Those who have read Almost Home have already met Gabriel McCullough. I thought I would take a moment to introduce Kasey Whittaker, who comes to stay with Gabe in my upcoming story Going Home.
This piece is titled The Gray Man. It's set about eighteen months before Kasey comes to Gabe's farm, when Kasey is still living in the big city with his then-boyfriend, Brynn.
I hope you enjoy this glimpse of Kasey!
* language warning*
The Gray Man
Kasey looked at the painting, the same force drawing the man’s face down into the urn tugging at him, pulling him in.
“What the fuck is that?”
Brynn’s comment shattered the moment, leaving Kasey suddenly adrift as the connection between himself and the piece was severed. He drew a couple of deep breaths, as though the extra air would weigh him down, anchor him more securely to the floor.
“Seriously, Kase, what is up with that? He has no face!”
“It’s not a portrait, Brynn,” Kasey sighed. “He’s not supposed to have a face.” The face didn’t matter, just the utter exhaustion in the man’s body as he collapsed against the urn, the sorrow, the despair.
“That’s bullshit. People have faces. It’s fucking creepy, is what it is.” Brynn downed the last of his martini and slashed a cuff across his mouth. “Aren’t you done yet?”
Kasey studied Brynn, suddenly as weary as the man in the painting. He had made himself almost as faceless, too, staying in the background and letting Brynn bask in the limelight, letting Brynn’s personality color the tabloids and morning talk shows while he remained gray and silent and clinging.
Even as the image of himself as a gray man chafed at him, Kasey found himself giving in to Brynn’s not-so-subtle hint to leave. “Yes, we can go.” He could come back tomorrow, see the rest of the paintings without the glitterati crowding around and Brynn’s impatience hammering at him. “Let me tell Jonathan we’re leaving and we can grab a cab.”
“Fuck Jonathan. Let’s just go.”
“Go get a cab. I’ll only be a minute.” For a moment Kasey could feel himself coming into focus as Brynn glared at him, all of the molecules of his body pinned under the microscope of Brynn’s ire.
“One minute,” Brynn spat at last, pasting a charming smile on his face before glad-handing his way to the front door.
“He’s really quite charming, Kasey,” came a smooth, educated murmur accompanied by the squeeze of a hand and a kiss on the cheek, “Wherever did you find him?”
The suggestion was there in the lilt of the voice that wherever Kasey had unearthed Brynn, it was someplace unsavory, but the smile that accompanied the words was pleasant and the hand grasping Kasey’s was warm.
“I met Brynn on a blind date, as you are very well aware,” Kasey replied, returning the kiss and the handclasp. “Thank you so much for inviting us, Jonathan. It’s a wonderful exhibit.”
“I knew you would love it, ma belle.”
Kasey had long since stopped protesting the feminine nickname; indeed, it brought back memories of his earliest days in New York, when he and Jonathan had been something more than friends, before the book had taken over Kasey’s life. “I do love it.”
“And this painting in particular, I think.”
“Mmm. . . yes. It’s stunning.”
“Come see me tomorrow and I’ll introduce you to the artist. He has another piece that I’ve been saving for you. A bit more color, ma belle, and something I think you’ll like.
“Yes, I’ll come tomorrow. I was going to anyway, since we’re leaving so early.”
“Bon. Come at eleven, and I’ll show you the paintings and then we’ll go to the Plaza and drink far too much champagne while you tell me all about that philistine you’re fucking.”
Knowing he should protest Jonathan’s description of Brynn, Kasey simply shook his head and offered a rueful smile before kissing Jonathan’s cheek once more. À demain, mon ami.
À demain, ma belle.
Kasey’s smile held until he was out the door and into the waiting cab with Brynn. Brynn leaned in to taste it, petulance forgotten now that they were on the way home. With his lover in his arms and the prospect of a fun day with Jonathan to come, the gray man seemed very far away.
Yet Another Lesson Learned
1 day ago