Cousin #4 – Scott

Scott1 - Cropped

Two a.m. Christmas morning, Scott sat on a bench at the end of the Navy Pier and watched wind-driven waves pile ice floes against the banks of Lake Michigan. Street lights cast ominous shadows between the buildings. I wonder which would happen first. Would I freeze before I drown?

A deep masculine voice spoke from behind him, “You know if you do it, they win.”

Scott looked around, startled. “What do you mean?”

The man sat beside him. “I mean, if you jump, whoever drove you this far will win. The ones who lose will be you and those who love you.”

“What makes you think I’m going to jump?” Scott scoffed. He looked into sad brown eyes, for a moment he wondered if his blue eyes looked as despondent. “And besides, I don’t have anyone who loves me.”

“I’ve been where you are,” the man said. “Ten years ago tonight, I sat on this same bench. I finally realized the only people I’d hurt would be the ones who loved me. The ones who’d stood by me, like my sister and her family. The ones who’d hurt me wouldn’t care at all. I couldn’t let them win. I had to prove them wrong.”

“Wrong about what?”

“Wrong about me being worthless, an abomination, a sinner.” The man shrugged his shoulders. “Only God can judge. Not my parents, nor my ex-wife. I’ve proven them all wrong.”

Scott scuffed his foot on the concrete of the pier. “That’s easy for you to say. You don’t look like you’ve missed any meals. And I’ll bet you have a nice warm bed to go home to.”

“Well, you’re right there.” The man stood. “Speaking of missing meals, when did you eat last?”

“I had breakfast at the homeless shelter yesterday morning,” Scott replied. He suddenly had the fear that telling the man he was homeless might be worse than telling someone he was gay. Both held stigmas in society, and he wasn’t sure how to get over them. At that moment, he didn’t really care. The worst thing the man could do would be storm away from him in disgust, and he’d had a lot of people do that in his life. He’d grown used to it.

“Is that where you stayed last night? Why aren’t you there now?”

“They were full by the time I got there. I tried to find a job so I could eat. But even the daily job places aren’t hiring on Christmas Eve.” Scott shivered with cold and wiped his runny nose on the sleeve of his jacket. Remembering the family gatherings at the lodge on Christmas, he never thought he’d find himself cold and alone on any holiday.

“I, for one, could sure use a cup of coffee,” the man said. “Come on.”

“Where?” Scott asked. A hope he hadn’t had moments earlier surged up in his chest. Maybe his luck was turning.

“To get you something to eat. My name’s Dan.” He reached his hand down to Scott.

Scott looked at the hand and then back into the man’s eyes. He took Dan’s hand, stood, and picked up his backpack. “Scott.” There was something warm and comforting in Dan’s grasp. It fanned the hope in Scott’s chest.

Dan led the way to a silver BMW parked at the end of the street. Once in the car, Dan drove to an all-night diner a few blocks away.

Inside the café they sat in a booth opposite each other and removed their coats. Coffee cups, silverware, napkins, and paper placemats were on the table. Christmas decorations hung from the ceiling, and a decorated tree stood in front of a window.

Scott finally got a good look at the man. He was maybe an inch taller than Scott’s 5 feet, 11 inches and looked to be in his mid-thirties to early-forties. His dark hair had nearly white streaks at the temples. Some might consider him chubby, but not fat. He reminded Scott a little of his dad.

The waitress approached with two coffee pots. “Regular or Decaf?”

“Decaf for me,” Dan replied.

“I’ll take regular,” Scott said. “I may need to stay awake.”

“Bring me a stack of pancakes, two eggs over easy and bacon,” Dan told the waitress. “What do you want, Scott?”

Scott looked at the waitress. “I’ll have the same, but make my eggs scrambled.”

Dan took a drink of his coffee. “So, Scott, where are you from?”

“Los Angeles.”

“You’re a long way from home. What brings you to Chicago?”

Scott gave a sound like a half laugh. “It was as far as my money would take me last June. I had a job as a waiter until October.”

“What happened?”

“The boss’s daughter hit on me, and I rejected her.”

“Why?”

Scott shook his head. “Not my type.”

“What is your type?” Dan’s eyes twinkled.

Scott ducked his head and grinned. “I’m not really sure yet. But I know it isn’t female.”

Dan chuckled.

Bolstered by the chuckle, Scott continued his tale. “When I admitted to the boss I’m gay, he decided he didn’t want to take the chance I might give a customer AIDS.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Dan raised a bushy eyebrow.

“Nope. He thought I could spread it that way even if I’m not HIV positive.”

Dan shook his head sadly. “It’s unbelievable people still think like that. This is the twenty-first century. I thought we’d progressed past that.”

Their food came, and they dug in.

Meet Cousin #3 – Catherine

Catherine cropped

Catherine Johnson entered the ballroom of The Beverly Hilton Hotel. From the front, her floor-length black gown was demure. A diamond choker encircled the high neckline and a matching bracelet sparkled against one of the long sleeves. The only skin visible was her face and hands. The back, however, was a different story. The high neckline in the front became a band of about two inches and the choker was actually a rope of diamonds that hung down her bare back ending just above the crack of her ass. The skirt was slit to almost the hipline. Her long blonde hair was pulled into a sleek French twist and decorated with more diamonds.

Her mother walked toward her wearing a bright-red sequined gown.

“Good evening, Catherine,” she said. “You certainly know how to make an entrance.”

“As the saying goes, ‘If you’ve got it flaunt it.’” She took a glass of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter. “Who’s here who’s important?”

“Of course the candidate for the senate seat, but, he’s happily married.”

“Mother, I’m not here to find a husband. I don’t want to get married.” She drank her glass of champagne in one gulp. Her mother’s constant pushing her on one man or another was more than a little irritating, even though she knew she did it out of what passed for love with her mother.

“Why not? You’d make an excellent governor’s wife. Oh, Jerry Martin, Lizzie’s husband, is here. Apparently Lizzie’s sick. You know he’s headed up the political ladder. It’s a shame he married Lizzie and not you. After all, you dated him first, didn’t you?”

“Yes, when he was captain of the soccer team. He was such a nerd, so prim and proper. And, he was a horrible kisser.” Catherine smirked as an idea hit her. “Can you see Lizzie as a governor’s wife? I can’t even imagine her as a dog catcher’s wife.” She placed the empty glass on a tray.

Her mother coughed to cover a laugh. “Maybe you should see if you can cause a little discord there.”

They separated and Catherine strolled leisurely toward Jerry. She did her best to not appear too predatory. “Good evening cousin-in-law. Where’s Lizzie?”

“Catherine, you’re looking beautiful as always. I’m afraid Lizzie caught a twenty-four bug and isn’t feeling well.”

“Well, we’ll just have to hang together. After all, that’s what families do.” She grabbed another glass of champagne and handed one to him. When his fingers brushed hers, she knew she had at least a chance and started thinking about her next steps.

Meet the cousins – Mike

Mike cropped

Once again, Mike sat on the back of his favorite bench and watched the people basking in the late afternoon sun. The crew finished a large patio that afternoon, and he was tired and hungry. I guess I should get something to eat. He turned as someone stepped up on the bench and sat beside him.

“Hi, Mike,” Brian said. “I haven’t seen you around here lately.”

“I’ve been busy,” Mike said. He clamped his lips together and squinted his eyes.

A man a couple of inches shorter than Brian with reddish-brown hair sprinkled with gray appeared and sat on the bench on the other side of Mike’s feet. For a second Mike felt like he was surrounded.

“Mike, this is Eric.” Brian gestured to the man on the other side of Mike. “I told you about him.”

“Yeah.” You told me all right. He’s your partner. He’s good looking. Why would Brian want someone else? Also, why would Eric want someone other than Brian?

“Have you given any thought to our proposal?” Brian asked neutrally.

“What? Have sex with both of you?” Mike’s words were short and clipped. “I told you I’m not interested in a ‘party’.” I might like to go to bed with either one of them, but both at once?

“We aren’t proposing a ‘party’. We’re looking for someone to share our home.” Eric flashed Brian a look like he should’ve explained things better to Mike.

“Why me?” It was one of the biggest questions that had nagged him the most, and one he just couldn’t figure out. Mike gestured toward the boardwalk. “There are lots of gay guys around. Why not choose one of them?”

“We’ve been talking about this for some time,” Eric said. “We’ve looked at several guys, but the ones Brian liked I didn’t, and the ones I liked he didn’t.”

“You’re the first person we agreed on,” Brian said. “Look, it’s dinner time. We’re right here by Bubba Gump Shrimp. We can talk over dinner.”

Maybe I should hear them out. After all, I don’t have to do more than listen to them. And Brian is so hot. Mike hesitated a few seconds and then grinned. “Well, my mother always tells me not to pass up a free meal.” One thing that chewed at him, was it sounded like the two of them had been hanging out watching a good number of men for a while. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that. It still had a creepy vibe to it, even if they were both fairly hot.

Cousins Going Home

dreamstime_s_35789190   Lizzie

New York City, NY – March 19, 2011

Lizzie got off the bus and hurried toward home through the heavy, driving rain. The temperature felt like the rain could turn to sleet any second. Why did I ever want to leave California and come to New York? She bowed her head under her umbrella and held her portfolio close to her chest to keep the sketches inside dry. If anything happened to her hard work, she’d be madder than a wet hen.

Wham! She ran into something solid and sat down in a puddle.

A very feminine voice said, “Oh. I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

Lizzie looked at the thick-soled, men’s boots and black jeans in front of her. They contrasted greatly with the voice. She raised her head and recognized the black, spiked hair of the woman looking down at her. I’ve seen her protesting around this area. She seems to be against almost everything.

“Here, let me help.” The woman held her hand down and helped Lizzie stand. She picked up Lizzie’s portfolio. “There, I think it’s okay. Are you alright? You’re not hurt?”

“I’m fine. Just a bit wet and shaken up.” Lizzie took the portfolio, thankful it hadn’t hit the puddle with her, but landed just beside it.

“Hey, if you have to sit in a puddle, why not in front of Starbucks?” The woman laughed softly. “Let me buy you a latte to make up for knocking you down.”

The only thing she was in a hurry to do was get out of the rain. Lizzie shrugged. “I could use a hot drink.”

Inside the store, the woman asked, “What would you like?”

“How about a Café Mocha?” It was her old standby. Lizzie wasn’t in the mood to try anything new.

“You got it. Find us a table, and I’ll get our drinks.” The woman gestured to the nearly empty store.

Lizzie sat at a table near the window, and soon the woman came back with steaming lattes and warm blueberry muffins. Even if she hated being out in it, there was something nice about sitting and watching the rain fall, even if it were cold out.

The woman smiled and said, “Hope you like blueberries.”

Lizzie noticed white, even teeth behind the dark lipstick and twinkling blue eyes. Except for the lipstick, her face was clear of any makeup. She never understood overly made-up women. She kept her own makeup to a minimum.

“Love blueberries,” she replied as she took one of the muffins.

“I’m Sara Davis.” The woman held out her hand. “I’ve seen you around. You always seem to be in a hurry.”

“Lizzie Johnson.” Lizzie took the offered hand. She was surprised at its softness. Sara didn’t look like someone who took pains with herself.

“Like in Lizzie Borden?” Sara’s eyes sparkled with laughter.

Lizzie screwed up her face. “Oh, come on. We aren’t in grade school. But no, it’s just that there are so many Elizabeths in my family. My grandmother’s Betty, and my aunt’s Betsy, and I got stuck with Lizzie. Sometimes I wish they’d decided on Beth.” It was the long old explanation, something she got really tired of giving. There were a lot more interesting things about her beyond her name.

“I can call you Beth if you’d like.” Sara started unwrapping her own muffin.

Shaking her head, Lizzie laughed. “I probably wouldn’t answer. I wouldn’t know who you were talking to.”

“So. Where are this grandmother and aunt?”

Lizzie lifted the muffin to her nose and breathed deep enjoying the rich, savory smell of it before she tore it in half to eat it easier. “Southern California with the rest of the family.”

“You’re from California?” Sara’s eyes widened. “Why on Earth did you come to this cursed city?” She pointed out the window to the driving rain. “I’d have stayed in the sunshine.”

Lizzie laughed. “I was just wondering that myself when I ran into you.”

“Ran into me is right.” Sara chuckled. “But, seriously, why New York?”

“I just wanted to get away from family. I’d never been alone since before I was born. I got tired of being ‘one of the twins’. And I wanted to get away from my ex-husband and his new wife.”

“You’re a twin and you’ve been married?” Sara grinned. “Is your twin as gorgeous as you are?”

Lizzie blushed and brushed her long blonde hair out of her face. “Well, most of my friends think Mike is pretty hot. I don’t see it. He’s just my brother.”

Sara laughed. “Okay. You got me on that one. Personally, I don’t think he’d do anything for me either.” She tilted her head and her dark eyes sparkled mischievously. “I’m sorry to be so personal, but is that your natural hair color?”

“Yes.” Lizzie laughed. “I’m a rarity in California, a native-born Californian with naturally blonde hair.” After the rain had dampened her spirits so much, the light relaxing conversation with Sara was really cheering her up and making her thankful she’d come to New York.

“It’s beautiful. Is Mike blond also?” Sara sipped her drink.

“No. He takes after our dad. I’m blonde like Mom.” Lizzie bit back her sigh as the muffin nearly melted in her mouth. It was almost perfect, like sitting there talking with Sara. They’d been passing each other in the streets for a while and Lizzie wondered why they’d never stopped to talk to each other, but then remembered that was the way of life in New York.

Meet my co-author

A J Marcus

I find it hard to believe it’s been five years since I met A. J. Marcus and we started trading beta reads. When I sent him Cousins as a beta read, he recognized the fact that it needed a lot more ‘in-depth’ writing and offered to help. The results were marvelous. He took my characters and breathed life into them.

A.J. has been writing to pass the time since high school. The stories he wrote helped him deal with life. A few years ago, he started sharing those stories with friends who enjoyed them and he has started sending his works out into the world to share with other people. He lives in the mountains with his extremely supportive husband. They have a lot of critters, including dogs, cats, birds, horses, and rabbits. When not writing, A.J. spends a lot of time hiking, trail riding, or just driving in the mountains. Nature provides a lot of inspiration for his work and keeps him writing. He is also an avid photographer and falconer. Don’t get him started talking about his birds, because he won’t stop for a while.

Web Contact Info:

Website: www.ajmarcus.com

Email: andy@ajmarcus.com

Just a few of his books that I have had the pleasure to beta read:

The Ren Faire series:

Jousters Lance    cover 

The Mountain Spirit series:

Eagles Blood  Grizzly Discovery   Moosefever

Look for many other exciting reads at:http://www.amazon.com/A.J.-Marcus/e/B005WL9MY2/ref=la_B005WL9MY2_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1462304940&sr=1-2

 

 

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Meet the cousins

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AIDS Walk Kansas City

As a lot of you may know, I hate ‘GoFundMe’ pages where people ask for money to pay their bills. But this is NOT one of those. For the last several years, I have participated with my church’s AIDS Walk team. Although I can’t walk the three miles, I try to raise money and help out at the church’s booth.

This year I’m offering an incentive to those who donate:

$5 donation will receive an ebook of your choice from my back list.

$10 gets you three ebooks.

$20 or more will give you every ebook on my list.

Please help. Maybe someday, we’ll get this disease licked.