and full. His teeth were absolutely white and nearly obscured by the light of Heaven bursting forth as the Host of Cherubim asked, “Are you going to be in the class? Express Yourself?”
The Boy was pointing to the flier in Christian’s hand. Looking down at the pink sheet, Christian nodded in understanding.
“Um… nnno. I’m… nnnot. I… d-d-didn’t… enroll… in t-t-time.”
“Oh. That’s too bad,” The Boy said quietly, his face turning a bright pink. “I’m in it. It should be fun.”
Suddenly, his face brightened. “Hey, if you still want to, I can probably talk to my dad and get you in.”
Christian realized he had seen the high cheekbones and the long face before, in the picture on the flier announcing the new director, though not with the golden nimbus formed by the afternoon sun behind the head.
The Boy seemed to sense the confusion and thinking in his head. He grinned.
“I’m Jamie Christiansen. My dad’s the new director of the Center,” announced the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
Christian opened his mouth slightly, but it was a couple of seconds before he was able to say, merely, “Oh,” nervous that Jamie might see his hated braces.
Jamie pointed to the flier again.
“So… do you want in?” he asked slowly.
Christian paused a moment, glanced at the flier and then back up at Jamie.
“I’d… lllove to… b-b-be in… the clllass. B-b-but…”
He paused, ashamed to admit the truth.
“Oh, you don’t have the fifty dollars, eh?” Jamie asked with embarrassment. “Well that’s no problem. I’m sure Dad can get it waived. Or maybe we can get you a scholarship.”
Christian looked up at the ocean blue eyes and opened his mouth to speak. Unable to form the words he sought, he closed his mouth and looked down in shame. Finally, not looking at Jamie, he was able to speak.
“Mmmy… p-p-parents would… nnnever give… mmme the… mmmoney for sssomething… like this. Maybe, I c-c-could… wwwork it off… or sssomething.”
He was horribly embarrassed, but Jamie recognized it and sought to put him at ease.
“It’ll be no problem. Just leave it to me.”
He turned and started walking away. Christian’s eyes were glued to the seat of Jamie’s pants, which seemed to have been painted onto his legs. He was breathless as he watched him enter the French doors.
Suddenly, Jamie stopped and turned.
“Hey, what’s your name?”
He paused a moment before the sound would emerge.
And, Jamie was gone.
Christian sat in amazement at what had just transpired. His eyes remained on the French door long after Jamie had gone. Slowly, as the sun sank behind the roof of The House, Jamie looked out over the grounds and his heart swelled.
Was it possible? Would he be able to take the class? And, Jamie. The Boy. He would be in the class with him? Jamie hadn’t laughed at his stutter or made faces or sarcastic comments. Was it possible Jamie could be his friend?
Christian sighed in disgust. Listen to me, he thought with scorn. He could imagine himself saying to Jamie, “Would you be my friend?” in some kind of strange, Mr. Rogers-like desperation. God, he was pathetic.
He rose and started to walk toward the doorway to the new lobby when the French doors opened. Jamie appeared and said happily, with yet another blush, “Umm, it’s all set. Be here at four o’clock tomorrow! Um, I have to go now. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Christian stared for a moment and then slowly nodded. Jamie smiled, a glorious smile of joy painted by all the masters of the Renaissance, and was gone again.
Christian shook his head in wonder and turned toward the gardens. He leaned on the stone balustrade and gazed at the giant pots of autumn chrysanthemums lining the walkways near the portico. He swallowed and smiled. Slowly, he turned and strolled to the doorway of the new lobby.
When he entered, he saw Jamie and the real-life man from the picture leaning against the counter opposite and chatting with Grace Linley.
just flew in from
Christian thought the man even more handsome than in the picture. His suit was expensive-looking, perhaps from a designer. He was tall and slender and his face was smooth, almost as smooth as a boy’s. His hair was not quite as light as Jamie’s, but it was still a beautiful blond. He reached over and put an affectionate arm around his son and Jamie leaned happily against him.
He felt a sudden embarrassment and realized there was no way to reach the front entrance without passing directly in front of the three. He froze, but as he was debating a strategy in his mind, Jamie glanced over and saw him. His face lit up.
“There he is, Dad!” he said pointing obviously and smiling joyfully. “That’s the boy I was telling you about!”
Christian felt his face burst into flame and his stomach constrict into a blob the size of a baseball. The look of horror on his face must have been obvious because Jamie’s father burst into laughter.
“Come here, son,” he said holding out an arm and flashing the same kind of smile his son had. “We won’t bite.”
Mrs. Linley grinned.
He’s probably our most loyal visitor. Christian comes to the
Jamie smiled warmly as Christian nervously approached.
“Hi,” he struggled to say. Jamie’s father held out a hand and gave the boy the most encouraging of smiles.
Christiansen. I’m the new director here. I’m so pleased to meet
And, I’m pleased the
The man held Christian’s hand and he felt so suddenly comfortable and… something strange. His face was so encouraging and warm, his eyes so friendly, so… blue. It was a moment before Christian realized he was still holding his hand, but it felt so… nice.
“Thhhank you… It’s a… p-p-pleasure to… mmmeet you, Mr…. Chris…tiansen.”
“Oh, Daniel! Please, call me Daniel! I almost feel we’re related because of our names!”
couldn’t imagine calling the director of the
“Wwwell… D-d-daniel… thhhank you.”
Mrs. Linley gushed, “Christian’s probably the smartest boy at Whitman Junior High.”
Jamie turned with excitement.
“You go to Whitman?”
Christian nodded, not trusting his voice.
“Well, that’s great,” Daniel said winking at his son. “See? You haven’t even been to school yet, and you already have a friend there!”
Christian’s eyes grew wide.
“You’re… g-g-going to… Whitman?”
“Yeah,” Jamie enthused. “Tomorrow’s my first day. We went down this morning and enrolled. I’m in Grade Eight.”
“Me… too. Eighth grade,” Jamie replied. “What’s your… homeroom?”
Jamie looked to his father, who said, “Your first class.” Jamie nodded.
Daniel grinned and looked at Christian. This was too much.
“That’s… mine, too,” Christian replied, afraid to seem too excited. “Math.”
He couldn’t help but smile at the beautiful boy before him and feel that somehow, God was making up for all the crappy things he had done to him before.
“Cool,” said Jamie, his ocean blue eyes locked on Christian’s blushing face as the boy smiled and looked downward in embarrassment. He almost jumped when Daniel put his arm around his shoulder. He could smell the man, the after shave or cologne or whatever. It was wonderful and he resisted an urge to lean against him, to invite him to hug him.
“So, I understand you’re interested in joining the “Express Yourself” class.”
Christian couldn’t look up.
“Yyyes… if it…. isn’t t-t-too mmmuch… t-t-trouble.”
“Nonsense, there’s always a way to work around these things. Be here tomorrow at four. Whitman lets out at three thirty. Is that correct?”
“Sir? Please, no formality with me. Remember, you don’t say “sir” to me. I’m Daniel!”
Jamie almost chuckled. Christian could here the quick exhalation. He forced himself to look up at both his new friend and his father.
“Thhhank you… so mmmuch. It’s… awfully nnnice… of you to… d-d-do this… fffor… me.”
Daniel smiled and, this time, he did, hug Christian. The boy thought he was going to die. It was so wonderful.
“Well, Christian, do you have a ride home?” Daniel asked, his arm still around the boy, but not as tightly. Christian nodded.
“Mmmy b-b-bike’s out fffront.”
“Ah, well. So where do you live?”
Christian paused and replied, “T-t-twenty-sssixth and… B-b-brent…wwwood.”
“That’s not bad. Two blocks over, two blocks up. In fact, Jamie, that’s right on the way to school for you. Why don’t I throw your bike in the back of the car and give you a ride home. And, then, in the morning, Jamie can come by and the two of you can ride to school together!”
Jamie looked Christian in the eye and said in a very soft, breathy voice, “I think that would be perfect.”
His smile seemed to say that he knew what Christian was thinking and how he was feeling. Christian couldn’t look away for a moment, but finally forced his eyes to Daniel, who, strangely, had the same smile.
“Thhhank you,” Christian replied softly.
Daniel finally released the boy and turned to Mrs. Linley.
“Grace, thank you for introducing me to such a charming young man.”
Mrs. Linley smiled with joy as Daniel continued. He turned to Jamie and said, “Here are the keys. Why don’t you throw the bike in the truck and I’ll be right back. I need to run up to the office for just a second and get my briefcase.”
Daniel turned and strode away and as Christian watched, he felt his heart racing. It raced still as he looked at Jamie’s smile as the boy turned and headed for the entrance.
“G-g-good-b-b-bye… Mmmrs. Linllley,” Christian said with a wave. She answered with a sweet smile.
do… you lllive? Christian asked Jamie as he unlocked his bike
rack. Jamie was opening the trunk of dark green
“We live in a house right on the edge of the Gardens. It’s owned by the museum and they let the Director live there.”
“Is it thhhhat…
imi…t-t-tation Fffrank Lloyd… Wrrright house over on…
asked. He wheeled the bike over to the trunk of the
Jamie looked up and nodded.
“How did you know?”
“I lllove… thhhat house. I wrrrote a… research paper in English last year about… Fffrank Lloyd… Wrrright and I wrrrote about… how this wwwas an… imi…t-t-tation and that he t-t-tried to… sue the architect.”
“Well, it’s a pretty cool place to live. In Trawna, we had a really nice apartment in Yorkville, which is this really bohemian kind of neighborhood, but it was kind of small and Mum got all the furniture and stuff in the divorce. So Dad went out and bought all this really cool furniture to match the style of the house. It almost looks like a museum.”
Daniel was emerging from the building as Christian hoisted his bike and placed it in the ample trunk of the car. Jamie slammed it shut.
“Thhhis is a… rrreally… nnnice car,” Christian remarked as Daniel approached and unlocked the passenger side doors.
“Thank you,” Daniel replied with his easy manner. In a slightly more sarcastic tone, he added, “It’s one of the few things besides my underwear and some of my dignity that my wife left me with after the divorce.”
Jamie laughed as he climbed into the front seat. Christian was embarrassed and said nothing until Daniel opened his door and sat down.
“My… parents were… going to get a… divorce… but they decided… not to because… they were afraid of what… people would say.”
As he started the car, Daniel shook his head.
“Good grief. It’s 1971. I can’t believe people still think that way. So they would rather make you miserable than get a divorce?”
Christian didn’t notice the careful look Daniel was giving him in the rear-view mirror as he made the surprising comment. The boy was looking out the window, wondering which of his parents would get stuck with him if they did get a divorce.
Daniel chatted quietly with Jamie as they drove through the neighborhood and past their house. Christian mentioned how much he loved the house and Daniel said, “Well, you’ll have to come over sometime and see the place. Maybe Jamie can invite you for a sleepover some time. It’s really a fabulous place.”
Jamie turned and looked out the window without commenting. Christian took a breath and replied, “That… would be nice.”
conversation turned to innocuous family issues between the father and
they pulled up to Christian’s two story colonial on the corner of 26th
Christian didn’t realize that this was not a compliment and smiled as he opened the door.
“Thhhank you,” he replied. “And,… thhhank you fffor the… rrride. It was nnnice to… meet you.”
“It was a very great pleasure to meet you, Christian,” Daniel replied. “Now don’t forget. Four o’clock tomorrow!”
Jamie was helping him lift his bicycle from the trunk as his father drove past in his blue Galaxie 500 and pulled into the driveway.
“I’ll… sssee you in the… mmmorning. Ssschool… starts at eight, so how a…bout… ssseven forty-… five?”
Jamie smiled and nodded as he climbed back into the car.
“I’ll see you in the morning!”
father stood at the side of his car as the
“Mmmy fffriend,… J-J-Jamie. His d-d-dad… is the nnnew d-d-director… of the… Wwwestport G-G-Gardens Art Cccenter. He g-g-gave mmme… a ride… home.”
“He looks like a fruit,” he commented as Christian rolled the bike past. Christian flushed with anger, but refrained from replying. His father slumped and trudged through the gate and onto the back porch.
At dinner around the kitchen table later, Christian watched his parents as they silently ate. He waited to build up the courage to mention the class and for the appropriate time to do so. It came when his mother looked up and said, “Why aren’t you eating?”
“Um, I, uh, I’m ennnrolling… in a ssspecial… c-c-class at the Art… Cccenter. It’s called… “Express Yourself” and… it’s a…b-bbout t-t-teaching k-k-kids… to express thhhemselves through… d-d-different ffforms of… art.”
“How much does it cost?” his father demanded with a mouthful of chopped steak.
“Fifty dollars, but…”
“Out of the question. Are you crazy? Fifty bucks to learn to draw?”
“I’m… g-g-getting a… ssscholarshhhip. It’ll be… fffree.”
His father looked at his mother and shrugged with resignation.
“Do whatever you want as long it doesn’t cost anything. I don’t see any practical use for it, though.”
His mother looked at him with contempt.
“Your brother never wasted his time with music and art.”
“Yeah, Chip never wasted his time with that crap,” his father repeated. “He played football. He studied practical things.”
Christian looked up at his older sister and waited for her to add her hateful two cents. However, she just glanced at him and said nothing. Being three years older, Angela had never had much use for Christian, but hadn’t ignored him completely as Chip had. Christian remained silent, unable to compete with the sainted Chip. After a moment, he quietly added, “It’s… every… Tt-tuesday and… Thhhursday at fffour.”
His mother looked up and, her mouth full of green beans, said, “As long as your back by six for dinner. I won’t keep your food warm.”
There was no further comment from anyone and Christian finished his dinner in silence. Afterward, he retreated upstairs to his bedroom. He turned on the alarm radio on his nightstand to the top-forty station, softly so as not to incur the wrath of any adults in the house, and sat at his desk to do his homework. As The Osmonds sang “One Bad Apple” and The Jackson 5 declared they “Never Can Say Good-bye,” he completed his assignments, curled up on his bed with a volume of his brother’s World Book Encyclopedia and read the article on “Art,” day-dreaming of wondering the halls of the Art Center with Jamie, commenting on the different pieces and sharing his thoughts and feelings. At ten o’clock, no one came to tell him to shower before bed. He simply did it; and, when he was finished, no one came to wish him a good night. He simply opened his window a crack, closed his door, crawled into bed, set the alarm radio, and turned off the reading lamp on the nightstand.
Alone, in the dark, his mind reviewed the events of the afternoon, the miraculous meeting with Jamie and his father, the beauty of the boy, the handsome man, and he felt himself slowly growing erect. This time, he didn’t fight it. He allowed it to happen and when he was completely hard, he slowly slipped his pajama bottoms down, grasping his erection. He allowed himself to fall into the blissful escape as images of Jamie flowed around and through him. And, when the great moment arrived, visions of Jamie were joined by visions of Daniel and he felt himself burst through a wall into the ultimate of joy and ecstasy. For several blissful seconds, he was one with the passion until he fell to earth and reality. Gasping for breath, Christian lay still several seconds before reaching for the Kleenex beside his bed, and after wiping himself clean, he smiled. For the first time in many months, he did not feel the depression and the sense of let-down at his return to the real world following the few frantic blissful moments of his masturbation. No, he felt nothing but peace and contentment. He had a friend.
He had a friend.
Thank you for reading Chapter One
of Love in the Garden of Deceit. Please write to me at email@example.com. And,
please visit my BLOG.