When I paid for our meal using the company credit card, our waitress studied the blizzard raging outside and asked us where we were heading. I told her we needed to get back to Aspen and we currently did not have transportation. Without questioning any further she recommended that we take a room at the Sleeping Bears B&B because of the bad weather, which was almost next door to the café. I agreed, and thought the chance to relax in a hotel room, watch some TV, and maybe even take a nap sounded perfect.
So, we paid up, and to our surprise the waitress put on her coat, and gave us both a ride in her car, even though it was only about twenty feet down the road. Once inside, the waitress spoke briefly to her friends who worked at the Bed and Breakfast, bade us goodbye, and Thomas hugged her to thank her for her kindness.
The building was smaller than our hotel in Aspen, and was decorated like it belonged to an elderly couple – vases, lace doylies, porcelain cats, antique furniture, and the smell of something that wouldn’t have been out of place coming from a tank engine. A large Christmas tree with flashing red, blue, and green lights stood next to a small white piano in a small alcove next to the foyer.
A man named Chester, wearing a red chequered shirt, and with scruffy brown hair and a bushy mustache, checked us in and gave us our room key. The only room he had available was one with a queen sized bed, but we didn’t want to make any fuss and Thomas and I agreed that it would be fine.
We ascended a narrow staircase covered with a soft seaweed green carpet, and found our room at the end of a narrow creaky hallway.
I glanced over my shoulder. “Don’t touch the numbers on the outside of this door,” I said, and pushed the key into the lock.
Thomas shook his head and sighed. “I won’t.”
The old bronze door lock was a little sticky and required a jiggle of the tiny golden key before it clicked open. The room was cozy and reminded me of a place I stayed in Paris one summer; there was an ornate dresser with an old box-like TV opposite the silver wire-framed bed, and there was an ensuite bathroom by the large window at the back. Two landscapes hung on the walls, both featuring trees and woodland critters, and a long mirror in a wooden frame was mounted on the wall next to the TV.
The window was covered with a single lace curtain. I pulled it aside and watched the snow blitzing down into the back garden, and the woods behind the split-rail fence.
“I’ve never seen snow like this before,” said Thomas, lying down on the bed. He clicked on the TV using the remote on the bedside table and then folded his arms underneath his head.
I joined him. “Yeah, this is crazy.” Thomas flicked through the channels. “You know, as we’re going to be here a while,” I said, yawning. “I think I’m going to take a nap.”
“Me too, I think,” said Thomas. “Just going to watch a bit of American TV. See if it differs much from our TV.”
I closed my eyes and chuckled inside my head. If Thomas was about to engage in another one of his compare and contrast analyses, he was never going to sleep anytime soon. I, however, was overcome by tiredness, and the soft mattress underneath my back felt amazing. It would’ve been rude to the bed not take a nap. With thoughts of the delicious burger I had recently eaten, I fell fast asleep.
Towards the end of an intense anxiety dream, I had to pee and there was an obnoxious fly buzzing around my head. I don’t remember if I started to bat at the fly with my hand in the dream, but in reality my hand came into contact with something solid and I awoke with a start to see what looked like a bald transvestite clown, staring me in the face.
I screamed and leapt off the bad.
“Who the hell are you!?” I yelled, backing towards the curtains.
“Calm down, Matthew. It’s me.”
Thomas’ voice floated calmly out of the painted face. He was holding a black object in his right hand. “What’s that?” I pointed, immediately realizing it was a hair clipper. My heart stopped, and I knew the truth before my hand came down on my head and felt the tickle of stubble.
I inhaled steadily through my nose and my nostrils flared. An explosive rage swirled around my organs, spiraling, waiting to come up and out of my mouth in a blaze of fire. My velvety brown hair was discarded on the bed, impotent and sad.
“Why,” I asked slowly, “have you shaved our heads and put on makeup?”
I clenched my fists to control the anger.
Thomas turned on the television with the remote and sat back on his pillows. “It was on the news about an hour ago. We’re wanted for questioning.”
A lead weight dropped down my oesophagus and into my stomach. I etched forward and sat opposite Thomas. “What?”
“There were drawings of us on the local news. The body of Myers was found in the hotel, the police have rounded up most of the people involved, except for Julie. Her real name is Melissa Cogdill. They showed a photo of her, and then drawings of us. They were actually quite good.”
My heart was ten beats shy of jumping out of my chest. “What did they say about us?”
“That we’re wanted for questioning. Hang on, they might play it again in a minute.”
I stood up and massaged my forehead. “And why did you put make up on your face? That just makes you stand out.”
“I’m not the only one.”
“What do you mean?”
Thomas pointed to the mirror. I resembled a cast member from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“Oh, well this is just brilliant, Thomas. We entered this place with hair and no makeup, and so when we check out as a couple of skinhead circus clowns that won’t arouse any suspicion at all.”
Thomas stood from the bed. “I saw the need for some action, Matthew, and I took it. What did you do?” he said, waving his arms. “You were just napping.”
I confronted him and could see his eyes twitching within the blue eye shadow. “Just napping? You could’ve just woken me up and calmly informed me what was on the news, and then we could’ve talked about it together. Instead you left the room and went to purchase a hair clipper and some face paint.”
Thomas huffed. “It’s called make-up, Matthew, and it was expensive.” He turned on his heels, walked towards the door, and then spun around to approach me again. He flung his arms up into the air. “This whole trip has just been a flipping disaster.”
“Why did you even leave the room? I mean, look at the snow.” I turned to the window and it was no longer snowing. “How long was I asleep?”
Thomas picked up the TV remote. “I don’t know,” he said, irritated. “Two hours? Three?” He scrolled through the channels. His jaw was pushed forward into a militant scowl, and his ruby red lips, delightfully over-accentuated with the terrible application of the lipstick, were pressed tight together. I realized with all the effort he had gone to, he had genuinely wanted to help.
I lowered my voice and put my hand on his shoulder. “We have to wash this off, Thomas.”
I entered the bathroom, peed, and then filled the sink with warm soapy water. It took about five minutes of solid scrubbing but I finally managed to remove all of the make-up. It was actually quite impressive that he’d managed to do it without waking me. I toweled my face dry and felt the back of my head. There was still a strip of hair at the very back.
Thomas entered the bathroom and brushed passed behind me. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just trying to be pro-active and helpful.”
“I know you are,” I said, tucking the towel back on the rack.
“Just soap and water?”
“Yeah, that’ll do it.” I stroked the back of his shaved head. “Hey, once you’ve washed your face, we’ll figure out what to do.”
Thomas joined me on the bed a few minutes later. The sky outside appeared to be clouding over again, and I wondered if we were in for another snow storm. I turned the TV off after a few minutes of trying to find us on the news. I was curious to know why we were wanted for questioning. It had to be that they noticed we were missing and wanted to see if that was in any way connected to the murder.
I turned on my side to face Thomas and propped myself up on my arm. He was lying on his back, now clean and rosy faced, staring up at the ceiling with his hands drawn together on his stomach. “We need to get back to Aspen,” I said. “And call the police.”
Thomas remained silent, although his chest deflated like an angry balloon. “We might be able to help,” I continued. “We have information they can use. And what if somebody is looking for us, like a rescue team? They’d just be wasting their time and resources.”
“I doubt there would be a rescue team this early on. They don’t even know we were kidnapped. They just know that we’re not in the hotel anymore, and we were a few doors down from the crime scene. And it seems like they’re already suspicious of Julie and her gang.”
I nodded. “You’re probably right. But it is unsettling that we’ve made the news and we know the police want to question us.”
Thomas flopped his arm over his eyes. “I don’t want to go back.”
I shared his sentiment, and I was eager to get back to London and end this tragedy of a business trip. I placed my hand on the side of Thomas’ head and stroked the stubble with my thumb. “I know mate, me neither.”
“I don’t want to go back to Aspen, and I don’t want to go back to England,” he continued in a determined whine.
This took me by surprise. “You don’t want to go home?”
He shook his head. “I’ve been having a lot of fun. I don’t want it to end.” Thomas reached out with his hand and took hold of my own. His touch was soft but firm. I squeezed back. “It’s certainly been crazy,” I said. I wanted to say more but a cold paralytic surge disabled my voice box.
I played over the events is my mind: The preparation, the flight, and traveling to the hotel; all perfectly sane. Then the kidnapping and being abandoned in a car and almost freezing to death. My plan had been to handle everything as rationally and calmly as possible and then vent when I got home with Rachel over a pint.
I closed my eyes tight and felt heavy bursts of emotion exploding within my brain like cluster bombs ripping through the tissue.
Thomas squeezed my hand again. A tender wave of sensitivity swept through my throat, and I felt tears pushing at my ducts, gentle and calm, priming for activity. I slid out the arm propping me up on the bed and used my thumb and forefinger to press gingerly against my eyes, and tried to hold back the fractures that were compelling me to fall apart like a cheap vase.
I rolled onto my back, embarrassed, and tried to gain control of my breathing. With the exception of my connection to Thomas, my body felt like a piece of wet spaghetti in a centrifuge. Thomas shifted on the bed, but he kept hold of my hand. The sensation of his breath on my neck stiffened my body and helped tether my rapidly deteriorating sanity.
“Let it go, Matthew,” whispered Thomas, and he kissed me on the cheek. I pulled my finger and thumb from my eyes and rolled back onto my side so that our faces, our lips, were almost touching. Thomas’ hazel eyes looked straight into mine, kind and forgiving, and when his hand slid over and down my side to my hip, the crushing weight of the world lifted from between my temples.
I held his hand to my waist and closed my eyes. As he consumed my personal space and my immediate thoughts, the last ounce of stress released its grip and I fell forwards onto his mouth, and we kissed in an explosion of ice and fire. The touch catapulted Thomas’ life force through my body, through my bones, in healing jolts of fierce and overpowering sexual energy. I felt drawn to him, delightfully powerless yet liberated, ensnared by the touch of the mischievous genie.
I opened my eyes to see if it was really happening and saw that Thomas’ eyes were closed. I let go of his hand on my hip and held his face, feeling his ear flick through the gap in my fingers. He writhed closer and pushed his tongue through into my mouth. I moaned and let go of his face so I could slide my hand over his body and pull him in tighter.
Our groins came together, hard against hard, vibrating to the same frequency. I leaned back and grabbed my sweater and t-shirt together in one fistful, and yanked them both off and over my head and tossed them on the floor. Thomas’ hand came down on my stomach and smoothed up to my chest, his fingers closing and tugging gently on my chest hair.
I held his hand to my heart and rolled over on top of him. He grabbed at the hem of his t-shirt and slid it up and off his body. I planted kisses on his chest, and scaled the contours of his muscles with the tip of my tongue. There was no thought, only action, and I laughed in pleasure, watching him smile and writhe beneath me.
Thomas’ hands came down on the waistband of my trousers, and he slid his fingers down and in, pulling them down an inch. I lowered myself and kissed him, lifting up my hips so he could push my underwear down, passed my buttocks. My penis was free and he grabbed it in one hand and cupped my balls with the other. I stopped kissing immediately and pressed my face down against his, moaning down the length of his cheek. His fingers pressed underneath my scrotum and with his other hand he pinched and tugged at the tip of my penis. My eyes flew open wide and my spirit soared.
I fell to the side and watched Thomas pull off his boxer shorts. He started to remove his socks, but I impulsively demanded that he keep them on. He chuckled and swung his leg over me. Our groins came together in a magic embrace and I felt the warm velveteen skin of Thomas’ scrotum eclipse my own, our penises pressing tight together, craving release. Our hands interlocked, as did our lips, while our hips danced and pushed to the same rhythm.
Outside, the snow fell hard and soft to the beat of our love.