Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us today, Red.
Will you begin by telling us a little bit about yourself and your background?
My background is somewhat unusual because I am Native American, my tribes are Chiricahua Apache and Eastern Cherokee, but I was born in Germany. I consider it my home country. Just the same I am active in Native American life and traditions and served as president for four years on a Native American Education board in the US, yet I am as comfortable with German society and culture. I’m rather a Euro-Indian.
I’ve worked in several different professions and have a wide range of interests. I enjoy meeting and getting to know people of all kinds, and have widely traveled.
Was there a defining point in your life when you realized that sharing your stories was what you were meant to do?
Because of early circumstances in my life, I was a child who lived very much inside their own head and heart. I created friends and worlds to keep me company. They were special and comfortable and ordinary to me, and though I’d read so many books, I felt some of my ideas were more interesting, when I grew older and finally spoke of them to certain people, I was made to realize how unique they really were. For the non-fiction works I pen, I felt I had to tell them because they could help others come to believe one can truly overcome the horrors of the past. We don’t have to remain hostages. After my own personal “zero hour” when I was around thirty years old, this changed the direction of my life.
Specifically relating to the gay fiction genre, I felt an overwhelming need to present another view of life, love and relationships when it relates to two men being together, where sex and its description or even sexuality in itself is not the central component. That’s a little of why I realize my work is labeled as gay fiction because of the characters, understandably so, but it is more important that I write a good, well-rounded novel where sexuality and preferences are an attendant fact only. It’s simply fiction for me. Simply life and living.
How long did it take for your first book to be published?
The first work I had published, I submitted an excerpt on a Friday evening. On Sunday morning they wished to see the complete work, and on the next day they sent me a contract.
To date, how many books have you written?
Both published and unpublished, close to twelve.
Is there a particular sub-genre in which you enjoy writing more than others? (i.e. paranormal vs. historical)
Although most stories I have on the market at the moment are contemporary, fantasy is my first love. Within that sub-genre I have everything from speculative fantasy to high or epic fantasy in the works or planned.
How long does it generally take for you to finish a manuscript?
For a variety of reasons, I usually think about a story a long time before I ever start writing. I completely plan its structure, characters, events, etc. and what I wish it to say and become, so it depends on how long the manuscript is going to be as well as what’s going on in my life at the time. Sometimes the story comes to fruition, sometimes it hibernates, but if it is full-length, I’d say several months. If it’s a short story, it may take as little as a few hours.
How much creative input do you have in the cover design for your books?
Except for the initial nap-sized dream cover for A Lieutenant’s Love and the anthology I contributed to, Boys Getting Ahead, I have designed all covers for my books. All are based on original photos I’ve taken or my artwork. Incidentally, the generic cover of A Lieutenant’s Love has now been replaced in the Kindle format, with a cover I created.
Do you write full time? If not, how many hours per day do you attempt to dedicate to your writing?
At the moment I am a full-time student working towards a degree in Psychology, work daily as a private chef and am just closing my book shop since I’m moving to another country. My life is triple double full-time in many categories, and I am also a single parent of a special needs teen, but I write every day in some form. I have a review/interview site that specializes in indie authors and their work, and I blog at my site “Songs of the Universal Vagabond,” so I am usually back and forth on a notepad all day and night. I don’t dedicate any certain amount of time to writing. My schedule is always in flux.
Do you typically outline your plots before you begin the writing process, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?
I rarely physically outline a story before I begin writing but I do plan it all out in my mind. After I am well into the process of writing, or even at final edits, I will then sketch an outline as many publishing houses require them for submissions.
What has been the most difficult topic you’ve ever approached in your writing?
As a youth, I endured many years of sexual and physical abuse, though later I had amazing adventures and love from those who helped me heal. When I began writing my memoir, both by request of friends who know my story and the clamor of my memories, it was difficult and agonizing at times fully remembering what happened, but it was necessary.
Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have one in particular who stands out among the others as a favorite? If so, who and why?
Because all of my main characters have some aspects of myself or people I’ve known, that’s a hard question. Of them all, those who know me personally, I’ve been told Derrik Lehmann, from Night Shift” is most like me. Katrdeshtr, from The Night Cat series, is my irreverent side. It’s really fun writing him, so perhaps he’s my favorite because he gets to be bad. He even has his own Facebook page.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, do you have any routines or exercises you use to get beyond it?
There are times when I have intense writer’s block. In fact, I had a period when I couldn’t write for well over a year. It was almost like having an anxiety attack when I contemplated working on a project. I had so many ideas I felt overwhelmed on how to begin or continue. I walked away and devoted myself to other pursuits. I chose to allow myself to create again when it felt right to do so, when it was an enjoyable process.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they take away from it?
Ah, I’m not so good at such questions as I have no expectation one way or the other. A reader will react as they wish. I suppose if I have to hope for something it would be for them to remain objective about what they’ve read, appreciating the fact everyone is different which of course is reflected in their creative works. The writer must write as they feel necessary, they cannot write to meet the tastes of each reader and remain true to their craft.
Are you surprised by the ever growing female fan-base of Male/Male fiction?
That’s a rather complex question for me. If you’re referencing m/m fiction only, I would say I am not surprised because more seem intrigued with sexual interaction between two men, perhaps because it is not something they can personally experience and they are curious, or they are simply bored with heterosexual material. As I’ve discussed in articles I’ve written on the topic, there is a clear distinction for me between m/m and gay fiction, and I have mixed feelings about this particular phenomenon of the expanding female fanbase.
Certainly, it is bringing more exposure for gay or bisexual males, but in some ways, even if it’s fiction, it can influence society and behaviors, and some kinds promote stereotypes and misinformation many of us have endured and been trying to stop for years. We want to spread the fact that just like any other group or person, we are all individuals, and what some writers imagine is simply not so for gays in general. Even if it’s unintentional, I feel some of it is a kind of dehumanization into strictly sexual roles similar to the “lusty blonde” or “well-endowed African American,” and being accepted as “the norm” by some readers. Those are my views, but I very firmly believe and support people can write and read whatever they wish. It’s their choice. Just like there are some really good female writers of gay fiction, there are some wonderfully discerning readers whom I so thoroughly enjoy having conversations with on whatever topic they care to introduce.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to the art of writing? How did it change the way you approach your craft?
I’ve never received any direct advice about the art of writing, though I like reading other writers’ comments about their creative progress or their suggestions. Other experiences and conversations in my life have affected my craft more, however. Basically, what I’ve learned amounts to putting your whole heart and spirit into whatever you do. That’s what I do with everything, so it applies to my writing as well.
If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author just starting out, what would it be?
“Conceive, write, edit and revise to the very best of your abilities, get help if you need it and accept constructive criticism from those who have your best interests at heart and understand you and your work. That way you can be 100% confident in whatever you produce, and when/if you do receive a rejection if you submit or a review where someone didn’t like it, you still know your work and you are worthy. It just might not have suited their personal tastes or the markets to which they wish to sell.”
What is the question you’re most frequently asked by your fans?
Most questions are related to my being Native American, such as what tribe I am from, or if I am active in Native American life and traditions. It’s been nice to meet some “cousins.”
What is your most memorable fan experience?
Hmm, that would probably be someone offering to have my baby. Seriously.
Do you have any new projects coming up that you’d care to share with us?
Besides the upcoming releases mentioned in my post, I have several projects I hope to complete in the coming months. Two are in the historical fiction genre, the first is a Regency, Twin Masquerade” and it’s nearly complete. The story involves young Evander, who is forced to impersonate his runaway twin sister, Evangeline, when her unwanted betrothed arrives. A subsequent relationship develops between “Eva” and the enigmatic Earl of Darhaven, but not quite what either of them wishes.
The other is a horror historical mystery, The Mystery of the Mad King. A determined scholar, seeking to establish his place in high academic circles, enters the forbidden and extremely haunted estate of the last king of his country. The newly crowned king had once been a much-loved and respected Duke of the populace, yet suddenly went mad and wiped out the rest of the aristocracy, before handing over the government to the people and throwing himself from a tower. The scholar soon realizes the dangers of his choice, yet the curious ghost of a young man saves him then helps discover the secret of Mad King Mylin.
Also on a tap is an anthology of sorts of an intergendered race and their progression from their creation up to an alternative modern period. Each section will tell the story of a character, how they lived, who they were and loved. I hope to open The Children of Driy to submissions from other writers interested in working within my created world with characters and tales of their choice.
How much of yourself, your life experiences, and the people you know manifest themselves into your characters?
None of my stories are “made-up” per se. They are all based on experiences, relationships, myself, or people I’ve known. I may create different situations, settings or worlds to place them in, but each are built upon my memories or in the case of The House of Doom, Dreams and Desire and the upcoming The Angel of Berlin, they are dreams I had then directly recorded.
Digital media—the e-reader/tablet computer/Android apps—is changing the way people access and enjoy books. What pros and/or cons do you see surrounding the business of e-publishing? How do you see digital media evolving in the years to come?
I love books, and collect hard to find and rare tomes besides over a thousand paperbacks. I don’t like being bound or reliant on an electronic device, so the e-book explosion is both good and bad for me. It is convenient, but too incorporeal in a way.
E-publishing I find quite easy, and have self-published a number of titles and will continue to do so. I carefully format and edit my work, provide quality cover art and try to create the best experience possible for the readers. I do not have to be locked into the schedule or preferences of a publisher unless I wish, and I love that freedom even if it is hard work in the advertising and marketing department. Less people are willing to give an indie title a chance.
A con is, nearly anyone can e-publish using certain applications, so there is a flood of writing on the markets, too much of it poorly written and edited. Readers have a much more difficult time finding work they really like, though costs are less compared to buying and having to discarding a print copy they disliked.
Digital media rights are a huge issue as well. Some do not respect the author’s work and continue to share it illegally. I can certainly understand sharing with a friend or a few friends, but I’m speaking specifically of those who upload files for general viewing online.
When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?
I’m a long time fan of science fiction and fantasy for fiction, and I’d cite C.J. Cherryh as my favorite writer. I have all her books I can currently find. I often like to find unknown or unusual writers as well, obscure titles, but honestly, most often I read non-fiction books such as history (European, Eastern, etc.) or those dealing with psychology, sociology or lifestyles and hobbies.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I’ve had several other careers, which I’ve done while still writing. I started out in law enforcement. I’ve been a baker, a bodyguard, a business owner, and so many other things. Whatever I found interesting, I applied myself, learned and gained new accomplishments to encourage personal growth.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing? Do you have any hobbies?
Whatever catches my interest, but I enjoy art, archery, sailing, and gardening, among other things. I also like video games and play RPGs when I have the chance. I’d say my primary pleasure and past-time is being with friends and relaxing. I love discussion whether it’s with someone I know or just met, and feel the art of true conversation is dying in parts of the world, as ironically enough, connections can be made further afield, yet so many tend to confine themselves to those who seem on the surface to share similarities. My hobbies and thoughts are quite diverse.
If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?
Well, I have to laugh, since I am in the middle of moving back to Germany at the moment, my office has already “de-evolved.” It’s mostly just stacks of books waiting to be packed, lots of random paper. I gave my desk away last week, so currently my computer is on a chair most of the day. Previously, on my desk you’d find my favorite pen and pencil, a notebook, bottles of the various herbs and vitamins I take along with my laptop. Oh, and a sticker my son put on its surface that said, “Weirdo.”
How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
My sense of humor is what I call “incidental” as I may make observations or comments others find funny, but I’m quiet in my obtuse and happily contrary way. I am both literal and irreverent, a strange combo most people aren’t used to, but it’s common enough if you’ve been around natives. It fits in German culture for the most part, as well. It’s the little comments you have to “catch.”
I don’t usually get overt jokes and some kinds of humor but this is very much based on perceptions, differences of culture and background. It’s not my native language, but I speak and understand English though the concepts don’t always translate. I have to ask too many questions to “get” it, and then it’s not usually funny anymore. Things that make me laugh tend to be natural: children’s games and play, animal antics, when I’m happy with those I love.
Do you have an all time favorite fictional character?
In films, when I was growing up, Indiana Jones and Doc Savage were my heroes. I regularly got in trouble breaking things with my “whip”, a belt I’d modified. In books, that would be difficult to say, because I always created characters I liked better than anything I’d ever read.
Do you have a favorite personal mantra, quote, or saying that describes your outlook on life and the way you approach each day?
“Life’s too short,” and “Water under the bridge,” can be heard in my vicinity. But overall, the sutra that changed my life is:
“The one who is very attached to the cave of the body,
that one finds detachment very difficult. Those who
constantly crave for pleasure are hard to liberate and
certainly cannot be liberated by others, only by
themselves. Sometimes it is only death that brings a
realization of endings, and then the sensual person,
deeply immersed in the body, will shout: “What will
happen to me after death?
The way toward liberation is to train yourself to live
in the present without any wanting to become anything.
Give up becoming this or that, live without cravings,
and experience this present moment with full
attention, then you will not cringe at death nor seek
for repeated birth.”
I am cognizant of what the future can bring, but I try to live fully in each moment. I don’t do or say anything I don’t mean. Everyone is important to me and I try to provide what they need, as this in turn fulfills my desire to love and help anyone I can. It takes nothing away from me in being kind, or listening, or treating them as I wish to be treated. If there is any negativity, I still wish them well.
Do you speak more than one language? If so, which one(s)?
I speak German, Russian and English, am learning Finnish, and know some Cherokee, Japanese, Swedish, French and Italian, and a few bits of other languages, too. Spending so much time in Berlin, it’s rather necessary. It’s quite multicultural.
Of all the modern conveniences, which one would you most likely say you couldn’t live without?
Recently, we were without power for almost a week following the tornadoes that struck the region of the US we lived in. So I would say, I can live without most modern conveniences because we had to do so. Water would have been hard to obtain though, so probably piped water I wouldn’t want to live without. Anything’s possible though.
Thank you again for spending some time with us, Red. Will you tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
There are other places as well like Goodreads.com as I am a member of several groups, Amazon.com, The Blood Bank and my personal Facebook page. If someone wants to chat, Twitter is the easiest, quickest way to catch me.
And we’d love if you’d share a favorite excerpt from one of your books with us.
This is an excerpt from upcoming release, The Angel of Berlin. This story was a dream I had. It was incredible because it played in my mind just like a film. I woke up and said “Wow!” then immediately went to my computer and started typing. It’s a speculative fantasy of innocent love in friendship set in a magically real modern Berlin.
Description: When Robin, a young university student, saves the life of a beautiful youth, he finds he’s made a devoted friend. But without memory and voice, the newly named Angel is a mystery, occasionally exasperating with his child-like qualities yet with touches of darkness which makes Robin wonder what kind of being he’s really taken in.
Excerpt: Chapter 1
The youth walked along as if everything in the world was new to his eyes. Long blonde hair the color of old gold under candlelight blew in a light breeze. Clear blue eyes like a winter’s crisp afternoon sky fluttered from point to point in wonder, taking in each shutter-click of the scene.
In a faded gray t-shirt and jeans, tattered sandals seasonally inappropriate on long feet, with child-like naiveté, yet profound self-possession, he looked about himself: at the trio of teen-agers casually tossing a Frisbee between themselves quick to jokes and laughter; at the couple still entranced with each other as their children tumbled about them at tag, at the many others enjoying the fineness of the clear autumn afternoon.
The laughter of the children delighted him. He smiled. The animated discussion between bicyclers enjoying a moment to stroll intrigued him. He stopped again to watch them as they passed. In the fading light between buildings, the silver whirl of bicycle wheel spokes made him laugh aloud.
In a kiosk, a vendor waited behind steamed glass as eager patrons decided on which would be best, a hot chocolate or glühwein. At a nearby corner, a young man waited for the traffic light to change, the fingers of one hand tapping at his bike’s handlebar before reaching to adjust his backpack to a better position. He released a visible sigh.
The youth liked the way the young man looked: narrow face with spectacles perched upon an equally narrow nose, clean-shaven except for a little tuff of hair on his very pointed chin. The soft brown hair was neatly cut quite low. And though clearly he was impatient for the signal to change in his favor, the fine lips looked like he could smile at any time.
Traffic was nearing rush hour. The headlights of the cars, if the youth turned his head just so, they looked like comets flashing through space. He felt slightly light-headed moving his head slowly, rhythmically back and forth. Dizzily looking up at the tall buildings surrounding the park and square, he seemed unaware his feet still moved. He stepped off the curb as if mesmerized by the shift and flow of elements.
Horns sounded suddenly, tires screeching on pavement. He was startled as a strong hand gripped his arm, pulling him back to the safety of the sidewalk. As he regained his balanced, he looked down into the face of the earnest young man.
“What were you doing? You might have been killed!” A head was shaken at him. The youth didn’t understand the words as yet, nor the urgency. “You should be more careful.”
Smiling, the youth continued to look unmoved by the accident that might have occurred, yet gave the shorter man his full attention.
“You don’t get it, do you? Perhaps you speak German instead,” the man switched to that language from his native French which, since startled, he had used first without thinking.
Pointing downward, he pronounced as if to a child, “Stay on the sidewalk unless the signal for walkers is showing.” When he looked up, it had just turned so. “Well, take care!” He called back over his shoulder as he pedaled away.
With an overwhelming urge to follow, the youth noticed a similar means of transportation leaning against a light-pole, its rider having abandoned it only seconds before to hurry to the vendor’s kiosk. The youth found he knew how to ride without thinking. He sped off after the narrow-faced young man.
* * * *
Robin, the young man, still shook his head over the youth he’d encountered though his legs pumped furiously trying for greater speed from his third-hand ancient bicycle. He’d been late to work already once this week. His employer was not an understanding man, and cared nothing for the heavy load of schoolwork Robin struggled with, this being his first year in a foreign country, his first year at university. Robin was lucky to have the job at all. He certainly could not afford to lose it.
As he pulled up to the popular little café, red-cheeked and winded, a co-worker was stepping out to change the menu on the chalkboard to the left of the door. Previously, the young woman who was friendly yet just distant enough so they’d only exchanged passing pleasantries before, half-jokingly scolded him for his tardiness. He shrugged with good grace, hurrying to secure his belongings to the bike rack. Another person rode up beside him as he turned.
“What are you doing here?” he exclaimed in surprise, nearly bumping into the youth he’d saved from possible injury or death at the square corner. “You followed me–but why?”
Long lashed eyes blinked innocently at him as if the youth didn’t know. The lips parted as if he meant to say something, but then closed in consternation. Next they curved up into a smile, eyes brightening, slight frown disappearing as if it had never been.
Robin laughed. “Sorry, but I haven’t the time now. I’m, ah, late for work.” He turned to go into the shop. The youth just stood there watching him expectantly. “I’ll be here a few hours at least. Don’t you have somewhere to go?”
The handsome face saddened. The youth looked about himself disconsolately, biting his lower lip.
Robin yelled back a clipped affirmative as the young woman called to him again from inside. “Look, I’ve got to go. Really.” Robin thought furiously, he found he didn’t want the youth to go away no matter how short or long the time. “Come, come inside the door. If you don’t mind very much, you can wait for me at the backstairs until I’m finished, alright?”
With him now standing on the bistro steps, the two were about the same height. Robin looked into bottomless blue eyes, full of trust and quiet joy. They took his breath away. He felt himself pulled forward as if drawn. Despite the noisy commotion coming from the dining area, Robin whispered softly, “Come, I’ll show you.” Robin took the willing hand in his own, leading the youth inside.
* * * *
The shift manager had allowed Robin’s new friend to stay as long as he kept in the background, out of the way. At his first and only break, dropping down tiredly a step below his “guest” on the stairway which was still lit faintly with the light from the landing window behind them. Robin finally had a chance to get to know him better. Sitting two bottled beers to the side, he stretched rackingly, emitting a huge yawn.
“Ah, that’s better,” he sighed. “It’s truly a madhouse in there tonight.” Muffled conversation and music floated up from the floor below. He opened one bottle then the next, handing one over to the youth. “On me!” he pronounced, “go ahead.”
The youth only looked at dark glass perplexedly, running a finger down its sweating side, rubbing the moisture between fingertips.
Robin smiled, taking a long draught of his own. “You drink it. It’s beer!”
The youth sipped cautiously, widened eyes, a cough, and a blink. He quickly looked at Robin, who’d burst into laughter.
“You’re too funny. What’s your name, after all this time? I’m Robin, by the way.” He waited, watching as the other young man took a longer taste. “What, can’t you speak?”
A small frown, a glance downward then back up. Robin sobered empathetically. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.” A pause, yet his naturally cheerful nature took over again. “But I have to call you something!”
He leaned back against the cool plaster of the wall, thoughtfully rolling a mouthful of pilsner around his mouth, then swallowed.
“With the light behind you just so, shining in your hair…you rather look like an angel fallen to earth,” his pleasant tenor making the statement poetry in the lull from the sounds from below, which he also enjoyed. “Truly, like an angel. That’s what I’ll call you I think: Angel.”
Angel leaned down to him, touched his hair then grinned like a little boy. Soft touches lingered over Robin’s eyebrows, the curve of his cheek, nails explored the little goatee he proudly groomed each morning. Robin closed his eyes savoring the gentleness, while his heart sped fiercely up to a frenzied pace.
“Robin, you up there? Robin!” called a voice from below, heavy but female. He quieted his annoyance before answering. The shift manager, Sabine, wanted to know what he was doing. The owner might yet come by this evening and they’d not even begun preparations for the special desserts for tomorrow! Quickly, she said, up to the storage room to retrieve the pans needed!
“Want to come with me? We can look off the rooftop also. It’s one of my favorite places to go. Oh, don’t forget your beer. We can finish up there.”
Robin quickly located the pans in the storeroom, setting them on the landing before unlocking the door to the roof. “Come on, Angel, it’s like a different world!”
Angel followed him up the narrow stairs, which opened out onto a flat rooftop bordered by a red brick parapet. From here one could just see the tops of the trees half clothed in browning foliage, the tall buildings at the city’s center far off to the west. The sun had already dipped below the horizon, but the sky was still awash in soft crimson, apricot and deepening azure. A wind had arisen, cool and touched with frost.
“Nice, isn’t it?” Robin said, though verbally, he knew Angel wouldn’t reply. “I love to come up here. It’s so peaceful. Everything seems so far away.” He looked back to the east for a moment, where the first stars were beginning to appear on an indigo field.
“Are you cold? You’re not really dressed for the night at all.” He shivered himself though wearing his usual layers in muted tones: undershirt, shirt, then pullover and wide whaled corduroys. Winter was truly coming soon. These were the last fine days of fall before the rains came, the gray days and long nights, the dirty snow and ice of a northern city’s streets.
“Angel?” he queried. The youth had wandered near the ledge to look downward to the narrow lane of the building front, hair lifting like wings back over his shoulders.
“Angel!” he called more sharply, moving, remembering the street incident from the afternoon. “Don’t get too close to the edge!” As he neared, Robin continued more moderately, “You can you lose your balance easily–,” He tried to draw Angel away. “I have to go back down now, and it’s getting cold anyway. They’ll yell at me again.”
Angel lingered despite Robin’s urging, face turned up at the sky long seconds, eyes wide, reflective. His hand found Robin’s, finally allowing himself to be drawn away.
“You scared me back there,” Robin laughed, as they clattered down the stairs. “Again!”
* * * *
The owner didn’t show up after all, so the previously necessary cakes were unceremoniously moved to the back refrigerator case for tomorrow’s opening. After washing up the last of the dishes, and mopping the floor, Robin was allowed to leave. Be on time tomorrow, reddened his ears, as they left. He winked at Angel, closing the door behind them.
He unlocked his bicycle from the rack. “Two things. I don’t suppose you have any place to go now either, do you? And that bike you rode earlier wasn’t yours, was it?”
Angel looked to the side, raised eyebrows, gave a playful toss of his head.
“Where do you come from?” Robin asked in mock severity, yet the youth’s face fell as if he didn’t understand the humor behind his words. “No, no, it’s ok. I was joking! I know where you can go.”
Angel looked interested then. “With me, of course. I’ve just a little place, just a room I rent, but you’re welcome.”
* * * *
A reasonably spacious room, high ceiling. Two sets of window upward from waist high showing at this time of night row upon row of windows on the other side of the street. Some bright with light, others dim and blue, but mostly dark as empty eyes.
The room was like its renter: mostly neat, clean and perfectly ordinary, yet with noticeable colorful touches. Near the left-hand window, behind a painted screen, a covered mattress filled a corner of the floor. A few odd pillows decorated the top. In front of the partition was a makeshift couch of sorts; crates stacked together, a low table on which books overflowed to the wooden floor. On the right wall was a desk with a battered chair tied with ribbons. Sprouting from the wall above it, like blossoms from twining vines were paper lanterns, rather like one would find in an Asian garden. Angel liked those especially.
“It’s not much I know,” Robin said, hanging his pullover on a coat-rack in the nearest corner, “but it’s home.” He smiled somewhat shyly, yet proud also, “I like it very much. It’s the first place I’ve ever had on my own.”
Kicking his shoes off to the side, he directed Angel where he could place his own. Robin explained more as he straightened up the clothes lying over a chair, the papers scattered across the floor, that he rented from a person he’d found in a local newspaper, an older gentleman searching for a quiet tenant. The landlord was seldom home, usually quiet himself, allowed usage of the kitchen as he needed, and to have friends over as well. It was a perfect arrangement.
Since they’d shared a meal of leftovers at the bistro before leaving, and Robin had had a long day, he suggested they simply retire for the evening, excusing himself to use the bathroom across the hall. When he returned Angel was standing in the same place. Robin scratched his head, apologizing.
“If you want to come this way, I’ll show you,” he directed Angel through the doorway into the short hall that led to the facilities. As he’d almost come to expect from his new friend, Angel immediately fell to trying and testing each of the new things presented. Off, on, off, on the water. Fingers probed the electrical socket before being snatched away with a warning.
“The toilet…you know how it’s used…or do you?” Robin began. “Hmm,” he pronounced, “well, I’ll leave you to it. Press the button here when you are done. Come back to my room when you’re finished.”
Dutifully, Angel reappeared after some minutes. Robin had laid him out a place for sleeping on the near side of the screen, pushing the crates behind the door to allow room. All of Robin’s extra blankets and pillows had been neatly arranged into a pallet. Robin dimmed the lights to just one small lamp sitting on the floor in a corner, and then removed his outer clothes down to his smalls, gesturing for Angel to do the same.
“You can lay them over the chair, just there.” Angel seemed to think, and then removed his jeans, folding them carefully. “I put you closer to the door because it’s warmest. I’m near the window where the cold seeps in, but I like to look up at the night sky.”
Still with the faded t-shirt on, blinking sleepily, Angel stood in what looked to be old style cotton leggings, reluctantly looking to his makeshift place. Robin was rearranging his own few pillows to his satisfaction on his usual mattress, shaking out one thin blanket.
“It’s alright, you can lay down,” said Robin, looking back. Angel took one step towards his pallet, but stopped, shoulders lowering. Licking his lips, he looked as if he might say something, emitted a breath of frustration at his own inability, and then gave a single sob.
“What’s the matter?” Robin was instantly attentive. Angel took a step towards him slowly, then another, paused as if in inquiry, fingers working just away from his thighs.
“Ah,” Robin said, understanding, with both chagrin and guilty pleasure. “You want to sleep with me?”
Angel’s tenseness disappeared, his whole body radiated need as he positively trembled with anticipation. Robin rolled up to disassemble the pallet, dragging the comforters back to his mattress. It was acceptance, yet he wasn’t quite sure to what he had agreed. Somehow he could not believe Angel wished sex with him, though it had crossed his own mind as they returned to his room. Attractive as Angel was, Robin could not imagine him feeling carnal desire.
Angel helped him spread out the blankets, crawling with him beneath them, moving swiftly to embrace Robin with a happy squeeze, head laid next to Robin’s own. The youth made no other move, only sighed contently like a child, breath slowing, then slipped quickly into slumber.
Robin gave a single sniff of amazement. No, he revised his thought, he should not have been surprised by Angel’s innocent response. Settling more comfortably, his arousal soon faded to his great relief though Angel’s sweet breath played in his hair, and the heat of the lean body warmed him in a way he’d never experienced, even when held close in a lover’s arms. He felt no uncontrollable craving for congress, but only a tremendous sense of contentment. Soon, Robin slid spinning through a cloud of stars into dreams.