I was finishing my shift, and, as usual, Mike was teasing me. The ribbing had been casual and fun, originally, but now that it had been going on for a few weeks, it seemed to me an edge had developed in what he was saying. It was no longer fun.
I’d just gotten the job when I’d turned 16 a few months ago. Mike had been working here for over two years. He was bigger, older, stronger and uglier than I was. Well, that was only my opinion, of course. I always did tend to undervalue how strong I was.
“Whatcha doin’ tonight, Dillon? Hot date? Who is he?” Then Mike leered at me as though he’d said something really clever.
While he certainly was bigger, older, stronger and uglier than I, mostly he was dumber. Maybe that’s why he’d been in this job for as long as he had. Most bicycle delivery boys didn’t stay on the job long. It was dangerous, competitive, stressful to the max; it was something you did when you were young and dumb and thought you were indestructible. It didn’t take long to realize that that last part wasn’t true. The job had lots of employee turnover — and I use that word with both meanings — and those who stayed with it long did not generally have a great deal of smarts.
The lack of those requisite smarts made Mike perfect for it. He was as dumb as a broom handle and had strong legs. I’d taken the job for another reason. I’d been outed at school. It hadn’t been one of these progressive schools where they had strict anti-bullying rules. Many schools in New York City had those now. Mine hadn’t. I’d been hassled and physically mauled and ostracized enough that when I’d reached the age of permissible escape from the school system, I did just that. Then my old man had said if I wasn’t going to school, I needed to start paying rent. Which meant I had to get a job.
That makes my dad sound hard and unfeeling. He really isn’t. For one thing, he didn’t care whether I was gay or not, and since my mother had died long ago, she didn’t, either. It was just Dad and me against the world. He’d taught me that a man should be kind to people, earn his own way, not take anything that didn’t belong to him, be honest, and help others when he could. That seemed a pretty fair philosophy to me. But that ‘earning his own way’ bit was part of it, and if I was out of school now, I had to do that. I didn’t even resent him demanding it.
He’d tried to help me at school with the problems I was having, but he had a fifth-grade education and was easily intimidated by pontificating school officials. I hadn’t minded leaving school all that much, except for one thing. I’d been in a school play as a freshman and really had loved acting, pretending to be someone else, getting into that. I’d signed up for the play this year, too, but then, a few weeks after my birthday there’d been an especially vexing incident with three juniors which left two of the four of us bleeding. After I got home and patched myself up — yeah, I was one of the bloodied duo — I found I’d already made my decision without realizing it. I retired from formal education the next day.
Reflecting on the things I’d said to the principal after signing the papers and the shade of purple his face had turned, I doubted the school would be sending solicitous letters to my house, inviting me back.
I was smart enough and had actually enjoyed the academic part of school, but I didn’t really fit in. Being gay was just one of the things that made me different. Being poor and not wearing the right clothes or having the things the rest of the kids did separated me from the crowd as much as being gay. So I was on my own, not fitting in with some of the kids because I didn’t see the movies they did, play the video games they owned, ride a $2,000 carbon-fiber bike to school or wear any of the latest fashions. For some of the kids, getting over the fact that I found boys much more interesting than girls was a serious problem. All those things made me different and different isn’t good in high school. When you’re different you’re easily singled out, and I had no one to watch my back. When it’s the pack — or in my case two packs — against the one, it isn’t pretty when you’re the one.
So now I had a job, a temporary one, certainly, but one that got me out of the house and earned me some much needed money. I hadn’t given up on my education, however. I was still learning at home on my own with library books. I liked learning. I read a lot, I enjoyed building my vocabulary, and found doing so also helped build my self-esteem. And, I was still gay.
Not that I’d done anything about that. I was gay, but in mind, not in deed. Okay, I was indeed gay, just not in deed. Sorry, my mind works that way. You’ll have to put up with it.
Mike knew of my inexperience. We’d been friendlier when I’d started; we’d just taken to chatting like people do, and he knew I was gay; I wasn’t one to hide it. I’d told him when we were both just out of the shower at the end of our work day. When I told him, he gave me a funny look and put a towel over his nether regions, and I thought it might help if I mentioned I hadn’t fooled around with anyone. That had been back when I’d been new on the job and was still trying to make friends. I didn’t know then that most of us bicycle boys weren’t friendly with each other.
See, the way this job worked, we got diddly-squat for pay, not even minimum wage. But we did get a commission on top of the salary on every delivery we made and were allowed to accept tips. The job was set up that way to encourage us to go as fast as we could, to make as many deliveries as we could every day, and to be nice to the customers.
The effect of this was that all the delivery boys were more or less in competition with each other. The company was in business, and we had the jobs we did because of the need to have letters, important papers and small packages conveyed swiftly from one building in Manhattan to another. There were in general more boys than were needed. That was intentional on the company’s part: by doing it that way, they almost always had a boy on hand for any deliveries. You got a number when you returned from making a delivery — just like at a bakery or deli — and the boy with the next number up took the next package. So the quicker you worked, the more business you got. And in a very short time, I was doing more deliveries than Mike was. Not only was he overweight, he was slow, and he didn’t know the streets as well as I did despite the longer time he’d been on the job. When he realized I was earning more than he was, that I was acing him out on my number of deliveries per day, he stopped being nice.
Which was why his asking if I had a date with a boy was a jab, not a tickle.
I shut my locker. He was just out of the shower. I’d finished mine before he’d come in. I didn’t like to shower when he was there anymore. He’d make remarks. When he was naked and I wasn’t, he always thought it was funny to flash me, moving his towel away from in front of him momentarily and then back to cover himself again while leering leer at me. It was kind of funny. He had no appeal at all. He was chubby and, even at only 18, he sort of sagged all over. I hadn’t laughed yet. I was saving that for when his teasing got really annoying.
“Nope, no date. Just one more delivery and it’s on my way home, so I’m changing first. Then it’s back to the books.”
He didn’t have much to say about that, which is why I said it. Two people could apply the needle. He’d dropped out of school early, too. He had no interest in books. At least not ones without pictures of men wearing capes.
He turned to get dressed, and I turned to leave. I had a 10x12 manila envelope to deliver yet. It was going to someone staying at a ritzy hotel. I was hoping for a good tip. I’d learned, however that being rich didn’t necessarily equate to high tips. Generosity could and did come from anywhere on the spectrum of humanity, just as stinginess did. Still, I could hope. I guessed he would be rich. Anyone staying in a five-star mid-Manhattan hotel almost had to be.
We weren’t really supposed to deliver anything for the company while out of uniform. The uniform showed where we were from and took us through the security screenings many businesses and hotels and the like now had. But many of us would do what I was doing. It saved time and the trouble of riding all the way back to our depot after our last delivery of the day. If where we were going last was in the general direction of home, we cheated. We rode enough miles while working to appreciate being able to cut a few corners, both literally and metaphorically, at the end of the day.
Not all of us did it the same way, but I stayed legal enough with everything else that I hadn’t had any trouble. I still wore the standard soft-sided leather briefcase attached to a long strap that hung around my neck; it hung and flapped against my right hip as I maneuvered my bike through traffic. And I still wore my delivery-boy hat. We all had the same cap, an ascot leather one with the company logo on the sloping front. With those two accessories, I was identifiable as a delivery boy. When I got off my bike, if I slipped the strap off my shoulder and stowed it in the briefcase along with my cap, I was just a kid carrying a briefcase.
As I cut through traffic, I wasn’t giving all that much thought to either the hotel I was headed toward or a tip. Instead, it was what Mike had got me thinking about that was occupying most of my thoughts. A hot date? Pour moi? No. I’d never had a date. Not a real one where it was just another boy and me. And I was ready for that. Man, was I ready! At 16 your body is constantly telling you it’s ready. It’s asking you, ‘why aren’t you doing anything about this, helping me out here?’ The answer was, I just hadn’t really had the opportunity yet, what with not being at school any longer and so not being with all that many people my age — and too, not having the majority of the population to choose from. I needed to find some like-minded boys, and didn’t know where to look.
But I was thinking about it a lot and knew I had to do something soon or go out of my mind. My standard form of relief was getting old, man. Getting old! I needed to see what real sex was like, any form of it, but one that involved interacting with someone else. And I needed it like yesterday!
My destination was the Bradford-Carrington, one of several five-star hotels in the heart of the business district in Manhattan. I didn’t ride up to the front door, of course. There was a delivery entrance in the back. The hotel was so nice, however, even the back of the place looked better than the front of many of the places I visited each day.
I locked my bike in the stand the hotel provided, something I did so many times during the day I hardly even had to think about it any longer.
The back entrance led me past the security office. I’d been in this hotel often enough that the man on duty knew me and simply waved. I waved back and smiled. Good to stay friendly with those guys. They looked just like any of the businessmen who stayed there, but I knew they were armed and trained in hand-to-hand combat. They weren’t people to mess with. Not that I was inclined to. I was a lover, not a fighter. Well, that was my plan, and I was getting frustrated waiting to put it into action.
»»» § »»»
I stopped at the concierge’s desk. Luckily, the man on duty that evening knew me, too, and was one of the good ones. The reason that was lucky for me because some of these guys thought delivery boys should leave whatever they were carrying with them. They said that was for security and in the interests of the comfort of their guests, but that was a load of crap. What they wanted was some of the tip the delivery would bring. They’d give the package to a bellboy and take half the tip he got.
Of course, I didn’t go along with this. I’d learned that I had some leverage. For some time now, I simply had been refusing to hand over whatever it was I was carrying. I’d tell the concierge it was my job, and mine alone, to deliver the package and get a signature showing that I had done so. Not a signature from any hotel personnel — only the recipient. The kicker was, if the concierge insisted I hand whatever it was over to him, I’d tell him ‘so long’ and that I’d be calling the person awaiting the delivery, and I’d tell him the concierge had prevented delivery of it.
For some reason, the balky concierges weren’t real happy when they heard that. I had them boxed in, and they knew it. Some gave up gracefully and some became real assholes. Either way, I got to make the deliveries, and I got to pocket the tips.
But that wasn’t necessary today. This guy was cool. He looked at the room number, checked his copy of the guest register, and smiled at me. “The prince, huh?”
“Oh, you didn’t know? Yeah, some Middle East prince, country I’ve never heard of. But there’s oil there, which means the royal family is richer than Bill Gates. The prince is here with us for a few days on a shopping trip. He takes the whole top floor when he comes. Rooms for him and his entourage. You know, bodyguards, sisters and grandmas, assistant assistant backscratchers, that sort of thing.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Never met any royalty before. Do they tip well?”
He frowned, then shrugged. “I guess some do. Mostly they’re raised to think their shit don’t stink, and everyone else’s does. They think they’re better than us, that we don’t really count for anything. They have shipfuls of money and use it to buy whatever they want, but giving some of it away to us never seems to occur to them. So you never know. Just don’t count on anything and you won’t be disappointed.”
With that happy thought in my head, I headed for the elevators. I glanced down at my shorts and tee shirt. They were clean, but they were anything but formal. Somehow I wondered if I should be wearing a tux. A prince!
Not even the Bradford-Carrington had elevator operators any longer. I got into an empty car and was going to press the button for the top floor but noticed you needed a key to use that button. So I pressed the button for the next-to-the-top floor instead.
The door to the stairs was in the same alcove with the elevator access. I got out of the elevator, took three steps and was in the stairwell.
Up I went, concerned that if they locked the button to the top floor in the elevators, perhaps the doors to the top floor would be locked, too. Turned out they were, but there was a button to press. A doorbell, I guess. I hoped someone was near enough to hear the bell wherever it would ring. I pressed the button.
»»» § »»»
I was sitting on the top step, waiting, when the door opened. A large man with a dark complexion, close-cropped black hair, a well-trimmed beard and mustache was standing looking down at me, scowling. He wore a very expensive looking suit; I figured it had to be expensive to fit so well over his upper body and arms, both of which looked massive. The suit was a dark tan, his shirt a light blue with faint tan stripes, and his tie royal blue with darker tan stripes. I looked at him, remembered my shorts and tee, and thought, well, at least my shoelaces and briefs match: they were both white.
With that thought in mind, I actually smiled as I stood up. Being a delivery boy, you meet all kinds, and if you’re easily intimidated you don’t last a day. I tried not to be outwardly cocky — being cocky and generating tips appeared to belong to mutually exclusive spheres in this world — but I was no shrinking violet, and I did have a personality. I’d learned how I needed to act to succeed. I’d discovered after leaving school that the stuff they taught you there didn’t have too much to do with how the real world worked. When they said it’s a dog-eat-dog world, they were right, and the dog that lay down and exposed its belly when confronted by anything out of its control didn’t last very long. The world didn’t pay much heed to ‘cute’. At least not the business world. I had to figure out how to get by every day, and I had, so far. It was why guys like Mike didn’t terrify me as they had in gym class, ages ago. Well, four months.
“What you want, boy?” The voice had an Eastern European accent, thick but understandable. “You go away,” he added. “This a private floor.”
Standing in front of him, I only came up to about his shoulders. “I have a delivery for the prince.” I looked him in the eye when talking to him. I’ve heard that in some cultures, you’re not supposed to look men in the eye if you’re still a boy, and, at 16, I most definitely was that. But, we were on my turf here, and so culturally, we could play by my rules.
“Give to me.”
Well, of course he was going to say that. I looked him up and down, measuring him, and decided that, while he could beat me to a pulp with one gigantic arm tied behind his back, he quite probably couldn’t catch me, especially as I’d be running for my life — his legs appeared to be the size of tree trunks and were probably about as mobile. I made sure I was clear to take the first four steps down the staircase in one leap, then said, “No, I have to deliver it to the person whose name is on the envelope. That would be—” I stopped and pulled the envelope out of my briefcase just far enough to see the name, putting my left leg back over the step below me in case he decided I’d dicked around long enough. I kept one eye on him. He didn’t move, so I read the name, dropped the envelope back out of sight, and said, “—His Royal Highness Prince Amir Fajir Khaleel.”
“Give to me. I deliver.” He held out his hand, and his scowl deepened. Somehow he seemed to have grown an inch, too.
“Sorry. I have to deliver it myself or I’ll get fired. I can’t hand it over to just anybody off the street who wants it. Company rules.” I smiled apologetically, the smile that wins over little old ladies; they generally swoon over me while asking me in for milk and cookies.
“Me!” he said, pointed at his chest, and took a step forward.
I took a step backward, remembering it was a downward step just in time. “Look,” I said, “I have to deliver it in person. You can come with me. What, you think I’m a danger to anyone with you around? Come on! You could swat me like a fly. I just need to see him get it, have him to sign for it and I’ll be gone. Where’s the harm in that?”
He thought for a moment, and while he did, I helped my case by starting to back down the stairs. As I did, I said, “Hope this isn’t urgent.”
“All right,” he said, coming to a decision. “You deliver. I stay with.”
“Your word of honor?”
So now the ball was in my court. I decided this was the best I could do, and without showing any trepidation at all, walked back up the stairs. At the top, he said, “I must search you.”
Not what I wanted, but I could see his point. No matter how big he was, if I had a gun or a small bomb in my briefcase, I could rub out the prince before this giant could do anything to prevent it.
So I nodded and held my hands out from my sides, looking like a kid making himself into an airplane. He patted me down, thankfully not lingering in the ticklish or sensitive areas, but not being terribly concerned about decorum either. He didn’t really need to be so thorough — my shorts weren’t loose enough for any firearms to be concealed there.
When he was done with that, I took the envelope out of the briefcase, held it and handed the case to him. He glanced inside, then handed it back. I dropped the envelope back inside and said, “Lead on, Smithers.”
His eyebrows wrinkled together. “Who this Smithers?”
“Don’t you watch The Simpsons? Never mind. Let’s go.”
»»» § »»»
We stopped at a set of double doors about halfway down the corridor.
He gave three soft knocks and then stepped back. I was standing a little behind him.
The door opened. I couldn’t see who opened it because my view was being blocked by the behemoth who was making sure I was behind him. His size very effectively screened me from seeing much of anything. I ducked down to be able to peek under his giant arm. The open door flooded the hallway with light, and the person standing in the doorway was backlit; his front side, including his face, was too dark to see. All I could make out was a slim figure whose outline was highlighted by the light behind him, giving him an otherworldly glow.
Out of the umbra a voice spoke. “Everything OK?”
The guard didn’t speak, simply bowed respectfully.
“Let him enter, then.”
The guard stepped aside. By then I could only see the my quarry’s back as he was retreating into the room.
As I entered, I heard the door quietly click closed behind me.
“I have a delivery for you, sir,” I said.
He had reached a sofa and took his time turning around and settling down on it. He didn’t just sit. He seemed to repose on the cushion gracefully, bringing his legs up and folding them underneath him, making himself comfortable atop them. For the first time I could see his face.
It was a good thing I’d already spoken because I was struck dumb on first seeing him. He had to be about my age and was easily the handsomest, most beautiful human being I’d ever seen. His skin, slightly darker than mine, was flawless. In the bright light streaming through the windows it seemed to glow, seemed to have an inner radiance. His dark hair, looking soft and elegant, was carefully styled and perfectly framed his face. He had a slight dimple in his chin, full lips which, as he saw me studying him, formed into an enigmatic, captivating smile. Many Arab men I’d seen had heavy beards, but this boy had no sign of that at all, and indeed I wondered if he had even begun shaving yet. His features were extraordinary, perfect even, and gazing upon them stirred the imagination and awakened, then stoked inner fires. His eyes were perhaps his most striking feature. They were large, dark and expressive and revealed a lively intelligence and somehow held a hint of a challenge. The entire package, face and features, was incredibly sexy.
He was watching me study him and I saw nothing to suggest he was aware of the impact he made, no recognition that I was finding him so stunning, no smug grin, no haughty acceptance of his beauty. He was simply watching, studying the effect he had on me. I could see, however, that he did recognize that I was stunned.
He didn’t speak, and neither did I until it became awkward. I decided if he wasn’t going to speak, it was up to me. However, feeling I might stutter or falter if I spoke right then, or my voice might rasp, I didn’t. If he wasn’t uncomfortable with the silence, why should I be? I did have the idea he was testing me, evaluating me in some way, but I had no idea why.
While recovering my composure, I took the time to glance around the room. To say it was opulent wouldn’t really do it justice. All the fabrics were rich and ornate, brocades of silk that seemed to feature gold threads. The furniture was solid with leather, walnut trim and velvet prominent in the coverings. The carpeting was heavy plush that showed footprints when walked upon but then slowly relinquished them and returned to a vast flat plane of supple elegance.
He was wearing white, flowing robes of some sort rather than traditional western dress. They were so white, so immaculate, that with the sun on him it almost hurt the eyes. Around his neck was a heavy-looking, gold-chain necklace. I couldn’t see his feet with his robes draped over his legs but imagined he wore sandals instead of shoes.
He sat without moving, only his eyes surveying me. It was time to speak. I needed his signature and I could be out of here. I needed to do that because looking at him was quite exciting and it was about to be obvious.
He beat me to the punch.
“You have something for me?”
I remembered what I’d said when I came in. He was simply bringing me back to the present.
“Yes, sir,” I said, getting out the envelope and handing it to him. “I need your signature.”
He read the name on the envelope, then looked up at me, and for just a flicker of a moment, I did see in his eyes something I read as some of the haughty aloofness I would expect in a prince.
“I would hope you realize princes do not do such vulgar things as sign papers. That is what aides and assistants — what is your word for it? Ah, yes, and dogsbodies — do. I always liked that term. So English. So un-Arabian.”
It doesn’t take much for me to be insulted. When you’re poor, you’re constantly on the lookout for put-downs. Just the expression in his eyes set me off. The tone of voice was just as bad. He might be a prince, but I was an American. To me, a prince was just some dumb title he’d inherited and hadn’t done a thing to earn.
He might be handsome as all get out, and maybe was rich as the Queen of Sheba, but to me he was just a kid my age with an attitude. He was no better a person than I was. But I did have reason to thank him for something. Getting me mad had done away with my reason for embarrassment.
“I need a signature,” I said, omitting the ‘sir’ and making my voice hard.
He gave me a glance, then said, “Let me see this first.” He opened the envelope, took out the few sheets of paper inside and began reading them.
“Hey, wait a minute! You can read those on your own time! My job was to deliver them, not wait while you read them. I’m on my own time now. You have to sign first, then you can read. Sign for those, give me my tip, and I’ll be on my way.”
He stopped reading and looked at me over the top of the pages. “Oh? You mean, this isn’t your resume? I thought you were bringing me your resume. You’re not an applicant for the job, then?”
Dammit. He spoke English without much of an accent at all, and his voice was like honey on a warm summer morning, oozing out of the jar. And it came out of this heavenly mouth attached to a wondrous face on a gorgeous body. Well, all I could see was robes, but I have a pretty good imagination. And seeing him, just lounging there, and that good imagination of mine working, well, the embarrassment was on its way back.
I opened my mouth to answer but he kept going. “But then, I can see you wouldn’t be at all right for the job. You’re handsome enough — you certainly meet that qualification — and you meet the age requirement, but you’re not a bit deferential like you’d need to be and probably have no idea how to perform the required services, let alone perform them with the proper demeanor. And that’s saying nothing of your unsuitable attitude. No, I can see you’re not at all right for this work. The job is an important and demanding one; its title is Attendant to the Prince. This is quite obviously not something you’d be able to do.”
Man, could this kid push my buttons! “I didn’t come to work for you or any other prince!” I sputtered. Then I softened my voice, remembering the gorilla outside the door. “I came to deliver that... those. I had no idea what was in the envelope. But,” I said, letting my pride get away from me for a moment, “whatever job you’re hiring for, how can you say I wouldn’t be any good at it? I’d probably do as well as any other kid my age. Probably better than you would!”
He pulled back his head in surprise. Maybe people aren’t supposed to speak frankly to princes. Perhaps no one had ever spoken to him like that before. “But that doesn’t make any sense,” he said, sounding confused, but not showing any confusion at all in his eyes. His eyes looked happy, like this squabble was fun for him. I had the distinct feeling he was enjoying this.
“I’m not looking to be hired,” he went on, speaking like he was explaining something very simple to someone who couldn’t quite grasp the obvious. “Why would I want to do that kind of work myself? But if I did, I’d at least know what was needed and how to perform it with the correct degree of respect and subservience.”
“That’s the job you’re hiring for? Someone to serve you? What does that mean, serving? Like getting you breakfast or something?”
“Oh, much more. An Arabian prince needs to be attended to for most everything. Being there by the bed when he awakens in the morning. Assisting him in the bathroom as he gets ready for his day. Dressing him in the morning after that. Serving him his breakfast if someone else isn’t assigned that duty. Staying with him during the day to attend to his needs, whatever they are. Always being there for him. Being his confidante, his loyal friend, his companion, but also his servant. Being deferential, even reverential at times. If the assistant is really good at the job, all this comes naturally to him, and he’s happy to be able to serve. He takes pride in it, as well he should, because he’s assisting his superior. No, you couldn’t do that at all. You’re not the right sort. You’re too rebellious, too independent. I can see that in the way you stand there, the look in your eyes, the way you react to what’s said. Oh, you might try just because you have an ego to contend with, but would you do the job correctly? No. You have a word for how I expect you’d perform. What is that word? Oh, yes, I remember what it is.” He smiled triumphantly, then said, “ You’d botch it.”
I could feel my blood rising. I was only here to get him to sign the receipt for the delivery, but for some reason, I was now in a war of words with him, or a contest of wills, or… or something. He was trying to show me up, I knew that, and there was no way this lightweight, white-robed, stuck-up kid was going to get away with this!
Damn! Somehow he had managed to say all that without being the slightest bit disdainful. How do you insult someone, demean them, and not carry the sting of the slight in your voice? I hadn’t thought that possible, but had just heard it done. Maybe princes, taught from birth that they were better than the commoners around them, just took their superiority for granted. They were so much better than the lesser beings that populated the world with them that they felt no need to condescend. They could just state the facts and move on; such statements were mere confirmations of the status quo.
Well, screw that! I didn’t like being put down like this. He just sat their, relaxing on his couch, and I was standing. Already I felt like he was treating me like a servant. And I didn’t like it one bit!
“You know, you’re full of shit!” Now I guess you’re probably not supposed to say that to a prince, but when I get mad, I’m liable to say anything, and I said it. I even said more. “You don’t know me at all. I learn really fast and do an excellent job at whatever I attempt. I’ve done lots of things, and I’ll bet you’ve done nothing at all except please yourself. Now I am not looking for a job — I’ve already got one — and I’d never want to be a servant in any case, but there’s no question I could be one and do a good job of it. It would be a lot easier than what I do now if it meant working in places like this, probably eating the food you eat, wearing clothes like yours. You may well be a prince, but there’s no way you could do what I do — make deliveries and put up with the crap I have to put up with — and be successful at it. And even though I don’t know anything about how a servant should act and what he should do, within a week I’d be doing it better than you could because of who I am.”
I said all that rather hotly, expecting a reaction. All I got was his continued stare. Then he said, “Would you like to see if that’s true? Why don’t we test you? Just for a short time; that’d be all it would take. You do what I tell you to do. Only things you’d do if you were a personal attendant to any prince. Nothing unusual.”
I was mad, but was I also stupid? Why in the world would I want to do that? I was supposed to be going home. I’d already worked all day. What would I get out of working for him, doing menial tasks for an hour? Even if he decided I was better than he expected me to be, so what? I didn’t want this job. How would taking this test benefit me? I couldn’t see any reason in the world to do it.
I was trying to convince myself of that, trying to get myself to tell him to go to hell. I knew that’s what I was mentally doing. I also knew that, down deep, what I really wanted was to stay. And I knew why. Just being in this boy’s presence was exciting. I liked looking at him. I liked talking to him even as he made me mad. I liked the battle we were having, each trying to get the upper hand. I liked his calmness as he argued with me, even his subtle air of superiority. I liked the feeling of luxury of the suite we were in, too. Luxury was something I’d never experienced in my life. This room was quiet, opulent, pleasing and sensual. I felt good, just being here.
Still, was it worth it to humble myself just so I could stay here for a few more minutes? What if I agreed and then he asked me to, say, clean his feet? Clean them while he sat there looking down at me smugly as I knelt before him. And if I got fed up with it and quit, he’d have won and made his point!
Except I didn’t think he’d do that. He hadn’t really been smug with me yet. I couldn’t help but think that underneath that princely nobility he exuded, a nice person existed. And, if he did try to take advantage of the situation, I could always bust him in the nose and walk out. Well, dodge around the professional thug in the hallway and walk out.
But it seemed wrong to just accept his offer when all I could possibly gain was his acknowledgment at the end that maybe I was capable of doing the job. If I was going to do this, there had to be more to it than just proving I could. So, I asked him, “This job you’re trying to fill. The manservant job—”
“Personal attendant to the prince.”
“Whatever. What does it pay? Because if I’m going to stay here and do this for an hour or so, I should get paid that rate, don’t you think?”
He thought for a moment. Even his face in consideration was gorgeous. “No,” he said eventually, “you’d be a trainee. I’d have to tell you what to do and how to do it, and it would end up more work for me than for you, just trying to teach you the basics. The best attendant, one with experience and intelligence, will anticipate his prince’s needs and be at the ready, prepared to perform. You’d not be in that state of preparedness. You’d have to be told everything. There’s no way the salary of the attendant should be used to determine the wage scale for a raw recruit.”
“Then there’s really not much point for me to go through this, is there?” OK, I was arguing against what I was hoping would happen, but arguing intellectually with this guy was really fun. I was enjoying it.
He nodded. “I suppose that is true. You’re so confident that if you, by some small miracle, performed acceptably at the job, it wouldn’t seem to be any sort of accomplishment to you. For me, it would be a shock and a learning experience, but for you, I see that you’re right. So, you need an incentive. All right then, how about this? You do what I ask of you as my attendant, and if, in the end, you haven’t fallen too hard on your face, if you still have some spirit left and can hold your head high, and I’m forced to admit that you have the possibility of succeeding in the job — if I have, as you say, to eat crow — I’ll take you to dinner. I don’t suppose you, a delivery boy, eats in fine dining rooms with food prepared by famous chefs. So that should be a treat for you. Not that I expect we’d ever get that far. You’ll quit or I’ll shoo you out the door ignominiously before that.”
He certainly knew how to punch my buttons! But I had a question for him. “How come you speak English so well? And have such a good vocabulary.”
“The king sent me here. By working hard I have received a great education. I’ve been in a private boarding school here, a very prestigious one. I have learned all about America, and about American boys. Mostly they are both lazy and sex fiends. While they cavorted, I studied and did my work at school. Most of them didn’t.”
I guess I had to decide. Should I let him test my ability to be a servant? The whole idea raised my hackles. I was no servant! Weighed against that was being able to spend more time with the most beautiful boy I’d ever met. One I couldn’t help being attracted to. His brain was excellent, his personality thorny but fun, and his appearance... Just the way he moved, or didn’t move. Just the way he sat there, looking up at me with his huge, expressive dark eyes. Yes, I was attracted. The entire package — the looks, intellect and personality — wrapped themselves into a physical presence I hadn’t encountered before. Maybe being a prince was more than just an inherited title.
What finally decided me was realizing that, if he asked me to do something I didn’t want to do, I could simply walk away. No harm, no foul. But there was one thing to get done first.
“OK. I’ll do it. I’ll show you not all American boys are lazy; some are smart, and some are fast learners and not afraid of getting down and dirty and getting the job done. And what I’ll get from this is you buying us dinner in a fancy restaurant and then an apology for doubting me.”
At that he looked surprised. “I said nothing about an apology. Princes do not apologize.”
“And that’s not all,” I said, pretending I hadn’t heard him. “If, as you said, this attendant is your companion, your confidant, your friend, then that is what I will be during this venture we’ll undertake together. As such, because we’ll be doing this in private, I’m going to call you by your name and won’t be kowtowing or anything like that. That’s the way it’ll have to be.”
He looked at me without speaking. I looked back. Finally, he said, “Attendants do not dictate to princes. Princes make the rules and give the orders. A prince’s wish is his attendant’s command.”
“That’s when he’s an attendant. So far, I’m just a guy negotiating the terms of an agreement. I’m just setting some ground rules here. Once that’s all past us, then, and only then, will I begin our test. Now, one last thing. Sign here.” I handed him the delivery confirmation record and held out a pen.
He took the paper, glanced down at it, then looked up at me and almost smiled. Just the hint of a smile made my heart melt. I mean, he really was that gorgeous.
“You want to trick me,” he said, but there was humor in his voice. “I’ve just told you that princes do not sign things. That is a routine chore, done by lesser men. Princes do not do mundane chores. But as you say we two are negotiating, here is my pledge. I will get it signed for you before you leave. Right away, in fact. Is that acceptable, Mr. Negotiator?”
I nodded. “That’s fine. All right then, tell me your name and I can start.”
He opened his eyes wider. “Name? You had that envelope, right? What was written on it? Why do you ask me this? I thought you said I would see how smart you are. Bah! Smart? Bah again! See, right here!” He held up the envelope and pointed to where the name Amir Fajir Khaleel was printed.
If I hadn’t been able to tell from the laughter in his voice, I’d have been pissed. But he was teasing me, and I’d learned not to let teasing upset me. I read the name, thought for a moment, and said, “OK, Amir Fajir Khaleel. I’ll call you Faj. OK, that’s it, I guess. I’m now your personal attendant.”
This time he did smile, and that smile! Wow! But he didn’t hold it long. Instead, it ebbed, and then he asked, his voice still light and happy, “And what shall I call you?”
“My name is Dillon Peters. You can call me Mr. Peters.”
His eyes opened a little wider, and I laughed. “Dillon or Dil, either is fine.”
“All right, Dillon. I like that name. So American. My first request of you is this: please sign this for me as my representative.” And he handed me back the delivery confirmation sheet.
»»» § »»»
He got me, and all I could do was smile. He grinned. Damn!
I used the pen and scribbled some initials on the form, then stuck it in my briefcase. He stretched and yawned. “It’ll be time for dinner soon. Before dinner I always bathe and dress. I shall need you to select and set out my dining apparel.”
“Certainly, Faj,” I said, speaking rather formally. Well, I didn’t say ‘certainly, your most eminent royalty and poobah of the exalted fig tree’ or any nonsense like that. I did use the name I’d told him I’d use, and he didn’t call me on it. Evidently what we’d negotiated stood firm.
I walked into his bedroom, and he followed me. His closet was filled with what looked to me like leftover draperies. I guessed they were more robes like the ones he was wearing now.
I could have asked what to lay out, but that would have confirmed the criticism he’d leveled at a novice earlier. I thought it much better to make the decision on my own. As it was evening, and in America evenings generally called for dark suits for men and gowns for women, I selected a navy, almost black set of robes. I laid them respectfully and artfully on his bed, then went to his dressing table and found where he kept his necklaces. They were mostly gold, but he had a very impressive silver one, and I liked the contrast of the silver chain with the near-black robe, so I selected that and laid it next to the robe.
Footwear was harder. All he seemed to have was a selection of sandals. I guessed what I picked wasn’t of great moment because the robes came down to brush the floor and the feet weren’t seen. I picked out a black pair and set them on the floor next to the bed.
He looked at my selections, then at me, and then grinned. Damn, it was hard to concentrate when he did that.
“You have a good eye, Dillon. Now please draw my bath.”
“Sure thing, Faj.”
I found a huge bathtub in the bathroom and turned on the taps. No waiting for hot water here. The hot water steamed right out of the tap. I turned on the cold and got the temperature very warm but bearable, then walked back into the room where he was still standing.
“Your bath will be ready in a few moments, Faj. Do you need assistance disrobing?”
OK, that’s what I meant to say, but my voice cracked on the last word and it came out more like ‘disrabbgn’. I cleared my throat, tried to subdue my blush which of course I couldn’t manage, and said, “Disrobing.”
He did the sort of almost-smile he’d done earlier but then was sober again and nodded his head solemnly, up and down just once.
I stepped over to him, and for the first time, was nervous. I was supposed to undress him? Really? All the way down? Or was I supposed to stop with the underwear? Was he even wearing underwear? I didn’t know the answer to any of this, but I had a much more worrisome problem. I was hard as a rock, and my shorts didn’t do much to discourage it.
Luckily, I could work from behind him, just not too close behind. He was wearing a sort of thin white bathrobe that was open in the front. By standing in back of him, I could simply lift it from his shoulders and then lower it so his arms came out from the sleeves. I moved, my back to him, to drape it over a chair, and heard, “Tsk, tsk.”
I turned my head, not my body, to look at him, and he rolled his eyes and nodded toward the closet. I had the robe still in my hands, so it was easy to casually hold it in front of myself while walking to the closet and putting it on a hangar. That got me another, “Tsk, tsk.”
“What?” I asked. I might have sounded a little provoked.
“The hamper. Princes don’t wear soiled clothing.”
“But this looks spotless.”
“It’s been worn.”
As though that decided the matter. But, I guess it did. It also meant that after dropping it in the hamper, my extended shorts would be entirely exposed walking back to him.
I solved that problem by using one hand to open the hamper, then that hand to adjust myself surreptitiously as I dropped the robe in and shut the lid.
The adjustment was the best I could do in the time I had, but it turned out it hadn’t been necessary. He wasn’t even looking at me as I walked back to him. He seemed to be staring in front of him into space. Perhaps this was so old hat to him he was accustomed to merely standing and waiting while his attendant fluttered about with things.
The next garment was simply a sheet-like piece of cloth wrapped around his body and fastened with a lady’s broach of some sort at his shoulder. I unpinned it and this time, like a good little boy, deposited the drapery in the hamper. He looked over and I smiled at him. He gave me such a fleeting grin back I hardly saw it, and then he reestablished his regal stare at the wall in front of him. For my situation, that was perfect.
He was now dressed in sandals and some sort of undergarment at his waist. This had become very interesting because that undergarment looked quite a bit like mine certainly looked. In a word, stretched. In four words, stretched out in front.
He wasn’t looking at me as I assessed this phenomenon. I glanced up at his face and he wasn’t looking at me at all. Well, as they say in the war films, duty called. And I wasn’t going to ask for directions!
Standing behind him again, a very strategic place, I figured out how the underwear worked and slipped them down and off. I heard a soft sort of grunt sound, but ignored it.
I was finished with the undressing, except for the sandals. What to do? I decided the politic thing was to ask.
“Shall I remove your sandals?”
Well, no one stoops to remove footwear from behind. I mean, who would? No, one does that from in front. So, I walked around him, squatted in front of him, and then scooched back a half-step because I’d been poked in the forehead.
I had to say something. How could I not? Here a naked boy, a beautiful, adorable, stunning naked boy, was standing fully aroused in front of me, his arousal about an inch from my eyes as I looked up. I mean, if I didn’t say something, wouldn’t it be rude? By not mentioning the elephant in the room, wouldn’t I in fact be dismissive of the elephant? And, if Faj was anything like me, then he was rather proud of his protuberance. Ignoring it would be the same as belittling it, wouldn’t it? What boy, prince or not, wants his dangle disparaged? Especially when it isn’t dangling?
I tried to be as courteous as I could. “Uh, that’s a nice one,” I said winningly.
“One does not comment on the royal erection,” he said frostily. “One simply continues with one’s tasks.”
Okaaaaay! If that’s the way he wished to play it, we’d play it that way.
I realized I needed to breathe. Couldn’t remember when I last had. I took a couple of breaths and felt a little better for it. Squatting helped hide my own magnificence. I wondered if I needed to hide it. If his was to be ignored, shouldn’t mine as well? In this land where everyone was equal?
The thought was interrupted. “You probably should check the bath. It may well be near the top by now.”
I heard humor in his voice. I thought he may well have been gently teasing me. He may have understood my thoughts. Or, he was simply used to this. He’d had an attendant before, perhaps several. He may have been in just this situation enough that it wasn’t anything special to him, being exposed like this. And too, I couldn’t believe I was the only one who’d sprung one in the presence of his naked beauty, perhaps his naked erect beauty.
Anyway, I stood and turned at the same time and scurried to the bathroom. Yes, the tub was full enough. As I was turning off the water, I noticed an array of bottles near the tub. They were unguents and oils. Well, perhaps a prince was accustomed to bathing in scented water, not plain, ordinary water like regular humans. I looked at the selection. There were several flowered scents — rose and lavender and jasmine and such — but to me those didn’t seem right for this prince. This one was smart and edgy and liked to challenge his guests with humor and flashing eyes. Flowery he wasn’t. Spicy. Yes, that was it. He was spice, not flowers. Ah! I found what I thought perfect for Faj. I quickly added a few drops of cinnamon oil, two drops of clove, and then a drop of vanilla into the water and gave it a quick stir. The vapors rising from the tub gave me a heady feeling. They also meant I had to adjust myself again before walking unassumingly back into the bedroom.
“Your bath is ready, Faj.” I added the name mostly to show I wasn’t affected by what had just happened and to reassert my presumption that we were indeed equals. If I considered him my superior, I’d never be able to call him by such a nickname. He may or may not have understood the distinction, but it was important to me that I make it.
He strode into the bathroom and stopped by the tub. He reached out one arm to me. I saw what he wanted and hurried to him and held his arm as he put first a toe, then his leg into the water. I steadied him as he settled into the water slowly, hissing a bit as he accepted the hot water on his skin.
He settled back against the smooth end of the tub, then looked at me. “I am ready to be washed now.”
»»» § »»»
Oh, gee! But I could do this. I could. I looked around for a washcloth but didn’t see one. The soap was there. The shampoo was there. But no washcloth.
I picked up the soap, wet it and then slid it over his chest and down under the water across his stomach. He had his eyes closed so I could really look at his perfect skin, and the part that was below the water; its end wasn’t all that far below the surface.
Emboldened by the emotions I was feeling and perhaps by the scented vapors rising from the water, I again rubbed the soap over his chest, then used my hand to slide over it as well. I saw a reaction in his face when I did this. He smiled, a sort of cat’s-got-the-cream smile of satisfaction.
His soapy skin was so smooth and warm and wet that my hand simply glided over it like over buttery silk. I expanded my territory with my hand and ran it around his chest, then up into his arm pit. He raised his arm to increase my access. I noted he had just a small tuft there, a few hairs which I found incredibly sexy. I’m not very hairy myself and find a forest of the stuff a turn-off. His scattering of hairs seemed just perfect.
I finished his torso. I was feeling so hot and horny I was ready to burst. I’d had to adjust myself twice, and had had to be careful just touching myself not to start a reaction I’d never have been able to stop. Now I had to move on and work below the waterline, but even the thought of that was almost enough to set me off. So, instead, I reached for the bottle of shampoo.
He ducked his head in the water and came back up, and I thoroughly shampooed his hair, loving the feel of the slippery suds as I ran my fingers through his lush, thick mop. The shampoo was followed by conditioner, and when his hair was clean and shining, he gave me a look that was easy to read. ‘Get on with it,’ his eyes were saying.
I’d been unsure when I’d begun unwrapping him in the bedroom just what the proper decorum was, whether he’d want me to remove everything. I didn’t have that sort of doubt now. His pleasure with my hands working over his body and through his hair had shown me that.
He settled back against the tub and closed his eyes. I reached toward his submerged feet and my tee shirt began to get wet. His eyes remained closed, so he didn’t notice. But those closed eyes announced to me that this was my job and I could do it any way I liked. So I took advantage of that and, with a quick jerk, had my tee shirt off. Now I could reach farther into the tub with no encumbrance or fear of getting my shirt wet.
Reaching into the tub that deep brought my face close to the water, closer to the vapors rising from it. Cinnamon and clove, spices which seemed the perfect complement to the beauty of the Arab prince I was laving.
I started down by his feet. They were ticklish, and I loved that, but he was splashing too much water so I soon moved up. I thought about that, about him splashing and that being an excuse to take my shorts off as well, but that would lead to something I didn’t know if he was ready for. After all, he was a prince, and he was calling the shots, and he hadn’t called that one. So, instead of forcing the issue, I stopped tickling his feet and moved on. Upward. Ankles, then calves, knees and thighs. Around the legs, front, sides and backs. Around and around and around.
I was sweating. It wasn’t the humidity, either. I was nearing the nexus and was unsure of what to do. I remembered it was still this same day, only a few hours ago, that I’d been ruing my lack of sex with another boy, feeling the desperate need for that. Now, only a short time later, here I was, about to touch a boy, and not just any boy — a beautiful, smart, sexy boy, and a prince to boot. He was under my hands, and seemed willing to let me do whatever I wished.
So I did. I slid my hand up until I was cradling him. I stopped and looked at his face. Slowly, he opened his eyes and looked into mine. His emotions were plain to see; he didn’t need words to make his desires known. He stared into my eyes, then just as he’d opened them, slowly closed them without uttering a word.
I continued cleaning him, cleaning him where I’d left off, washing him, sudsing and soaping him, getting that part of his anatomy as clean as any boy has ever been in the history of the world. He began making guttural noises, but I wasn’t to be deterred.
Eventually he had a huge smile on his face, and even later, his breathing slowed back down to normal.
I was in a state. He was relaxed, almost comatose. I was ready to climb the walls. I suppose I could have taken care of it — it would have taken maybe three and a half seconds — but somehow it felt like that would be unseemly. After all, I was doing a job for a prince, attending to his needs. I’d just done a super job of that — a super-duper job — but my own needs had to be considered subjugated to my overall assignment. I could think of no better way to prove to him that I could be all that I could be as an attendant if I could deny myself that which seemed so incredibly urgent at the moment.
It was a few minutes later that he opened his eyes. He stared at me for a moment, then made preparations to rise. I helped him up, steadied him as he stepped from the tub, and had a luxurious towel ready for him as soon as he was stable on his feet.
I wrapped a towel around his shoulders, then took another and began drying him. I was sure that was part of the process. I knelt in front of him and started at his feet and ascended. When I reached the princely procreator, rather than grasp it and wrap it in the towel and rub it dry, I instead simply patted it, figuring it might still be a bit sensitive to the touch.
He watched me do this with avid concentration but no expression at all.
When he was dry, I blow-dried, brushed and combed his hair for him, putting it back in the style he’d effected earlier. We walked back to the bedroom after that, and I proceeded to dress him in the clothing I’d laid out for him earlier.
“You will join me for dinner,” he said, not making it a question.
I nodded, not trusting my voice. I was no longer worried about him noticing my tumescence. I’d dealt with his in a very physical way. He could deal with mine mentally. Or not at all. I wasn’t sure how princes thought.
When he was dressed in his black robes and silver chain, I thought we’d go downstairs and eat, but instead he told me our food would be delivered to the room. “You could not dine in their dining room dressed as you are,” he told me, “and I’m sorry, but you are not permitted to wear a prince’s garments. It isn’t done. So, we shall eat here.”
He picked up the telephone and said a few words in Arabic that was Greek to me, and then we sat and talked. He did most of that, asking about me and what I did and why I wasn’t in school and all. I didn’t see any point in hiding it; I told him I was gay, and out of school because of that. He didn’t seem affected one way or the other by that news. I’d heard Arabs were generally very phobic about gay men, but he’d been in the United States for a while now, and perhaps his views on things had shifted.
We ate the most unusual dinner I’d ever had. It was food of Arabia, food I couldn’t even identify, but it was delicious. I’m an active teenager. I made a pig of myself and felt I’d gained ten pounds by the time I was done.
After that, there was no further reason to stay.
“I guess I’ll be going now. But you never said if I passed your test. Could I make a suitable attendant for a prince?”
He smiled at me. I loved his smile! Even after being with him for some time now, his handsome looks still affected me strongly. And when he smiled, the effect was even stronger. “You were much better than I imagined you could be. It is too bad you’re not looking to change jobs. And what is even more unfortunate is that the king has decided it is time for the wedding; it has been arranged. It is tradition that a prince from his family will join a princess from a neighboring state. And so it must be. I do not want to marry, but a king is a king and has his say in all matters of his country. The entire royal family is to return home for a magnificent wedding.”
“In two days’ time.” His eyes were sad as he spoke. “I would have liked to have you back for more, uh, training, and perhaps to change your mind about the job being offered, but everyone will be too busy making preparations.”
I got up and walked to the door, walked quickly because this hurt. I did stop to look around. The room was just as fancy as it had been when I’d walked in but didn’t affect me now. He was just as regal and beautiful as before as well, and his effect on me had only grown more pronounced. It was with great sadness that I nodded to him. “It was my pleasure to serve you, Faj,” I said, and then I was gone, actually running down the hall past a bemused gorilla who stood in the hallway watching me run.
»»» § »»»
I spent a very difficult, restless, sleepless night. I’d just experienced the most extraordinary evening of my life. I could remember every moment of it in vivid detail. Every word that had been said, every action and reaction, every glance and nod and gesture. It was etched in my mind, and I was able to relive every aspect of it.
I realized I just had felt something with Faj that transcended the short acquaintance we’d had. His quiet nobility, his intelligence, his muted sense of humor, his candor, his willingness to put himself in my hands, the rapport we had — those weren’t just something to dismiss as a happy time together. It meant more than that to me, and I hoped to him as well. It was an event I might never forget. No, I’d never do that. Never.
So he had to return to his country and marry. That was bullshit! Why couldn’t he do what he wanted? What he wanted, what he said he wanted, was more time with me. For us to be together longer. In what little time we’d had, I’d fallen under his spell. I wanted more of that.
If the only thing I had with him was what was already over and past, well, I would have that at least. And so I spent the night going over and over it again. And it was about the third time I relived what had happened that my brain really kicked in, and I pushed back on my emotions and really thought.
Something wasn’t right. I could see that now, and I thought and remembered and thought some more and decided he wasn’t going to get away from me this easily. Not without discussing this. I needed an answer, and I was going to get it, or my name wasn’t Dillon Peters.
I had a birth certificate to prove what my name was. Did he? I wanted to see it.
»»» § »»»
I went to work the next day, but it was a real drag. No sleep, lots on my mind, no energy, and of course Mike throwing verbal jabs at me.
I made a couple of deliveries but didn’t have my heart in it. Finally, I decided I’d had enough. I told the boss I wasn’t feeling well and was going to quit early. He didn’t care. He had plenty of delivery boys waiting in the anteroom. If he’d been short of boys, I might have got some flack, but that wasn’t the case, so I got off with just a nod.
Before anything else, what I needed was cup of coffee. I’d started drinking coffee only a few months ago when I’d taken the job, but it was part of my daily routine now. Do you have any idea how hard it is at 8 AM to be alert, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? Well, it’s even harder without a cup of coffee. Or two.
I was dragging and still had something to do and knew a cup of coffee would help me do it. There was a coffee shop we all used right across the street. The counter guys knew us by name, and when I walked in, I got my order without even asking. I thanked the guy who served it and turned around with the cup, looking for a table.
There was one right in the front window, and I moved toward it after doing a double-take. Faj was sitting at it, looking at me with such a large smile I thought his face, his beautiful, ridiculously-handsome face, was in risk of breaking.
It dimmed as I walked toward him because of the expression he saw on my face. I was pissed.
I pulled out a chair and sat down. “You used me,” I said, with some venom in my voice.
He grinned at me. Damn! How do you stay mad at an Adonis that you have feelings for when he grins at you?
“Only a little,” he said. “And you liked it. Admit it.”
“Well…” What could I say? I had liked it. It was the best time I’d ever had.
“And I can explain. That’s why I’m here.”
“Good, because I was going to go to the hotel after drinking this cup of coffee, kick the shit out of that bodyguard of yours, and then maybe you, too.”
He laughed. Like everything else about him, with the possible exception of his honesty, the laugh was perfect. “I don’t think you’d get very far with Tarique. He’s scary. But you wouldn’t have had to deal with him. Everyone’s left. The whole floor has been vacated. Tarique’s gone.”
“And the prince? He’s gone, too?”
That got a reaction out of him. He pulled his head back slightly, straightened up, and said, “How’d you…”
“I figured it out. Spent all night thinking about it. Realized you’d never once said you were the prince. Oh, you certainly implied it. Lots of times. But you’d never said it, you’d very cleverly avoided saying it, and it would have been more normal, a couple of times, for you to have done so. But you didn’t. And then, Tarique — he’s the body-builder guarding the door? — I don’t think if you’d really been the prince he’d have allowed me in so easily.”
He nodded. “Tarique’s duty was to guard the entrance to the suite, not the prince. Others do that. And yes, you’d never have been allowed to see him. But Tarique didn’t mind you going in because I was there to accept you. My safety is of little concern to him.”
“And who are you?”
“I’m the prince’s personal attendant. Or I was. He left yesterday before you got there. There really is to be a royal wedding. I didn’t lie to you about anything. Not one lie. I did allow you to believe what you wanted to believe or were led to believe. But I didn’t lie to you.”
“If you’re his attendant, why didn’t you go with him?”
“Married princes have married attendants. The attendant will sometimes see the princess in less than the costume required of a princess, and only a married man can do that. It would be entirely wrong for an unmarried, young and attractive man to be near the princess when she isn’t entirely covered.”
He grinned again. “You thought so. It was obvious. I saw what you did at that hamper.”
“But you should still be going back for the marriage, shouldn’t you? I mean, you’ve been his attendant. You must be his friend. That was one of the responsibilities you told me the attendant had.”
“You can only be a friend if the prince wants that. This prince is a cold, aloof, entirely self-involved and unfeeling adolescent. I was less important than the dirt under his feet. I was ecstatic when I learned we’d be parting company.”
“Why didn’t you quit then? Earlier?”
“Because there were benefits that came with the job. He was going to school here. So I could be with him all the time, I was sent to this country with him and was enrolled in the same schools. I’d never have been able to come here otherwise. They paid me a salary, a very substantial one, to be his attendant and to secure my loyalty. It did that, and secured my fealty; it didn’t secure my love for the boy. I didn’t even like him. But I came here with him, made a lot of money, got a wonderful education, and now that he’s gone, I don’t have to have anything more to do with him.”
“Are you going to stay here? Become a citizen?”
“Yes, I’ve already applied. I love this country, the freedom you enjoy here to be who you want to be. I love the equality of the people. I’d never want to go back to being a subject of a king and his royal family who care nothing for the commoners of their country. I’ve learned how it is to be independent and how, here, you get by on your own intelligence and initiative, and I’m ready to start doing that.”
“If the prince was gone, why were you still there? And why were you taking applications for the attendant job?”
“I was only there to help oversee the packing up of everything being sent back to my old country. As for the job applications, they were for the new attendant. They were taking applications both here and back home. It was a diplomatic ploy. There was no way they’d have hired an American for the job. But it looked good. Looked like they were very liberal and egalitarian.”
“So when I came in, everything that happened was just a ploy to get your rocks off? That’s all it was?”
He had the decency to look embarrassed. “You don’t know what it was like for me, Dillon. I had to do everything for the prince and had to be available to him at all times. Yes, I was rewarded for that, handsomely rewarded, but I had no life. I’m 16 years old. I’d never had sex with anyone! All the other guys at school were having sex and talking about it. Even the prince had sex. I had to arrange it for him! And I had to be in the next room, listening, in case he wanted me for anything. But me? Never! And I’m a healthy guy. I wanted to have sex. Really, really wanted to have sex with someone. I had fantasies about it. About a handsome boy, because, like you, I too am gay. It’s another reason I won’t be returning to my native country.”
He dropped his eyes. I looked at him sympathetically. He’d been feeling exactly what I had! There was no way I could be mad at him; I understood better than anyone what he’d been feeling. Listening to him, watching him, trying to maintain a semblance of anger at him, he still was the most attractive human being I’d ever met, and now a sympathetic human being, too. Now there was even more about him that affected me.
He continued, talking to the table now. “You came in, and you were attracted to me. Some boys are. I’ve recognized it, but never been able to act on it. Now, suddenly, for the first time, I was able to imagine doing something with another boy, and it wasn’t just any boy. It was a boy I was attracted to, also. A very handsome boy who was smart, and a little sassy, cocksure of himself, and sexy as anything I had dreamed of. You started arguing with me, and so I argued with you, and you acted mad so I continued with it, and we were both clever with our arguments, making good points, and it was so much fun! And you were as interested as I was! I could see it in your eyes. Suddenly, out of the blue, here was a boy I could live out one of my great fantasies with: I could be the prince, and he could attend to my desires.” He raised his eyes to mine. “What would you have done?”
I’d been captivated by his story, and had been feeling bad for him, and so I had to shake myself out of that and remember I was pissed at him. OK, not much, but I still had a reason to be angry. “What I’d have done was be honest and when it was all over, I’d have told the one I was using what it was all about. You had no reason to hide it any longer.”
He sat still for a moment. I could see I’d upset him. Well, good. I shouldn’t be the only one upset. Although I had to admit I was having trouble holding on to even the remnants of my earlier anger.
“I felt bad about you leaving like that. I’d been so happy. When we were talking just before you left I was still living in my fantasy. I told you about the wedding and everyone leaving. At that point, I was screwing up the courage to tell you the truth, about this being a game, a hoax, and then suddenly, way too fast, you’d opened the door. Tarique was there. If he knew I’d been impersonating the prince, I’d have been in deep trouble. I was going to call you back, but you just sprinted out. I didn’t have any way to find you. I called information for Peters, but do you know how many Peters there are in New York? Too many, that’s how many.
“But, I remembered the name of the delivery service from the form I didn’t sign.” He grinned at me. “So I called them but got the run around. No info on employees. That left me only one option. I came to the address of the company you work for, and I sat here, across the street, waiting till I saw you. I sat, and I drank too much coffee, and then there you were. I started to rise, but you headed this way, so I just sat and waited, and now here you are.”
“Yes, here we both are.” I was staring into his deep eyes, and I felt myself starting to tremble. “I like you, more than like you, and I don’t even know your name. But even so, I want to spend more time with you, learning all I can about someone who’s sneaky and underhanded and smarter than most anyone. Can we do that?”
His smile grew wider. “Why do you think I came looking for you? I’ve thought of nothing else. I want to be with you, too. I want to get to know you better, this boy wearing shorts and a tee shirt that tells a prince he’s full of shit!
“What you did last night in the tub was wonderful, and I owe it to you to do the same. And maybe we can do even more. But I want to know you without the sex, too. I think we fit together very well, Dillon Peters.”
“I want that too, to get together. I want that with my heart and soul, with all my being. But there’s just one thing.” I said that as seriously as I could, but couldn’t stop my eyes from giving me away.
“Oh?” he said, and his eyes sparkled as though he was preparing himself for what was coming.
“Yes. One thing. Next time, I get to be the prince.”
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