Disclaimer: The following story contains relationship and sexual act between young men. If material of this nature offends you, or it is illegal in your jurisdiction for you to view it, DO NOT READ any further. Although this story is loosely based on my real life experience, I have changed people's names in order to protect their privacy. Other than that, any similarity between real people or events is purely coincidental.
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Recap from Chapter II
David's world was spinning, right from the moment when Mike touched the back of his neck. This was to him, all but a dream. Because for so many nights before he had dreamt about this. He did not want to kiss back, because whenever he did before, he always ended up waking up alone in his bed.
After like an eternity, Mike pulled away and with the same determination he said, "Let me finish first, you could always kick my ass after that." Mike paused for a bit and his stare softened.
"I love you, David, more than just a friend. I've been selfish not telling you earlier, but I couldn't stand the thought losing you. That'll spell the end for me ..." With that, his dam was broken. Tears freely rolled down Mike cheeks. His determination finally failed him. His stare has mixed with more vulnerability then its initial bravery.
David had finally realized this is not a dream and Mike did love him the same way as he loved him. Mike raised his hand trying to wipe some tears off his cheeks, and David caught it half way. Then he leaned in with his cheek and it connected with Mike's.
David sighed deeply. "We are both fools. I loved you. I've always loved you. Do you know how hard it is not to caress your beautiful face every morning after you slept over at my dorm? Do you know how hard it is not to touch your powerful chest whenever we took a shower together after the gym? Do you know how hard it is not to kiss you when every time you laughed at your own joke and looked at me with that twinkle in your eyes?" David said it almost poetically. He then turned his head slightly so their lips were touching again.
And they kissed, like two lovers, they kissed.
The Effel was then, completely dimmed.
However the neon sign of the hotel was still gloriously lit at the background, with no intention of giving up.
Now as it was then, all buildings have been dimmed on the Bund. But David could still see the imprint of that neon sign somewhere deep in his mind, it faintly reads -"Hotel de la Paix".
by Sean Lee (C) 2008
"Where am I?" Charley raises his head, looking disoriented. He innocently rubs his eyes and looks at sweat soaked David just returned from his daily run. The buttons on the chaise left couple of circle on the left side of his face. His dark blonde hair is all messy and shooting up, as if something has exploded in his face.
"He's cute even when he's unkempt." David thinks to himself while trying to get his sticky t-shirts off his head.
"Well, you fell into sleep right there on the chaise last night. I tried to wake you and move you to the spare bedroom. But you were already snoring like a hog, and since you probably weight as much I just left you sleeping there." David decides to use his dry humor to get him stop from thinking about Charley in a certain way. It will be rather embarrassing if he pitches a tent with only the running shorts on.
"Oh... sorry about that. It must have been the jet lag." And he turns around looking out to the balcony window. "Wow, I still can't believe the view you get here." He climbs up over the back of the chaise and walks out to the balcony.
Sometime during the night, Charley managed to rid of his shirt. He has a really healthy tan. The California sun has apparently been generous on him. Although he's not as big as David original thought, he is much defined. As Charley leans forward against the railing, his perfect "V" shape is accentuated by his now ever so pronounced shoulder blades. His black Calvin Klein boxer briefs hug his taunting rears as if they were just another layer of skin. And then his impressive legs crossed, with one slightly bended ...
David has no other way but runs into the bathroom. A very hard problem has popped up despite his futile effort to control it.
Outside, it is a beautiful sunny day. With the fresh east wind from the sea and being a weekend morning, the smog that typically chokes the city is nowhere to be seen. Again, on the east bank of the river, gleaming metallic or glassy skyscrapers form an avant-garde skyline. While on the west bank, all the early-century buildings render different shades of brown, gray or maroon. The dark green pyramid shaped roof top of the Peace Hotel stands out the most. But still it is congruous with the whole architectural ensemble.
Charley is finally forced out of the trance induced by the mesmerizing view. It is still mid February, regardless how unusually warm it feels under the sun, the wind chill could still remind you that Spring is yet to come. He runs back to the living room and closes the French doors behind him. "Where is my shirt and sweater?" Charley wonders to himself. He looks around for awhile and pokes his head under the chaise to see if they are under it.
"Wow, nice ass!"
Charley is apparently easily startled and bangs the back of his head on the underside of the chaise with a loud "thud". And he just fells down to the floor flat, no longer moving.
"Geez, you all right!?" David runs to Charley's side and pulls him out under the chaise. He turns Charley around and becomes really panicky when Charley is not responding to him at all. His playful mood has evaporated now.
Even worst, Charley's body is almost icy cold. The way Charley lays there throws David a flash back, to when he had to go to the City of Cambridge morgue to identify Mike's body after his accident. With a heavy heart, David reaches forward shakily to check Charley's pulse.
"Boo!" Charley suddenly grabs onto David's outreaching hand as if he just came back from death and opens his eyes. That almost gives David a heart attack.
"You are an ass, you know!" David is quite mad at this point.
"What, after you objectifying my body in such a demeaning way? This is the least of the payback." Charley rubs the back of his head with a grimace. He somehow manages to mix that with a practically deformed smirk.
David calms himself down a bit now. Still can't understand why he feels hurt. He knows that Charley was just playing with him and he was kind of asking for it. He gives a sign and unwillingly admits to himself that his psychologist was right. He is not over Mike's death yet, not by a long shot.
Charley's a bit puzzled by David's sudden mood change. He can sense something is bothering David deeply. He reaches over and softly chucks David under the chin, with a kind smile and says, "Look, I'm the one with a potentially disfiguring concussion here. So cheer up, ok?"
David can't help but smiles. "Concussion won't disfigure people!"
"Oh, are you a doctor? How could you know that for sure?" Charley is happy to see that David is getting out of his funk. And he continues, "I do have a modeling career to worry about you know."
"Right, for the Concussively Disfigured Foundation maybe." David is back in his joking mood now. With that he stands up and reaches out to pull Charley up. Charley is still a bit woozy from the bang and fells forward when He gets up. David catches him with his warm and still a bit moist upper body. And they look right into each other's eyes for a second. David feels like someone just reached inside of him and pulls on his heartstrings. Warmth and this faintly recognizable feeling fill his heart for that fleeting moment.
Charley blushes a bit and sheepishly says, "Clumsy moi." And largely to David's disappointment, they break the embrace.
"You wanna go grab some lunch?" David offers.
"Sure, let me shower first though. I'm not one of those wake-up-and-pretty type." Charley walks toward the bathroom.
"There're fresh towels on the shelf. Just help yourself. And I folded you clothes they are just on the counter there." David points to the kitchen counter.
Yuyuan Garden, it's one of the main tourist attractions in Shanghai's old city and is considered one of the four finest gardens in China. David usually avoids such location at all costs. But they do offer the most genuine Shanghainese style Soup Dumpling within the city center. Besides, the Restaurant location is very unique.
It locates in a two-storey-high Ming Style mid-lake pavilion, in the Lotus Pool to the east of this 500 years old garden. There are 2 zigzag bridges that link it to the shore from two sides. In the summer, the whole pool would be filled with blossoming lotus flowers with numerous schools of gold fishes leisurely swimming under them. The pavilion itself houses only rosewood furniture and is famous for its Soup Dumplings.
Charley is obviously famished. He's probably on the verge of collapsing when the bamboo steamer finally comes to the table. David opens the lid and the steam rushes out while a dozen of dumplings sit on a sheet of bamboo leaf. Charley is going to dig in right there. But David stops him. "Proceed with caution! All these dumplings contain a fair amount of extremely hot soup together with the meaty core. You have to bit a small hole on top of it and blow into it to cool it down first."
David picks up one carefully and demonstrates how to do it to Charley. "And then you place it in this spoon full of rice vinegar with finely chopped ginger."
"Oh man, you are doing it on purpose, aren't you!? I am starving!" Charley is practically drooling now.
"And then you enjoy the fragrant smell and appreciate the dumpling's perfectly hand pinched shape." David is now teasing Charley. "And then you suck the soup out of that hole before eating it with the vinegar."
Of course, Charley is too hungry to fully appreciate this local delicacy. He wolfs down 8 of them in record time with probably 3rd degree burn to his lips and mouth as he fails to blow into the dumplings long enough.
Yet again, with grimace on his face from the burnt, he appears satisfied and genuinely happy with the food. "Man, I always liked dim-sum, specially the dumplings, but this is pure heaven." He then sits back and pats his belly and just smiles, contently.
Again, another Mike's signature move. David is yanked back to the first time when he had Fondue back in Switzerland. It was with Mike, of course, and it was probably the first time David realized that he was falling for him.
That was probably the second month of their freshman year. David had Fondue before back in the States and was really not a big fan. Not that he doesn't like cheese; he just never went to a good Swiss restaurant. When Mike found it out, he felt obliged to show part of his heritage to his "uncultured" best friend.
Mike is actually Michel. His parents are both French diplomats and moved to New York after they got married. Mike was their only kid. Although he was very proud of his French background, he always insisted everyone calling him Mike. He later told David, it was just to irk his arrogant countrymen by forcing them to switch to the English "ike" sound every time they want to talk to him. And French elites have this intense detest for English sounding words. It's a 180 reverse mentality to their American counterparts' habitual slipping into French words or phrases to show off their superiority.
Mike dragged David all the way to the top of the mountain on which their school is located. To this rather shabby looking chalet/restaurant. "You know the best fondue uses Gruyère cheese right?" Mike pulled out a chair right next to the window that overlooked a meadow and Lac Léman at the foot of the mountain. At its background, the French side of the Alps stood majestically. That mountain range also serves as the label for Evian as they provide the sources for the water.
"Surrre." David obviously did not know this and he was rubbing his left eye brows again.
Mike excitedly opened the lid, this strong yet pleasant aroma filled up the space immediately. "This is melted Gruyére cheese made 10 miles away from this restaurant mixed with local white wine and herbs." He proceeded with breaking off some dried baguette. He then put it on a long fork and dipped it in the pot. With a twirl he picked it up and started chewing. His eyes closed and chewed with his strong jaw. Two bandages proudly covered a deep cut he got from one of his Rugby matches. His dark blonde hair messy as usually. He's crocked smirk on the left corner of his mouth. His tie (part of the uniform) loosened with his shirts rolled up to his elbows.
David is not terribly hungry but he was almost drooling. Only four years later when they visited that very restaurant again, after their fateful Paris trip, would David admit to Mike that he was more attracted to him then the Fondue at that precise moment.
Of course, David loved the Fondue as well. He always keeps Gruyére cheese and a Fondue pot available even till today no matter where he goes.
After a bottle of wine and entire pot of Fondue, Mike sank back into his chair, ripped off his tie and patted his belly, contently. And he looked to his right and to the setting sun, "Man, this is what life is all about. Fantastic food, great view and good company." With that, he turned back and looked at David with this rather intense stare. David was glad that he was already blushing from the wine, since it concealed his true emotion completely.
"David, dude!" Charley waves his hand in front David's eyes trying to get him to snap out of his day dreaming.
"Sorry, I was thinking about something at work." David blushes a little and starts scratching his left eye brow unconsciously.
"Man, don't live to work, work to live." Mike says while looking at him caringly.
"Yeah, if it is worth living that is." David thinks to himself, while looking outside of the window to patches of dead lotus leaves floating lifelessly next to the bridge.
(End of Chapter 3)