Disclaimer: All the normal rules apply.  Do not read if you'd be offended by material of a sexual nature; if local laws prohibit you from reading this, read no further.  Do not copy or reproduce, in whole or in part, without permission of the author, Nicholas Nurse.  All material is copyright Nicholas Nurse 2003.  All individuals depicted are imaginary, and any resemblance to real persons or events, express or implied, is purely coincidental.

That having been said--enjoy!  And feel free to contact me at viceroy12@hotmail.com.  All flames will, of course, be laughed at and summarily deleted.

Tristan's Redemption
By Nicholas Nurse

Chapter Five: Some Sticky Situations

Sunday evening ended with a flaring orange sunset over the ocean.  Garrett and I gathered up our things, slipped jeans over our now-dry swimming trunks and jogged to my car.  I'd parked some ways up off the beach, above the cliffs and near one of the shop-lined streets.  Slipping on my jeans, I admit, was a bit of a relief; I'd spent the better part of the day attempting to conceal a raging erection.  Watching Garrett swimming and running and horsing around on the beach was nearly unbearable.  When we got into my car, I turned down the radio and drove to my house.  While en route, I brought up something that I had forgotten to do previously.  Turning slightly sideways to Garrett while continuing to watch the road, I asked, "Remember the day I was at Liza's—the day of the shouting match?"

Garrett looked distinctly uncomfortable.  "Yeah . . . what about it?"  

"I didn't tell you that I talked to her mom for a good long while before you guys got there."

"Oh yeah?  What about?"  Garrett was distinctly relieved that I wasn't going to broach the topic of the fight.

"Among many things, she was talking to me about Liza's inability to discuss her weight problem."

"I really don't understand how you can talk about it so casually."

"Well, it's not my weight problem.  Anyway, her mom was saying that we ought to do something to help her."

"You know every time we bring it up she flips out!  It bothers her worse that she's the only heavyset one in her family.  I mean, look at Jared—the kid's a twig—"

"Right, right, and that's what her mom was saying . . . she was saying that if the four of us—her, Liza's dad, you and me—all try to help her, gently, maybe she will be able to talk about it without, you know, growing horns and a tail."

"So we're supposed to risk her breathing fire down our pants for what?  So she can talk to us about her weight problems?  What does that solve?"

"Acceptance is the first step to recovery," I said.  "After she stops picking up the pitchfork every time we bring it up, maybe we can, with her parents working the other front, start finding ways for her to control it.  To lose weight.  You know she wants to; she just has to accept the fact that she'll need help."

"How're we supposed to talk to her about this without her spitting acid at us?"

I gave Garrett a sheepish grin.  "That's what I was hoping you'd be able to help me with."  I turned onto my street and pulled into my driveway.  "I'm afraid I haven't been able to give it a whole lot of thought.  I've had . . . other things on my mind."

"Oh, she was a bit miffed that you took Jared out to lunch, you know."

I shrugged.  "Like she needs to eat more."

Garrett shook his head.  "No, see, that's exactly the sort of thing we can't say if we're going to be positive about helping her."

"Right, of course . . . when we're talking to her."

Garrett rolled his eyes.  "This is what I meant when I said it was a good thing you didn't promise not to be an asshole anymore."

"Being an ass is just one more free service I offer."

"Seriously.  Should we sit her down and talk about this?  The three of us?"

"Yeah, and then I'll let her parents know what transpires.  But when do we sit her down?"

"Well, this evening might be good, after we get cleaned up and whatnot.  What time is it—six-thirty?  Let's say we reconvene here around eight-thirty or so.  When are your parents getting back?"

"When I talked to them last night, they said they'd be flying in Tuesday morning.  So I still have the place to myself, except for when the housekeepers come on Monday.  Tonight's fine; I'll call her as soon as you leave."

Garrett nodded and got up to go.  "Alright, I'll be back by eight-fifteen or so.  We'll just lay it out flat, right?  Like, both address our concerns and go from there?"

"Yeah.  Just make sure I'm not too much of an ass," I said snidely.

Garrett raised an eyebrow.  "Look, when you want to be, you can be just fine.  Alright, I'm leaving."  When he'd gone, I decided that the best place to have our conversation would be outside, at the poolside bar.  I jotted down a quick note—"Meet me outside"—attached it to the front door, and dashed up to the shower.  After I was done, I toweled off and, feeling brave, decided against dressing until after I'd eaten.  I walked downstairs and into the kitchen, feeling a distinct draft along my legs.  The combination of sensation along my upper thighs and the memories of the day at the beach soon gave me a hard-on that pointed straight up at my face.  With a suppressed laugh, I opened the refrigerator door.  Grabbing a jar of jelly, I turned and walked past the sliding glass door that looked out into the backyard.  It was nearly pitch black outside.  Behind me, toward the front of the house, I heard the noises of cars passing our cul-de-sac.  I'd eat on the table, I figured, and then get dressed; if my hard-on didn't subside by then—and it showed no signs of doing so—I'd take care of it while dressing.  I made my sandwich and turned to go back to the fridge.  

Something moved past the sliding glass door.

I choked back a yell.  The jar of grape jelly in my hands fell and shattered against the floor tiles.  With a second yell, I jumped backward to avoid the shards; my hand slipped off the countertop and I fell, hard, on my ass.  I felt a flush rise in my cheeks as I rose on unsteady legs, glancing outside.  The sensor-activated lights had illuminated the near section of the backyard.  Taylor stood at the sliding glass door, doubled over and in hysterics.  Angrily, I threw open the door.  "What the fuck are you doing here?!" I shouted in his face.

When Taylor had regained control of his senses, helped along somewhat by my angry shove, he looked me up and down suggestively.  "What's up, Tristan?" he asked.

With a start, I realized I was still naked.  "Oh my God!" I gasped, grabbing the first thing that came to hand—my sandwich—and using it to cover my erection.  "Oh my God, Taylor, what the fuck?"

"Sorry, dude, sorry!"  Taylor stepped inside and closed the glass door, as my hands were otherwise occupied.  "I saw the sign and came around back, thinking you'd be swimming.  I stopped by because Garrett called me and told me about the intervention you guys are planning for Liza.   Ah . . . were you planning on talking to her like that?  Cause you'll definitely get her attention, although . . . "

I flushed even redder than before, if possible.  The jelly was squelching between my legs.  This was decidedly not cool.  I don't think I'd ever been so embarrassed in my life.  "Taylor, you have to promise you're not going to tell anyone about this."  He just grinned.  "Please?"

"Go get dressed."  I nodded and turned.  I'd get my answer after I got back.  Right now, the thing I needed most was a pair of pants.  Or boxers, at least.  Anything was better than a jelly sandwich.  To my horror, as I turned, Taylor slapped my bare ass.

"Taylor!"  Mortified, I threw the sandwich aside and ran down the hall.  Taylor's laughter followed me all the way up to my room.

When I'd wiped the jelly from my legs and put on a pair of pants, I came back down the stairs, pulling a shirt over my head as I went.  Taylor was sitting at the table with the sandwich on a plate in front of him.  He grinned at me.  "Bon appetit," he said, picking it up.  

Horrified, I grabbed the sandwich and threw it away.  "You were gonna eat it?!" I asked, shocked.

Taylor was laughing yet again.  "Of course not," he replied.  "I just wanted to see your reaction.  Here's the plate back."

I collapsed into a chair.  "You'd better not tell anyone about this," I warned him.

"Don't worry.  I'll try to keep my mouth shut."

I sighed.  "Well, at least it was you and not Liza or Garrett.  I think I would've died on the spot."

"And wouldn't that have been an ignominious way to go."

"Quite.  Alright, if you're going to stick around for the intervention, as you so delicately called it, I suggest we move outside."  I cleaned up the broken jar and we went outside.  I was barefoot, but I usually didn't bother to put shoes on if I was simply trotting between the house and the pool anyhow.  Taylor followed me out; still hungry, I snagged a bag of chips as I closed the door.  As we walked out to the bar, it occurred to me that that was the most I'd ever seen Taylor laugh.  I told him so.  "I'm glad I could bring you that kind of joy," I added sardonically.

"Never a dull moment with you around," Taylor agreed.  "It must be hard to keep up that level of entertainment."  He sat at a barstool.  "What had you so excited, if I may ask?"

I blushed.  "Nothing."

"Oh?  You often get boners while making jelly sandwiches?  Must be tough," he said.

"Well, it was more than just that, of course."

"I should certainly hope so.  Food doesn't really do it for me, personally.  Maybe a little light spanking . . . "

"You're a boyful of surprises, you know that?"

"I'm kidding.  So . . . what was it?"

I sighed.  "If you must know, I was thinking about Garrett."

The gate opened, then closed, and I heard Garrett's voice.  "What about me?"

Oh my God.  Could this day get any worse?  "Thinking about what you'd said earlier."

Garrett was unconvinced.  "I hadn't really said anything earlier."

I had a sudden urge to get up and run.  Or go into the pool and not come back up.  Either would suffice.  A lie.  Quick.  "About what you'd said about Liza."

"Ahh, I see.  Well, she should be here any minute now."  Garrett turned to Taylor.  "I'm glad you're here," he said.

"Even if he did show up a bit unannounced," I said tartly, glaring at Garrett.  He pretended not to notice.

"I'm sorry," Taylor said sweetly.  "I hope I wasn't interrupting anything when I came to the door."

"Of course not," I replied.  My mood was souring rapidly.  This was already not going well.  A few minutes later, after idle chit-chat—very little of it, of course, from Taylor—Liza opened the gate and came through.  "Hey, Liza," I called, waving her over.  I poured her a glass of water.  "We have soda and juice up in the house."

"Water's fine for now.  So what's going on?  I see the gang's all here, minus Sarah."

"I think she's still off at the shooting range," Taylor said.  Garrett and I shrugged.  Taylor was closer to Sarah than we were; he'd know best of all of us.

"Anyway, Garrett and Taylor are here for a reason, Liza."  Once I'd began, I realized I didn't know how to continue.  "Ah . . . "

"We're concerned about you," Garrett said.  I could've kissed him for saving me.  Well, I would've kissed him under any circumstances, really, so that wasn't saying much at all.

"What?  About me?"

"Well, yeah," Garrett continued.  "Like, look, it doesn't matter to any of us—we don't think anything of that sort of thing—"

"We like you because of who you are," I added through Garrett's stammering.  

Liza was wary.  She pushed her water back and stood.  "Is this about my weight?  Is this some kind of fucking counseling session?  Cause if it is, I'm leaving.  I'm not gonna sit and listen to this bullshit."

Taylor, who thus far had been silent, spoke up.  "We're only saying anything because we care about you."  

"Fuck you, Jenny Craig!"  Liza was in high dudgeon now.  "What, you care about me and you don't want me getting all fat?"

I resisted the urge to tell her she'd chosen the wrong tense.  "It's not that, Liza," I said, trying to stay calm.  "I honestly think you'd feel better about yourself if you at least made an effort to work on something that I think really does bother you."

"Bother me?  Where did we get this idea that what I may or may not weigh bothers me?"  Liza was nearly screaming now.  "Why are we discussing this?  What relevance is it to you?  Look at all of you; you're all twigs!  My weight does not bother me!"

Before I could point out the obvious irony to Liza, my phone rang.  I flipped it open.  "This is Tristan."

"Tristan, honey, how are you?"  Oh, shit.  Perfect time for my mom to call.

"I'm . . . doing well.  How's the trip?"

"It's been busy; we haven't had too much time to take Izz and Sandy around, but we have all day tomorrow free!  We're going to take them shopping at the Saks in Union Square and then I thought we'd hop on over to the big Macy's too."  

Meanwhile, behind me, I could hear Liza shrieking.  "So what next?  You're gonna tell me to get lipo?  My stomach stapled?  What is this?"

"Ah . . . Tris?" my mom asked.  "Is there something going on over there?"

"Er, no, mom . . . just watching TV," I muttered, moving away from the table so Liza's tirade wouldn't be so audible.  I winced as I heard her glass of water shatter.

"Remember, Tristan," my mother warned, her voice much more stern, "we don't want anyone over.  It creates huge legal liability issues; if any minor were to get injured on property we own, we'd be liable both for the damage and for negligence.  We've made this very clear to you in the past."

"Right, Mom."  Now it sounded like Liza was growling and Garrett was holding her back, from the way she was screaming.  "I won't throw any wild parties; I promise."

"You'd better not," she said.  "I'm not wasting the lawyers' retainer fees on bailing you out of jail."  I think she was only half-kidding.  Her voice lightened.  "Now, is there anything you want us to get you while we're in the financial district?"

Liza had escaped Garrett's grip; I heard the sounds of two stinging slaps, as well as continued high-pitched screams and yelps of pain from Taylor.  "Uh . . . I can't really think of anything.  Can I call you back if I do?"

"Well, of course.  We'll be there all day tomorrow.  Have you been keeping the house clean?"

Oh, God.  I just wanted this conversation to end.  It's not like I hated talking to my parents—far from it—but Liza sounded as though she were about to commit first-degree murder.  "Yeah, it's spotless.  I've cleaned up everything so far and the housekeepers will be in tomorrow."  I ducked as Liza threw a water bottle wildly.  It exploded against the barstools.  "Look, Mom, I've gotta run.  I'm leaving—"

"—calling me fat, you bastards!"               

"—to go visit Liza," I finished lamely.

"I want you to behave yourself," my mother warned.  "We trust you to stay by yourself because you're responsible.  Don't make us regret our decision.  You be safe."  She paused for a minute and talked to someone in the background.  Meanwhile, Liza was still shouting.  At least it sounded like she'd stopped trying to slap Taylor senseless.  I cupped the phone to my face to muffle the sound nonetheless.  "Your dad and the twins want to say hi," my mom said.

Desperate, I resorted to deception.  "Hey, Mom, you're cutting out.  Let me call you back when I have better reception."  Guilt surged through me, but Liza was raving, and I was afraid that any second now she'd come snatch the phone out of my hands and scream her woe directly into it.

"Strange, I can hear you just fine, honey," my mom replied.

"Look, I'll call you back in a bit," I said.

"Alright, but we're going to turn in soon.  It's been a long day."

"If you don't hear from me tonight, I'll call you first thing in the morning."

"Be sure to.  Before you go to school.  We'll see you when we get home on Tuesday—now, don't forget to call us back!  And be careful, and don't be late tomorrow!"

"Yes, Mom!"

"Bye, dear."

"Bye, Mom."  I hung up.  "Would you fucking shut up?!" I shouted as I turned.  "You're acting totally ridiculous."  

Oh.  They were all sitting down calmly.  "What—you're all done?  What was with all the screaming and carrying on?"

Liza looked as though she were seething; tears trembled in her eyes, but didn't fall.  Garrett spoke up.  "We finally got her to calm down after she tried to slap Taylor."

"I'm sorry, Taylor," Liza whispered.  "I . . . I don't like to talk about this.  I don't.  I—"

"It's okay," Taylor said.  "We bring it up because we're concerned—not about your weight, but about your attitude toward it."

"We want you to be happy, Liza," I said.  "Now, do us a favor . . . tell us what would make you happy."

Liza was very quiet for a long while.  I waited her out, and luckily Taylor and Garrett did the same.  "I . . . don't want to feel ugly anymore," she said.

"You're not ugly," I said quickly.  "That's the whole point.  This is about how you perceive yourself."  

"What should I do?"

I looked at Garrett and Taylor.  She was receptive; now was the time to tell her what should have been said long ago.  The sun was low and swollen before everything that needed to be said was said; when Liza left, full dark had fallen, but we all hoped against hope that there was a different and brighter light on her horizon.  After Taylor and Garrett had left, I stumbled back inside, tired from a long day of swimming.  I took off my clothes and, though it was only ten in the evening, curled up under my covers and fell asleep.

*    *    *

The next morning, I parked my car in my usual spot and walked onto campus.  The first person I saw was Taylor.  "Taylor!" I called.  "I need to talk to you."

"What's up, Tris?"

"Come inside my car."

"Ooh, that sounds interesting."

"Shut up."  I lowered my voice.  "I wanted to talk to you . . . in private."  Taylor opened the door and slid into the passenger seat.  "Look, the whole gay thing . . . "

"What about it?"

"Well, I was kind of thinking—I want, like, a second opinion."

"You mean you want to talk to Julian Lambowski, don't you."

I nodded.  "I want to find out more about it.  But I can't tell him outright—everyone knows he's out, and all it'll take is one slip, or him getting too chummy with me, and everyone'll guess."

"So tell him you're just curious."

"Oh, that's brilliant."

Taylor rolled his eyes.  "Fine.  Say you're doing a report."  He glanced outside.  "Hey, look, I gotta go.  I'm supposed to meet Sarah, and you know how she gets when you're late."

"There she is now," I said, pointing.  An old and beat-up pickup truck was rolling noisily down the parking lot.  I grimaced as she pulled into the spot beside me; if she hit my door, I'd kill her.  She stepped out of her car and I groaned and slid lower in the seat.  "Don't let her see me," I said quietly to Taylor.

Taylor grinned.  "Now I understand why you're always so uncomfortable when she hits on you."


"She's beautiful, you know."

"Yes, but to me, it's more an academic exercise than anything else.  Sort of like statuary.  Sure, some of them are amazing, but they don't turn you on."  But Taylor was as right as I was; Sarah was an elegant beauty, with a delicately chiseled face, full lips and a nose that belonged on a Greek statue.  Her hair, a black so rich it was nearly blue, only added to the effect, and her eyes, the rarest shade of violet . . . da Vinci could not have dreamed a more beautiful woman.  Sarah was beautiful like ice sculpture was beautiful.  She was a study in dichotomy; a dedicated and statuesque Goth, she did not dress as most Goth kids did, in cheap black T-shirts with ribald slogans and torn black fishnets.  Rather, Sarah always wore long black dresses that looked as though she'd raided the closets of a fifteenth-century aristocratic dominatrix.  She looked like a queen descending from a hay-wagon as she stepped off of her hand-me-down Chevy.  Today her long black sleeves trailed off her hands and ended in lacy points around her fingertips; the dress itself swirled around her stiletto heels and swept in tight curves upward to her throat, where it clutched at her neck like fingers of darkness.  Her long black hair swept down her back and her violet eyes, already so evident in her naturally pale face, were accentuated by black makeup arranged in an intricate and vaguely Egyptian pattern.  Her pupils were slightly dilated;  long ago, she had found an ancient method for making belladonna extract and used it to accentuate her looks.  Somehow, against what must have been some law of nature, she had found a shade of lipstick that nearly matched her eyes.  She was beautiful like a nighttime moon was beautiful, and she could have been mine.

Instead, it was Garrett I wanted to feel in my arms.  For all that Sarah was a dark Aphrodite, Garrett was her counterpart, a golden Adonis that had stepped out of marble and into flesh.  Sarah didn't know this, but now Taylor did, and I could see that he was slightly amused.

Unfortunately, Sarah saw us in my car and made a beeline for us.  "Good morning, Taylor," she said.  "Tristan," she whispered, leaning into the car.  She kissed me on the lips and I blushed a deep red.

"Morning, Sarah," Taylor responded while I dabbed at my lips with a napkin.  It came away purple.  

"I have decided not to go by Sarah anymore," she said loftily.  "A name such as that no longer suits me."

"So what is it now?" Taylor asked.

"From now henceforth, I shall be known as Asphyxia," Sarah said.  I struggled not to laugh.  Taylor just nodded.  "And now, Tristan."  I turned to face her, schooling my face to stillness.  "Are you otherwise occupied tomorrow night?"  

Any other person would've simply said "Are you busy tomorrow?"  Instead, Sarah—rather, Asphyxia—had to turn every sentence into a production.  She wasn't always so formal; I could see today that she was in high Goth form.  Sarah was definitely born in the wrong century, and on the wrong continent.  "I . . . " I started.

"No?  Excellent.  You will not object, then, to joining me for dinner?"  She definitely did not look as though she expected me to object.  Inwardly, I sighed.  Before I could come up with a clever lie—or even a not-so-clever one—she nodded decisively.  "Excellent, then.  Come at seven."  I had a feeling that seven wasn't the only time at which she wanted me to come.  She leaned in again and planted another kiss on my lips.  This one was deeper, more probing; I felt her inhale sharply, stealing the breath out of my lungs.  She pulled back then and ran her tongue across her lips.  "Goodbye, boys," she said, turning and gliding away.

I was perfectly still for a moment.  Taylor was red-faced from holding in his laughter.  Half of me wanted to hit him; the other half wanted to melt into the seat and die.  "So.  Asphyxia?" I said, by way of breaking the ice.

"Well, it looked as though her tongue was about to strangle you," Taylor said.

"Her tongue was not in my mouth!" I spluttered.

"You'd better watch out.  Just remember, she has a gun rack in the back of her pickup," Taylor said, still laughing.  "And you know she uses it."

I closed my eyes.  This was already looking to be a bad day.

This is part five of an ongoing series of indeterminate length.  Tune in soon for Chapter Six, The End of All Things.  Any comments or questions can be sent to me via email: viceroy12@hotmail.com.  Please feel free to email me; I love to hear readers' responses!  Thanks for reading!