Chapter 8 – Julian
I honestly didn’t think it was pertinent. It’s 2017, isn’t it?
But, apparently, I left out some crucial information somewhere. I was so caught up making sure Alyssa knew about my mother’s unflattering personality… quirks… that I completely overlooked that Jordan is a man and maybe my girlfriend might like to know that.
Especially if she planned on bringing a gift, which I never told her to do.
“I brought you a present,” Alyssa says through gritted teeth. The grit is for me, not them. My fault, is it? Even Ted is giving me one of his classic big brother looks that says he’s going to whomp my ass as soon as Mother and Father are looking in the other direction. “Granted, I had made… stupid assumptions…”
She’s embarrassed. So embarrassed that she goes beet red as Jordan takes the small gift bag full of frivolous bathing items.
“Doesn’t everyone love these things?” Jordan takes a whiff. Ted’s shoulders ease in tension. “Thank you so much, Alyssa. We’ll make sure it doesn’t go unappreciated.”
“Look over there, isn’t that Karla Langley? We should say hi.” Ted gently nudges his fiancé in the direction of a young socialite dressed to kill in this Oregonian fog. Isn’t she cold in that sleeveless sundress? Even Alyssa had the foresight to wear a sweater in this drafty place. “We’ll catch up with you two later.” My brother winks at my girlfriend. “Thank you for the gift.”
The happy couple moves on, leaving Alyssa and me to stand here, appalled with ourselves.
“You didn’t say…”
Let me tell you what happens when your big, masculine brother who is smarter than Harvard and better looking than a supermodel comes home and says, “Mom, Dad, I’m a queer.” Nothing. Nothing happens. We don’t talk about it. We’re not supposed to talk about it. When I was a kid, we didn’t talk about homosexuality because it was verboten. My mother called it a “Stain on good names, but men can’t help themselves. Women, though, they should know better.” These days, when gay marriage isn’t only legal but celebrated by even the most well-to-do families, we don’t talk about it because it’s unbecoming for other reasons. Political correctness tells us to not make a big deal about it, especially if your mother is someone who fired a lady-in-waiting for having a short haircut and refusing to wear a skirt.
Ah, yes, imagine how my mother took the news of Ted’s coming out a few years ago.
I had known much longer, of course. It’s always been normal, more or less. Ted had girlfriends when I was growing up, but he preferred to spend his free time with other guys and had a stash of contraband in his room that I unfortunately came across one day when I was looking for shit to get back at him with – as I recall, he had called me a pussywhipped shithead in front of my then girlfriend. You don’t do that to a thirteen-year-old without expecting him to sneak into your room while you’re out at a party. I had gone in there to look for girly underwear, marijuana, anything like that… instead, I found gay magazines. Not even porn. Political and lifestyle magazines for the discerning and young gay male.
I don’t know exactly how my brother identifies anymore. Gay, bisexual, one of those. His last girlfriend was two years ago, and after they broke up he told me that he wasn’t interested in marrying a woman, anyway. “That’ll be for you, Jules. You do the whole getting married and procreating thing. Me? Think I’ll find a cute fella who can keep up with me in the business world. What do you think?” Told him he should stay out of my love life.
He got with Jordan shortly after the girlfriend. This past Christmas, they announced their engagement, with the added bonus of a surrogate-baby to shortly follow. They had received word of the surrogate’s pregnancy and decided to tell us before the public New Year’s announcement.
So my brother is getting married and having a baby. It’s probably “his,” too, since that would be the only way my family would recognize it as a legitimate heir. It’s not unusual for your big brother to do all that before you have the chance, right?
Ted really does get everything. The business, the properties (besides what I’ve lobbied for in my father’s will,) the marriage and the family… he may not be 100% traditional, but he gets it, nonetheless.
Our age difference makes me feel like I have to hustle to achieve things I’m not even sure I want. Oh, I want a hot business and properties. I’m still not sold on the marriage and family quite yet, though.
Like I’ve mentioned before, my ideal situation would be finding a socially acceptable woman with good genes and her own money willing to have an arrangement with me. One that is beneficial to the both of us, of course.
“Again, I’m sorry. For some reason I thought you already knew.”
Alyssa shakes her head. “It didn’t show up when I Googled his name.”
Of course it hadn’t. My mother pays SEO experts good money to keep that stuff off the front pages. Not that I think Ted knows that…
“My brother is in a homosexual relationship. They’re having the biggest gay wedding of the spring around here. That’s all you need to know.”
“Does not help that Jordan is a unisex name these days.”
Alyssa rolls her eyes. “Yes, Julian. I mean, I’ve had more than one person ask me if I’m a lesbian now because they keep misreading your name as Julia in the news.”
“I should hope you’re not a lesbian, sweetheart. That would be bad news for me.”
“Hmph. Sounds like I’d fit right in with your family.”
Alyssa doesn’t know it, but she’s spoken of the devil. It’s like my mother heard a joke that I might be dating a lesbian and decided she can’t take it anymore.
“Julian.” She’s on my other side before I even know she’s there. “Introduce me.”
I bristle. My mother is one of the only people in the world who can make me bristle, but it’s not because I’m afraid of her or anything she might do. It’s because the jokes about her being a specter, a wraith, a damned demon are sometimes too true to make fun of. She’ll magically appear in a wisp of smoke, her long, wrinkled fingers threatening to poke your eyes out if you don’t choke on her perfume first. Even before she wrinkled, she was like this. My childhood was not a very maternal one.
On the other hand, if I ever stay someplace genuinely haunted, I would be difficult to scare out of the house. I’d probably assume it was my mother come to annoy me.
“Mother.” I put a protective hand on my girlfriend’s back as I turn her around for presentation. I’m gladder than ever to ask her to wear something as conservative as this simple dress. The last thing I need my mother thinking is that Alyssa is a floozy, although I don’t doubt she’ll call her that. “This is my girlfriend, Alyssa Pendleton.”
She looks Alyssa up and down with her beady blue eyes. The only reason I know Ted and I are biologically related to her and not one of my father’s many mistresses is because the three of us have the same exact eye color. “I don’t even know how you had two kids with her, Father,” I once said a few years ago. To that, my father replied, “She used to be that chilling kind of beautiful, you know? Element of danger that she’d rip your dick off halfway through making love to you. Now she’s just chilling.”
She must be, for Alyssa shivers beneath my touch. I know it’s not because of my fingertips stroking her soft skin beneath her dress.
“Alyssa, this is my mother, Serena Marcus.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Marcus.” Alyssa extends her hand. My mother keeps one of hers beneath the crook of her arm and the other holding her most recent mimosa, which she continues to drink while drilling holes with her eyes.
At least Alyssa is smart enough to keep her introduction short and sweet. Even if she did use the word “pleasure,” and that’s one of my mother’s least favorite words.
“All mine, I’m sure,” my mother spits into her mimosa glass. “What was your name? Alice? Alicia? Melissa…?”
“Alyssa,” I supplement. Trust me. My mother doesn’t want to hear my girlfriend speak.
“Right. How 1995.”
Alyssa keeps her lips pursed but otherwise locked into a polite smile. “You have a beautiful family, Mrs. Marcus.” I suppose I should eventually tell Alyssa that my mother prefers the title Lady Marcus, but she’ll learn in due time.
“Yes. Beautiful and rich. Enjoy it while my son fancies you, girl.” My mother doesn’t say anything as she floats away in her long skirt. She has nothing else to say to us, I’m sure.
“Jeez,” Alyssa mutters once we’re alone again. “This is a stressful party.”
Suppose I should tell her that this is one of the easiest parties I’ve ever been to with my family? Last time I brought a girlfriend to a function like this, she ran to my car crying because my mother asked how many abortions she already had. The truly cruel thing? My mother doesn’t usually say that sort of thing to people she’s met, not unless she’s done a lot of background research. My girlfriend at the time had a miscarriage before meeting me, so I do not doubt my mother preyed upon that.
I don’t want to know what she’ll pick apart regarding Alyssa. For the most part, Serena Marcus is harmless. Verbally cruel but…
Ah, never mind.
“Tell you what, lovely.” I’m not good at lathering on the charm when we’re in public like this, but I’ll force it for Alyssa’s sake. I don’t want her more uptight than she already is for our date tonight. I have plans for her, all right?
Plans to make her like me again. There’s no point to a relationship like this if she doesn’t like me.
She shows me a wan smile. “All right. How much longer do we have to be here?”
She’s been embarrassed twice this afternoon. Both times because of me.
I’ll have to really make it up to her tonight.