I didn’t take us long to find some shorts, t-shirts and towels and start to make our way through the scrub to the beach. I had told Harry to pack some swimming gear, just in case, and when he emerged from his room wearing a pair of blue and pink boardies and a white t-shirt I breathed a sigh of relief. Somehow I had imagined he would be a Speedos kind of guy, so I was grateful that, on this occasion at least, I was proved wrong.
Just as I had myself felt that first time I returned to ‘our’ beach, the usually reserved Harry chatted away, almost like a kid again, as we walked. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I led the way, with him in my wake. Nor could I help myself when I pushed a low branch out of my way from where it hung across the path in front of me, letting it swing back and hit him across the body.
‘Oi! Watch it!’ he scowled.
‘Toughen up princess, you’re on my turf now,’ I scoffed.
‘I’ll remember that when I think about sending that signed contract off to the big guys in Hollywood!’
‘Okay … okay, you win,’ I laughed.
When we pushed through the last of the scrub and emerged onto the all too familiar stretch of pure white sand we found the skies were clear and the waters smooth.
‘Welcome to our playground,’ I said to him, while swinging my arms around in a wide arc.
‘Little wonder you wanted to come back,’ he said. ‘It’s bloody fantastic. And you’ve got it all to yourselves!’
‘Mostly, yeah, but more and more folks are discovering it, so sometimes during summer it can get a bit busy. It’s a fairly easy walk from town over the low side of the headland,’ I said, while pointing toward where the lighthouse stood, ‘so we get a few townies visit. And at the northern end, about opposite to the gate where we had parked the truck earlier and walked up to the other house, there is a roadway that comes in to a beachside picnic area. And that can sometimes get busy.’
‘Still, better to have something like this close by than to have to rely on the usual town beaches.’
‘Damn straight!’ I replied. ‘We get lots of days just like this, with no one at all around, so it’s worth it just for those.’
I pulled off my t-shirt and dropped it on the sand, along with the towel that I’d had slung around my neck, then kicked the thongs off my feet.
‘So, you coming in, or what?’ I asked Harry.
‘Fuck, yeah,’ he answered, before then quickly dropping his towel onto the sand and pulling off his own t-shirt.
‘Damn, Harry! Have you been working out or something?’ I asked him when I finally got a good look at his body. He didn’t look anything like he had the last time I had seen him without a shirt, which from memory had been a couple of years earlier. I think it was when we had shared a room when we had travelled to Sydney for a writer’s convention.
For a guy who was in his mid-fifties he was looking mighty fine.
‘A little,’ he replied. ‘The missus was dropping hints about those bloody footballers, so I thought I had better do something to liven things up a little.’
‘And did it work?’
His grin, as he walked toward the waters edge, told me all I needed to know.
‘You sly dog, you,’ I teased.
* * *
There was still no sign of Aaron when we made it back to the guest house about an hour later, which concerned me a little, as he said he would be here. It most likely only meant he had been held up on another job, or maybe ‘Betsy’ had broken down, or he had suffered some other inconvenience. I figured I would check my phone in a minute or two, just in case he had left a message.
‘You feel like a shower?’ I asked Harry once we had gone inside.
‘Sounds like a great idea,’ he replied.
‘Okay, you go first. I’ll just check my phone and see if Aaron has left a message. I would have thought he’d have been here by now.’
He disappeared into his room and a few moments later came out wearing nothing but a towel wrapped tightly around his waist and carrying a small toiletries bag.
‘Don’t use all the hot water,’ I teased.
‘Just for that then …’ he replied.
‘Careful, I might just turn the water off altogether.’
‘You can be a real bitch when you want to, can’t you?’
‘Honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet!’ I replied, offering him a wink as I did so.
‘You bloody poofters are all the same,’ he said, grinning as he closed the door between us.
Smiling to myself I headed for my bedroom and as I heard the water start to run in the shower I pulled my phone from the pocket of the trousers I had been wearing earlier, which I had left lying on the bed. There were no new messages, I soon discovered, so I decided to send Aaron a text, to see where he was, but only after first pulling off my damp shorts and dropping them on the floor.
Sitting there on the edge of the bed, naked, I was feeling relaxed and comfortable, but as I thought back to what had happened on this bed on this very morning, some parts of me starting feeling differently. I idly wondered what Harry might think about that, if he knew I was sitting in the next room, half chubbed up, and couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the thought of it.
Just as I pressed the message icon on my phone I heard the water cut off in the shower, then immediately following that I heard the familiar sound of a vehicle drive into the yard, accompanied by the squeal of brakes.
Getting to my feet I quickly wrapped my towel around my waist and headed out into the kitchen area, just as Harry also came out of the bathroom, dripping water and with his towel wrapped around him. Sensing movement at the sliding glass door we both looked that way at the same time, where we saw Aaron come to a sudden stop in mid-stride.
For a moment his face clouded over with an expression that could only be described as confusion, as he looked from me, to Harry and back again. He looked us both up and down and I was in no doubt that he noticed the slight bulge in the towel I had wrapped around me, as his eyes settled there for a moment, before then growing wide and snapping back up to meet mine.
He took a step backwards, and then another, before then turning on his feet and starting to run.
‘Aaron! Stop!’ I called out, but he wasn’t having any of that though. He was already gone, leaving me standing there open mouthed and empty handed.
‘Don’t just stand there! Get after him, you fool!’ Harry hissed at me.
I didn’t need to be told twice as I darted for the door, with one hand trying to still hold the towel in place. When I made it outside Aaron had slowed down slightly, but was now half way to his truck.
‘Aaron. It’s not what you’re thinking,’ I called to him.
‘Don’t give me that shit, you lying, cheating cunt! Didn’t last night and this morning mean anything to you at all?’ he spat back over his shoulder at me.
If things hadn’t been so serious I may have laughed at him, as hearing him talk like that really didn’t suit him.
‘You’ve got it all wrong, mate! Honest!’
Suddenly he stopped and spun around to face me, his face filled with rage, and tears.
‘I know what I fucking saw!’ he yelled into my face. ‘The two of you all wet, and you with a hard-on. If it was all so innocent, you tell me what it was then!’
‘You saw Harry Preston … my AGENT … coming out of the shower … we had been down at the beach … I was about to have a shower myself. That’s who I had to see today, he flew down from Brisbane to discuss a contract with me and have me sign it. It has to be back in the U.S. by tomorrow, that’s why he came down personally. Aaron, it’s what is going to make me rich … us rich … and give us a life that is going to be beyond anything we ever imagined. And if you want to know why I was half barred-up, it was because I’d been sitting on the bed while Harry was in the shower and I had been thinking about what we had been doing on there this morning.’
‘Why the fuck should I believe you?’
‘Because he’s telling you the truth,’ we heard a deep voice say from somewhere behind us. ‘I can’t vouch for what you guys might have got up to earlier, but I’ll gladly show you the contract if you want to see it.’
Aaron looked over my shoulder and I saw his eyes widen as he noticed Harry standing there. Looking back at me he opened his mouth as if to say something, but quickly closed it again.
I turned and quickly glanced at Harry and was relieved to see that he had at least pulled on his shorts and t-shirt once more.
‘You mean you didn’t …’ Aaron finally said.
‘No babe. I didn’t … I wouldn’t. I said I would never hurt you again, and I meant it.’
‘I … I …’
‘Ssshhh …’ I said to him, as I pulled him in for a hug and kissed his forehead. ‘It’s okay.’
‘I feel like such a fool …’
‘It doesn’t matter. Just know that I love you, that’s all you need to worry about.’
Just then we heard a ‘click’, which sounded suspiciously like the sound of a camera shutter, and turned to see Harry holding up his phone, which was pointed in our direction.
‘What the fuck, Harry?’ I said to him.
‘That was just way too cute to resist,’ he replied, before proclaiming, ‘Anyhow, Shi-Anne wanted a photo of you two together!’
‘Shi-Anne is more trouble than she is worth,’ I replied.
‘You could be right there, lad,’ he laughed, which only left Aaron looking confused.
‘So, I suppose I had best introduce you properly,’ I said. ‘Harry, this is Aaron, the love of my life. Aaron, this is Harry, my overbearing, overpaid literary agent.’
The two of them shook hands, although I got the distinct impression that Aaron was feeling slightly unnerved by Harry’s presence.
‘Hey, kiddo. It’s good to finally meet you,’ Harry said to him. ‘We were beginning to wonder if you really existed … this clown has been talking about you for years, but we’ve never had any evidence you were real, apart from that photo on his laptop, but that could have been anyone really …’
Aaron looked at me sharply. ‘You’ve been talking about me all this time?’
‘You better believe it,’ Harry said. ‘At least we know you’re real now. The girls in the office will be so disappointed … they always thought young Tony here was really straight and used to just say he was gay to keep them off his back!’
‘Oh no, if there’s one thing I can guarantee, he’s definitely not that!’
* * *
Any nervousness or apprehension that Aaron may have had to begin with soon disappeared, with Harry quickly putting him at ease.
I had decided that for the sake of our relationship it would be best if I didn’t keep anything from Aaron and I was totally honest with him, so once things had settled down we adjourned to the shade of the trees in the back yard, after first raiding the kitchen refrigerator for some cold drinks.
‘Aaron, I want you to know,’ I began, ‘that you are going to be involved in everything I do from here on.’
‘What do you mean?’ he asked, his face scrunched up slightly as if he didn’t understand.
‘What I mean, is that I have some plans that I am working on, and they don’t just involve my writing stories. To be able to do all that, however, I need to first be in a solid position financially, and with the deal I have signed today, that is the first step in my being able to do that.’
‘You said the other day that it was worth a lot of money to you,’ he said.
‘I did … but that was, apparently, just the tip of the iceberg. There will be lots more from where that came from, and the next three or four years will set us up for life.’
‘So, that’s good, right?’
‘Babe, it’s better than good. And because of that, there are some other things I want to do as well.’
‘Well, firstly, like buying a place for us to live. But I also want to do something good for others who aren’t as fortunate as we were …’
‘Yeah, that’s a good idea. But what?’
‘There’s this group I want to help out. They run a hostel in Sydney for kids who are like how we were … kicked out of home.’
‘Gay, lesbian, bi or trans. The woman who runs it had a son. He was thrown out and he ended up being bashed. He was in a coma for ages, but eventually his life support was switched off, and he died.’
‘It happened more than ten years ago and they’ve been operating their hostel since 2005, but it’s a struggle for them. What I would like to do, for starters, is to give them some money to help them out …’
‘Of course you should,’ he said, cutting in quickly.
‘But I want to do more than that. I want to ask them to open another centre, one outside of Sydney, which is going to cost, of course. Plus, I also want to help raise awareness of the problems faced by gay kids.’
‘How can you do that?’
‘I’m going to talk to Guy. He works with people who film documentaries and stuff like that, so hopefully he can help.’
‘That sounds like a great idea.’
‘So you’re okay with it all?’
‘Absolutely. I’m okay with whatever you want to do!’