Winter was his favorite season at the resort. Holiday lights brightened the darkness, shimmering in the algae-laden water like sunken treasure. Several of the fancier rigs were overdressed for the occasion, as tacky as they were festive, with mirror balls and singing Christmas trees.
Summers were crowded with people who drank too much. There were way too many small kids to watch out for. Summer gave Ringo ulcers. But in December the weather was mild and color scintillated everywhere, from the bright orange of fires on the beach, to the rigs, to the sparkling trunks of majestic palms wrapped halfway up with twinkle lights.
The glittered reflection of all that luminescence shivered on the water—balm to Ringo’s soul.
Ringo pulled his golf cart up next to Gavin’s place. He was sitting on a canvas lawn chair with one leg propped up, playing Christmas music on a ukulele. He had a good fire going in a black iron fire bowl with Kokopelli cutouts. Bird lay by his side, his muzzle draped contentedly over Gavin’s bare foot.
Ringo thought he’d probably lie down like that with his face on Gavin’s foot if Gavin would let him.
Gavin caught sight of him and lifted his chin. That was all the welcome Ringo was going to get, so he made the most of it. He got out of his cart and stepped onto Gavin’s woven hemp patio rug. He gave Gavin a light kiss on the top of his head in lieu of a greeting.
Gavin broke off playing to pick up his beer and take a swallow, then put it down to play some more. Ringo recognized “Winter Wonderland.”
“I brought you In-N-Out.” Ringo headed toward the door of Gavin’s RV. “Mind if I go in and get some plates and things?”
“Make yourself homely.” Gavin shifted slowly in his chair and grimaced with pain. “Help yourself to a brew while you’re in there.”
Gavin had a bag of peas cooling his knee. “You hurting?”
“Yeah.” Gavin shrugged. “I got pills, though.”
“Peas still cold?”
“I have another bag, maybe you could switch them since you’re going in . . .?”
“Sure.” Ringo plucked the bag off him. The knee itself didn’t look too bad from the outside. A little swelling, a little bruising. He probably had a couple of small incisions under the Band-Aids. Ringo went inside Gavin’s RV and got a fresh bag of peas from the freezer. He didn’t think he’d ever seen Gavin eat a pea. He must have kept them just for their medicinal benefit. While he was in there, he put their burgers and fries on paper plates and got himself a beer.
When he returned, he sat down in a camp chair opposite Gavin’s. Sure as shit, the smoke turned direction and headed his way. He waved and blinked his eyes. “Why does that always happen? No matter where I’m sitting, I get smoke in my face.”
“Smoke seeks out the pretty boys.” Gavin followed that up with a musical rimshot—bah dum bump—on his ukulele.
Ringo rolled his eyes. “So, you had arthroscopic surgery?”
“Yeah. I tore the meniscus. I got a video of the surgery if you want to watch it sometime. It looks like a tiny dragon is tearing off bits of cotton candy in the dark.”
“I’ll pass.” Ringo wasn’t much into that sort of thing. He’d seen all the blood and gore he’d needed to see in the Army. “Should you be drinking that if you’re taking pills?”
Gavin slanted an irritated look at him. “I only had one beer, mami. I’m fine.”
Ringo twisted the cap off his beer. “I like you better when you call me papi.”
Gavin narrowed his eyes at that. “So act like a man instead of smothering me.”
Ringo itched to twist Gavin’s neck. Why did Gavin always have to give him attitude when he was only checking in to make sure everything was okay? Gavin’d had surgery, for Christ’s sake. Why couldn’t Gavin tell him when things weren’t okay?
“You got plenty to eat for snacks and something to drink besides beer?”
“For today.” Gavin looked away. “But I could use some stuff.”
That’s new. Was Gavin asking for help with something? Had the world come to an end and nobody told Ringo? “Like what? I can make a list.”
“I need some first aid shit. Mine’s so old it’s moldy. I think it came with the rig.”
“Like bandages and antibacterial ointment?”
“What else? Bottled water? Coffee? Pop? Those cookies you like with the peanut butter?”
Gavin shot him a genuine smile. “You remember that?”
“Yeah.” Ringo felt his cheeks heat up. “I remember. Soft oatmeal with raisins too. You don’t like chocolate chip like normal people.”
“I like chocolate chip.”
“But they don’t make your eyes light up,” Ringo murmured.
Gavin sighed, and his fingers drifted into another song, this one in a minor key so it sounded a little sad.
Ringo shook his head and sat back. Gavin was right there in front of him. Was he feeling lonely? On more than one occasion, he’d used the intel Gavin’s restless musicality sent out and they’d ended up making out or in the sack, despite the fact that they weren’t together anymore.
Ringo generally acted on Gavin’s haunted, lonely music, not on his words, until one or the other of them burst the magic spell he’d woven.
Usually it was Ringo who messed up, and Gavin who chased him away.
Just now, Gavin was more than a little high. If Ringo pushed things, if he approached Gavin like Bird did—like he had a right to Gavin’s affection, or like he was just too dumb to know he wasn’t always so welcome—he’d be allowed to stay the night.
It might be worth it, just to see if he could make Gavin smile for a while.
“You should eat,” he said instead.
If Gavin was frozen inside his melancholy, then Ringo was caught in the web of his macho. He didn’t want to crawl on his knees and beg to be petted like a dog. He wanted Gavin to want him. To ask for what he wanted out loud with his words instead of his goddamn music.
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