First book in the trilogy about Cameron, Scott, Cody and Noel (and in the second and third book Ava and Gus)
written by Catherine Micqu
I was done with work and strolled into my favorite bistro. I didn’t like to be alone and Cody wasn’t home yet. I sat in my favorite spot in an armchair. I was close to a window and could watch the people outside or I could watch the people inside the cozy little bistro. Ritchie brought me my usual and stayed for a little chat, but the place was busy and soon enough, he was back at work. I sighed and took a book out of my bag. Soon, I was lost in the story and the world around me didn’t matter anymore. A loud laugh made me look up. I am a curious person and I wanted to see who that throaty and heartfelt laugh belonged to. I was just in time to see a disastrous and comical scene unfold. Ritchie carried a tray with a cup and a glass of water. The young man who had laughed walked backward and didn’t see Ritchie. It was as if I saw the whole thing in slow motion. Ritchie didn’t stand a chance. He tried to catch the tray that had slipped out of his hand when the other man collided with him, but it was too late. The coffee cup made some artistic spins and emptied itself on the young man’s head. The bistro became silent and only a split second later erupted into laughter. The glass of water hit the young man too, drenching his back and rendering his white button down shirt see through. He didn’t wear a wife-beater and the dark outline of a tattoo came into view. The expression on the young man’s face was priceless. In a matter of seconds, it changed from “WTF” to “OMG”. Ritchie was cussing and already running to get a broom and a rag to clean the mess. I was expecting the young customer to throw a fit, but to my surprise, he blushed and knelt to help Ritchie picking up the shards, who, of course, protested the help.
I had seen enough, shaking my head with a smirk, I took a sip of my coffee and got back to my book. I couldn’t focus on the words though and looked up to see if the situation had calmed down. It had and I scanned the place to find the young man again. I saw him kissing another man on the cheek and they said their goodbyes. I was intrigued. I was an out gay male too, but I wasn’t comfortable with public displays of affection. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the men. They smiled at each other and I wished I had the same carefree attitude as them. But I didn’t. I never had.
I had to laugh. It was one of those pitying laughs, you know? Here I sat ogling a young man who was barely older than Cody. Cody is my younger brother and he has lived with me since he was seven years old. Now he was a teenager. Seventeen years of age, and what had been easy in the beginning had been turning into hard work for some time now. I am almost twenty years older than he is. I’m not going to tell you my age, but you can quickly work it out.
I was not ancient, but I felt old. Too old to look at twenty-year-old boys. I had changed a lot, but my taste in men hadn’t and now that became a problem. While I grew older and older, the boys I looked at were still merely twenty and I felt like a pervert more and more. They were in the prime of their lives and I only grew older. It wasn’t as easy to keep my body in shape anymore. My hair wasn’t as ginger anymore, my skin not as smooth anymore. I had never been obsessed with my appearance, although my job expected a level of attractiveness. I still allowed the few gray hairs to grow and the wrinkles around my eyes to show. I wasn’t vain enough to dye my hair or try Botox. Then again, I had been single for almost a decade now and I was starting to consider an extreme make-over. My friends were starting to settle down and have families. And I had Cody.
Many people assume that Cody is my son. He looked like a carbon copy of myself at that age. Our parents were hippies and when I was old enough to go to college and live a normal life, I did. They continued to make free love and grow hemp, and Cody had been miserable. The kids at school had made fun of him for having crazy parents and he almost begged me to allow him to come live with me. Our parents immediately agreed. That way they could move in with a friend who later turned out to be their lover. I have a crazy family, I know. But that is the story how, at twenty-six, I became the legal guardian of my seven-year-old brother. My parents didn’t care about the fact that I was gay or about my work. Every birthday, they sent a card for Cody and every Christmas we spent together. It was more than enough time to spend with them. At least they wore clothes when we were with them. Yes, that kind of crazy.
Did you notice that the moment I started taking care of Cody was when I had my last relationship? My partner hadn’t liked the fact that he wasn’t the only one I took care of. He had tried to blackmail me, but there had never been a doubt in my mind that I would be there for my little brother. I won’t pretend that it didn’t hurt because it did, but I would do the same again. Sometimes, I missed him though. And his homemade lasagna.
I was staring at my book again, still lost in thoughts. I get lost in my head sometimes and that was one of those moments. Maybe it has to do with the old age and remembering the past? Cursing took me out of my musings and when I looked up to see what was happening now, I was just in time to hold my arms out to catch the body that was falling down on top of me. In the process, another cup of coffee graced the floor of Ritchie’s bistro. I yelped in sudden pain. My wrist was crushed underneath the weight of a firm male body. It hurt. And no, it was not the good pain that I can appreciate from a man. I looked at the man and recognized the same man who had had a run-in with Ritchie. Up close, he didn’t look as young anymore. And vaguely familiar, but I had no idea where to put his face. He wriggled on my lap and my cheeks burned like fire. All eyes were on us. I felt the moisture of his wet shirt soak into mine and I groaned in frustration. He smelled of coffee too. I pushed him up from my lap and grabbed his wrist to turn him around just in time to prevent him from crashing into Ritchie again. Ritchie grumbled and cleaned the mess the other man had made. Again. Either he was really clumsy or he had a bad day. I scrutinized him and checked if there were more bumps or bruises. He caught me and blushed.
“I am so sorry. I’ll get you another cup. I just, there was a bag on the floor and my foot got stuck in the strap.” And that must have been my bag. This made it all my fault. He sighed. “I’m such a terrible klutz sometimes.” I smiled at him and he smiled back tentatively. His eyes left my face and wandered down my body and then the smile was gone too. His eyes zoomed in on the wet patch on my shirt and lap. Yes, his shirt had gotten me wet, but there was nothing that could be changed about that now. Wet is wet!
“I got you all wet.” He pointed to my chest and I nodded. I offered him a seat, partly to get him off his feet and give Ritchie a breather and partly to have some company.
“Sit! Order a drink! Calm down! Breathe and relax!” He nodded and sat down and then he followed my orders, one after the other.
“I’m Cameron.” I introduced myself offering my hand. He hesitated for a moment and shook it then. “Scott,” he just said. It was enough for me and his handshake was reasonably strong. I like that about people, when their handshake is firm and it doesn’t feel as if you are shaking a wet rag. I smiled too and thought to myself that I was taking a liking to him already. For a moment, I thought he would say something else, but he didn’t. Maybe he had recognized me from one of the movies I had made. I hoped not. I am not ashamed to do the movies I do, really I am not, but it’s not always helpful to meet new people. Scott exhaled deeply and looked around the little bistro.
“It’s cute. I just moved here.” He rubbed his hands on his thighs looking anywhere but at me. We didn’t talk and it was on the on the verge of being awkward. I usually enjoy when I can sit with someone and we don’t have to talk, but not when sitting with someone new. I used the silence to look at his face again. He had lines around his eyes and an open face. You know what I mean? When you look at someone and they don’t seem to be hiding anything at all? Scott looked like that.
“Are you sure you can drink out of a cup like this? Do you need a straw?” Ritchie put two cups in front of us and put his hands on his hips. He was bitchy sometimes, but I liked him. That time though, I pitied Scott and I took it upon myself to tell Ritchie to back off.
“Knock it off Ritchie. I’ll cover the damages.” Ritchie glared at me, then at Scott.
“It should on his tap, not yours. By the way, is he with you? Friend of Cody’s?” I shrugged not saying anything. It was none of his business anyway. Ritchie sighed and got back to work, mumbling something I didn’t catch.
“Thanks, man, but I can take care of myself.” I wanted to protest, but before I had a chance to say a word, he was out of the seat and walking to the counter. He was extra careful, or so it looked. He paid and pointed back at me. Ritchie nodded and smiled, taking the money. I picked my soiled book from the floor and tried reading another couple of pages, but Scott and the whole scene wouldn’t leave my mind. I closed the book, it was ruined anyway and looked out of the window. Maybe I could catch one last glimpse of Scott before he was gone out of my life for good. I decided that I had had enough and that it was time to go home. When I wanted to pay, Ritchie told me that: “your cute new friend took care of it. He’s clumsy though, don’t you think.” I smiled, there was no need for putting things straight with Ritchie, he would talk about it for ages now and every time the damage Scott had done would become bigger and bigger. I liked Ritchie a lot. I winked, put the strap of my bag over my head and left the bistro.
My brother Cody had been living with me for close to ten years now. I had taught him how to ride a bike, how to tie his shoes and how to do his homework. I had been at his side when he had trouble with math, when he hit puberty and when he had his first heartache. When he had moved in with me, he had been a child and now he was a young man. We had a very special bond, but I also knew that he kept secrets. It was okay. Everyone needs secrets. I had allowed Cody to bring home a friend after school to help him with his math. It still wasn’t his best subject, but I couldn’t help him anymore. I had a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, but I was no genius when it came to numbers. Cody was always surrounded by friends and he had thrown one or two parties at our home. I remembered my youth too well and how embarrassed I had been about our parents being stoned and running around naked. I avoided bringing anyone home back then. To this day, I call and ask them to put on clothes when I come home. I am not a prude, but these are my parents and there is nothing wrong with a little privacy, or a lot.
I parked my car in the garage next to Cody’s and walked in the house. It was quiet. Usually, when Cody was home music was playing. This was odd. I pulled off my shoes and sat my bag in its usual space and then I heard it for the first time. Something that sounded almost like a wail. My heart began speeding. Was he hurt?
“Cody?” I called out, but the only response I got was a moan. I hasted up the stairs to his room and there the noises suddenly made more sense. He was watching porn and from the sound of it, I could tell he was watching gay porn. My heartbeat calmed down until a new thought made it race again.
“Don’t let him look at my scenes.” I looked briefly at the ceiling to find some strength. I knocked and opened the door without waiting for him to ask me in. What I saw was not porn, at least not on the screen. What I saw where two young men having sex in a very acrobatic looking position.
“Cody Matthews!” It came out with shocked authority and louder than I had intended. He turned his head and grinned. He grinned at me and kept pounding the poor boy underneath him.
“Get out! Get down! We need to talk! Now!” I barked and left again. I heard him laugh when I closed the door. I knew this wouldn’t take long. I hoped it wouldn’t.
I went to the kitchen and tried to remember if I had seen a condom, but I couldn’t remember because I hadn’t looked. I was not the right person to judge him or tell him not to have sex. It was what paid our bills, after all. I shot scenes exclusively and regularly for Ren Renton’s company and I had no intention to stop. Cody knew what I was doing for a living and we had agreed that he would never watch my scenes, no matter what. It was too awkward and too intimate. For both of us.
I got a can of coffee going and sat at the table. I folded my hands, but I was too nervous to sit like that. Thoughts ran through my mind. Too many to sort through. I got up and paced the kitchen. I had had that talk with Cody when he had turned thirteen. It had been weird, but okay. Considering. But this was different. I had just walked in on my brother and his boyfriend. I hadn’t even known that he was gay. How blind had I been?
I put three cups on the table when I heard his door close. Footsteps. And then one pair was fleeing to the front door.
“Uh-uh!” I caught him just in time wriggling my finger. “We have to talk. You too. Kitchen! Now!” The boy looked like a lost puppy, but at least he seemed to be the same age as Cody. That was a start.
In the kitchen, I poured the coffee and sat the boys down.
“I am Cameron.” I introduced myself to a boy who didn’t dare to look at me. I was not a scary man. Not at all, but he didn’t seem to see it.
“Noel.” He whispered. Like Noel Gallagher, I thought but didn’t say it out loud.
“What did I walk in on just now?” I asked looking at Cody and Noel. Noel turned beet red and Cody shrugged, folding his arms across his chest.
“I wish you had told me Cody,” I said with a sigh and took a sip of my coffee. It was my fourth cup of the day and I was sure that it would keep me awake at night.
“Yeah, me too Cody!” Noel spat and he looked as if he was waiting for an explanation. “You said that there was no chance of your father walking in on us.”
“He’s not my dad.” Cody cleared up, but I knew that this was not making it any better. Still, Cody had the audacity to grin. That little bastard was enjoying himself at the expense of his boyfriend.
“Who is he? Your sugar-daddy?” Noel’s voice raised and was reduced to a shrill screech.
“Calm down, he’s my brother.” Cody rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in the air in something that looked like exasperation. “I guess this means that you are not the only one gay in this house or this family. Will you throw me a “welcome to the club” party?”
“Not funny. How long have you known? Why didn’t you tell me? For how long have you been active? Is Noel your first? Did you use protection?”
“What is this Cam?” He folded his hands and put his elbows on the table. “An interrogation?”
“Then why all the questions? Noel, it’s best for you to leave now. I’ll call you later. Don’t forget your backpack, love.” They kissed tenderly and Cody brought Noel to the door. I heard the whispering, but I was caught up in my own thoughts once again. Was I jealous that my little brother had a boyfriend, an active sex life and someone who kissed him tenderly? You bet I was. I couldn’t complain about my sex life, given my job, but I wanted more. I missed a body to cuddle up against. Scott came back to my mind, he would have been nice to cuddle with. I shook my head when Cody came back into the kitchen.
“Now you know. Are you mad?” he asked and looked at me with his big brown eyes. Of course, I wasn’t mad, I simply would have preferred him telling me about it earlier.
“Of course not. Just please be careful. HIV and AIDS are still real threats. Wear a condom man!” He nodded and I pulled him into a hug. That’s when I smelled the beer on him. I pushed him back again and the way I must have been looking at him made it clear that I knew.
“Beer?” I asked. Cody tried to shrug it off, but he knew that I did not approve of him drinking.
“You are only seventeen. Who got you that beer?” I asked now, demanding an answer.
“Don’t make such a fuss about it. I won’t stay seventeen forever, you know?!”
“But right now, you are and as long as you are living here with me, you will follow my rules. We had that talk before. You will not drink when I am not there and that is already more than most kids are allowed.”
“It was just a couple of beers. No harm done big bro,” he tried to reason and slapped my shoulder. It only raised my anger. Sex, alcohol, what was next? Drugs and embezzlement? Not with me.
“If I ever catch you with alcohol again, you will face consequences. Are we clear? Bro!” I spat out the bro and he looked down at the floor. I was about to tell him that I loved him and that I only wanted his best, when he raised his head with a challenging smirk.
“So I am allowed to have sex, but not to drink? How about smoking? Am I allow to smoke? I figure since we are in the middle of that talk, we could lay out the rules once and for all.” I was not sure if this was what Cody was really thinking or if the alcohol made him brave, but it didn’t soothe my anger.
“Do you think this is a joke? Am I a joke to you? You are grounded. You won’t leave the house, except for going to school. Starting right now. End of discussion!”
“You can’t be serious…”
“Keep arguing and I’ll confiscate your phone and laptop too,” I warned. Cody grumbled and I turned to leave the kitchen. I needed some space. He pushed passed me and stomped up the stairs. His bedroom door slammed and he started cussing like a sailor. I heard drawers slam shut and busy rummaging. I intended to give him some time to cool off, but something just made me go upstairs to talk to him.
Again I knocked and entered. It reeked of sex and I strode to the window to open it. On Cody’s bed lay his duffle bag and he was frantically pushing clothes inside.
“What are you doing?” I asked gently. I knew the answer, of course, I did. I was seeing him packing his bags. And it hurt. This had been the first big fight and the first time I had punished Cody. I tried to play cool, but I wasn’t. Not at all. I didn’t want to be the bad guy. I had raised him, I had put ointment on his bruises and had held him when he cried. And now, after that one big fight, he was packing his bags to leave.
“Where will you go?” I didn’t even try to hide my concern. He glared at me and shoved underwear in his bag.
“Melly and Wally. Home.” He spat. He wanted to leave me to go and live with our parents. Of course, they would allow him to do everything he wanted. They would smoke weed with him and encourage him to have unprotected orgies.
“This is your home, little brother.” I almost choked on my words.
“Is it? You hate me. With them, I will at least be able to do what I want…”
“And then what? Is this because I want rules? You are a minor and you are my responsibility. If you drive your truck and you are drunk… Just imagine what could happen. You would end making your life and that of someone else miserable.”
“So what?! It’s still the same when I am eighteen or twenty-one. Once I’m gone, you won’t have to deal with me anymore.” He sat down on the bed and looked incredibly tired. “You didn’t even deny it when I said that you hate me.” Cody’s voice broke. It had never been my intention to make him cry and seeing him like this made my heart ache. I walked around the bed and knelt in front of him.
“I love you Cody. And the only reason why I didn’t contradict you was because I know that you know just how much I love you. Please don’t leave Cody.” He sniffled but didn’t pull away when I pulled him into a hug.
“I am a burden to you.” He whispered against my neck and clutched the back of my shirt. I pushed him away. I needed him to see that my next words were sincere.
“No. You are not. You are not. I like being there for you. I like seeing you grow. I like to see that you don’t take any crap. I like you as my little brother.” He didn’t say anything, just kept on sniffing. He was still crying. I pulled him back into my arms and I felt his tears soak my shoulder. It made me think of Scott, but I pushed those thoughts away again. There was no room for them here now.
“I miss mom.” Cody finally croaked. I petted his hair, lost for words.
“I know. I know Cody.” He felt so young and vulnerable in my arms, but he had calmed down. “Can we talk?” He nodded and I sat next him on the bed. “You need to change the sheets.” He smiled and I knew that it was safer to talk right now.
“This is new, for you and for me too. We need to find the right balance. The thing is, you are a minor and I have to take full responsibility for your actions, right?” He looked at me with his head still bowed and I continued: “I can’t risk CPS turning up here and seeing you blowing your boyfriend off with a beer in your hand, maybe even smoking weed while doing so. That’s not going to work. They would take you away from here and I… I don’t know if I could deal with that.” Cody looked at me again. His eyes held so many emotions and fears. I wanted to erase them all, but this talk had been long over-due. I needed him to see that the rules were necessary, and not because I was an old dominant fart who got a kick out of making his life miserable.
“We need rules. No beer! Except if I offer. No smoking! I am not joking Cody, no drugs! Zero tolerance here. I can’t stop you from having sex, but use protection, and if you don’t want to go buy condoms and lube, for whatever reason, I can provide them. There are some in my bathroom, by the way. Check the expiration date and then use them. Not that I’m saying you must, but if you have sex, use protection.” I felt stupid for pointing it out twice in one sentence, but protection is crucial. I got tested bi-monthly in my job and still insisted on condoms. You only have one life, don’t risk it foolishly.
I held Cody’s gaze, but again, he stayed silent. “I need you to agree on this Cody. It’s important. For the both of us.” He cleared his throat and I handed him a tissue from his nightstand to blow his nose.
“You would give me rubbers? Seriously?” he asked and I wondered if he had heard any of the other things I had said. Still, I nodded.
“If you meet me half way and follow the no booze and no drugs rules, I will do the same and keep a stock of rubbers and lube for you. Actually, this makes me wonder: did you ever have unprotected sex?”
He blushed and I felt the heat in my ears too.
“If the answer is yes, you need to get tested. Again, for your own safety. And that of your partners too.”
“There was only Noel. We are safe.” Cody looked at his fingers and a smile crept up on his face as if he remembered something nice. I didn’t want to make the smile go away again and decided to move on.
“How about we order take out and watch something on Netflix?”
“I was more thinking Thai or Chinese. I have a shoot tomorrow.”
“You decide, I want the usual.”
I nodded and got off the bed. I had just opened the door when I turned to my little brother again. “Change those sheets and unpack your bag again, kiddo.” He took his pillow and threw it at me. He hated when I called him kiddo. I laughed out loud and went to order some food for us.