Derby Line Marriage Ch. 19byjtuf©
Benjamin watched the next band set up. It was a brass quartet, the fifth group he saw so far that day. He called Patrick to tell him to hurry. "Hi. It's Benjamin. I'm near stage with the brass quartet. They are about to start. Where are you?"
"Hey Benjamin. I'm at the hot dog stand. I can see you from here. I'll be with you in a minute," Patrick replied.
Benjamin looked at the row of food carts on the side. He picked out Patrick. Benjamin's face felt flush. Patrick looked even better than Benjamin had remembered. All those feelings of lust for him started to rise again. Benjamin pushed them down.
Patrick came to Benjamin with two hot dogs in his hand. "Here. Take this one," Patrick offered.
Benjamin took the treat. "What do I owe you for it?"
"Nothing," Patrick replied.
Benjamin looked past Patrick to read the sign on the hot dog cart. The price was $2. Benjamin handed Patrick that amount. "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch," Benjamin insisted.
Patrick shrugged and pocketed the bills. "So, how are you doing?"
"I'm fine. Do you know where Francis is?"
Patrick was a bit surprised at the sudden question. "She's in the office." Patrick started eating his meal.
Benjamin studied Patrick's face. He honestly believed that his wife was in the office rather than lounging in bed with nothing but a silk bathrobe on. Benjamin started to feel a bit sorry for the man. "You look familiar. Have we met before?"
"No, but Francis told me so much about you. I feel like I know you through her descriptions."
Again, there was no hint of deceit in Patrick's facial expressions. He must have completely forgotten their previous two encounters. Benjamin took a few bites out of his hot dog. "Let's cut to the chase," Benjamin said. "Why do you want me to impregnate your wife?"
"Because I'm infertile, and we want to start a family," Patrick answered.
"But why me?"
"It was Francis's choice. I trust her."
Then you're a fool, Benjamin thought. Then he asked, "What did Francis tell you about me?"
Patrick frowned. "If you don't want to help, I understand."
Benjamin felt Patrick's uneasiness. "Sorry. It's just that your request is so unusual."
"Well, Francis and you are friends, and we would rather get a donation from someone we know than from a complete stranger."
"You and I are complete strangers."
"True, but I heard so much about you from Francis. It is as if we met months ago."
Benjamin grinned slightly, "Or a year ago." The pair had fished their lunches. The musicians started their improvisation. The speakers blared some very high pitched shrieks. Benjamin grimaced. "Maybe we should move to someplace where we can talk more easily."
"Sure. There's a patch of wilderness on the other end of the park. It's always quiet."
"Lead the way."
Patrick brought them to a slow moving brook by a meadow. Benjamin sat on a large rock. Patrick scanned the plants in the meadow. He picked several leaves off of one of them. "There may not be a free lunch, but here's a free desert." He handed Benjamin a couple of the leave. "Taste it."
Benjamin cautiously nibbled on one of the leaves. The flavor was familiar, but he could not place it. Then he put the rest of the leaves in his mouth to chew. "What is it? It's good."
"Peppermint," Patrick replied. Then he picked an entire sprig for Benjamin. "Feel the stem," Patrick instructed. "You can feel the ridges on the stem. That's an easy way to recognize peppermint."
"You know a lot about nature."
Patrick blushed, "Well, I studied botany in grad school, but now I'm just a number cruncher. Peppermint is one of my favorite plants, because it's a hybrid, like ..." Patrick's voice drifted off.
Benjamin swallowed the leaves. "Like what?" he asked as he stood up and placed a hand gently on Patrick's shoulder.
Patrick sighed. "Like the family I was going to raise with Francis. Francis is 100% Quebecois. My ancestors are mostly Irish. Her family was not thrilled at her dating someone with roots in the British Isles. I used to assure Francis that if a hybrid like peppermint could thrive, so could our future kids, only we never had those kids. Last year, I learned that it was my fault. I'm sterile."
Benjamin squeezed Patrick's shoulder. "This has nothing to do with fault. It's a medical condition with a medical answer." Patrick stepped a bit closer. Their eyes locked. Benjamin had to resist the urge to hug Patrick. His feelings for Patrick started to bubble up again despite his best efforts. Benjamin felt the warm glow of affection for Patrick rather than a fiery lust. He also felt a tinge of anger towards Francis for the way she described Patrick that morning. "How did Francis take the news?"
"She's been very supportive," Patrick sat down on the rock.
Benjamin sat down next to him. "Really?"
"Yes. Speaking of Francis, let me see how long she will be." Patrick called his wife on his mobile phone. Benjamin only hear half the conversation. "Hey dear. ... Yes, Benjamin is here. ... We're enjoying some quiet time by that brook. ... No problem, I can make dinner. ... I love you too. Bye."
Benjamin cringed at that last part. "What's our plan?"
"Francis needs more time to work on the briefs. I'll have to make dinner. Sorry to cut our time at the festival so short."
"It's fine. I saw enough jazz for one day."
"How did you get here?"
"I drove in a rental."
"I took public transit. I guess you're driving us to my place. We'll have dinner there."
"Let me pick up a bottle of wine on the way."
Patrick shrugged. "OK."
Benjamin stopped in at a supermarket on the way out to the suburbs. "What were you planning to make for dinner?" he asked Patrick as they sat in the parking lot.
"Breaded chicken breasts. Nothing fancy."
"We'll turn that into something nicer. Wait here. I'll be back in a 5 minutes." Benjamin bought merlot wine, lemon juice, onions, and mushrooms. Then he was back in the driver's seat. The pair compared Montreal and New York City weather for the rest of the drive. Before long, Benjamin was pulling into the driveway of the O'Connell residence. As they walked to the front door, Benjamin noticed a hybrid van parked across the street. Once inside the home, Patrick lead the way to the kitchen.
"So, what do you in mind?" Patrick asked.
"Heat some oil in a pan while I chop the onions," Benjamin commanded. Patrick got a cutting board and knife out for Benjamin. Then he followed the order. Benjamin sliced the onion and threw them into the pan. The mushrooms got the same treatment next. Patrick looked after them in the pan while Benjamin searched the cabinets for a glass. "Do you have any juice?" Benjamin asked.
Patrick left the stovetop to search the refrigerator. "Do you want apple, grape, or orange?"
"Apple," Benjamin requested. Patrick filled Benjamin's glass with apple juice. Then he went back to tending the vegetables. Benjamin sat at the kitchen table sipping his drink and watching Patrick from behind. He's definitely got a bit of a domestic side, but not too much. Benjamin scanned Patrick's slim torso and developed backside and legs. He must be a jogger. He's fit. Benjamin bit his tongue to keep himself from mentally undressing Patrick. "Do you cook much?"
Patrick turned to face Benjamin. He saw the admiration in Benjamin's eyes and smiled sheepishly. "I've been making dinners on most nights ever since Francis got her promotion. I've never made anything this involved before. I'm more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy."
"Don't worry, I'll teach you." Benjamin stood next to Patrick and put the juice on the counter beside them. "Keep stirring so that the vegetables don't burn. The onions will turn translucent when they are ready. The mushrooms will brown a bit and turn soft." Patrick turned away from Benjamin to face the pan. He stirred its contents. Benjamin rested his right hand on the far side of Patrick's waist. "That's perfect."
Patrick coughed some in surprise. He sipped from Benjamin's cup without thinking. "Sorry. You startled me."
Benjamin rubbed Patrick's back between the shoulder blades. "It's my fault." Then he moved to the refrigerator. "Where are the chicken breasts?"
"Behind the bread. Pull that out too. I'll make toast."
Benjamin brought the chicken to the counter. "You can't have toast with this meal. Do you have rice?"
"Yes. It's in the canister near the sink. You need 3 cups of water for every 2 cups of rice," Patrick said as he placed measuring cups in front to the canister of rice.
Benjamin took one of the pots that was hanging on the wall near the stove. He filled with half way without bothering to use the measuring cups. Then he added what he estimated was the correct amount of rice. "You measure too much," he teased. Then Benjamin looked into the pan. "Those are done. Put them in a bowl on the side and wash the chicken breasts." Benjamin put the pot of rice on the flame. Patrick followed the orders. Benjamin held the pan near the sink so Patrick could put the breasts into them as soon as they were washed. Benjamin found a pair of tongs in the draws. He pan fried the chicken while Patrick relaxed with the apple juice near the sink.
When the chicken was done, Benjamin gave the next direction. "Open the wine." Patrick obeyed. Benjamin poured lemon juice and merlot into the pan. He mixed it with the drippings from the chicken. "I need flour." Patrick handed him a bag of flour from the cupboard. Benjamin thickened the sauce with it. Finally, he added the cooked onions and mushrooms back to the pan. "Now that's a chicken dinner. Let's set the table. The rice is almost done."
Patrick brought the good china to the dining room table. He felt comfortable with Benjamin giving directions. Francis was always so vague and yet demanding. She expected Patrick to read her mind. Benjamin would just say what he needed and not worry about the details. If only Francis could be more like him. Patrick stood by the table to gaze at three place settings. Benjamin stepped behind him and wrapped an arm around his waist. Patrick leaned into Benjamin and spoke. "Francis should be happy with this surprise."
Benjamin stepped away. "Yes. When will she get here?"
"I'll call her." Patrick stepped into the kitchen for the phone call. He returned a few minutes later. "She's on her way."
Benjamin crossed his arms. "What should be do until then?"
Patrick looked at his watch. "The news is probably on." The pair sat on opposite ends of the couch in the living room and watched the news as they waited for Francis to arrive. Her impending presence damped their growing connection.
Francis slammed the front door when she entered the house. Patrick rushed to meet her in the foyer. Benjamin watched from the couch. Francis opened her briefcase on the dining room table. Then she recited the line she had be practicing all afternoon. "Damn! I forgot the case in the office. Patrick, be a dear and pick it up for me. It's in a red folder on my desk."
"Can't it wait. Dinner will get cold," Patrick objected.
Francis was taken aback by Patrick's newfound spine. "I need those files ASAP. I have a ton of work to do tonight. Maybe if your finished grad school, I wouldn't have to be in the office while you are enjoying jazz performances."
Patrick's eyes darted between Francis and Benjamin. That last remark sapped his will to resist. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he promised before leaving.
Francis turned to Benjamin. "What did he make for dinner?"
"We made chicken," Benjamin informed her.
Francis hung up her jack. She wore a crisp white blouse underneath with the top few buttons undone. The frilly edge of her violet bra was barely visible. She sauntered over to the television and bent over it as she turned it off so that Benjamin could get a good look at her bottom in her pencil skirt. "Can I get you a drink?" she asked.
"I bought some merlot. It's in the kitchen." Benjamin followed Francis into the kitchen. "You said Patrick never finished grad school. Why didn't he?"
"He was in a PhD program, but he just couldn't handle the pressure." Francis found the bottle on the countertop. "Go sit in the dining room. I'll pour this into a couple of glasses."
"I can do that."
"It's my house. I know where the glasses are," Francis insisted. Benjamin gave up arguing, but refused to comply. He sat down on the living room couch. Francis moved to the wet bar in the parlor out of Benjamin's site. She poured a bit of wine into two black wine glasses. Then she added water to her glass and four fingers of vodka to Benjamin's. She leaned forward as she handed Benjamin his glass. "Enjoy."
Benjamin sipped his drink. "That wine is past it's prime."
Francis nervously kicked off her shoes and sat on the couch. "It tastes fine to me."
Benjamin gulped down another mouthful. "Patrick is a nice man. He explained your situation to me."
Francis patted Benjamin on the thigh. "Patrick will be gone at least an hour. Let's talk about you."
Benjamin shifted uneasily. "What about me?"
Francis leaned back and curled her legs up on the couch. "I want to know more about you. What do you like? What do you dislike? Tell me everything."
Benjamin finished off his drink. "I like the city. It is great being able to walk to the grocery store or a night club at any time of the day."
Francis stood up. "Let me refresh your drink." Her hand lingered on his before taking Benjamin's glass.
Benjamin rubbed his forehead. "No thanks. That wine seems to be affecting me."
"It's only wine," Francis assured him. Francis and Benjamin exchanged idle chit chat over several more glasses. Francis's desire grew, but her flirting could not invoke the same feeling in Benjamin. The vodka laced wine made him fully inebriated. Once it seemed as if his defenses were impaired, Francis grew bold enough to ask, "Are you ready to fuck someone?"
"Yeah," chuckled Benjamin. "I want to fuck Patrick." Benjamin sat there shocked at what he said. He put his glass down on the side table. "I'm sorry Francis. I promise, I would never go after Patrick. I don't date married men. Yes, I do want to fuck him. I want to hold him all night. There's something about Patrick that makes me want to have him forever. He's so sincere and straight forward and ..." At that point, Benjamin fell unconscious from the alcohol.
Francis cussed under her breath. She looked at the clock. She had half an hour before Patrick would be back. She cleaned up the glasses to erase all evidence of their drinking. Then she helped herself to the rice and chicken. The wine sauce tasted great. Her solitude was bitter. Francis feared that she would have to get used to being alone. It was clear that Benjamin would never reciprocate her interest. Now, it looked as if she might loose Patrick to him too.
Francis was washing the dishes when Patrick returned with her file. He stopped in the living room when he saw Benjamin asleep. "What happened?" he asked.
"He fell asleep. It must have been a long day for him," Francis explained.
Patrick lifted up Benjamin's legs onto the couch and covered him with a blanket. Francis brought Patrick a plate full of dinner. "I'm not hungry," he insisted.
Francis put the plate on the dining room table. Then she hugged Patrick from behind. Her left hand slipped down to his crotch. "Let's go to bed."
"I'm not hungry for that either. Let's go to our beds and get some sleep." The couple went up to there bedroom and slept once again in their separate dormers.