Freck awoke much earlier than usual, particularly for a Saturday, but bright light was streaming into his bedroom. He’d evidently forgotten to draw the blinds. As he tried to move in bed, he realized that his arm was around something warm and smooth, and his dick was poking something. A smile came to his face as he remembered the events of the previous evening and the early morning hours.
They’d spent quite a bit of time touring the apartment as they discussed every subject imaginable. It was amazing how a simple off-hand comment about politics, religion or the nature of the universe could touch off a deep discussion that could go on for hours. Freck introduced Kyle to his sisters and nanny when they got home, and then he took Kyle to the North End Grill, an upscale seafood restaurant nearby. Thanks to all the conversation they enjoyed during dinner, they didn’t get home until very late, after the girls were already in bed.
Freck had planned to take it slowly but Kyle had other ideas. The boy was insatiable and proved to be very knowledgeable when it came to all aspects of gay love. He’d obviously spent as much time on-line reading and watching gay porn as Freck had. Freck even experienced his first ever ejaculation and couldn’t believe how intense it felt, but their activities didn’t stop there. Being gay wasn’t a choice, but Freck chose to love Kyle, and Kyle chose to love Freck. Young though they were, there was no question as to their feelings for each other. This wasn’t mere infatuation and it was so much more than lust. Both boys knew their love was as deep as any — the kind they hoped would last forever.
As Freck shifted in bed, he felt Kyle squirm and then turn around to face him. His longish brown hair virtually covered his hazel eyes, but not the huge smile that spread across his face. Kyle then got a more serious look and closed the gap, planting a peck on Freck’s lips, which quickly turned into a full, open-mouth kiss.
Pulling away, Freck said, “I don’t know how you can stand to kiss me, Kyle. I wouldn’t be able to stand kissing me. The taste in my mouth is horrible… come to think of it, I don’t think we even brushed our teeth before going to bed.”
Giggling, Kyle responded, “We had other things on our mind. And my mouth tastes pretty bad too. Besides which, I really need to piss!” Kyle then threw back the covers an made a mad dash for the bathroom, letting loose his stream the moment the toilet seat was up. Freck joined him in front of the toilet and relieved himself as well.
“Wanna take a shower?” Freck asked. “There’s room for both of us.”
“You have to ask?” Kyle answered.
Once under the water, the boys took turns washing each other as they familiarized themselves with each other’s body. In spite of their age difference, the boys were surprisingly similar. Kyle was perhaps an inch shorter than Freck, and he was leaner. Freck was definitely more muscular, which Kyle found very appealing. He also was further into puberty than Kyle, although Kyle was fairly well-endowed for a boy about to turn ten.
Out of the shower, Freck applied deodorant, but Kyle did not need it yet, which for some reason was very appealing to Freck. The thought of nuzzling his nose in Kyle’s arm pits was insanely arousing to him. “Why do I feel like I hardly slept at all last night?” Freck asked as he got out a fresh toothbrush for Kyle.
“Maybe it’s because we didn’t?” Kyle answered. “I think we finally went to sleep around three AM, or maybe 3:30, and you woke us up around just after seven, so we only slept maybe four hours at best.”
The conversation stopped while the two of them brushed their teeth, side-by-side at Freck’s sink. Once they finished, Freck asked, “You wanna go back to bed?”
“You know I’m always up for that,” Kyle answered with a wiggle of his eyebrows.
“I meant to sleep, doofus,”
“Yeah, sleep sounds good, especially after what we did in the shower,” Kyle answered. “Maybe we could sleep ’til noon.”
“If the girls don’t wake us up,” Freck replied with a laugh. The sounds of the girls and their nanny could already be heard through the door, as their nanny got their breakfast ready. “At least the Saturday morning cartoons should keep them busy for a while.”
“Good,” Kyle responded. “Let’s go snuggle up in bed.”
On the other side of Lower Manhattan, Seth and Asher were just awakening from their own Friday night activities. They’d been boyfriends for over six weeks and had been living together in Asher’s apartment since Thanksgiving, three weeks before. Only a week remained before school let out for the holidays and Christmas was just ten days away.
Asher and Seth had spent their Friday night doing something Asher had almost never done in the past — going to see a movie. As money was tight in the White household and the price of three movie tickets was anything but cheap, seeing a movie in the theaters was a luxury reserved for a special occasion. Now that Ash was a teenager and could get around the city on his own; a night at the movies was no longer a remote possibility. Unfortunately, his social isolation meant that going to see a movie would involve running into classmates from his elementary and middle school days, and he didn’t want to chance it. Those days were behind him.
For most of his life, a night at the movies boiled down to visiting the Kanopy website and selecting from the New York Public Library’s vast collection. His library card allowed him to watch up to ten movies a month for free, which was usually more than he had time for anyway. If the library didn’t have something he wanted to see, he’d eventually use some of his saved allowance for a rental from VUDU or Amazon. He watched everything on the tiny screen of his Chromebook; he didn’t even realize that for a modest sum, he could have bought a used Amazon Fire Stick or a Roku and watched his Kanopy, Vudu or Amazon movies on the family’s sixty-inch plasma TV. Asher was very smart, but he wasn’t a techie.
Now, all of that was in the past. Seth was among the most tech-savvy kids Ash had ever met, and Seth had already purchased brand new Roku, Fire and Chromecast streaming devices and installed them on Asher’s family’s TV. He’d even paid to upgrade their broadband to gigabit service, paid the termination fee on their basic cable service and switched them to a streaming plan that included Netflix, HBO, Showtime and, much to Asher’s delight, CBS All Access. Seth insisted on paying for all of it out of his own pocket, as he felt it was the least he could do, considering that he basically lived there.
And Seth could afford to buy a pair of movie tickets as often as he wanted. As it was, he didn’t spend half his allowance, so a night at the movies was something he could give Asher without Asher feeling guilty about it. Friday night dates were becoming a regular feature of their lives and those usually included dinner and a movie. Typically, they’d take the F Train to the Good Stuff Diner, Asher’s favorite restaurant, avoiding the worst of Friday night gridlock. They’d then walk to the Regal Cinemas at Union Square, and by the time the movie let out, traffic had usually subsided enough to take the 14A bus or a taxi home. However, when the weather was nice, they’d simply walk the five miles round trip. So long as they stuck to the major streets, even late on a Friday night, walking was perfectly safe.
There were a number of excellent restaurants in the East Village and around Union Square itself that Seth was dying to get Asher to try out. Last night was the first night Seth had succeeded in talking Asher into trying something new, and so they had eaten at Kikoo Sushi, a popular all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in the East Village. It wasn’t cheap, costing about double what they would have spent at a diner, but the sushi was superb and they could have as much of it as they wanted. What made Kikoo unique was the way that patrons ordered their sushi. Every table had an iPad in place of a standard menu. To order an item, all one had to do was to select the quantity and add it their ‘order cart’, then send their order to the kitchen electronically. When it was ready, the server brought the full order to the table. The process was much more streamlined than the conventional process of checking off items on a paper form and then trying to flag down the server to give it to them.
Both boys had thoroughly enjoyed the evening. The restaurant was actually fun, the food was outstanding and the movie they saw afterward wasn’t half-bad. The time they spent together in Asher’s bedroom after getting home from the movie wasn’t bad either, as their level of intimacy and their comfort with each other continued to grow. Although they got to sleep a bit earlier than their friends in Battery Park, it wasn’t by much. Getting up at just after 10:00, they took turns in the shower and got dressed.
“How about we invite our friends over to have brunch with us?” Asher suggested to Seth as they finished getting ready.
“They’ve probably already eaten,” Seth suggested, not really wishing to disturb the lovebirds.
“After their first night together? Not likely,” Asher replied.
“You really think they spent the night having wild, passionate sex together?” Seth asked.
“The way they looked at each other when they met? I doubt they went to bed in their PJs,” Asher replied with a smirk.
“If they did, they probably didn’t keep them on for long,” Seth agreed, “but do you think it’s wise to disturb them?”
“For a chance to get together with their gay best friends, of course,” Asher replied. “And who doesn’t like a Cajun frittata?”
“You have a point,” Seth responded. “OK, go ahead and give them a call. You can take the abuse if you wake them up.”
Grabbing his phone, Asher picked Freck from his list of favorites and initiated the call. For a moment, he thought the call was going to go to Freck’s voice mail before his friend finally answered.
“What the fuck do you want,” answered an obviously groggy boy at the other end.
“Wow, it sounds like someone didn’t get much sleep last night,” Asher replied.
After a pause, Freck responded, “It was good… real good. I’m not gonna say more than that.”
“Are you and Kyle up to schlepping your way across town for a homemade brunch with your best friends?” Asher asked.
Asher could hear in the background, Freck ask Kyle, “You up for brunch with Seth and Ash, babe? Ash is cooking.”
“Are you kidding?” Asher heard Kyle reply, “I’d love to have brunch with them.”
“Give us a few to get some clothes on and catch an Uber,” Freck responded as he came back on the line.
“Great!” Asher replied. “Looking forward to brunch with you and your babe.”
“Fucker,” Freck responded before hanging up.
Asher had barely had time to peel the potatoes before Freck and Kyle arrived, just fifteen minutes later.
“Wow, that was fast,” Seth commented upon opening the door. Did you even bother to shower?
“We got up during the night and showered then,” Kyle answered. “We literally just threw on our clothes, brushed our teeth and called for an Uber. Didn’t want to keep you guys waiting… and we’re starved!”
“I’m afraid Ash’s just getting started in the kitchen,” Seth responded. “It may be a few before he’s ready to serve brunch.
“Come on in, guys,” Asher called out from the kitchen. The coffee’s ready if you want some.
“Are you kidding? Of course I want coffee,” replied nine-year-old Kyle, getting a laugh from everyone.
“Help yourself,” responded Asher, as he set out three mugs and a thermal carafe. “Seth brought his coffee maker over, as well as his coffee beans.”
“Ah yes, the infamous coffee maker that broke the wiring in his apartment,” Kyle commented with a laugh as he took his first sip. “Oh, this is good.”
“This is good,” Freck agreed, taking his first sip, “But it’s strong! It’s very good… very smooth, but Kyle, how is it you’re not dancing on the ceiling after drinking this shit?”
Laughing, Kyle replied, “I like it strong. Same way I like my boys.”
“I can attest that Freck fits the bill,” Asher inserted to everyone’s laughter.
The smells coming from the kitchen were heavenly as Asher sautéed a mix of onions, garlic, peppers and seasonings. When he added ground turkey sausage, the scent sent everyone’s hunger through the roof. Next in the skillet went shredded potatoes, diced tomatoes and, finally whipped eggs. A few minutes later, Asher slid a serving onto each of four plates. Topping it off with a mix of seasonings and fresh-ground pepper, he called out, “Brunch is served.”
Grabbing their plates and taking them and their coffees to the table, Asher placed a couple of bowls of salsa on the table and placed a small glass of lime-colored juice at each place before grabbing his own plate and sitting down next to his boyfriend. Pointing to the bowl of green salsa, he said, “This is homemade salsa, but I caution that the green stuff is not for the faint of heart. The red stuff is probably more for the taste of most of you. The juice is aloe juice. It’s not nearly as high in sugar as orange juice, and a whole lot healthier.”
Asher, of course, spooned a healthy portion of green salsa on his Cajun frittata. Not to be outdone, Kyle did likewise, prompting Asher to ask, “Are you sure you want to do that, Kyle?”
As if to prove his point, he took his fork and cut a healthy portion from his plate and forked it into his mouth. With a smile on his face, he said, “Oh, is this ever good!” But then he quickly grabbed his glass of juice and downed half of it in a single gulp. Fanning his mouth, he said, “Man, that stuff is hot! But is it ever good.” To prove his point, he cut off another healthy bit and shoveled it in, chasing it with only a sip of his coffee. “Gotta put some hair on my chest,” he added, drawing a healthy bout of laughter from everyone at the table.
In spite of Kyle’s reaction, Freck also took a healthy portion of the green salsa, saying, “I’ve eaten spicy foods all my life. I doubt this is the spiciest I’ve tasted.”
Seth, more sensibly took a large portion of the red salsa, saying, “I’ve nothing to prove. I plan to build up my stomach lining before I try to match my boyfriend’s taste for the hot stuff.”
Suddenly, Freck downed his aloe juice in a single gulp and exclaimed, “I take it back. This is by far the spiciest salsa I’ve ever tasted.” He then scraped as much of the salsa off to the side as he could.
Passing the red salsa to Freck, Asher said, “Contrary to what you think, this will help moderate the green stuff that’s already on your eggs.” Freck complied by adding a healthy portion of the red salsa on top. Taking a small bite, Freck said, “You’re right… this helps quite a bit. And the frittata’s delicious.”
Although the portions were very large and filling, it didn’t take the boys long at all to finish their brunch. As they sipped their coffees, they talked a bit about their plans for the day, the weekend and the upcoming holiday, plus there were two birthdays coming up in short order, starting with Kyle’s tomorrow.
“Got any plans for the big one-oh?” Seth asked.
Laughing, Kyle responded with, “You make it sound like I just got statehood.”
“Very funny, Kyle,” Seth responded, “but seriously, it’s not every day you turn ten. Does your family have any plans?
“My dad’s on call, so that kinda nixes anything we might do,” Kyle answered. “Roger has a party planned for the evening tomorrow. Just a cake and ice cream sort of thing with some of the kids from school… not that I’d consider them friends. What kinds of presents am I going to get from kids in middle school? Model airplanes, iTunes gift cards? If I’m lucky, maybe a T-shirt from a band I don’t hate?”
“There are people our parents’ age who build model airplanes, and an iTunes gift card can be used to rent an acclaimed foreign film,” Freck pointed out. “And you can always use a T-shirt from a popular band, even if it isn’t your favorite.”
“Yeah, OK,” Kyle responded. “You have a valid point there.”
“Besides, after I get done helping you to celebrate your birthday, you’ll be too worn out to care what presents you got,” Freck added to everyone’s amusement.
Just then, Seth’s phone rang and the lock screen showed it was his mom.
“Answering, he asked, “Hi Mom, what’s up?”
“Hi sweetheart, how’s everything going with staying at the Whites?” his mother asked.
After exchanging some pleasantries without getting into the details of life with his boyfriend, his mother asked, “Could you and Asher come to the apartment this afternoon? We need to make some decisions about how to handle the repairs. Since you and your boyfriend are the ones who would actually spend any time here, we could use your input.”
“Well, yeah, sure Mom. We just finished having brunch with our friends, Freck and Kyle. Ash and I’ll come over after they leave.”
“What is it, babe,” Asher asked.
Taking his face away from the phone, Seth responded, “My parents would like us to come over to the apartment this afternoon. They want our input on some things before the repairs can proceed.”
“Could we come?” Freck asked. “I’ve heard so much about the view; I’d really like to see it.”
Speaking back into the phone, Seth asked his mom, “Could Freck and Kyle come over with us? Freck would like to see the view. And besides, tomorrow’s Kyle’s tenth birthday.”
“I don’t see why not,” Dr. Moore answered. “Sure, your friends can come over. When do you think you’ll be here?”
Looking at his friends for confirmation, Seth asked, “Could we come over now?”
“You can come over anytime,” She responded.”
“Great,” Seth answered. “Just give us a few to clean up from brunch, and we’ll be right over.”
“Holy fuck, the place is wrecked!” Seth exclaimed the moment he walked in the door. Asher couldn’t help but notice how Seth’s parents didn’t react at all to his use of the ‘F’ word. It was no wonder he used it so often if his parents let him get away with such casual use around them. His own dad wouldn’t have let him into the apartment until he apologized.
“We did tell you the electrician was going to have to break into all the walls,” Frank Moore reminded his son.
“Yeah, I know, but seeing the place without the drywall… it almost looks like you gutted the place,” Seth responded. Remembering that his parents had never met Freck or Kyle, he turned to introduce his friends, and couldn’t help but notice the way they were holding hands. Seth couldn’t help but notice how adorable they looked together. “By the way, this young man behind me is Kyle, who’ll be turning ten tomorrow, and his boyfriend is Frances, better known as Freckles, or Freck for short. He’ll celebrate his twelfth birthday, just after Christmas.
As Seth’s parents shook the boys’ hands, Julie commented, “I’ve heard so much about both of you. It’s great to finally meet you.”
Then noticing Asher’s shiner, she exclaimed, “Asher, what happened to you?”
“A bully nailed me for showing him up during wrestling practice in gym class,” Asher answered.
“I would have thought a school like Stuyvesant would have weeded out most of the bullies before they got there.” Julie Moore responded.
“Being smart isn’t enough to prevent bad behavior,” Seth interjected. “But at least he’ll be suspended until the end of the break, and he has to write a twenty-thousand-word essay on bullying, and he’ll have the stain of an ‘F’ grade in gym on his permanent record.”
As the four boys made their way into the apartment, Kyle and Freck headed right for the door to the terrace. Walking onto the terrace, they stood arm-in-arm, admiring the view.
“What we need to talk to you about, Seth, and you too, Asher, because it affects you every bit as much as it does your boyfriend, is where to go from here,” Julie began. “You weren’t far off when you said it looks like we’ve gutted the place. We had to take down all the drywall and much of the plaster to access the wiring, so it could be replaced. When the previous contractor upgraded all the wiring, they made extensive use of Edison circuits, which is where two circuits of opposite phase, or polarity, share a common neutral wire. Thus, you only need three wires instead of four. It would have been fine if we’d had 220-volt, two-phase circuits, but we don’t.”
“Additionally, in the time since the wiring was installed, some of the neutral wires have overheated and some of the insulation has melted as you so dramatically saw on Thanksgiving,” Frank added. “Therefore, everything needs to be removed and then completely replaced from scratch. Although we had to remove all the drywall, all of the infrastructure is still in place, including steel studs, doors and in the kitchen, plumbing. A complete gut would involve removing all of that too and starting over. Architectural plans would have to be drawn up, building permits obtained, a noise mitigation plan submitted and inspections done along the way. It’s a much bigger deal than simply replacing the wiring and reinstalling the drywall.”
“But if we were gonna change anything, now would be the time to change it,” Seth realized.
“More than that, boys,” Julie replied. “Not only is this the time to make any changes we might have made later on, but it’s an opportunity to reimagine the space. By finishing off the demolition, hiring an architect and starting from scratch, we can make the apartment what we always wished it could be.”
“But it’ll still be a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment,” Seth countered. “Yeah, we could probably give this place a real kitchen, but I’d still end up sleeping in a closet.”
“Not if we shifted the kitchen into the space by the terrace door, where the kitchens on the lower floors are located,” Julie responded. “There’s already plumbing in the wall, next to the window,” she added. “Your bedroom would still be small, but it’d be a lot larger than a closet, and you’d have a window.”
“That would certainly be an improvement,” Seth acknowledged, “but the kitchen still wouldn’t be all that useful to Asher.”
Nodding his head, Asher responded, “I could make it work. It wouldn’t be as open as we might like, but I’d be able to use all of the wall along Seth’s bedroom for cabinet and counter space, and maybe have a small island between the kitchen and the living room. I should be able to have enough for a stovetop, a pair of ovens and a standard fridge.”
With a smile on his face, Frank explained, “Actually, we got a bit of news when we talked to the neighbors about the work we were doing, and our thoughts about gutting the place yet again. Needless to say, they weren’t happy about it.
“We asked them once again if they’d be willing to sell and avoid the hassle of dealing with all the construction and the noise. Unfortunately, as anyone who’s been through either can tell you, the only thing worse than going through renovations is moving. Our next-door neighbor isn’t willing to sell at any price. His apartment is the same as this one and he has the same terrace and view. It would have been nice to double the size of the terrace and living room, and add a second bedroom and bath. That doesn’t appear it will be an option for years to come, if ever.
“The neighbor behind us, however, has been looking to move to a bigger place for years, but didn’t want to give up the view or deal with the hassle of moving. Fortunately for us, an apartment in the next tower just came on the market. It’s the identical unit with the same exact view, except it has three bedrooms and two baths. It’s actually the unit directly across from theirs, but two floors down. And because it’s still in our building, the move will be a lot easier than if they had to hire a moving company and a truck. They’ll be able to do most of it themselves with the help of some teenagers.
“They already made an offer, but the sellers turned it down because it was contingent on the sale of their current place. Our neighbors removed the contingency, but suffice to say they’ll have a major cash shortfall unless they sell quickly. When I approached our neighbors, they were desperately trying to get their place ready to put on the market, and at far less than it’s worth. Fortunately, we’re in a position to help with that!”
“You’re kidding me!” Seth shouted with more enthusiasm than he’d ever felt in his life. Asher, for his part, was equally excited and practically jumping up and down.
“I offered them an all-cash sale at more than their asking price,” Seth’s dad continued, “and because there’s no realtor involved, they’ll save paying the commission, and they won’t need to take out a bridge loan. They’ll be able to pay cash for the other place and close on it as soon as they can present it to the board.”
“So you’re gonna do it?” Seth asked excitedly.
“It’s already done,” Frank Moore answered. “Because it was all-cash sale, we were able to complete it quickly without getting a bank and their lawyers involved. We still have to go before the co-op board, but that’s only a formality in both cases. The Board has never turned down an internal sale, so long as they get the requisite flip tax in the deal.”
“What exactly does that mean for us?” Seth asked. “We’ll own two apartments, but how will they go together?”
Smiling, his mother answered, “That’s why you and Asher are here. Your father only needs an address in the district and for practical purposes, we need a place to stay in the city. Most people would say it isn’t safe to leave a thirteen-year-old on his own, but you’ve proven yourself and you’re trustworthy, and now that you have Asher and his parents to watch after you, we no longer need worry about making contingency plans.
“The way we see it, this place is really your place… and Asher’s, so it really should be you two who make the important choices on how to renovate the place.”
“Are… are you saying you’re giving us the apartment,” Seth asked.
“For tax purposes and legal reasons, the apartment needs to remain in our name for now,” Frank Moore clarified. “Someday, if you and Asher remain committed and perhaps get married, and if you stay in New York and choose to raise a family here, then yes, the apartment will be yours. We’ve even talked about making it your wedding present.”
“We are getting married,” Seth replied as he pulled Asher close. “No fuckin’ way am I ever letting this boy go. I can’t believe you’d give us this apartment!”
“I get dibs on designing the kitchen,” Asher added as everyone laughed.
“We pretty much were counting on that,” Julie replied.
Walking over to the kitchen table, which had been moved into the living room, Frank lifted a sheet that was covering a set of architectural plans. “We took the liberty of hiring an architect to start drawing up some possibilities. I expect you boys to be involved with selecting the final design and making the important decisions with our guidance, of course.”
Then turning to the first plan, which was on top, Frank continued, “This is the way the two apartments appear right now. You can see the wall between the two apartments is between our bedroom and the other apartment’s living room. Removing all or part of that wall would mean we couldn’t use our current bedroom as a bedroom. It would become a thoroughfare. What we have in mind so far,” he said as he lifted the first drawing to reveal the one underneath, “is to make this apartment the primary living space for both apartments. The living room would remain a living room. The bathroom would stay a bathroom and the kitchen would be enlarged substantially. What was your bedroom would revert to being a pantry. Because the bedroom would be a thoroughfare between apartments, it would become a den.”
Flipping the page again, he continued, “One possibility for redoing the other apartment would be to do this. You certainly don’t need a second entryway or a second kitchen, so the entryway, could become a large main bathroom, and the kitchen could become a new master bathroom. The current bathroom could be made into a walk-in closet and the adjacent bedroom expanded to become a true master bedroom. The second bedroom would remain pretty much as it is now and what is now the living room would become a third bedroom.
“How about we… no, that wouldn’t work,” Seth started to suggest. “Perhaps we could… no, that would leave the third bedroom without a window. But what if we… no, then you’d lose the connection between apartments. The damn stairwell is the fuckin way! The biggest problem is I don’t think you can put a bathroom in the entryway. There’s no plumbing and the toilet needs a way to attach to the existing sewage line.”
“You’d have to raise the floor in the new bathroom and the old kitchen. It would create its own challenges,” Frank admitted.
“What we should do is have a large bathroom oriented the other way, that includes just enough of the existing kitchen to make the plumbing connections and run that into the entryway. Keep the existing bathroom for the master bath, and instead extend the master bedroom out into the other half of the kitchen. Extend the other bedroom into what is now the hallway and part of the living room. You won’t need as long a hallway if you extend the bedrooms. You could put walk-in closets between the two. There’ll still be room for a third bedroom… just not quite as large a one.”
“We’ll run that by the architect,” Frank said, nodding his head. “That sounds like a decent alternative… a good one.”
Just then, Kyle and Freck joined the group around the table and asked what everyone was looking at. Excitedly, Seth explained the purchase of the apartment behind them and the plan to combine the two apartments. Freck spent quite a bit of time looking at the blueprints laid out on the table, and Seth filled him in on his own ideas. Finally, Freck presented his own plan.
“You guys are going about this the wrong way. You’ve got a lot of space here… close to two thousand square feet, not counting the terrace. That’s enough for a decent four-bedroom apartment. Bedrooms have to have windows, but there’s an exception and that’s a study or den that doubles as a guest room. It’s stupid to try to put the main bathroom in the unused entryway. There’s no plumbing for it and you’ve got way too much wasted space.
“There’s also a lot of wasted closet space around your front door. You can’t move that air shaft or the electrical panel, but why not open everything else up? You don’t need a full bath next to the kitchen. Take out the bathtub and put the toilet there, and move the door so it opens into the current bedroom. Incorporate that end of the bathroom into the kitchen and extend the wall from Seth’s closet bedroom all along the side of the kitchen, with a humongous built-in refrigerator on one side of that support beam and floor-to-ceiling cabinets on the other. Keep the kitchen open to the living room but put an island between the two. Build in floor-to-ceiling bookcases on the shared wall between this apartment and your neighbor’s and incorporate your TV into that wall of bookcases. That’s a mostly south-facing wall, so it’ll never be in direct sunlight.”
“So now you have the original bedroom open to the entryway, to the kitchen and to the second apartment,” Frank Moore noted. “You now have the half-bath directly opening to the old bedroom too. If you’re not using it as a den, what are you using it for?”
“Directly off the kitchen and open to everything else, that, my friends, is the perfect place for your dining room.”
With a look of sudden understanding, Asher responded, “Why the hell didn’t I think of that? By moving the existing dining area there, you’ve opened up all that space for my new kitchen and you’ve expanded the living room all the way to the terrace door. That’s brilliant.”
“I thought you’d like that,” Freck continued. “Now for the second apartment, your common plumbing is in the wall between the bathroom and kitchen, so your master bath and main bath have to share that common wall. There’s no point to extending the bathroom into the unused entryway, but take out the coat closet and you’ve got a great space for a study or den. The kitchen space will make a great main bathroom, right where it is. Since you won’t need as long a hallway, move the bedroom walls all the way up to what is now the living room, and make the current living room into a third bedroom. Move the existing bathroom door around the corner to make it a master bath and add a large walk-in closet next to it.
“So there you go,” Freck concluded to everyone’s astonishment, “Three bedrooms, a study or den that doubles as a guest room, two-and-a-half baths, a huge modern kitchen, a formal dining room and an open living room with a terrace.”
After an extended period of silence with a lot of head nodding, Frank spoke up. “That’s an innovative design, Freck. The idea of putting a study back in what would otherwise be wasted space is ingenious. It’s an excellent plan… but I see a problem. All the heating radiators are under the windows, and the only air conditioners allowed are window units. Without a window, there’s no way to heat or cool the den.”
Not to be deterred, Freck suggested, “Well, you’re on a top floor, so you could always put a heat pump on the rooftop…”
Shaking his head, Frank interrupted, “The co-op board would never approve something like that.”
“Well, the den’s next to the stairwell, and the stairwell has roof access,” Freck began.
“And if they approved it for us, they’d have to allow everyone to run their air conditioning lines up and down the inside of the stairwell,” Frank pointed out. “That will never happen. It would be better to install central heating and air conditioning for everyone. We’d all save money, but the shareholders have repeatedly voted it down. A lot of the old-timers are loathe to spend any money, and they vote.”
“Well, the main bathroom doesn’t have to have a window, does it?” Freck asked. “It just needs a ventillation fan, and we can run the ductwork for that through the master bath, with with an exhaust above the window. If we get a little creative with the plumbing and use a wall-mounted toilet, we could shift the main bath to the interior, taking space from what would have been part of the den. We can then add an alcove off the den, incorporating the window. That way, the den will have a window along with heat and air conditioning.”
“Is there any reason you couldn’t have a ductless mini-split, multi-zone heat pump in place of all your window air conditioners?” Kyle suggested. “It’d be way more efficient and a lot more attractive. You could hide the outside component in a cabinet out on the terrace. It could be made to look like another planter, and you already have several of those. The inside units could be mounted above each window, or in the case of the den, above the old front door. There’s a support beam at the top of all the exterior walls… you can see it sticking out above all the windows. Put some framing and drywall in front of that and you can run your heating and cooling lines through there.”
“That’s a wonderful idea, Kyle,” Freck chimed in. “And it would solve the problem with the den. There are some technical issues though… like needing 220-volt power.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Kyle responded, “All you need is a step-up transformer or a phase inverter. You can get one that supports 5000 watts for a hundred-something bucks at Home Depot. And while you’re at it, you should balance the circuits between the two apartments. Shift the kitchen circuits to the electrical panel in the other apartment, and run your thirty or forty amp circuit for the heat pump off of this one.”
“I love your idea for the floorplan, Freck,” Seth added. “We should have an architect draw up plans.”
“I agree…” said Asher, “It’s perfect.” Then as an afterthought, he added, “You know, you’d make a great architect!”
“An architect… I never even thought of that,” Freck responded, “but that might be kind of cool.”
“You obviously have the right visual-spatial skills for it,” Frank added, and you’re great at thinking outside the box.”
“I used to date an architect when I was an undergraduate,” Julie threw in. “It’s one of the toughest undergrad courses of study to get into and the work load, once you get in, is brutal. It’s almost as heavy as in Medical School, and with the requirement of a Masters degree, it’s at least a five-year course of study. The important thing to consider, though, is that 90 percent of architecture is tedious. Most architects spend their lives drawing up plans for where to place plumbing, wiring, outlets and light fixtures. Only the best actually design buildings, and only the superstars have a chance to change skylines.”
Placing his arm around Freck’s shoulder with evident pride, Kyle added, “But Freck already is a superstar. He’d be a world-class architect. And with his fluency in several languages, he’d be in demand around the world.”
“He already speaks passable Mandarin,” Asher commented.
“Do you understand me, Francis?” Julie asked in Chinese.
“I’ve picked up a lot of it, just from walking around Chinatown,” he answered in Mandarin. “I’ve also picked up some Cantonese. I’m very good at picking up languages by ear. The problem with Chinese and Japanese is I can’t read or write the language… it’s idiomatic.” Then lapsing back into English, he continued, “It’s different with phonetic languages. I’ve picked up a little Hebrew, Arabic and Korean, and I can read and even write a little in those, not to mention Vietnamese, Turkish and Thai.”
“An architect who can communicate with his clients in their native language, even if only verbally, would be a tremendous asset to any firm,” Frank agreed.
“Or he could be very successful if he chose to start his own firm,” Kyle added.
“Are there any universities with good architecture schools that are also places Kyle could study the sciences?” Seth asked.
“MIT is at the top of everyone’s list as the best architecture school in the world,” Kyle responded with enthusiasm. “They have a dual degree program in architecture with civil and environmental engineering that’s without equal,” he added.
“How do you know that, Kyle?” Freck asked.
“When I looked up information on MIT, ’cause I wanted to go there, that was one of the things I came across,” Kyle answered. “Indeed, I saw a list of the top twenty schools in the world. MIT was at the top. Harvard, Columbia and Cornell were all on the list too, as were Stanford and UCLA, so even in the remote event that you don’t get into MIT, there are lots of places we could go where we’d both be happy.”
“Stanford…” Freck interjected. “I’d never even considered the possibility of going to school in California…”
“From what I’ve read, it’s great if you don’t mind smoggy summers and rainy winters, or living in a tiny shack and commuting hours in heavy traffic on endless highways,” Kyle responded.
“Sounds a bit like New York,” Seth added to laughter.
“Or Boston,” Frank added. “But I’ve traveled to California, many times. The Bay area is beautiful, Stanford’s campus is one of the loveliest anywhere, and San Francisco is stunning. Just don’t expect to know your neighbors, or for anyone to give a shit if you need help. Here in New York, I know everyone in this building, personally. You get to know your neighbors from riding the elevators with them every day. I know all the doormen, the kids that work in the bodega across the street and even the folks that own the Chinese take-out around the corner.” The last one got a laugh, since he was talking about Asher’s parents.
“From what I’ve seen, people in California are apathetic. In other parts of the world, they’re private… more reserved. A Londoner won’t pry because they feel it’s none of their business. A Californian won’t pry because they just don’t care. People from elsewhere find New Yorkers to be nosey, but if you trip and fall on the sidewalk here, people will stop to help you get up, to make sure you’re OK. That just doesn’t happen in other places.”
“I don’t have much experience with other places,” Freck responded, “but I think the main thing is getting in. If I get into MIT and Kyle gets in, that’s almost certainly where we’ll go. It’s the best place for both of us. If we don’t both get in, then Columbia, Cornell or Stanford would be outstanding alternatives. I think we’d both be happy with any of them.” He concluded as Kyle nodded his head.
“You really think it’s gonna be architecture?” Seth asked.
“After thinking about it, yeah, I’m pretty certain,” he answered. “I’d like to specialize in sustainable architecture too. In a world of changing climate, violent weather and rising seas, I could really make a difference in helping to cope with humanity’s fuck-ups and to minimize our impact on future generations. MIT’s joint degree program would be perfect for that.”
“And you’re certain about Kyle?” Julie asked.
Hugging Kyle tightly to him from the side, he responded, “I couldn’t be more certain. We may be young, but I never used to believe in the phrase ‘made for each other’, until now.”
“So, what did you think of the movie?” Freck asked his boyfriend as they exited the theater.
“I can’t believe you took me to a Star Wars movie for my birthday.”
“But what did you think of it?” he asked again. “You know you would’ve gone to see it anyway.”
“Yeah, I would have,” Kyle acknowledged, “and I still would’ve, even though this is probably the worst of the series by far. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place, even though it’s not one I particularly even wanted to know about. Let’s just say Lucas Films should leave well enough alone. Just finish the series with Episode IX, as George originally intended, and move on to something new.”
“How can you say that,” countered Freck. “Alright, I’ll agree with you that this was the weakest Star Wars movie, by far, but it’s fuckin’ Star Wars, man? The greatest sci-fi story of all time!”
“That’s a bit like sayin’ McDonalds is the best restaurant chain of all time,” Kyle countered. “It’ll fill you up and provide some basic, incredibly unhealthy nutrition, but as chains go, it’s no California Pizza Kitchen. It’s no Panera. It’s no Cheesecake Factory and it’s certainly not Legal Seafood. Star Wars isn’t even really science fiction… it’s pseudoscience fantasy. Don’t tell Seth and Asher I said this, but Star Trek is only marginally better. And don’t you even hint that sci-fi includes that dystopian stuff, or Tolkien’s fantasy world, or superhero comics for that matter.
“No, if you want to talk about real sci-fi, you have to look at movies that are plausible. Stuff like the original 2001 and the sequel, 2010. The time frame was way too early for the tech and advancements in space exploration, but if we ever do encounter intelligent life, it’s gonna be something like the monolith in 2001, not a gaggle of improbable humanoids that happen to be at our level of development.”
Freck started to open his mouth but closed it. He started to open it again, and then finally suggested, “Battlestar Galactica?”
“The original series or the remake?” Kyle asked.
“The original wasn’t even as realistic as Star Trek,” Freck acknowledged. “The remake of course.”
“The remake was pretty cool, and most of it was plausible,” Kyle agreed. “I really liked the concepts. The idea that Earth is the long-lost colony of an ancient space civilization wasn’t new, but Battlestar Galactica brought it to life. The possibility that another intelligent species developed artificial intelligence and robotic life forms that ended up wiping them out was well ahead of its time, and that said AI was actively trying to exterminate us… that was utterly cool.”
“So what’s your favorite sci-fi movie or series ever?” Freck asked.
“I’d have to say it was Ender’s Game,” Kyle replied. “The books were even better, by far, but for a sci-fi movie, it was quite realistic, and the ethics issues raised were beyond cool. Of course, they took some liberties with the movie, leaving out the issues of relativistic space travel and compressing the story from six years into one. The meeting between Ender and the formic Queen at the end of the movie never actually happened in any of the books, but it was easier than getting into the details of human colonization of former formic worlds and Ender’s discovery of the hive queen cocoon some fifty years later, when he himself was just three years older. I really liked that in the books, Orson Scott Card actually recognized that six-year-olds are real people with real thoughts and emotions. That’s especially true of kids like us and I appreciated that Card acknowledged it and built on it. Since I was about the same age when I read the books, I really could identify with Ender, and with Bean.”
“Did you read Shadows in Flight?” Freck asked.
“Oh yeah, of course I did,” Kyle replied. “There were a lot of things I liked about it, but I wonder why the Hundred Worlds of the original Enders Series didn’t come across the Legumites, or what’s left of the formic colony ship during their search for colonizable worlds.”
“I wondered about that too,” Freck acknowledged, “but of course space is vast and Bean was travelling at maximum relativistic speed. Finding potential colony worlds takes time, and they might just not have gotten there yet. The idea that the formics genetically engineered an organelle to insure obedience to the queen, however, was beyond chilling.”
“For sure,” Kyle responded, “as was the discovery of a sentient life from that communicated through modifications to DNA, but that could end up destroying all other life in the galaxy. Card left a gaping loose string with that one, but he got a bit too philosophical at the end of the Enders Series, suggesting the existence of a soul and that an intelligence could move us in and out of space to any location at will was a bit much.”
“It is possible,” Freck countered.
“So is the simultaneous disappearance of everyone on earth possible, but it’s not very likely during the lifetime of a billion universes, let alone in our own lifetimes,” Kyle related.
“So you read that story too,” Freck responded with a laugh as the two of them approached Freck’s building. “Are you ready to celebrate the arrival of your birthday with night of wild uninhibited sex?”
“Just the thought of it could make it hard to get on the elevator, pun intended.” Kyle replied.
“Then let’s see if we can be too engaged to even notice when the clock strikes midnight.”
“Nothing like a little midnight nookie to close out my first decade,” Kyle acknowledged.
By the time the elevator opened on Freck’s floor, they were already practically naked. Only later did Freck realize that someone in security probably got an eyeful.
The next week in school went amazingly quickly for the boys. With Clarke out of the picture, Asher’s gym classes became a lot less stressful. The teacher also started rotating sparring partners, exposing Ash to kids of varying ability, some of whom were even less athletic than he was. Although Asher didn’t pin any of his opponents, he avoided being pinned himself and actually managed to win as many matches as he lost. He even held his own against Seth.
Before they knew it, school let out for the winter break and they could look forward to two weeks with their boyfriends, friends and family. Kyle’s brother, Roger would be spending much of the holiday on a ski trip organized by their temple. His father as usual would hardly be home at all and his drunk mother wasn’t someone he wanted to be around. Therefore, with the permission of Asher’s father, he simply informed his own father that he would be spending the next two weeks staying with his boyfriend’s family. Purchasing a ticket for Metro North, he packed a suitcase and took the first train from the Riverdale station into Grand Central Terminal as soon as school let out. He met Freck on the platform in Midtown Manhattan, just ten minutes later. After a quick kiss on the lips, right out in the open, Freck grabbed Kyle’s suitcase and ordered an Uber to take them home. The subway would have been considerably faster, but much more difficult with a suitcase, and there would have been a few blocks to walk in the end.
With two weeks ahead of them, time wasn’t really a factor and so the boys sat together in the back seat, holding hands, and talked up a storm as the car inched its way through gridlocked traffic toward the East River and FDR Drive, and then crawled along on the FDR in stop-and-go traffic on its way to Battery Park City.
Noticing the unusual earbuds still in Kyle’s ears, Freck asked, “What kind of earbuds are those?”
“They’re part of my combined Chanukah and birthday gift from my parents,” Kyle answered as he pulled out one of the earbuds to reveal what looked like a very large, fancy earphone. “These are referred to as in-ear monitors. They’re not earbuds and they’re not cheap,” he added as he pulled a very elegant-looking object from his inner coat pocket that kind of looked like a phone and handed it to Freck.
“A&futura?” Freck asked as he read the product label.
“It’s a line of portable music players from Astell & Kern,” Kyle answered.
“Those things are expensive!” Freck responded.
“I think my parents paid like $1850 for it in a holiday promotion that included the case and the IEMs. Roger spent another $250 on a 400 gig micro-sd card for it, so there's like a half-terabyte of total storage. That's enough for maybe a month's worth of continuous music.”
Whistling, Freck exclaimed, “I can’t believe you’re carrying something that expensive around New York City like that.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Kyle replied, “Even a used Rolex costs way more than that, and you’ve seen the luxury cars some people drive. Who’s gonna think a kid like me is carrying something that expensive around? Besides which, only people who can already afford one of these would know what they are. It’s more likely someone’ll try to swipe my iPhone than my music player.”
Sighing, Freck responded, “You have the same model iPhone as mine, yet I never give thought to the risk of carrying a twelve-hundred-dollar phone with me. You’re undoubtedly right.
“You know, I’ve drooled over those players, but I hated the idea of carrying a separate device. I’ve thought about getting a Mojo and a pair of SE-846s, but that would still be like carrying a second phone around.”
“And it would set you back $1500,” Kyle pointed out. You might as well spend a little more on an A&K setup like mine.
“Or I could use my Dragonfly Red with my iPhone and the camera connection kit,” Freck suggested. “It might be a kludge, but it wouldn’t take up much space.”
“But the Dragonflies aren’t balanced, yet those IEMs are.” Kyle countered. “Maybe it wouldn’t make much of a difference, but you’d hafta carry a spare power pack, ’cause the Dragonfly would drain your iPhone battery in no time flat. Anyway you look at it, you’d still need to carry a lot of stuff if you want to listen to high-res music.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Freck admitted. “But the iPhone does have the advantage of Internet connectivity. I have all of my music uploaded to a cloud-based music service and with my unlimited data plan, I can stream it to my iPhone in real time at no extra cost.”
“And my A&K has an eight-core processor, dual DACs, native DSD support and balanced audio outputs. The iPhone has none of those,” Kyle pointed out. “And since Wi-Fi is pretty ubiquitous around the city, I can still access all of my music, or I can listen to Tidal, or I can download a half-a-terabyte of it directly to the A&K.”
“But Tidal isn’t high-res,” Freck complained.
“But it is lossless,” Kyle countered, “and an increasing portion of their library is available in MQA. MQA isn’t lossless, but it’s high-res and nearly indistinguishable from my high-res downloads. Besides which, Roger had the kids at my birthday party give me gift certificates for Tidal. With the student discount, I have enough to subscribe to Tidal for more than two years.”
“If Tidal survives that long,” Freck commented. There wasn’t much Kyle could say to that, as even with Jay-Z’s involvement in the company, its financial difficulties were well-known.
Pulling out the second earbud from his other ear, Kyle handed both to Freck, saying, “The proof is in the listening.”
“You want me to stick your ear wax into my ears?” Freck complained. “Eww.”
“After where you’ve had your tongue, you’re actually worried about comingling a little of our ear wax?” Kyle asked.
Turning bright scarlet, Freck answered, “OK, I’ll try it out.”
Although Kyle was two years younger than Freck, he was nearly the same size and the IEMs fit snuggly, but comfortably in Freck’s ear canals. The interface was simple enough that Freck easily figured out how to turn the device on. Scrolling through Kyle’s music list, he was pleased to see a large selection of classical music, as well as jazz, rock and even hip-hop. He was about to select the famous opera, Carmen, with Marie Callas, when he noticed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, a piece he knew virtually by heart. What made this particular recording special, however, was that it was perhaps the best recording of the piece over made. The violinist was the incomparable Jascha Heifetz, a violinist Freck would never have the pleasure of hearing live, as he’d already been dead for decades when Freck was born. The accompaniment was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Reiner. The original recording was virtually lost to time until the technology was developed to restore it from damaged media. This particular version was in DSD, a format developed by Sony for recording analog signals on digital media. Although Freck was familiar with it, he’d never had the opportunity to listen to DSD recordings in native form.
Selecting the first track, he was immediately rewarded with the familiar notes and Heifetz unique style, but the purity of the piece was exceptional. He’d never heard the piece so pristinely played other than in a live concert at Lincoln Center. Even then, Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell had nothing on Heifetz. No, it didn’t have the ambience of a live performance, but it was amazingly close. He’d never heard anything like it come out of his iPhone, even with his best headphones. Perhaps his parent’s stereo could match it, but that was with sixteen speakers — not two.
Freck was so engrossed in the music that he didn’t realize he’d continued listening to it at Kyle’s expense until they pulled up in front of his building. Sheepishly, he pulled the IEMs out of his ears, shut off the player and handed them back to his boyfriend.
“I take it you liked the music,” Kyle said with a smirk, and then added, “The look on your face was a lot like the one you get when you climax.”
The Uber driver couldn’t help but chuckle, in spite of his best attempt at being discrete, causing poor Freck to color up furiously. Freck quickly retrieved Kyle’s suitcase from the driver and confirmed the payment and tip on his iPhone, hoping he never encountered that driver again.
“I’m definitely gonna hafta consider getting one of those players,” Freck told Kyle as the doorman pushed the elevator button for them.
Disclaimer: This story is a fictional account involving gay teenage and pre-teen boys. There are references to gay sex and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. The reader takes all responsibility for the legality of reading this type of story where they live. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. The author retains full copyright.