It was a part of Luis’s life that caused him so much pain and confusion he’d chosen to forget about it and move forward with his life. But now he saw he’d made a mistake. He should have told Jase all about his twin brother, and he should have mentioned what had happened with the guy named Snake. He vowed that when Jase returned from Alaska, he’d tell him everything.

Luis stood up and crossed to a full-length mirror near his dressing room. He turned sideways and glanced at the way his ass rounded out in the tight jeans he’d chosen to wear that night. He told himself he wouldn’t be condescending and he would treat his brother like he treated everyone else in his life: with respect and love. But he knew it wouldn’t be easy to do; he wasn’t even certain he could do this. His twin brother was the one person in his life who could turn him into a petty, jealous monster. But Luis didn’t want to be that way anymore. He wanted a relationship with his brother. So he took a deep breath, reached for a black leather jacket he’d tossed over a chair, and turned off the bedroom lights. On his way downstairs, he stopped and patted his dog, Camp, on top of the head and said, “You be good. I’ll be home in a few hours.” The little dog barked twice and Luis smiled. Then he headed outside, walked up to the avenue, and lifted his arm to hail a cab that would take him to Brooklyn.

Chapter Six

After he hung up with Luis, Gage walked to a drugstore and bought a kit of dark brown hair dye. He paid so fast he didn’t bother waiting for a bag or a receipt. He didn’t take his change. He just shoved the hair color box into his backpack and left the clerk in the store gaping after him. He walked at a brisk pace to the subway with his head up high and his jaw set, slipping in between passersby. He had a lot to do before Luis arrived at his apartment and there wasn’t much time. If his plan was going to work, he had to stick to a schedule. It was almost ten o’clock and he knew Luis wouldn’t be on time. Luis had always been late for everything, as if he were too grand to actually arrive anywhere on time. The little bastard had been like that since they were children, and Gage assumed nothing had changed.

When he arrived at his building in Brooklyn, Gage ran through the grocery store and jogged up the back steps. It was almost ten thirty by then and he didn’t have a moment to waste. He yanked off his clothes, left them in a pile on the floor, and pulled the hair color kit out of his backpack. Then he went into the bathroom naked, quickly read over the directions on the hair color package, and applied the hair color to his already bleached head. He knew it wouldn’t take long to process the darker color over the blond, probably less than fifteen minutes to get his hair back to its original dark brown. While he was waiting to rinse his head, he went back into the main living space and picked up all his clothes. He folded them neatly and placed them on a top shelf in his small closet beside the bed. After that, he straightened up the rest of the place so Luis wouldn’t think he was both poor and messy.

He rinsed the excess color out of his hair at the kitchen sink and wiped the dark spots on the counter clean. Then he stood in front of the bathroom mirror with a pair of scissors and gazed at his wet, dark brown hair. His hair hadn’t been this color in almost five years, not since his mother died and he’d moved to New York. He hardly even recognized himself. When he looked down at the scissors, he bit his lip and inhaled. It wasn’t hard to visualize Luis’s short haircut with the turned-up little wave above his forehead. Every gay man under forty in New York had the same haircut. Gage wasn’t worried about making a mess of the job. He’d been cutting his own hair for years because he couldn’t afford expensive salons, so he knew what he was doing. He opened his medicine cabinet door slightly so he could see the back of his head through a few mirrors he’d hung on a wall next to the bathroom sink. All he had to do was tilt his head at just the right angle and bend down a little, and he had a perfect view of the back of his head.

When there was more hair on the bathroom floor than on Gage’s head, he glanced into the mirror and sighed. Though his hair had only been medium long, his head felt slightly lighter. But the haircut looked very professional, if he did say so himself. He looked good with short, dark hair, only he didn’t feel like the same person anymore. But he knew he didn’t have time to think about that now. He still had to clean up the bathroom and work on that silly little turned-up wave above his forehead so he could go downstairs and meet Luis at the door.

As he’d predicted, Luis didn’t show up until about fifteen minutes after midnight. Gage had been standing there in a short black bathrobe waiting for him since midnight. The taxi pulled up to the curb in front of the grocery store and Luis climbed out of the backseat. From what Gage could see through the door, Luis handed the driver cash to make sure he’d wait for him. It looked like a fifty-dollar bill; it could have been more, but Gage doubted it would be less. This was something Gage had never done in his life. Fifty dollars to Gage meant paying the cell phone bill or getting new soles on his good dress shoes. Fifty bucks was a lot of money to someone who lived above a grocery store in Brooklyn. But to Luis it seemed like nothing. He just pulled the money out of his pocket, flipped it toward the cab driver with a casual smile, and never gave it a second thought.

As Luis approached the storefront, Gage set his jaw and opened the door. “You’re late, as usual,” Gage said. “But I’m not surprised. You never cared about making other people wait for you. You were always too grand to be on time, always too important to rush for anyone but yourself.”

Luis crossed through the doorway and sighed. “I told myself before I left the house I was going to be nice to you. I said I’d be nice if it killed me. But I see now it was pointless of me to ever expect we could be civil with each other. We’re going to regress back to our childhood tonight like we always do. If I’d known, I would have taken a pill.” He spoke with a disinterested, deadpan tone, as if all this was boring him to death. Then he looked up and down at Gage’s bathrobe and frowned. “I see this is a casual meeting.”

Gage frowned. “Very casual.”

Luis sent him a quick glance. “You changed your hair.”

Gage smiled. “Do you like it? I wanted it to look just like yours.”

“It’s does you a world of good,” Luis said. “That brassy bleached blond, messy-looking, porn-star haircut you had earlier today was so bad it hurt my feelings.” Then Luis sighed. “At least now we look like identical twins again. Maybe there’s still hope for you after all. Maybe I can be a positive influence on you. I was hoping for that when I saw you this afternoon.” Copyright 2016 - 2023