Authors: Darien Cox
Victim of Love
By Darien Cox
Victim of Love
Copyright © 2015 by Darien Cox
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Cover Art © 2015 by Skyla Dawn Cameron
First Edition July 2015
All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this or any copyrighted work is illegal. Authors are paid on a
. Any use of this file beyond the rights stated above constitutes theft of the author’s earnings. File sharing is an international crime, prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice Division of Cyber Crimes, in partnership with Interpol. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is punishable by seizure of computers, up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 per reported instance. Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material.
I studied the clothes I’d brought, struggling to wrangle a shirt back on the hanger. Though we were staying at one of the quaint bungalows on the resort property, promoted on their website as ‘a luxurious home away from home’, the closets still had those bondage style, permanently fused hangers that locked around the bar to prevent theft. As a kid I’d loved staying at hotels, the foreign feel of new surroundings, when everything from the tiny prepackaged soaps to the rattling air conditioner seemed somehow magical. But with most things upon reaching adulthood, the minutia of travel accommodations had been watered down to a haze of mundane details in the increasingly challenging quest to experience higher pleasures.
I flinched as Laurie Turner, my friend and colleague, knocked for the second time.
“Olsen, come on, everyone’s ready to go. What the hell are you doing in there?”
“I’ll be right out!”
I heard her sigh. The bungalow’s walls were thin. Not that I was complaining. Aurora Dunes resort had acres of land, golf courses, a huge main hotel, Olympic-sized swimming pool, and quaint bungalows scattered throughout the property—all with an ocean view. Normally I’d never be able to afford to stay at a place like this, at least not for an entire week. I worked hard and did my best to stuff some of my earnings into savings, but there were student loans. Big ravenous ones with sharp teeth that chomped away at each paycheck and would continue to do so for a few more years yet.
“Well, get a move on,” Laurie shouted through the door. “We all want to go out.”
I’d brought way too many clothes, but couldn’t find a single thing to wear. The closet’s double doors each had a full-length mirror attached so I could clearly see myself, still shirtless and wearing a dumb, confused expression. My body looked okay at least, slightly sun-kissed and pumped up from tennis and swimming. But my hair was getting too wavy on top, something I worried about far more than I should. Too much salted sea breeze and dunking in the ocean. I grabbed my comb and tried to smooth it down.
I kept my hair pretty short as a rule, too many childhood memories of being teased about it. One does not forget being called ‘Ronald McDonald’ for an entire month at summer camp simply because one has a decent haircut now and has outgrown their childhood awkwardness. My hair was never Ronald McDonald red, it’s more of a strawberry blond, especially after days spent in the summer sun. But kids aren’t all that particular about the accuracy of their torments, as long as they inflict sufficient agony on the target.
I continued to stare at my clothing options. If I were a less meticulous man, the bed would be piled with discarded items from all the times I’d changed in the past half hour. But I liked order, which meant returning each shirt to its hanger after rejection, and that was eating up time and pissing off my friends.
The problem with making plans well ahead of time is it’s harder to wriggle out of them later. Getting out of plans at the last minute was something I’d perfected, but this time I was screwed. I was stuck here. While I was getting out more lately, I’m not the most social guy in the world, something my friends seem determined to remedy for me. But I’d agreed to be a part of this vacation, because deep down, beneath the eye-rolling and grumbling that was my modus operandi, I was experiencing a bout of loneliness. It comes and goes, as I suppose it does with most people. For me, loneliness is an old, sleepy companion, one I’d grown so accustomed to I rarely acknowledged it anymore. But at times that benign loneliness would come fully awake, take steroids, and punch me out of my shell. I resented it. I liked my shell. It was safe and cozy and kept me from getting eaten alive.
Though lately I’d been wondering if I
actually lonely, or just uncomfortable with my own complacency. While working my way through school and focusing on landing a decent job, there had been enough distractions of the survival variety that my own personal fulfillment never crossed my mind. But now that I was, by my own measures, successful, an unsettling dullness had taken hold. So while I’d told myself I’d come on this trip because I desperately needed socialization, there was a deeper need to simply stir shit up for a change.
Laurie and I had come to the resort early in the week for a conference as ordered by our boss at the hospital where we both worked as clinical laboratory scientists, and somehow she’d been able to finagle us a lower price on extending the work trip to a holiday. The discount, along with the inclusion of friends to pitch in with the cost, meant we were able to briefly enjoy a lifestyle well out of our price range. There were other tourists of our own ilk present here and there, but the clientele was dominated by rich people, guys with names like ‘Biff’ and ‘Chad’ who lived in golf clothes and owned their own sailboats.
I examined the closet’s selection, slightly panicked now. I’d brought a lot of business casual clothes, none of which seemed appropriate for going out to a bar. Add to the mix that our destination was a
bar, and my anxiety escalated. I didn’t like gay bars, traitorous as it felt to say so. When I’d first come to terms with my sexuality I’d given them a try and found I didn’t have the confidence for them.
Gay bars were supposed to be a place where young men like myself could possibly make a love connection, and my pals—who clearly thought I needed to get laid—assumed I’d naturally thrive in such an environment. But the few times I’d ventured into that world I’d felt like a bicycle in a swarm of race cars, everyone moving faster than I could manage no matter how hard I pedaled. I’ve never handled it well when a guy in a bar comes at me like a freight train with an erection. In the moment, I become overwhelmed with the silliness of the situation, the role-playing phoniness of the pickup, and usually end up giggling. It’s not a good look for me, and typically deters the interested party before I have a chance to humiliate myself further.
But part of me envied those guys, those confident kings of the nightclub scene. They’re never subtle, don’t seem to worry about rejection. They’ll give you
from across the room, kind of a hard scowl with a lip twitch to show their interest. If you acknowledge
, they add on body language, shifting hips, shrugging shoulders then bearing down, flexing while pretending not to be flexing. The entire combination looks vaguely like they’re trying to take a difficult poop. It’s supposed to be sexy, but I can’t read it as anything other than
I’m so hot for you it makes me constipated.
“Olsen!” Laurie knocked again.
“Almost ready, Laurie.”
I’d recently come out to my colleagues at the hospital after nearly a year of knowing them. This decision wasn’t based on any burning need to be truly
, or to make a statement. Hell, my dating track record was nothing to brag about, I no longer had any real family, and I had no special friend to introduce to the gang—so could theoretically have just let the truth of my sexuality remain silent forever. But prior to admitting I was gay, my incredibly thoughtful yet annoyingly invasive work colleagues kept insisting I was too much of a catch not to be set up, and badgered me about going on dates with their sister, best friend, ex-wife, whoever. So I’d finally admitted I didn’t swing that way.
But coming out to my associates, while it should have made things easier, had only devolved the situation. Now they saw it as a challenge to push me into a world I wasn’t quite ready for. But I tolerated their efforts. Their good intentions outweighed my desire to tell them to fuck off and mind their own business.
I glanced at my lower body. The black dress pants might be a bit too fancy. This was Cape Cod after all, not Boston. But a nightclub was a nightclub, I figured. I grabbed a royal blue button-down shirt I’d worn to a cousin’s wedding last year. It was shiny and bolder than my usual attire, but it matched my eyes and I was trying to step out of my comfort zone. Plus, Laurie seemed about to break the door down.
I slipped it on and buttoned it as I moved to the door, pulling it open. “Okay, okay, I was just getting dressed.”
Laurie looked me over as she stepped into the room, pretty eyes narrowed. “What the hell are you wearing? You look like you’re going to the prom.”
I eyed her up and down with feigned scrutiny. She wore a short cotton dress with flowers on it and thin shoulder straps, and she’d taken a curling iron to her normally straight, chestnut brown hair. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing? You’re dressed up too.”
“This is a sundress,” Laurie said with emphasis, like she was speaking to the mentally impaired. “This is dressy casual. What you’re wearing is...hell, I don’t know what that is, but you’re changing. What else did you bring?” She moved to my closet and began tugging hangers aside as she examined my wardrobe. “I know you have no fashion sense, but let’s at least try
sense. It’s July, you’ll sweat to death in that shirt.”
“What are the other guys wearing?”
“Townsend’s in jeans and a tee shirt and Kamal has on tan shorts and a white button-down thing. Here. This is good enough.”
She handed me a pair of jeans and a blue and white striped polo shirt I’d brought to try and blend in with the Biffs and Chads. It didn’t strike me as nightclub attire, but I decided to trust her judgment, and headed toward the bathroom to change.
“And Olsen, what is going on with your hair?”
I paused and turned back, scowling. “I
it. Why? What’s wrong with it?”
Laurie smirked, then shrugged. “Nothing. If you don’t mind looking like a third-grader all ready for school picture day. Dude, that side-part has to go.”
My hand went to my head, absentmindedly patting down my hair. “It’s too wavy. I don’t want to look like Ronald McDonald.”
“Ronald McDonald?” Laurie laughed and approached, reaching up and running her fingers through my hair, loosening my waves. “That self-deprecating thing isn’t fooling anyone, you’re a good-looking guy and you know it, so cut the bullshit. There.” Releasing my head, she stepped back. “Now you look more natural. Go change.
I got undressed in the bathroom, unfazed that Laurie thought my self-deprecation was false modesty. It was a compliment of sorts. She truly didn’t believe my insecurity was real, because she didn’t see me as
to be insecure, and therefore interpreted it as self-serving drama. Laurie had a beautiful face, and had likely always been beautiful, never gone through an awkward stage or been bullied as a kid. She couldn’t comprehend how that stayed with a person in adulthood. But self-doubt is like an old injury. It dissipates with time, but can kick up and start to ache when the social climate changes.
Dressed in my jeans and polo shirt, I wet my fingers and ran them cautiously through my hair. Whatever Laurie had done with it seemed to work, and I was satisfied that I no longer looked like a clown or a third-grader. The afternoon spent outside had given my skin a healthy glow. I tanned like my Scandinavian father, which meant that I didn’t, and had to apply the highest protection sunblock, the kind usually reserved for babies, lest I burst into flames. I’d managed to time it just right today and get out of the sun before my face turned into a tomato.