Thanks to the late night before, I didn’t wake as early the following morning as I had on the previous days, somehow sleeping through the sunrise and the usual early morning call of the nearby rooster, wherever it was that he lived.
Instead, I was rudely awoken by the sound of a lawn mower, which seemed to have started up right outside the bedroom window, jolting me awake and causing me to spew forth a barrage of expletives which I usually reserved for later in the day.
Glancing at the bedside alarm clock I soon discovered that it was just after eight, which for me was an unusually late time to be getting out of bed. I blamed Harry, of course, and his infernal nattering until all hours. If I’d have stopped for just a moment and thought about it though, I was equally to blame, but I didn’t do that. Think, I mean.
Pulling on some shorts I staggered out into the daylight and turned toward where the racket was coming from, soon finding myself standing at the corner of the guest house and staring over a fence at Aaron as he pushed an old mower through the thick undergrowth. He had his back to me and was walking away from me, his sturdy legs powering along, with his hips and cute arse working nicely as he toiled away. If I’d been angry a few moments before, that anger quickly melted away as I watched him work, mesmerised by his fine, tanned, shirtless physique.
When he reached the end of the row he was mowing he turned around one hundred and eighty degrees to start coming straight back along the same line, and it was then that he noticed me standing there, with hands on hips. He took one hand off the mower’s handle and gave me a brief wave, then continued on, coming straight toward me, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat.
‘What are you grinning at?’ I asked when he reached me, having shut the mower down and come back through the gate into the yard.
‘Just you,’ he replied, while putting his arms around my waist and pulling me close for a quick kiss. ‘Standing there in nothing but your boxer shorts. It’s a fine sight to see at this hour of the morning.’
‘You would be thinking otherwise if you’d heard what I was saying a minute or two ago, when I got woken up be a bloody lawn mower being started right next to my bedroom window.’
‘I can just imagine, but I knew you wouldn’t be mad at me for long. Anyhow, Harry told me to do it,’ he said. ‘He was on his way up to the house as I arrived.’
‘Is that so? Just wait ’til I see him then!’ I vowed.
Standing next to him and his tanned torso I knew I looked like a pale imitation of what I had once been, with my own tan having well and truly faded away over the past few years. I also knew that once I was back here for good I would be able to get some colour back in my skin, even if the authorities said it may not be the healthiest alternative, while also promising myself that I would start working on losing the softness in my body that had developed while living in the city. Maybe I could start helping Aaron mow some lawns … in between everything else I was planning on doing. Or maybe not.
‘So, how long will you be here for today?’ I asked him.
‘All morning, I’d say.’
‘Then after that?’
‘Well, that depends on what time you get back from town, I suppose.’
‘I can be back in time to go have a swim with my boyfriend and then take him to lunch, provided he’s got his work all done.’
‘Then he’ll just have to make sure he’s finished then, won’t he.’
‘Indeed he will.’
We kissed once more, then Aaron pushed me away. ‘Go on, get going. I’ve got work to do.’
As he turned to leave I goosed him on the bum with my hand, then jumped away, narrowly avoiding the back-hander he tried giving me.
‘You’ll have to do better than that,’ I teased him.
‘Don’t worry. I will,’ he laughed as he headed for the gate.
I found Harry up at the house a short time later, in the kitchen and enjoying some coffee and a chat with Matt and Luke when I made it inside. I said good morning to them and then poured myself a cup of the hot, black liquid, before stirring in some sugar.
‘Sleep well?’ Luke asked as I perched myself on one of the stools.
‘Like a log, at least until some bastard started up a lawn mower right next to my window,’ I replied.
‘Noisiest bloody log I’ve ever heard,’ Harry remarked.
‘Let him who is without sin …’ I simply said, before then settling back against the bench and studying them over the rim of the coffee mug as they all grinned back at me.
‘So, what’s your plan for today?’ Luke asked. ‘Are you taking Harry to see Guy and his people before he catches his flight out?’
‘Yeah, we’ve got time, but we’ll have to get going soon,’ I said. ‘Is Guy still here?’
‘No, he and Tim have both left already,’ Matt said. ‘But Guy left you some instructions on how to get to their offices and said he’ll see you there later on.’
‘But, there’s also something we wouldn’t mind you doing for us, once you’ve seen Harry off, of course,’ Luke said.
‘Can you pick up some of the stuff we’ve hired from the party hire place, seeing as you’ve got the truck and all. They have a small marquee there for us, plus some fold-out tables and chairs. It should all fit on okay.’
‘Sure. Just tell me where to go. I just want to be back here around lunch time.’
‘Got a hot date or something?’ Matt joked.
‘Yeah, or something,’ I answered.
We chatted for a while after that, mainly about tomorrow’s party, for which the first guests would be arriving tonight. Matt and Luke were excited about having their families visit and stay for a few days, as well as some of their old school friends; as I’m sure Tim and Guy were also. There would be quite a few people there that I didn’t know, or had only ever met once or twice, but I was still excited all the same. If nothing else I was certainly looking forward to seeing Luke’s parents again, seeing as they were family.
Eventually it was time for Matt and Luke to hit the road and head off to work, so they said their goodbyes to Harry and then after that they left us. After finishing our coffees Harry and I headed back to the guest house so that I could shower and Harry could finish packing his bags for the return trip, and by nine we were ready to roll ourselves, with Harry’s bag stowed safely on the back of the truck.
Aaron shut down the mower and came over to us when he saw that we were ready. The hour’s work in the warm morning sun already had him glistening with sweat, with the hair on his legs and the little bit of hair on his torso clinging to his body. He was quite a sight and I think that even Harry did a double-take as Aaron was coming toward us.
‘Jesus,’ Harry whispered, before Aaron was within earshot. ‘No wonder you don’t want to come back to Brisbane.’
I grinned at him. ‘You’ve got it! And at least now you can tell the girls it’s all legit.’
‘Yeah, and I have the photos to prove it!’
* * *
Harry insisted on one last photo of Aaron and me together before we left, no doubt figuring that the sight of my arm around a hot and sweaty lawn mower man would once and for all dispel all rumours, although I somehow doubted that.
We left Aaron to his work and made good time on our drive into Macquarie Harbour, and with Guy’s mud-map we soon found the offices where he worked, which were located in an older, semi-industrial area of town, not too far from the airport. The building itself appeared to be an old warehouse or something similar, although the front of it looked to have obviously been remodelled, with a new square shaped office building jutting out from the old, adorned with shiny silver lettering which spelt out Harbourside Media.
Just as we had done yesterday we transferred Harry’s luggage to the cabin after finding a parking space, then made our way inside the building, with Harry bringing with him his folder containing the letter from Nathan Reynolds’ mother. Inside we found a modern looking foyer and reception area, with lots of shiny surfaces and tall, leafy, potted plants, interspersed with dark wall panels of blue and grey. Underfoot was some soft, yet practical, sea-green coloured carpet. The whole place looked modern and vibrant and smacked of success.
We approached the reception counter, behind which a young girl who appeared to be barely more than eighteen or nineteen sat, her hands poised over a computer keyboard, as if we had interrupted her. She was blonde and quite pretty, and as I glanced at Harry I could already see him studying her carefully — the old perv.
‘Mr Scott?’ she asked as I reached the counter.
‘Errr … yes,’ I replied.
‘Guy said you would be in, but we weren’t sure if he was having us on, or not. He’s expecting you. I’ll just buzz though to his office and let him know you’re here.’
‘Thank you,’ I replied.
We stood there and waited as she rang through to wherever Guy’s office was, and almost as soon as she had put the phone back down a door opened and Guy appeared.
‘Good morning guys. Glad you could make it,’ he said as he shook our hands. ‘We’ve set up in the conference room. After I spoke to the boss last night he’s had his minions doing some research this morning and making some calls,’ he said, then dropping his voice to a whisper and adding, ‘I think he’s keen, but don’t let on, okay.’
‘Whatever you say,’ I answered.
We followed him through the door and down a short corridor that was painted white. Where the reception area spoke of success, the remainder of the building appeared to be practical and workmanlike. The walls of the corridor were adorned with framed photographs, and glancing at them as we walked along I noted the faces of a number of well known Australians amongst them, photographed either accepting awards, or being interviewed, or performing.
Guy noticed me stop and look at one of the photos, which featured a former well known, though later proven to be corrupt, politician.
‘Yes, we deal with all sorts of people here,’ he said.
‘You’re obviously not fussy, then,’ I replied.
‘No, not too fussy. That’s probably why you’ve made it this far,’ he said.
I smiled at him, but it felt like a nervous kind of smile.
‘Relax, mate. You’ll be fine,’ he said, obviously noting my nerves.
I wasn’t sure about Harry, but the closer I got to the meeting the more nervous I was becoming. It was all right for him, he was used to high pressure meetings and wheeling and dealing, but this was pretty much all new to me. As he was my agent, I usually left everything to him when it came time to negotiate my deals and contracts, but this little project was my baby, and while it would be good, and useful, having Harry there with me, ultimately it would be me who would have to convince Guy’s bosses that this was a worthwhile project. I just hoped that I would be able to do that.
When we were shown into the conference room we found two people sitting at a large, oval shaped, polished timber table that looked like it could seat about twelve people. They stood up as we entered and Guy quickly introduced them as his boss, Martin Gates, the owner of the company, and Craig Kelly, Head of Production.
‘It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Tony,’ the boss said after we had all shaken hands and then been shown to a seat. ‘Guy has told us a lot about you over the years.’
‘I hope you didn’t believe everything?’ I asked.
‘No, at least, not all of it,’ Martin replied. ‘Now, he’s also told us you’ve uncovered a human interest story that you think needs to be told.’
Wow, I thought. Straight down to business.
‘Yes, I think so. Just how much has he told you?’
‘Just the basics,’ Guy said. ‘And that you want to try and help them out.’
‘How about you start by telling us about them all, in your own words, and what you hope to do for them,’ Martin suggested.
* * *
Between Harry and me we told Martin and Craig two stories.
I began by telling a condensed version of my own story, about how I was thrown out at sixteen because I was gay, about my living on the streets for a time, and about how I eventually made my way to Thompsonville, where I asked my gay cousin for help. I told them how my cousin and his partner, and their two housemates, took me in and how I eventually went back to school, which would later enable me to choose my own path in life.
I also told them of my long held desire to one day help out those that found themselves to be in the same situation that I faced, and now that it looked like I was finally in position to do that I had asked my agent and manager, Harry, to look into how best I could achieve that.
Harry pulled out two copies of Shelley’s letter, and passed them to our hosts.
‘Tony asked me some time ago to look out for something he could get involved with,’ Harry said. ‘I had read about this group in a newspaper and remembered their story, so I tracked them down. I’ve spoken several times with the woman who runs it. That letter is from her and gives some idea of their plight.’
The two men read the letter carefully before finally placing their copies back on the desk and returning their attention to us, but not before I noticed a glance which passed between them, which I felt spoke volumes for what they were thinking.
‘I take it,’ Martin asked, ‘that she is the boy’s mother?’
‘Yes,’ Harry answered. ‘She is doing the best she can to see that some good comes from what can only be described as a tragic and heartbreaking situation.’
‘Gentlemen, what Shelley does, and the kids she deals with, are just the tip of the iceberg,’ I said, seizing the opportunity to make what I felt was an important point. ‘There are thousands of young people out there who find themselves in this sort of situation every year. It may not all be because they are gay, there are many other factors which can cause kids to run away from, or be thrown out of, their homes, but this is the one aspect that is close to my heart.’
‘Yes, we can see that, and for very obvious reasons,’ Craig said.
‘What did you actually have in mind, as far as helping them out?’ Martin asked.
‘Well, first off I’m looking at making a donation myself, to help with the operational expenses for their current site,’ I replied.
‘But that, as you said yourself, is just the tip of the iceberg. You’re obviously thinking of something else as well, other than that donation?’
‘Actually, yes. I have a proposal in mind that I would like to put to them, but it would be costly, and it would need quite a bit additional support in order for it to work. Which is where you come in … we hope.’
‘We’re listening,’ Martin offered.
I glanced at Harry and he nodded ever so slightly, so I forged on.
‘To be perfectly honest, what I would like to see is for an additional facility to be opened, preferably in a country area. To do that, however, I think there would first need to be quite a bit of money raised, possibly through an appeal of some sort.’
‘Well, for that to work we would need exposure. Guy mentioned you do everything from small freelance stories to major stories, or documentaries even, for the big television networks. You obviously must not only have the expertise, but also the contacts to be able to help put something like this together and get it seen. Am I right?’
‘Okay then, I’ll ask straight up. Can you help? And if so, just how do we go about even doing something like this? How do we get started?’
Martin smiled. And so did Guy.
‘I think, at this point in time,’ Martin said, ‘We need to talk to Mrs Reynolds first and see what she thinks about the whole idea. I take it she has some inkling as to what your intentions are?’
‘Errr … not really,’ Harry replied. ‘At this point in time, gentlemen, my conversations with Shelley have been purely in the form of enquiries. All I have said to her is that a client of mine was looking for a worthy cause that he could help out by making a contribution of some sort, but I have not discussed any amounts, or just who that client is.’
Martin and Craig exchanged glances once more, but this time I found it a little more difficult to read. I was hoping that I had given them enough information to at least get them interested, but at the same time I was also hoping I hadn’t made it sound as if it could be all too hard.
After a few moments Martin finally said, ‘Guy, why don’t you give Tony and Harry a short tour of our facilities, while Craig and I have a quick chat about this.’
‘Sure,’ he replied, while getting to his feet and nodding toward the door. Harry and I followed suit and he led us back out into the corridor, closing the conference room door behind us.
‘That went well,’ he cheerily said.
‘You think so?’ I asked, while not having anywhere near his confidence.
‘Mate, I’ve seen them tear people’s ideas to shreds when they’ve come in looking for help with this kind of thing. Trust me. That one went well.’