The Rest of the Story

by Nick Brady

Chapter 5

After his conversation with Marco, Lanny began to look at his education differently. He started to think in terms of where he would best fit in the art community and he realized that he had many options. He decided to get as much as he could from his education and see where it led him.

Brian did well with his classes. The classics program interested him and the pre-med electives convinced him that he was on the right track.

On the typical Sunday afternoon they joined Mrs. O'Malley for Sunday lunch then went over to the Carpenter's for tennis. Lanny tagged along and found himself enjoying his tennis lessons from the patient doctor and his wife. Often Louisa was there and they rotated through various combinations of singles and doubles.

To their pleasant surprise, nothing was made of the obvious relationship between Brian and Lanny. Lanny was accepted as Brian's friend and made to feel most welcome.

"How do you like your new place?" Louisa asked when they took a break. "You are renting a mother-in-law house?"

"Yes, that's right," Brian said. "It's a little one bedroom efficiency built behind this ladies house. She and her husband built it for his mother, but she passed away and then later the husband died. Irene, that is, Mrs. O'Malley, decided to rent it out to us. I think she dd it to have company as much as wanting the rent money. She's a sweet lady and feeds us sometimes."

"Almost every Sunday," Lanny said. "She had a pork roast today. She's a wonderful cook."

"She must be taken with you guys," Louisa said.

"She raised three sons who are not around any more and does seem to enjoy us. We try to help around the place," Brian told her. "I'm keeping her yard and flower beds and Lanny is Mr. Fix-it. I guess that supplements our rent and compensates for the Sunday dinners."

"And how are you guys doing? I know you must be busy."

"We are, but we seem to be fitting it all in," Brian said. "We are really grateful to you and Melissa for getting us together. You're pretty good matchmakers."

Louisa smiled her beautiful smile. "We try," she said.

"How are your classes this semester," Ethan wondered. "Do you feel like this is a good fit for you, Brian?"

"I'm enjoying it, especially the pre-med classes. I think I'm on the right track," Brian relied. "I really appreciate your encouragement."

After the tennis game, Lanny and Brian went back to their house. Lanny looked at Brian and said, "What is it about you? Everywhere you go, people love you."

Brian was taken aback. "I don't know. People are nice to me and I try to be nice to them. They like you too, Lanny."

"Sometimes I think I'm running along in your slipstream. You are always making things easier for me."

"That's a two way street," Brian protested. "You look after me too. You did all the planning for that European trip and you're doing most of the cooking here. I depend on you for a lot of things. I think we're a pretty good team."

"I hope so," Lanny said. "I sure do love you."

Brian smiled. "I'm kind of stinky after that tennis. What do you think about a shower?"

"Sure. I'm up for that. Then maybe a nap?"

"Sure. If you don't go to sleep too fast."

"I may need some stimulation," Lanny smiled.

"I can probably manage that," Brian said, and they began to get undressed.

Sam and Ben had been working on their Eagle projects. They laid out the plans and list of materials for both the camp sites and the erosion project. Brian advised them separately and when they made their proposal to the scoutmaster he was impressed. The plans went on to the counsel's Eagle committee and after a few questions about the extent to which they were working independently, decided that their proposals looked good, and they could go ahead.

It was a big help that Father Hoover agreed that the church would pay for the cost of the materials, as it relieved the boys of a big fund raising project. "This is something we have been planning to do for a long time," he told them. "We already have money in our budget for this. We are pleased to have you boys take it on."

The materials were delivered to the camp the week before spring break and they went out to look things over. There were the picnic tables and fire rings, and a stack of cement bags under a tarp. On one side were an enormous pile of used tires and rolls of wire cable. In a pile were long pieces of rebar with hooks bent on one end to serve as anchors for the cable.

"Man! Look at all those tires," Sam exclaimed. "Cabling those down is going to be a lot of work."

"Boy power is all it takes. Scouts can do anything," Ben reminded him. "We've got to mix and pour all that concrete to go under the tables too. Neither of these are pud projects."

"I hope the weather is good and we get a good turn out."

"I think we will. The forecast is for no rain, and the troop will camp out there starting Saturday, and I guess we'll stay there until we finish."

Sam grinned. "I'll bet we can do it in three days. Wait and see. Brian can be with us on the weekend and he will be a big help. We will have some guys who help with both projects, but we should stay away from each other so it is clear who is doing what project."

"Right," Ben agreed. "We can talk to each other but we shouldn't work on the same project."

"I'm cool with that. I want the erosion project to be all mine. It feels good to be the leader of something."

The weekend went well. The weather cooperated with sunny skies and the temperature in the 70s. While Ben and he crew were laying out the campsites and building forms for the concrete pads for the table and fire rings, Sam was sorting out tires and unspooling long pieces of cable to secure them. A gas powered cement mixer was fired up and they hauled buckets of water from the lake for the mix.

Brian and Marco were both there and shared a tent at night. They did a little work but mostly served as advisers to both teams. Marty came out on Saturday to mostly observe and offer encouragement. With him was a smiling Father Hoover who sat in the shade and watched the activity as if it were an exciting ball game.

The slabs were poured after clearing brush and small trees with a borrowed chain saw and a lot of long handled loppers. Small hooks were embedded into the wet concrete to secure the tables and fire pits. The cement would be dry the next day and ready for the installation.

The plan for the erosion project we to make an interlocking mat of tires woven together in both directions by the long steel cable. After giving some thought to how best to do this, Sam decided to lay out the tires and weave the cables through them on the bank rather than struggling with it in the water. Later they would be dragged out and secured under the water with the rebar hooks. The tires were heavy and running the long cables through them proved to be difficult but doable, At the end of the day there was a large mat of tires and cables for each side of the swimming area.

Sam and Ben sat with each other that evening to check their progress. "Your cement pads look good," Sam said.

"Thanks. We will have to bend the rebar hooks up a little to go over the cross bars on the tables and pits, then bend them back down to keep the tables from walking off. Somebody might want to relocate them, if you know what I mean."

Ben laughed, "I don't think anybody is going to go anywhere with my tires. With all that steel cable those mats must weigh a ton. I hope we are able to move them."

"Yeah. We'll have to get everybody together for that. It will require a lot of muscle," Sam predicted.

"Boy-power. We can do it!" Ben assured him.

After supper they crawled into their tent and went to sleep early. The group of energetic scouts was unusually quiet for the first night of a camp out. There was nothing like a day of hard labor to encourage an early bed time and a minimum of horse play.

By noon of the next day most of the tables and rings had been secured to the slabs and the dirt around the slabs was being smoothed and leveled. They looked very nice.

The more demanding project was moving the mats of tire and cable out into the water. They first tried to drag it in from the water side but were unable to budge it. Marco and Brian huddled with Sam and they tried another approach. All available placed themselves around the perimeter of the tire mats, and lifted on it while the larger boys pulled it towards the water. Slowly it began to creep out into the water. As they got it out part way, the water began to support part of the weight and it got a bit easier. When the last of the mat was under water a cheer went up. Then came the task of pounding the rebar hooks into the mud until the mat was snugged down on the bottom. It worked!

Just as both projects were nearing completion late in the afternoon, Marty arrived from church with Father Hoover. The old priest walked down along the beach aided by a cane and Marty at his elbow.

"Oh! This looks just wonderful," He said with obvious delight. "We have been wanting to get this done for a long time and it is even better than I imagined. Well Done, boys!"

"So you approve?" Marco asked with a smile.

"Absolutely! I hope someone has photographs so we can share this with the congregation."

"I took lots of pictures," Marco assured him. "I will have prints made and bring them to you in a day or so."

"Thank you so much," he said and turned to Sam and Ben who were standing proudly. Shaking their hands enthusiastically, he said, "Well done, lads. I am so proud of you. You have done a fine job, and a service to your church and the larger community. This place will be enjoyed by the members of our church family and those of others. It can be enjoyed by youth groups and other scout troops like your own. You can bring your own families here in the years to come and know that what you have accomplished will be enjoyed by many people over the years. It is a permanent accomplishment. Well done, well done!"

Sam and Ben beamed with pleasure. All their work and planning seemed like nothing after the glowing tribute from their priest.

"It was fun, Father, and all these guys helped us. They did all of the work!" Turning to the scouts gathered around they started clapping for them and the boys began to clap for themselves.

Ben turned to Sam and said with a grin, "I was wrong. It didn't take three days. We did it in two. Boy-power!"

Now that the scout project were behind them, Sam and Ben looked at the remaining requirements for Eagle Scout and began working on what remained. They were getting close.

Marco had completed and shipped his paintings and was getting ready to follow them to London. The evening before he was to depart, Marty took them all out to dinner at La Hacienda, a small Mexican restaurant on south Peoria. They sat around a single table, Marco, Marty, Sam, Ben, Brian and Lanny.

"Hey, hey. The gang's all here," Marco grinned. "This is a nice send off."

Marty raised his glass of iced tea and toasted Marco. "We wish you a safe and successful trip, Marco. I can't remember when you have been away from us and we will surely miss you. Please know that we are very proud of you. Have a good time and come back to us soon.​"

Inspired by Marty's words, Brian raised his glass. "I'm not much good at this, but I want to wish you well, too. I can only imagine what my life would be like and where I would be right now if it were not for you, Marco. You have talked to me and we have shared everything. You have never said anything to me that was not encouraging. You and Marty, Ben and Sam are the only real family I have ever had and I love all of you very much. I hope you have a great trip." He appeared to want to say more, but coughed and sat back down."

It was silent at the table only for a moment when Ben raised his glass and said, "Have a great trip Papa. I hope you sell all your stuff and bring us back something cool."

"Here here. I'll drink to that," Marco said and they all raised their glasses.

Marco cleared his throat. "I think the standard practice is for me to respond. I appreciate your good wishes and I do plan to enjoy my trip. Unlike some of you world travelers, I have never been to Europe. The farthest I have ever been from Tulsa has been to the Gulf coast with Marty. But I won't be gone for long. I will come home as soon as I can, because everything I love is around this table. That includes you too Lanny. Thanks guys."

When they got back home and the twins were in bed, Marco checked his travel bags and looked at his tickets one more time then crawled into bed next to Marty.

"That was nice tonight. Thanks," he said.

How am I going to do without you for two weeks?" Marty said as he took Marco's hand. "I think the longest we have ever been apart was when I was on a business trip for a night or two. And then, I missed you terribly. We get so involved with the boys and our own lives that I forget to tell you how much I love you."

"I'll miss you too. I wish you could get away to come with me, but I know you have responsibilities with work, and besides, with Brian gone, you need to keep an eye on Sam and Ben. Some day, we need to do some traveling again, just the two of us."

"There will be time for that. Just take good care of yourself, and hurry home."

"Do you think we can still do that horizontal Mambo?" Marco asked.

Marty rolled over and took Marco in his arms. "I bet we can."

The next afternoon, Marty drove Marco to the airport to catch his overnight flight to London.

"How are you doing? Are you up for this?" Marty asked.

"I've never flown on an airplane before. Brian flew down to Austin with Sam and Ben when your mother died, but I've never been on any kind of airplane. Are these things safe?"

Marty laughed, "Safer than driving. Are you nervous?"

"Not nervous really, just excited. This is big stuff for me," Marco admitted.

"If this goes well for you, it will take you to another level as a contemporary artist. You are about to move into the big time."

"I know. That's kind of scary. We've always valued our privacy. I'm not sure I want to be famous. I have to wonder what this might do to our relationship and to the boys. Remember when we were first married and those photos got in the paper? I don't want to attract unwanted attention to our family."

"I remember that. Lot's of famous people manage that with press agents I guess. Have you thought about that?"

Marco laughed. "I don't think I'm ready for a press agent. Let's see how this goes first. I might not appeal to European sensibilities.'

When they pulled up to the terminal, Marty asked, "Would you like me to go in with you?"

"No. I'm fine. Let's say goodbye here." Marco turned and kissed Marty, letting his hand pass over his cheek.

"You take care of yourself," Marty said quietly. "I need you. We all need you."

"Don't worry, I'm coming back. It's not like I'm going to die or something."

"I know. I'm being silly, but I will miss you."

"I'll miss you too," Marco said. "Take care of our boys and email me every day, OK?"

"We'll be alright if my cooking doesn't kill them."

"Order lots of pizza," Marco laughed and quickly walked into the terminal.

Marco queued up for security then sat at the gate waiting for his departure. He had shipped thirty paintings to be waiting for him in London. Twenty would show there, and another ten plus what was unsold in London, would go on to Paris. After a short wait they were boarded and Marco found his window seat in coach. There was a rush of noise and they pulled up into the evening sky.

He thought back to the fateful night when Marty came to Luigi's for lasagna. Everything had changed after that night. So many things had happened since then. The chance encounter had developed into a deep commitment and after a year or so they were married. A few years in, they took on a pair of twins as foster children, and soon after adopted the four year old boys. They met Brian through Scouting and he joined them after a few years. Marco had no father or siblings and his home life was rather dismal. Now he was part of a healthy loving family of his own. He had a loving partner and they had achieved some financial security mainly due to Marty's success in the business world. Now he appeared to be succeeding in his career as an artist. Marco felt very blessed.

Marco slept through most of the flight and landed in London at nine in the morning, London time. He deplaned to see a tall young man holding a placard with his name on it. He approached the man and introduced himself.

"I'm Marco Montgomery," he said. "Are you waiting on me?"

"Yes I am," the man replied. "I am Felix Marshall and I have the pleasure of escorting you to your hotel. Shall we go to baggage claim to fetch your cases?"

"Yes, thank you," Marco said and smiled as Felix took his carry-on bag and slung it over his shoulder.

"We have you booked into the Langham. It is in the West End and quite near the exhibition. I hope you will be pleased by your accommodations Mr. Montgomery."

"I'm sure it will be fine, but I am more comfortable with Marco, if you please.

"As you wish sir," Felix replied. "If you will take a seat I will find your bag."

Marco did as he was told and smiled. He was not accustomed to such deference but decided to enjoy it. A few minutes later, Felix appeared with his one large suitcase. "Is this all you have?" he asked.

"That's it," Marco said.

"Then let us proceed to your hotel. I have arranged for a car."

Outside the terminal were a long line of cars queued up across the street in an area reserved for them. Felix raised his arm and emitted a shrill whistle to which a black Land Rover responded quickly and pulled up alongside of them. Felix put his bags inside and opened the back door for Marco to enter, then took the front seat next to the driver.

The first thing he noticed was that the steering wheel was on the right hand side of the car and the driver took the left hand lane as did all the other cars on the road. He smiled to himself but did not comment. He resolved not to try and drive here.

"Did you enjoy your flight?" Felix asked.

"Yes, as much as I remember. I slept most of the way."

"It is well that you did, or else you would have missed a night's sleep. It will help with your jet-lag," Felix assured him. "We should be at the Langham quite soon."

They pulled in front of an ornate old seven story hotel. Marco was impressed. Felix jumped quickly out of the car and took both of Marco's bags. Marco followed him to the entrance where a uniformed doorman open the door and took his bags from Felix, handed them to a uniformed bellman who escorted them to the front desk of an enormous columned lobby. Felix spoke to the counter man and was handed a packet with keys and local information. They motioned for Marco to follow him and took the elevator, or the lift as they called it, up to his suite.

Opening the door and holding it for Felix and Marco, the bellman placed Marco's bags on a stand and turned to ask, "Shall I unpack for you sir?"

"No thank you. I can do that," Marco replied and handed the young man a five pound note. He gave a short bow and left.

"Was that OK? Marco asked. "I'm not sure of the value of this money."

"That was quite generous, sir. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"No. I'm fine," Marco replied.

"Then I will let you get settled in, and I will return for you at noon. I imagine you want to get over to the exhibition to see about your things."

"Great. Thanks," Marco shook his hand and wondered if he should tip him as well, but Felix left quickly enough to suggest that it was not necessary.

Marco looked around the lovely suite that had been reserved for him. It was the size of two rooms with a high ceiling, a king sized bed on one end and a sitting area with sofa, chairs and an ornate desk on the other. It occurred to him that some exhibitors probably had higher expectations than he did. He was impressed.

He looked around the room that would be home for him during the four days he would be in London. He wished that Marty was here to share it with him, then began to unpack. The large checked bags held all his clothes, He had worn jeans and a light sweater on the plane. He had brought another casual set of clothing, his one good suit, and the beaded buckskins that Aunt Eunice had made for him. He had tried them on before the trip and was pleased to see that they still fit him. He was still quite slender.

He sat down en one of the wing back chairs and composed an email for Marty.

"Marty. The flight was nice but uneventful, as I slept through most of it. I was not hoping for an exciting flight. I was met at the airport by a young man who took me to a waiting car and treated me like royalty. I am in room 620 of the Langham Hotel in the West End of London. They have me in a suite that is unlike anything I've ever seen before. He will come back for me in a few hours to chick things out at the exhibition. I could get used to this, but already miss you. Give my love to the boys. More later, Love, Marco."

He looked around the suite again and noticed that there was a pot of cut flowers on the desk and three bottles of wine, one red, one white, and another that was pink. He did not drink, but figured they would make nice thank you gifts. He went into the bathroom and relieved himself, then washed his face and hands. Looking at himself in the mirror, he decided that he did not look too disheveled. To preserve his limited wardrobe, he would make his first inspection of the exhibition in his travel clothes.

He kicked off his shoes and stretched out on the big bed. It would be good to catch a nap, but he felt he was too excited to sleep. As he looked back on his life, there was no time at which he could imagine himself being here. The bed was quite comfortable and he relaxed and drifted off to sleep to be awakened by the strange chirp of a British telephone.

"Good day sir," Felix's voice said over the telephone. "If you are ready, I am here to take you to the exhibition."

"Sure. Come on up," Marco replied, then jumped up to have a pee, brush out his hair and retie his long ponytail. He straightened his sweater and decided he was ready for whatever happened.

Felix tapped on the door and Marco stepped out to join him. "Do I look OK for this? I have a suit."

"Oh no, you look fine. Artists are known for their casual and sometimes colorful attire."

Reassured, they went down to the lobby and outside to the waiting Range Rover. "It is only a few blocks to the exhibition. If you notice the route. it will be simple for you to walk back and forth if you wish," Felix informed him.

"I'm sure I will do that. After being cramped up on the flight, I need a good walk. I don't think I'll need another ride until time to go back to the airport."

"As you wish," Felix said and handed Marco a card. "You may contact me if at any time you need me. Perhaps you might want to drive around and see some of London while you are here. I am at your service, sir."

Marco smiled at this. "Thank you Felix. I doubt that I will disturb you, but thank you very much."

They drove the two blocks to a rather modern looking building and went inside. The exhibition was in a large hall and was filled with display booths partitioned by black curtains. Felix led him to one in which twenty of his painting were displayed. He was relieved to see that they all appeared to be intact.

Felix left him to examine his treasures and returned in a few minutes with a heavy set man in a dark suit. He was introduced as Marvin Highbottom, the manager of the exhibition.

"How do you do?" the man extended his hand. "We are delighted to have you here. I think your paintings will generate a great deal of interest."

"I hope so," Marco replied, shaking the man's large sweaty hand. "I am very excited to be here."

"I do believe you are the first Native American artist to exhibit here. I hope that Felix has treated you well."

"Very well, thank you, I must admit that I am not used to being treated with such courtesy."

"Good, very good," Mr. Highbottom appeared to be pleased. "The exhibition will open tomorrow at ten o'clock. If there is anything we can do for you, please contact Felix."

Mr. Highbottom hurried off to other activities and Marco looked around for Felix, who was busy with other exhibitors. Marco gathered that he was also at the service of several others.

After satisfying himself that his paintings were in good shape he took the time to walk through the exhibit to see what else was there, and was surprised at what he saw. There were many things on display. Most were paintings in a variety of styles and sizes, a good deal of sculpture and even some interesting textiles. This was a first rate exhibition, unlike any he had previously been involved. At some of the booths were other artists engaged in putting the finishing touches on what they had on display.

After several hours Marco decided that he needed some air and slipped away. Looking around, he thought he could find his way back to the hotel and started walking. This part of London was a major tourist attraction and was home to many places that he had heard of but never thought to see. He strolled through Trafalgar Square and Nelson's column flanked by beautiful fountains and central to very impressive government buildings. He wondered if Brian and Lanny had been in this very spot and wished that they were here to tell him what he was looking at.

He walked on and found himself in Piccadilly Circus surrounded by neon lights and high end shops. He looked, but was not tempted to shop. On and on he walked until he found himself in the West End Chinatown with a bewildering variety of shops and restaurants. The colorful street decorations were fun to look at and the smell of food drifting out into the street reminded him that he was very hungry. Guessing that the hotel restaurant would be very expensive he began to look for a place to eat.

On many of the restaurants a copy of the menu was posted outside. Some were rather expensive but the Canton looked reasonable. He entered a simple, almost shabby place filled with good smells. Many of the patrons looked Chinese which encouraged him to assume that the food was good and not terribly expensive. He decided on an appetizer of fried pork dumplings and a stir fry of noodles with vegetables and chicken. He was not disappointed, and ate greedily.

Now that his appetite was satisfied, he felt very tired. Jet lag had found him. He paid his tab and started back to the hotel, hoping that he remembered the way. Walking back a slightly different way, he was fascinated by the architecture and the fancy shops. He decided that if one had the money, almost anything could be purchased here.

When he found his way back at the Langham, it was dark and earlier than his usual bedtime, but his internal clock said otherwise. Once in his room, he undressed and showered, again wishing that his beloved Marty was here. Setting the alarm on the bedside radio to nine in the morning, he slipped in the big bed and almost immediately fell into a deep contented sleep.

The alarm sounded and found him dozing. When he set an alarm he almost always woke up before it went off, but here his internal clock was confused. Snapping it off he went into the bathroom and used the toilet then looked at himself in the mirror. For a man in his late twenties, he still looked pretty good. He brushed out his long black hair and let it fall around his shoulders. His friend and mentor Peter Vandergraff had suggested that he wear his buckskins to add interest to his presence, so he put them on. Looking at himself in the mirror one more time, he wondered if his regalia would make him look interesting or ridiculous. He hoped for the former and left for the exhibit.

Out on the street he half expected to be viewed with curiosity but decided that West Enders must be accustomed to 'interesting' characters. He arrived at the exhibit a little after ten and found that already there were a good number of people walking through. He found his booth and took a seat inside. The presence of a handsome young Native American attracted the sort of positive attention that had been hoped for and people began to stop to chat and look at his paintings. They were full of questions.

"Where are you from? Who are the boys in some of these painting? Have you been to London before?"

To all these questions he answered politely and with the natural dignity that was part of him. If anyone viewed him as ridiculous it was not apparent. There was some interest in his landscapes which had been discretely decorated with the occasional buffalo. But it was the colorful swirling figures of young men and boys in their elaborate powwow regalia that attracted the most attention.

"Those two boys – they look so much alike. Are they twins? My, what handsome boys. I love the dancing. Do they still have these things, these powwows? Oh my, how interesting." Marco was encouraged.

Marco stayed all day and answered many questions. He was pleased to see that his paintings were generating as much interest as his own presence. There was a coffee and wine bar in a central area and he made his lunch on sandwiches, then returned to his booth. Felix stopped by to ask if he needed anything and was assured that he did not. Mr. Highbottom walked by several times and looked pleased..

The exhibition closed at five and Marco got ready to leave. There was a kiosk next to the refreshment bar where the items on exhibit were listed and a space under each for people to leave a bid. He was pleased to see that several of his paintings had already received a bid, and one had more than one bjd. They were generous. As he stood looking, a sandy haired young man stepped up to him,

"I like your work very much," he said.

"Thank you," Marco relied. "Are you exhibiting?"

"No, just admiring. Are you really Indian?"

Marco laughed, "Yes I am – Seminole actually."

"I suppose there are many groups, tribes."

"Yes. A great many, actually. Fewer now, but we try to keep our traditions alive."

The young man stuck out his hand. "I'm Ian Douglas. You must be Marco Montgomery."

Marco shook his hand. "I must be. Do you have an interest in art?"

"I do. I wish I was talented enough to be here, but alas, I'm not that good. You might say that my talent is admiring the work of others. I do admire yours."

"Is that so? What do you like about it?" Marco wondered about his interest.

"Oh. I like the color and the movement. I like the spareness of this ink drawings and the intensity of the watercolor washes. Most watercolors seem feeble, but yours are alive."

"Thank you. That is my usual style, I suppose. I have tried other things, but this seems to work for me."

:You are making a name for yourself," Ian told him. "There was a sort of a review about this show with information about the artists. They spoke very well of you."

Marco could not help but be pleased to hear this. "Well, if you will excuse me. I was just leaving."

"It is almost time for a late afternoon tea. Are you hungry?" Ian asked.

"I planned to find something to eat on the way back to my hotel," Marco told him.

"Do you suppose I might join you?"

Marco shrugged. "If you like."

They left the exhibit and went out on the street.

"I don't have a lot of money with me," Marco admitted. "Do you know someplace cheap?"

"This area is rather expensive," Ian said. "But if you fancy fish and chips, there is a place on the corner down there."

"Sure. Lead the way. My noon sandwich has gotten thin."

In the shop were mostly young people, attracted by the frugal menu. Marco walked in dressed in buckskins, his long hair laid around his shoulders. In this venue, he attracted attention and he felt many eyes on him. "Would you like to order for us?"

"Of course. Fish and chips alright?"

"Sure. Great."

Ian went to the counter and spoke to the counterman, then came back to sit with Marco. "They'll bring it to us, I ordered some beer. Is that alright?"

"Oh, sorry. I don't drink. A coke would be better for me."

"I see. Just a moment," Ian said and went back to speak to the counterman. "He will bring you a coke," he said when he returned.

"Do you mind if I smoke?" Ian asked, offering his pack to Marco.

"Go ahead, but not for me. I gave that up a long time ago."

"Please tell me about yourself," Ian asked with a sweet smile.

An uneasy feeling stirred in Marco. He wasn't sure where this was going. "I am married," he said. "The twins in those paintings are my sons. Are you married?"

""No. Not married," Ian said, looking surprised. "I, I'm, well, I'm not married. No."

"Well I am. Very happily, fortunately."

The counterman brought their meal and they began to eat with less conversation.

Marco sat back from his empty plate and smiled. "That was good. Thank you. What do I owe you for my share?"

"Nothing at all. This was my treat, I suppose," Ian said. "It was very nice to chat with you."

"The pleasure was mine, but I want to get back to my hotel," Marco stood. "If you will excuse me."

"I could walk you to your hotel," Ian offered.

"Thank you, but I know the way," Marco told him firmly, stood, smiled, and left him sitting.

Marco went back to his room and shut the door. It had already gotten dark and he felt very tired. He used the toilet then sat down on the bed. He thought about Ian. He was attractive, Marco could see that. Clearly, Ian had found him attractive as well, or perhaps he had been thought to be a novelty. In any case, Ian's interest was probably not platonic. He regretted that he had been abrupt but had been irritated by the man's advances. He supposed he should be flattered, but he had felt only embarrassment. He thought about Marty and the time in Eureka Springs when Marty had been tempted by a male dancer. Marco remembered how angry that had made him. He insisted that Marty would be faithful only to him. Being faithful to Marty was easy. He loved Marty and only Marty.

He undressed, showered and returned to the bed. It was early but he was tired. There were many bars and clubs in this area but they were not places he wanted to visit alone. He thought about Ian with his Sandy hair. He thought about how easy it would be to be tempted by a person like Ian, alone in a strange place where no one would know who he was with, or what he did. It almost surprised him that he had not been tempted. Ian was perhaps a little too direct. But at any rate, there was nothing there. Nothing at all. He didn't feel the need to masturbate with another man's body. He opened his email and found a message from Marty.

"Marco. Thanks for the note as I know you must be busy there. I hope you are doing well and having a good time. I am eager to know how you and your paintings are doing. A great success I am sure. We are all fine here. Sam and Ben are behaving as well as can be expected. They miss you, and so do I. Love, Marty"

Marco read the note several times and sighed. He replied with a message of his own.

Marty. The show is going well. I attended my booth dressed in Eunice's buckskins and attracted some attention, positive, I hope. I have some good bids on several things already, which is encouraging. I hope all is well at home. They have me in a suite fit for a king, but it is empty. It is a good thing for me to be here and I suspect that things will go well for me, but all I can think of is you and the boys. I miss you more than words can say. I have a lovely king sized bed that needs you in it. I love you. Marco.

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