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Woll sent a message to the Indigo first thing in the morning that he would be extremely grateful if Julian would take coffee with him at ten o'clock. Julian, who'd only had about four hours sleep, wasn't as grateful for this was Woll might have expected, and seriously considered sending a message back to the tune that Woll could take a running jump!
"But it's Toppy's first day", Adam protested "It would be nice for him to have a friendly face around as he starts his duties".
"I'm not a friendly face", Julian growled.
Nonetheless he went to the hotel at the appointed hour, and met Woll in the little sitting-room behind the bar. Woll had just consumed a large breakfast, and so wasn't feeling as timid as usual. As they sat down Toppy came in carrying at tray of two coffees, and wearing his old uniform that he had worn when in service to Pendor. Fortunately he hadn't grown too much in the past couple of years, and so the outfit hadn't had to be take out too drastically. He approached Julian with gobsmacked awe and set the tray in front of him.
"Is that alright, Julian?" he asked, in a hushed voice.
"Don't ask me", said Julian "It's Woll who's paying for it".
"It all looks most satisfactory", said Woll.
"How are you getting on?" asked Julian.
"O.K", Toppy sighed "Except the owner's son doesn't like me, and keeps trying to bully me. He's a right nasty little shi ..."
"What an elegant turn of phrase you've picked up since living on the Indigo", said Julian, as Toppy broke off in embarrassment "Alright Toppy, that will be all".
After Toppy had gone back to his new duties, Woll solemnly got out his deck of house photographs and laid them out for Julian to see. Julian wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to say about them, but he wasn't particularly impressed. His ancestral home had been on that scale, and so he wasn't awed by it. Added to that he knew Woll was trying to convince him that Hillyard would be far better off in this pile in the country than on the Indigo. Julian had little patience with such tricks, and instead concentrated on scanning the ash-trays to see if anyone had left any cigarette butts in them. When he saw that they had been ruthlessly cleaned, he drank his coffee and got up to leave. Woll couldn't think of anything brave enough to say to detain him.
Out in the corridor Toppy was in trouble with Milich, Myrtle the manageress's son, a 19-year-old boy who could never forget for one moment that his mother ran one of the most successful businesses in town. Not that he himself ever did a stroke of work, but he didn't regard this as a matter of consequence.
Toppy was in trouble with him, because Hillyard and Lonts had turned up unexpectedly at the back door to see how Toppy was getting on. Toppy had shooed them away in terror, whilst at the same time envying them for being free to wander about the town on such a sunny morning. Unfortunately Milich had noticed all this and had made Toppy beg his forgiveness for this gross dereliction of duty on bended knee. Not content with that he then made him kiss his feet.
"Can't you afford shoe-polish in this hotel?" said Julian, appearing as this little scene was in progress.
Milich had the grace to look abashed.
"See you tonight, Toppy", said Julian, as he left.
"But that's terrible, Jules!" Adam gasped.
"Ada, you brainless old bimbo, you're getting so predictable in your senility", said Julian, sitting down at the table in the galley "I just knew you'd come out with something overly-dramatic like that".
"You should've sorted Milich out".
"No I shouldn't. It's Toppy he's bullying, not me. And it's Toppy who's got to work there, not me. It's time that boy started defending himself. We've all been through it".
"I bet you haven't", said Joby "I bet you were the bully at his age, not the victim".
"That is very true", said Adam.
"Rubbish", said Julian "I wasn't as bad as Milich, was I?"
"Yes", said Adam, bluntly.
"I never made you kiss my feet", Julian protested.
"I'd have bitten your bloody ankle that's why!" said Adam "I was warned about you at a very young age. There I was, a sad, lonely little boy, having been sent away from home. And the very first time I met you, you gave me a good hiding!"
"You should've given him one back", said Joby.
"I did. Eventually", said Adam "Although it took me some time to pluck up the courage".
"Exactly", said Julian "I rest my case. That is what Toppy's going to have to do. If we find he's incapable of it though he can always resign. It's no big deal. Old rag face's place isn't the only one in town that would employ him. Plenty of cafe-bars round here require someone of his experience to wait at table".
"Old rag face?" said Joby "Who's old rag face?"
"Myrtle", said Julian "She always looks like she needs ironing to me".
"I can see Milich's going to end up just like you!" said Joby.
"No, he hasn't got my aristocratic charm", said Julian.
"Shame you didn't use it to get some money out of Woll", said Joby.
"Good grief, no", said Julian "He might regard it as a down-payment on Hillyard!"
Tamaz slunk past the door, casting a lascivious look at them all as he did so.
"What was that muck on his face?" said Julian, in disbelief.
"Glynis sent over some old cosmetics for him", said Adam "It's kept him amused all morning, putting on lipstick, and varnishing his nails and such like".
"I said he always gets more girlified when he's on his period", said Joby.
"So we have to put up with him slinking around here like some painted tart?" said Julian "Sitting around in his wrap and frillies, painting his toes!"
"Well unless you can think of something useful for him to do", said Joby "That's about the size of it!"
"He's been very well-behaved", said Adam "Hasn't given us a moment of trouble. In fact it's easier looking after him here than when he's in the cage. I don't have to remember to sor this food-pail out, and there isn't the usual argument over who has to empty his loo-bucket".
"Looking after him!" Julian exclaimed "Looking after him! It's not us who are running a bloody hotel! He needn't think he's going to sit around like some pampered floozie whilst we attend to his every whim!"
"An iced coffee please, Persephone", said Adam, standing at the bar, which was near deserted.
Persephone looked completely askance to see him there alone.
"Adam", she said "You've been in here a lot lately".
"Twice in one week", he said "I'll be getting quite a reputation won't I! Particularly ordering all these Tequila slammers with whisky chasers!"
"I don't expect Julian would be too pleased at you being in here", said Persephone, leaving Adam almost speechless with indignation.
"My dear girl", he said, when he finally recovered his voice "I really couldn't give a hoot whether Julian likes it or not. In fact, the thought that Julian might be annoyed or inconvenienced in any way by me being here tonight fills me with utter joy! And if you'd had to put up with him all afternoon you'd feel the same!"
They say that a drowning man sees his whole life passing in front of him. As Adam stirred his coffee a few minutes later he saw his entire life with Julian pass before him. It was the best of times and the worst of times, as Charles Dickens had once said, and their relationship could be described adequately in the same terms. Julian, that maddening, conceited, arrogant male, who had always behaved abominably. But there was no denying he was also such fun, and at the heart of him still lurked the insecure little boy. The same one who had once begged Adam not to leave him as "you're the only person in the whole world who loves me". Adam gave a heartfelt sigh, and was just reliving in his mind some of their most tempestuous arguments when he realised Woll was watching him.
"I-I'm sorry to intrude", Woll stammered "I was wondering whether to attract your attention or not, but you seemed to be dwelling on something frightfully important".
"Julian actually", Adam sighed "He's like a bear with a sore head at the moment. Not enough to do, I suppose. I really think we're going to have to go off on our travels again, if only to keep him occupied".
"I was about to have a liquour, would you care to join me?" said Woll.
"I'll have another iced coffee if you don't mind", said Adam "Are you here alone?"
"Yes", said Woll "I got tired of the hotel and fancied a change of scene".
"Hotels aren't much fun if you're alone", said Adam.
"Do you know where Hillyard is this evening?" asked Woll.
"He had an afternoon shift at the bath-house", said Adam "He hadn't got back before I left the Indigo. He earns a bit extra there, helping some of the oldies and infirm in and out of the tubs. He's also a very good masseur. Patsy swore by him when he was President, helped to alleviate a lot of stress and tension. Likewise Julian found the same when we were sailing round the world".
What am I doing selling Hillyard's qualities to him?! though Adam, with a jolt. I should be trying to put him off him, warning him that no member of Woll's staff will be safe if Hillyard gets there! Adam felt sorry for Woll though. Here was this man, who was rich as Croesus, reduced to prowling the town looking for company like a society reject.
"If you get truly fed up of course", said Adam "You can pop over to the Indigo anytime. There's usually someone in, even if it's only Tamaz!"
"Hillyard still hasn't given me an answer you know", said Woll "I know it's a big decision, and he needs time ..."
"He will get back to you very soon", said Adam, feeling he'd better remind Hillyard some time, as he wouldn't put it past him to have forgotten!
Persephone put the drinks in front of them, and then moved away whilst giving Adam a worried look. Adam blew her a saucy kiss, and she looked completely bewildered. Very soon after Jonner and Fradie appeared in the bar, and Woll had to resign himself to the fact that his private conversation with Adam was over.
"Adam", said Jonner, looking unbearably earnest "It is me, Jonner".
"Yes I'm aware of that, old love", said Adam "I only saw you two days ago!"
"And what a meeting eh?" Fradie snorted, having a fit of the giggles "How you fags can get pleasure from pawing each other's bodies is beyond me".
"Like most things are, apparently", Adam snapped "If you go around broadcasting every slightest encounter you get, Jonner, I'm not surprised it doesn't happen too often!"
"I needed to talk to someone", said Jonner "And Fradie is perfect when it ... when it comes to affairs of the heart".
"I find that highly implausible!" said Adam "He hasn't been able to stop laughing since he's come in here!"
"Two old fags in an artist's studio", said Fradie, practically wetting himself with laughter "Who gets the short straw then? Who's the one who gets it up him?!"
"Could you take him outside Jonner, and turn a hose on him!" said Adam, testily.
"He's had a little to drink already", said Jonner, who didn't sound none too sober himself.
Fortunately Adam was distracted by Lonts appearing outside the open window, with Snowy tucked under his arm.
"You disappeared, Adam", he said, when Adam went over to him.
"I'm sorry, old love", said Adam "I thought you were playing draughts with Joby, and I had to get away from Julian before he drove me out of my mind once and for all".
"I see Jonner is with you", said Lonts, sounding frighteningly serious.
"He's not with me as such", said Adam "I was talking to Woll and he just turned up with Fradie. Lo-Lo ..."
"Yes I know all about it", said Lonts "Tamaz told me".
"How did he know? Oh never mind. Look, the important thing is, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. I'm hardly going to swap you for Jonner am I!"
"It's o.k, Adam", said Lonts "I won't cause a scene. I shall be dignified".
Adam felt that this should terrify everybody even more than one of his rages!
"Why don't you come inside and join us?" said Adam.
Lonts passed him Snowy and then climbed in through the window.
"Hey kid", said Fradie "You heard all about ..."
"I'd stop right there if I was you", said Adam "Where Lo-Lo comes from men have been staked out on the tundra for less!"
Joby and Kieran turned up soon after, and Fradie turned his attentions to a "metaphysical discussion", which annoyed the hell out of Joby who'd been hoping for a quiet drink.
"Just what do you expect to achieve by moving Tamaz onto the Indigo?" said Fradie, striking a match off the side of the bar and lighting a cigarette "Are you hoping to prove to us all that evil demons can be rehabilitated? Isn't that carrying the Christian concept of forgiveness too far?"
"I don't see how it can be taken too far", said Kieran "Forgiveness is vital in all things. Not to absolve evil from what it's done, but because the essence of life is to move forward, and you can't do that if we're constantly dragging around excess spiritual baggage. All too often people who've been hurt or suffered tragedies aren't allowed to move on by those around them. They are marked out as tragic victims, and made to remain that way for the rest of their lives. It's wrong. Forgiveness isn't so much a case of forgiving the evil perpetrator of your tragedy, but being kind to your own inner self, allowing yourself the chance to heal. Anyway, Tamaz isn't truly evil. He's spoilt, wilful and at his worst can be callous and wicked. But we've known evil and he isn't it".
"That's certainly true", said Joby.
"I can be around Tamaz and not be bothered by him", Kieran continued "With Angel for example that was impossible. Just to be near him sometimes made me feel physically sick, to feel so downhearted that even the simplest tasks were beyond me. On that scale Tamaz isn't even on the same graph".
There was a long pause, and then Fradie rallied himself with a blindingly predicatable question.
"About sex", he said "You had women in your old life, in your own time, in fact you were married to one. So how do cope with their reappearance now? Do you get aroused by the women on the waterfront?"
"That's not your concern", said Kieran, crisply.
"But you stick in a homosexual relationship when you're not naturally that way inclined", said Fradie, incredulously "When there's no need to be anymore!"
"For most of me adult life I haven't regarded meself as straight, gay or Arthur/Martha", said Kieran "Human beings aren't that clear-cut. We are at the mercy of our subconscious, and we are all a mix of everything".
"Not true", said Fradie "I am completely straight".
"Yeah, so you say", said Joby "The ones who shout the loudest and all that".
"Alright, look at Adam", said Fradie.
"Why?" said Adam.
"He's an old fairy", said Fradie "No offence, you understand?"
"Oh don't mind me!" said Adam, dryly.
"By your reckoning, Kieran", said Fradie "He should also be complex. So he should have straight moments. Have you ever had a straight moment, Adam?"
"If he had, he probably missed it!" Joby laughed.
"Joby took the words right out of my mouth", said Adam "I think Patsy's point is that some humans are far more complex and diverse than others. But I fully agree that we can't always dictate where our hearts lie. That fact has been with us since human life evolved, and I can't see it ever changing. People don't CHOOSE to be straight or gay, and many find themselves being both at different stages of their lives. It's what makes us all so perenially fascinating".
"Sexual attraction", said Jonner, wispily "We can be aroused by the strangest things".
"The mind boggles", Joby grunted, looking at him warily.
"Back in Kiskev ..." Lonts began.
"Oh God", said Joby "I've a feeling we're gonna regret this!"
"There was a man who became obsessed with a woman he said he kept seeing in the forest", said Lonts "Of course he didn't really keep seeing her. He imagined it all. It was thought he spent too much time looking at old postcards. Anyway, one day he went off to the mountains, claiming she was waiting for him there. We never saw him again".
"Perhaps she was a Ghoomer, and they got him", said Joby.
"Might be some truth in that", said Kieran.
"There you are!" said Julian, appearing in the room "All having fun together I see".
"Well we were", said Joby.
"We're having an in-depth discussion on sexuality", said Adam "What makes us all tick".
"How would you get on Julian, if you had crossed over into an all-female world?" said Fradie.
"Died of boredom I expect", said Julian.
"How say?" said Fradie "I thought you fags were supposed to enjoy female company".
"Ah but Jules is one of the pink testosterone brigade", said Adam "Only happy if there's plenty of men around for him to lord it over and bully shamelessly. In an all-female world he'd perish from lack of stimulation".
"Perfectly true", said Julian "And I don't see any reason to apologise for that. I do get so tired of this idea that gays all keep poodles and sit around on chintz sofas discussing knitting-patterns!"
"There have always been plenty around like that of course", said Adam.
"But never us", said Julian, firmly "In our younger days we lived in total squalor, and our furniture was usually broken from where Adam had hurled it at me".
"Usually with good cause", said Adam.
"A legacy of living with you", said Julian "I can recall plenty of furniture-wrecking going on between you and Lonts too".
"I haven't done anything like that in ages", said Lonts, and added ominously "It's Only When I Get Upset".
Jonner looked shaken, as well he might, and left soon after.
Ransey had been reading in his cabin, whilst this conversation was going on, waiting for Finia to come back from the Little Theatre, where a new double-bill of shows was due to go into production in a few days time, and which needed Finia to do some drastic re-vamping of the existing costume rack. Ransey had left the cabin-door propped open in the heat, and was only too aware of Tamaz skulking about in the corridor.
"Surely it's time you went and settled down for the night?" he said, his patience getting exhausted.
"I'm not a child", Tamaz called back.
"No, but you are a prisoner", said Ransey, throwing his book onto his bunk "And prisoners have to obey curfews".
"That so?" Tamaz stood in the doorway and held out his wrists "How come I'm not wearing shackles then? Or is it that if you had your way I would be? Or better still I'd be dead!"
"I have no problems with having you around", Ransey sighed "But you must obey a few rules".
"Early to bed, early to rise", Tamaz taunted "Make me into a sensible accountant like daddy dearest!"
Tamaz then gave a yodel of appreciation at his own wit and slipped into Julian's cabin, where his bedding had been set up. Ransey went out into the corridor and shut the door after Tamaz firmly. He then noticed Toppy watching him solemnly from the saloon.
"No need to be alarmed", said Ransey, bashfully "We just have to get used to his little spasms".
"Ransey", Toppy began "Did you really ... with the Gorgon? And is Tamaz really ...?"
"I don't know for sure", said Ransey, going into the saloon "It's impossible to say".
"B-but the Gorgon", said Toppy "She was so dangerous".
"You've got to understand I was a very lonely man in those days. I figured if I was sick of living and wanted to end it all, I might as well ..."
"Have sex first", Toppy concluded for him.
"Something like that, although I've never really counted it as such", said Ransey "But we're all responsible for Tamaz these days, so it makes no difference whether he's of me or not. Do't try and think about it, Toppy. It's not worth giving yourself a brainstorm over".
"I don't think I'll ever get the yearning", said Toppy.
"That's crazy, you're still very young. You don't know what lies ahead. I can only give you one piece of advice, which I wish someone had said to me when I was your age. Don't ever be afraid of your feelings. They're the most important part of you. I was terrified of mine for too long".
"But what if I'm not highly-sexed?" Toppy wailed.
"Who cares?" Ransey shrugged "Neither am I. I get a mild urge occasionally and that's it, but I don't hurl myself into it like the others do. It doesn't stop me loving Finia, and it helps that in those respects we're rather alike. It would be much more difficult if he was very physical ... l-like Adam say. You can only make your partner unhappy if you're not sexually compatible".
"But can you have a relationship without sex?"
"Of course, as long as the other person's happy with that situation too".
"How will I know if I meet this other person?"
"Trial and error, Toppy", said Ransey "That's the only answer I'm afraid. No other way round it. Just relax and be cool, and it won't seem so difficult after all".
The others came home very soon after.
"I'm surprised you're not getting your head down, Toppy", said Adam "You've got an early start tomorrow".
Toppy took the hint very reluctantly and went into Julian's cabin. When he realised he was going to be alone in there with Tamaz he left the door slightly ajar. Everyone else appeared to be having a nightcap in the saloon and Toppy got into bed, listening to the clink of glasses. The overwhelming impression of his first day of honest toil since leaving Pendor's place, seemed to be one of voluntary imprisonment, working whilst everyone else got on with real life. It was all very depressing.
"I've been drinking", said Glynis, swaying on the jetty.
"You and everyone else in town", said Joby, who was on the forward deck watering his tomatoes "Nice dress you've got on. Is it new?"
"I bought it especially", said Glynis, smoothing the purple satin with her hand "I had a date. Dinner at the hotel".
"Anyone we know?"
"No, he's from over the river. Very charming".
"Steady", said Joby, rushing to help her as she tried to climb awkwardly onto the Indigo "Be careful, or you'll end up in the drink. You don't wanna ruin your dress".
"So much would you care!" Glynis shrieked.
"Glynis", said Joby, placatingly "Don't start all that now".
Glynis suddenly clouted him around the head with her purse.
"What did you do that for?" Joby cried "You must have a lead weight in there!"
"I've been wanting to do that for some time", said Glynis "And now I've had my satisfaction I shall go home".
"That's it!" said Joby, storming into the galley where Adam was making coffee "Bloody, BLOODY WOMEN! All I've ever tried to do is be nice to 'em, and I've had nothing but abuse in return. Well that was the last straw. I try to be civilised to Glynis, thinking we can be grown-up about everything, and she starts clouting me with her handbag! Well never again! Adam, can we move?"
"Don't be silly", said Adam "Why should we? Glynis is a very good neighbour. We've never had a word of complaint out of her. I doubt we'd get so lucky again. Remember that grisly pair of old poofs we had in the City? She's just going through a difficult phase where you're concerned at the moment. She'll get over it. I can't understand why it's taking so long actually. I would've thought your charms would've been exhausted in her eyes long ago".
"Oh cheers, thanks", said Joby "All I've ever wanted is a quiet life. It's not as if I go out of my way to upset people, and look what happens! I've got her next door, and bloody Tamaz under the same roof!"
"He hasn't hit you with his handbag has he?" Adam giggled.
"I'm glad you think it's funny! I'm in deep misery here!"
"Nonsense. All you have to do is stop all this 'let's be friends' rubbish with Glynis. It's obviously confusing the poor woman no end".
"What do you suggest I do then? Declare war on her!"
"Distance yourself. It's not easy I know, but I've never had much time for the 'oh we can't be lovers but we can be friends' scenario. In my experience you can be lovers and friends, or you can be lovers, finish, and then be friends. But you can't sit around with unrequited passion hanging over you like the Sword of Damocles. If you have no intention of making love to her, then you have to freeze each other out. It's the only way".
"But I never wanted it that way", said Joby "As far as I'm concerned I wanted us to be friends always ... but not lovers. Between you and me she doesn't do anything for me in that way. Tamaz gets me more aroused than she does!"
"We had noticed!"
"I heard a saying once", Joby mumbled "That abnormal pleasures ruin you for normal ones. Perhaps that's what's happened to me".
"Hardly surprising", Adam sighed "Glynis is very attractive, but there's a certain deadening wholesomeness about her. You've got too used to a life of decadence that's your trouble".
"Too right!" said Joby, on his way to bed "And I'm not giving it up now!"
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