of the Wicked Boys
“There’s no need to fear! Uncle Teddy is here!”
The pudgy man burst into the airport terminal and threw his arms into the air in triumph as heads in all directions turned. Rafael’s mother buried her face in her hands as she muttered, “Dear God in Heaven.”
“All will be remedied, my dears,” Teddy continued as he strode toward Gloria and the two boys.
Rafael grinned and said ironically, “Everything’s falling apart, Uncle Teddy!”
“Well, then,” Teddy replied as he stood proudly before them, “thank God you sent for me!”
Gloria took a deep breath as she lowered her hands and demanded acidly, “Ted, could you please not make a complete ass of yourself?”
“Now, Gloria dear,” Teddy replied, “You know that’s not possible. I never do anything halfway!”
“And, you look like a perfect fool!” Gloria added. “Why in the Hell are you wearing that obnoxious Hawaiian shirt and a ley?”
“Well, dear, you have such tropical weather down here,” Teddy replied. “I just wanted to be festively prepared for any eventuality. You know, I was a Boy Scout.”
Rafael leaned forward and asked, “You were a Boy Scout or you did a Boy Scout?”
“Rafael, you wicked boy!” Teddy replied. “Behave! You know I have ways of punishing you that you can’t even imagine!”
“That’s what your sister says,” Rafael replied with a grin.
“My God!” Teddy suddenly exclaimed. “The pilot said the temperature here was a hundred and thirty with ninety percent humidity! I almost melted walking into the terminal!””
“Don’t exaggerate,” Rafael responded with a grin. “It’s not that bad here.”
“Well, I could have misunderstood,” Teddy replied. “After all, I was on my fourth scotch and soda.”
He then looked to Rafael’s side and suddenly his face brightened.
“Oh, dear! This stunningly handsome young man with the ravishing red hair must be the infamous Jeremy Fenwick!”
Jeremy was blushing severely and glancing nervously around at the passing crowd, but he composed himself enough to extend his hand and say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Cochran.”
“Dear God in Heaven!” Teddy exclaimed with horror. “You must have me confused with my father, who died, God rest his soul, fighting the Battle of the Bulge with General Patton, a battle, I’m afraid, I continue to fight, with less success than he. You may call me Teddy, and if you don’t, I may be forced to impose some of the same dreadful punishments upon you that I inflict on your friend when he misbehaves.”
“Um, okay,” Jeremy replied with a curious grin. “By the way, my father read Paradise in Missouri and thought it was very good.”
“Yes, it was,” Teddy agreed. “Unfortunately, the New York Times disagreed with your father. They called it ‘commercial.’ Well, so it was, but a girl has to make money somehow. I’ve been living off its royalties while I write something that English professors at small New England colleges can quote over sherry and feel superior about while not ending their sentences with prepositions.”
“Edward,” Gloria said icily, “can we please stop making a spectacle in the middle of the airport and leave? Unlike you, I actually hate it when people talk about me.”
“No publicity is bad publicity, Gloria dear,” Teddy replied as they began their trek down the concourse. “If they aren’t talking about you, then you’re doing something wrong!”
He then turned his attention back to Jeremy and declared, “I’ve been discussing you with Alistair Mountjoy and he is so beset with anticipation that he insists we make the pilgrimage to the Hamptons to meet him. I think he wants a private audition.”
Jeremy looked nervously at Rafael and said, “Alistair Mountjoy wants to meet me?”
Rafael gave Teddy a narrow-eyed look and said, “Jeremy will not be giving Alistair a private audition.”
“Calm down, dear,” Teddy replied with a soothing smile. “Alistair can actually place business ahead of pleasure when it suits him. He’s been speaking with Anna Pulchova and he is too anxious to wait until September to see Jeremy dance.”
“He’s not ready yet!” Rafael replied nervously.
“I’m not ready yet!” Jeremy declared at the same time.
“Relax, both of you!” Teddy responded. “He knows the situation. He’s not expecting perfection. He knows you’ve not danced over the summer. But, he also knows Rafael is working with you and he trusts Anna Pulchova. So, all you have to do for him is dance and have fun.”
He leaned over to Rafael and said, “Besides, a few of The Things will be there, too, and they can’t seem to contain their enthusiasm over our new addition to the family. They’re all offering their services as babysitters.”
“Over my dead body!” Rafael replied.
“Hey! Don’t I get some say?” Jeremy demanded with a smile.
“Yeah!” Teddy responded. “What he said! You’re not Jeremy’s mommy!”
Rafael gave his uncle a sour look and said, “Look, when I first came to live with you, I knew what to expect. Jeremy has not been exposed to The Things or to Alistair yet. I just don’t want... well... you know...”
Teddy smiled down at Jeremy, who crossed his arms pugnaciously as they approached the baggage carrousel. The boy declared, in no uncertain terms, “I can take of myself. I’m not a little kid.”
Rafael raised an eyebrow and replied, “All right. If you say so. But, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Teddy was sitting on the bed as Jeremy and Rafael performed the “Dance of the Friends” in the basement studio. He was entranced as the two boys flung themselves about the floor in an ecstatic paroxysm of energy. A couple of times, Jeremy insisted on stopping and starting a part over, at which Teddy would run over to the turntable and reset the needle. When they were finished, Teddy shook his head and exclaimed, “Are you sure, Jeremy, that you haven’t danced since May?”
Jeremy smiled proudly as Rafael said, “Well, we’ve spent all day Friday and Saturday down here.”
“Did part of that time include dancing?” Teddy asked with an evil grin.
Jeremy blushed and Rafael raised an eyebrow as he replied, “Yes, Uncle Nasty Thoughts. It did.”
Teddy smiled complacently and said, “I have no doubt that Alistair will be amazed with what he sees. We’ll probably drive out to his place Wednesday. He’ll send a car for us.”
Jeremy suddenly looked panicky, and Rafael placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“You don’t have to be perfect,” Rafael said. “Alistair will understand.”
“But, he’s Alistair Mountjoy! It’s like dancing for Balanchine or... Diaghilev or...”
“Calm down. We’re just going out there to relax and visit. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be Jeremy Fenwick.”
Jeremy looked down at the floor for several seconds as Rafael and Teddy looked on. Rafael hugged him and asked, “What is it?”
Jeremy looked up with doubt in his eyes and asked, “What if I blow it? What if I’m not good enough?”
“You will be.”
“But, what if I’m not? What if I make a mistake or fall or forget? What if... what if I’m just no good and I can’t get into Ballet Academy?”
Rafael held the boy before him and stared into his eyes.
“You will. Jeremy, you’re good. You know that, don’t you?”
Jeremy nodded, but replied, “But, am I good enough?”
Rafael nodded. “You’re as good as any intermediate level student at Ballet Academy. You’re the best at Greensburg Ballet School. Madame Pulchova says so. She’s been dancing for decades. She knows these things. You won’t let her down.”
He paused and then said with emphasis, “You won’t let your parents down.”
Jeremy’s eyes grew moist and he said softly, “I’m scared. I’ve never been scared before, but since... since everything happened, I’m just not sure of anything. Last May, I knew I was the best at GBS. I knew I would impress them in the Summer Intensive. I knew it. I don’t know it now.”
Rafael took a deep breath and said, “You remember the other night when I said you had to go out on that stage and know you’re beautiful?”
Jeremy nodded, but replied, “That’s just it. I don’t know that I’m good enough.”
Rafael took a deep breath and then said, “How did you feel during Nutcracker in those few seconds just before you went out on stage? What did you feel? Tell me exactly.”
Jeremy inhaled thoughtfully and then replied, “I was excited. I felt scared. I felt... I knew this was the moment I was waiting for.”
“You were afraid, but it felt so good, didn’t it?” Rafael explained. “I love that feeling, that fear, that adrenaline rush just before going out. Sometimes, it even makes me hard. I love that fear, that rush. It’s like when a parachutist is about to jump out of an airplane. You’re standing there in the door and looking twelve thousand feel down and you know that once you jump there’s nothing between you and death but that ripcord. Well, it’s the same when you’re onstage. You’re ready to go out, you’re heart’s beating ninety miles a minute, you’re stomach feels like it’s doing Olympic back flips, you’ve got all that oxygen pumping through your blood stream... I could shoot right now just thinking about it.”
Jeremy was looking into Rafael’s eyes. He nodded. Rafael continued.
“They think we’re pussies, ballet danseurs, but we’re not. We’re just like that kid standing at home plate and holding his bat and looking that pitcher right in the eye. We’re that quarterback dropping back, staring down a linebacker, and looking for the runner to throw to. We’re the ski-jumper perched at the top of the ramp ready to fly down and out. You’ve spent the last four years working your heart out for this moment and it’s here and by God I’m not going to let you fuck it up! You’re ready for this. You know you are, and we’re going to go over everything, every day, over and over. You and I are going to do the ‘Dance of the Friends’ at Alistair’s house. You’ve been dreaming of performing that with me. Well, you and I are going to give one of the greats of the ballet world a private showing, and you’re going to blow him away. You know you are, because you love Koronov, you love the ‘Dance of the Friends,’ you love dancing, and you love me. You’re good, Jeremy. You’re damn, fucking good!”
“It’s not enough to be good.”
“No, it’s not,” Rafael replied, “which is why I want you scared shitless before he step out in front of Alistair. I want you so scared, you’re going to piss in your dance belt! I want that adrenaline pumping and that oxygen in your blood stream and I want you to be the best Sasha that’s ever taken to the stage. You’re going to do this, Jeremy. You’re going to do this.”
Jeremy was breathing hard, but he nodded.
“Yes. I’m going to do this,” he declared.
Rafael nodded and looked at Uncle Teddy, who was watching with moist eyes full of pride. As Rafael and Jeremy got back into position, Teddy put the needle back on the record. Jeremy and Rafael danced.
Rafael held Jeremy’s hand as they rode in the back seat of Grayson Harrison’s Lincoln through Hampton Park toward Jeff Davis Boulevard. Jeremy sat in the middle, between Rafael and his mother, while Teddy sat in the front with Harrison. Rafael smiled at Jeremy who smiled tentatively back at him. They had danced until after midnight Sunday and then arisen early to work out again for a few hours before Harrison arrived to take them to Jeremy’s aunt.
“Nervous?” Rafael asked softly.
Jeremy shook his head, but replied, “You never know with Uncle Jimmy, though.”
“He’s still in jail and you have nothing to fear from him,” Harrison replied. “Your aunt is your blood relative and she’s responsible for you.”
Jeremy nodded, but Rafael kept his own concerns to himself, not about Jane or Jimmy Dale McCoy, but about Teddy. His uncle was dressed appropriately in an elegant and conservative suit and his behavior had been impeccable. But, one never knew when the feathers would suddenly fly and all Hell would break loose when he was around.
Teddy turned around and looked Rafael in the eye as he declared ominously, “I know what you’re thinking.”
“What?” Rafael replied defensively. “I’m not thinking anything!”
“Rafael, I always know what you’re thinking,” Teddy responded. “You’re an open book to me. Well, let me assure you that you have nothing to fear from me. I will not sashay into Jane’s house and create a stir. I know exactly what is at stake here, a great ballet career for the incomparable Jeremy Fenwick and the love and happiness of two wonderful and beautiful young men. As I declared getting off the plane, there’s no need to fear; Uncle Teddy is here!”
Rafael blushed and nodded. A twinkle came to Teddy’s eye as he added, “You’re also plotting ways to violate the sodomy laws of this great state with Christopher Robin here before we board the plane.”
“Teddy!” Rafael exclaimed in embarrassed outrage as Harrison chuckled and Gloria held a hanky to her mouth to hide her grin.
Teddy was facing the front as they crossed the bridge and smiling serenely as he said, “Rafael, I know you. You have the testosterone production of a rhino. If I had a tenth of your stamina, I’d be the happiest forty year-old in New York.”
Jeremy choked as he fought to suppress his laughter.
Benji was sitting forlornly on the front porch of the McCoy house as they pulled into the driveway. Jeremy felt more than a tug at his heart as his eyes met his cousin’s.
“Hey, Benji,” Rafael said the boy rose and stood beside the steps. Rafael affectionately squeezed his shoulder and smiled down at him as Benji seemed to lose his breath, able only to nod in response.
Jeremy hung back as the others walked into the house. When he was alone with Benji, he asked, “How you doing?”
“I’m okay. Dad’s getting out tomorrow. Someone from the church is gonna put up his bail or whatever they call it. Momma and I are gonna go see him this afternoon.”
Jeremy nodded and Benji added, “I thought you were gonna come home for a night.”
Jeremy looked down in shame and replied, “I’ve just been so busy dancing that I couldn’t, Benji. I’m sorry. We’ve been working non-stop all day and until after midnight.”
“Are you tired?” Benji asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Jeremy replied. “But, I love it. I’ve never been happier.”
Benji tried to smile and said, “I’m glad, but I miss you.”
Jeremy reached out and hugged his cousin, replying, “I miss you, too, Benji. I talked to Rafael’s uncle and he said he’d pay for you to come visit any time you want to.”
“Really? He’ll pay for me to fly to New York?”
Jeremy nodded. “I want you to come to New York. I want you to see it and I want you to see me dance.”
“I want to,” Benji replied with a worshipful tone. “So, have you and Rafael... you know...”
Jeremy grinned and nodded.
“How was it?” Benji asked in a whisper. “What did you do?”
“It’s wonderful,” Jeremy replied. “Better than I ever thought it would be. He’s fantastic. Rafael’s the most wonderful guy in the world and... I love him.”
Benji looked down and nodded. Jeremy put his hand on his cousin’s shoulder and said, “I love you, too, Benji.”
“Not like you do Rafael,” Benji replied.
“No, but I still love you,” Jeremy said with a smile as their eyes met.
A hint of a grin appeared on the boy’s sad face even at the front of his shorts started to expand as he asked, “So, you think if I come to New York that maybe, you know, you and Rafael could maybe...”
“Oh, yeah,” Jeremy replied. “Rafael’s explained some stuff to me. There’s love sex, where two people love each other and want to make the other one feel wonderful, and then there’s fun sex, where you can fool around and have fun. And sometimes, there’s fun love sex, too. Rafael knows I love him and I know Rafael loves me, and he knows I love you, too. Besides, he’s thinks you’re hot. He likes redheads. He thinks we’re sexy.”
Benji giggled and whispered, “We are.”
The two laughed as they walked into the house.
Everyone was sitting in the living room and drinking iced tea as Jeremy and Benji entered, their hands casually in their pockets. Rafael’s eyes met Jeremy’s and he raised an amused and accusatory eyebrow. Jeremy blushed and looked away.
Jane was holding several papers and a file folder in her lap as she looked at Teddy and said, “Mr. Cochran, I just want to make certain that Jeremy’s going to be safe. I don’t anything to happen to him. I owe my sister that, to make sure Jeremy’s going to be safe and that... no one is going to take advantage of him there. I know New York is a big city and there are lots of temptations there and... I love Jeremy.”
Teddy nodded and replied soberly, “I understand completely, Mrs. McCoy, and I can assure you that I will do everything in my power to see that Jeremy is well taken care of. We live in a fortress of an apartment building and we’re in a safe neighborhood just off Central Park. Ballet Academy of America has a stellar reputation”—Rafael turned his head and tried not snort—“and I will make certain that he gets to visit all the great museums, see the Philharmonic and the Opera. We’ll go to theater on Broadway, he’ll eat at the finest restaurants and... we attend church every Sunday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.”
Rafael looked down, afraid to meet anyone’s eyes. Yes, they occasionally attended services at the cathedral, but not every Sunday.
“Is that...Catholic?” Jane asked with worry.
“No, Episcopalian,” Teddy replied. “Gloria and I were brought up in the Episcopal Church. She converted to Catholicism when she married Luis, but Rafael and I go to St. John’s. It’s a spectacular church and I would love for you to go with us sometime if I can have the pleasure of flying you to New York.”
“Oh, I couldn’t impose on you like that, Mr. Cochran,” Jane replied shyly.
“Nonsense. It would be my pleasure,” Teddy replied.
Rafael noticed that Jane was already signing the various papers. He smiled at Teddy’s masterful way of winning over people.
When they were finished making all the arrangements, everyone rose and Jeremy hurried over to his aunt and hugged her tightly.
“Thank you, Aunt Jane,” he said fervently. “You’ve made me so happy!”
“You’re welcome, Jeremy,” she replied. “I love you and I want you to be happy. You have a wonderful opportunity now, so I hope you make your parents proud of you as they look down from Heaven.”
Rafael’s eyes darted nervously to Jeremy’s face, but the boy simply smiled and replied, “I’ll do everything I can to make you and my parents proud. And, I hope you and Benji do come to New York. I want you to see me dance and I want to show you all the wonderful sights.”
Jane kissed the boy’s head. Jeremy then turned to Benji. Their eyes met. Neither spoke as they hugged and then gave each other a final look that said all that needed to be said between the two.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hampton. Thank you. Thank you for... my life, for...everything. Thank you.”
“You’re a sweet boy, Jeremy, and your parents were very fortunate to have a son like you. He happy. Have fun. Be great.”
Rafael almost fainted when he saw his mother actually wrap her arms around Jeremy and hug him as they stood at the gate in the Greensburg airport terminal. Even Teddy raised his eyebrows in disbelief as he stopped on his way to the tarmac.
“What are you looking at?” Gloria demanded as he looked up at her son.
“Nothing!” Rafael quickly replied, holding up his hands as Jeremy stepped away.
His mother sighed wearily and then impatiently declared, “All right. Come here.”
Rafael wasn’t quite certain what she meant, but when she cocked her headed and gestured impatiently, he realized that she actually wanted to hug him, as well. In a state of shock, he stepped forward and she quickly wrapped her arms around him, though for only a second before pulling back and quickly saying, “Now, get on the plane. Have a good flight and don’t let anything happen to Jeremy.”
Rafael stood a step and then smiled at his mother.
“I love you, Mom.”
She looked at him for several seconds and then nodded.
“I love you, too, Rafael.”
The boy waited a moment and then turned, unable to speak as Jeremy and Teddy followed him to the door leading out to the sizzling tarmac. Teddy stopped at the door and looked back at his sister. He smiled and nodded. She smiled and nodded in return.
“Oh, my God! Water! Water!” Teddy exclaimed as he climbed the stairs and entered the 727. “I feel like I’ve been crossing the Sahara!”
Rafael grinned as the stewardess guided them to their seats in the First Class section. He stepped aside and allowed Jeremy to take the window seat and then sat in the aisle seat as Teddy dramatically fell into the opposite aisle seat.”
“Dear God! The heat and humidity down here are positively un-Christian!” Teddy declared. He grabbed the stewardess’s arm and said, “Tell the pilot to hit the afterburners when we’re airborne! I want to get back to civilization as soon as possible!”
She grinned and said, “I’ll have a word with him.”
Rafael turned and asked Jeremy, “You don’t chew gum when you fly, do you?”
Jeremy looked at him quizzically and replied, “No. Why?”
Rafael simply smiled as he leaned back and closed his eyes, luxuriating in the larger seat and the pleasure of not sharing the flight with bovine females reading the National Excrement. Jeremy was leaning forward and watching the outside preparations for their flight with excitement. Rafael turned his head and opened his eyes.
“Is this your first time flying?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” Jeremy replied with a jaded flip of his hand. “I’ve flown plenty of times. We’ve been to New York and Washington and L.A. Last summer, we flew to Cancun. I just love flying, especially take-off. I get such a rush when we’re accelerating down the runway.”
Rafael grinned and nodded, replying, “I know what you mean. It is cool. And, then the plane kind of just leaps up into the air and you hear the roar of the engines and the rush of the air going past.”
“It’s like you’re taking off and going into space,” Jeremy added with a smile. “What’s it like flying over the Atlantic?”
“Coming back from London was cool because it was an evening flight and we kind of just followed the sunset all the way across the ocean.”
A wistful look came over Jeremy’s face for a moment before he said, “We’re going to fly a lot aren’t we? I mean, when start dancing professionally.”
Rafael shrugged and said, “Yeah, probably. You realize, though, that you and I may not always dance with the same company. And, there may be times, even in the same company, where some of us may be in New York and some of us in Paris or Tokyo or Kansas City. I mean, even for the best dancers, there’s no certainty about anything.”
Jeremy nodded and said, “I know. But, you’ll always be here”—Jeremy pointed to his heart—“no matter where you are.”
Rafael reached over and took Jeremy’s hand and whispered, “I love you.”
Jeremy smiled and whispered the same in reply as a several businessmen walked down the aisle to economy class and looked on with surprise and disapproval. Jeremy looked up and met their eyes, smiling proudly. Rafael grinned.
“Man, there aren’t that many twelve-year-olds in the South who would be so brazen and proud about holding another guy’s hand like that, even if it is 1970!”
Jeremy nodded and said with a hint of defiance in his voice, “I know, and you know what? I’ve never let anyone make fun of me in school for being a dancer and after everything I’ve been through and all you’ve done for me, I’m never going to worry about what people think of me. You’re right. I’m sexy and beautiful and I’m a darn good dancer, and even if I don’t get to dance for Ballet of America or New York City Ballet or American Ballet Theater, I’m still a dancer and I still love Rafael Colon and I’m still Jeremy Fenwick and if people don’t like it, they can just stuff it!”
Rafael nodded wordlessly as he looked into Jeremy’s eyes and as the doors on the plane were closed and the stewardesses explained that the seats could be used as flotation devices and the engines revved up and the plane began to taxi across the apron, Rafael and Jeremy continued to hold hands. And, when they reached the end of the runway and began their acceleration, even before they had completely turned around, Jeremy squeezed harder as they sped down the runway. When the plane shot up into the air and then turned to the left as it climbed over the city in which they had both been born, carrying them away to New York and their futures, Jeremy turned his head and smiled with joy at his lover, content in the knowledge that no matter what happened in the future, he had Rafael and he had love. Their eyes meeting, Jeremy simply said, “Thank you.”
Rafael said nothing. He simply looked into Jeremy’s eyes and smiled.
Ballet Gazette, December 1980:
“The stage of the Schuyler Theater at Ballet Centre witnessed one of the great triumphs of the last decade on Friday, October 17, as Ballet America premiered Alistair Mountjoy’s Halloween spectacular, The Raven and the Phantom. A brilliant work of terrifying beauty and blood-chilling suspense, this creation is Mountjoy’s latest victory in his quest to prove to the dance universe that Ballet America has truly become the equal of any company in the world.
“It was a bittersweet night, however, as the audience rose in the longest ovation in the company’s history to say good-bye to famed Prima Ballerina Marta Van Amstel, who is leaving to start her own dance company with partner Holly Hollister. Ms. Hollister is also leaving Ballet America, having earned the love of New York audiences for her power and elegance, most recently in Mountjoy’s Coppélia. Ms. Van Amstel danced the role once more, however, before her actual final performance on Sunday, October 19.
“Despite being Ms. Van Amstel’s swan song to Ballet Centre, however, the night belonged to Ballet America’s newest principal dancer, Rafael Colon, 25, and soloist Jeremy Fenwick, 22, dancing the title roles of ‘Phantom’ and ‘Raven’ to Ms. Van Amstel’s ‘Angelique,’ the heroine driven to madness by the taunting of Mr. Fenwick’s Raven.
“Mr. Colon’s ‘Phantom’ was flawless in his transformations from ethereal femininity to enraged masculinity as he first, wooed, and then made love to Angelique, moving from Nureyev-like elegance to Baryshnikov-like power in an instant. It was, however, Mr. Fenwick’s light and flittering taunts of Angelique and his terrifying rages that brought the audience to petrified ecstasy....
....“Mr. Colon is clearly at the peak of his career and there is no doubt that Mr. Fenwick has the brightest of futures. Both will travel with the company this spring on its European tour and Mr. Colon, this summer, on the tour of Japan and South Korea as Mr. Fenwick takes time to join the faculty of Ballet Academy of America’s Summer Intensive, telling Ballet Gazette that he feels a special responsibility to ‘nurture and encourage’ the future stars of the ballet world. ‘I was given a special gift as a young dancer,’ he said during a recent interview, ‘and I want to pass it on. There is no greater joy in my life than dancing and I want to see that young dancers feel that, too.’”