The Boy Who Came in From the Cold (6 page)

BOOK: The Boy Who Came in From the Cold
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Todd looked at the handsome (sexy) man and saw the anguish in his (beautiful) eyes. What did Gabe have to be sorry for?
“Your wine,” Todd said.

“Wine?”
“I’m sorry for gulping down your wine.”
“Todd, it’s just wine. I can buy more.”

“Aren’t you having any?” Todd asked, and for some reason thought he might cry again. But there were just no tears left.

Gabe sat down on one of the two chairs instead of the couch, placed the bottle on the coffee table, and picked up his own glass, barely touched. Took a small swallow, closed his eyes, leaned back in his chair.

Todd looked at his own glass. He sipped the wine this time. Closed his eyes. It was sweet. Was there something more he was supposed to be getting out of it? He peeked out at Gabe and then closed his eyes again. Another sip. Then, to his surprise, he did note

something. He hadn’t noticed at first because the flavor was so intense. Blackberries. This was made from blackberries. And just taking a sip… why, your tongue just soaked it up. God. What would happen if you warmed this up and poured it over ice cream? Would that be crazy?

“You want something stronger? Scotch? Whisky?”

Todd opened his eyes again, shook his head. “Don’t like them,” he said even though he’d only tried the latter. “I was just wondering what this would be like over ice cream.”

Gabe beamed. “I love having it that way.”
“Really?” Todd asked, pleased.
And she threw me out of her restaurant!
“I’d get you some, but I don’t think I’ve got any,” Gabe said.

“We could always put it over snow.”
Todd shuddered. “No snow for me, thanks.”
“I was just kidding,” Gabe said with a smile.

They sat, quietly enjoying their wine, neither saying a word for a while.

 

Then Gabe: “Do you want to watch TV? A movie?”

Todd looked at the big screen and wondered what watching something like that would be like. He glanced back through the balcony doors. The aforementioned snow was gathering outside the doors despite the fact that the balcony had its own roof. Tomorrow he’d be back out in that. Why experience something that would only make the truth of homelessness feel all the worse? “I don’t think so,” he said.

There was another long silence. With each passing second, Todd was all the more uncomfortable. Should he say something? What, for God’s sakes? And what might Gabe say if he didn’t say something first?

“Todd, I know this looks like the end of the world, but the years I have on you mean I can tell you this. It gets better. Things will get better.”

“Oh yeah,” Todd said, trying to swallow the sarcasm. “A good night’s sleep and everything will be better in the morning.”

That was it. Todd snapped. “Better in the morning? Better? How’s it going to be better? Tell me!” He stared at the man.
Gabe didn’t say anything right away. Of course not. What could he say? Was he going to give him some new age bullshit about how the sun always rises in the morning? “Do you know the son of a bitch that locked me out of my apartment has
all
my stuff? Did I tell you that? He won’t even let me have my clothes.”
“Jesus,” Gabe whispered.

“He’s got my laptop. Everything is on my laptop. Stuff I can’t replace. Screw the other shit—” well, most of it “—but my laptop! My pictures. My music. But most of all, my recipes.”

“I’d assume going home isn’t an option?”
“No way. I can’t. I can
not
. It’s not pride either, if that’s what you’re thinking. My parents—Mom, my frigging stepdad—told me if I left I can’t come back. Can you believe that? I’m twenty. You move out by the time you’re twenty. It’s normal. Most kids move out when

they’re eighteen. Most of my classmates have kids already.” Todd looked away. “My stepdad says only faggots want to be chefs. He said that if I went to Kansas City, I’d be nothing but a dirty cocksucker in no time, and he didn’t want a cocksucker in his house.
His
house? It’s my mom’s house.” Todd took a shaking breath. “I left anyway. I couldn’t live with
him
anymore and I didn’t want to live with Joan.”

Especially after what she did.
“Joan?”
“My girlfriend.” He laughed. “Yeah, right.”
Except….

Except somewhere along the line it all went wrong, didn’t it? When we decided it was time to be doing what everyone else was doing? And when she….

“So you came to Kansas City to learn to cook?”

Todd raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I
know
how to cook,” he said, nodding emphatically. “I may have only worked at a Pizza Hut and a McDonalds, but I know how to cook. What I need are the certificates. A school. I wanted to learn from Izar Goya. Boy did I want to. But she wouldn’t take me.”

“The chef of Izar’s Jatetxea?”
“You’ve heard of her?” Todd asked, surprised.
“Ofcourse. I didn’t know she teaches, though.”

“She doesn’t. Not really. She has a show, and I watch it and do what she’s doing, and sometimes it turns out great—”

(
“What the fuck is this? Can’t you just make a goddamn burger or a friggin’ meatloaf? What is this supposed to be?”
)
“—and sometimes it doesn’t. How can you learn by watching on TV? You can’t smell or taste or feel what they’re doing. I need someone to watch over me. I was hoping I could talk her into it. But she threw me out of her restaurant.”

Gabe sighed and shook his head.
“So I went with my backup plan. I checked out the culinary schools and realized I hadn’t saved up near enough money. I
did
find a school that’s all but free if you can show that you need financial help. I filled out all these forms and shit, proved how poor I am? It’s part of

those programs where they want to help people start a career. Cooking basics and stuff like that. But the waiting list is like a year long…”

“Damn….”
“… and before I knew it I didn’t have any money left.”

“Surely you could get a job as a cook somewhere. You said Mickey D’s?”
Todd sneered.

“Chubby’s.
Some
place. Aren’t small restaurants always looking for cooks?” Gabe asked.

“I worked for McDonalds until they fired me for being late.
Once
. My van broke down. It was a piece of shit, but it was mine.” He paused, looked into Gabe’s amazing blue eyes, felt his heart speed up, and found himself blushing for about the hundredth time in the last hour or so.
Change the subject.
“What kind of car do you have?”

Gabe opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He shrugged. “You don’t know what kind of a car you have?” Todd asked. Gabe sighed. “A Saturn Sky.”
“A Saturn Sky? I’m not sure what that is,” he replied. “It’s no big deal. Just a little sports car.”

“Something sexy?” Todd asked before thinking. He blushed. Now why had he said that? Thoughts to words again. Why didn’t he ever think before the words tumbled out?

“I guess so.” Gabe looked away. “Where is your van now?”

Todd’s face and mood fell that fast. “Gone,” he replied. “It was already on its last legs and didn’t like the almost three-hour drive to Kansas City. It acted wonky ever since we got here. Then one day it just died. I had a local guy look at it, and he said it would be cheaper to get a new piece of shit than to fix
my
piece of shit.”

“Fix it anyway,” Gabe said.
“Can’t. Damn landlord had it hauled away as an abandoned vehicle. They kept it in a lot, adding twenty dollars a day to get it back—which I couldn’t afford on the first day, let alone all the added ones—and then it vanished. I guess they took it to a junk yard.” Todd

sighed. He gave a humorless laugh. “Ironic, isn’t it? The junk yard? That’s where I’m headed.”

“Todd, you aren’t headed to the junkyard.”
“Then where am I headed?” Todd asked.

“Well, from what you’re saying, just about any place is better than where you were.”
Todd surprised himself when he laughed. “No shit. The Dove sure isn’t paradise.”

“Not sure I know it,” Gabe said.
“It’s on Main by the Red Garter. I lived right next to a strip club.”

“Okay. Sure.” Gabe gave a little chuckle. “I know where it is. It’s an eyesore. And I guess I knew there were apartments there—” “Roach-infested firetraps is more like it. But it was home.”

There was another long pause. “Todd, I don’t know what to say to you that won’t sound like total bullshit. I want you to believe me, but I can’t make you. I’m sorry that you took a chance on your dreams and got kicked in the teeth. But that doesn’t mean chances aren’t worth taking. You just have to try again.”

Todd shook his head.
“I mean it. What have you got to lose?”
Todd turned to make another biting comment, then just stopped.

He thought about it. Shit. He had no job, almost no money, no home—not even a roach-infested firetrap. What
did
he have to lose? There was nothing left
to
lose. All he had was that twenty bucks and the clothes on his back. And one night out of the cold.

“The only way is up, right?” Gabe asked him.
Todd sighed. “I suppose so.”
Gabe reached out and patted Todd’s knee.
“What am I supposed to do?” the kid asked.

“Well, tonight you’re supposed to relax. Tomorrow will take care of tomorrow. You never know what’s just around the bend in the road.”

“A sign that says ‘Bridge Out’?” Todd asked in reply. “Maybe.”
Todd looked up from his lap and into Gabe’s eyes. God, those

eyes. Like glass marbles or polished stones. They sparkled. They were gorgeous. So blue and so…. Shit. There he went again. He looked away. Away from those eyes.
Why do I feel like this? What’s he doing to me?

“You know I was driving home from my mom’s in Arkansas once—”

“Arkansas?” Gabe was from Arkansas?
“Yes.” Gabe raised a brow.
Todd smirked. “You’re from
Ar
kansas?”

“No. I’m not from Arkansas. But my mom moved there with her sister after she divorced my dad. I was visiting her. Can I finish?” Todd nodded.

“So I was driving these really winding country roads and came around this sharp curve and I swear I saw a UFO.”
Todd gave a bark of laughter. “What?” Was he kidding? He looked into those eyes again, trying to judge if the man was pulling his leg. That meant, though, he was indeed looking in those eyes again, and he quickly turned away. Dangerous. Those eyes were frigging dangerous.
“I know it sounds crazy. But I will believe it forever. It was all black and big and had all these weird angles, and it looked like something that shouldn’t be able to fly. I saw it for half a second and then it was gone just like that”—Gabe snapped his fingers—“right into the trees.”
Todd dared a glance back at Gabe. He had to talk to the guy after all. “Were you smoking some wacky-tobacky?”

“Daniel, my boyfriend at the time, swears to this day that I was. But I wasn’t. I don’t smoke pot.”

Of course he doesn’t
, Todd thought. “You’re crazy, then.” “Maybe. I don’t deny it. But once—not as long ago as you might think, but longer than I would like to say—life was pretty bad for me too.”
Todd looked around the room. It was hard to imagine.
“Then something happened and something else happened and finally I was here.”
“You’ve got it all,” Todd replied.
Gabe shook his head, a sad tone in his voice. “No. I don’t have it all. But one day. One day I will.”
The confidence
, Todd thought. He looked around the room again.

BOOK: The Boy Who Came in From the Cold
3.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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