Neighbors & Families
Jason returned from his lunch with Bill just as a moving van was pulling up to the front of his building. He swung into the garage and parked. As he walked into his apartment, he saw Ben sitting at the nearest window, peaking out from behind the blinds.
“What are you doing?” Jason asked.
“The new guy is moving in.” Ben said, not taking his eyes off whatever it was he saw for a second. “Steve was not jerking me, either. This guy is beyond hot!”
“Fascinating.” Jason tried to sound as uninterested as he could manage.
“Check this guy out!” Ben called out as loudly as he could without yelling. Jason, despite himself, hurried over. He looked over Ben’s head out the window toward the door across the courtyard that led to the stairs leading to Cynthia’s old apartment. Jason was taken aback with memories of late night gab sessions and junk food binges. It had been so long, he began thinking, since he had even spoken to her. He had been afraid married life would change things. She said it wouldn’t but it would seem she was wrong. Jason’s thoughts were shunted to the side as he caught a glimpse of someone walking out the door across from them.
He was at least six feet tall and had large, thick arms and a pillowy chest. His face was unimaginably beautiful. Perfect nose. Perfect mouth. Deadly eyes. His face was youthful but it was clear that he was quite a bit older, mid to late forties Jason guessed. He saw a streak of Matt in his face. His brown hair was just shaggy enough to give him that boyish, bad boy look. His blue jeans were sufficiently ripped and torn. He had on a pair of small flip flops, which topped off the whole look and made Jason really start to hate himself. He could hear Ben sucking the drool back into his mouth.
“Oh my god! How the hell can any one person be allowed to look that good?”
“I don’t make the rules. So how long do you think?”
“How long do I think what?”
“How long before I land him?”
“You don’t even know his name! Maybe he won’t like you.”
“Everyone likes me,” Ben said. “Watch.” Ben then straightened up and stripped off his shirt, exposing his tanned and ripped torso. Jason used to be made breathless at the sight but living with the man for almost five years had made him immune.
“So, just like that? You skip out there shirtless and he falls for you?”
“That’s how it usually works. Come on.” Ben then ran his fingers through his hair and walked out the door and Jason was close behind.
Jason and Ben walked out to the front where they found the handsome new neighbor climbing out of the moving van with a large, brown box in his grip. His well-shaped biceps were straining and flexing due to the exertion. Ben strode over confidently while Jason stayed back and was prepared for a show.
“Hi there!” The handsome man said enthusiastically.
“Hi,” Ben said in his most smooth and suave voice. “Need some help, neighbor?”
“Oh, thanks, but no. I got it covered.” Just then, a young boy no more than seventeen emerged from the van with a smaller box in his thin arms. He was a tall, thin young boy with black hair that seemed a bit disheveled and crazy. A bright, beautiful looking older woman followed him. She had short, black hair and a full bosom that was testing the limits of the slim sports bra she was wearing.
“That’s Justin,” The man said pointing to the young boy who looked as if he wanted to be anywhere but there. “And that’s Victoria.” He continued as he indicated to the woman who was brightly smiling down upon them all.
“Great. So, your sister and nephew?” Ben asked with a glimmer of hope.
“No. Son and wife. I’m Ty. Ty King,” He said offering his hand underneath the box in his arms. Ben took it half heartedly but Ty didn’t seem to either notice or care. “You’re the first people we’ve met here so far. Aside from Steve of course.”
“Of course.” Jason then burst to life realizing someone had to rescue him from the situation.
“I’m Jason Preston and this is Ben Kollins. Number Nine. Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” Ty said nodding simply to Jason.
“You sure you don’t need any help?”
“Absolutely, but thanks for the offer.”
“Well, then. We’ll leave you to it then.” Jason gently turned Ben around and led him back to their apartment.
“I don’t get it.” Ben said breathlessly as soon as they were out of earshot. “He’s straight! And hot!”
“It happens, you know. They can’t all be gay.”
“But, he’s so pretty. Married. With a kid. Pretty old kid too, so I guess they’ve been married for some time.” Ben reasoned. “Maybe,”
“No.” Jason blurted, blocking Ben’s thought. “Let it go.”
Ben spent the rest of the afternoon watching Ty and his family move into Cynthia’s apartment. For every one box Justin dragged up, Ty brought up four. Despite his youth, Justin seemed to be out classed by his father at every step. The resemblance was difficult to see except in the face. Justin clearly did not have his father’s perfectly sculpted body, but he did have his well formed face and the same pair of ice blue eyes. Every now and then Ben could have sworn he saw Justin looking back at him through the window. He thought maybe there was a reason Justin was taking things a bit slower than anyone else. Almost instinctively Ben got up and walked back out to the front. He walked out and saw Ty and Justin struggling with a large chest of drawers.
“Come on, son! Lift!” Ty yelled sounding both exasperated and encouraging at the same time. Then the chest of drawers landed with an audible crunch. Ty turned away and put his hand to his face, obviously trying to keep from saying anything he would regret. “Justin? Maybe you can help your mother with the unpacking inside.” Ty said in a calm, trembling voice. Justin seemed to understand his father’s tone more than Ty thought as he angrily stomped away back into the apartment building. Ty looked up and over at Ben who had silently witnessed the exchange.
“Ben! You look pretty fit! How about lending me a hand with this thing?”
“Sure.” Ben said. He got onto the van and grabbed his end of the chest of drawers. Ty counted to three and together they lifted. This little maneuver worked out better for Ben, as he was able to finally show off his physical prowess to Ty without having to risk a clumsy come on. Ben looked over and saw his arms were straining and pulsing as much as Ty’s. With a great push of force, Ben and Ty lifted the chest of drawers up and Ben brought his end down off the van.
“I guess Justin doesn’t take after you in everything, huh?”
“Yeah. He’s a good kid though. I try not to put so much pressure on him. It’s hard though. In my line of work, pressure is what it’s all about.” Ty said as he carefully guided the chest of drawers along onto the sidewalk.
“What do you do?”
“I knew it.” Ben said softly under his breath.
“I worry about him though. He’s so withdrawn. He’s never been to a school dance. Ever. Can you believe that?”
“It’s natural. I remember how it was when I was young. You never know what you’re feeling. Justin just doesn’t seem to be one of the lucky few who sail through puberty effortlessly.”
“I guess he got that from his mother. When I was his age, I didn’t think life could get any better. I lettered on all my teams. I got good grades. I was popular. I’d get hit on by all the girls, a few guys, and even some of the teachers. It was the greatest time of my life.”
“Really? What about now?”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy. It’s just back then I had a freedom that I just don’t have anymore. It’s just something that comes and goes with time. No complaints.” Ty said. Ty went on about his life with Victoria and Justin. He talked about how they had been living in New York up until three years ago when Victoria’s employer laid her off after twenty years of loyal service. It was at that point that they decided that the time had come for a change. They both agreed that moving to California was just the change they needed. Ty knew his training could travel with him and Victoria was certain she’d find a new job out in Los Angeles. Justin, Ty said, didn’t weigh in on the moving issue. He just seemed to agree with it as he did with most things and went with it. They had been living in Hollywood up until six months ago when a shift in their income forced them to find a building with lower rent.
After Ben and Ty moved the chest of drawers in, they joined Justin and Victoria in unpacking the other boxes. Ben was happily opening box after box, half way hoping he’d open up the box containing Ty and Victoria’s bedroom things. He was wondering what kind of porn he enjoyed. Did he get off on girl on girl stuff or was he more traditional? Did Victoria enjoy it with him or did she, like most wives as Ben understood it, just tolerate it for the sake of harmony? Victoria seemed to have the wild streak needed for such activities. As he pulled open the flaps of the last box, he found disappointment, as he looked down upon a pile of old dishrags. He began to dig through but there was nothing more inside. Victoria popped over and snagged a couple handfuls of towels and flashed a courteous smile at Ben.
“Would you care to stay for dinner?” She asked. “Nothing fancy. We were just going to order in a pizza.”
“Thanks, that would be great.” Ben said as he rested on the couch. He kept himself hunched over in order to keep his sweaty back off the upholstery. Justin was sitting across the room sorting through one of his boxes. His eyes were intent on the contents but Ben noticed Justin catching quick glances at him every now and then.
The pizza arrived and Ben sat down with the Kings in the living room. They sat on the floor in a circle. Ben did his best not to linger on Ty who was, like him, still shirtless. He just shot quick glances when he thought he was safe. A few times he thought that Justin had caught him and once he could have sworn Victoria had too, but she didn’t change her demeanor so it must have been a mistake, he thought. The only eyes Ben felt on him were those of Justin who seemed to be looking at him even more frequently as they were closer to each other.
“Oh!” Suddenly Ty spoke out. “I almost forgot! The van!”
“Oh! That’s right!” Victoria checked her watch. “It’s due back in ten minutes!”
“I’m on it.” Ty said as he pitched himself up, his muscled chest undulating with his movement. It was all Ben could do to keep himself from just jumping up and taking a bite out of him. Victoria struggled up as well.
“I’ll come with you. Sorry to run out on you like this, Ben. Go ahead and finish your dinner. We’ll be back in a little bit, Justin. Be nice to our guest.” Victoria said to Justin in an oddly motherly tone as they left.
Ben and Justin lingered on their dinner after Victoria and Ty left. There were no witnesses so Justin stared at Ben unapologetically.
“What?” Ben snapped.
“Nothing.” Justin said quietly.
“I’m going to call it a night. Tell your parents I appreciated the meal.” Ben then got up and walked to the door.
“You like my dad, don’t you?” Ben stood, frozen, at the door. He slowly turned.
“It’s okay. Happens all the time. Everyone likes my dad.”
“Why are you asking me this?”
“I saw you looking at him all day. I know that look. I’ve seen it on a lot of people’s faces. Teachers. Baby sitters. Distant relatives.”
“Okay. You got me. You’re dad’s hot,” Ben said. “And since we’re talking about who’s staring at who, how about you looking at me?”
“I was not.”
“Come off it! Every time I was turning around, you were turning back the other way. I’m not stupid.”
“You’re cute, okay?”
“It’s okay to admit it.”
“I know. It’s just kind of new to me. I don’t know if it’s anything serious. I read that all guys go through this stage where they’re attracted to other guys.”
“I’ve heard that too. What do you think it means for you?”
“I don’t know. I’m kind of working that out.” Justin said brightly.
“Well, I’ve never really been the counselor type, but if you want to talk, let me know.”
“Really?” Justin asked as he lifted his head up. A slight smile formed along the corner of his mouth.
“Really.” Ben looked into Justin’s timid grin. For the briefest of moments his mind was taken back to when he was growing up in Seattle and how he felt the summer he realized about his own bisexuality. He remembered the fear and anxiety of those weird feelings and the euphoria of finally accepting what he was as well as the feeling of having his whole life ahead of him. He saw a road ahead of him that held nothing but promise and new discovery. He suddenly snapped back as a small clock nearby began to ring. He looked over and saw it was nearly nine o’clock.
“I better get going.”
“Sorry. Gotta work, you know? Besides, I am trashed after all this moving, but I’m downstairs, across the yard. Number nine.” Ben said feeling more important than he had ever felt in his life.
“Okay.” Justin looked up to Ben and tossed him a slight smile which Ben returned just as he slipped through the door.