With a sigh Steve Rogers put on the jacket of the only suit he owned. He didn’t wear it very often, but he was invited to the opening of an exposition of an old classmate. Steve never really liked said classmate very much, but showing up in these galleries was good promotion for his own work. He had to make new connections and get to know as many people as possible, so maybe, one day, he could have an exposition as well. For now that was still a dream, and to be honest, he was a little jealous of his classmate.
Steve fixed his tie and looked in the mirror. If he’d ever get his own exposition he wasn’t going to make the opening a formal event. He hated wearing suits. The jacket was too tight around his shoulder and the pants were too big around his hips. He’d have to get a tailored one if he wanted a suit that actually fit, but he didn’t have the money for that. He didn’t have the money for a car either, so Steve took his phone, wallet and keys before he walked to the subway.
The trip to Manhattan seemed to take forever, and Steve was glad to get some air on his way to the gallery. The place was beautifully decorated for the event and smartly dressed people entered the building. Steve felt like he didn’t belong, but he put a smile on his face as he entered. He was handed a little flyer with information about the exposition, and a glass of champagne. Steve stuffed the flyer away, not really interested in the art, before he made his way through the crowd, looking for familiar faces. He only saw a few people he knew, so he went to greet them, hoping they would introduce him to the important people in the world of art.
Steve wasn’t lucky. Apparently the important people had decided to stay home. They weren’t interested in art like this, or maybe it was the lack of press and attention that made them stay away. But with no really interesting people around, Steve decided to take a look at the art, before he would try to sneak out. If he could figure out what his classmate’s art made it worthy of a gallery, he could maybe make some changes in his own work.
When he was studying some of the brush strokes on one of the paintings, Steve suddenly felt an arm around his waist. He was about to slap it off and tell the owner to behave, but before he could a voice begged him not to hit him.
‘Please work with me,’ the guy next to Steve said. ‘I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you pretend to be my date tonight.’
Steve looked at the hand on his waist and then to the guy who it belonged to. The man was shorter than him, but very good looking. He did look a bit nervous though, so Steve decided not to yell at him. Yet.
‘And why would I do that?’ he asked instead.
‘Because I’ll give you a hundred bucks,’ the guy answered, looking up at him now.
‘I want two hundred and a good reason,’ Steve said, looking once again at the painting, like it was the most fascinating thing he had seen in his life.
‘Deal,’ the guy said softly, before stepping a little closer to Steve, like they actually were a couple. ‘The guy I dumped, because he was cheating on me, just walked in. He brought the most beautiful woman ever and I really don’t want to face him without a date that is better looking than his date.’
‘Thank you?’ Steve answered, not sure if he should take it as a compliment. ‘So, what’s your name? And who is the guy we’re looking for?’
‘I’m Tony and it’s all about that guy over there,’ the guy said as he pointed to a group of people near the bar. ‘The one with the good looking woman who is fake laughing.’
Steve looked at the group, but he had no clue who Tony was talking about. None of the women really stood out and they all seemed to fake their reactions. But it didn’t really matter who it was. He just had to pretend to date this good looking guy and he’d earn two hundred dollars. Maybe tonight wasn’t so bad after all.
‘I’m Steve, nice to meet you,’ Steve answered. ‘If I’m your date, you should tell me a thing or two about yourself. Why are you at the opening of this exposition?’
‘I’m a businessman and the company is doing pretty well,’ Tony started explaining. ‘So my friend advised me to invest in art. I didn’t know people who buy art have their own culture. It actually takes time to get taken serious in their world. Seeing as I got invited to this crappy opening I don’t think they take me very serious yet.’
‘Tell me about it,’ Steve said with a heavy sigh. ‘You need a lot of money to get in, and if there’s something artists don’t have, it’s money. So I’m forced to go to these tiny exhibitions to get my name out and hope that one day someone remembers it.’
‘An ass like yours is hard to forget,’ Tony said, sneaking a peek at said ass.
‘In the very heterosexual world of art buyers that is not going to help me,’ Steve answered. ‘And stop looking at it. Pretend you’re interested in the art.’
‘You’re supposed to be my boyfriend, so I’m allowed to look at your ass,’ Tony defended himself. ‘But as an artist you can probably explain to me what’s so good about these paintings. I don’t see it.’
‘They’re not good,’ Steve answered. ‘It’s the reason why everyone is hanging around the bar. Seeing how the artist himself is flirting with the owner of the gallery, I assume that she gave him the time and space to show his work to the world. It’s going to cost her her reputation.’
‘So you see gross porn as well?’ Tony asked as he looked at another of the paintings.
‘Yeah, a bit abstract, but explicit at the same time,’ Steve answered. He pulled a face as he took a closer look at the painting. ‘Not really the tasteful nudes you’d want to see in a gallery.’
‘You’re too nice,’ Tony stated.
‘And you have to get your hand off my ass,’ Steve said as he grabbed said hand and held it in his own. To make sure it wouldn’t happen again, of course. ‘I have to be nice, we used to be classmates. If you’re not supportive, you won’t get any support in return and you need all the positive feedback you can get as an artists. So you have to show up and act like it’s amazing and perfect and you’re very happy for them.’
‘How were the two of you classmates?’ Tony asked. ‘He’s forty and you’re like twenty-five or something.’
Steve snorted. ‘I’m older than him. I’m thirty-one and he just turned thirty a few weeks ago.’
Tony eyes widened. ‘You’re thirty-one?’ he asked. ‘For real? Here I thought I was like a dinosaur with a trophy wife, but you’re only four years younger than I am.’
‘Please, don’t ever call me trophy wife again, Mr. Dinosaur,’ Steve said, but there was a twinkle in his eye and he could hardly stop himself from laughing.
‘I promise, I promise,’ Tony laughed. ‘But can we please get another glass of whatever crap they serve here, because I’m way too sober to look at anymore of this art.’
‘Whatever you want, ancient man,’ Steve answered before they got themselves a glass of wine. The two of them went back to the paintings. It didn’t take long before the two were a giggling mess. Tony made funny remarks about every single piece, and Steve just couldn’t stop himself from laughing. They both ignored the bothered looks from other people and just enjoyed themselves. Steve couldn’t have dreamed that this night was actually going to be fun. Before he knew it they were announcing that the gallery was closing down for the night.
‘It’s almost one in the morning,’ Steve said surprised when he checked his watch. ‘Guess it is time to go home.’
‘Yeah, it’s gonna take you a while to get back to Brooklyn,’ Tony answered.
‘It’s that obvious?’ Steve asked, knowing very well that the alcohol had given him his accent back.
‘It is,’ Tony laughed. ‘But it’s cute, so don’t worry about it.’
‘Thanks,’ Steve answered, a smile on his face. ‘Guess your ex really lost interest in showing off his beautiful new girlfriend. We didn’t see him all night.’
‘Oh, yes, about that,’ Tony started, suddenly not looking so happy anymore. ‘There is no ex-boyfriend. I felt really out of place and you didn’t look very comfortable either, so I had to come up with a reason to talk to you. I couldn’t think of any other reason than the ex, and the ex always works. It worked on you too! And we had fun, right?’
‘What’s wrong with just walking over to a guy and say hi?’ Steve asked, a bit confused by Tony’s rambling.
‘That’s awkward,’ Tony answered, not looking Steve in the eyes. ‘Half of the people here didn’t even greet me in return. They acted like I’m invisible.’
‘Okay, fair point,’ Steve said. ‘Still, asking someone to act like your boyfriend is pretty awkward too. But I had fun. I was planning on leaving around ten and it’s the middle of the night already. Time flew by.’
Tony smiled. ‘Me too, you’re a nice guy. With a great ass, that wasn’t a lie.’
Steve snorted. ‘Thanks. I really should head home now, though, I have work tomorrow morning.’
‘Oh, yeah, of course, just let me grab your money and you can head back to Brooklyn,’ Tony said as he rummaged through his pockets, looking for money.
Steve grabbed his arm. ‘No need to pay me. Maybe you can use the money on diner and a movie? Like next Friday, at seven?’
Tony looked up, surprise in his eyes. ‘With you?’
‘I’d hope so,’ Steve said, laughing softly.
‘Alright, yeah, great, yeah, we can do that’ Tony said. He grabbed one of his cards and put it in Steve’s breast pocket. ‘Text me your address and I’ll pick you up. Friday, at seven. It’s a date!’