Gary and his wife and his two kids. In my store. The night after a date and him stating he wanted to have sex with me. Just...shoot me now. I fought off my initial impulse, which was to run screaming from the store. My second impulse was to hide in the back room, but you know what? Fuck that. Fuck Gary. As Nicole went to see to them I folded some jeans more forcefully than I needed to. He knew where I worked, now – but there was something else. Something...slimy. Slithering around my guts like after you've had something that didn't set properly in your stomach.
I glanced over and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. He was married. He had a wife and kids...and I still went out with him. It had seemed like a character backstory – Gary, sells insurance and has a wife and one – no two! Two kids. Oh, and he likes younger men on the side. If you roll both dice and get a six or lower, Gary takes you to dinner or an art gallery. Roll above a six and he will try to kiss you and propose sex in public places.
The illusion of that scenario was just blown away by seeing this reasonably nice looking lady who was getting help from Nicole with some clothes for her kids.
If he was a cheating bastard, what did that make me?
Gary's gaze locked with mine for a moment, and then he turned back to his family. Good. It should stay that way. I didn't want to leave while he was still there. It was silly of me to think he'd wait until I was outside and then accost me while his family stood by watching. But I guess I can be stupid sometimes. Fortunately – time will tell – Bruce walked in, smiled when he saw me and headed my way. Now that was interesting, because although Bruce and I knew each other, it was in a 'say hello to each other in the hall' sort of way, not a 'cross the street to say hi' kind of way.
“Hunter, wassup?” he said, pushing his wavy blond hair over to one side, almost as if he were flirting, but it's just his relaxed attitude. It goes along with his shorts and canvas shoes, and he probably had a skateboard somewhere. Maybe a motorized one.
“Hi, Bruce,” I said, smiling. “What's going on?”
“Well, it's like this. I want to date your sister, but she's...resistant.”
“It's her middle name.” I held a hand up. “Hand to God. Andrea Resistant Larkspur Gatherer Stadtlander.”
The corner of his mouth quirked up in amusement. “Since it's official...help a guy out?”
I tilted my head. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, dude,” he said with a real grin. “I'm not asking for deep secrets, just give me a clue.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You get sex.”
He bobbed his head and his smile changed. “Yeah. But...there's more there. I want that, too.”
Ugh. Bruce, who knew you were romantic? I might drop to my knees and accidentally blow you.
“Yep. Just give me a hint. You know I'm for real with her. She fights me on everything, nothing is easy – and in a fucked up way, I like that. But...more. Yeah.”
Ugh. So romantic. I wavered, glanced over to see Gary closer than I'd realized, and threw an arm over Bruce's shoulders to lead him deeper into the store. I reasoned that he wasn't asking me to betray my sister – just give him the opportunity to know her outside of the bedroom. He was crazy, but romantic, and I love those things where unlikely couples get together. I could tell him to stop having sex with her, but that would be cruel with finals coming up.
“You've broken my will, Bruce,” I told him. I turned and placed my hands on his shoulders. “Tell her you like her truck. Ask what sort of engine it has – you know, grease monkey talk.”
He gave me a lopsided grin. “It has a three-fifty-one Cleveland, which is worlds better than the three-fifty-one Windsor. C'mon, give me some credit, Hunt. I've tried.”
I pursed my lips a little. “How far do you want to take this?”
“Until I can properly date her,” he said seriously.
I bit my lip. Cutting off her sex was the quickest way, but I couldn't do that to her. A compromise, then. “No sex without a date.”
He looked at me with a pretty...cute clueless look. “I can do that, but...explain?”
“Ah ah,” I said and waved a finger. “I've given you what you asked for. You want to push things in a new direction, you start there.” I looked at him expectantly as he took on a thoughtful expression.
“If I say no, she'll get pissed.”
“She might stop talking to me.”
“You're saying she talks much now?”
“Fact,” he said with a little grin. “But...you think she won't just grab someone else?”
In fact, Bruce, she's been trying already and failing. “It's the best advice I can think of to give you, Bruce.”
Once I got home I took a nice shower and then let my moisturizing routine clear my having seen Gary from my system. If I ever get rich I'm going to have a handsome man moisturize me. It sounds dirty and fun all in one, and if it rhymes then...I don't know. I lost my train of thought.
I got myself seated in front of one of my props – a glitter-bombed skyline. I used my laptop so I could read from my phone – one day I'll get a camera and fancy lighting with a proper microphone, but I was investing in clothes. Looking into the camera, I hit the button to go live and start this question and answer thing I'd posted about before.
My 'room' started filling with people – user names – and I smiled, nerves yanking my insides around. I always felt conspicuous doing these things – so why was I doing this again?
“Hi, everyone,” I said, aiming for a sing-song. “Oh my God, so much to tell you. But instead of me rambling, I'm going to go right to the first question which is...” I glanced at my phone and read the underwhelming query, “Do I have a boyfriend?” I looked to the camera. “No, I am not dating right now – so if one of you cuties wants to spoil me, holla!”
I looked at the next question. “What do I have planned for my next shoot? Oh, darlings, I have some great ideas. I've been brainstorming with my other brain,” - what I called Andy on these things - “and I think the next one will be a steampunk-slash-clockwork kind of thing. I have some designs in my head, and I plan to go hunting for stuff this weekend, so watch for that one.”
Emojis flooded my screen. People said things like 'UR hot', 'I love you' and 'show me your dick'. No, really. In a way it was a let down that they were so single-minded, but then it was good to have them respond at all.
I glanced down and read the next question. “Um, this question is better answered on my subscription account because it's kind of dirty,” I said, biting my tongue at the camera. I hope that looked sexy.
After about fifteen minutes I wrapped that up, thanked everyone and signed off. That really pumps up my blood pressure and it sure makes my ego huge. I heard Andy angry-stomping up the stairs so I decided now was a good time to go talk to her about the steampunk thing. I didn't get far because she flung my door open like a Viking who was about to plunder my space.
“You fucker,” she said in a low voice that made the hairs on my neck stand up.
“I don't even know her,” I said with a little smile.
She closed the door behind her and took a step toward me. “Why would you do that?”
I was confused and acted the part very well. “Andy-”
“Don't you try to act innocent! He told me!”
“Who? I am innocent!”
Her eyes narrowed. “You told Bruce to make a date a condition of sex.”
Oops. “Um, well, yeah. I guess I am guilty of that.” Though why the hell he'd tell her I said that was beyond me.
“What is wrong with you?” she demanded. “Finals are here! I need that dick right where I had it!”
“He's not a dildo,” I snapped. “You can't just leave him hard in a corner and then not water the poor boy.”
Her eyes widened. “Since when do you care about Bruce?”
I crossed my arms. “Since he's trying to be romantic with you – don't get so pissy!” I said as she threw her hands in the air.
“Hunter! What the fuck?”
“Andy, he came in and said he wanted more. More, Andy! He's seen you naked, he's getting laid and he wants something more from you. Don't you see? Isn't that romantic? I mean tragic, since he can't have what you won't give, but still – romantic as all fuck.”
She turned in a circle, twin veins on her forehead making a 'V' sign, though I think she'd only count it a victory if she bathed in my blood at this stage.
“Andy,” I said quietly. “What is so wrong with a date?”
Her eyes went wide enough that I really did think one might pop out. “Wrong? Let me tell you,” she snarled. “Sex is straightforward. I like his dick, he likes my vagina – the two meet and make happy and then I go away calm. A date? A date means me not being who I am – he'll probably want me to wear a dress!” She pointed at me. “Well, I won't do it!”
I tried to bite back a smile. “A dress? Really? What is so-”
She lunged forward and grabbed my shoulders. “Oh no, it's not just that. First it's a date. Then it becomes 'we're dating' and the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing. Then it's how nice an apartment together would be, and oh honey you can stay at home with the baby.”
I blinked. “Aren't you being a tiny bit dramatic?”
“You should know,” she growled.
“Look, I don't think that's going to happen,” I said, but she jumped in.
“Damn right! I won't do it! I'll buy a God damn vibrator and a fresh case of batteries before I do that!”
“As much as Duracell appreciates your support, have you considered that he likes you the way you are?”
She stared at me.
“Think for a second. He already likes who you are. Why would he try to change that? I mean, he knows what kind of engine is in your truck – and no one else cares, no matter how many times you bring it up.”
Her eyes narrowed on me. “I will get even with you.”
The hair on the back of my neck prickled again. “Deep breath. Fratricide isn't a good look.”
“It'll make me happy,” she said.
I must have a death wish I wasn't aware of. “You'll be happy after your date because sex, you know, like normal people dating do things.”
“I owe you,” she grumbled.
“Great! So this steampunk idea-”
I paused. I mean screeching stop paused. “What?”
She got a smug look. “First part of payback? Not helping you with a shoot.”
“And remember,” she said menacingly – which would have been funny had she not been so serious – “that's just the first part of me paying you back for this.”
“You're overreacting,” I repeated, trying to laugh a little.
She crossed her arms. “Then why aren't you dating anyone?”
I furrowed my brows a touch and crossed my arms as well. “I don't see-”
“Or maybe we should talk about what a closed off mess you've been since Brett moved.”
My jaw locked.
“Yeah. That's what happens when you date.” She turned and left, and if it weren't for the fact she'd just frozen my heart and snapped it in half as well as pissing me off to high heaven, I'd admit she had the perfect exit. Fucking drama queen.
Andy didn't speak to me the rest of the night. It made dinner awkward, because she was pretty aggressively letting the room know she wasn't speaking to me. Sunday morning she left around ten-thirty in a nice pair of jeans and a button up shirt that was clean and unwrinkled. I suspected Bruce was getting his date, and then she'd get his dick and thus she'd be happy later.
My parents were going antiquing, which I don't understand. Or rather I don't understand them antiquing. They don't buy anything, so they don't restore or place anything in the house. They kind of just wander and point stuff out, but that's it. I've been there, done that, so I rode into Binghamton with them and then left them to their devices.
My goal was an old clocksmith shop. We had an old clock that belonged to my grandfather in the attic, but I was kind of in favor of restoration rather than destruction for one of my projects. My thought was someone who repaired clocks would have spare or junk gears I may be able to buy cheap. Then I could use those for creating my steampunk theme.
Binghamton Clock Works was in an old cinder block building with peeling paint. Their sign had been painted on the outside wall of the building at one time, but it had faded and flaked along with the wall itself. The glass had at one time had fancy gold leaf lettering and pin striping, but it had faded and flaked in the time it had been sitting in the southern New York sunshine.
My phone buzzed and I paused on the sidewalk to check it.
I pursed my lips and then wiggled them as I thought. If I opened it to read, he'd know I'd seen it. What if it was a threat or something shitty? What if it really was a threat and I didn't read it? He could be hunting me down and I'd have missed my fair warning. The suspense of what he could possibly say at this point was killing me. I thumbed the message open.
Hunter I'd like to meet someplace public to talk. Just talk, you pick the place. Usual rate.
I chewed my lower lip. It was a hundred bucks. I could meet him in a Starbucks – he wouldn't be able to drug my coffee and haul me off, would he? Okay, maybe Andy is right and I'm a little, teensy bit dramatic. Before I could properly compose a reply he messaged again.
I made statements, but I didn't touch you. I didn't try to stop you from leaving or force the situation. I don't say that because it makes me a good guy, just that I wasn't threatening when I didn't get my way and I'm not doing that now. I just want to talk.
Realistically, you have to get some points for not being a total douche when you have the chance. I mean, not huge points, but still – he's right. I had been upset, but he didn't make it worse. He'd made me uncomfortable, then backed off. He hadn't tried anything, so maybe a public place would be okay. Plus he'd said he'd wanted to renegotiate, but he hadn't made a move – outside of kissing me. So, yeah, that was a move.
I did a quick search and found a café about six blocks away. I'm free now. I'll be at a place called Quigley's downtown for the next thirty minutes or so. I gave him the address and then started to walk. If he wanted to see me and had the time to text me, he could hop in his car and motor his ass over to say what he had to say. I can always use a coffee, so it wasn't going to bother me if he couldn't make it. After placing my order I wandered around the place, looking at the art on the walls. I studied a drawing that was some kind of super hero pose and idly thought about doing a shoot like that. Sexy super hero. Once I had my drink I took a seat in a comfy chair, pulled out my phone, and flipped through a search of steam punk images. I wasn't so sure about using pipes and gauges, but little gears were okay. Well, I could use a pipe in one sense, but I think that was a little lewd.
I snickered to myself as I thought of a pipe protruding at an obscene angle from my pants with a gauge pinned in the red-zone as if ready to burst. It would be like...robot porn. How niche can you be?
Ideas were flowing freely, and I was thinking I may have to hit a hobby store for some metal stock because I saw a crown of some sort in my future when reality crashed back in on me.
I glanced up and placed my phone in my lap. “Hello, Gary.”
He smiled a little sadly and sat down in another comfy chair, then wiggled it a little closer before leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. “Thanks for agreeing to meet.”
I sat up straighter. “I'm only here because what you said was true – you could have been much scarier and a real douche. Sometimes you have to give some credit for not going there.”
His head bobbed a little. “I appreciate that you see that. I want-”
“How can you do it?” I asked, but before he could form words I leaned forward. “I saw your family. I think at first I was treating your family like background characters – sort of like they weren't real. I didn't feel bad, because the rules were laid down, and I don't think there was anything that anyone could call cheating in what we were doing. But then you said...well, you know what you said. How can you just be like that?”
He looked momentarily surprised and then grinned. “Breathe, Hunter.”
“I can explain, if you want to know. It's not what I wanted to say to you, but I'm happy to answer,” he said, sounding very sincere as well as a little amused. The amusement aggravated me, but my curiosity ruled the day.
“Okay. Explain, then.”
“My wife and I realized a long time ago that it was crazy to try and put so many expectations on a spouse. The person to make you happy, the person to pick you up when you're sad. The person who is the middle of your entire life – it's a ton of weight and exhausting for anyone.”
“Isn't that marriage, though?”
“It's one form of it, sure.” He nodded and smiled again. “Marriage wasn't always what the romantics make it out to be. Originally it was just a contract so that rich people could gain land. If you had a daughter you had to send land or a bunch of cows or something in order for someone to marry her. For the longest time that's who marriage was reserved for, but then it started to change, and it's been many things – and no two marriages are the same.”
I squinted a little at him and waited.
“A wiser person than I am once said something like anything you can do at two AM in Las Vegas in front of an Elvis Presley impersonator can't really be all that holy, right?”
I frowned. “Maybe. I don't really like it, but maybe.”
“That's one of the traits I love about you, Hunter,” he said with a grin. “You're smart. You can carry a conversation, and you'll change your opinions if you get new information, even if it takes a little time for you to process it. We all have ideas of what some things are supposed to be and when they get proven to be incorrect or incomplete, we have to be willing to revise what we think.”
“So how does this scientific attitude figure with your marriage and me?”
He shrugged lightly. “My wife and I have an open marriage. We go to swingers events. Sometimes we date someone for a period of time. She doesn't depend on me for everything in her life, and I don't put that burden on her. We're much happier that way.”
I tilted my chin down and stared at him. “Your wife doesn't mind if you're out screwing other guys?”
He shrugged again. “About as much as I mind it if she hooks up with another woman.”
I opened my mouth, but I really wasn't sure what to say to that.
“Look, Hunter,” he said quietly. “This isn't a scheme to convince you to change how you see marriage or relationships. This is what works for us. It's why I told you I had a wife and kids when we were discussing this before going out.”
I looked away for a moment. “Yeah, but like I said...we weren't going to do anything, and that made it...okay for me.”
“That's fine, too. This isn't for everyone, and while I admit you're something really rare and I'm disappointed we won't work out, I'm glad we did get to know each other.” He stood and I glanced up at him. “Goodbye, Hunter. I hope you find what makes you happy.”
I watched him go and questions began to slam into my mind. I got up and followed him out the door.
He turned, confused. “Yeah?”
I stepped closer. “I just – can I ask you something?”
He smiled. “Sure. What do you want to know?”
“How did you see this,” I said, pointing back and forth between us, “working out? I mean, was I just supposed to be sex on the side?”
His features screwed up a bit. “Well, it could have gone that way, I guess. I mean, it's a sugar daddy – sugar baby relationship. I was paying for your time, and plenty of those relationships involve intimacy. There's a reason I'm a sugar daddy and not a pay pig.”
I raised an eyebrow, surprised he knew of the term.
“Look, you're adorable, but there's no way I give up control of my own finances. Besides, my wife'd kill me. So, sugar daddy it is,” he said with a grin.
I nodded slowly. “So did you always intend to ask to change the rules?”
His upper body shifted a little side-to-side. “I admit your rules were a starting point. Those rules were good for us to get to know each other, and for me to know you were careful. You also didn't break your own rules and offer things outside your rules, which spoke to your character.”
“You've...been in this situation before?”
“Sure. Some guys switch gears as soon as you pick them up. I'm not looking for a prostitute. I like mind with a body, and you bring that in spades.” He grinned again, and I felt a confusing mix of pleasure and discomfort.
“Back up. You were going to pay me for sex, so how does that not make me a prostitute?”
“Because this was about relationship first, and the hope of sex at some point – not just paying and fucking.”
I frowned. “I don't think I could do that. It's not me.” I paused. “But...like, with you being married, how did you see this going?”
“Oh,” he said with a nod that made him appear wise, though I don't know why. “To be candid, every relationship has its share of hurdles, even ones that are pretty clear cut. An age difference brings money into the middle of things, which is one reason why I go the sugar daddy route. Then the finances are on me and that's understood, so we don't get into issues with who makes more and that sort of thing.”
“Okay,” I said slowly.
“But I find compatibility to be one thing that overrides a lot of other issues, and we were pretty compatible.” He waved a hand. “Not my point. My point is that everyone has needs in a relationship. If I meet one of someone’s needs for some financial stability and they meet mine for companionship then we have something to work from.”
“But...you knew this was short-term, going in?”
“Most likely,” he conceded. “It's hard to make enough time for both relationships to reach full potential, so many times these relationships are somewhat temporary.”
I wasn't sure how I felt about that. I mean, he's right. This is kind of a business, but it mixes in emotions and pleasure – potentially. Also I hadn't gone into this with the idea that I'd marry Gary – he was a means to an end of sorts. An arrangement. So why was I feeling weird?
“If you change your mind someday, Hunter...you let me know. It's a damn shame you're not sleeping with someone,” he said with a grin and turned to climb in his car. This time I let him go, turning down the sidewalk and beginning my trek back to the clock shop. I know when he says all relationships have their issues, he's right. I guess there are just different ones that can come up if there is an age difference. He got into this with the idea I'd sleep with him if we developed chemistry or something, I guess. I just wanted to learn from someone older that was in a different position than my parents.
My dad works at an independent home improvement store. They get squeezed by the national chains, but they have a strong local presence in the community, so they do all right. The thing is my dad won't ever be a big shot, nor my mom, who works as a vet tech. They have said more than once they are happy – but how? People in the 'haves' column make all the rules. They decide who gets what, so how can you be happy with your tiny house outside of town and two kids? How does that equal happy?
Then again, Gary has a high position in his company – relatively speaking – with a wife and two kids. That doesn't make him happy – or is happiness and being fulfilled different? Was Gary just a bad example? Maybe I need to look for a different kind of sugar daddy – or is Gary the exception in that others would expect to fuck me for paying me?
If that was the case, maybe I do need a pay pig – someone who basically worships me financially. That is probably harder to come by, and also doesn't help me achieve any real kind of power. Money is power, but only if you have the wisdom to spend it the right way. Every time I dream about being rich, some snag in reality – usually people – screws it up for me. Like I'll think about building this nice big house, but then there will be a bad neighbor who will fight me in court over a property line or something and I have to get nasty and they won't let it go.
I can't even dream big the right way.
The old guy behind the counter at the clock place was working on something with a lot of gears, probably the guts of some malfunctioning clock. Or maybe it was the cogs of a clockwork robot with a malicious A.I. - and maybe the old guy behind the counter was actually repairing his own gearing. I need to write a book or something.
The old fellow coughed and looked up at me. “Help you?”
“Hi, yeah, I'm looking for junk gears for a project. I was hoping you may have some damaged parts.”
He straightened. “What sort of project uses broken gears?”
I smiled. “Art.”
He coughed, but seemed to be laughing as well. “Right, I guess that'd do it. Well, not sure if I have anything very useful – well, not as a working gear anyway.” He turned from me and went through an open doorway where I couldn't see, so I looked around at the various clocks on the walls. He had cuckoo clocks, big grandfather clocks with the heavy weights behind a pendulum and one of those ones with the cat eyes that go back and forth and the tail swishes. Creepy fucking thing.
One of the cuckoos did its thing and I jumped, having been starring at the cat eyes.
“Well, this is what I have,” he said, returning with a small box. “I set things aside because I may have to fix something in order to repair something else, but these are the bottom of the barrel. See if anything there would work for you.”
“Great, thanks!” I said with enthusiasm and started picking things out of the box and setting them on the counter. There were all sorts of mismatched gears – some with missing teeth, some warped and others with a crack down the center, probably not letting them turn properly on a shaft. As I laid the gears out my mind turned in a whirl of creativity. There were no logical 'first this, then that' kind of thoughts. It was more like a whirl of unconscious thoughts that occasionally tapped my conscious mind to let it know what was going on before going back under to work on a decision.
I wondered about taking some of the little gears and attaching some chain to them to form a necklace or collar, and maybe some other stuff to use as a crown. Andy had floated the idea of using the gears, maybe with some adhesive, to highlight or cover my nipples, but my goal wasn't really to draw attention to my body. I wanted it be part of the overall expression. I could attach some to a pair of briefs, or maybe just a line as a happy trail of successively larger cogs – but was that what I wanted to aim for? What else would go around this? Maybe some copper piping and gauges of some kind?
“Any of that work for you?” His voice shook me from my focus on the gears before me.
“Yeah, I think I can use just about everything, actually,” I said. “How much for the box?”
He waved his hand in a shooing gesture. “Get outta here. Go. Make some art.”
I smiled and dipped my chin down. “Really?”
“Go on before I change my mind for the buck-and-a-half the metal might be worth,” he said with a chuckle.
“Thanks!” I gathered the gears back into the little box and headed for the door. Walking a block down to a city bus stop I sat on a bench and pulled my phone out to look at local free stuff people were leaving out. I needed some mechanical thing I could take apart to build this thing out – or to use in the background to complete the effect. Idly scrolling through the 'free' section, discarding things like vacuum cleaners since their hoses were flexible, probably filthy and the pipes were straight and too long. There just wasn't a whole lot I could think of that used a lot of tubing that I could scavenge.
I ended up walking to a big-box home improvement store to look through their piping for something to inspire me. I was pretty sure there was a small pipe bender out in my dad's workshop, so there was likely something to cut the pipe with as well. Copper piping was expensive, but a length of electrical conduit wasn't so bad. Of course it would be cheaper to buy it where my dad works, especially if they had any damaged stuff. I elected to wait.
I checked in with my parents. They were having lunch about twenty minutes away, so I took a ride-share home to get started on my project. My dad's workshop fills the entire detached garage, and he's got a little of everything in there: woodworking, welding, automotive – just all kinds of stuff. You may think that there is some kind of order to it all, but if there is I haven't figured it out yet. I whiled away the rest of the day thinking up ideas and seeing how I could best use my gears to make a costume.