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The Surprise Barber 3-Part 1 by Armando94
(this one has been a long time coming...but I'm glad I waited because I came up with something that I never would have if I rushed this.)
The Surprise Barber 3
"I’m telling you man, it’ll look good," Bruce said. "I’m just shocked you aren’t sticking with the buzzed look like me," he grazed a hand across the top of his chopped crop that now he had touched up practically every other week.
"It isn’t bad," Aidan emphasized. "I just think maybe it’s a little too short, and now that my hair has been growing out a little bit I want to add more style to it. You know?"
"Well we can’t do what I first started giving to you," Bruce said as he massaged Aidan’s temples, then his neck and shoulders. Of course he was referring to the two first haircuts he had given Aidan that were styled like Bruce’s old look. Then he gave him that late night haircut over a month ago at his place. They hadn’t role played that since then, just occasional visits to Bruce’s pad or if they went out for dinners or something.
"What would you suggest then?" Aidan asked.
Bruce did his usual, sifting his hands through the client’s hair as he hummed to himself, staring in the mirror to let the silence and anticipation linger a little longer. He had always been good at this after all when he worked in barber shops, it was even better in salons now. And especially with someone like Aidan. "You’re not giving up your fade, babe."
"No, no, wasn’t suggesting that," Aidan quickly confirmed.
"Good," Bruce winked and flashed his usual great white shark smile. Then he crouched a little as his man hand’s continued to rush up against Aidan’s skull, pulling back at the hair and skin. "We could definitely style the top a little bit, so there’s something in the front, little bit of an Ivy or something. What do you think?"
"Whatever you think, I trust you, you know that."
"Boy I do," Bruce laughed to himself as he went to fire up the clippers for the skin fade.
Aidan didn’t have to worry about telling anyone about Bruce for the past month because, well, why would he? It wasn’t like they were dating or anything. Well, it may look like they were dating when you saw moments of them alone. But they were just "hanging out". Its not like this was the first time Aidan had done something like that with a girl or guy, granted that was during this past freshman year of college, but still. What was the difference? And Bruce was older, so this was probably something he looked to do too. Who didn’t see someone for a little bit of time?
That is, who didn’t see "someone", not "someone’s"…
Bruce began on the fade like usual, the whole usual routine. Now there conversations in the chair were so different. They didn’t have to ask each other how they were doing, considering they texted like every single day. It was now a never ending dialogue, or at least that was how Aidan saw it. Bruce felt that way too, although, he had to be careful which dialogue to use, and remember what they were last talking about. He really did like the kid, but his old ways were never going to fade away like he could with hair on someone’s head.
Now when Aidan had his hair taken care of, he felt like he could, at times, let out little moans or soft smiles for only Bruce’s hearing and vision, knowing this would arouse the surprise barber of the salon. Aidan had learned a little bit about being this way, temptation and all, how to keep someone coming back for more. Not that Bruce was any different, it was basically part of his craft as well. How do you make a client keep coming back? Aidan was just silly putty at the end of the day. Easy and malleable.
Both the wet coolness and sharp heat of the clippers flicked carefully up the side of Aidan’s head as Bruce perfectly blended the fade down his head. After this, it was on to washing his hair out and any of the loose hairs from the clipper work. And if the fading hadn’t already felt erotic enough, then truly this part was no competition. Aidan couldn’t help himself but smile the whole way through as Bruce worked his hands through and under the water, and Bruce was smiling the whole way through as well. Working his hands more rough and vigorously as possible, giving Aidan a massage as much as a hair wash. When Bruce shot off the water from the faucet, the two of them both let out a sigh of ecstasy.
Bruce giggled, "Feel better, boy?"
"Much, thank you, sir," Aidan played along like it was Fifty Shades of Fades or something.
Then it was back to the main chair where Bruce worked with the wet hair on top and slowly but slightly began to trim some length off the top. Not too much and certainly hardly any up in the front, that way he had enough to work and play with later (both in the shop and after hours). Then Bruce continued to tame down the sides with the scissors and a little bit of clipper over comb to just even things out. Finally he was blow drying Aidan’s hair to get it all standing up erect how he wanted before applying a bit of product through the roots and making things stand up, little bits short and spiky looking but brushing it forward to meet the fringe at the top that now was styled like a little bit of a coif. "What do you think?"
Aidan liked it a lot, it was very respectable, very college looking almost. And good thing he had a fade, because if not it may have made him look like he had a young boy’s haircut from a different era. But, he wished his hair was a little bit longer but there was no use in complaining. What was done was done, and he did still think a lot about that night of the forbidden haircut at Bruce’s. The whole energy of that entire day and night, really.
"Can never go wrong with a barber’s choice, I’ve learned, can you?"
"No you cannot, boy," Bruce laughed, shining his teeth some more, before he dusted Aidan off and released the cape from him.
Then Aidan said to him, sounding a little off put, "Huh, you know for a second, I was wondering if you would take another picture of me and put it on your Instagram."
"Why would I do that?"
That was an interesting tone Bruce responded with, at least Aidan felt a little bit of a sting, "Oh, I don’t know, just thought because it’s a different style and all, you know."
Bruce got close to whisper to him, "Not the first guy I’ve given a cut like this to."
Aidan wasn’t so sure if that was teasing him or not, or if Bruce was being brutally honest. He was starting to wonder what was behind it. The cape was already released from him so he figured he’d better get up and out of the chair. Then the two of them walked up to the front so Aidan could pay and tip Bruce. They went in for the hug, perhaps both wondering if they would have kissed or something this time. But not anymore, especially not after the sudden sting Aidan was all of a sudden feeling. And besides, why would Bruce kiss Aidan here? Not only was it unprofessional and all, but, it wasn’t like Aidan was the only guy he’d been kissing recently…
The salon was closing up soon, Bruce finishing up with a client of his, the husband of one of the women he had started working on when he first came here back in the start of the year. Someone encouraging a relative or loved one to give this young man a chance to have more clients. Thankfully this man, in his early fifties, just had one of those regular business cuts, slight taper in the back, something that Bruce could handle easily and swiftly. The only problem with men of this age that came in to Bruce’s chair was he ultimately felt like they did not mesh. They didn’t have the same interests, or views on things, just a whole list of them. But, a client was a client, so who was going to say no?
"Yep, son," the man said, "your time will be upon you before you know it."
"What do you mean…my time?" Bruce sounded confused yet slightly pissed.
"Well we all go gray at some point now, Bruce, ain’t nothing wrong with it," he nodded his head up and down. "Not saying it doesn’t suit you, that tight crew cut, but I’m sure it is helping you out."
Bruce was stunned, "I have no idea what you are talking about."
"Can’t fool me, son, I’ve been there before," the cape was released from the client. "And there is nothing wrong with holding onto it while you are still in your thirties, I get that."
"I’m twenty-seven," Bruce stammered, and then furosciously rubbed the top of his buzzed head. "And there is nothing wrong with my hair!"
The man stood up, "I’m not accusing you of anything!"
"Yes you are!" Bruce got a little too loud.
This made the older man take a step back and then put his hands out to say, "Take it easy now, son."
"Stop calling me that," Bruce wouldn’t lower his tone, completely unaware of the circus he was causing. He raised his hand in the direction towards the front of the salon by the reception area, so that this last client of the day could pay and get the hell out. He was thankfully still tipped but only bid a "goodnight" and not a "see you next time".
Bruce cleaned up his station, even though he now knew he had some of the ladies watching his every move after this recent blow-up. At least he could keep his head down and act like they weren’t paying attention to him, when all he wanted to do was stare them down himself. But he was starting to see that maybe he had lost his cool a little bit. But that old fart was being a complete jerk to him, what was he going on about, was Bruce really graying already? Well, it wouldn’t be so untrue that was for sure, Bruce had seen some grays from time to time in the past, they starkly stood out against his dark colored hair. And now with his short hair he was definitely able to monitor them better, should they ever sprout up. And sprout up was the best way of describing them, they were like weeds. Trim them down before they overgrew and took over the rest of the garden. The garden you had spent so much time pruning and perfecting. Bruce had perfected his looks all the way around for too long now to surrender them. His hair, his face, his body, everything. He had a good job, a place of his own, he was on the right path. On the onset, at least, from the outside. But truly? He wasn’t, and he wouldn’t even admit it.
He was shocked to see Genna had already left for the night, they usually walked out together or something. He found it awfully weird, but maybe she had to go somewhere. One of the other stylists asked him if he was going to close up, and he said he would. Once she had left it was just Bruce, all alone in the shop. The last client’s comments still getting to him, eating away at him. He sat in his own chair, inspecting himself, further and further. Perhaps he was really loosing his mind and the negative comments were only getting to him, but now he was suddenly starting to question if he was beginning to gray on the top, and possibly a bit in his scruff! Yes it might look sexy on most guys, but Bruce was still very young! He wasn’t willing to go silver fox just yet! So he did the only thing that his paranoid psyche told him to. He went into the back and began to gather together a bunch of different products, colors, etc. He was going to prove that old man wrong, prove everyone wrong, that he could still be the best looking guy around. He still had game, trailing along guys every night on the phone or in person. None of them said a thing, at least to his face, and he wasn’t about to let that happen.
He draped the cape around him as he began to put a mixture together, then applying it and stroking it through the top of his head, and then a little through the sides. He would have to clean up his own fade a bit, that would be necessary. And then he did the unthinkable, something he would have gotten a big fat F for in cosmetology school, he used the same mixture on top of his beard and began to paint it in there too. And then his eyebrows as well!! Judging by his appearance alone right now, it looked like he had taken black acrylic paint to every part of his body with hair. Then he washed it all out, feeling like he had just helped himself out physically just as much as emotionally. Then he picked up a pair of clippers and cleaned up Mike’s fade around his head, making sure it was all looking sharp now. Little flecks and spots of dark hair tuffs now flying down onto the ground, more work for him to clean-up on. But that was okay, he didn’t really care.
Finally, Bruce took a step back, and inspected himself. He thought he looked great, but to anyone who knew him well, or saw him on a regular, they would notice that his hair was noticeably more darker. Possibly because the beard and eyebrows were, they even looked thicker and fuller! And up against his tan it looked like he was a completely different ethnicity. Was he Mediterranean or middle eastern or from some island? Who knew, all Bruce knew was that he was making sure he continued to cultivate his image. It was what he had going for him, if only that.
He was in such a fever that he spaced out his plans with his buddies from the Ray’s Barber Shop. He hopped on one of the dating apps on his phone and saw a message from a new stranger, what else was new, including a very encouraging photo and message attached. Bruce sent back the usual, "Hello to you too, handsome" and then the usual chit chat that even Aidan didn’t play with him. Aidan was truly like a PG rated film compared to how revolting Bruce could be. So Bruce cleaned up his new mess and made plans with the gentleman of the night.
"Nice haircut, man," one of the other lifeguards came up to him, Bobby was his name.
"Thanks," Aidan smiled, "just yesterday."
"I can tell," Bobby commented, and then looked out on the pool. "Saturdays, the day that actually gives us any action and yet we don’t want to do the work."
"It could be worse," another lifeguard, Liv, saddled in next to the two of them, holding out the testing tubes for the water’s level and pH balance. She said, "Its better than during the week when its only kids, at least now there are parents."
"Like any of them pay attention," Aidan joked, which made them all laugh.
"What are you doing tomorrow, man?" Bobby asked.
"I don’t know," Aidan didn’t know. Most his friends were either on vacation with family or friends from college this early in August before they had to go back to school in a few weeks. And his family didn’t have any trips for themselves. But that was okay, Aidan had been making money and even got a few private gigs on the side for kids’ pool parties on weekends when he might be able to squeeze it in if he wasn’t here. And he really didn’t have any plans for the next day with Bruce, they hadn’t discussed it at the salon and he didn’t hear from him the rest of the day. He sent him a snapchat but didn’t get a response. He did see this morning when he woke up that Bruce had apparently opened it…but three hours earlier at five in the morning. What was he doing up that early? Was he going to the gym or something? But that was ridiculously early for a Saturday when he usually didn’t get to the salon until a nine o’clock appointment. Then again, Aidan wasn’t trying to think too much about it, just like the night before. After the salon, he spent the day by his own pool, then had dinner with his family, periodically checked his phone, but then was on Fortnite with some friends from school, everyone talking about going back pretty soon and seeing each other. Aidan was actually excited about school, and to see all his new friends.
"Well, we were going to go to the beach club, you know the one about fifteen minutes away," Liv said. "My aunt and uncle are on the board, and they are currently in some island in the south pacific for three weeks with my cousins, so they let me have their passes. Bobby was going to come and so were a few other of the guards that have off. Did you want to join? I know you have off."
"Is there anyone working tomorrow?" Aidan joked.
Bobby laughed, "Well, they gotta start giving the high school kids a little more responsibility, especially once all of us college kids have to go back. What do you say? Its pretty nice actually, you have both pool and beach."
"What more could you ask for," Aidan mumbled, but then he smiled. It might actually do him some good to hang with kids his own age. "Count me in, actually."
"Great," Liv grinned, "who knows, maybe you’ll meet a cute pool boy or cabana girl, Aidan."
"Yeah right," he rolled his eyes and shook his head, and then they all carried on with their shift. This was going to be a good thing for him, he needed a day like tomorrow. His parents would also be happy and pleasantly surprised, he rarely hung out with these coworkers.
No one really made a comment that morning in the salon, especially not about the blow-up from the night before, but especially Bruce’s newly dyed look. Well, they might have all been thinking it, but Genna was the only one with courage to say, "Oh, Bruce, did you dye your hair?"
"What?" he asked, only now realizing that maybe he had done too harsh of a dye job. He had only fully realized it that morning as he stumbled in the bathroom of the strange man’s place. He wouldn’t be seeing this cad again, true one-night stand material. Around his age, worked a normal job, both of them knowing what they were getting themselves into that night.
"Sorry," Genna looked down, "did you just put a different product in…or…err."
Bruce had to surrender. "Yes, I—I did, touch it up I guess."
She nodded her head up and down, "I see," and then looked back down at her computer.
Bruce went over to his chair and began to set his things up, first start of the morning was one woman who just needed her roots touched up, luckily she was not a morning person and Bruce was in no mood to talk so it was a fairly quiet session. The rest of the first couple of appointments seemed to go this way. Then he was surprised that by 11:30 he had an opening, he hadn’t had many openings on a Saturday so far. Maybe in the dead of the afternoon that was more likely, but rarely in the morning. It was summer after all.
So he went up to the front to go and check with Genna, "Hey, Gen," he startled her. "Did I have a cancellation? I could almost swear I was all booked up the other day."
"Umm…" Genna looked down at the computer and said, "Yeah—yeah, you must have, sorry, its been so busy lately I didn’t even tell you. You know, people going away on vacations or coming back, booking appointments for weddings this month, everything you could imagine."
"Yeah, I guess so," Bruce mumbled.
"Are you okay? You look pretty tired? Want to go out and get a coffee?"
Bruce had been trying to cut back on the caffeine recently, but he figured why not, especially if no one was going to be here for at least another half an hour. He went down a few shops to the bagel shop nearby, got himself a hot cup, and then came back to the reception to find Genna there with her boyfriend, her newly cleaned-up boyfriend.
Wait, how was that? Bruce had been taking care of him the last few months, he got a weekly head-shave and a beard line-up, and…that was usually Saturday mornings, but earlier in the morning…so had he skipped—no, he clearly went elsewhere, Bruce could tell that. But his appointment time wasn’t usually right now either, had they shuffled around the schedule? Had Genna shuffled around the schedule? Let some of Bruce’s client’s know there was a cancellation and they could be moved up?
"Hey man," Bruce sounded out, catching both lovebirds’ attention. He had clearly stopped by to drop off some breakfast for Genna. Would have been nice if she had offered to get Bruce something too. "Looking fresh?"
"Thanks," Genna’s boyfriend didn’t act one bit awkward about, he took it all in stride. "Yeah, my new buddy hooked me up this morning, over at Ray’s, ever heard of that place?"
"I have," Bruce had literally worked there before here.
"Great place, man," he added. "Definitely my new weekly hangout." Then he turned to Genna and whispered a demure "I’ll see you later" and they kissed on the lips, and he walked out patting Bruce on the shoulder so firmly that no matter how much Bruce tried to work out these days, this guy could break him in half.
Now Genna had the awkward expression on, unwilling to explain the truth.
"Did your boyfriend cancel on me?"
"Well, Bruce…" she tried to explain. "Yeah, kind of. I mean, it has nothing to do with coming to the salon, he’d done that before you were even here on occasion. I, umm…" she didn’t need to explain. This was why she hadn’t waited around yesterday evening at the end of work, this was why there was a sudden gap in Bruce’s schedule and some of the clients had been shuffled around. This was just the start of Bruce’s demise from the salon to the streets, except he couldn’t see it. All he could see was this was a betrayal of friendship.
"Genna, that was a pretty b*tch move," Bruce said.
She looked bewildered, and then like she was about to spit at him, but she held herself back and said, "Seriously, Bruce? Like you weren’t a dickhead to your client last night? Or some of your other clients? Even your own friends?"
"What are you even talking about, girl," Bruce laughed. "And why are you talking about my friends?"
"Wanna know who my boyfriend’s new barber is?" Genna tempted him. "Mike. Looks like he had an opening this morning, had left it available in case he came back late last night from being out with friends. Seems like he ended up not going out at all."
Holy sh*t, now THIS dawned on Bruce and hit him like a wrecking ball. He had completely spaced on hanging with one of his best friends and all their old coworkers. All for a one-night stand with some flimsy looking boy who would mean nothing after twenty four hours.
"Now whatever goes on with your friends outside of here is totally your own business, Bruce. But when you are a representative of this salon, one of the most popular ones in town, we’d all hope and expect you to treat your clients better and with the utmost respect. Whether you like them or not, that’s all we ask."
"Oh come on, one guy? Like that’s a major problem?"
"Why don’t you ask the Yelp review from last night."
Bruce wasn’t even tempted to look, he knew exactly what it meant and who it might have come from. He wouldn’t even put it past Genna’s boyfriend to maybe write up a one start review in the days to come, even if it brought their ratings down. Just a way to get back at Bruce. What he did do was open his phone and shoot a message to Mike saying, "Hey man, can we talk?"
He didn’t anticipate a response, at least not for a couple of hours. Ray’s was probably revolving with customers, it was summer. Everyone wanted to stay fresh. What he didn’t expect was no response at all.
One of Bruce’s other clients of the day cancelled, so they moved up his last one so this allowed him to wrap up early. Of course this threw off Bruce a bit, and he had a mini hissy fit. As if having someone show up thirty minutes earlier was such a big problem. The client didn’t say anything at that, she just stared back and stared down at him, what a tall woman she really was. She had always been pleasant enough with him. He tried to smooth things over, ask her things like small talk. She gave responses when prompted, but she didn’t offer him any questions. When this client was done and they walked up to the front, Bruce did not linger too long, she offered up his tip right away when they got there, and she handled the rest with Genna, allowing Bruce to go back to his station to clean-up. He could see out of the corner of his eye that the woman was saying something to Genna, and he almost swore he could read her lips, telling the receptionist to "cancel my husband’s appointment with that young man" before she left the salon.
The demise was coming, he just was slow to see how bad it would be.
Aidan got home from work before five so he found his parents outside by the pool, lounging around, in no rush to barbecue just yet. He did tell them his plans for the next day, and they were thrilled as expected. Saying how it would be great for him to hangout with some coworkers, especially since he couldn’t see his college friends for another few weeks.
"Your haircut looks nice on you, son," his dad said.
"Thanks," Aidan blushed.
"Did you go to Bruce again?" Lorraine, his mother, asked.
"I did, yeah."
"This one looks much better than the last one," his father stated. "Not that it looked bad on you, everyone gets a crew cut at some point in their life. But I don’t think the buzzed look worked on you, Aidan."
"I don’t think so either," and Aidan wasn’t just talking about that previous haircut, he was thinking about more than that. He was thinking about the barber that gave it to him. The thought of hanging out with some friends tomorrow, and not waiting around or wondering about the older boy was sort of…refreshing? Was that possible? The last month, Aidan felt like he had to be at Bruce’s beck and call at every opportunity. That was whenever Bruce wanted to see him. Aidan wasn’t sure why he hadn’t viewed it from that point of view yet. He figured because he was just busy working at the pool, and Bruce was busy with his work at the salon, that things were just natural or normal. But it was starting to go off in Aidan’s brain like codes for a mystery, why Bruce was able to do certain days, or why all of a sudden he was asking "What are you doing tonight?" rather than planning in advance. Aidan didn’t care really, and hadn’t overthought it, but now he was starting to.
"Well you’ll have to find somewhere by school to keep your hair in check," his father added.
"I suppose so."
"Do you think you’ll keep seeing Bruce?" his mother asked.
"Well that was a weird way of putting it, because there were two ways of seeing that question. And for both of them, they had the same answer, "I don’t know, honestly."
"Well, no one is forcing you to go there, sweetie," she added. "They are nice haircuts after all, but they are just haircuts, you can go somewhere else if you’d rather. Maybe ask one of the guys tomorrow where he goes?"
"Maybe," Aidan nodded his head, and then lounged back in the reclined chair. Eventually his father threw the burgers on the grill and his mom went inside to fix up a salad. They ate on the back deck and stayed out a little while longer, his father allowing him to have a couple beers before he went in for the night and played some more video games with friends, telling them all about what he was doing tomorrow. He actually was feeling good and excited, a different kind of excitement than the one Bruce had thrilled him with all summer. This one felt more real.
Because Bruce had wrapped up early for the day, he made no point in staying back at the salon and cleaned up his station quickly before heading out, not saying goodbye to anyone.
He drove over to Ray’s knowing they would be closing up soon as well, if they hadn’t already. He was in luck though, lights were still on and people inside there from the outside looking in. He hopped out of his car, locking it with a loud beep and started racing for the doors. He was met by about three of the barbers exiting for the day, all of them eyeing him up, and then looking down at the sidewalk just saying hushed "Hey’s".
Bruce turned around to look at them, "Guys? Is Mike still here?"
"Yeah," one of them said, and that was all he got from any of them, as they all went to their own cars. Bruce took a deep breath in, realizing he was walking into something he’d rather have handled over the phone. But he owed it to Mike, if they were still friends…he hoped they were…
The old smell and sensations brought back good memories to Bruce. Hell, if things went south at the stupid salon, he was sure Ray’s would welcome him back. Besides, Mike wasn’t the owner, so he wouldn’t get a say. Then again, judging by all those guys who just left, maybe Bruce ought to count his blessings. Mike was working on a client, chatting away with him, so Bruce didn’t want to distract him, so he took a seat in the waiting area.
Adam, the owner, came around and said, "We’re closing up soon, sir—Bruce?"
"Hey," Bruce said, standing up, to go shake his old boss’ hand. "How’s it hanging?"
"You look different," Adam pronounced.
"Still not used to the buzzed look, huh?" Bruce played along.
Adam just shook his head and said, "What do you want?"
Now THAT was a sour tone, slapped across Bruce’s face. No way of mistaking the bruise it would leave later on. "I, uh, I just came to talk to Mike."
"Hmm, so you wanna talk now," Adam nodded. "Yeah, he’ll be done soon enough. I’m sure he’d love to finally talk to you. Have a seat," he added and Bruce followed command. Adam walked around from the reception area, going over towards Mike’s station where he was still working on the client. He obviously whispered something in Mike’s ear, but the barber didn’t turn around from his work, he didn’t even nod his head. Bruce was watching this all from a far, wondering evermore now what his old friend’s tone was going to be like. Adam carried on out to the back to probably check inventory or something. When Mike was done with his client, they walked up to the front to handle his payment. The client looked to be around their age, just raised his eyebrows at Bruce as he came six or so feet away. Mike still wasn’t looking in his direction at all, not even a peak. The client paid and then tipped him, they went in for a bro-hug, the usual bidding goodbye of seeing each other again soon or next time.
Once the client was out the door, and Bruce’s gaze was still waiting, Mike finally looked up and stared back at him. But he didn’t say a thing. He didn’t want to. It wasn’t his turn to explain anything anyways. And Bruce realized that by his friend’s pained expression.
"Look, Mike, I’m sorry I never reached back out about hanging with any of you last night."
"Well, doesn’t matter, I didn’t go out with them anyways," Mike solemnly said.
"Man, I’m really sorry, I messed up this time, I know it, and—"
"This time?" Mike uttered a little louder this time. He looked at Bruce in disgust now, probably wishing he didn’t have to face him. "Look, dude, this isn’t a one time thing. And we’ve been down this road before with you. You’ve been acting out the last month, your either here or there or nowhere. Hardly anyone has seen you around much, and you don’t keep in touch either. I wish this would be the part where I’d get to ask what’s happening…but we both know what’s up."
"Look, I’m really sorry Mike, I didn’t mean it at all."
"Then you should have at least texted me, or hell, one of the guys!" Mike was not just pissed, he was hurt. "That’s what a friend does, you know? You don’t ghost me or us like one of your late night flings…because don’t lie to me right now that’s what you were up to."
Bruce was absolutely speechless. But of course, a friend would know you best. Bruce couldn’t deny what was true, and even if he did, Mike wouldn’t believe him. Hell, even if Bruce hadn’t been with someone the night before, Mike possibly still wouldn’t have taken his word for him. Sure he’d messed up in the past month a few times, and it all seemed fairly simple or forgivable. But that wasn’t the point. The amount of times Mike and the other people in Bruce’s life had given him a second, third, fourth, hell tenth chance, it just kept going. And finally, one of the people most close to him had finally given up.
"That’s the thing, bro, you can’t even lie anymore because no one would believe your bull," Mike stated. "What was it, another tall, blonde thing? Young looking? Pretty-boyish?"
"Stop it," Bruce tried not to blush at the truth.
"Yeah, and I guess that isn’t so bad, having a type. If you had one," Mike said. "Man, I keep hearing from people that they’ve seen you around with different guys all the time. That’s totally fine, you are entitled to that. But what happened to that younger guy you liked? Is he out of the picture now or are you just stringing him along into your own mess?"
"That’s not fair, Mike," Bruce deflected.
"Your right, it isn’t fair, to that kid or to any guy. Or to any person who actually cares about you, Bruce," Mike shot back. "I have tried so many times, have given you so many opportunities, and you keep falling back into your mess each time. My own family has made comments that I am too good of a friend, that a lot of us are for you. And yeah, two years ago I sure as hell knew it. But I didn’t want to lose you. Now you’re giving us no choice."
"So that’s it?" Bruce sounded shocked.
"Bruce, I can’t be friends with someone who doesn’t put the work in. Its as simple as that. I’ve got my girl, my family, and all the boys. You were always a part of that, and I wish you still could be. But it looks like from my point of view that you don’t want to anymore. I get that, you don’t even need to say it."
"You know that isn’t true, we—we’ve been friends forever, man!!"
"Well, sometimes forever does have an expiration date," Mike nodded his head down, with the scent of bittersweet rubbing off. "Take care of yourself now, Bruce."
And with that, Mike walked back to his station to clean-up for the day. Bruce didn’t stay another second in the shop, he immediately fled out the door, the bell dinging behind. Adam came around back and said to Mike, "I’m sorry you had to do it. He’ll come around again, you’ll see."
"No," Mike shook his head as he swept. "I won’t see… I ain’t gonna be around for him next time. That’s it, time to cut him loose. He’d have to work damn hard to get back in my good graces."
"And maybe he will," Adam patted him on the shoulder. "You never know."
"No," Mike said again. "I know Bruce, you know Bruce, we all know Bruce. The tough exterior is as fake as that dye job on his head."
This made Adam laugh out loud, but Mike could only suggest a grin, he was still pissed at his old friend. "Man, what the hell was he thinking?"
"Who knows," Mike shook his head. "Maybe his genes are acting up already?"
"Doesn’t want to be a silver fox? Bruce could easily rock the lock."
"Too vain," Mike corrected Adam. "Bruce only wants temporary, not permanence. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself, being gray for this long."
Out in the parking lot in his car, Bruce was heavy panting now, unable to bring himself to start the car in the heat of summer. He could not believe he had just lost one of his best friends. That definitely meant none of the guys in there would want to see him. And hell, word would get around fast to any of their other friends. What was going on? Did he have this coming all along? He needed to do something about it, talk to someone.
Then he made a call, one he never thought he would. The ring back came through three more times until a husky, "Hello?" sounded.
Bruce paused and took a deep breath in before announcing, "Hey, stranger."
The man on the other end of the call softly chuckled, and then it grew a few octaves in volume, until he finally said, "Well, am I surprised to hear from a girl like you…"
The next morning, Aidan woke up feeling good and refreshed, he hadn’t stayed up all night online with his friends from school because he wanted to get a little workout in before the beach club today. So he woke up around seven and did a few of the exercises he had introduced into his lifestyle that summer. He was not jacked but he was definitely feeling stronger and more toned. Plus it helped him with his lifeguard appearance as well. And if he was going to be going shirtless today, he wanted to look extra special and show off his hard work.
Then he sat down to breakfast with his parents, they were going to have another summer day by the pool, maybe some friends of theirs would come over, they would see what the day brought them. By ten, Liv was pulling up outside of Aidan’s house and he was shouting back to his parents that he would see them later on. They shouted back to keep texting them to let them know what he was up to, when he’d be home or if they were all going to go out to eat after the day at the club.
Bobby was already in the car too, but they had to go pick up the couple of others before they could set off for the beach club. And it was well worth the little drive it took to get there, the place was absolutely gorgeous! You would have never thought something like this could exist in their county, you would have thought they crossed state borders to get to somewhere like this. The badge checkers at the front had apparently already become familiar with Liv, both in the last week she’d gone by herself or with girlfriends, or when she had been coming this past summer with her cousins. So there were no issues with her bringing a few guests. Besides, the club was absolutely massive it would be hard to track down anyone, from the pool to the beach area and back. Also, because of their exclusive access and connections from Liv’s aunt and uncle being on the board of the club, they were allowed to use the changing room facilities. Aidan was anticipating and elevated high school locker room. Oh no, it was more than that.
He should have figured a place like this would also have connections to a pool meant for Olympic swimming, an indoor workout and weight room, and tennis courts and a golf course even. So these cubbies were made of wood, and the floor was both tile and carpet, and you could tell it was steamed every night. What was more, by the showers were a number of free and sample products that men could take, like colognes or after shaves or even little things like cotton swabs and disposable razors. This was some other kind of living, and not that Aidan was going to be in here all day, but he honestly could have been. He was excited to see what else was in store.
Liv said they should probably hang by the pool first, and later on they could go to the beach. The pool would be crowded by families and high schoolers by Sunday afternoon, and then they could make their escape to the other waterfront, especially after people who came early would have left their spots vacant. The six of them were all settling in to the lounge chairs and their little cabana area when a boy probably a couple years older than them came around asking for drinks. Of course, they couldn’t get away with any alcohol, but Liv put in an order for some water pitchers as well as smoothies for everyone. Then the blonde waiter turned to Aidan and said, "Anything extra I could get for you, handsome?"
Aidan was glad to have put on his sunglasses today, because all he wanted to do was roll his eyes at this loser. Aidan was not about to let some random guy invade on his day with new friends. "I’m good, thanks man."
The waiter skulked off after that, Liv laughing in his wake. "Damn, Aidan."
"Hard to please the prince?" Bobby asked.
"No," Aidan shook his head. "Seriously, I don’t want to let some strange boy distract me, I think I’ve already dealt with that enough this summer."
"Here, here," Liv lifted her invisible glass.
"Besides, I’m actually excited to get to spend the day with some friends. Thanks again for including me, guys, I can’t tell you I’ve been really looking forward to it all last night and this morning."
Bobby patted Aidan’s leg, "Well, we are glad to have ya here , bud."
And so, the rest of the morning into the early afternoon, when they’d put in orders for personal pizzas and sandwiches for lunch, went by very smoothly, and Aidan was only distracted by wanting more water to drink, or hopping in and out of the pool’s cool depths so that he can get back on his lounger and tan up a bit more and chat with friends.
Meanwhile, more people were arriving here and there at the club. Including Bruce and a gentleman by the name of Julian, who looked like he could be Bruce’s father for all anyone knew. Yes, Bruce had made the fatal mistake of calling this very old flame back into his life yesterday afternoon. He hadn’t spoken to Julian in probably two years, but the older man was more than happy to cater to his once protégé. So glad to take Bruce out to a fancy dinner the night before, and then bring him back to his place where he poured and poured more red wine into Bruce’s glass like it was a bottomless brunch and he could never see the end of his glass. At which point, or some point in the evening, Bruce didn’t know how, they certainly got down to some kind of business. He only had flashes of memories left because by the time he woke up in the morning, he was out cold and sweating under the sheets of the master bedroom naked. Julian came in momentarily after, wearing one of his fancy smoking robes. Tossing a jockstrap at Bruce’s face with the spare hand that wasn’t holding the cigar. Then getting up close to Bruce’s face and whispering, "Breakfast time?" Which only meant one thing, Bruce was in charge of the cooking. And not just any cooking, but role play cooking as he wore that skimpy piece of clothes.
Eventually, after this sadistic part was over, Julian was kind enough to let Bruce shower…with him of course. But Julian helped clean Bruce up bit by bit. Once the showering was done, and the towel drying off was complete to the point you never thought they had showered, Julian commanded that Bruce assist him with his hair. Just a light trim around his well-kept hair, short on the sides and back, thick and volumes on the top, accenting just as many notes of gray as it did white. And then the beard was a perfectly trimmed chisel of a beard, which he wanted Bruce to shape up for him. The white hairs up against the dark tan of Julian’s face made him look like a young and more modern version of Zeus. After the little touch-ups were complete, Julian explained to Bruce that they would be going to the beach club for the day. He had picked out the most preppy sort of outfits for the both of them, and Bruce was sort of lucky he did not pick out a speedo for him. Not that he didn’t mind wearing them, but just not here. That was all. They were a cute pair of short black trunks, so Bruce was okay with that. And then they were on their way.
They found themselves one of the last cabanas left available and began to get themselves situated. Julian stripped off his blue pants and white button-down wo reveal his swim trunks and his growing belly. "Lotion me up," he commanded of Bruce, and he obeyed.
As they were doing this, a blonde waiter came around and said, "Can I get you gentlemen any—"
He paused real quick, and so did Bruce. Oh no, this was the fling from the other night, come to haunt him again. The blonde boy’s face turned into a devilish grin at the sight of Bruce, but Bruce was not offering a single smile back.
"Anything, boy?" Julian offered up. "Yes, please, rum and coke on the rocks for me, and just a glass of water for this young man."
"Is that all the young man will be needing?" the blonde waiter asked with such devious nature.
Julian turned around to look at Bruce, "For now at least, I’ll let you know if that changes."
The blonde stalked off like the model he aspired and failed to be. Julian pulled his sunglasses down and said to Bruce, "Uh huh, well then. Perhaps I taught you too well."
"It was nothing," Bruce said, shivering. He was only upset because that twink was one of the many parts of his own fallout with his best friends.
"Oh, I can tell, a waiter?"
"What’s that supposed to mean?"
"I thought I taught you to aim higher, Brucey," Julian teased. "Guess you only settle for what you can get…which isn’t anything to brag about, might I add. Too bad you couldn’t get that blonde thing into your chair, he could do with a good shearing."
Bruce shook it off and wanted to ignore the whole scenario but realized he wouldn’t be able to as this blonde thing was going to probably keep bothering them all day. Of which he did, sneaking glances at the two of them, continuously asking if there was anything the gentlemen needed. Julian was getting a kick out of it all, Bruce was mortified by it all. It was to the point that Julian was on his third rum that he was half convincing himself that they bring that blonde thing back with them for the night. Bruce immediately shook that idea off, and said he needed to go take a piss.
He started heading in that direction, also because that was where the entrance to the kitchen would be, where he could catch this little blonde thing and maybe tell him to back off. As he stalked around the pool to this other area, that was when Aidan caught a glance of him. He was shocked, what on earth was Bruce doing here? It was a Sunday so he would have off…but what were the odds? And who on earth did Bruce know that belonged here?
"Something bothering you, man?" Bobby asked.
"Yeah, no, I just gotta pee I think," Aidan got up and started heading in the same direction as Bruce was heading, keeping his shades on and grabbing the ball cap he brought with him. Going in for the whole undercover look. He zigged in and out around people, around the columns holding up the building roof around the terrace, and then perched himself behind a tree near the bathroom entrance. He also had the perfect view from where he stood that he could see through a few things, and no one coming in and out of the bathroom would have the time to notice Aidan was there at all. It was only a matter of thirty seconds until he saw the same annoying blonde waiter from before come out of another door, perhaps the kitchen, and Bruce was grabbing him by the neck, pinning him up against the wall.
"What do you think you’re doing?" the blonde asked, no sense of fear at all. Strange, Aidan thought.
"What do you think you’re doing?" Bruce fought back. "I know what you’re up to. And just leave it, alright? It was a one time thing, that was all."
"Oh, a one time thing, sure," the blonde tried to play it cool, but Aidan felt like he could hear hurt in the boy’s voice. "Less than forty-eight hours later and now I see you here."
"Yeah, so just cool off, okay?" Bruce fought some more. "I’m not asking for any trouble."
"Oh, now you’re not," the blonde laughed. "Although that was some troubling and compromising positions we found ourselves in Friday night, into Saturday morning."
"You ever heard of a hook-up, kid?"
"Of course, I do them all the time, who doesn’t?"
"Exactly, we all do it. So just quit and act like you don’t know me."
"Or what? Your sugar daddy is going to beat you tonight?"
"What? No—its not like that, he isn’t that, he is—"
"God, you BETTER not say he’s your FATHER! That would be quite an explanation—"
"Shut up, will you? He isn’t that either. He’s just a friend."
"Right, just a friend. And sometimes friends can become," the blonde started to trace a finger around Bruce’s face, "friendlier…right?"
"You’re a piece of sh*t, you realize that?"
"I do realize it, actually," the blonde announced. "At least I own up to it, unlike you," and then he drifted off away from Bruce, probably to go take someone else’s order.
In one flash, Aidan felt instant regret that he had ever had feelings or done something with Bruce. Yes, everyone dated around and the two of them weren’t committed. But seriously? Was Bruce really that active at his age to bounce from one guy to the next? Flirting with Bruce on Friday, with another guy by evening, and now supposedly with a different one here? In that moment, Aidan couldn’t feel sorry for anyone but himself. But he also didn’t want to, it was an honest mistake, it happens to everyone. He just was maybe a little bit more glad and relieved that he hadn’t gone too far with Bruce. They never reached sex thank goodness, they had only ever made out, and been in the shower together, and been at Bruce’s place alone, and…and Aidan realized, he was probably not the only boy to have done it that summer. Damnit he wanted to vomit.
He went back to his friends and Bobby asked him, "Feel better, man?"
"Anything else I can get you all," the blonde magically appeared there, once again for the millionth time today having only eyes for Aidan. His friends here said he might as well pursue it even as a joke. But he had already seen this kid for who he was, he was just as bad as Bruce, and Aidan was not going to allow himself to reach that level. Not ever.
But, he could have a little fun. There were a few dregs of smoothie left in his cup with the ice, so, naturally, he threw the contents at the waiter’s face, sending everyone into shock. But he followed up by saying, "Another smoothie, and stop trying to flirt with me."
The blonde tried to laugh it all off as he flicked off some bits from his eyes and hair, and the stains it was going to leave on his white polo and white board shorts. "Damn dude, all you had to do was ask!"
"And all you had to do was stop annoying my friends and I."
"Jeez Louise, just chill out honey," the waiter tried to laugh some more. "Now, another smoothie before I help you wash off," he poked his head around to the waiting pool behind the waiter. Thankfully the blonde moron left in a hurry to go put in their new orders, and hopefully clean up himself.
"Oh my god, Aidan!" Liv was laughing, and this made the other kids tag along.
"I’m sorry, it had to be done," he shook his head. "Hopefully we don’t get kicked out or you in trouble, Liv. I’m really sorry if we do."
"God no, please, I’ll make sure to report this today or before we leave, and I’ll make sure my aunt and uncle know so they can reprimand someone when they get back from their trip when they hear about this."
A little bit later, Aidan and the rest of the gang were deciding it was about time they went to the beach, it was after two so people would start clearing the sands and before they knew it the hours would pass by and they could watch the sunset or something. Aidan was last to gather his things, saying he would meet the rest of them out there. Thankfully that blonde waiter had not made another appearance by their cabana, leaving it to one of the waitresses to handle them, and thankfully she was kind and courteous. As he was making around the bend of the pool, that was when he felt his arm being pulled in the other direction, and he had just about forgotten about this guy by this point.
"Aidan!" Bruce exclaimed, trying to bring him in closer. "How’ve you been?"
"I’ve been better," Aidan was on a total high today. "You know, we did just see each other the other day…I haven’t really heard from you since."
"I know, I know, things have been busy, work and all," Bruce tried to show off his teeth like usual and act casual, not realizing Aidan was privy to his activites.
"Well, that would make sense, busy. I have heard that blondes have a lot more fun. Or that gentlemen prefer blondes too," Aidan smirked. "Although, that would require a gentleman, and I don’t see one before me."
If Bruce hadn’t already been at a loss for words with everything life had thrown him in the last two days, this certainly took the cake. "I’m sorry—what are you even talking about?" And Aidan could tell in his tone that he was trying to hide something. He always had been, the whole time.
"It may have taken me almost the whole summer, but I think I know what you are up to man," Aidan stated, "and it’s pretty grim if you ask me. You used me, like a play thing, like you use everyone. Like we are all just paper towels in the bathroom, use once and throw away. Doesn’t matter how dirty you leave us, you feel as if your hands are clean and free."
"Stop, I—I don’t even know where this is coming from."
"Oh, that’s a shame, I guess you haven’t looked in the mirror in a while," Aidan eyed him up now. "Actually, maybe you haven’t, what happened to your hair?"
"Nothing! Why do people keep asking that?"
"I’m not a barber or stylist or whatever, but its pretty obvious. It looks nice on you but…it is very dark actually. I don’t know how anyone wouldn’t notice."
"Look, I’m sorry for whatever you are mad at me about. Let me make it up to you."
"Ah, so you are admitting it? Wanting to make it up to me means you realize you did something wrong, or that you hurt me at the very least."
"Yes—no, I mean yes that makes sense. I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t know why you’re mad at me," Aidan just wanted to walk away, leave this poor, sad man to himself, and as he tried to creep away from the barber’s reach, Bruce grabbed for Aidan’s wrist, one last grasp at him, saying, "Come on, don’t leave me baby," the whimper in his voice so meaningful yet so fake.
Aidan tore off his sunglasses and said, "I’m not your baby…I’m no one’s," and he left to go meet his friends on the beach where they danced around in the sand and water until the sunset down and they watched it set behind them to dark. Liv was able to score them all a dinner reservation at the club’s fancy restaurant, so Aidan was thrilled to get to use that men’s changing room again, and steal a few of those free samples to use for the night’s dinner.
But hours before, after Aidan had finally walked away from Bruce, the barber went back to his "friend" and spent the rest of the day sunbathing with his sunglasses on, hiding his tear soaked eyes from his face.
"Don’t cry now, Brucey," Julian stated as he dropped him back off at his condo that Sunday evening, after a weekend filled with cheap thrills. "You get what you deserve."
(the rest of the story could not fit! Please read rest that follows...)