See this post for complete headers (http://community.livejournal.com/remix
Just before five, Orlando, laden with assorted plastic shopping bags, pushed open the door of the apartment and called out, “Are you home yet, love?”
A muted reply came from the kitchen. “Yeah”
He deposited the bags on the couch just as Craig appeared. The look of utter dejection on Craig’s face made him hesitate before asking, “Hi, how did it go?"
Craig scowled. “I’ve been sent home for another year at least, probably closer to two if I want to be really pessimistic about it.”
Orlando reached for him and kissed him. “Shit, you’re kidding! What are you going to do?”
“Not sure yet. I thought if I’m still the professional outcast and Marton isn’t going to need you for another couple of months, perhaps we could head back to Toujours for the summer.”
“Oh, hmmm,” Orlando looked doubtful. “I was supposed to buy some more things and then start research and preparation. It’s not the sort of stuff I can do down home. I need to be here. Not all the time just – most of it.”
He couldn’t fail to notice the unmistakable little grimace of disappointment. “I’m sorry, I thought it was alright to go ahead and start planning things to fill in the time, to get back into working again. I thought it was what you wanted.”
“I did – I do!” Craig assured him swiftly. “I just had this idea it might be the other way round though, and that you’d be the one fishing around for something to do. Ah love, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t expect you to start trying to rearrange things now you’ve gotten started. I’m just a bit pissy about finding myself still on their stupid bloody shit-list. Beccs says I should make use of the time and put some effort into writing again.”
Orlando nodded emphatically. “I wish you would. Remember that first time we went out in Welly to see that awful play – imagine, it was our first date and we didn’t even know it! – and we bought all those imaginary books and you said how you really wanted to write seriously one day. I asked you to send me your first book for Christmas with your autograph on it. I was really hoping you would because you had so many wonderful and interesting things to say. I didn’t think for a second that you wouldn’t be able to do it – to write something really good – and I’m still looking forward to getting it for a Christmas present.”
Craig smiled then, the disappointment suddenly secondary and unimportant. “Really?”
“Yeah, really. So those fuckwits out there are going to keep making things hard for you for a bit longer. It’s not like we need the money or anything is it? I really want you to give it a go, and you can do it without me hanging around wanting your attention all the time. Its skunk-time, remember? You do your thing and I’ll do mine, and we’ll stay all independent and interesting and at night, we can still do our thing, yeah?”
Craig rested his face against Orlando’s shoulder and his voice was muffled. “I’m sorry, love. I’m just sulking a bit because I feel unwanted. It’s a bruised ego thing.”
Orlando held him tightly even as he offered the laughing reassurance, “You’re not unwanted, not while I’m around. I want you every bloody minute of the day. I know it’s not the same as being employed but – if you like, you can call me boss and I’ll pay you per shag. How’s that?”
Craig forced a little splutter of laughter. “I’m not sure I want to find out the dollar-value of my bedroom technique. I’ll let you know if I decide to take you up on the offer.”
He sighed then and drew away momentarily. “There’s something else too that I’m not really happy about. Beccs gave me another bit of advice today and I’m not sure whether to bother with it or give it the toss. She uh – said I should start practicing discretion again, especially where you’re concerned. Apparently the two of us being seen together still puts a few noses out of joint. What do you think?”
Orlando stared at him, his eyes narrowing ominously. “We’re not going to go back to fucking pretending there’s nothing – “
Craig cut him off. “No, absolutely not, and we’re not going to go into hiding and we’re not going to go out of our way to avoid being seen together. That much I promise you.”
“Alright,” Orlando nodded but remained wary, “What do you mean by discretion then?”
“I suppose not shoving it in people’s faces by constantly being seen everywhere – you know, parties, openings, those sorts of things – deliberate publicity. I want us to go out occasionally for dinner or to a friend’s party, down to Tango again and the theatre of course. Why the hell can’t we? We’re not in hiding any more. I suppose all we should avoid is over-exposure more than anything. How do you feel about that?”
Orlando shrugged. “Actually I don’t care if we’re never seen in public again.”
“What? But I thought – “
“No, you’re missing the point. I don’t care if they don’t see you and me together as long as they know we are, that’s all, just as long as they know. And if anyone asks, ‘Are you and Craig?’, I can come straight out and say, ‘Yeah, me and Craig.’ I don’t ever want to have to deny it, or pretend it doesn’t exist, or make up some stupid nothing reply. I don’t care about anything else – just as long as they know the truth. So – how do you feel about that?”
“Of course they’d know. We ended up in every newspaper in the country, quite a few overseas, and on Christ-only-knows how many websites. They couldn’t not know!”
“Good, that’s all I care about.” Orlando smiled suddenly, almost dreamily. “It was the happiest day of my whole life, once I’d gotten over the shock and everything.”
They came together again, held one another and enjoyed the warmth of the memory.
“Mine too,” Craig murmured, “Second only to my first ride on the Elf-Express and seeing you for the first time, a beautiful, dark, curly-headed boy. I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”
“I know. You were perving so hard, I didn’t know where to look.”
He cupped Orlando’s face between his hands and kissed his mouth very softly. “I was in love and didn’t know it. Not sure how I missed it. I should have realized it when I just couldn’t stop looking at you.”
Orlando grinned – another of those little moments of brilliant happiness. “Well now you can perve on me tottering around on high-heels and doing drag. Going to get all kinked up and turned on?”
“I don’t need props to do that.” Craig kissed him gently again. “Thank you. I forget sometimes how lucky I am. The sulk’s officially over from this moment, I promise. Now you can show me your shopping and tell me what you’ve been up to today.”
“Well I didn’t get everything – I ran out of time. This is the list I started with and I crossed off the stuff I managed to get.”
Orlando pulled the crumpled piece of paper from his back pocket and handed it to Craig who immediately unfolded it and read aloud, “Shoes, velvet and make-up – got your priorities right then.”
Orlando snickered and began sorting through the bags. “What can I say? I love shopping. I got the shoes first. I thought they might be the hardest because I knew I’d have to do some trying on and probably a bit of explaining while I was at it. The first shoe store I went to, there was a girl serving and a bloke lurking and I didn’t know which would be better to ask. But then this lady walked up to me – really straight-looking, about fifty, tweed-skirt – and asked if she could show me anything. I think I went as red as anything but Marton said just to be honest about it so I told her I was an actor and was working up to doing a role in high heels and my director suggested I start out with something not too high. I thought, ‘Oh God, she’ll think I’m a pervert and chuck me out now!’ but she was so cool and even said it was a good thing I was being sensible about it.”
Orlando started rummaging around in one of the plastic shopping bags. “Anyway, she took me out back to the storeroom and sat me down, and measured my feet properly and everything and then I spent about two hours trying on shit-loads of women’s shoes – I can’t believe how much fun it was! Then she said I had to learn to walk like a girl instead of a boy or I’d end up with sprained ankles, and that I had to put more weight on the inside of my feet rather than the outside. She said it’d stop my feet rolling off the shoes, and I should also take shorter steps and that would get the hip movement right as well. I asked her how she knew all this and she said she has a couple of regular cross-dressing customers who come flying in at sale time to stock up on Manolo Blahniks and they tell her these things.”
He produced a shoe-box, opened it and took out a pair of plain black leather pumps with a medium heel. He held them up for Craig’s inspection, asking coyly, “Like them?”
Craig struggled to keep a straight face. “They’re very you.”
“Yeah, yeah... Anyway, she told me to take it easy and not wear them too often or for too long otherwise I’d end up with pain everywhere. Marton already warned me about that. She asked if there was anything else she could help me with and I told her I had to get some fabric and makeup. She gave me the name of a couple of places and told me to ask for Mavis at the fabric shop and she’d see me right. I thought I’d managed to stay unrecognized while I was in the shoe-shop but the last thing she said to me on the way out was that she thought Legolas was adorable and then she wished me luck. It was so sweet.”
“If only all the fans were like that.”
“Yeah, true – but anyway, from there I went to the fabric shop, and Mavis was practically waiting at the door for me so she must have been tipped off. It was just a little shop – not one of those department stores – but she had the most amazing stuff, really gorgeous. I told her I needed some lengths of velvet just for draping and trying different effects, and so she gave me some end-of-the-roll stuff which is cheaper because there are usually a few little flaws in it. I couldn’t find any! And she gave me a pile of old pattern catalogues – they’re still in the Jeep. They’re full of pictures of different outfits that might help with ideas, and the models have different hairstyles and make-up as well so I have those things to look at too. She was just brilliant and told me what other stuff I should get – clothes-pins and safety pins and other bits and pieces. Then she sent me off to a department store where they’re having a sale on make-up collections and the usual skincare stuff so I saved some money there. It was a really good day, I had a ball!”
Craig studied the list again. “What about the rest of this?”
“Well I wasn’t game to buy the computer stuff because they’d probably know I didn’t have a clue about any of it and rip me off completely. I wondered if you’d come with me and – “
Craig nodded. “We can go shopping again tomorrow if you like. I think a new system might be in order as well. If I’m going to be writing and you’re going to need access for editing, we may as well each have our own set-up.”
Orlando reached for the list, looked at it and frowned. “I s’pose really the first thing I should’ve bought was the opera seeing how I have to know what it’s all about.”
“Pity it’s not 'Madame Butterfly'. Every hopeless romantic has a copy of 'Madame Butterfly' in their collection.”
Orlando looked up. “Do you?”
Craig’s expression was of mild embarrassment. “Guilty. Doubly guilty actually. I have two. I bought one and was given the other.”
“Do you ever listen to it?”
“I haven’t in a while, not for a few years at least. I think on the last occasion of a bust-up, I ran the tub, opened a bottle and put 'Madame Butterfly' on full-blast. It has a certain therapeutic value.”
“I’ve never heard it before. Can we have a tub tonight and listen to it? You can tell me what’s happening. I don’t know opera from my arse so I s’pose I’d better practice a bit.”
“If you like. Better put headphones on that shopping list if you’re going to be playing 'Aida' more than a couple of times in quick succession.”
“Well yeah, of course. You won’t want any noise if you’re writing and trying to concentrate and everything.” Orlando paused for a moment before continuing. “Um – you’ll be doing some of this with me won’t you? I mean Marton mentioned it didn’t he?”
Craig’s eyebrows lifted a fraction in surprise. “I haven’t spoken to Marton since the big day and we only discussed this business for about thirty seconds in all. Was I meant to be included?”
“Well, yeah, he and I had sort of talked about it a bit while we were waiting to get an answer back on buying the rights. He said he was hoping you’d be involved in the rewriting and later on in the production because you had a lot of expertise he thought we could call on. So, you’ll be part of it? And you could help me do some of this preliminary stuff too, couldn’t you? I mean – would you? Please?”
“Well I hardly know anything about it since you’ve really only told me the bare bones of it. You and Marton found a play, you saw some potential in it and you’ve secured all the rights to it. Other than that – and the fact that the male lead spends half his time in a dress – I’m still basically in the dark.”
Orlando looked apologetic. “I deliberately put it away so we could spend that time together without worrying about anything to do with the past or the future. I just wanted us to be together and not think about anything else. After all that shit I put us through, I thought we deserved some time out for us. I was right wasn’t I?”
Craig smiled and nodded. “We needed it, and it was wonderful. And now, since it turns out that I had a job of sorts waiting for me after all, how about you tell me everything there is to know about it?”
“Probably be easier if you just read the thing first,” Orlando said, crossing to the dining room table where he’d left all the reference materials Marton had sent. “He’s so fucking organized I’m almost afraid of him.”
“Only someone completely the opposite would consider it a vice,” Craig said, automatically recalling Marton’s own words, “But I agree, he can be a terrifyingly efficient at times. What’s he come up with?”
Orlando sifted through the pile. “That’s the original script of the play we saw. This is the original script with annotations, and these are copies of all the notes we made about what we thought was good, what we thought was shit and things we thought might improve it. There are shit-loads of potential changes because it really was a crappy play. We only wanted the character of Aida and the general storyline. She’s just brilliant. I knew the first time I saw her that I had to play her. She’s mine and she’s going to kill off that fucking elf forever. And if the play works, Marton wants to film it and I’ll do Aida in that too.”
Orlando glanced up, his expression one of incredible elation. “God, love, it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, even more than Rings because it’s mine.”
Craig studied his face intently, prompting quietly, “And Marton’s too of course.”
“Yeah, Marton’s too – but he said right from the start that I have approval over everything. Have you any fucking idea how fantastic that feels? He’s giving me almost complete artistic freedom to create Aida exactly how I want her and he’s agreed with everything I’ve proposed so far. It’s like he does all the hard work and I have all the fun. Now you know why I want to get stuck right into this. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted – to play a really incredible character, an original character – and to be able to do it my way without some wanker with absolutely no imagination at all putting limitations on me. Marton’s not afraid to bend or break rules or challenge conventions – it’s like working with Pete all over again but on a smaller scale which doesn’t bother me a bit. I won’t get lost in this, it’s not huge like Rings was. I can deal with something smaller like this. It’s going to be so brilliant and I just can’t wait to really get into it. It’s going to change my life completely, I just know it!”
Craig’s eyes remained riveted on Orlando’s face, unable to tear them away. Later, in hindsight, he’d recognize something else in those dark eyes now gleaming with an almost feverish excitement – the birth of an obsession.
~ * ~
They’d made a pact before Christmas that they wouldn’t worry about hunting down the elusive perfect Christmas present for one another, and would stick to simply sending out cards to friends and gifts to close friends and family.
“We have everything we need,” Craig had insisted, “We have each other. We don’t need to waste time and money on anything else, do we?”
“Course not,” Orlando had agreed without hesitation and the subject was firmly closed until Christmas morning dawned at Toujours, and he was woken by Craig sliding another ring on his finger to join his existing collection of four, kissing his still sleep-softened mouth and whispering, “Merry Christmas, love.”
Orlando groaned, “You lying bugger, I thought we weren’t going to give presents.”
“It’s not a present,” Craig insisted guilelessly, “Just a little something I wanted to give you and it just happens to be Christmas Day. I can’t help the date.”
Orlando lifted his hand and studied the silver ring, unadorned but for a series of tiny engraved words encircling the band. He squinted in an attempt to read them. “What does it say?”
Craig cleared his throat. “Pardon my revolting accent. It says ‘Amor solo d’amor si pasce’, which is Italian and means ‘love feeds only on love’.”
Orlando’s face crumpled in delight, “God, that’s so gorgeous!” He pulled Craig down and pressed multiple light kisses to his mouth, enclosed him in slender limbs and offered himself, gurgling with laughter and urging, “So go on, feed me some more and see who gets full first!”
On his knees and moving within Orlando in a shallow, measured thrust, Craig’s hands made their way slowly up the length of Orlando’s leg as far as the jut of his hipbones then returned again, his fingers passing over smooth, silken flesh, stopping and exploring the muscular calves before undertaking the same journey a second time and then a third.
“Get a real kick out of that, don’t you?” Orlando grinned, watching Craig’s face the entire time. “I’d have done it ages ago if I’d known you were such a leg-hussy.”
Craig had been stunned a few weeks back when he’d encountered Orlando in the bathroom of the apartment, sitting on the edge of the bathtub with his legs smothered in shaving foam. The shock had turned to a reluctant amusement and then resignation as Orlando insisted that plenty of blokes shaved their legs – competitive swimmers for instance.
“It just looks and feels fucking revolting wearing high heels and trying to think feminine with these hairy pins of mine. It’s no big deal. Going to shave my armpits too while I’m at it – just thought I’d warn you.”
Craig had to admit that there was something mildly erotic about watching him making the unbroken, even strokes through the lather with the razor and gradually revealing each leg bit by bit – long, well-shaped legs he suspected more than a few women might have liked to possess themselves.
He’d had to admit too that the result had been more than attractive, even rather pleasantly arousing. The feeling of stubble had been a bit of a turn-off which he didn’t hesitate to let Orlando know. Every night now, he was witness to Orlando shaving his legs, insisting on using a brand new razor each time. It was becoming almost an addiction in itself, to deliberately stroke that smooth flesh from hip to calf, and to enjoy the feel of Orlando’s legs wrapped around him without that familiar, slightly scratchy sensation of hair – sparse though it had been – against his own skin.
He was getting uncomfortably used to the sight of Orlando’s face feminized with make-up and his long, lean body draped in makeshift gowns. For several hours each day, Orlando would quietly pour over the magazines, catalogues and books, disappear for a while and then reappear again about an hour later, a little awkward in the unaccustomed heels but with a laughing ‘ta-dahhh’, a saucy twirl, and a “How do I look?”
Each time, Craig would give a reply that signaled a kind of approval when he really, honestly, wanted to say, “Not like you,” – but he never did, in case it revealed just how much he hated the way Orlando had tarted himself up, the way he’d transformed himself and practically obliterated his own exquisite features.
On one occasion, Orlando – ‘You’re the perfect coquette, do you know that?’ – had asked, “Do I turn you on?”
Craig hadn’t relinquished honesty that time. “No, not even a little bit.”
Orlando’s expression had been one of disappointment, almost hurt. “Oh? Why not?”
“I’m not attracted to women – or anything feminine for that matter.”
Orlando had forced a smile. “So it’s working then? The makeup and everything?”
“A bit too well.” Craig attempted to neutralize a little of the sting of his response. “You look sensational. I just think you’re more beautiful without the war-paint.”
Orlando sighed and seemed to deflate a little. “Oh well, I’ve messed around enough for the day anyway. I’ll go and wash it off.”
Craig had followed him into the bedroom where he’d set up a little make-up station and picked up the big economy-sized jar of cold-cream before Orlando could, telling him, “Let me. I’ll enjoy it.”
And he had enjoyed it, sitting in front of Orlando and using globs of cold-cream and a handful of tissues to remove the elaborate ‘face’ until it was entirely gone. He’d kissed Orlando’s forehead, each eyelid and cheek and then finally whispered against his mouth, “That’s better, that’s how I prefer you. All the colored crap in the world can’t improve on it.”
On their return to Toujours, Orlando had once again set up a temporary make-up station in the bedroom and continued to experiment, occasionally getting Craig to photograph the results, upload the images and send them to Marton. More often than not, the return e-mail from Marton was negative.
“He’s such a fussy bastard,” Orlando would grumble, and then try again the next day.
Craig had resigned himself to remaining largely uninvolved with what he silently referred to as ‘this thing of yours’. He’d made up his mind about that the moment he’d finished reading the original manuscript and all the accompanying notes. Orlando had prowled around the apartment, restless and irritable as he waited for Craig’s reaction, positive he’d love it. How could Craig not see the potential of it?
The moment Craig shuffled everything together and glanced up, Orlando demanded, “Well? Isn’t it brilliant?”
“It’s so dark, love,” Craig had replied carefully, “I’d even go as far as saying it’s downright bloody depressing. You’re going to have to explain to me what you and Marton see in it because I’m stuffed if I know.”
“But you didn’t see the play being performed. We did! We could see so much in it. So yeah, I’ll tell you about it, and all the things we’re going to do with it.”
And Orlando had, and they’d ended up practically fighting over it, Orlando trying to sell his own particular vision, Craig instinctively backing away and shutting it out, inexplicably repulsed by it.
He’d attempted to soothe Orlando by promising to keep an open mind and to not make any final decision, but both knew it to be a cop-out. After that, there’d been no further assumption that he’d participate other than from a position of polite interest, accompanied by a token promise of assistance where needed.
He gave cautious opinions, took photos and made the odd contribution to the e-mailed conversations passing back and forth between Orlando and Marton, otherwise he maintained a stubborn distance.
Getting stuck into his own writing provided the perfect excuse. He’d messed around on the computer with some pre-existing attempts for a few days until one morning he’d consciously decided ‘today’s the day I stop buggering around and get real about this’ and, on Marton’s suggestion, had called on an old writer’s trick of making a statement of intent. He’d forgotten how much it clarified things, having a nice, neat little plan in front of him, something more tangible to work with than a vague notion of ‘I just want to write something’…
Theory: A writer can only write what they know. Knowledge comes from experience, from active study and from the contributions of others. Time is required to produce and perfect the work.
Argument: I know many things. I know what it’s like to grow up in a happy household in a beautiful place in which I have the peace, security and freedom to be a child, to explore my perfect world and to indulge in adventures at my leisure. I know what it’s like to live in almost perpetual sunshine and warmth and to watch countless perfect sunrises and sunsets, knowing that tomorrow they’ll be just as perfect. I know too what it’s like to watch the approaching tropical storms and wonder if my home will still be there this time tomorrow or if it will be blown to smithereens, and me along with it. I know how it’s possible to experience terror and darkness in the midst of paradise.
I know what it’s like to live an easy, untroubled life, surrounded by many wonderful friends, a loving and supportive family, and to enjoy a career that has been successful in a way that is clearly against the odds. I’ve experienced love that has been warm and comfortable and completely non-earth-shattering. I’ve experienced betrayal and disillusionment, boredom and apathy and on one occasion, I’ve been utterly destroyed by love. It changes you as a person – changes the way you see your entire world. It’s probably character-building but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
I know of a love that can be all-consuming and breathtaking, that can fill every second of my waking day and haunt every dream of every night. I’ve experienced sheer, brilliant joy and plumbed the absolute depths of misery because of it. I know what it’s like to let go of a dream knowing it will never ‘be’, only to have it miraculously return and ‘become’. I know what it’s like to consider myself comfortable and content, only to have it all blown apart and replaced by the kind of happiness I thought only existed in over-ambitious fantasies.
I know what it’s like to look at someone and to wonder why he chooses to be with me, and to thank every known deity that he does. I know what it’s like to look at him and suddenly experience one of those ‘some enchanted evening’ moments where the eyes meet across the crowded room and it’s instant blinding infatuation – every day it happens to me and I fall in love all over again. Some people only experience that once in their entire lives so I know how incredibly lucky I am. I know now how it’s possible to want to call another man ‘my love’, ‘my darling’ and ‘sweetheart’, even though I would have practically pissed myself laughing in the past if I had ever overheard a man using those terms toward his partner. I know what an absolute fool love can make of you and how such stubborn notions as pride can be forfeited easily given the motivation.
I know what it’s like to stop in the middle of the most mundane task and to think of him and feel a need to see and touch him, just to confirm it hasn’t all been an epic dream. I wonder if he ever knows when I’m thinking about him and if he does the same. For the first time in my life, I know all about doubt and insecurity, and to really worry about someone.
I know what it’s like to believe I had everything I’d ever wanted only to find that my life was rather like a chocolate Easter egg – acceptably rounded, rich, delicious – but crack the shell and it’s empty. I know what it’s like to have it finally filled.
I know about theatre and television and film and live-performance. I’ve experienced just about every aspect of the performing arts, either directly or through others. I know the kind of people who live in the same ‘artistic’ world I do, and have probably met and-or worked with the best and worst of them. I have friends amongst them but – fingers crossed – few if any real enemies. I know about the small, informal project and the huge, elaborate, planned-to-the-nth-degree project, and I enjoy both.
I know what it’s like to be financially strapped and really scraping around for the rent money, and the depths it’s possible to sink just to make ends meet. I’m lucky to know now the comfort of financial security. I know what it’s like to buy the house of my fantasies and to have been able to turn it into the home of my dreams. I know what it’s like to be able to see myself in that same house fifty years from now, still loving it, knowing that it’s my home and I’ll never leave it. How wonderfully perceptive he was in naming that house ‘always’. He understood before I did. I understand now the meaning of that saying, ‘he knows more about me than I do.’
I know what it’s like to be gay and what it’s like to pretend that I’m not. I know all about the lies, the fear, the secretiveness, the shame, the guilt, the pretence and the consequences. I know how ‘gay’ has affected my life as well as how it has affected the lives of those around me. I’ve experienced it largely in a positive way but I know of the negative effects through others. It’s all very simple yet complicated. There’s a great deal of happiness involved, as well as misery, depending on whether it works out or not, and that in itself depends upon the actions and reactions of others. There are so many concentric circles involved.
Summary: I know I can write and can write well. I’ve always wanted to write a novel but never had the time. I now have one, possibly two years of time on my hands.
I know about the performing arts but I probably love the theatre most of all.
My life has been like an elaborate angst-ridden soap opera with all the attendant emotional ups and downs but, in all honesty, I’ve enjoyed it and wouldn’t change a second of it. I’ve experienced infatuation, unrequited love, the need to keep secrets, a disastrous ending and the perfect happy ending.
I know the difference between gay and straight and a lot of the consequences of being either.
At the moment, despite being a professional outcast – possibly a social one as well though I’m not in any hurry to find out – I’ve never been happier or more content with my life.
Conclusion: These are the obvious elements, the ones I could write about all day and never be at a loss for words. Theatre. Discreetly gay. An Easter egg life. Obsession and infatuation. Emotional upheaval – misery and joy. Unrequited love. Secrecy and the consequences of being found out. The delicious expectancy of stolen moments. Helpful friends. Obstructions. Endings.
The plot: Theatre setting. Boy (fine upstanding performing citizen of good repute) meets boy (rising young star of dubious repute). Some enchanted evening and the eyes meet across the room – or something disgustingly clichéd like that. Completely one-sided at first but gradually an understanding of sorts starts to unfold. Consequences and conflict due to the necessity for secrecy. Bystanders and concentric circles of understanding, acceptance and co-operation. The result of being exposed could be either good or bad, depending on how it’s unfolded.
He printed it out and taped it to the computer tower where he could not fail to see it whenever he sat at the desk.
“It’s almost the story of us except for the theatre setting,” Orlando said when Craig first showed it to him. “Would you really tell them all about us?”
“Why not? It might finally nullify all the rumor and bullshit that was constantly dumped on us.”
“I s’pose so,” Orlando admitted, chewing his bottom lip absently as if considering the idea, “I didn’t really think we owed any explanations. I thought they should just get over it.”
“So they should – and it won’t all be about us. We’re not the only couple on earth who’ve done it tough.”
Orlando studied the piece again.
“I do think about you, for no particular reason,” he said, adding with an impish grin, “Maybe it’s a telepathy thing and it happens when you’ve started thinking about me. I’ll say ‘hallo’ next time.”
“Twit,” Craig murmured, curling his arm around Orlando’s hips – Orlando was standing beside him at the desk – drawing him close and resting his face against the smooth plane of his belly. “I think I most want to convey to people that we’re not all casual fuck-abouts and that we’re as capable of real passion as anyone else.”
“You’re the most romantic person I’ve ever met – and I know what you mean about the ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’ thing. It used to make me cringe a bit, that sort of stuff, and things like flowers and rings...” Orlando unthinkingly began to rotate the ‘Italian ring’ around his finger. “It’s different when it involves someone you really love and worship. It sort of makes sense then.”
“Worship?” Craig echoed mischievously.
“Yeah, worship. Between one and three on Wednesdays, remember? And guess what – tomorrow’s an official day of worship. Got it in your diary?”
“No, but I’m sure you’ll remind me.”
Orlando indicated the sheet of paper taped to the computer tower. “When are you going to start it?”
Craig hesitated. “Well since you and Marton seem to have planned to hit the ground running once you get back to town, I thought I might stay down here for a few days by myself and try to make a start then. I always seem to write better with no distractions. Once I get into a kind of rhythm, I’ll transplant myself back to the apartment and keep at it.”
Orlando feigned outrage. “You’d stay down here without me!”
“I’ve done it before and been miserable the entire time so I don’t expect to be down here alone for too long. Just enough to get started. It makes all the difference too,” Craig added, “Knowing that if it becomes intolerable, I can always jump in the car and be back with you in under two hours. I suppose it’s all about being in control of the situation rather than having it dictated to us. A few days apart now and then isn’t going to be the end of us.”
“No, the days won’t but the nights might. It’ll be weird sleeping alone again.”
“Having Marton here for a week from the day after tomorrow should be good practice then.”
“I’ve been working my creative arse off here,” Marton had written in an e-mail a few weeks earlier, “It’s been a moderate success but could have been better. I’ll look forward to coming home and stealing a few days to recuperate. I’m seriously envious of your quiet, private bit of paradise and its proximity to a decent beach. There’s really nothing worse than being stuck in a city during an Australian summer.”
“Tell him he’s welcome to drop by and spend those few days here,” Craig had said, “Unless he’d rather spend them alone.”
The reply had been swift. “I accept without hesitation. Have some beer on ice ready to crack on the 26th.”
Orlando looked at him oddly. “What do you mean? Practice for what?”
“Changing our sleeping and love-making habits, Bloom. We’ll have to draw the bedroom curtains during the day and shut the door at night, and generally not make so much noise. There won’t be any dashing through the house with no clothes on and doing it over the kitchen bench. We really have indulged and spoiled ourselves down here all this time. It won’t do us any harm having to curtail it a bit for the sake of polite company.”
“Well then – we’d better make the most of the next day and a bit.” Orlando turned and straddled Craig’s lap, gathered him close and kissed him deeply. When he drew back, his expression was slightly puzzled. “You know, it’s weird but I’m getting that same sick-in-the-stomach feeling I used to get when I knew I had to leave you again for a much longer time. It’s like missing you in advance. I really do love you so much that even just thinking about being away from you makes me feel lousy.”
“I won’t stay then. I’ll come back with – “
Orlando cut him off. “No, no, it’s really stupid – just habit I s’pose. I want you to stay here for as long as you need to. We should get used to not living in each other’s pockets all the time. And when you come on back to town, we’ll have an excuse for some manic shagging to make up for it.”
Craig began shaking his head and laughing helplessly. “You’re wonderful. I love your Pollyanna moods.”
“I thought you weren’t turned on by anything feminine and Pollyanna was definitely a chick.” Orlando kissed him again. “Are you finished here now? Come to bed with me. Let’s start putting stuff on credit.” He ground down into Craig’s lap, his arousal unmistakable. He whispered against Craig’s mouth, “Do me again with all the curtains and windows wide open, and I’ll yell the place down while no one’s around to hear. And then later on, I’m going to have you on the kitchen bench – no, not against it but on it – and it’ll be your turn to scream.”
“Got it all planned then?”
“No, that’s only tonight. Tomorrow’s our day of worship – “
“Only between one and three.”
“Between one in the morning and three the following morning then. I miss you already – it’s so strange,” Orlando drew away then and rose to his feet, tugging gently on Craig’s hand. “Come to bed with me now, love. Please? Please?”
Marton arrived in the early afternoon two days later, unshaven and unkempt in battered jeans and t-shirt.
“Excuse the general slobbery,” he apologized as he wandered in, catching them by surprise, and placed a cardboard carton containing a week’s worth of drinking supplies on the kitchen bench. “My break officially started last night and I still have the hangover to prove it.”
“You’re incredibly expert at sneaking around and arriving completely unannounced, Mart’,” Craig grinned, watching as Marton relayed the new supplies to the fridge and extracted a cold beer for himself. “That’s twice you’ve caught me out.”
Marton gave a sly smile. “Good. It’ll keep you on your toes.”
He settled down on the couch on which Orlando had been stretched out reading but had rearranged himself to make room for Marton. “How are you both? It’s impossible to believe it’s been well over a year since we last kept company. And you both look marvelous – the perfect advertisement for queer cohab’.”
“I’ve been my usual lazy and unproductive self,” Craig drawled, then nodded his head in Orlando’s direction, “Whereas he’s been on full-throttle doing his homework for the play.”
Orlando was instantly animated. “I can’t wait to get started! Now you’re here, I have to show – “
Marton cut him off gently but firmly. “No. Give me one – no, make that two – full days free of anything to do with performance and then we’ll make a start, alright?”
Orlando laughed hesitantly, “Sorry, yeah, okay. I s’pose it’s been a bit full-on for you.”
“It has and I’ve been really looking forward to a week of sleeping late by day and some serious boozing by night, starting last night and continuing tonight.”
It was probably the first occasion on which the film trilogy hadn’t dominated the conversation, and had little to do with Marton’s stubborn refusal to discuss anything to do with ‘the business’.
“Not a lot else left to talk about then,” Craig had complained until Marton relented and, to Orlando’s frustration, had simply omitted ‘the play’ from the topics of choice.
They traded news and gossip about mutual friends, both local and over in Australia – Hugo was doing another television mini-series with David, Cate was up for another Oscar by the sounds of it, and poor Ian, wasn’t it a shame about Nickie? The Hobbits were scattered over the globe – had anyone heard from Elijah? Unusual for him to be out of sight for so long. Pete had teamed up again with New Line and was starting pre-production on Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy. He’d make a brilliant go of it – no question, he couldn’t miss. Weren’t the films coming out of Hollywood incredibly ho-hum these days and the Brits really should move on from the costume dramas – have they ever done a decent sci-fi – not in living memory, no.
They demolished a carton of beer, watched a televised day-night cricket match being played in Sydney between Australia and New Zealand, with Orlando the lone supporter of the Australian side. They poured themselves into their beds some time around two in the morning, crawled out again at around midday and proceeded to top up their respective blood-alcohol levels.
They took an ill-judged wander down memory lane resulting in Marton and Craig arguing over whose fault the car accident had been on the day they’d first met – they’d ended up in a wrestling match in the middle of the living-room floor, demolishing a small wooden side table and leaving Orlando practically incoherent with laughter.
They threw together a barely edible meal, watched another cricket match followed by a really bad old western on television – horrendously funny when viewed through a drunken haze – and went in search of their beds at around three.
The following day, they temporarily swore off booze. They drank copious amounts of coffee and by mid-afternoon, had sobered up enough to consider getting out for a bit of fresh air. Craig borrowed the horses again, Orlando doubling up behind him, and they spent an energetic few hours exploring several miles of low-tide beach and dunes.
“I’ve never asked either of you,” Marton said as they were heading back, “What it was like discovering you’d been spied on the first time you did this.”
“Violating and intrusive,” Craig replied without hesitation.
“Not such a big deal to me,” Orlando gave him a little squeeze around the waist and replied over his shoulder, “I think I was almost happy it was sort of out in the open. I wanted people knowing. I just didn’t think the reaction would be so bad. We’ve come so far since then, haven’t we?”
“We have. We’re in a good place now, Bloom.”
“You both look disgustingly pleased with yourselves,” Marton said with a hint of a smile, “It’s nice to see. Hopefully they’ll leave you alone now. I can only imagine how hard it must be to live under that constant scrutiny.”
Craig gave him a speculative look. “I notice you’ve always managed to avoid the limelight even though a lot of people are intensely curious about you.”
“Oh it’s easy doing that,” Marton said offhandedly as the smile widened to a smirk, “If they’ve come after me with a camera and a microphone, I’ve presented myself as so boring and uncommunicative, they’ve never bothered again. They’ve learned that I won’t give an inch where they’re concerned. When it comes to other people’s projects, I’ve done as much publicity as legally required of me and no more. Now I’m in the position to call my own shots, no one gets anything from me unless I offer it.”
Craig muttered, “I’ve always tried working by that theory too but they’ve always managed to worm something out of me.”
“That’s because you’re too nice, Craig. You don’t have a nasty cell on your entire body. I, on the other hand,” Marton looked almost proud, “Don’t give a fuck about anyone or anything really, other than those people and things that are important to me. About the rest, I have no scruples whatsoever.”
“Remind me never to make an enemy of you, Marton,” Orlando said later on when Craig left to return the horses and he was alone with Marton.
“And why's that?” Marton asked, a hint of laughter in his voice.
“I don’t think I’d like to be one of the others. I think I’d probably be a bit afraid of you.”
Marton shrugged. “As far as I’m concerned, those people I don’t like simply don’t exist for me. They have nothing to be afraid of unless they create issues for me that I find impossible to ignore.”
“Um – about you and Rebecca. I know – “
“Be careful where Rebecca is concerned, Orlando,” Marton interrupted quietly, “She won’t let go of him easily.”
Orlando stared at him. “Why do you two so obviously hate each other?”
“Because we know one another too well and we’re probably too much alike for comfort.” Marton shrugged again. “The only difference between Rebecca and I is that I’ve never pretended to be incapable of being a complete prick on occasion. I don’t smile and simper at a person when I’d really rather tear their throat out. If I loathe someone, they know it.”
“But she’s always been really nice and incredibly supportive of us and – “
“Yes, she has and how about we not discuss Rebecca any more, hmm? Why don’t we get the first beer down before Craig gets back and then have fun watching him spend the rest of the day trying to catch up even though he’s pretending he isn’t?”
Marton took two beers from the fridge, opened them and handed one to Orlando. “And just for a minute, I’m going to break the two-day moratorium on discussing the play. I’ve enjoyed getting the e-mails and keeping up with your progress. Is there any chance we can change Craig’s mind about working on this with us?”
Orlando shook his head and sighed. “No, he really doesn’t like anything about either Aida or the play even though I’ve spent hours trying to explain how we were going to change it. He thinks it’s just too dark and depressing.”
Marton nodded thoughtfully. “I can understand that. His preferred love-affair is with humor, remember, but then he’s so good at it – the debates and the presentations and everything. I understand and respect that. Dark subjects aren’t for everyone – but we’ll leave the door open for him. There might be something later on in the production side of it that might spark his interest.”
“He’s going to stay down here for a while after I’ve gone back to town. He says it’ll only be for a week but I hope it’s for a bit longer. See, he’s finally getting a yen to do some serious writing and I really want him to get on with it. I know he’s wanted to for years so, yeah – I hope we can do the skunk thing and just get together on weekends or something.”
Marton’s eyebrows rose slightly. “The skunk thing?”
Orlando laughed self-consciously. “Oh, just a little bit of a joke we have. It’s mainly about doing things for ourselves now and then and not being permanently chained together twenty-four hours a day. We thought it was important.”
“It is. Every relationship needs a bit of space. As you said, you’ll have weekends, though I can’t guarantee they’ll all be free. I hope you realize we’ve got an incredible amount of work ahead of us. I started on this well over a year ago and haven’t stopped, despite other projects. The surface has barely been scratched.”
“What sort of things have you been doing? With the play, I mean?”
Marton wandered over to the open doors and gazed out to sea. “Wonderful view. Could you ever get tired of it?” He took a mouthful of his drink before continuing. “I’ve been doing more analyzing and editing. I’ve a briefcase full of ideas in the car that I haven’t even mentioned to you yet.”
Marton nodded. “I’ve also done some serious hunting around for financial backing and sponsorship during the past year and, without fail, every door’s been slammed in my face.”
Orlando felt the disappointment acutely. “Does that mean we can’t go ahead?”
“No, it just means that Craig isn’t the only one who doesn’t like it. The story outline is considered tasteless and clichéd and the subject-matter revolting. Opera, abuse, gay scenes and drag queens all in one bag? How could it possibly work?”
“And Orlando Bloom isn’t an actor anyone is prepared to put money on. General consensus is that he was always highly over-rated, conceited, completely unreliable, and that his career wasn’t long or exceptional enough for him to even qualify as a has-been.”
Orlando grimaced and forced a humorless little laugh. “Ouch. I suppose I’d better just slash my wrists then.”
“No, Orlando,” Marton responded silkily, “We’ll make them slash theirs.”
Orlando joined him at the window. “How are you going to do that?”
“By financing the whole thing myself and making such an incredible fucking success of it that they’ll be throwing money at us to film it.” Marton looked aside at him, a slow smile curving his lips and a definite gleam in his eye. “I love it, Orlando, when people doubt me. It drives me even harder toward proving them wrong – because eventually I know I’ll get to rub their noses in it and then boot their arses out of my way.”
He lifted his hand, reached and touched the tips of his fingers to Orlando’s face, running them lightly along the edge of his jaw-line. “Are you still with me? Still?”
Orlando nodded slightly and his reply was a very soft but determined, “Yeah, I am.”
Marton’s fingers lingered just a moment longer. “Good.”
The following day, Orlando sat at the table in the bedroom with a mirror and make-up in front of him and awaited Marton’s instruction.
“I’m going to time you and take pictures while you put on a face. Don’t worry about being too particular – just put on a bit of everything. I want an idea of how much time could be realistically devoted to a transformation scene. If it takes too long we can’t do it.” Marton consulted his watch. “Alright, start now.”
Orlando began to apply make-up quickly, having practiced so many times over the last couple of months that he’d worked out a routine order of sorts – pancake, powder, brow-pencil, eye-liner, mascara, eye-shadow, contouring blush, another coat of mascara, lip-liner and finally lipstick. As he worked, Marton took picture after picture, telling Orlando to ignore the camera as he positioned it barely inches from his face. He timed in at twenty minutes.
“Right, take it all off again,” Marton said, “Start from scratch but this time don’t do such an obvious rush job. Stop now and then and study your face in the mirror for a slow count of ten.”
Orlando did so as Marton swooped and circled around him with a video camera. As he finished the make up, he looked up expectantly. “Done.”
“Stand up slowly and undress,” Marton told him, “Don’t rush it and take everything off.”
“Not making a porno-film on the side as a money raiser are you, mate?” Orlando asked dryly.
“I shouldn’t even dignify that one with a response,” came the chilled retort, “Would you balk at doing a very brief nude scene? Thirty seconds at most, barely full-frontal.”
“If it’s in context, no.” Orlando began peeling off his t-shirt and jeans, and finally his briefs. He looked directly at the camera.
“Walk toward me – slowly – three steps. Pretend I’m not here. I’m the audience beyond the lights. Turn, go back, pick up your clothes and put them on again. Don’t rush it."
Orlando followed his instructions exactly.
“Where are those heeled shoes?” Marton asked, “Get them, put them on and walk for me. And stop looking bored. We’re going to be doing this for months yet before you get anywhere near a stage.”
Marton videoed him as he walked back and forth along the length of the room. He followed him, stood in front of him, filmed him from either side.
“You walk like a bloody fairy, Orlando,” he suddenly taunted, “Next thing you’ll be telling me you’ve been hanging out on K Road watching the drag queens.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Orlando snapped back, “I’m supposed to be a fucking drag queen, aren’t I?”
”You’re not! You’re a queen, full-stop! Think regal, think dignified! Straighten your back, lift your head, and don’t bloody slouch. You move like a sack of shit!”
“Is this necessary?” Craig asked from the doorway. He’d heard the angry exchange and had come to investigate.
Marton continued to film. “Is what necessary? Keep walking until I tell you to stop!”
“Shouting at him – at each other.”
“Stay out of it, Craig. There’s going to be a hell of a lot more shouting and screaming before this is over. Stop waving your arse about so much, you’re not selling it!”
Craig’s hackles rose and he would have spoken again had Orlando not caught his eye and given him a fleeting smile of reassurance. “It’s alright, love. If it gets personal, I’ll tell him where to shove it.”
“Don’t let him bully you. I’ve heard he can be impossible to work with.”
“I can be a complete bastard to work with, Craig,” Marton responded agreeably. He lowered the camera and looked from one to the other. “But I get results. Are you going to wimp out on me, Orlando? Just say the word and I’ll replace you.”
“No,” Orlando captured Marton’s gaze and held it, “This is mine. You wouldn’t replace me and you know it so don’t try hitting me with that particular bit of bullshit. You’ll never replace me.”
Marton’s expression hardened perceptibly before transforming into a slow smile of concession. “No, I wouldn’t. But don’t ever kid yourself that’s going to make it any easier for you.”
“I don’t want it easy. I didn’t expect it to be.”
In unison, they turned toward the doorway to gauge Craig’s response. He was no longer standing there.
“He’s not going to get all huffy and over-protective, is he?” Marton said quietly.
“Not if I don’t let him but – well he’s like that,” Orlando sighed and shrugged. “Is there anything else we can get on with while we’re here? We can save the screaming and shouting and other director bullshit for when we go back.”
“It’s not going to bother you then? Getting an occasional earful?”
Orlando grinned, “Nah, mate, I sussed you out from the start. The old ‘his bark’s worse than his bite’ thing. I can handle it.”
“Good, because I’m going to push you so hard – “
“I said I can handle it,” Orlando cut in sharply, “What I can’t handle are fucking wimpy directors who leave it all up to me to work it out. They’re lazy and I get lazy. If you push me, I’ll push back and only one of us is going to win and I know it’s going to be you in the end – but I won’t lose out of it, I know that.”
Marton shook his head slowly in wonder. “They just hadn’t worked you out, had they?”
Orlando shrugged again, dismissively. “They didn’t even try.”
“Fucking fools! Alright, let’s go for a wander and do some talking.”
“I’ll let him know.”
Craig was sitting in front of the computer again, glaring at the monitor with a white-knuckled grip in the arms of the chair and radiating tension. Orlando leaned down and pressed a kiss against an unshaven cheek.
He murmured, “Don’t.”
Craig stiffened involuntarily. “Don’t what?”
“Don’t get pissed off over this. Please. I don’t need or want you thinking he’s pushing me around and that I can’t stand up for myself. I can and I will, and you should know that by now.”
Craig muttered irritably, “I’m tempted to get into this bloody awful thing just to keep an eye on the situation.”
“If you do that,” Orlando kissed him again, “I’ll never forgive you. This is skunk time, love, and you’re going to write and I’m going to act, and neither of us is going to stick our noses in and mess it up. Alright?”
Craig didn’t respond immediately and Orlando gave his shoulder a deliberate little shove. “Alright?”
“Stop gritting your teeth, you’ll give yourself a headache.”
“Stop being a smartarse.”
“I love you.” Orlando circled his arms around Craig and held him tightly, giving him a last kiss. “I love you,” he said again, “We’re going for a walk and we’ll probably do some more yelling.”
“I wish – “
“No you don’t.” Orlando released him, straightened and moved in the direction of the door. “I love you. Back soon.”