Copyright 2011 Theo Fenraven
I loved learning, and to that end, took as many classes as I could handle. My head spun with biology, zoology, chemistry, physics, biometrics, mathematics…. When I was not buried in books, I continued to take care of Will’s house, grocery shop, cook meals, do the laundry, and run errands for him.
One evening over dinner—he was reading a script while I was writing a paper for my statistics class—he looked at me and said, “I think it’s time for you to go to school full time.”
My mouth dropped open. “What?”
“You’re trying to do too much. You should concentrate on your studies….” He smiled. “And me.”
“But… I must take care of the house, the cooking—”
“We’ll hire someone to do that,” he said. “It would make me happy to see you have more time for your classes.”
“But… I need the money you pay me, for school and to send home.”
He rolled his eyes. “Money is easy. I have plenty, and I’m perfectly willing to share.” When I opened my mouth to protest, he interrupted me. “Please let me do this for you.” Leaning across the table, he put a tilted my head back before kissing me. “You give me more than you’ll ever know. I know how proud you are, and that you intend to fight me on this, so why don’t we pretend we’ve gone through all that and are now at the point where you just thank me.”
I gulped, smiled, and said, “Thank you.”
Grinning, he regained his seat. “That was easier than I thought it would be. Just goes to show how smart you are.”
I nudged his leg under the table, and he nudged me back. He returned to his script and I to my books, but I had a hard time reading through the film of unshed tears over my eyes.
We hired someone to come in several times a week to clean, but I insisted on continuing to shop and cook, and I would not allow anyone else to do our laundry. He conceded that much because he liked the way I prepared food and he’d just as soon a stranger didn’t handle his personal things. Her name was Gail, and I had met her in one of my classes. I kept a close eye on her at first, but after I was assured she was trustworthy, I let her go about her business. If Will was home when she was there, she made cow eyes at him, which amused me, but otherwise, she did her job well and I had no complaints.
I took on a full course load and my days continued to be very busy. As much as I loved learning, studying, and writing, my favorite times were when Will and I were alone together. That didn’t happen all that often. When he wasn’t filming, he was working on projects with his friend, David, or attending an event or charity function. He was much in demand everywhere, by everyone.
“Does it bother you when I don’t take you with me?” he asked one night after attending an art gallery opening for a friend. We were in his room—yes, I still thought of it as his room. I sat on the bed, watching him remove his tie.
“Sometimes, but I understand why that is not possible.”
He was unbuttoning his shirt. “Do you? Really?”
Being gay in America was better than being gay in Mexico, but still, if you were male, it was not acceptable to appear in public with your male lover. It was different for females. Ellen DeGeneris attended functions with her partner, and the media loved it. I wondered if that same courtesy would ever be extended to couples like me and Will.
“I understand,” I said, enjoying the view as the shirt came off and he unbuttoned his pants. “I don’t like it, but I accept it.” Realizing he might misinterpret that, I added, “I am speaking of the media, not of you.”
He looked at me. “I know that, honey. You are unfailingly loving to me, always.” He leaned over the bed and kissed me. “Maybe things will change someday, but for right now….”
“I know,” I said, nodding. “It is all right.”
“It’s not all right,” he said with a frown, “but it’s the way it is.”
In bed together, I curled up against him and he put his arms around me. “Just remember I love you.”
I trailed my fingers through his chest hair and down across his stomach. “I would never forget that,” I said.
“Sometimes, I wish….” His voice trailed off.
“What do you wish?”
“That we could… marry.”
My heart stopped for a moment before beginning to beat very fast. “That is something you think about?”
“Sometimes. You make me very happy, Jamie.”
I could not help it. I started to cry. This was something I had not let myself even consider, knowing it was impossible.
“Don’t,” Will said softly, touching his lips to my forehead. He wiped my tears away and then licked his fingers. “Salty,” he said, and we both laughed.
That night, we were very tender with each other. I wished it could be like that always, but I knew things would change. They always did.
About a year into our relationship, Will started to chafe at the restrictions he’d forced upon us. “It’s your birthday this weekend. I want to take you out to dinner and maybe a play.” He wrapped his arms around me. “Would you like that?”
I leaned into him. “Yes, very much. We could go out as friends. No one will think otherwise.”
He made a face. “Damn it. I hate this. I’m tired of hiding, of being afraid. Enough.”
I wonder what had happened to set him off. “The people that matter know what we mean to each other. That is enough.”
“Uh-huh.” He rolled his eyes and stormed off to the bedroom.
He was more famous than ever, as his film career was doing well, and I knew he was starting to feel trapped by convention. He could go almost nowhere without being followed and photographed. It was an open secret he preferred men to women, but Will had never confirmed or denied anything. He had been walking that tightrope a long time, and lately, he was getting tired of it.
I followed him into the bathroom, where he was staring at himself in the mirror. Leaning against the door jamb, my eyes met his. “I will do whatever you ask, you know that, but please think about this carefully. The consequences to your career….”
A tortured expression settled on his face. “Fuck that! My career is strong enough to take some hits.”
But was it? As long as he did not declare himself, people could think what they liked, never really knowing for sure. That ambiguity allowed him plenty of room to maneuver. Once he came out, the space was gone.
We spoke no more about it that night, but the next day over breakfast, he said, “We are going out on your birthday.”
“Wear a suit.”
“Fancy place, yes?”
I smiled down at my grapefruit. He had forced me to buy two suits recently, “just in case.” I was sure I did not look as good in them as he did, but when I had modeled one for him, he had jumped on me. I chuckled, remembering how wild he had been that night.
“Nothing… except I love you.”
“Good to know.” Standing, he said, “Got to go. Don’t forget.” He kissed me goodbye and left.
Still smiling, I put Will’s plate on the floor for Kaz to clean off.
The photographers had caught Will and me together on a few occasions, but nothing much had been made of it. I was always referred to as an “unidentified male,” and while insinuations and outright statements had been made regarding the nature of our “friendship,” it had always died down.
Will changed all that the night of my birthday.
He took me to Sona, a five-star restaurant that was so good it had been mentioned in National Geographic. It looked like a small white house from the outside, and inside, the decor was simple, contemporary, and elegant. We were led to the Cava Room, a private dining area Will had reserved just for the two of us. Windows and skylights let in the light of the evening sun and made the flower arrangements glow with warmth.
Will smiled as we sat down. “I’ve already ordered for us. We need only sit back and enjoy ourselves.”
I could barely contain myself. Not only was I at one of the best restaurants in the world, but I was with Will. He laughed at my excitement and pulled his chair around to sit beside me.
“We can be ourselves here,” he whispered in my ear.
“Truly?” I glanced at the windows, noting the dense landscaping beyond an open narrow strip of grass. We would notice anyone who approached those windows. I nervously slipped my hand onto his thigh.
A waiter brought us wine and an aperitif. He spoke in a hushed voice and moved without sound. He paid no attention to Will’s hand on my shoulder or how close we sat to one another.
“Relax,” Will said against my cheek, following that with a kiss.
I wanted to but I could not. It felt too strange, having Will show affection toward me in a public place. When I started to take my hand away, he immediately put it back.
“I like it when you touch me,” he said.
Six courses were served by the discreet smiling waiter, each accompanied by a new wine for us to try. The food was perfectly prepared, perfectly served, and halfway through the meal, I relaxed and started to enjoy myself.
Will was as happy as I had seen him in weeks. Movie filming had been hard on him, and on us, as it had limited our time together.
As if reading my mind, he said, “Publicity tour for the new movie coming up. You’re coming with me.”
“It’s fun and fast and insane, and I need you there.” He squeezed the back of my neck and then gave me a half hug.
I shot him a sharp look. “Are you making a declaration?”
He popped an olive in his mouth. “Maybe. Would it bother you?”
“Are you insane? Nothing would make me happier than to have everyone know how much I love you, and you me. But I worry for you.”
He offered me a forkful of halibut from his plate. “Open.” After I had chewed and swallowed, he asked, “Good?” I nodded, still looking at him with concern. Noticing, he said, “Don’t worry. Half this town is gay, and if for some reason my movies stopped making money, I’d just produce or direct full time, or do stage plays. There will come a day when I won’t want to act on film anymore anyway.”
“But today is not that day.”
He inclined his head. “That is correct.” He shrugged. “But I’m tired of skulking in the shadows, keeping my love hidden from everyone but a couple of close friends and family.” His eyes met mine. “I’m not saying we should put on a show for the paps—I’m not planning to grope or french-kiss you for their cameras—but I see no problem with you being by my side. Okay?”
Nodding, I picked up my glass and sipped. It was a very smooth Merlot, aged well, with a smoky flavor that popped off the back of the tongue. The thought made me laugh; I was not a wine expert. Sadly, I’d heard someone say this on a travel show and it stuck in my mind. Will knew what was good and what was not. I did not.
We dawdled over the fine dinner, and both of us were slightly tipsy when we left; although the different wines served to us throughout the meal were small portions, we held on to the last bottle and split what remained between us. I think Will wanted to get a little drunk, and after taking finals at school, I was in the mood, too.
Outside, waiting for the car to be brought around, Will leaned on me, laughing. “I am not too drunk to drive. Believe me?”
I knew and could identify his various stages of inebriation. “Yes, you are fine.”
A flash went off in our faces. I jerked back in surprise, but Will just smiled. “Ah, the paps. Always hovering, like death and taxes.”
I had never faced them so directly; before, they had always sort of sneaked around, grabbing shots whenever they could. I fought the urge to hide behind Will, and he did not help any, slipping an arm around my waist to keep me beside him.
“Who’s your friend, Will?”
He told them and spelled it. “Get it right,” he said, laughing.
“How long have you known Will, Jamie?” someone asked me.
I said nothing and started to tremble. Will intercepted the question. “He’s not used to you guys, give him a break.”
“How long, Will?”
Smiling, he said, “Long.”
“Is he a close friend?” one asked, giving emphasis to the word close.
“Yes,” Will said without hesitation.
“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” a different voice asked.
Will was drunk enough to want to play. “What do you think I’m saying?” he asked in a teasing voice.
I waited, shrinking inside, wishing the car would arrive, wanting to be home and safe and away from these pedazos de mierda. “No…” I whispered, afraid.
He heard me; his hand tightened on my hip. I turned toward him, seeking protection.
The photographers said nothing for a long moment, and Will smiled at them; he was waiting for someone to work up the courage to say it. If they didn’t, and the car arrived, we were free. I bit my lip; the suspense was killing me.
Finally, the first person who had spoken said, “Are you out?”
Will nodded. “Yes.”
They murmured and whispered to each other, and the same man asked, “Is Jamie your partner?”
At that moment, the car pulled up and Will opened the passenger door so I could get in. Over the top of the vehicle, he said, “Yes.”
Seconds later, we pulled away, and I buried my head in my hands. Will reached over, touched my shoulder. “You’re shaking. Come here, next to me.”
I slid over and folded myself against him like a child. He put one arm around me. “It’s done.”
“How do you feel?” I asked.
He drew in a deep breath. “Good, sweetie. I feel really good.”