The chill touch of the wind slid over the front of his chest and legs, as it gusted and tried to find its way inside the sturdy brown coat. He had it buttoned up and there wasn’t much chance of the icy wind finding its way inside. Martin reached up the tug the collar up against his neck, to better shield him from the biting cold. It was a bit awkward with his hands being occupied with his cane and grocery bag, but he clutched the groceries against his side, and managed to do it without a disaster.
He’d forgotten his gloves, and his hands were shaking. He couldn’t wait to get into the house and get a hot mug of tea to warm them. He gripped the silver handle of his cane, his limp more pronounced as he accelerated his pace. His polished walking stick and brown boots clipped on the cobbles and concrete of the sidewalk and road all the more louder, attesting to his determination to get home and out of the wind.
Martin was not that tall, but he was a handsome young man, just out of his teens. He had just turned 20, with a long brown mop of silken locks that hid half his face, more than half of the time. He had exotic shaped ears, and a smile that could light a room, when he was happy and chatting. But right now was not one of those times.
He was slender and lean, with high cheekbones and a piercing gaze that spoke of intellect or that far away dreamy artist expression when he was lost in the realms inside his mind. His pale pants resisted the gusts of wind and cold from where the brown coat protection left off mid-thigh. It was chill. And since he had fallen on some hard times, he didn’t seem to be able to take it quite as well.
Still, he tried to survive as best as he could, with resources being so scarce, he had to make due with less and less. Tough times called for leaner trips to the market.
He had worked hard, over the last several years, putting his time in behind the screen, being the wordsmith that everyone had said at univesity was destined to be a best selling author. And he had had that first great novel as a breakthrough. But then 2009 had happened, and the publishing house had folded like a house of cards on a 3 legged card table. And at that same time, he’d been ill, and the doctors had not been cheap, nor the hospital forgiving of the debt.
The checks had gotten leaner, until they had stopped altogether, and he’d been worried that now, he was on the verge of losing the house, and the life he’d been so lucky to have found.
Rounding the corner he came up to the side gate of his townhouse, and that little old tree seemed to bar his way through the side door. It seemed to be stooped by the cold, with frost glittering along its leafless limbs and bark. He slipped the key into the lock, gave it a twist, and the door opened, and he ducked under the low hanging limb and entered the house. He slammed the door behind him, gasping with the exertion and cold, and leaned back against the door.
The wind whistled and moaned behind him, as if upset that Martin had gotten away from its tendrils of chill delight. He closed his eyes, and tried to soak in the heat of the house around him, but it wasn’t that warm inside, so far away from the main living room’s fire place. But it was at least out of that chill wind.
Martin stumped down the hall, and into the kitchen, where he was surprised to see a taller young man, about his age, wearing a long smoke gray wool jacket and a blue knitted cap that said, “Powder Bunny” on a patch at the front. He had soulful golden-brown eyes and a square jaw that sported a soul patch and several days of stubble. Long blond hair seemed to swirl about him to almost his waist. Black jeans and boots to match were on his legs and his tall lean frame seemed to almost fill the little space by the kitchen island up.
He had a bag of something on the counter in front of him – a paper bag that was rolled down – it looked like chinese take out, from down the street. He’d not been able to afford such things in a few months, and the smell insinuated itself into his nostrils and made his stomach growl loudly.
“Martin!” Jadd said with a sunny grin, as he skipped over and took the bag of groceries from his friend’s grip. Martin stood there gaping at his … friend? Companion? Lover? Betrayer? Who knew with Jadd. The blond ski instructor had been a free spirit for years, and to see him here, now, was uncharacteristic. There’d been a ton of snow up on the slopes, so he should have been busy with the rich bitch clientele that always ogled and admired the sexy athletic man’s easy manner and charm that the gods themselves must have given him.
Martin just gaped at his friend, and said, “Not that I .. I mean…. I’m surprise to see you, Jadd, So.. What the hell are you doing here? “ he said that in an exasperated voice, and feeling the heat of his face in some kind of strangled embarrassment at the intrusion into his less than welcoming cold house.
Jadd’s smile, toothy and scintillating white, was framed by lips that one could dream you’d be lucky enough to kiss.. Snog.. make out with.. All sorts of things. He flashed that 200 watt smile and wiggled his eyebrows, and sat the groceries down on the countertop.
“Oh I was just passing by.. “ Jadd said as he levered himself up next to groceries and dangled his long strong legs off the tiled floor.
The kitchen was not a large one, but it was nice, with decent cabinets and counter spaces, all in white and trimmed with black, with brass fittings. The stainless steel fridge and freezer side-by-side were gleaming still, as was the sink, with the hanging pots and pans over the small island in the center.
“Bullshit,” Martin said, as he started unpacking the groceries into the refrigerator, then setting the baguette on the countertop, and the other non-perishables went into the cupboard. “You can’t be ‘just passing by’, during the busy season.“ He stopped, and turned, and Jadd almost seemed hurt, his smile dimmed and his lips compressed, as he pushed himself off of the counter and walked over the Martin.
Jadd looked into his friend’s face, and without preamble, he placed his strong hands on either side of Martin’s shoulders and kissed him, full on the mouth. Martin gasped almost in surprise, but his hands went to Jadd’s sides and embraced him like he had been used to doing.
They held one another for a few moments, before Jadd pulled back, and he looked hard into Martin’s face. “I was so worried. You stopped returning my calls, you stopped writing emails, you didn’t come to the gathering a few weeks ago. You just.. well.. stopped. I missed you.”
The two had been sort of a couple, if a free spirit like the blond could ever be in a serious relationship, for the time Martin had his success, but things had change, and Martin had been sure that this wonderful attractive man had left him for some other conquest. Since his money had run practically out, he was sure that the boy wasn’t interested.
“I only stopped .. when you stopped, Jadd.” Martin said that in a soft voice, a bit melancholy, as he drew away from the blond. His face went rigid with the accusation in his voice. He gulped and stood back, and fixed Jadd with a long, level look. The tall boy seemed a bit upset and his cheeks colored – was that embarrassment from the boy that never had to sleep alone?
“The last I heard was that message. “ Martin’s voice was firm but had a brittleness to it.
“Martin, let me explain.. That message…” Jadd said, as he began, but he was silenced as Martin almost snarled, “That message -with the champagne corks, hot tub bubbles, and slutty chicks saying they had your pants off and wanted to give your willie a make over.. THAT was the message I got. “
Jadd, who had been so shameless in the past, moved in close to Martin, but the smaller man put up a hand to his lover’s chest and pushed him back a step. “No.. you’re not charming your way out of this one.”
Jadd frowned, and shook his head his angular face clenched with embarrassment and consternation. “Look, I know how you get.. You jump to conclusions, though, honestly, I’d have assumed worse, myself. But look! That was totally innocent.. And I never let my shorts come off. I even had swim trunks on in that hot-tub! And though yeah.. I was a little drunk.. I kept pushing the chicks onto Brad and Harlen.. They were the ones getting all the play that night. Though, I don’t think anyone would have blamed me if I HAD.. you told me you’d be there, and you didn’t show. You ditched me, like the 2 other dates we set up. I had to track you down HERE. “
Jadd was a little pissed now as he’d worked up his steam, and Martin’s stiff arm slowly relented and he was almost gripping his friend’s jacket with an apologetic caress now.
“I am .. sorry..and embarrassed .. Jadd – I.. I’m out of money. This meager bag of groceries.. That’s it. That’s all.. I’m out.. I can’t even sell the house fast enough to make a difference. “
That came out like a confession, soft and raspy. Martin hung his head now, his brown hair concealing his face from Jadd’s gaze, as he just stood there, defeated.
Jadd said, “I know.. I know everything – now, I do, at least. Some of your mail that you refused to answer – well, the bank decided to call some of your other contacts.. Guess who they called.. Yeah.. my dad. He called me and asked what the hell was going on. So I hunted you down.. “
Martin looked up, and he winced at the fact that Jadd’s unforgiving father had been dragged into the mix. Jadd and his father hadn’t been more than barely on speaking terms to one another in years.
“What did they call your dad for? He’s like.. Not on my loan papers!”
“It was the number I gave when I put my name as a reference on your loan,” Jadd said with a wry smile. “You know how I am.. I drift around. That was the only stable phone number I could think of. They never call those things, but this time they did. Go figure.”
Martin huffed knowing his payments were behind and he was days away from a notice from the bank. But he crossed his arms over his chest, and shook his head, the brown strands softly sighing against the lapels of his coat. “Well, now I’m humiliated, as well, from that. Yay universe. Let’s all just dump on the failed author.”
“Well, that’s something else you little dumbass,“ Jadd said, as he took a manilla envelope out of his coat and handed it to the smaller man. “You’d better read inside. That’s from the company that bought the properties from your old publishing house.. Seems they owe you a large sum of money. “
Martin’s frown deepened, as he looked at Jadd like he was blowing sunshine up his behind.
“You’re full of it.. Carter and Huffingdale went under,” he said as he took the envelope with a snatching grab, his cane falling to hit the floor with a ‘bang!’ when he did.
“Yeah, well, bankruptcy court and clearing of assets took a while,” Jadd said in a strangely intelligent and informed voice, like he really knew what he was talking about. And Martin shook his head, that buzzing fly in his mind that he always KNEW Jadd was more than just a pretty face. He was actually quite smart, but his easy-going, free spirited attitude let everything think he was just a witless jock snow bunny with a cute ass.
Martin opened the manilla envelope, and pulled out a sheaf of papers, and started to read the cover letter. “Stockman, Ferbone, Carter and Huffingdale Press” it said at the header of the letterhead. As he read, it stated that a new publishing house had been formed from the ashes of the old, and they were doing their best to meet their obligations to their clients, to rebuild what was lost, and pave the way to a successful future. When he saw the check that was paper-clipped to the bottom of the letter, his eyes bulged and he looked up at Jadd, then down again, then up again, then down again, as if in disbelief.
“Holy .. Jadd.. do you know.. What this means? “
Jadd grinned and Martin leaped into his arms and kisses the tall blond like they were in some movie.
“You bet yer ass I know what it means. It means you can stop moping around in the cold, and stop starving, and get back into my bed.. Or that hot tub you seemed so jealous of. You can’t keep flagellating yourself now.” Jadd’s smile lit the room, and it melted Martin’s jealous cold heart too.
“Jadd.. I’ve been a horrible little shit to you.. I .. “ he began, but Jadd put one of those amazingly skilled strong fingers to Martin’s lips and shook his head. “If we weren’t meant to be together, I’d have done what you thought I was doing, and run off with last week’s Bunny Slope award winner.. We could have had beautiful.. Stepford children together. “ he shook his head and grinned, looking deep into Martin’s eyes. “You’re the only one for me, hon. So.. whats say, we blow this popsicle stand? Get some food and get you somewhere warm and cozy?”
Martin smiled his own little radiant smile and nodded, “Let me pack a bag, get my bank stuff, and we can take care of this on the way out of town, before they close for the day, “ he waved the check in the air, and kissed Jadd again.
The embrace lasted a while, and then they chatted a while, warm and intimate, and no longer in the dreadful cold.
The winter was over. Spring had arrived, at least for Martin and Jadd.
Story by: Dehrynn Shepherd
Hair- tram F1215 (Store)
Backdrop- 8f8 – no place of ours – Winterish (Store)