The Donor

Chapter ten

      Terry had meant to call Jack right after soccer practice to see if he wanted to get together, but when he brought Dylan home he stood around making small talk and watching Eurick help Mary with warping her loom. Really he was studying Eurick, trying to figure out what made him so different now, so compelling. And he tried to figure out why, if he was in love with Jack, as he was pretty sure he was, he was still so -- inspired -- by Eurick's most casual glance and touch.
      By now Eurick wasn't smirking any more. His bearing was more easy, less energetic, confident, not so overbearingly sure. It was interesting. Mary seemed to think that Eurick was most dangerous when the effect was strongest right after he had taken the blood. But at that time Terry thought he was more repellent than dangerous. Now, when the predatory urge was waning, he was much more attractive, and Terry thought Eurick could have whatever he wanted, now that he didn't want it so much.
      When he finally went downstairs his telephone was ringing. Jack sounded annoyed. "Where were you? You said you'd be back from practice by six-thirty."
      "Stood around and talked," Terry said, feeling guilty, then feeling irked at feeling guilty. All he'd talked about was soccer and the difference between high warp and low warp looms.
      "Well, it's too late for the movie I had in mind. What if I come get you and we sit around at my place or something?"
      "Anything you want," Terry said. "I'm ready."
      "I'm on my way."
      He squeezed in a two minute shower and emerged as Jack came to the door. Terry hovered demurely at the door, giving Jack the space to make the first move: badly calculated, that, as Jack didn't seem to be expecting it and stopped short like a person who finds the bottom step is a different height than the others. Terry pulled him in tight and dropped his head to Jack's shoulder.
      "Are you okay?" Jack asked, pushing him to arm's length.
      "I'm wonderful. Just glad to see you."
      "It's been such a long time," Jack agreed. "Almost four hours."
      "Well, it's been since Monday I haven't seen you except to do with work," Terry said awkwardly.
      "Well, come on," Jack said. "I want to be in my bed eventually tonight."
      "Oh, me too. I want to be in your bed tonight too," Terry said as Jack pulled him to the car.
      Dylan's game took place a week before his birthday. Eurick came, in a hat and shades and reeking of sunblock, and Mary with a bag of rabbit fur and a drop spindle. Terry had to explain everything to them, and then Dylan didn't want to eat a real meal out afterwards because the food wouldn't be garlicky enough, but they had sodas and ice cream, and Dylan explained the game some more.
      The birthday was celebrated in the back yard, on a sunny weekend morning, with lunch in the program. Small boys swarmed up and down the back stairs making the most alarming, and sometimes disgusting, noises. Eurick moved easily among them, somehow bringing them into a complicated game of catch with two differently sized balls, and stepping back when they began to ignore him. He dropped his children's entertainer manner when he turned to chat with Jack. Terry thought he saw a shadow of that former hunger on Eurick's face when he came over to say goodbye, but it was gone again when Eurick turned away to mediate a quarrel between two of the boys.
      Jack and Terry didn't stay for lunch. They were taking a ferry to Angel Island and the last one back. Jack thought they could get to the top and back and still have time to picnic. Terry had bought a wildflower guide and he was leafing through it on the way over, but all he saw on the hillsides across the bridge were washes of yellow and blue over the green new grass emerging through the old grey stalks from the year before.
      They synchronized their watches by the ferry clock and set out for the top of the island. Terry named the flowers as they found them. Jack shook his head. "They all look alike to me," he said.
      "I suppose we could have had big fat dramatic flowers for natives, then you'd notice them," Terry said.
      "I doubt it," Jack said. "I'm not much of a flower person."
      By the time they laid out their picnic at the dry top of the island they were painfully hungry. Terry cut off a piece of salami and held it to the sky. "Look at that, Jack," he said. "So thin you can see through it."
      "Good idea. Cut it thinner and you won't be able to see it at all. Save your arteries." But he was only teasing: his own sandwich was piled as high as Terry's.
      "Did you see Eurick today?" Terry asked with a sense of nerve in asking.
      "Yes," Jack drawled his disapproval. "And I saw you looking at him too."
      "How did he seem to you?"
      "Absolutely normal," Jack said, as if he would like to add "almost boring."
      "I thought so too," Terry said. Eurick didn't lurk in the shade, didn't avoid the boys or their parents who came and went. Except for that one glance at Terry, he'd been the model of the ordinary father.
      A large bird, a redtail hawk, circled in the air below them, rose on the currents of the air. It must have been an effort for Eurick to act like that, Terry thought, an effort he'd undertaken for Dylan and his friends.
      "He's not that attractive," Jack said.
      Terry played with his food, moving the lurid slice of salami around on the white baguette.
      "And he'll always be straight." Jack was looking down at the water beyond the slope of the island. The fine day brought out the blueness of the water, brown where tangles of kelp lay just under the surface.
      A dozen excuses filled Terry's mouth, including the true one, that he had not been mooning over Eurick this one time but trying to figure him out: but he swallowed every one of them. Jack would come to his own conclusions, whatever Terry said. A pair of small birds shot out of the shrubbery down the slope and took off after the hawk, driving it before them.
      "Come on, we have just exactly enough time to get the ferry," Jack said. Somehow, though they both had synchronized their watches, Jack had become the keeper of the time. Terry teased Jack, wrapping and stowing the leftovers precisely and leisurely, then skipping down the path, until Jack tackled him on a shallower stretch of slope, held him against the warm dirt, and said, letting go: "Wait till I get you home."
      "You're taking me home," Terry laughed. "I thought you were going to leave me here."
      Terry woke to a rustle and a gentle scraping across his nose. Jack had brought a green waxed paper cone filled with tiny flowers on long stems.
      "You really should lock your door," Jack said. "The really dangerous things can't be kept out with garlic and crosses."
      "Dangerous things like you?" Terry turned the bouquet over in his hands as Jack settled on to the edge of the bed. "What are these?"
      "Hell if I know. I told the florist something for a person who likes wildflowers. You better like them. It was a major trip, going into a flower shop. Watercolor gift cards. Bows. Pink things." Jack shuddered.
      "I do like them." He got up and put the flowers in one of the interesting jars he had been saving up for the purpose. He brought them back into the bedroom and stopped in the doorway, embarrassed by Jack's gaze.
      "We don't have much time," he fussed, setting the flowers down on the nightstand, already turning to the closet. "It's a work day, I have to get dressed."
      Jack already had his own shirt off. "Screw work."
      Terry glanced at his travel clock in its folding case. "Me too?" he asked.
      Jack was quick, and they made it to work more or less on time. In the car Jack told Terry he was planning to quit. "As soon as I figure out what else to do for a living."
      "I'll miss you," Terry said.
      "I won't be leaving town," Jack said.
      "I'll miss you at work." He hesitated. "Marcia's been after Lana lately."
      "I have ideas for Lana. I think by the time I get myself set up, I'll have her set up too."
      "You know, Eurick does all right freelancing. You could talk to him, he could give you pointers."
      If Jack had a reason to be around Eurick, he'd also have a chance to see that Terry wasn't really obsessed with him.
      Terry and Mary spent the day experimenting with rabbit tamales in the kitchen and Jack and Eurick lounged in the livingroom talking shop. Terry kept thinking about how Eurick was looking worse again. The worse Eurick looked, the more he wanted to look at him. Eurick, with his hair, limp and tufting, and his posture, clenched like a man fighting off a fever or belly cramps, seemed tremendously hungry. And Jack warmed to him, misinterpreting that hunger as determination.
      Mary, too, seemed to be holding herself together only with great effort. There was an uncharacteristic level of clutter in the kitchen, and she kept putting things down and losing them. "So how are you feeling?" he asked her after Dylan had left.
      "Okay," she said shortly, glancing at Eurick with a concerned frown.
      "You don't look so great," Terry said.
      Mary laughed. "Now that's a compliment! Remind me to get a Merle Norman makeover next time you come upstairs."
      "I just mean you look tired."
      "Combination of things," Mary admitted. "I don't really like this time of year anymore, because it's when Craig died," tripping quickly over the words in an unsuccessful attempt to suppress drama, "So I do too much to make up for it. I do the May Day and the Cinco de Mayo things and street fairs and the mountains and all this cooking and gardening. And then too I don't really have a handle on my periods. Doctor says its not unusual at my age to have them get wonky like this and it's not severe enough to be causing any problems but it's a strain dealing with it anyway."
      Terry murmured sympathetically, feeling he'd gotten more than he'd bargained for. Jack laughed at something Eurick said, his head thrown back, his hand rising from his knee. Eurick cracked a painful grin.
      Terry wiped down the counter, ran a few dishes through the bubbles, and caught Mary's eye. "Come out in the yard with me," he said.
      Terry had bought some white resin chairs to replace the nearly broken aluminum folding ones. He regretted the purchase, a little bit: they weren't as comfortable as the old ones.
      "So what do you think of Jack?" he asked Mary. "Now that you've known him for a while."
      "I like him. But he's kind of complicated, isn't he?"
      "Who isn't?"
      Mary grinned. "So what do you think is going to happen?"
      "I don't know. I get the feeling he's going to dump me eventually."
      "Why? Has he said something?"
      "No reason I can think of. It could be I don't know how to expect anything else. I take it a weekend at a time."
      "Well, for now, anyway, the way it looks, I think he might just possibly like you as much as you like him."
      Terry grimaced. "That might just theoretically be possible, but I don't know how."
      The garden was in its most earnest growing season. Everything was green and promising, fat and happy from five months of rain, polished by morning fog, soaking up afternoon sun. A bed of bright blue and yellow flowers for cutting ringed Mary's vegetable beds, and a bougainvillea burned red near the wounded fence.
      "So what's happening with Eurick?" Terry asked. He sought Mary's eye. He didn't want to be misunderstood.
      "We're coming up against the end of his slack," Mary said reluctantly. "I'm thinking Memorial Day weekend. I'm not really looking forward to any of it. I do get sick of it sometimes."
      The gladiolus stood in a rank by the bougainvillea, all blade at this time, the flowers only bashful suggestion swelling against the green sheath. "You never re thought using that other blood? You're suing it anyway."
      "It's not really mostly blood. It's not the blood that I mind. It's not that much. It's just the hassle, the worry of it. I get tired, and it's just endless. The rest of my life."
      "That's a lot for you to carry alone," Terry said.
      "Yeah, well, I can't feel sorry for myself forever. And I don't really do it alone."
      Terry looked back at Mary abruptly. "What do you mean?"
      "Oh, you know. I've got Eurick. And now you, too, to talk to I mean. It does make a big difference."
      "I wish I could really help."
      "Don't worry, if I think of anything, I'll tell you."
      Terry went in to collect Jack, who was excited by the possibilities and impressed by his talk with Eurick.
      "Okay, I understand the torch you carry for him," Jack said. "He really is a great guy. He did everything. He gave me contacts, he told me all about them, he gave me ideas for what to pitch and how to do it, and he's setting up a project for us to do together and he's going to introduce me to people."
      Jack went on raving about Eurick. "I never saw anybody so unassuming," he said later. "He showed me some of his work, and it's very good, very clean, but he makes no fuss about it at all. And he was friendly -- but, you, know, professional, not personal? Not like it was nepotism or something because I'm with you."
      "Now who's got the crush?" Terry asked, thinking, what would you think if you knew what I know?
      Jack leaned over the table. "Not a crush. I don't make everything sexual like some people I know." He rose, knocking Terry's cup off the table. He reached for it, but didn't catch it. He started picking up the pieces as Terry got down with a rag carefully torn with a t-shirt.
      "I wonder how he did that?" Jack asked the air, his hands full of shards.
      "Did what?" Terry asked.
      "I've been clumsy today. I knocked over a cup at Eurick's too. Eurick not only caught the cup in midair but he had a rag on the floor before the splash of coffee reached it. He's got some kind of reflexes."
      "Yes, it's a pity he isn't more athletically-inclined."
      Terry woke up thinking there was something missing. At first he thought it had something to do with the chain on the front door bolt, but since he never used the bolt, he dismissed that idea. He figured it out as he got off the streetcar, as he was moving his own silver chain from his neck to his watch pocket, pinning it in.
      Jack should have a neck chain too.
      Mary said she made a chain for everyone who spent any time around the house. Eurick said he got sick when she worked with silver.
      At lunch he sneaked away to look at jewelry stores. Terry's chain was slender, but rustic in design. He couldn't see Jack in something as delicate as that. Most of the chains labeled for men were bulky and ostentatious. There was one which was not so heavy, but still substantial looking, long enough to hide behind a collar, and not too shiny. He thought it must be pretty pure because it cost kind of a lot. He got a little pendant too, a spiraled phallic shape like a small plump unicorn horn, which looked as if it probably had some kind of significance, but more artistic than religious, really. Maybe Jack would wear it for the flattery factor.
      He slid th shiny, pebbled box next to Jack's plate and waited for Jack to notice.
      "What's in this?" Jack asked as if he didn't really want to touch it. The bow, made of a big pewter colored ribbon, was almost the size of the box, giving the thing the effect of an unusual succulent plant.
      "Just open it," Terry urged. He almost wished he hadn't put it there.
      Jack grunted and opened the box with the minimum of finger contact. He gazed on the contents with incomprehension.
      "Try it on," Terry said.
      Jack shook his head. "Sorry. But I can't. It's just not me."
      Terry shrugged. "I thought it was sort of different from the other ones I'd seen."
      "It's nice. In its way. But on me . . . it would feel like I was pretending to be someone else. A car salesman or something."
      One more try. "I thought if you had one you wouldn't mind mine."
      At least it broke the tension. "Blackmailer," Jack laughed. "That won't work on me.."
      "You wear those earrings." One yellow, one blue, Austrian crystal, tiny, both in one ear.
      "That's different. You could wear it, though. Just don't get an onyx pinky ring."
      :I can take it back," Terry said shortly.
      "Don't take it personally," Jack said..
      Jack had an idea for a project he wanted to develop with Eurick. Terry didn't know what it was, but Jack spent hours in Eurick's office while Mary tended her loom and garden and Terry tagged along with her or played with Dylan. Eurick was able to lose himself in the work for hours. Then it would be as if he woke up suddenly to his surroundings and his situation, and a look of horror would flash across his face, replaced by a grim unreadable expression. Terry thought Jack noticed and attributed it to some embarrassing physical discomfort, because he repeatedly remarked on Eurick's good nature and patience.
      "Maybe you could do some of that work over the phone. Or email," Terry said.
      "Some of it. But some of it we need to do together. Anyway I don't think it makes things worse for him. I get the impression that the work takes his mind off things."
      "You probably don't need to spend that much time together, anyway," Terry said. "I bet you could collaborate just as well if you lived in different countries."
      Jack heard the urgency in Terry's voice and frowned. "Tell the truth. You really don't want me to crowd your Eurick fantasies."
      Terry looked away. Nothing he could say would change Jack's behavior. He couldn't get him to cut down the time he spent with Eurick, and he couldn't get him to wear any kind of amulet. It wasn't as if the amulet probably had any real effect anyway. But he could see how much Eurick and Mary cared about it. And it was just getting worse as Eurick kept getting hungrier and it was still a couple of weeks until Mary planned to give him blood. Not that Terry was afraid of what Eurick would do. But the tension in the house was nervewracking. And Jack couldn't know how he contributed to it, and wouldn't do what Terry asked him to do just because Terry asked it.

back to The Donor index
back to chapter nine
forward to chapter eleven
back to The Crystal Egg