Today's excerpt is from my book Another Enchanted April. The story centers on three young friends in need of change who take a vacation at a B&B, the beauty of which they are unprepared for. In this scene the guys are waking on their first morning there and quite astonished at the look of the place:
Tony woke refreshed the next morning as well, though he would never admit it to Jerry. Streams of sunlight peaked through the shutters and he stared at the high ceiling, smelling the flower perfumed air and at last appreciating the bed linens that had been his comfort all night. He didn’t want to move, but Jerry and Doug were most likely awake, and if history were any indication, Doug would be racing into the room very soon and tickling him until he got up. Doug tickled hard, and Tony really didn’t want finger bruises on his abdomen.
Tony reached for his cane which had fallen to the floor in the night. He admired the old furniture and the look of the room itself. This was most definitely an old place, decidedly un-American in its build. He, like Jerry, was not used to such fine surroundings. He hadn’t been able to work since the accident and got by on the small stipend the government claimed he could live on. That meant a very modest apartment. Anything else now made him nervous. Nothing was ever free or without strings.
Tony headed bleary-eyed to the French doors at the side of his bed. He was not prepared for what the opening of them would bring him. There was a balcony, its wall draped in vines and ivy. Below him were gardens and, beyond them, a small forest. A patch of trees, really. Finally, the sea could just be heard hitting the shore beyond that. Sea birds flew in the distance against a ferocious blue sky. He felt like Eva Peron on her balcony, ready to sing to the masses.
“Jesus Christ on a hang-glider!” he said, breaking into something of a smile as a warm wave, not unlike the waves he imagined on the beach below, rippled through him. He sat for a moment at the table on the balcony and watched the unexpected treasure before him. Unlike Jerry, he was not thrown into a dizzying fit of overwhelming awe. Awe of the more simple variety was good enough.
When at last he was able to stand, he left his room to find what Jerry and Doug had gotten themselves up to. Jerry was in the main hall, an old book in his hand, but he was staring in appreciation at the magnificent cavern above him. He had not changed from his boxers and t-shirt. Doug had risen as well by this point and had already headed out to the gardens, more at ease around beautiful things than either of his friends. Kind attracts kind.
“Can you believe this?” Jerry said. “I mean, can you believe this?” He gestured so wildly the book fell from his lap and slid to the floor.
“We’re still in
America, right? We didn’t take any wrong turns did we? Like to Italy?”
Jerry laughed. The two strolled slowly through the hall, studying the paintings and feeling the plush sofas and lounge beds draped in soft, clear, and willowy fabric. Doug was used to this posh lifestyle. He had been raised in a well-off family who owned, and invested in, just about everything. But this was all new to Jerry and Tony.
At last, they headed onto the veranda. It seemed to Tony that Jerry was somewhat cautious, as if he needed some hand-holding before going outside.
“It’s like Oz,” Jerry said. The two stood on the veranda as the sun shone down on them. There was nothing for Tony to say or do but nod in agreement at the silly statement.
The gardens of the Manor House in Beechwood were as such: As stated, they were separated into levels and areas. The veranda had no railing along its edge nor any wall, so the effect was a dramatic drop to the next level. A dangerous fall if one was not aware of one’s surroundings. This thematic design was continued down all the levels of the gardens, giving the effect of large descending steps, or, in some cases, walls of vegetation and ivy like waterfalls. The flow of the gardens was, in this way, undisturbed, and served as an ode to the sea at the doorstep of the Manor House. Benches, tables, and places to lie down were afforded to each level. As many types of flowers and trees that could be imagined were in the gardens all the way down to the path which led to the small forest and out onto the beach.
Statuary and ornate pots and vessels lined the walkways, and various fountains gave continuous sound to the gardens. The closer the garden to the patch of trees, the wilder it became. Indeed, those flowers nearest the bottom were not just ready to bloom, but to explode in magnificent color.
Tony was soothed. He instinctively took off the shoes he had worn all night and let the cool feel of the moss and stone relax his feet. It would be harder to walk for him without shoes, but how could he wear them here? It seemed rude.
They heard a steady stream of water as they descended that differentiated itself from the fountains around them. It was not as natural sounding and was often interrupted, as if something was repeatedly obstructing its flow. They followed the sound to a slightly hidden area on the second level. There, past tall wispy trees and statues of satyrs, Doug stood stark naked, cleaning himself underneath an outdoor shower with a detachable shower head. The sun shone and gleamed on his flesh and every muscle sang, every striation became a tiny river. Tony, knowing the effect Doug had on a lot of men, especially Jerry, offered his friend his cane so he wouldn’t fall over.
“Look at that,” Jerry said. “Has there ever been a more greedy sun? A more lusting morning light?”
Doug was, of course, all smiles when he saw them watching. He was Doug, after all, and had star billing in Holt’s Pride Parade, where he wore as little as possible. “Yeah, babies! Get a load of this!” He shook and flexed playfully for them under the stream, completely at ease.
Tony rolled his eyes. Something he did often when he was with Doug. It had become habit, even when Doug made sense. “Settle down, muscle boy. You’re not impressing me.”
Jerry meant to say something in agreement with Tony, but…he couldn’t. He had forgotten to breathe. Tony slapped him on the back to encourage life.
“If I knew my mom’s friend had this place I would have been here every weekend! Didn’t I tell you she was an awful mother? What a bitch.” Doug was not giving up his shower. He splashed and danced and sang a bundle of popular tunes. A show only made sense (at least to him) since he now had a couple of spectators.
His small audience, only half of which was truly enthralled, soon noticed a change in the showering showman, however. A very physical change in the form of a stiffening penis.
“Oh! Come on, Doug,” Tony said. “We get it. You’re sexy. Enough with the show. Put that away.”
But he noticed Doug was smiling flirtatiously past both he and Jerry. “Well, hello there,” Doug said. The greeting hurried over their shoulders. If it had mass it might have knocked them both down.
Tony and Jerry turned to see a young man in a blue baseball cap. He wore dirty overalls, no shirt, and a large pair of brown and dirty gardening gloves. He leaned on a shovel and smiled pleasantly in that way that all Italians have, the description of which lies somewhere between friendship and lust. “Good to see you all up and Adam,” the young man said. Clearly, this was the mysterious stranger from the previous evening.
“At them,” Tony corrected the gardener (it was better than calling him their ‘host’, he decided).
“It’s ‘Up and at them.’ Not ‘Up and Adam.’ That makes no sense. It’s like saying ‘I could care less’ when you really mean ‘I couldn’t care less.’”
The gardener smiled broadly at this. His eyes glinted. The glint Tony had noticed the night before and only now re-remembered. Tony swallowed and felt the hairs on his neck bristle pleasantly. He swatted them back down.
“Sexy naked man standing right here,” hollered Doug from behind them. He was never too keen on shifts in attention away from him.
“Be careful of the mosquitoes,” the gardener said. “There are some around here that would make your pecker swell up bigger than what you are packing right now, though not in quite such a pleasurable way.”
Doug grabbed a towel and covered his nakedness at once, looking around for possible penile assault until he was dizzy from the looking.
“There’s a shower room inside that can hold twenty.”
Doug’s penis poked up from beneath the towel in keen interest. “Twenty?”
Without another word, Doug raced past them.
“I have a feeling there’s going to be a party,” Jerry said, watching Doug’s finely sculpted mass make the stairs in impressive time.
“Do I want to be here for this?” Tony asked.
“Where else are you going to go?”
“Sit back,” the gardener said to Tony. “Have a good time. Just relax. But, be warned, this garden can make you drunk from its scent sometimes. It can change a man.”
“Right,” Tony said in a dubious tone.
The gardener shrugged as if it was no big deal he was not being believed. Tony had the feeling that this same shrug would have accompanied an earthquake or an atom bomb explosion. As if the entire history of the world was no big deal. Then he winked at Tony. “I will see you later. I have work to do.”
He walked away, again, in a way that only the Italian man can perfect through years of being Italian.
“He winked at you,” Jerry said, nudging his friend as they watched the gardener stroll down the garden paths. “The hot gardener with the Italian accent winked at you and then he said he will see you later.”
“I know. Why do you suppose he did that for?”