-Justin - I want to meet you. For REAL this time. Pick a place. I'll be there - I promise! Brian.
This was the note Justin found upon his return from Boston. He hadn't even been upstairs yet to get rid of his bags. He couldn't figure out what had brought this on. Brian had never been this insistent before. He thought he'd been lucky to arrive at the regular meeting time - if Brian was here maybe he could figure out what was going on?
-Brian, What do you mean? What drugs have you been doing? What brought this on? I just got back and I'm confused. J.
-Come on Justin. Pick a place - where have you always wanted to go. It'll be a DATE. You know I don't normally do dates, so you should take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity while it lasts. How about New Year's Eve? What do you say? B.
-New Year's Eve? That's in, like, four days. Are you serious? J.
-Just tell me where and when and I'll be there. B.
-But, Brian, It won't be just four days for you. You're gonna have to wait two years. Are you sure? J.
-I know. I don't care. I'll wait. And I've never been so sure of anything in my life. B.
-I don't know. How can this work? J.
-Justin. Just pick a place and a time. B.
-Okay. I'll see you in two years, Brian. J.
-I'll see you in four days, Justin. Now, where would you like to go? B.
-El Mare. But you'd better get our reservations in now. They're always booked several months in advance. J.
-Done. Can't wait! B.
-You'll have to - for two years and four days, to be exact. J.
-It's only time, Sunshine. B.
(December 27, 1999 - 9:30 pm)
Brian's last encounter with Justin here in his own time had served merely to whet his appetite. He wanted and needed more. He wanted the Justin he had come to know so well, and he wanted him in the flesh at the same time. He'd been thinking all week, while Justin had been in Boston, how he could make this happen. He'd come to the realization that he would just have to wait until he could be with Justin in all ways. He wasn't normally a patient man, but for this he would wait. He couldn't think of anything that would change his mind about this - he would never NOT want to be with Justin - wherever he was in two years, whoever he was, there was no possibility that he wouldn't still want his Sunshine. If he had to wait for two years, he would.
First thing he did, after signing off with Justin, was to rush upstairs, grab his car keys and speed over to El Mare. The restaurant was posh - a great place to bring someone you needed to impress - Brian had often taken clients here for dinner and he knew the hostess.
"Maria. I need to make some reservations," Brian gave the woman his best, most winning smile. It was always a good idea to keep on the good side of the people who could make his life easier - and this woman was one of those people. She had often been able to get him a table even when the restaurant was booked, all it took was a little of the Kinney charm.
"When will you be dining with us, Mr. Kinney?" Maria asked, easily falling under the spell of the tall, sensual brunet.
"New Year's Eve, 2001".
"2001?" Maria had thought that Mr. Kinney would be here in person only if he needed to finagle a table for some immediate need - otherwise she usually just spoke to his assistant, Cynthia. This request for a reservation more than two years in the future threw her a little. She wasn't sure she'd heard him correctly.
"Yes. December 31, 2001. 7:30 pm. I want your best table - the booth by the window - the one with the view of the pond. And, I'll want your best champagne already chilled when I get here." Brian's mind was already making plans. This would be the perfect night, he thought.
"Very good, Mr. Kinney. I'm sure we can accomodate your plans," Maria concluded with a smile, sensing that this particular reservation was for something special. She was curious to see what it was all about.
(December 31, 2001 - 7:30 pm)
Justin entered the foyer of El Mare with uncertain steps. This was one of the most exclusive restaurants in town and he wasn't sure if he was dressed up enough. His off-the-rack suit didn't seem to cut it amidst the designer labels and custom made suits of the men around him. He was apprehensive about finally meeting Brian - well, finally meeting him again, he supposed. He wasn't the same person he'd been back when he'd met Brian at that art show at the GLC. He wasn't sure if Brian would still want the man he was now after he'd had the hot, vibrant, carefree Justin he'd been back then. 'Well, here goes . . . ,' he steeled his nerves and approached the reception podium.
"Name?" the hostess asked, a little disdainfully, as she eyed this nervous and unimpressive young man.
"Taylor. Or, maybe Kinney. I don't know," Justin returned, even more uncertain.
"Oh . . ." the hostess brightened up immediately hearing the name the reservation was under. "Yes, of course. You must be Mr. Kinney's special . . . We've all been curious. This reservation was made so long ago, we couldn't wait to see who it was for," gushed Maria, who was gratified to finally satisfy her curiosity. The petit blond man standing before her was not Mr. Kinney's usual type, she thought, having been acquainted with many of the powerful ad-exec's prior dinner guests. He wasn't bad looking though, she thought. "Right this way, sir. Your table has been waiting."
Maria led Justin to a large booth near the front windows of the restaurant. "Your waiter will be right with you," she said, placing the menus on the table with her most gracious smile. Justin slid into the semi-circular booth, admiring the sage green upholstry, the rich dark wood furniture and the elegant table set with a crisp white table cloth, sparkling crystal and abundant candles.
A waiter appeared almost at once, placing a large, free-standing silver champagne bucket next to the table before Justin had even had the chance to look around. "Compliments of Mr. Kinney, sir," the waiter simpered as he placed two crystal champagne flutes on the table and poured Justin a glass before he hastily departed. Justin took a sip of the delicious bubbly beverage and smiled to himself thinking this couldn't be more perfect.
He looked around at the crowded restaurant. It was New Year's Eve and even though it was early yet, the other patrons were already starting to celebrate - it was relatively loud for such an up-scale establishment. He could see the nearby pond through the front windows and saw that there was a gazebo set up nearby serving hot chocolate and food to the happily twirling ice skaters gliding about on the frozen surface. Yes, the setting was absolutely perfect. Now, where was Brian?
Justin impatiently scanned the crowd at the door, trying to locate the tall brunet through the throngs of people. He glanced at his watch and noted it was already 7:45. He took a deep breath, another sip of his champagne and tried to settle himself more comfortably into the plush booth. He declined to order any appetizers when the waiter returned, preferring to wait for Brian. He would wait.
As the minutes and then hours crept by, Justin continued to wait. The other diners would occassionally look over at the sad looking, but attractive young man sitting in the elegant booth and smile in sympathy. Justin's stomach had knotted up long ago and he couldn't have eaten now even if he wanted to. He simply continued to sip slowly at the champagne until the bottle was empty. And still he sat and waited.
A feeling of dread was growing in the pit of his stomach and depression was settling in to weigh down his soul. When midnight came with the typical singing, celebrating and noise makers, he didn't even look up from his lap. Soon after that the restaurant began to empty, the wait staff clearing the tables, putting away the china and glassware, blowing out the candles.
When Justin could no longer stand the sorrow filled glances of the hostess lingering on him, he finally rose, threw down some money on the table and ran out of the building. He stopped at the edge of the frozen pond, sinking down in a bank of snow as two solitary tears slowly seeped out of his deep blue pain-filled eyes, running down his cheeks and dropping onto the snow.
Justin reached to his left wrist and grasped the cowry shell bracelet hidden there under the cuff of his dress shirt - a technique his counsellor had taught him to help hold off the waves of panic he could feel threatening to overwhelm him. He didn't want to think or feel. He wasn't sure what had happened to keep Brian away, but deep in his gut there was a feeling of dread. His mind shied away from examining that feeling. He couldn't go there. He didn't want to acknowledge whatever was lurking in those feelings. He just wanted to run, to hide, to somehow be free of these reoccuring feelings of loss and panic.
Grasping the reassuring anchor that was his bracelet, he took several steadying breaths, then slowly got to his feet and walked toward the taxi stand two blocks away where he knew he could get a cab back to the loft. He willed his mind to stay blank. He thought about the snow on the ground, the chill seeping through his warm jacket due to the falling temperatures, the line at the taxi stand which was surprizingly long considering the hour. He did not think about the restaurant, or Brian or whatever it was nagging at the edges of his memory.
(January 1, 2000 - 9:00 am)
-You weren't there. You didn't come. J.
-I don't understand. Something must have happened. I don't know what could have kept me away. I'm sorry, Justin. I've got two years, Sunshine. I'll figure out what happened. We can try again. B.
-No, Brian. It's too late. It already happened. It didn't work. J.
-Don't give up on me Sunshine. Give me another chance. I will find a way for us to be together. I have to. B.
-This is real life, Brian. Sometimes you don't get a second chance. Life can be over in the blink of an eye. Just ask the guy who tried to help me after my Prom. One minute he was there and the next he was gone - his life over, just like that. When I moved in here I was still reeling from the consequences of that night and I let myself get lost in this beautiful fantasy with you. Time stood still, and let me heal - you helped me to heal. But it's not real, Brian. What if this was never really meant to be? How can we wait and hope and long for this when it's possible it will never happen? What are we doing trying to live out this impossible fantasy while real life is passing us by? God, it's killing me - wanting you, to be with you, knowing it's not likely it will ever happen. I can't go on like this. I can't live forever with just the fantasy of you. I don't want you to have to live like that either - you deserve so much more. You deserve to be happy and have someone real who can be with you and make love to you and make you happy. I have to learn to live the life that I have. You shouldn't be waiting around for me, either.
Please don't write any more. Don't try to find me in the past. Let me, let you go.
Goodbye, Brian. Thank you for everything.
"Sunshine, no! Don't do this," Brian cried out. Crushing the note in his fist and slamming it against the wall in frustration, heedless of the pain. Brian stood there in the lobby, staring at the god damn mailbox that had started all this. He couldn't understand what had happened. It couldn't end like this, could it? He wouldn't let it end like this! There had to be some way. He quickly jotted down another plea to his Sunshine not to do this - not to push him away. He shoved it into the box, flipped the outgoing mail lever and waited. There was a very brief pause, then the paper reappeared in the box. He grabbed it as quickly as he could get the box opened but saw it hadn't even been unfolded. There was no response from Justin. He hadn't even opened the note or read Brian's last entreaty.
Justin was letting him go.