Rain lashed against the window
and beaded on the glass, refracting the lights from the street below.
Orlando pulled off his damp shirt and hung it up to dry, thinking about how
different this all was from New Zealand. The more distance he had from that
time, the more he realized that it had been something unique - a once in a
lifetime experience. And how depressing was it to think that he was
twenty-six years old and he'd hit the peak, that he'd never feel that sense
of belonging again?
At first he'd thought that he and Johnny might be friends. There was a sense
of camaraderie there, when they were learning the fight choreography,
spending so much time together. But it was different after they arrived in
the Caribbean, and now Orlando felt vaguely foolish, as though he'd been
over-eager or had revealed more than he'd intended.
Tonight, in the bar, he'd felt the awkwardness between them, the way Johnny
kept turning his body towards Geoff, nodding as Jack talked about some
mutual acquaintance, not exactly snubbing Orlando, but subtly shutting him
out. Finally, in disgust, Orlando had left and walked back to the hotel
He pulled on a t-shirt and decided to call Viggo - which was a bad idea,
considering how they'd left things the last time they'd talked - but before
he could pick up the phone, there was a knock on the door. He opened it and
Johnny was leaning against the doorframe, his shirt dappled with raindrops
and that lazy smile on his face, holding a bottle of Glenfiddich.
"Can I come in?"
Orlando nodded uncertainly and stepped aside to let him into the room.
Johnny snagged a couple of glasses off the dresser and sprawled in one of
the chairs, propping his feet up on the coffee table. While he poured them
each a shot, he made small talk about the cast and the day's shooting.
Orlando answered curtly, shutting down every conversational gambit. Whatever
Johnny was up to, Orlando was having none of it. The conversation faltered
and Johnny leaned back and sipped his scotch, swirling it around in his
glass and watching it meditatively.
The quiet became unnerving. "So. . ."
"So." Johnny shifted in his seat, splayed his legs out a bit further. His
leg pressed against Orlando's, solid and steady. Orlando thought about
moving his leg, and then refused to be - what, intimidated? manipulated? And
pressed back, letting his bare foot rest on the edge of Johnny's boot.
Johnny smiled, as if he'd scored a point. There was something assured and
languid about him that Orlando envied. He'd been that way once - at home in
his skin - but he'd lost the trick of it, and couldn't figure out how to be
Johnny fumbled in his pocket for tobacco and rolling papers. His fingers
moved quickly, long-practiced, and he sealed the cigarettes with a flick of
Orlando wasn't used to smoking unfiltered cigarettes. The rush of nicotine
made him lightheaded, and for a moment he thought he'd embarrass himself by
choking, but he caught his breath and exhaled, watching the smoke swirl
toward the ceiling.
Inhale. Exhale. Tap the ash into the ashtray. Repeat. The little ritual gave
Orlando something to do with his hands, and he felt less fidgety. He emptied
his glass and poured another. He drank it in silence, feeling the scotch
light a fire in his head, the muscles in his shoulders relax, the silence
become companionable rather than ponderous. There was something mesmerizing
about Johnny's dark, warm gaze, something intimate, as if he was telling
secrets without saying a word.
It was a surprise when Johnny spoke again, and Orlando started. "What's
Johnny's voice was mellow, measured. "You disappeared in a hurry tonight."
There was no apology in Johnny's words, no sense of responsibility, and
Orlando wondered if it was all in his head, if he'd imagined all the petty
slights and snubs. He leaned forward, peering into Johnny's eyes as if he
could read the truth there. The tightness in Orlando's chest reminded him
that he needed to breathe, and he inhaled deeply, smelling the acrid smoke
and scotch and a hint of chlorine, clean and bright, underlying it all.
Johnny cocked his head, let his hair fall across his eyes, smiled like he
heard all the things that Orlando was not saying.
Something was about to happen, and Orlando thought it was probably a bad
idea. It would make things worse; Johnny wouldn't even be able to look him
in the eye afterwards. But that was a worry for another time. Just now,
Orlando felt like he'd caught Johnny's rhythm, like his body had absorbed
Johnny's easygoing lethargy, like he was falling into place with an almost
Somehow they ended up collapsed in a heap on the carpet, Johnny on top,
laughing at their clumsiness, and then they were kissing and it was anything
but clumsy. Johnny raised up on his hands and looked at him, and
something in his eyes made Orlando uneasy, but he squelched that feeling,
focusing on the pressure of Johnny's body on his, grounding him in the
moment. For a while, nothing else mattered at all.
When the morning sun woke Orlando, Johnny was gone. Orlando tried to suss
out how he felt about that - lonely, regretful, deserted? Relieved. He
imagined making awkward small talk with Johnny and shuddered. It would be
uncomfortable today, no doubt, but it would have been worse first thing in
The rain had passed in the night, and everything outside looked clean and
fresh. Orlando threw open the window and let the stale, smoky air out, then
picked up the phone and dialed Viggo's number. The voice mail picked up, as
he'd known it would. He cleared his throat, then said the words all in a
rush, before he could change his mind. "Hey, it's me. We need to talk. Give
me a call, ok?"