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“We probably won’t get too much done for the first few days,” Marton said as they strolled along the water’s edge just out of the reach of little lapping waves. A cool front had passed through overnight and taken away a lot of the heat in its wake. It was pleasantly warm now, with the occasional residual cloud scudding across the sun. “I’ve got a car-load of stuff and more coming from Sydney. I’ll need to lease another place until I find one I’d consider buying.”
“Don’t waste your money on a lease. We’ve got a spare room at the apartment where you can sleep and another where you can store your stuff until you buy a place.”
Marton asked carefully, “Is that a good idea?”
“Why wouldn’t it be? We’re going to be in constant contact for Christ knows how long so this’ll make it easier for a while.”
“You’ll tell him of course.”
“Of course,” Orlando echoed.
“I’m going to get you into some private sessions with a trainer of sorts, someone with a background in dance. You’re still impossibly stiff and self-conscious in those heels.”
“Oh yeah,” Orlando laughed ruefully, “I walk like a fairy.”
“You’re going to need a lot of work on posture and movement as well as get yourself in top shape. It’s going to be a very physical role.”
“And we’ll have to start thinking more seriously about costume and make-up.”
“I’ve been practicing that forever – well two months anyway.”
“That was just to get you comfortable with it.”
“I have to ask. Am I going to be wearing pretend tits?”
Marton returned the laughter. “Looking forward to it?”
“Actually no. I think they look fucking revolting. I’ve never been turned on by them, or even the real ones for that matter.”
“Intriguing. Neither have I. So no, if you really can’t stand the idea, we won’t bother. Some of the most beautiful women in the world are flat-chested. I find that androgynous look more sexually attractive anyway. False breasts – they’ll be an expected cliché. Aida will start swaying toward being a caricature.”
“I don’t want that. I want her to be real.”
“And what about hair? What sort of look am I going for? What sort of wigs – “
“No, your own hair’s magnificent. Just keep letting it grow until we work out how you’re going to wear it. The entire idea is to keep as much of you in the character as possible – I want her to be almost a natural extension of you. And we’re not going to release any pictures of you at all in full costume. I want them to have to come and see you to satisfy their curiosity.”
They walked for a few minutes in silence.
“I feel – weird about all this,” Orlando said eventually, “I don’t know why but I do. I don’t even know what the feeling really is. I just know that – I don’t know what it is. Probably fear I think, that I’ll fuck it up.”
“I’ll need you to keep reminding me that I won’t.”
“I will. Constantly.”
“I have to trust you to make me get it right.”
“You can.” Marton reached out and caught Orlando’s arm, stopping him in mid-step. “Keep doing this. Keep telling me when something bothers you so I can put it right. You’re in control just as much as I am.”
Orlando shook his head suddenly and his laughter was edged with a faint trace of hysteria. “No I’m not. I just figured that out this minute. I’m not. She is. Isn’t that fucking insane? She is!”
~ * ~
They were back in Auckland within the week, leaving Craig – reluctantly now – at Toujours.
Marton had allowed them a few minutes of privacy while he busied himself loading bags into the back of the rented station wagon.
“You’re sure you’re okay about Marton staying in the spare room for a while until he gets his own place,” Orlando prompted, “I know you said you didn’t mind but I think you do.”
“You legally own the apartment so you’re free to – “
Orlando groaned in frustration. “You’re doing that fucking martyr thing again and it really pisses me off. It’s ours, right? Just like this house is legally yours but you still insist it’s ours. Get over it!”
Craig shrugged. “Yep, I’m over it.”
“Bullshit!” Orlando reached for him and held him tightly. “You’re so amazingly bad at lying. I’ll phone you every night just like we used to do – might even talk dirty sometimes the way we used to as well.”
Craig snuffled a little laugh against Orlando’s shoulder. “I have that to look forward to at least.”
“You do that. And since the Jeep’s staying here, I’ll buy another car tomorrow and bring it down on the weekend to show it off. And then we’ll shag up a storm and you can read me what you’ve written and I’ll have a whinge about Marton’s yelling at me.”
Orlando felt the flinch and snapped, “Don’t!”
Orlando pulled away slightly enabling him to look directly at Craig. “You remember what you’ve always said about regrets? Yeah, well this is the most important thing I’ve ever attempted and I’ll tell you now that if you don’t give me the freedom to give it everything I have, then we’re going to be dealing with a whole fucking new bunch of regrets? Alright?”
Craig nodded. “I know.”
“Then don’t be such a pain in the arse about this, thinking that somehow Marton’s going to walk all over me if you’re not around to stop him. A couple of years ago, yeah, he’d have made mincemeat out of me because I was a fucking mess and couldn’t do a thing for myself. Not now, not any more. I have you and us and everything we have together.”
Orlando kissed him then, a slow explorative melding of lips.
“You gave me the balls to do this, love. Don’t rip them off again. I need you. I’ll always need you, but even more than ever now.”
Craig nodded and smiled and said again, “I know. I’ll stop being a dick then and wish you luck. And I’ll hold you to your word about coming back on the weekend or I’ll be racing up to find out why you didn’t. That’s a promise.”
“I’ll hold you to that as well.” Orlando added experimentally. “Darling. Sweetheart. My love. How’s that, then? I finally said them without feeling like an idiot.”
Craig’s smile widened. “And they sounded wonderful.”
“Heaps better when you say them.”
From outside came the sound of a car-horn. Orlando seized Craig’s hand. “Going to come outside and wave us off, and show Marton that you’re still good friends or are you going to stay in here and sulk some more?”
“I think I’ll probably do a bit of both, hmm?”
Just over two hours later, Marton nosed the station wagon into one of the parking bays beneath the apartment complex. He noticed that both of the bays were empty.
“Where’s the Benz?”
“The wank-mobile?” Orlando snickered, “He finally got over it and sold it. He hated taking it down to Toujours in case the salt air rusted it out, so most of the time it sat here doing nothing. I’ll have to get some wheels of my own tomorrow.”
“I’ll have to hand this back and do the same. Who knows, perhaps we can do a twofer deal.”
They unloaded and locked the car, distributed the baggage between them and took the lift up to the eighth floor. The apartment was hot and stuffy and Orlando immediately dumped his share of the load onto the floor, went across to the sliding doors and wrenched them open.
“Christ, that’s better. It’s so fucking hot. It’s always hard coming back again.” He turned around again, finding Marton still laden with bags. “Help yourself, you know where everything is.”
Marton nodded and disappeared down the hallway.
They sat out on the shaded balcony, downed a few beers and gazed out to the distant west where a great bank of cloud was building up and signaling its intent with the occasional flickering of lightning and a low growl of thunder.
At about six o’clock, they left the apartment and headed down K Road to an Indian take-away, ordered the hottest curries on the menu, collected them and then bolted back to the apartment just as the first drops of rain began to dot the pavement.
They returned to the balcony with more beer and talked for another couple of hours about things unrelated to theatre or films. There were occasional lapses into silence in which the untellable was never mentioned once but still hung suspended in the air between them.
Just before midnight, Marton rose and went inside. Orlando lingered a few minutes longer watching the storm that had merely sideswiped the city and was now flashing and rumbling its way to the north-east. He too rose and went inside, leaving the doors wide open and the drapes billowing lightly in a reluctant breeze.
He tossed his empty bottle in the trash, switched out the lights and went to the room he shared with Craig. He peeled off his clothes and left them on the floor where they landed, then crawled between the sheets.
‘I do think about you, for no particular reason… Maybe it’s a telepathy thing and it happens when you’ve started thinking about me…’
He whispered inaudibly into the darkness, “Hallo.”