Gage Weston never wore hats, especially not baseball caps. He had thick, wavy hair that he kept longer than most gay men in their late twenties did; he worked hard not to look like everyone else. He parted it in the center and bleached it himself with a drugstore frosting kit because he couldn’t afford to waste money on foil wraps in an expensive New York hair salon. He even cut it himself, with three mirrors and a cheap pair of scissors he’d purchased at a beauty supply on Broadway.
His wardrobe revolved around six white dress shirts, three pairs of jeans, and two black blazers. He owned three neckties, a pair of good black leather quarter boots, and a pair of running shoes. The black belt he owned was ten years old and his beige jeans and black dress slacks were almost twelve. Everything else in his small closet was either a castoff he’d found in a secondhand shop for less than five dollars or something he’d owned since he was a teenager.
On the morning he went to the opening of the new building for the Angel Association in the West Village, he wore a black baseball cap on purpose. He also wore a white shirt, his darkest jeans, his black quarter boots, and the newest of his black sport jackets. He wanted to look nice, because this was one of those almost-formal affairs. But he didn’t want to be recognized.
As he entered the Angel Association building, he lowered his head and pulled the brim of the cap down as low as he could, practically covering his eyes. He shoved his hands into his pockets and hunched over a little. Gage had the kind of natural walk that could turn heads even when he wasn’t trying for attention, and he wasn’t trying now. His body seemed to swagger and his hips swayed a little. An older woman in a Chinese red dress standing beside the entrance door smiled and stepped aside. He noticed the way she glanced up and down at his legs and he sent her a smile so fast his head didn’t move and the corner of his lips hardly turned up. A group of pudgy gay men in their forties standing near a refreshment table sent him quick, individual glances and gaped at his crotch as if they hadn’t seen a decent crotch in years. Gage kept walking as if he didn’t notice them. He crossed through the main lobby, lowering his head even more, and stopped behind a group of people who were listening to Luis Fortune give a speech.
Gage knew more about Luis Fortune than anyone else in the room. Luis was “married” to Jase Nicholas, who had been dubbed the Virgin Billionaire by the press because he had made his billions with his Virgin Alaskan Spring Water company. Gage had been following Luis Fortune’s life in New York for some time, ever since Luis had accidentally become mixed up in a sordid drug ring that involved Luis’s used underwear and a few older gay real-estate agents in Manhattan who had fallen on hard times. Gage had read Luis’s sappy blog posts on that ridiculous gay romance blog called Elena’s Romantic Treasures and Tidbits. He’d seen Luis’s photos in magazines for which Luis had modeled professionally more times than he cared to recall. Gage even knew Luis and Jase had a weekend house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, called Cider Mill Farm; they traveled to Alaska as much as they could to spend time with Jase’s family; and they had a preschool-aged son named Hunter who was really Jase’s biological child.
It wasn’t difficult to follow Luis Fortune’s life now that he was married to the Virgin Billionaire, especially since Luis had recently made headlines for getting involved with a shifty character named Darius-something who had been harboring a grudge against Luis Fortune for exposing an underage pornographer in Los Angeles.
When Luis Fortune started speaking about how dedicated he was to this organization, the Angel Association, and how he wanted to prevent young unwed mothers from abandoning babies on doorsteps and in Dumpsters, Gage looked down at his shoes and rolled his eyes. Gage thought the cause was worthy; he just questioned Luis Fortune’s intentions. As Luis continued, Gage yawned. Some things never changed: Luis always loved being the center of attention. Toward the end of the speech, when Luis thanked everyone who had helped him reach the point where the Angel Association could now have its own center for unwed mothers—as if the whole thing had been his sole responsibility—Gage clenched his fists in his pockets and exhaled. When Luis finally ended the long, drawn-out speech and everyone in the lobby began to applaud him, Gage bit the inside of his mouth so hard he almost drew blood.
But Gage didn’t walk up to Luis right away. He stood on the sidelines observing as people shook Luis’s hand and thanked him for everything he’d done for the Angel Association. He looked at Luis’s wide smiled and noticed how short Luis’s dark brown hair was cut. It was such a typical haircut for a young gay man in New York, with that silly little turned-up wave above his forehead, that Gage had to restrain himself from walking up to the platform and kicking Luis right in the ass. It looked as if he had his hair styled at the clip-and-dip poodle parlor. But Gage had to admit Luis’s outfit wasn’t bad. Luis wore a light brown suit and a white V-neck shirt that had probably cost him more than what Gage paid in rent that month for his studio apartment over a grocery store in Brooklyn Heights.
When the crowd finally began to dissipate and Luis kissed a thin woman with long straight black hair on the cheek, Gage squared his shoulders and crossed to the head of the platform where Luis was gathering his things to leave. The thin woman turned and walked to the back of the building, and everyone else started heading toward the exit door. Luis bent down to pick up a Gucci briefcase by the shoulder strap as Gage walked up to him and removed his baseball cap. Gage waited until Luis slipped the strap over his shoulder, without saying a word. And when Luis finally looked up and saw Gage standing there, Gage tilted his head to the side and sent Luis a blank gaze.
Luis’s head jerked back and he pressed his palm to his stomach. He said, “Eddie,” then looked Gage up and down a few times, as if to be sure he hadn’t been mistaken.
No one had called Gage by that name in at least five years. It caused a slight burn in his stomach, especially coming from his twin brother’s identical voice. But it could have been because Gage hadn’t seen his twin brother in more than ten years. If it hadn’t been for Luis’s short dark hair, it would have been like looking into a mirror. Part of the reason he’d dyed his hair blond was so he wouldn’t look anything like Luis.
Luis took a cautious step toward him and smiled. “What are you doing in New York? It’s been such a long time.” Though his voice rose with a friendly lilt, Gage detected a strong hint of reservation. “I’d almost forgotten how much we look alike.”