Summer of Denial


I left Wrangel to blubber and went into the lounge and sat at the piano, wanting to lose myself in music. It had been a double blow. It hadn't been the Damien slept with his models—or at least the women, I had thought. I'd heard that rumor before myself. But it was the thought that Damien slept with men as well as women.

There had been an edge to that that this revelation suddenly made clear to me. Damien indeed had been free with his hands—quite friendly—even with me. If I'd known he was bisexual I would have cast an entirely different light on some of the things he'd said to me in the past and the touches. I shuddered. It was exactly what I didn't want to be thinking about on this summer retreat. But possibly worse than that had been the thought that had kept surfacing in my mind from Helena's discussion of the concept for her novel. The thought that, of everyone here this summer, the relationship between Benjamin Wrangel and the Thai houseboy, Krit, had been the closest to the perfect entwining of the affection and the sexual. For some reason, the shattering of that misconception threw me into a depression. I had seen it as hope. Now we were left with the stark one-or-the-other relationships—the sexual or affection, diametrically opposed and in unending conflict with each other.

Even my relationship with Tish was felt now as a disintegration. Before this summer retreat, we had shared being dominated by our separate sibling spouses and there had been something of the relationship of affection between us, a relationship I had enjoyed, and in many cases such as hers valued more highly than the alternative. But now, it was purely a sexual relationship—and as close to a sterile one of those as I could imagine. I could give her an erection and an ejaculation and nothing else, really. And now my eyes were open to the knowledge that she could take—and could seek—far more than that in a copulation. I think I would have preferred the somewhat distant affection we had shared before.

And why couldn't I have both with someone—someone who actually was appropriate—I wondered. Why wasn't one or the other enough for me? It seemed to be enough for everyone else. Everyone, of course, except for Benjamin Wrangel, who had been crushed by losing what he had believed he had.

Krit was inscrutable through it all. He continued to be the pleasant and obedient servant. If he seemed to glow more now than when he was sleeping with Wrangel and if now he wore the typical male Thai sarong skirt around the house without the vest he'd worn with it before and lingered a bit longer near Damien and to the touch than he had before, he didn't flaunt it. But it was clear that Damien was satisfying him in ways that Wrangel hadn't managed.

And now, when Krit cast his eyes on me, was there something else in what he conveyed than there had been before? Or had it been there all along and I'd just been blind—or in denial—to it? Had the departure of Wrangel freed or imprisoned Krit?

It was just as well that Wrangel had left on the tourist boat back to Hilton Head Island that day and hadn't been able to see just how much denial he'd been in to think that his relationship with Krit had been of the combined high affection and sexual quality that both he and I had thought it was.

* * * *

My last day on Daufuskie island started off so well and ended with such surprising finality and unexpected resolution. The weather was gorgeous. It could be hot and muggy as well on the island in July, but it had rained the night before and cleared the humidity.

I had waited until I heard Helena clump down the stairs and for she and Damien to rattle their golf clubs around in the foyer and muscle their way out of the front door and to the waiting golf cart before I rose from the bed, pulled on the sleeping shorts Tish had pulled off my legs in the early morning hours, and went over to the window facing down into the front garden and driveway circle on the land side of the house.

There was a knock on the door, and Krit entered, bare-chested, a silk sarong wrapped around his waist. He was smiling—he always was smiling—and carried a cup of coffee that he handed to me, stood back and lowered his head demurely, and asked me if there was anything else I wanted—anything at all.

"No thank you, Krit," I said. "Did Damien and Helena say when they would be back from golf?"

"No sir."

"Is Ms. Angel up and about yet?"

"Yes sir. She's in the morning room, sir. Having her breakfast. Will you be walking this morning, sir, or composing? Or was there something else?"

"I'll do the former for an hour or so before taking a turn at the piano."

I don't know if Krit understood the emptiness of this schedule for the day as well as I did. I didn't respond to the "or something else." Was I transparent to everyone but myself? I knew that neither Krit nor I misunderstood the service he was offering.

"Very good, sir. I'll be working in the garden. Your breakfast is in the warming oven . . . if you're sure there's nothing else."

"No, thank you, Krit, nothing else."

He backed out of the room. Was that a slightly disappointed look on his face? Was Krit already shopping beyond Damien? But that was unfair. What would we do without Krit this summer? I hardly noticed that Benjamin had been gone for two weeks now. All heads would snap up within two minutes at the knowledge that Krit, seemingly just part of the wallpaper here, was gone. We could not have coped if Krit had left with Wrangel.

I turned to the window, taking in the beauty of the day and appreciating the cup of coffee.

"Damn, another beautiful day in paradise," I said out loud. And that was the gist of the month I'd spent on the island so far. Beautiful weather, every opportunity to work, and the periodic visit by a beautiful blonde who only wanted to drain my cock and then slip away. No complications. No anything much really. It's true that I had sat at the Petrof every day with the intention of composing something, but after a month nothing had come. Helena had insisted that I have the Petrof—my muse she'd called it—and that I spend several hours a day at the piano. But thus far the Petrof had proven not to be the muse I needed. And neither had anything else I had experienced on the island.

Whose idea was it to come here in the first place? And why? Who was it who had said it was my idea?

There was movement below. Helena and Damien's golf cart was just disappearing down the drive beyond the trees, and the egg and milk man, the captain of the tourist boat from Savannah, was walking up the drive with a shopping bag swinging at his side. Krit had exited the house and gone to the circular garden on the other side of the drive where it swung past the entrance to the house. The boat captain stopped at the garden and he and Krit spoke briefly. Krit gestured toward the house and the boat captain continued on. Eggs and milk. It must be a Tuesday or a Thursday then, I thought. In New York, I would have been aware of every minute of every day, would have been productive—alive—every minute of the day. In New York, Charlie and I could have put a song together, complete with lyrics, before breakfast. Here on Daufuskie Island, time stood still. Life was dullness itself.

But wait, I thought, as I gazed out onto the front lawn. What do we have here?

Another figure was walking into view. Not down the drive, but along the tree line, curving around to the side of the house. Vandi LaRoche.

I wondered if he knew about the egg and milk man's visits to the house.

But when I went downstairs and into the kitchen and the sounds from the morning room drew me to the doorway between the two rooms, I discovered that Vandi was well acquainted with the boat captain's visits. The three of them were upright—or nearly so—and pressed against each other on the far wall. Vandi had his back to the wall and was somewhat crouched, with his legs bent and spread for support. Tish was more or less sitting in his lap—with his cock inside her ass—and the boat captain was facing her and fucking her from the front. She had those long, long legs of hers wrapped around the boat captain's waist—and she was making purring sounds.

Foregoing breakfast, I headed for the door and onto one of the narrow pathways meandering around the island. I found myself near a clearing in the center of the island, at the fringes of the Gullah community. I sat on a bench inside the clearing and watched the small community going about its business. They knew I was there, and they undoubtedly knew where I came from. But, other than smiling at me as they passed by and more than one of them offering me something cold to drink, which I politely turned down, they just continued with their daily activities, interacting with each other in polite and good-humored manner. Continuing life as it had been for them for centuries.

How uncomplicated and natural they all seemed, I thought. No apparent cares in the world. None of the tension and complexity of my own little gathering up at the summer house. As I sat there, my own life and circumstances started to clarify.

I knew and accepted why I was here—and even why I couldn't compose here, even with the Petrof. But I didn't really want to think about it. Life with Helena wasn't bad. We'd both known what the arrangement would be when we married—she probably more than I. I was the innocent, just having arrived in New York City, all "golly gee" and full of hope. Even then she was the seasoned New York author. She needed a husband for reasons of her own. I was just beginning and needed security and a sense of inclusion. There was affection in our relationship. Our compatibility within the circle of her friends that she had drawn me into had been genuine, our affection for, and enjoyment of, each other quite clear. The edges of that compatibility—given our limited demands on each other—had remained no more than slightly frayed through eight years of marriage. It wasn't coming out all that well here, in our summer vacation, but it was there. I knew it was there. The sexual facet wasn't needed—by either of us. I don't know how many times I had told myself that over the years.

It had been enough for eight years. Was it still enough? Damn. Why had Helena even opened up these thoughts with her discussion of the different types of relationships—and the setting of a goal in relationship? Was it her signal that she wanted something more, something different, from what we had? I couldn't fool myself that it was just that—that her novel was for me, not for her adoring fans.

Tucking knowledge back behind the comforting screen of denial, I stood from the bench and started back to the house. Too much reality at one time was disconcerting. Perhaps the denial was better.

When I returned to the house, Helena and Damien were back from golf. Krit was gliding around the house, humming contentedly, and doing what nearly invisible domestics did. Tish was nowhere to be seen. I ducked my head into the library to make sure that Helena was embedded in her work, which she was. Then I went to the lounge and sat at the piano and stared at the keys. I put my hands on the keys and realized that I actually was making music—and producing a tune that sounded fresh—and, more important, perhaps commercially viable with some tweaking.

"I was thinking."

I stopped playing and looked up. Damien was sitting straddling a straight chair in reverse close to the piano. He was just wearing shorts and was looking tanned, toned, and hunky. The shorts were baggy and hung off his legs at the side of the chair. I could see almost all the way up his inner thigh. I pulled my attention away from that. I couldn't deny that he was a highly sensual man, though.

"Damien. I thought I was just getting a possible tune worked out."

He didn't get the hint. "I was thinking. I would like for you to model for me."

"Me?" I asked. I shuddered. The words Wrangel had said came charging back at me—that Damien bedded all of his models. Even the men. But perhaps Damien didn't mean—

"Surely you know that I have been attracted to you."

Oh, shit. Yet something else that I've been oblivious to? But then, of course I hadn't really been oblivious to that. "No, I didn't. I don't—"

"I wish to paint you and then I want to fuck you. Not make love to you, fuck you silly. This isn't a 'make love' sort of proposition. I think we could make very good sex together—mutually pleasurable."

"Krit," I said.

"Krit is a nice little piece in bed. But not for the entire summer."

Why had I mentioned Krit and not Trish? Was it the guilt of Tish visiting me?

"Listen, Damien—"

"You have been fucked by a man, haven't you? I can always tell that about a man. When they have and will take cock. You are much too enticing and sensual not to be approachable, and I know you and Helena don't fuck."

I started to deny it, but I couldn't really, could I? That was the whole crux of this matter. Why I was here and not in New York. Instead of answering that, I latched onto the second part of what he'd said.

"Helena and I don't fuck. Yes, I guess she would have told you that, wouldn't she? You and she have been quite chummy this past month. Does she model for you? Have you two been fucking? Claiming you're going golfing and fucking in the rough?"

He laughed in my face. The last thing I expected him to do in response to the jab. "I could no more fuck my sister than you can fuck your wife," he retorted, a mean grin sliced across his face. "And she didn't have to tell me that, Adrian." Then he laughed again, a more jovial laugh this time. "You aren't telling me that you don't know."

"Don't know what?"

"Don't know what this is all about. This summering together, you and Helena and me and Tish?"

"I don't understand."

"I've heard you asking why we're here. We told you that you suggested it, but we were just joking with you."


"Who engaged this house? Who made all of the arrangements? Who decided who was coming?"


"Yes, precisely."

"But I told her I wanted to come. When she said she arranged to come here, I said I wanted to come too."

"After months of not showing any interest in it."

"Yes. but . . ." He didn't understand. None of them understood. I couldn't deny it anymore. Maybe to them, but not to myself anymore. It was Charlie. Charlie and me. After all of these years of a close friendship and a symbiotic relationship as composer and lyricist, Charlie and I had gotten drunk over a score one night and we had fucked. We had fucked—and although he initiated it, I wanted it as much as he did. Couldn't deny it any longer. I'd wanted it with him for years. He had told me that it was much more than sexual. It was one of those relationships of the sexual and the affection—the love—being closely entwined. At least for him. He'd asked if it was the same way for me.

I was in total denial, even in the face of the raw reality of it. I pulled away from him, left him there, came home, back to the apartment I shared in isolation from each other with Helena, and begged to be included in this summer escape. It was too much for me. Then. It wasn't the Petrof that was my muse. It was Charlie.

Damien was waiting for me. Sitting there and looking at me, and waiting for me to process where I was, what he was offering. He reached his hand out and put it on my forearm and stroked me gently there with his sensuous artist fingers. I didn't pull back.

"I can't believe that you didn't know. That you don't know, Adrian. Helena set this summer retreat up for her. For her and Tish."

"For her and Tish?" I weakly asked. Still in denial.

"Then you insisted on coming along. And I was added. I was added to help keep you occupied—to help keep you away from Helena and Tish so that they could screw—or whatever one lesbo does with another—in private. You were my reward for saying nothing about Helena and Tish for these three years."

"Three years?" I said in a small voice.

"That book Helena is writing. She's writing it about her and Tish. She thinks that the perfect dual relationship she says is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence describes her and Tish. And Tish isn't in my room or in a separate bedroom somewhere. They are in the same room, Adrian. I had no idea you hadn't realized that and weren't in on the arrangement. The complete arrangement. You're here for me. Krit was just a brief diversion. I thought you were taking a bit long to fall into that, into the plan. Helena assured me that you were gay and was approachable. Helena thinks she's found the love of her life. But she's in denial. She can't—or won't—see that it isn't that type of relationship for Tish."

You can bet your ass it isn't, I thought. Tish wasn't tied to anyone in a dual relationship as far as I could see—and observe. So I was odd man out on knowing the truth—beyond the denial I'd been plagued with on Charlie. I and Benjamin Wrangel, of course. But his eyes were opened, if only for the moment, and he was gone from here. That had been his answer—to leave the island. He was bent but not broken. He would survive to happily delude himself in some other one-sided relationship built on some young man's ambition to ride on a powerful man's shoulders, even if it meant having to ride on his cock as well.

Damien had continued talking—and stroking my forearm seductively and possessively. I hadn't heard what he had been saying, but I heard what he said now. "Tish will never devote herself to Helena. Tish is devoted to me."

That got my attention. I looked up into his face and almost laughed in it. We all were in denial—except maybe Tish. Even Damien was in denial. I looked down at the hand he had on my forearm and then to the other hand that had crept onto my thigh.

"Model for me, Adrian. Come out into the forest and model for me in the nude. You have a beautiful body and are hung like a horse. Then we will make sex. Or we can fuck now and the painting can come later. I'm not asking for love, just sex. You are starved for good, clean, uncomplicated sex. You can't deny that; it's written all over you."

Ah, but I am asking for far more than that, I thought, with disconsolation. I'm asking for it all—the sexual gloriously entwined with the affection. And I could have had it with Charlie. I did feel the same connection he did. It had just been the shock that had made me flee. And the feeling of responsibilities to others.

But, what responsibilities? Helena had been honest with me eight years ago, that this was a marriage going no further than affection. After a while she obviously had just given up on not chipping through my self-denial with honesty and had begun taking her pleasures where she could find them. The affection of the relationship had remained. She hadn't denied me that. How was I to know that she was oriented in another direction? Just as I was. Just as I am. I had been in such comfortable denial.

I looked up at Damien again, drinking him all in. He was magnificent. I knew he would be—had been to anyone he could sink his cock into—a totally satisfying lover.

"So, I will go to the studio and get my easel and paints and you will join me out on the back terrace. OK?"

"Yes," I said in a small voice. It was useless to say no to Damien—as least for people who weren't a lot stronger than I was.

He smiled and leaned over into me and we kissed. I trembled at the promise of him, at the definitive answer to what I wanted, what I was. He laughed again, a low, contented, soft laugh of recognized victory, as he stood up from the turned chair, taking his electrifyingly possessive hands away from me, and left the room. He was humming. When I heard him moving toward the back of the house, I stood too and took one last look at my Petrof baby grand. My muse. Or so I believed. But not my real muse.

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