Castle Roland

Forever 1 - Beginnings

by Jack Schaeffer


Chapter 9

Published: 29 Jan 15

FOREVER 1 - Beginnings
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2014 - 2015. All rights reserved.

_"A beginning is a very delicate time."_
from Dune (1984) by Frank Herbert, David Lynch

Face down. That's where he wants me. My chest pressed into the sheets below as his hands knead my upper back and shoulders. I try to yield to him. This is not a massage – this is taking possession of what he wants. Me.

He straddles my ass, a knee squeezing on each side. I'm pinned down as he slowly rocks back and forth, pressing my engorged cock into the mattress. He's got a rhythm going now – slow movements – he's in no hurry. He's in total control of how this goes.

His dick gets heavier and harder as it slides along the small of my back, gliding on the slime of our sweat and his pre-cum. His balls rolling around at the top of my crack, full of what I'm craving but can't have yet. This time is his. To do things his way.

I feel his tongue land between my shoulder blades, sucking at the sweat. Then it moves down my spine slowly – very slowly – sending waves of electricity to every part of my body. The heat ratchets higher.

His weight shifts upwards as he leans down to kiss the back of my neck – the spot where my hair ends and the nerves link to places farther down – the place he knows - the place where my passion turns into incomprehensible gibberish. He camps there with his magic tongue, swirling and sucking, sending me nearly to the edge. I'm writhing under him, moaning with no words, sliding my cock around in its own juices, aching for release. Just as I'm about to go over the edge, his tongue moves down my back again.

Suddenly he rears back, pulling me up with him, arching and twisting to meet his kiss. His tongue pierces my lips, unmistakably insisting on its right to be there. I open up to it, sucking it in as a welcome invader. Breathing in his air, his heat, his need. Sharing mine with him as only a kiss like this can. Tongues explore mouths as if they were virgin territory to be mapped. I'm no longer aware of time. Only of our want, our need for each other. I'm panting now, needing it to be over, wishing it could last forever.

He releases me and I fall back on my face, instantly mourning the breakup, my tongue searching for its companion. But he has other plans. He slides backwards now, sitting on my thighs, his hands squeezing and massaging my ass cheeks, spreading them far apart and stretching the tender skin around my hole. Starting at the top, his tongue now invades my crack, bathing it in slick saliva. He flicks it over my hole, teasing, flirting, not yet serious, not fully committed. He goes further down, licking my balls, swollen with seed. He takes one and then the other into his mouth and sucks. It is exquisite pain.

He slides his tongue faster through the split in my ass, top to bottom, bottom to top. He's deliberately hitting my hole now, making sure I feel it, as he moves past. Finally he returns to it and stays, his tongue circling, probing, demanding I open up to it. I feel him penetrate, barely parting my flesh, and my dick pulses beneath me. I can't hold out much longer.

Suddenly he pushes himself up again and slides his cock up and down my love groove. When he's as hard as he'll ever be, he reaches with one hand to push his cock down so it presses urgently at the entrance as he moves, up and down, up and down, an unrelenting torture. Each pass shoots electricity straight to my dick, dripping in anticipation of the onslaught to come. He continues, until I am beyond control,, be fucked. I need him in me. Now.

He lifts his ass up as he aligns his throbbing cock with my hole, the only thing of him touching me now. I try to push up with my ass to hurry the invasion, but he slaps it hard and pushes me down again. He is in control. I agreed to this. I struggle to submit.

He slowly...slowly...relaxes his weight, a millimeter at a time, and his cock begins pressing on my hole, wanting in. I try to will it to open faster, to swallow him up, but he's holding back. I'm in agony, my hands squeezing the sheets, open and shut, sweat pouring off of me, my body searching for its release. Shaking now, tremors rising from my feet all the way through to my chest. I can feel my own orgasm racing along the path that leads to my freedom. My muscle ring begins to yield to his advance, burning with the heat of his white hot dick. Just as I feel the head slip through, I cum...

I woke up, face down on my bed, panting for breath. My hands gripped the sheets tightly, which were soaked in sweat. Beneath me they felt slimy and wet. I knew the smell. I could still faintly remember the scene and the sensations, but it was fading quickly. I never even got to see his face. I collapsed and waited to catch my breath.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at the mess. I hadn't jerked off for two days, so I guess I was due. Plus I had spent more time flirting with guys in those same two days than I had in the two years prior, so yeah, I was a little revved up.

I hopped up and went to the bathroom, gave my bladder the relief it demanded, then came back and looked at the bed. Good thing Saturday was laundry day. There was no way I could sleep on those sheets tonight. I peeled them off the bed and threw the whole mess into my laundry basket which I pulled from the closet. I then spied the duffle I had thrown on the floor. I got everything out of there, too. The suit went into a pile all its own for a trip to the dry cleaners. The rest of the clothes joined the messy sheets and I was ready to do laundry.

But first, I needed food. And a shower. I stank. When you can smell yourself you know you're in trouble. So I grabbed my toiletries from the duffle and headed in to clean up. The smell of Bvlgari shower gel brought back pleasant memories of my trip. I got myself in good shape, brushed my hair – really needed a haircut – and put on my last pair of clean jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt. My Saturday outfit. The bathroom towels joined the other dirty clothes in the basket.

I grabbed a quick bowl of cereal and decided to get the laundry over with. It was 8 am on a Saturday. Hopefully I could use both washers downstairs and get done in half the time. I grabbed my big bottle of detergent and a couple of dryer sheets and headed to the basement.

My building held six apartments, two on each of three floors. The basement has storage lockers on one side for each of the tenants, and the other side was the utility room, with furnaces, hot water heaters, and the electrical service. I only knew because I was once downstairs when someone was doing repairs and I peeked in. Usually that door was locked. Tucked into a corner was the laundry room, with two sets of washers and dryers. Washers were $1.50, dryers free. There was a counter along the opposite wall from the machines for sorting and folding. That's where I threw my basket.

I was in luck. Both washers were empty, so I sorted my clothes into two piles, cold and hot, and started the machines. I added the soap, tossed in the clothes, and dropped the lids down.

For the next 30 minutes while my clothes agitated and spun, I thought about the day ahead. First up was a haircut – I couldn't take it anymore. And I needed to buy some new underwear and jeans. The pair I had on were almost two years old and they looked it. I now had money, and while it wasn't exactly burning a hole in my pocket, I was starting to allow myself to think about a few things.

When my clothes had spun down, I tossed them into the two dryers and set the timers for one hour. That should be enough time for me to clean my apartment – another Saturday morning ritual.

Back in my bathroom, I squirted toilet bowl cleaner where it was supposed to go, sprayed scrubbing bubbles over nearly everything else – sink, tub, tile walls - and started wiping it all down. Once I had the toilet scrubbed, I got a bucket from my front closet and poured some Lysol in there and filled it with the hottest water I could stand. I hand washed the bathroom floor with that. Bathroom, done.

Kitchen was easy – just wipe everything down. I didn't cook much, so the stove was usually never dirty. I threw the dishes in the dishwasher and started it. Then I got some more hot water and Lysol and hand washed the kitchen floor. Kitchen, done.

I had an ancient vacuum cleaner but it still worked, so I pushed that around the rest of the apartment after I dusted the very few pieces of furniture I owned. Apartment, done.

I grabbed a pile of hangars and ran back down to get my clothes which had a couple of minutes left in the cycle. I checked and they were already dry so I pulled them out and folded them there on the counter. I didn't own an iron so I tried to keep wrinkles out from the get go so I wouldn't look like I slept in my clothes even when they were clean. Laundry folded, I headed back upstairs.

I put the clean sheets on the bed, threw the comforter over the top, hung the clothes on hangers in the closet, and put the rest in the drawers where they belonged. Weekend chores – finished.

When I had emptied the duffle bag, the envelope of cash was still in there. I needed to hide it somehow, or maybe just put in the bank. I couldn't imagine carrying around $900 just for kicks. Besides, I had the two cards that Todd had given me. That was easier – and safer. So for now, I put the money in an old pair of tennis shoes on my closet floor. That would have to do. I still had more than $80 cash in my wallet.

I usually shopped at Walmart for nearly everything, even food. It's what I could afford. I bought my jeans at Old Navy when they were on sale for twenty bucks. I liked how they fit. And the price. Well, mostly I liked the price. The only time I ever went to the big shopping mall was if I needed to get someone a gift. Then I might splurge a little. Sometime between breakfast and putting my clothes away, I had decided today was going to be a splurge-on-me day. Todd said I could, right? So I headed for Woodfield Mall.

I sort of enjoyed shopping – well, my version of it, I guess. Since I seldom had money, I would go and window shop. I would pretend I could get whatever I wanted and wander up and down the mall peering into every window and deciding if that outfit would look good on me, or would I cook more if I had that kitchen gizmo, or did I need that new electronic gadget, or would the food in that restaurant taste really good? I could kill a lot of hours window shopping. Mostly I just looked at the guys walking by. If I saw one I thought looked really hot, I might follow him for a while. Not stalkerish, just casual like. A tight ass in a pair of jeans got me hot so fast, I couldn't help it. Didn't matter if he was walking hand in hand with a girl. I would still fantasize about what I would do if he were mine.

I was slowly realizing fantasizing is great, and a lot of fun, but the way I did it was really just hiding. Like I could have the cake; I just couldn't eat it. It was frustrating. Plus, after talking with Seth last night, I knew I wanted the whole package – the full on, love me forever, till death do us part kind of relationship. What I had been doing up to now was sort of selfish – it was all about me and what I wanted. But that wasn't love. That was lust. And that wasn't enough. I wanted what Billy and Jerome, and even Seth and Tim, had. Real, forever love.

Woodfield Mall was huge, maybe the biggest in Chicagoland. More than 250 stores and restaurants, it is three levels of shopper's paradise. But you better bring the big wallet, because it ain't cheap to do anything more than window shop.

It was pouring rain again. At ten o'clock on a Saturday, it was just now opening time, and already the lots were filling up. I managed to park up close near JCPenney. That's where I thought I would find underwear and jeans anyway. I didn't really know any of the other stores. Sears maybe, but Sears always made me think of Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances – and I didn't need tools. I had all the tools I needed for today in my back pocket. It was do-something-nice-for-Jack day, or more realistically, a please-don't-strike-me-dead-for-being-selfish-I-just-want-some-new-clothes day. Todd said I couldn't possibly spend it all, and since they didn't sell 747s at Woodfield, I thought I could get out of there without breaking the bank.

At first I just walked around the mall, taking in the sights – and by sights I meant all the cute guys wandering around. I must have picked "Guy Saturday" because there were a lot of them. True, most were attached to pretty young girls, excited to have a day at the mall with their beau. The boys probably just wished their weekend outdoors hadn't washed out with the rain. It was early yet, so most of the guys still had some energy left in them. They walked a little straighter, their butts perkier in their strut. I ogled for a while, and then decided that was going nowhere fast, so it was time to actually spend some money.

I had come in for jeans, so I started there. I had seen ads from time to time for jeans at Abercrombie & Fitch. I had never been in there – I was afraid I would get a hardon with the pictures of half-naked male models all over the walls. Sure enough, the big picture just inside the entrance had a gorgeous blond hottie with board shorts barely hanging on his hips, his pubic hair winking just above the waistline. He was arm and arm with a brunette beauty who was obviously topless – her long curly hair artfully positioned just right to hide her nipples. How do they get away with that?

I scooted inside, and of course went the wrong way and was staring at racks of ladies clothing. Thankfully, a dead ringer for the guy in the picture saved me and led me over to the men's section.

"Hi," he said. "My name's Andy. What's yours?"

"Uh...Jack. Nice to meet you, Andy."

"Cool. So what brings you in today?" I wanted to say the pseudo porn on the walls, but they probably get that a lot, right?

"I need some jeans." He led me over to the section housing the jeans. There was a whole wall of them, in every style and wash color imaginable. I was lost before I got started. Plus my brain was starved for oxygen since most of my blood was now in my dick. Did Andy really have to look so hot and smell so good?

"Do you have any questions I can help you with?"

"Uh...yeah...are you the guy in the picture out there?" Oh my God! I can't believe I just said that out loud. Yes, it's what I wanted to know, but you can't just ask something like that right off. I had no filter today. He was amused.

"No. I get asked that a lot. I only have a six-pack. That dude's got like a 12-pack or something. Sick." It only took a second for me to figure out he meant that as a good thing. You get two years out of college and everybody starts talking funny.

"Um...okay then. Well...uh...I need to buy some jeans." I'd already said that. My brain was not making all the normal connections. Get a grip, Jack, before they call security.

"What kind would you like?"

"Kind?" I was blushing now, so embarrassed. But he was very sweet about it.

"I mean, what style would you prefer? We have straight, boot, slim, skinny, super skinny. And they all come in 6 colors and two different distressed levels – regular and destroyed." Wait. Hold up. Did he just say "destroyed"? Who would pay big bucks for something already destroyed? My jeans were old, but they weren't ready for the trash.

I must have seemed even more perplexed because he took a different tact. "Okay, stand over here." He moved me under a better, brighter light so he could see me more clearly. I'm sure my hard dick was nicely outlined in the spotlight. Could I just die now? I knew I should have never come in here.

He stood there and studied me, openly gawking at my legs and waist and ass. Yes, he asked me to turn around, and of course I did, like the obedient little customer I was. When he finished his inspection, he walked over to the wall, selected three pair of jeans, all slim cut, all different colors. Dark, medium, and light.

"Follow me, and I'll show you where you can try them on." I didn't dare try to speak. No telling what would have come out of my mouth at that point. He opened a changing room door, and held it for me.

"Try the dark pair on first, Jack. And be sure to come out and show me so I can see how they look. No fair cheating." He stood right outside the door while I shucked my old jeans to the floor. I thought about asking if maybe he would just like to come in with me and save all that time back and forth, in and out. But that would have been pushing it. I still needed the jeans. And I wasn't sure an Amex Centurion card worked for making bail.

I pulled up the dark washed jeans, and they felt wonderful, like they were molded to my butt, but not pinching anywhere. They rode lower on my waist than I was used to, and the crotch was tight, but that wasn't the jeans fault. I finally got the zipper up and stepped out. Andy grabbed my arm gently and pulled me over to a tall mirror. The inspection began again.

"Perfect. The fit is just right. Slim is definitely the way to go. You can actually see your ass in those. Your other jeans were hiding it. You've got a great butt. Show it off a little." He was grinning ear to ear. My face was red hot and melting. Is he allowed to say things like that to me? And nobody better try and stop him, either.

"How did you know? The size I mean?" I was stabbing in the dark for conversation now, just winging it. If he smiled at me one more time I was going to cum in these nice new jeans, and I hadn't even paid for them yet.

"I do this 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. After you've looked at so many guys' legs and butts, you can tell them their waist, inseam, and last time they had sex in two short seconds." I nearly fell over. He was laughing. "Well, not that last one, but the other two I can nail pretty much every time. Besides, it saves time if they take the right size in with them on the first trip. And it looks like I scored again with you." Not yet, but you just might.

"Well, we have the right fit, now you have to pick a color. Why don't you try on the other two and we can decide together which is best." He gently steered me back into the changing room, and two jeans-swaps later, we decided on two dark wash for better occasions, and the light wash for bumming around, as I was doing today.

"You know, Jack. If you had those light wash jeans on today, you'd have a line of guys tracking you up and down this mall and out to your car. Trust me." By now I had figured out he was just trying to be cool with me, and it was working. I relaxed a little, and thankfully my dick did too. I paid for my new clothes and thanked him for the help. Outside, I checked the receipt. Nope, no phone number. Too much to hope for? He was probably like that with all the guys. Heck, I didn't even know if he was gay. But he sure figured out I was in a hurry. My hardon gave it away, I'm sure. But I didn't care. Andy was nice to me. Plus he made a $260.00 sale. Yikes!

Shopping was hard work – who knew? I stopped at a McDonald's for a large Diet Coke and chilled for a few minutes. It started out scary, but in the end Andy made me feel good, and I decided I could do this. I was going to walk out of that mall armed with the garments to look my best or die trying. Shopping gods, give me strength.

According to the directory, there was a hair salon in the wing I was already in, so I found a staircase and headed to the bottom level. The entrance had a tasteful air about it, announcing itself as Tricocci Too. I'd never heard of Tricocci One, but okay, whatever. I threw my empty cup in the trash and crunched my last bite of ice as I sauntered over to see if they did men's hair. Until now, I had only gone to a place called Supercuts, $8, no appointment necessary. You got whoever was there that day, usually a very recent graduate of the local beauty school circuit. But it was cheap. And it kept my hair out of my eyes. Couldn't be all bad.

The sign in the window had a long list of services, and at the very bottom, it said "Men's Haircut - $30". Crap! I could have my hair cut for half a year at that price. But I was here, and it was splurge-on-me-day, so in I went. The girl at the front desk had tri-color hair. I wondered if she knew. I was thinking experiment gone wrong, dye tubes mislabeled, I don't know. But the rainbow of colors in her hair couldn't have been the plan, could it?

"How can I help you, sir?" She was smacking her chewing gum and holding a nail file. She was maybe 16. At least she looked me in the eye.

"I would like to get a haircut, please." I was proud I got that out without embarrassment. So far so good.

"Do you have an appointment?"

", I don't. Can you fit me in, do you think?"

"I'll have to look at the book. One minute." After a quick glance through the register on her desk, she came back with an answer.

"Looks like Nick can take you next. He's finishing up with another customer. I'll have him come out to get you shortly. You can have a seat over there." She pointed out a bank of comfortable leather chairs surrounded by rack upon rack of beauty products, in every shape, color and language. I had no idea what any of that stuff was for. I bought Suave Body Wash at Walmart and used it for everything. All these products around me were too complicated. And from the few prices I could see on tiny little labels, too damned expensive. $26 for a bottle of shampoo? Insane.

I decided to ignore the product offerings – I was pretty sure they were for ladies anyway – and cooled my heels, relaxing to the spa candles lit around the little room. There must have been something to aromatherapy, because when a flamboyantly gay hairdresser announced his presence with, "I'm Nick. Who's my next victim?" I had more than a little trouble focusing. Lulled in for the kill.

"Uh...I guess that's me," I answered, nervously rising from my seat.

"Well, hurry up, honey, we don't have all day, and from the looks of you, we might need every minute of it." With that he turned and quickly stepped into the back of the salon, me trotting to keep up.

Nick was quite the character. Five foot five max, with a very petite frame and a porcelain face, he had one side of his head shaved tight to his skull, while the top and opposite side had beautiful, straight black hair styled in long layers. He had a tiny gold ring in his left eyebrow, and the only thing about his look that really tore it for me was the grommet through his right ear lobe. It always looked freaky to me. But hey, maybe he needed a place to hang things, who knows?

He stood behind a padded chair in front of a mirror and told me to take a seat. I did, then he immediately turned me around so my back was to the mirror and I was facing him.

"So what are we going to do with you today, Sugar?"

"Well, I can't see without the mirror, so if you could..."

"Un uh, honey. There ain't nothin' in that mirror that needs to be directin' this here effort today. Boy, that hairstyle is two decades old at least. And what is this color? Did you get it out of a box at K-Mart or somethin'? And besides, between you and me, I am way better lookin' right now than that sorry mess on your head, so make yourself happier and just look at me, and let me think of somethin'." I shut up. I was so doomed. I thought about making a run for it, but he was holding a big pair of scissors and well, he had mentioned victims...

After pacing back and forth a minute or two, occasionally looking at my head and violently shaking his, his eyes sparked up and he leaned in. "Okay, sugar, here's what we gonna do. I'm gonna make you a star today, baby, because I can do that. This is not too hard for Nick. Nick can do the impossible. He's done it before." I hoped he was convincing himself, because I wasn't there yet.

He snapped his fingers twice, like he was doing magic or something and then shouted, "I got it. This is it. We's gonna make you all better, baby. First we gotta take like most of this mess off, cuz it's just nasty. I bet some of your hair is older than my three year old niece, Jasmine. And we's got to do somethin' about that color. It can't decide what it wants to be. But no worries, sugar, I'm gonna make it all better."

He was standing up straight in front of me, index finger extended up like a school teacher correcting an errant school boy. "But you got to trust Saint Nick, now, you hear me? No fussin' and askin' to see anything until it's all perfect, alright?" I just nodded, grinning at him. I was starting to see his true good humor and was relaxing a bit. For some reason, I really did trust him. Besides, I could always get one of those knit skull caps which were all the rage right now.

"What's so funny?" He eyed me warily.

"Nothin'. I trust you...Saint Nick." I grinned. He blushed a little. "Seriously Nick, you can't be but a few years older than me. Right?"

"29." He leaned and whispered behind his hand. "For the fourth time. And don't you tell any one of these heifers in here I told you that – it's our secret. Around here if you turn 30 you better have your funeral paid up and the last rites scheduled. And if you take too long gettin' in the grave, one of 'em is likely to give you an assist." He made a jabbing motion with his curling iron.

"Surely it can't be that bad."

"That's what you think, Sugar. You gotta cut a bitch, 'scuse my French, if you wanna a chair in a place like this. Took me six years of shampooing nasty heads to get this chair and the only way they's gettin' me out of it is my dead body layin' up across it like last week's meat delivery." I swallowed hard. Nick was funny and kind of scary at the same time.

"Oh relax, honey. I'm just carryin' on with ya. Passes the time betta. Now let me go get my big scissors, cuz that mess on your head has done seen its last days."

True to his word, Saint Nick cut away a lot of my old hair – a lot of it! It fell in piles all around me. He was right about the color, too. Laying on the black smock around my body, it looked kind of mousy brown, not exactly young and studly. Just when I thought he must be close to finished, he fired up the electric clippers and did some more work around the edges. Surely there couldn't be much left to cut. I hoped I wasn't going to come out of this bald.

Finally he put the clippers and the scissors down and squatted down in front of me. "Now, Jack, you look straight ahead. I gotta figure out the color we's gonna fix you with. Hold still. He held up different color sticks to my eyes, my cheeks, even my neck. I stayed still. This was the scariest part of all for me. Hair would grow back. I couldn't stand the idea of looking like front desk girl with multicolored hair.

Nick left and returned a few minutes later with fresh smocking, a water bottle, and a bowl of the ugliest dirty blonde pudding-like substance. "Uh, Nick. I know I agreed to no questions, but..."

"Ahk! You promised, Jack. You trust Saint Nick. I'm gonna fix you. Don't you worry. I can already stand the sight of you now. So we's makin' some progress." He winked at me and picked up a brush.

He painted that butt-ugly concoction all over my head, including my eyebrows. At one point he grabbed tweezers and starting plucking eyebrow hairs at random until I threatened to kick him in the nuts if he didn't stop. Geez, that hurt.

"Now you sit there, Jack, and be a good boy. I be back in 15-20 minutes and we see how's it lookin'. Okay?"

"Okay, Nick. Whatever you say. You's the boss." I winked at him, mocking his fake speech patterns a bit. He smiled. He liked me.

The waiting started to get tedious. I tried to stay still, but I wanted to turn the chair so badly so I could see just how blonde he was making me. He never even asked me if I wanted to be blonde. I really didn't. I liked blonde guys. I liked brunette guys. Okay, I liked guys period. I just kind of preferred staying the same color. Maybe less mousy though.

Just when I thought I couldn't stand it anymore, Nick came back and started poking and prodding around on my head, making incomprehensible noises. He seemed satisfied. "Okay, Jack. You follow me back to the shampooing area. And be nice to Carla. If anybody deserves a chair in this place, it's her. Nicest heifer you could find in this barnyard of beasts."

He handed me off to Carla, who really was as sweet as she could be. She was younger than me, and very focused on her task. She rinsed away the color goo, and then started shampooing. On the second go around she used some kind of conditioner or something that tingled all over and smelled of peppermint. She kept massaging my head with her fingertips. I decided the scalp massage may have been the best feeling I would ever experience. Of course, I still had a few other things to try out for myself, so maybe my experience was too limited to pass judgment just yet, but it sure felt nice and relaxing.

She was toweling me off when Nick reappeared, and we walked back to his chair. I sat back down and he pulled out a brush and dryer and started styling my hair. Since it was so short – I could feel that much – it took very little time to get it just right. He put the dryer down, clipped a few stray hairs with the scissors, and pronounced he had done it. Another Saint Nick miracle!

"Are you ready for your reveal, Jack?" He was giddy with anticipation. I so hoped I liked, mostly for his sake. He'd put a lot of effort into it. So I closed my eyes and nodded. He slowly turned the chair around, and then whispered in my ear, "Open, Sugar."

I was stunned. Then I started crying. Not bawling, not sobbing, just happy and amazed, Oh-my-God-how-did-you-do-that tears. My hair was short on the sides, longer on top, and styled in a modern, but still conservative, look. I looked young and distinguished at the same time. It would look good for fun or work. And the color was unbelievable. It was a bit darker than it had been, but with tiny little flecks of different shades that made it look more real, more vibrant, almost alive somehow. It was magical.

"Nick...God himself couldn't have made the color more perfect. It's like what I was always supposed to be. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love it. And I love you!" I jumped up and gave him a big hug. The other stylists around started clapping. Nick was trying not to cry himself. He had a hard image to uphold. But I knew underneath all the talk was a heart of gold. He really was a miracle worker.

I wanted to praise him in front of his co-workers, so they knew they were up against one of the best. "I'm so glad I came in here today, Nick. You are a true artist, and I am grateful to be your canvas today. And I would like to say, may every head that rises from your chair shine forth in glory, just like mine." Now he really was going to cry, so he grabbed me and dragged me back up to reception.

I left there $300 dollars lighter in my accounts, including a $50 tip for Nick, with bags of hair products that Nick assured me were the only thing that would keep my beautiful hair from falling out of my head. I knew it probably wasn't totally true, but no way did I want to take a chance on ruining his creation. I owed him, for the artist he was.

After my haircut, I realized I was starving, so I headed back up a level to a place called P.F. Changs. It was an Asian fusion restaurant Mary had told me about – her bridge club went there once a month and boozed it up over fried wontons and sushi. I was hoping they had more standard Chinese fare. I didn't like the idea of sushi.

I was seated right away, and my waiter, a rather heavy-set middle-aged man named Harold, brought me an iced tea. Harold had a receding hairline and probably looked 10 years older than he actually was. But he was very friendly, and he took my order for Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Mongolian Beef with a smile and departed for another table.

I caught myself just then, making the same mistake I had made with myself. Judging a man because he was different. I had spent my whole life thinking I could never be good because I was gay. And now I was sitting there in a restaurant, and if I was honest about it, I was thinking Harold wasn't as good a person as maybe another waiter simply because he was heavier and balding. The size of a man's belly or how much hair on his head didn't make him good or bad, anymore than who he had sex with. It was what was in his heart that counted. I just lost two thirds of the hair on my head. I didn't suddenly become worthless.

I was thinking about that when Harold brought my Lettuce wraps and started mixing a special sauce at the table – soy, mustard, and red chili paste. It was delicious. He seemed to really enjoy what he was doing. He was smiling.

"Hey, Harold. Can I ask you a question? Is being a waiter a hard job?" He paused a minute and thought about it before answering.

"Well, I suppose it's like this. The hardest part of any job is knowing what is expected of you, then deciding you are going to always exceed those expectations. It would be easy to say all I do is take orders and sling food at people. But that's not how I see it. I'm here to help you have an enjoyable experience around the food. I don't cook it, but I'm the voice of it, the attitude of it, the human side of it. I take that part pretty seriously."

"Wow. You've really thought that through. I never realized, but it makes sense. Thanks. And may I say Harold, you do a very fine job. I could see the great attitude immediately when I sat down. I appreciate it." He smiled and went back to cleaning tables. He was still smiling when I paid my bill later and left him a big tip. I wrote a note on the receipt, "Keep up the great work, Harold! I loved my meal, Jack".

My head was fixed, my stomach was full, now I needed to finish my shopping. I still needed underwear, and maybe if I could find a few new work shirts and pants, that would be a good thing, too.

The next stop was Hugo Boss. I saw the underwear display from the entrance and had to go in, even if just to lust after the nearly naked torsos on the covers of the boxes. I picked up several boxes, pretending I was deciding on what style I wanted, but really I was just trying to see if they fully airbrushed the pictures or if you could see the outline of their dicks in the underwear. On some of them you could. Hot.

I knew I wouldn't look as good in them as the models on the box, but I really did need underwear, and I wasn't picky. I knew I wanted boxer briefs, and I preferred darker colors, mostly black. I had given up tighty whiteys in college. They had boxes of three pair, so I got three boxes in my size – medium according to the chart of the back. They were all black, which was cool. One less decision every day.

I hadn't seen it when I first came in, but directly across from Abercrombie & Fitch was an Apple store. I decided to check it out. I was curious about IPads. I had no work use for one, so I never asked for one. And of course I didn't have the budget before, so none for home either. But my apartment complex did have WiFi throughout. The owners added it two years ago as part of a rent increase of ten bucks a month. Not much for high speed internet.

It was crowded, so I almost didn't go in. But this cute little Indian girl asked me if she could help me find something, so I started up with her. In just a few minutes we had narrowed my choice down to the latest IPad for WiFi in black. I also got some accessories – an IHome box so I could play music at the apartment, a carrying case, and a screen protector kit. She had suggested a stylus, but that didn't seem necessary to me. The best part is she set it all up for me right there in the store so I wouldn't have to connect it to a computer at work to do it. I'm sure I could have figured it out, but I didn't want to have to explain an IPad at work.

I exited Apple further weighed down, arms aching from carrying all my goodies. But I was determined to finish strong. I spied the J. Crew store across the way. They had men's dress shirts in the window, and a cute girl waved to me when I looked at her. That was odd – most girls just ignored me like I was invisible. What was odder still was the even cuter Hispanic guy standing three steps behind her looking at me the same way. I figured I better go see about their shirts.

Kylie, according to her name tag, flipped her curly blond hair behind her ear and smiled, greeting me.

"Welcome to J. Crew. How may I..."

"I've got this, Kylie. Can you help Samantha with the folding of those shirts over there? Thanks, love." I watched as Kylie shrugged her shoulders, smiled again at me, and nearly skipped over to Samantha, who looked anything but happy folding shirts and putting them back in size order on the display table.

"So how can I help you? My name is Jesse, by the way." He stuck out his light brown hand and I shook it, thinking this was a rather personal greeting. But maybe that's how they did things at J. Crew. Every store has a different angle to get you to part with your money. His black hair was cut very short next to his scalp, with a matching amount of beard showing all over. It was a sexy look to say the least.

"Hello Jesse, I'm Jack. Nice to meet you. I was looking for some dress shirts for work, and maybe some nicer pants. You casual. Nothing super fancy. We usually wear Dockers and buttoned shirts with collars."

"Sure thing, Jack. We've got lots to choose from in the back area. Follow me." So I did. And I was rewarded with an ass that filled his pants like they had two cheek holders sewn in, perfectly proportioned to his measurements. A thing of beauty. The pants were a dark blue textured material and looked very expensive. I wanted some. And I wanted my ass to look that good in them.

Jesse was friendly and helpful, but not flirty. I didn't push it. I can usually tell when a guy is into it, and he wasn't. He was just really good at his job. And I mean really good. By the time I got out of there, I had five new work shirts and five new pairs of pants, including the blue ones Jesse was modeling, although my ass probably wasn't nearly as spectacular as his in them. But it wasn't bad either. Just as we were walking up to the registers, I saw a sports coat hanging on a mannequin. It was a charcoal gray, almost black, and it looked casual and sophisticated, displayed over a light blue work shirt and the same blue pants I was buying. I wanted it.

Jesse helped me find the right size, and to my good fortune it fit really well off the rack, no tailoring needed. He said that hardly ever happens – I'd be a fool not to take it. Yeah, I'll bet.

By this time I had stopped thinking about the money. After you spend $150 on shampoo and conditioner, you clearly have no financial scruples anymore. So when Jesse rang up the bill and swiped my Centurion card, I didn't even look at the receipt. I had people for that.

I had no more room in my hands for packages, so it was time to go home. I needed a nap and time to process what had happened today. So I determined to do only window shopping and guy cruising until I was out the door.

But of course, if you go window shopping with money in your pocket, you're probably going to end up buying something. I was in the home stretch and walked in front of the TUMI luggage store. There was the coolest Arrivè Briefcase in the window. It was calling out to me "Buy me, Jack, please, please," like a puppy who wanted a new home. I had to go in and check it out. Then I saw the matching luggage and that was it. Time to retire the trusted duffle bag. I bought a Zurich large bag, an Orly carry on piece, the briefcase, and something called a Barajas Dopp Kit for my toiletries. No more plastic baggies for this traveler.

Thankfully they said they had to order it all and it would be shipped within two days to my apartment. There was no rush, I had no plans to go anywhere anytime soon. I didn't even have a passport.

As I drove home in the afternoon gloom, stealing looks at myself in the rearview mirror at every stop light like some narcissistic nimrod, I kept thinking about the crazy day I just had. I met some great people, got some great new clothes, a new hairdo, and some cool luggage to carry it all in. Where to, I had no idea. Yet.

I didn't even know what I was going to do about my job. What do I tell Marcus and Mary about the last few days? Do I say anything? They're going to take one look at me and know something has changed. I didn't know, so I decided to pull a Scarlett O'Hara and think about that tomorrow. For now, it was time to go home and play with my new purchases. And maybe with myself a little bit. Damn, that Andy was hot stuff...

Author's Note: If you are enjoying this story, please take a moment to comment in the Forum on CastleRoland – you can click the link labelled "Forum Discussion" just under the story synopsis at the top of this page. Or, if you prefer, send me an email to I would love to hear your thoughts about the story.

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