The velvety curtains were shimmering lightly with the soft, foggy light of the moon caressing the cotton. It had definitely been a good idea to get them in midnight blue. Black would have just sucked up all the pretty rays. Would have been a waste.
Raphael was walking. Well, no, actually he was pacing. Waiting. Dreading. His visitor was already ten minutes late and Raphael really didn’t like unpunctuality. In fact, he despised it. One might call him old-fashioned. Not just because of his love for coming on time, no. The midnight blue curtains might just be the only modern interior he owned – simply because the old ones reeked terribly of mothballs. A horrid smell, truly. However, apart from the curtains every piece of furniture was old. Almost older than time. When Raphael had moved into the maison five years ago, all of the beautiful antiques had almost completely been eaten up by mould and dust. It cost him a great sum of money to fix all of it again. But that’s what he did. Fixing beauty that once had shone with glamour and gloss and was now rotting away in someone’s basement. It was never too late to resurrect what was once stunning. Hence his house’s interior design. Everytime Raphael gave a party or had friends over, he would proudly state, almost brag about how there was not one single item in his house (apart from himself) that was younger than fourty years. His dining room contained one of the oldest tables known to exist outside of a museum. Raphael could go on about his beloved darling for hours, whole evenings passing by. The only thing he never disclosed was the money – a gentleman never talked about his finances. Most people probably would have loved to know where he had acquired all his money from. After all, twenty four was quite the younge age to have a bank account filled with eight (or mabye nine …) digits. But once again, his lips were sealed.
Raphael had always been more in love with his house than with people made of flesh and blood. He would rather caress the cool darkness of his mohagony chair or the soft surface of his velvet wallpapers instead of touching the flawed and sweaty skin of a human. He was, to put it mildly, not a people’s person. Not to cause any misunderstandings – he did have friends. Well, more like “friends”, to be precise. In his mind, most of them were just evil-minded parasites that were simply waiting for the opportunity to either trick him into a passionate and lustful realtionship so they could profit off of his wealth or slit his throat in a dark and quiet second. He barely ever left the security of his own home and had made sure, that his yielding butlers, gardeners and cooks also happened to be well-trained assasins in close combat, sharp minded and quick to act. Up to this point, no one had really tried to slit his throat or lure him into intercourse but Raphael was sure that the only reason why this hadn’t happened yet was because of his servants refined fighting skills and his own iron will.
His friends naturally knew about the young man’s paranoid behaviour. After all, Raphael wasn’t completely wrong – some of them really were hungry for his money rather than his company. Others however, sought of more deeper aspects in the rich man’s life. Mostly one of them. The black-haired, green-eyed, rosy-cheeked Gerard. Raphael had first met the young fella at one of his own parties. Gerard had accompanied Jules, who happened to be Raphael’s second cousin. Gerard had been almost too charming for Raphael’s liking. Almost. One has to know, that for young Raphael, conversations of the ambiguous kind weren’t always that easy. As a socially inept millionaire, he had always struggled with noticing “the signs”. Gerard however, had been so blunt and brutally obvious, that even the emotionally blind Raphael had noticed.
“There he is, our gentleman of a host, Raphael Georgeaux.” Jules said, waving at the blond man with a broad gesture.
“And this, Raphael, is my dear assistant, Gerard Louloise.” he added, subtly touching the green-eyed man’s shoulder. Gerard bowed lightly, a small smile curling around his lips. Raphael remained in his stoic expression, simply nodding his head ever so slightly.
“I will leave you two to it. Raphael.” Jules bowed politely and then turned around to join the other guests at the buffet.
“Welcome to my home, Mr. Louloise. Do you wish a brief tour so you can get to know my premises?” Raphael immediately offered, already taking a step forward to start the walk he had prepared for every new guest.
“Actually, I’d rather get to know the host himself. His bodily premises, if you will.” Gerard’s voice sounded from his grinning lips. His teeth were almost as flawlessly white as the marble floor of the hall. Raphael stopped mid-step and slowly turned around again.
“I beg you pardon?”
“Well, we can start with the premises of the mind first, if you want.”
“I … Are you sure, you do not want to see my maison? There are some true gems hidden inside of it.” Raphael tried again, voice a little weaker this time.
“I will decline this offer politely. Besides, I’m sure one could say the same thing about you, love. Apart from that, I could care less about creaking cupboards and dusty beds. Unless of course the latter happens to be yours. Then I might accept a tour.” Gerard added, laughing at Raphael’s baffled expression.
“I am not sure how I can help you, Mr. Louloise.” he responed. He could feel his personal space shriking with Gerard not only stepping closer physically but also luring him in with his flirtatious wordings.
“Oh, you don’t have to help me with anything. I’ll guide you. And it’s Gerard.”
“I’m not sure, if we are still talking about furniture, Gerard.” Raphael pressed out, quickly taking a step back, his shoes clicking on the polished marble floor.
The black-haired man grinned once more. His facial contours looked almost predatory. Raphael regained his composture and cleared his throat loudly.
“I suggest we join the others for a glass of champaign. After all, I can’t disregard my guests.” he said almost coldly. Gerard’s smile shruk at little at his words, however his eyes were still sparkeling cheekily.
The old wooden floor clock’s heavy tunes were ringing through the house. After seven chimes, it fell back into its usual silence.
An hour. One entire hour. Raphael exhaled bitterly. Who did he think he was? To keep a man of his importance waiting? Actually, that was probably exactly why he was keeping him waiting. Bastard.
Raphael took a deep breath. Why was this bothering him so much? Normally he would not have hesitated and instructed the butler to tell the guest to leave if they arrived late. If they couldn’t respect his hours, why should he respect their unpunctuality. To him, such behaviour was almost unforgivable. Oddly enough, the longer Gerard kept him waiting, the more desperatly Raphael wanted him to arrive. He rubbed his palms together, pressing the heels into his eyeballs to relieve some of the stress. He could feel his chest tightening with every second, throat feeling blocked and hot.
“What kind of sorcery …” he muttered, still pacing up and down between the living room and the hall. His blond hair was slicked back tightly, one single strand dangling loosely infront of his eyes. He had taken off his coat long ago due to the warmth rising in his body from constantly walking around. His white shirt was tucked neatly into his trousers, only covered by his crimson vest. He fetched his watch out of it. One hour and six minutes.
Just when he was about to make another unheard remark, the doorbell rang.
The living room had pretty much emptied out completely. Apart from two or three drunks, lying on the chaiselongue close to unconciousness, every guest had taken off. Raphael ordered the butler to get some blankets for the sleeping left-overs and went to walk up the stairs. He stopped short. His thoughts were racing quickly, trying to construct an overall recap of the evening. He went through every person he had greeted and then said good bye to. There had been a lot. However, one was clearly missing. Almost as clear as his teethy smiles.
“Bonsoir, Raphael. You didn’t think me leaving so early now, did you?”
Raphael visibly jumped. He could feel his heart stumbling as if it was one of the drunks in the living room. He closed his eyes for a brief second and then turned around.
Gerard’s eggshell-coloured vest was unbuttoned completely, as were the first two buttons of his shirt. One of his braces was hanging off his hip loosely, the other one still strapped on his shoulder tightly. Raphael frowned.
“I find it to be rather impolite to stay at a party after hours, Mr. Louloise.” he said, tone almost as if he were scolding a child.
“You don’t seem to mind the drunk fools dreaming on your sofa, so I figured I might wait until I can say my proper good bye. And again, it’s Gerard.” The obtrusive sparkle in his eyes returned.
“Unless you are as immobile as those three, you might leave.” Raphael stated dismissively. How dare he intrude my home like that, he thought to himself.
“Lucky for you, I am not immobile at all.”
“So you will leave?”
“Oh no, love. I still want my tour.”
“You refused it earlier. I have already withdrawn my offer.”
“Not that tour. My tour.”
Gerard walked up the stairs, standing only one step away from Raphael. Slowly he reached out his hand, hooking his finger under one of the man’s braces. With a quick motion he let is snap back, only to chuckle in amusement when he saw his counterpart flinching in surprise. He took the last step, now standing face to face with Raphael. The blonde-haired man was frozen on the spot, not daring to move. This was new. This was different. Where were his trained bulter assassins when he needed them?
With a swift motion, Gerard placed his hands on Raphael’s lower back, pulling him in even closer. Unvoluntarily, Raphael took a deep inhale, taking in Gerard’s smell. Rose water and pine wood. Unusual combination.
“Let’s start with that pretty little face of yours.” Gerard hummed, soft breath ghosting over rosy cheekbones. His fingertips found their way to Raphael’s chin, feather light strokes hovering over the smooth skin. Raphael could feel goosebumps rising where the other man’s fingertips had touched his face. Somehow, Raphael had known that this would happen. Under all his layers of bragging and money, a small tiny voice had whispered to him that Gerard was not at all like the others. Stuck up and polite. Normally, Raphael wouldn’t have bothered to stick around someone like that. But this was … different.
“Look at you. I can see your stone cold façade crumbling.” Gerard smiled, lips unbearably close. Raphael was in a trance, his ever so quick witt blown away like a candle’s fire in the wind.
“I wonder what you would do if I kissed you …” the black-haired man whispered almost inaudibly.
“I wonder too.”
With that, Gerard sealed their lips. It felt like a blank towel had wiped everything out of Raphael’s brain in an instant. He almost sunk down with the power of this feeling, simply being held up by Gerard’s hands on his back. The hands that were pulling him closer and closer every second. With a slow, sulrty motion Gerard pulled away and dragged his glistening lips over Raphael’s chin, down to his adam’s apple. With a litght movement, he started nibbling the tender skin.
A small noise escaped the blonde man’s throat and as if hit by a lighting, he snapped out of it. Almost knocking them both over, Raphael stumbled backwards, his hand clutching the handrail of the stairway, eyes opened widely and shock marking his face.
“You … you should go.”
Gerard didn’t move.
“Now, Mr. Louloise.”
They were sitting at both ends of the table, one for each with three metres of dark walnut wood between them. The air was sizzling with tension.
“I didn’t think you’d write me.” Gerard said, eyeing the other man with an unknowable expression.
“Quite true. It was obvious.”
“Well, if I am that easy to read, you can probably tell that I am fuming.”
Gerard chuckled, low as always.
“That was the point of all of this, dear.”
Raphael frowned angrily. Under the table, his fists were clenched tightly, leg bobbing up and down impatiently.
“The dinner is cold now. I told Jaques to throw it away. I hope your not hungry.” he stated boldly.
“Not for food.”
“What exactly are you trying to reach with these inappropriate remarks of yours?”
“Inappropriate? I just wanted to explain that I would rather have a drink.” Gerard said, faking a shocked expression.
“Wine? Champaign? Something stronger.”
Silence and stares filled the room.
“Yes, you heard me. Milk. A glass of fresh, cooling milk.”
Raphael looked at Gerard, eyeing him confusedly.
“I’m sorry, dear, is that too much to ask?”
“No. Of course not. I’ll go and get it.”
“What about Jaques?”
“I’ll go.” Raphael repeated, standing up from his chair. Gerard mirrored his motion and slowly followed him into the kitchen.
Raphael was sitting in his study, lights dimmed and Bach’s sweet tunes floating through the cool air. He slowly exhaled the smoke through his nose. His eyes were closed tighly, refusing to let any sort of intrusion enter his mind. His shirt was almost completely unbuttoned at this point, shoes kicked off somewhere in the corner.
Carefully, Raphael opened his eyes again. The room was still spinning, blurry and unfocused. Quite interesting what alcohol did to the brain. He would have dedicated one of his studies to this phenomenon. However, when he was in his drunken state, he was unable to be a man of science and once he had sobered up, the roaring pain in his temples wouldn’t allow him to summarize the memories.
He took another drag from his cigar, carelessly dumping the ash on the floor. Cherry wood, 1728. He could care less.
With a swift motion (maybe a little too swift) he sat up and collided with his desk. The parchment he had laid out earlier was still there, together with the feather and the ink bottle.
“Lord help me …” he slurred, taking the pen into hand. With shaking fingers, he started writing.
Mr. Louloise Gerard, …’
Raphael opened the cupboard, taking out one of the crystalware glasses. Carefully, he set it onto the counter. With a slow, almost unnecerssarily festive motion, he poured the milky substance into the cup.
“That’ll do. Thank you, dear.”
Gerard took a sip, relishing the rich taste. The moisture was dripping from his lips, making them seem even more lucious than before.
“Gerard. What do you want.”
The black-haired man smiled. He set down the glass on the table and came a little closer. His green eyes were shining in the dull candle light.
“If I remember correctly, I made my standpoint very clear last time, Raphael.”
This was the first time he had actually used the other man’s name. Raphael swallowed, his throat tightening involuntarily.
“And I did as well.”
“So why did you invite me?”
Raphael felt trapped. How had Gerard gotten so close again? In a moment of slight panic, he turned around and grabbed the milk jug to put it back. A pair of warm arms wrapped around his waist and pulled him in, wet lips pressing against the shell of his ear.
With a loud crash, the jug plummeted to the floor, milk and shards flying through the air and clinking against his beloved furniture. The liquid started seeping into the red oak wood floor, through his shoes and pores but he could have cared less.
“I think it’s time that we bring this little game to an end, my love.”
Milk, a short story written by Isa Radich, July 2017