Written by Michelle Rae
Any copies or reproductions of this story
Please credit the author.
At what point does one ask. ‘How did I come to be here?’
The large bedroom contained two pieces of furniture - an oak desk and a queen size bed. Both stood stark against the milk chocolate walls, beige carpet and curtain free windows. Nothing in the room gave evidence it was occupied. However the man whose room it was preferred it that way.
In the adjoining bathroom Carlson stared at his reflection. Recently turned twenty-four, the man in the mirror was a stranger. Carlson felt his grip on his identity fading and wondered when it had all started. Was it when he joined his father’s multi national corporation? When he went to the same university his family all attended? Or was it in high school when he first suppressed his true self?
His parents always decided his future and as Carlson adjusted the purple tie against his lavender shirt he wondered if he missed his opportunity to break free. He surveyed his image one last time. Short blond hair styled in a manner his mother approved. His bright blue eyes appeared cold and uncaring. Nothing about how he looked pleased him.
When had the hatred grown to where it became an emotion suffocating him? When had every living thing, every sound, every detail about his life eaten away who he was until he didn’t care if he breathed or not anymore.
Carlson stepped away from the full-length mirror and returned to his bedroom. He picked up the gold cuff links his mother laid out for him on his bed and attached them to his sleeves before making his way downstairs.
As Carlson reached the foyer he saw his mother, Grace, fussing over his fathers tie. His father, Carl, looked over at him and scorned, “Purple, really Carlson, could you have not chosen a worse colour.”
Carlson ignored his fathers comment and went to stand beside his older sister, Victoria. He did not greet her, nor did he look her way, any connection with his sister ended a long time ago. That did not stop her from greeting him, however Carlson ignored her. He and Victoria were both been fortunate to inherit their mother’s beauty and their father's height. To bad neither was interested in finding a partner to the annoyance of their mother. It was the one thing Carlson and Victoria both refused to cooperate in.
His mother glanced at his direction silently scorning him for not responding, however he ignored her too.
Four years between the siblings, Carlson once looked up to his sister who he admired and found strength in. That all changed when Carlson turned sixteen. Since that time he and Victoria had not spoken. His mother tried many times over the years to mend the rift, however Carlson refused to listen knowing she was just as much responsible.
Their father moved towards the front door and as Grace walked past Carlson, she said, “You know what your father thinks of men who wear purple.”
“He’s wearing pink mother,” Carlson replied in a cold dry tone.
“It’s salmon and the stripes are not noticeable compared to what you are wearing,” she informed him.
“Would you like me to change?” he asked.
“No, we don’t have time to wait for you to change, please remember next time to dress more appropriately.”
“Yes mother,” he replied knowing he would ignore her request.
Carlson followed his family out of their expensive mansion and towards the BMW waiting in the drive. The driver opened the back door for his parents and as the fear of suffocation consumed him Carlson said, “I'll drive myself tonight.”
His mother was entering the vehicle when she readjusted herself to say, “Really Carlson would it hurt you to ride with us.”
“Tonight I want to drive. I don’t get the opportunity very much these days. Would it hurt to let me drive there?”
“Carlson, don’t speak to your mother that way.”
His father stood at the open door, the driver looking stony faced attempting to ignore the conversation.
“My apologies, however, I will drive tonight. I will meet you there.”
Carlson turned on his heels and made his way to the garage. He heard the other vehicle moving down the gravel drive and Carlson felt relief. He rarely was alone. In a red Porsche, gifted to him from his father, Carlson started the vehicle as he waited for the electric roller doors to open. As he accelerated from the garage and down the drive he ignored the gravel spraying from under the wheels.
His destination was not far, another million-dollar home of a tycoon his father did business with. The gathering was of a personal nature and one Carlson didnot bother to enquire about. His mother instructed he and Victoria attend and so they were. After parking the vehicle among the others in the drive, Carlson met his family at the entrance were they waited for him. They had to be seen arriving together as was customary for appearance sake.
Carlson greeted those who met with them in the foyer. Once escorted to the rear of the house where the party was taking place, Carlson remained by his father’s side. He was introduced to business associates and friends of his fathers he had not already met in the past.
One such introduction was to a mining magnate, accompanied by his daughter, Patricia. She was older and had a mature elegance about her appearance. She made causal conversation with Carlson while their fathers spoke. Every word from his mouth felt superficial, every sound flawed, every action forced. Yet he knew his behaviour couldn't be faulted. The subtle flirtatious responses she made indicated she was taken by him. Was this his father’s intentions when he introduced them?
When he and his father moved on, Carl leaning in said, “You are to make time for Patricia. It would do well for businesses if our families joined.”
Carlson nodded to his father he understood and thought, ‘So this was to be my life, following his father’s orders, living the life his father wanted for him.’
When did he give up? When did he stop caring? Why didn’t he do something to change his situation?
At the end of the evening, Carlson and his family bid their farewells.
“I have invited Patricia over for tea tomorrow evening, be available.”
“Yes mother,” Carlson replied as he kissed her goodbye. He shook his father’s hand, and he said, “You did excellent today Carlson. We’ll discuss in more detail your future when we return home.”
Carlson nodded and taking his leave, made his way to the Porsche. He started the engine and pulled out onto the drive.
His thoughts on the drive home were in a spiralling tunnel of negativity. Carlson couldn't get away from the self-destructive voice. His voice - pushing him closer to the edge.
As he approached the corner three streets from his house he realized he was heavy on the accelerator as he almost hit the gutter coming around the corner. Carlson pulled hard on the steering wheel as he straightened the car and continued down the road. In his rear view mirror he saw his parents car. He knew he should slow down if he didn’t want a lecture from the both of them when they arrived home. Yet something in Carlson he could no longer control, tearing him up inside. As he took the next corner, he came into it too fast. The street was narrower then the one he was coming from. He didn’t have the experience to manoeuvre the car around the parked cars in front of him. Yet, he could have tried but Carlson gave up.
He didn’t attempt to correct his steering. He didn’t avoid the obstacles, and he didn’t once think this didn’t have to happen. As his car slammed into the parked car, the force bounced the Porsche across the street and wrapped it around a lamp pole, almost slicing it in half. Carlson knew he was in a serious way, the pain that followed the silence told him he was still alive, yet it also told him one other thing. The reason he had lost his identity had been his own fault as much his families; before losing consciousness.
Logan recorded the last of the native plants not sold on the clipboard he was holding.
“That’s all of them Clare, load them up and get them back to the nursery.”
“Sure thing boss,” she said. With a grin, Clare moved towards the utility parked in the pavilion and unlatched the back to load the plants on the tray.
The spring garden and plant festival was a big event for Creative Gardens. Here they showcased their ideas to the public and inspired homeowners to use them to design and create the right gardens for their homes or businesses.
After graduating from university three years prior with a degree in horticulture, Logan's first part-time job was with Creative Gardens. After seven months with the company and working other jobs to survive, Logan accepted a full time position as garden designer and landscaper. Two years later he was now in charge of displaying the company’s potential during gardening events. As well as being responsible for design, landscaping, sales and marketing for both personal and professional clients. Logan was living his dream.
Logan worked hard to establish his reputation. At twenty-five years of age, he was building a repertoire that would one day see him achieving his dream of his owning his own business. He scanned the stand for anything missed. Over for another year all they needed to do was clean the hired space. As Clare passed him she gave him a smack on his behind, and he called out, “Hey, that’s sexual harassment you know.”
Clare poked her tongue out, and replied, “It would be if you cared.”
One of Logan’s best friends, Clare, always enjoyed the extra cash when they did festivals.
“Don’t push your luck shorty or I’ll tell Harry you were coping a feel.”
Clare gave Logan her best evil glare, hating being called anything that referred to her pint size five-foot frame. When they were out together she wasn’t short, considering most of their friends were not much taller. It didn’t help Logan stood six foot two and towered above them.
Clare ignored his insult regarding her height as she strolled past, carrying a potted plant in each hand, and replied, “Harry knows better than to believe you.”
Logan laughed, his friends knew he was gay; he was never one to hide his sexuality. During high school he kept a low profile as he considered a boys school not the right place to ‘come out’. Not that it mattered back then, being it wasn’t until half way through his final year he realized he was gay. He waited until after graduating to tell his family and they were very accepting.
Once Clare packed the native plants in the vehicle, Logan coordinated the smaller potted flowers and accessories to be stored in front of them.
“Are you going to help or just stand there all day ordering me around,” Clare huffed as she stormed past Logan.
“Ordering you around sounds like a good idea. I don’t get to that often.”
Logan laughed when a piece of irrigation pipe flew past him, missing him.
“Okay now, not need to get violent, I’m helping.”
At the passenger side of the utility Logan reached in through the open window and placed his clipboard on the seat. He removed his tie and rolled up his sleeves of his work shirt to help. From his pocket he pulled out a hair tie. His dark hair hung over his brown eyes reminding Logan he needed a hair cut but until he could find time he tied it back.
“Can’t believe she’s making me work in my good clothes,” he murmured loud enough for Clare to hear.
“Oh please, listen to him.”
Logan grinned, he couldn’t help teasing Clare, and he knew she didn’t mind.
He met Clare through Harry, who he met at the university his first year. Harry majored in Logistics and they met in the reference section of the library one afternoon. Harry, half Italian, half klingon, was what he told Logan when they talked, stood at five foot five with the craziest black hair Logan ever saw. The tight curls often flat against his head where a clear indication of bed hair. It always made Logan laugh when he saw Harry. After chatting for an hour Harry invited Logan to join him for drinks later that night. Logan felt the need to explain his sexuality to Harry. With a shrug, Harry confessed he had a gay friend and thought Logan might be interested in meeting him.
At the time Logan was happy to met Harry’s gay friend but back then neither Logan nor Simon, said friend, clicked. Simon was five foot two, bright red hair, skin and bones and had one too many piercings for Logan’s liking. As for Simon, he found Logan too tall and too bubbly for him. They became great friends and soon after Harry introduced Clare, his girlfriend.
In time their group of four grew to five. James was a shy man when they first met and fitted in well thanks to Harry's knack of making people feel included. When sisters, Sophie and Tess joined them, their group was complete. After graduating from university they stayed in touch and met up every Friday night after work to catch up for drinks.
James and Harry turned up half an hour later to help pack up, and had the work completed in just over an hour. The festival ran over four days, two days being the weekend, and having busted his butt during that time Logan was itching to get out and unwind.
With the utility packed, the bark chips shoveled into industrial garden bags, the three men carried the bags out to the second utility. Logan, now hot and sweaty and his work clothes dirty, look forward to leaving.
Harry returned inside the pavilion to drive Clare and the plants back to the nursery and Logan drove James back in the other. In the cab, James asked, “The festival went well?”
Logan clipped his seat belt up, started the utility, and replied, “Yes, double the contracts from last year.”
“That’s great,” James said.
Where Logan once thought James shy he now realized how complex he was. James never talked much, and it took months for Logan to become accustom to his character. When James spoke his words were always stiff which made it appear he was making the effort because he had too. Over time Logan learned James had trouble socializing and for a long time suffered depression. It wasn’t anything Logan understood. James had a great family, good friends, and a job he liked, yet he isolated his emotions. It baffled Logan, however that was who James was, and they accepted him for that.
All influenced by Harry and brought in under his wing, Simon often joked he was their surrogate father, always protecting them. Harry had many friends and Logan knew he involved himself with many organizations and people. Yet their small group was the one that gave back to Harry what Harry gave to them.
Sisters, Sophie and Tess, were so crazy Logan wondered what drew Harry to them. Of all their friends the two women brought with them laughter all the time. Logan admitted he wasn’t as flamboyant as Simon and not as reserved as James. Clare was cute, but the sisters were about colour, noise, and being seen. Both large women, they took pride in their appearance and rejoiced who they were. Logan believed their mixed group offered the right amount of everything they all needed.
The ride to the nursery was silent and Logan didn’t mind. As he pulled into the drive and went to get out to unlock the gate, he asked, “You coming over tonight for drinks after this? Or do you want me to drop you home?”
“Drinks would be good,” James said.
“Great,” Logan replied, and getting out of the car he unlocked the gates. A drink with friends was what Logan needed.