"Would you like a drink?" asked Abel.
"No thanks,” Zeno replied.
“A little bit.”
"I ran up the hill."
"From Castro Street?”
"That's a good reason to be out of breath.”
Zeno sat down on the love seat opposite Abel. He sighed, crossed his legs and gazed at red embers in the fireplace crackling like bacon popping in a frying pan and yellow sparks shot up the chimney, and the bright colors of yellow and red sparkling into orange colours fascinated him so. He thought of acrylic paint melting on canvas in brilliant sunlight and he liked the smell of it and smiled.
“Was it up Twin Peaks or directly up Pemberton?" Abel asked.
Abel glanced down at his crotch slightly erect like a bent stalk and he shivered in delight like a silly school-girl. “You know," he cooed, "I miss you terribly when you’re not here."
"Even when I'm painting in the Green Cottage?"
"But of course.”
"I started a new portrait."
“Do I know him?”
“Where did you meet?”
“Under that bridge?”
“No, we met at the top of the hill on 19th Street.”
“Was he good-looking and blond?”
“No...I mean, yes...he had dirty blond hair.”
"Was it a nude portrait?"
"Isn’t Mrs. Erikson sleeping?" A startled Zeno looked around the room.
"Zelta!" Abel said feeling his crotch that softened after the thought of Zelta. "I don't give a goddamn if my excitement rouses her. If that woman fell down a flight of stairs and broke her silly neck, I would not shed a tear."
Silence. Not even the two cats, Earnshaw and Linton, stirred from their corners somewhere hidden in the house.
"I'm sorry that Mrs. Erikson has hurt you. I hope some day you'll be able to tell me why you dislike her. I promise I'll listen."
This pleased Abel wholeheartedly. He grinned, chin up, content his boy had a compassionate heart and wasn't always so selfish. That raging beast that had overwhelmed him with unseemly thoughts of his mother faded like a mist. "What is done is done," he said calmly. "I'm simply happy that you care. But let's not talk of Zelta when I prefer to hold you in my arms and kiss you."
Zeno looked down at his manicured fingernails with trepidation; they were neat and trimmed just the way Abel preferred. It was the tip of them he suddenly recalled caressing a blushing blond's smooth white flesh and kissing him fully on the lips. The blond's mouth tasted sweet like a slice of crisp apple, his sweat warm and soothing like spring water. They melted into the other like two colors on stretched canvas so soft and beautiful and not dull and they couldn't cease their embrace. He shook his head and took a deep breath. Reluctantly, he stood up at once, looked at Abel waiting there like a supreme authority and his hand on his crotch and that silly grin on his face. Slowly he went over to him but on tiptoes like an obedient puppy. He bent over and gave him a smooch as cold as an ice cube.
Abel glared at him displeased by such a worthless kiss. He pulled him down between his legs and drew his mouth hard to his. "I do love you, Zeno Dexter Elliot," he said, "and tonight you can rest assured I won't lecture you on the importance of fidelity. You're home. However, I must demand that you take extreme caution when you're out and about. According to the media an incurable virus as ugly as Santa Ana winds is spreading in the worse imaginable way among sexually active men."
"Who said I had sex?" Zeno climbed up. "I swear I was in the Green Cottage working all day."
"It's not wise to swear, my boy, especially when you choose to utter an untruth. Do you think for one minute I believe this ridiculous story of your meeting a homeless man in Dolores Park and your painting him not nude?"
"I was there in the studio. That much is not an untruth."
"I'm unconcerned if you spent the day in the studio, Dolores Park or under a windmill in Golden Gate Park by a bush with your hands on your hips. I’m simply warning you to be careful when you’re among foolish men who could very well be carriers of Red virus.”
to the tall windows in front of a narrow balcony that looked east over the Castro and towards downtown skyscrapers and in the far distance the lights of Berkeley and Oakland hills shimmered in a pastel pink sunset.
He swung around abruptly and glared at Abel with blazing eyes. In three years he still had his manly good looks, but his brunette hair had turned salt-and-pepper. Thinner and thinner atop his pasty weathered head.
"I want my darling boy beside me where he belongs," Abel motioned him to a spot on the sofa. "I have a surprise."
He only wanted to run away from him, his savior who had rescued, sheltered and supported him for the last three years. Better it would've been if he had confessed all of his sins; then this heavy burden lifted from his shoulders. But he held his tongue, said nothing at all and rejoined his lover on the sofa without a fight.
"Do you still love me? Your man? Your teacher? Your lover as I am?"
"Of course, just what you said - all those things about love."
"Then look me in the eye, Zeno, and tell me that distinctly."
He opened his mouth but no words came at first and not until he thought about the studio he called Green Cottage, the house up Pemberton steps Abel called Briarcliff, and "I love you, sir" finally spilled out.
Abel squeezed him in his arms. "Thank the Lord, baby,” he exclaimed. “You said you love me. That is most important to my heart."
"I'm glad you brought me here..."
"Always remember it was I who made this entire journey to San Francisco possible."
Zeno leaned his head against his chest. He felt safe, secure so close to daddy. Nothing more. He took a deep breath and wrapped his arms around Abel's slender waist, in a silent moment, he was almost happy.
"I am the best thing that's ever happened to you," Abel reiterated now stroking the boy's kinky black hair. "We will never hurt each other or stop sleeping together because we are a permanent couple. I told my therapist today that I felt I was ready to make love to you. Guess what? (An abrupt laugh) Just before you came home tonight I was aroused. It's true! I am ready to make love to you. That's my surprise! Reach down right now, my boy! Reach down and feel the precious penis that is truly yours. Tonight..."
But he stopped hearing Zeno snoring softly like a kitten against his chest...