of the Wicked Boys
He was irritable, tired, and horny. Running his fingers through his thick, dark curls, his gaze out the window of the 727 didn’t register the hills and pastures northeast of the city. He was deep into his thoughts and only the persistent, irritating noise coming from the seat next to him kept his focus on the present instead of entirely in the past. He had hoped to sleep on the flight from New York, but the horrid woman beside him snapping and popping her chewing gum had insured that he couldn’t. And, on top of it all, he had an irksomely persistent hard-on that wasn’t going away. He knew he should have jacked off before leaving his uncle’s apartment, or at least during the flight. It wasn’t like he had never masturbated in an airplane toilet before. In fact, he had done so twice on the flight to London and twice on the first leg coming back. It was just that it seemed everyone’s eyes had been on him as he stepped out into the aisle and returned to his seat, as if they knew he had been enjoying the privileges of the Mile-High Club, even if only by himself. He wasn’t averse to being the center of attention, just not in that way. Although...
The bovine creature seemed to relish her snapping, doing it with such intensity that he was certain the pilot and co-pilot could hear her. She was obviously immune to the looks of disgust and sighs of exasperation he had repeatedly given her since they had taken off from JFK. Her eyes were locked on the supermarket tabloid before her and the latest Hollywood gossip about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, news of the most recent alien abduction in Kansas, and reports of the Virgin Mary appearing to the faithful in burnt toast, sliced tomatoes, and bathroom mildew. No, he couldn’t take it any longer. He had to go to the restroom and take care of the hormonal pressures building in his Bermuda shorts.
“Good afternoon. This is your captain speaking. We have begun our approach into Greensburg Regional Airport, where it is a humid one-hundred-three degrees, and we should be landing in about ten minutes. You will notice that we have activated the “no smoking” and “fasten seat belts” signs and we ask at this time...”
Well, so much for that idea. He was just going to have to tough it out. He sighed heavily and crossed his legs as he casually folded his hands over his lap.
“You’re not from Greensburg, are you?”
He was surprised to hear the snapping cow speak. He turned his head and said, “Actually, I am. Why?”
“Oh,” she responded with surprise. “It’s just that most boys in Greensburg don’t let their hair grow that long, and they usually wear socks with their moccasins.”
He raised an eyebrow and before he could think, he replied, “Well, actually, guys in my neighborhood do have hair this long and they do go without socks sometimes. And, these aren’t moccasins. They’re boat shoes called Topsiders.”
He realized that he had probably offended the woman with his tone, but after almost two hours of her incessant gum popping, he wasn’t overly concerned.
She huffed and declared, “Most boys in Greensburg aren’t as rude as you are.”
He sighed and softly replied, “It’s probably because most boys in Greensburg haven’t been awake for most of the last forty-eight hours and they don’t go to school in New York.”
Her look of disapproval softened only slightly as she asked, “Why have you been up for so long?”
“I’m flying home from London. I had a layover in New York and spent the night with my uncle, but I didn’t get enough sleep.”
She nodded and said, “London. How exciting. What were you doing there?”
Ooh, this should be interesting, he thought to himself. “I spent six weeks in a summer program with the Royal Ballet. I train during the year in New York at the Ballet Academy of America.”
Her eyes grew wide and she seemed to shrink away from him until she weakly replied, “Ballet? Oh. Well. You, um… you don’t look like a ballet dancer.”
“Really?” he asked with a smile. “Why not?”
The woman was growing flustered and answered uncomfortably, “Well, um, I mean, you look... normal, except for the shoes and the hair and... well, I mean, you don’t look like...”
“A sissy?” he asked with a grin. He could see she was about to protest, so he quickly put up a hand and said, “It’s okay. People don’t always realize how much work it takes to be a successful dancer. It takes a lot of effort and training, a lot of practice, a lot of strength and endurance. Dancers are every bit as athletic as a football players and wrestlers.”
“Oh,” she replied before he grinned and added, “We’re just smarter and better looking.”
She nodded without another word and turned her attention back to the National Excrement and an article about a beagle in Indiana nursing a litter of kittens. He smiled and had looked back out the window before a grinding, mechanical noise reverberated through the plane, signaling the landing gear and flaps had been deployed. He would like to have closed his eyes and napped for at least a minute or two, but it was too late now. Perhaps after he got home... if his mother didn’t already have plans. She probably did, but maybe, just maybe he could talk her out of them. Probably not. What Gloria Hampton wanted, Gloria Hampton got. Always.
He stared at the city passing by below and felt a wave of anxiety flow through him. Aside from the school calendar, there was a reason he came home only twice a year. He wanted to go back to New York. He wanted to put on his dance shoes. He wanted to be free of his old life in Greensburg.
The plane landed and seemed to take much longer than necessary taxiing to the terminal. As it rolled to a stop, the other passengers seemed to ignore the requests by the crew to remain seated until they had come to a complete stop. Most jumped up and began pulling down their carry-ons and pushing their way forward before the plane had completely stopped; he remained seated and watched. His seat mate was one of those who seemed to be in an inordinate hurry to leave, no doubt afraid something might rub off from the ballet dancer beside her. When the crush of passengers in the aisle had subsided, he grabbed his backpack and, holding it before him to hide the evidence of his adolescent arousal, made his way forward.
A young stewardess stood guard at the cockpit door with an older woman beside her watching. As he neared them, the younger woman smiled and asked, “How was your flight?”
He grinned and replied, “It would have been better if you had been working in my section!”
She giggled like a schoolgirl and the woman beside her smiled and shook her head as she said, “Thank you for flying Eastern .”
He grinned as he descended the stairs to the blazing tarmac. He liked pretending he was older than fifteen. He liked pretending he was straight.
He did not, however, like the horrendous heat and humidity of an American southern summer, especially after six weeks in the civilized environment of London. He breathed deeply and slipped on the sunglasses that had been hanging from the button of his white Lacoste tennis shirt.
As he entered the darkness and cold of the terminal, he didn’t bother looking for his mother. He knew where she would be, standing impatiently at the edge of the waiting area, glaring with disgust at the crowds around her. She was there and as he approached, she turned her glare to him.
“Rafael! When was the last time you had a haircut?”
“Hey, Mom,” he replied with a quick kiss to her cheek. “I’m fine, thank you. Yes, I had a great flight and, yes, I had a wonderful time in London. How was your summer?”
“Dreadful, and don’t be impertinent,” the woman replied as she looked him over with disgust. “You look like something from San Francisco. You have an image to uphold here, Rafael.”
“No, you have an image to uphold here, Mom,” Rafael replied as he started down the concourse toward the baggage claim area. He slung his backpack over his shoulder and shoved a hand into his pocket as he added, “I’m just a dancer.”
“You’re in training at the best ballet school in the country,” his mother responded in a loud voice, “and you just returned from six weeks in London. You have an image to uphold.”
Rafael grinned and said, “Mom, I don’t think it helps any guy’s image in this part of the country to train at a ballet school, no matter how good it is.”
“Well, nonetheless,” she replied undeterred, “you’re getting a haircut while you’re here.”
He shook his head and said, “Don’t worry about it. I’m only here a week and Uncle Teddy’s got a friend on Third Avenue who does my hair.”
His mother pressed her lips together in consternation as they marched forward before asking, “So, how is Teddy?”
“Your brother is doing just fine,” Rafael replied, “and he sends his love.”
“I’m not! I swear. The last thing he said to me before I got on the plane was, ‘Give my love to Cruella.’”
Rafael grinned as he looked at her and asked, “You are kidding, aren’t you?”
She glared at him and replied, “Rafael, I don’t have a sense of humor.”
The teenager rolled his eyes and shook his head as he looked forward and replied, “She’s the woman your car was named after.”
She looked at him blankly and he explained with exasperation, “Cruella de Vil? Sedan de Ville?”
She looked at him for a second and then declared, “We need to hurry. I want to get out of here. We’re meeting the Hollisters for drinks and dinner at the club at six-thirty. Now...”
“Oh, Mom, no,” Rafael replied. “I’m really tired. Jet lag after flying from London. Can’t we put it off until tomorrow?”
“Nonsense,” she responded. “You’ve been sitting the whole time. Besides, I want everyone there to see you, which is why I wish you had a haircut. Now, I’m sure they’ll bring that horse-like daughter of theirs, so I want...”
She stopped walking and speaking as she realized that Rafael was no longer beside her. Turning, she found her son standing about twenty feet behind with an adamant look on his face.
“Rafael! Come here!” she commanded. “I don’t have time for games.”
The teenager remained where he was, looking at her coldly. After a moment, she huffed angrily and marched back toward him.
“What is it, Rafael? I don’t have time for games!”
“Mom, I’m fifteen years old.”
“I know, Rafael. I was there when you were born.”
“I attend one of the best ballet schools in the world.”
“I know, dear. I pay the bills.”
“Actually, you don’t. Your second husband’s estate pays the bills. But, that doesn’t matter. You cannot order me around like a poodle.”
“Of course, I can, dear,” his mother replied with a snap of her fingers. “Now come along.”
“No! I’m a human being! I am not an ornament on the life of Gloria Hampton! You are not going to parade me around for the cadavers at the club!”
She glared ominously at him and said through clenched teeth, “You are my son and you will do as I say. Don’t push me, Rafael. I have ways of punishing you that you can’t even imagine.”
She turned and resumed her march to the baggage claim area. Rafael pressed his lips tightly together in frustration and humiliation before he sighed heavily and followed her. Neither said another word as they waited at the baggage claim, nor as they walked out of the terminal and into the sweltering late-July afternoon. In fact, it was not until they were seated in his mother’s Sedan de Ville and they were negotiating the traffic out of the airport complex with the air conditioning blowing at full power in the car, that Rafael finally looked over at his mother and remarked, “You haven’t asked a single question about London.”
“I’ve been to London,” she replied. “It rained.”
Rafael rolled his eyes and looked out the window at the afternoon traffic before responding, “You know what I mean.”
She sighed and asked, “All right. Did you learn any new dances?”
He shook his head with pity for the woman and replied, “Yes.”
“Did you get to dance with great dancers?”
“Did you get to commit sodomy with lots of boys and men?”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Mom!”
His mother shook her head helplessly and declared, “Rafael, you know I know nothing about ballet. All I know is you are one of the best and that’s all I need to know.”
Rafael sighed and leaned his head back. He realized that this was as close as she was ever going to get to saying she was proud of him and he should probably be grateful at least for this. He said nothing further as they drove through the city. Neither did his mother as they listened to her “Beautiful Music” station on the radio until they turned into their neighborhood of fake plantation houses and fake French chateaux and fake English country homes. Only when they passed one of the chateaux and she looked over at it, did she finally speak.
“It’s such a shame about the Fenwicks.”
“What about them?” Rafael asked absently.
She looked at him with irritation and declared, “Oh, Rafael! I wrote you about this in May. Don’t you ever read your mail?”
“Mom,” he replied, trying to control his own irritation, “I was busy in May with the Spring Workshop and getting ready for London. What happened?”
“Well, they were killed.”
Rafael flinched as if he had been slapped before exclaiming, “What?”
She nodded as they stopped at a corner.
“Yes. They were driving home from the Spring Symphony in the Park and were hit by a drunk in a pickup truck. They were killed instantly.”
“All of them?” Rafael asked in horror.
“Oh, no. Only Grant and Charlotte. Brian’s living in an apartment by campus and Jeremy was waiting for them to pick him up at ballet school.”
Rafael sat back and took a deep breath before muttering, “My God.”
His mother turned into a long driveway leading to a wide, low house of concrete, steel, and glass and drove to the back. Rafael wanted to ask more questions about the Fenwicks, but as the car came to a stop, he noticed a large, older black woman hurrying from the kitchen door toward the car. He smiled and as he climbed from the car, the woman cried, “Rafael! Rafael! You’re home!”
“Hey, Claretta,” he called back, regretting how he had reverted back to his old, slightly southern way of speaking so quickly, as he hurried around the car. They embraced and then Claretta held him at arm’s length.
“Mmm, mmm. Rafael, you just get handsomer and handsomer the older you get!”
He grinned as she turned to his mother and exclaimed, “Miz Hampton, ain’t he the best looking young man in Greensburg?”
“Of course, he is,” his mother replied as she strode past them. “He’s my son.”
Rafael grinned at Claretta, who winked back as he pulled his suitcases from the trunk of the car. Following him toward the sliding glass doors on the patio, she asked, “So, how was your time in London?”
He smiled and noticed his mother sigh as she entered the house.
“It was wonderful, Claretta,” he replied. “I’ve never worked so hard or learned so much in my life, but it was a blast. It almost killed me, but I loved every minute of it.”
“I’m so happy for you, Rafael,” she responded as they entered the house. “So, happy. I know you gonna be the best dancer ever with all that good training!”
Rafael set down one of the suitcases and opened it as he said, “And, I brought you something from London, Claretta.”
“Oh, you didn’t! Oh, Rafael! You are such a sweet boy. You never forget your old Claretta!”
His mother rolled her eyes as she lit a cigarette. Rafael pulled a box from the suitcase and handed it to her.
“Harrods! You shouldn’t have!” Claretta exclaimed.
Rafael grinned and said, “It’s an English teapot with the Queen on the side.”
With tears in her eyes, Claretta hugged Raphael again and ran off to her room. Rafael’s mother shook her head cynically and muttered, “How touching.”
“It wasn’t much,” the teenager replied as he closed the suitcase, “but it made her happy and showed her that I care.”
“Hmm,” the woman responded. “What about me? Did you think to make me happy or show me that you care?”
Rafael cocked his head and replied, “Mother Dear, what does one give the woman who has everything ?”
“Respect,” she replied bitingly, “and obedience. You’re going to dinner tonight.”
“Why?” Rafael asked with exasperation.
“Because you owe me!” she spat in return.
“I owe you? For what?”
“For this!” his mother replied, her arms extended. “For everything! For your nice home, your nice clothes, your nice education, your nice trip to London! Everything!”
“Mom, the only reason we have all this is because you married a homosexual for his money!” Rafael shouted.
“Yes, I did!”
“And, in return, he got me!”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” the woman muttered as she turned her back on him and took a furious puff from her cigarette. “Nobody told you to have sex with him.”
“Mom, I was seven!”
“So? You were already gay, Rafael!” she replied turning back around. “Good Lord, you were a screaming queen at the age of five! Why do you think your father couldn’t stand the sight of you? It was poor Luis who found you trying on my bras. You probably gave him that heart attack.”
Rafael flinched as if he had been slapped. He stepped back and then said, softly, “Stephen didn’t give me a choice, Mom. You didn’t give me a choice.”
“Hell,” the woman responded disdainfully. “I’m tired of being the villain in this pathetic soap opera you make of your life. I will not be responsible for any of your neuroses. Now, take your luggage to your room, and you’d better be ready, in slacks, a nice shirt, a coat, and a tie at six o’clock. Do you understand?”
Rafael looked at his mother with undisguised hatred in his eyes. Wordlessly, he turned and, carrying his luggage, left the room.
The cicadas were singing in the magnolias and willows as the sleek Cadillac drove along the winding road to the club. Once again, neither Rafael nor his mother had spoken and it was not until they stopped in front of the wide, plantation-style structure and she was handing the keys to the valet that his mother finally spoke to Rafael. He had stepped out of the car and was just closing the passenger door when she said, “You look very nice, Rafael, very dignified. I just wish we had gotten you a haircut before we came.”
He didn’t acknowledge her comment. He merely took her arm as they entered the building and walked across the foyer to the dining room. Heads turned across the room as they entered and were escorted to their table. His mother smiled with obvious pride at friends who nodded and waved. Rafael simply nodded when he was acknowledged. They were taken to an already occupied table along the giant picture windows overlooking the eighteenth green and fairway, where Rafael could see some late stragglers, some gathered on the green, some making their way to the clubhouse. The evening sun was casting a warm, golden glow over the carefully-manicured lawn and the full, beautiful trees across the golf course, and he mused to himself how much he would rather be walking peacefully among the trees than sitting among the cadavers in the dining room.
The Hollisters, sans horse-like daughter, were already seated and as Rafael and his mother approached, Mr. Hollister rose and shook hands with the boy as Rafael’s mother and Mrs. Hollister both exclaimed how delighted, absolutely delighted they were to see each other again. Mr. Hollister winked and Rafael grinned before the man said, “Rafael, son, I think you spent too much time in London with all those Mods and Beatles on Carnaby Street! We need to get you in to see a good southern barber before you head back to New York!”
Rafael laughed politely, not mentioning that the man’s British cultural references were several years out of date, and replied, “Oh, not you, too, Mr. Hollister! Mom’s already threatened to have the gardener take the pruning shears to my head!”
Everyone laughed appropriately and the two males took their seats as drinks were ordered—a Vodka Collins for his mother and a Virgin Mary for Rafael.
“So, Rafael,” Mrs. Hollister exclaimed excitedly, “you must tell us all about London!”
Rafael smiled and replied, “Well, it rained a lot”—earning him a kick under the table from his mother—“but, it was fantastic, absolutely fantastic”—which earned him a second kick. “I’ve never worked so hard or had so much fun. The faculty there are amazing and brilliant. I wish I could have stayed for the whole summer.”
“How wonderful!” Mrs. Hollister replied. “You know, our Holly went to New York for a summer intensive at your school!”
“Yes, I heard,” Rafael lied with smile. “How did she like it?”
“Oh, she loved it, of course! She can’t stop singing the praises of Ballet Academy of America. She even had some one-on-one training with Marta Van Amstel!”
Rafael could just imagine what kind of one-on-one training the muscular and athletic Holly Hollister had with the strong and powerful Prima Ballerina of the Ballet of America. Keeping those thoughts to himself, however, he replied, “Yes, we get to do a lot of training with the best at B of A and Marta is an incredible dancer.”
“We’d send her to Ballet Academy full-time,” Mrs. Hollister said, “but, I’m so afraid for an impressionable girl like Holly in a huge city like New York! You’re so fortunate, Rafael, that you have an uncle there!”
From the look in Mr. Hollister’s eyes, Rafael guessed that he probably had the same thought the boy had, that New York had more to fear from Holly Hollister than Holly had from New York, but he simply smiled politely and replied, “Yes, I am. Uncle Teddy takes very good care of me.”
Mrs. Hollister grinned at Rafael and said, “You know, Rafael, Holly was seeing this boy from the Ballet School here, Kevin, but he turned out to be... well, you know.”
It took all of his effort not to laugh out loud at the image of the dominant Holly Hollister and the screaming queen Kevin Daugherty together. To cover, he forced himself to smile politely and replied, “Really?”
Mrs. Hollister nodded and remarked, “I’m sure, Rafael, with your Latin good looks, you have to beat off that kind with a stick.”
“Yes,” he replied with a grin, “I do have to beat them off.”
“You should call Holly while you’re here,” she said. “I’m sure she’d love to see you again!”
Rafael politely nodded, though he had absolutely no intention of calling the beast, and said, “Maybe I will. Perhaps we can do a pas de deux together.”
Mrs. Hollister smiled cluelessly and Mr. Hollister cleared his throat.
The waiter returned, and another round of drinks was ordered. When the waiter walked away, Mrs. Hollister took a quick look around the room before speaking.
“You know,” she declared breathlessly as she leaned forward and looked at Rafael’s mother, “it’s such a shame about the Fenwick boy!”
“Yes, it’s a real tragedy,” Rafael’s mother replied sympathetically.
Mr. Hollister nodded and said, “It’s almost criminal what they’re doing to him.”
Rafael looked surprised and asked, “What’s happening? Brian or Jeremy?”
“Jeremy!” Mrs. Hollister replied before taking a gulp of her white wine. “Didn’t you know?”
“I know about his parents’ accident,” Rafael replied, “but is there something else?”
“Yes,” his mother replied pointedly, which Rafael took to mean that she had explained that in the letter he hadn’t read, as well. “You know, after the accident, there weren’t any other Fenwicks to take Jeremy.”
Mrs. Hollister nodded and said, “Henry Fenwick, Jeremy’s grandfather, was an only child and so was Grant.”
Mr. Hollister nodded, too, and added, “And, Brian is totally worthless. He’s nineteen and probably could have gotten custody, since he’ll be twenty-one in two years, but he’s been too busy partying at the University of Greensburg and since the accident, I don’t think he’s been sober long enough to even consider what his behavior has meant to poor Jeremy.”
Rafael’s mother nodded as she picked up the conversational ball and said, “And, of course, Charlotte, his mother, didn’t come from money.”
She looked at Mrs. Hollister and said, “You can just imagine how Henry and Dorothy must have reacted when Grant came home and told them he was marrying a girl from the other side of the river!”
Rafael was not only disgusted by the snobbery, but he wanted to scream, “Get to the fucking point!” Instead, he simply gave his mother a look, which Mrs. Hollister noticed. She said, “Jeremy was taken in by his mother’s sister, who’s married to Jimmy Dale McCoy, the pastor at the Westside Tabernacle.”
“The crazy guy?” Rafael asked with shock. “The faith healer who’s always baptizing people in the river and says black people are being punished by God for being lazy and sex-crazy?”
“Yes,” Mr. Hollister replied with disgust. “And, he also says that dancing is satanic, so he’s taken Jeremy out of Greensburg Ballet School. He also took him out of Breckenridge Academy, but it’s having to give up his ballet that is really killing the poor kid.”
“Jeremy went into ballet?” Rafael asked with surprise. “He really did it?”
“Well, of course, Rafael!” his mother replied with a chiding tone. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know!”
“Well, I remember when I was Fritz in The Nutcracker four or five years ago, he came up to me at the reception and declared that he wanted to be a ballet dancer just like me, but he was...what, seven? Eight? I didn’t think anything about it. So, he really did it?”
“Oh, yes!” Mrs. Hollister exclaimed. “And, he’s excellent! Madame Pulchova says he’s the new Rafael Colon! He was even Fritz in The Nutcracker, two years in a row, just like you!”
“Wow. Really?” Rafael replied. “I had no idea.”
“He was even supposed to go to New York with Holly in June for the Summer Intensive at Ballet Academy,” Mr. Hollister said. “He was really disappointed when he learned that you were going to London. Of course, that was before the accident and his uncle killed all those plans.”
“And, all his dreams,” Mrs. Hollister added dramatically.
Rafael looked down at his drink and shook his head. “Man, that’s... awful. I can’t imagine...”
He looked up and asked, “There’s nothing anyone can do?”
Mr. Hollister shook his head and said, “I’ve been talking with Grayson Harrison over the summer. He’s the attorney handling the Fenwick estate, and he says the uncle is implacable. He won’t consider letting Jeremy dance under any circumstances.”
“It’s not money, is it?” Rafael asked.
“Oh, no!” Mrs. Hollister replied. “The Fenwicks were richer than God. It’s just that McCoy thinks dancing is evil and ballet dancing is even worse.”
Rafael’s mother looked past Rafael and Mr. Hollister and said, “Isn’t that Grayson Harrison up there at the bar?”
Rafael turned and felt a chill go through him as he recognized the man in the black tie and dinner jacket. Mr. Hollister nodded and said, “Yes.”
The conversation drifted at that point to gossip about the Greensburg aristocracy, which interested Rafael not at all. He smiled attentively as the three adults spoke, but his mind was elsewhere, thinking about the cute little red-haired kid who had made that fervent declaration four and a half years before that he wanted to be a dancer just like Rafael, and thinking about the man with the salt-and-pepper hair at the bar.
When the waiter came to take their dinner orders, Rafael waited until everyone was finished and then excused himself. He walked toward the restrooms, but then as he passed the bar, turned sharply and walked toward Grayson Harrison. The man watched with curiosity as Rafael approached and then he smiled.
“Rafael Colon,” he said as the boy leaned an elbow on the bar. “My goodness, you’ve become a handsome young man. How long has it been since that wonderful party at Stevie’s?”
“Five years, Grayson,” the teenager replied. “I was ten.”
“Yes, you were!” the man responded in an oily voice that sent waves of disgust through Rafael. “I hear you’re dazzling them in New York.” With a leer, he added, “I also hear you’re dancing wonderfully, too.”
Rafael forced himself to giggle fetchingly as he replied, “They’re keeping me busy.”
“Yes, I’m sure a beautiful young man like you would not lack for entertainment or companionship in New York.”
He cocked his head as examined the boy and asked, “So, to what do I owe the honor of your company at this moment?”
“Jeremy Fenwick,” Rafael replied, relieved to be getting to the point as quickly as possible.
Harrison frowned and shook his head as he declared, “What a tragedy. That poor boy.”
“So, it’s true?” Rafael asked. “His uncle won’t let him continue training?”
“His uncle is an ignorant ass,” Harrison replied. “And, poor Jeremy is at his wit’s end. The poor boy is nearly suicidal and I don’t know what to do. I’ve been trying to find someone, anyone, who would be willing to take custody of the boy, but no one wants a ballet-dancing boy.”
“You mean, the uncle doesn’t want him?”
“Oh, no! He certainly doesn’t. He made it perfectly clear that they took Jeremy because it was their ‘Christian duty,’ as he put it. I’m certain that if someone came along and offered to take custody of the boy, he’d be more than happy to get rid of him. Hell, I’d take him, but my wife...”
Rafael could imagine that Grayson Harrison would indeed by happy to have Jeremy around the house, but a wife would certainly get in the way. He took a breath and asked, “So, why doesn’t Brian take custody of him?”
Harrison shook his head with disgust and replied, “Brian’s a worthless waste of space. All he’s done since his parents’ funeral is drink himself into oblivion and party at that apartment complex of his. I just don’t know what’s the matter with him. He knows his little brother is suicidal where he is, but he just doesn’t seem to care. It’s revolting.”
He examined Rafael’s face as the boy looked over toward his mother’s table. The woman was watching suspiciously and Rafael took a deep breath as Harrison asked, “So, why the interest in Jeremy? Are you two... friends?”
His emphasis on the word ‘friends’ made Rafael want to deliver a swift Grand Battement to the man’s crotch. Instead, Rafael replied, “Actually, I haven’t seen Jeremy since before I left for New York. I was just horrified when I heard what had happened. I know how I would feel if I were in that situation. I’d definitely want to kill myself... or whoever was making me give up dancing. I just thought...”
“Do you have some ideas on who might be persuaded to take custody of Jeremy?” Harrison asked.
Rafael said nothing. He pressed his lips together tightly and Harrison reached down and withdrew his wallet. He handed a card to Rafael and said, “If you should want to discuss this further with me, please call. I would be very interested in hearing what ideas you might have, Rafael.”
The teenager nodded and put the card in his shirt pocket as Harrison added, “And, of course, if you have anything else you might wish to discuss, I would be happy to discuss that, as well; perhaps over dinner?”
Rafael smiled noncommittally and said, “You might hear from me. Thank you, Grayson.”
He reached forward and shook Harrison’s hand as the man replied, “No, Rafael. Thank you.”
Rafael turned and then walked to the restroom, where he proceeded to vigorously wash his hands several times before returning to the table.
After dinner, as they were returning home, Rafael’s mother turned to him and asked, “And, just what were you doing talking to that disgusting pedophile at the bar?”
Rafael looked at her warily and replied, “I know Grayson from one of Stephen’s parties. I wanted to know more about Jeremy Fenwick.”
She examined him and then declared, “No.”
“No, what?” Rafael asked.
“No, I am not taking custody of Jeremy Fenwick. You stay out of that situation. That is none of your concern.”
Rafael frowned and looked out the window at the city at night. “I just know how I would feel if I were in Jeremy’s shoes. I mean, what if you had been in the car with Stephen the night he crashed into the Winthrops’ tree? And, what if I didn’t have Uncle Teddy to take me and I had to go live in Miami with Aunt Maria? They’d never have let me continue dancing. I’d have killed myself.”
“It’s none of our business. Stay out of that, and I mean it.”
Rafael made no further comment. He simply sat quietly, gazing out the window at the city lights as they drove home, thinking, wondering, plotting.