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Inn the Mood for Love

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Travelocity Review, 2013

“Wow, Jonathan, the Innkeeper, has made quite a name for himself - and by our account, seems to be doing his best to live up to his reputation! Even our realtor knew about Jonathan. Be forewarned, he will stick to you like white on rice. At first, this may seem friendly & helpful, but don’t be fooled. Jonathan will eagerly take any opportunity to point out the Inn’s rules, and subtly suggest how it is you might be breaking them. Take, for example, the gorgeous evening my boyfriend and I settled down by the pool for a well-deserved catnap. Just as we’d dozed off, out bounded Jonathan like a St. Bernard, yelling “Hey! You two!! We NORMALLY close the pool at 6:00 pm, but I wanted you to know that you look like you are having so much fun, we’ll leave it open late for you!” Hey, thanks Mr. Toews, I did not know I could look like such a party girl while comatose. He’ll also pepper you with endless questions about your planned activities (surprisingly undaunted by guests being mid-embrace) and try to steer you towards his favorites. And, as much as we loved all the attention we got from Jonathan, we did hope for a little privacy as we held a tete-a-tete over the breakfast table perusing real-estate listings. But lo! There was Jonathan, a veritable font of Berkshire real estate wisdom, and he even offered to sell us his Inn for a cool million. Maybe. Could put that on the tab?”

 

Jonny sometimes thinks the words he’ll say on his deathbed will be: “I didn’t name it that.”

The Cozy Windmill Inn, for all that Jonny has done his best to purge of any reference, object or picture of the subject, is the bane of his existence. Occupying a cozy corner on a cozy road in a cozy goddamn town, the Inn stands cheerfully disheveled, the patina of its age being its most attractive feature. White pillars, proudly displaying some craqueleur, supporting a mid-19th century Colonial Revival facade with a fucking gazebo on the front lawn is like catnip for the tourists who drive up the main route on their way some music festival.

Jonny didn’t inherit it, but he is the innkeeper, for all that he has settled into the title the same way a grizzled war veteran settles into working at 7/11. Jonny just happens to be an ex-hockey player, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Berkshires occupies a peculiar space in New England tourism. On the edge of Massachusetts and New York, it’s too far for Boston people to ever visit but is a popular spot for New Yorkers, who come for the local spas, music festivals and scenic hiking. Foodies, health nuts and exercise junkies all adore it, and driving through Stockbridge on a summer’s day is literally driving through a Norman Rockwell painting.

Essentially, it’s the Shire. And this summer may just be Jonny’s toughest, since Great Barrington has just been given the dubious privilege of being called the Best Small Town in America by some magazine.

A week after that, the phone had started ringing and hadn’t stopped. And then the emails came, inquiries and about 50 demands for fourth of July weekend, cause James Taylor always does Tanglewood. Worst were the stop-bys, who cooed over the rustic, country charm of Jonny’s B&B but realized after 20 minutes that no cell-service was a bit too much country for them.

And Jonny understands the appeal of a bed & breakfast. He’s been running The Cozy Windmill for the last three years, keeping meticulous records and making sure to clean the pool every goddamn morning between the months of June and August, and churning out more frittatas than he can handle.

But for someone who’s made it their business to be hospitable, Jonny sure dislikes people.

He bought the place from some old high-school friends of his parents, who he’d met when Jonny was laid up with a torn ACL. The Meiers wouldn’t stop talking about the precious place they had in New England, and how easy it was to run and how the nicest people stayed over, but they were getting on in years, you know? Might be nice to sell the place now and retire gracefully.

And Jonny can admit he was in a pretty dark place. Faced with his hockey career seemingly being at an end, with no other prospects, not even a college degree to his name, he had envisioned for himself a little house in the mountains where he could rent out a couple of rooms and never have to talk to anyone and maybe learn how to be a functioning adult again.

So when he mentioned that he had $700k in his bank account, and would the Meiers prefer cash or check, he didn’t necessarily think things through.

Three years later, and one whopping realization that Bed & Breakfasts are a bitch to sell, Jonny’s looking down the barrel of another season of cranky New Yorkers, chatty antiquers, exhausted parents with three kids, lots of self-satisfying fury over Jonny’s lack of a lifeguard at his pitiful outdoor pond of a pool, and blithely oblivious weekenders who will spend most of their day scratching at mosquito bites and complaining about the slow internet. And that doesn’t even begin to cover Choral season in August. Or or the Arts Festival/Crafts Fair/Summer Solstice event running in late July. Or the new, artisanal, gluten-free, farm-to-table, fairtrade, classic American cuisine restaurant that just opened down the street that’s bound to attract a couple hundred driver-bys on their way into town who will want to just “pop in and stay the night.”

Plus, the Inn had such an established reputation, that he sometimes has more business than he knows what to do with. And because of that, he will never be able to change the goddamn name.

Essentially, Jonny wants to go curl up in his toile-plastered TV room and die.

----------

Jonny gets his fair share of minor celebrities that stay at the Inn, mostly older singers or mystery authors looking for a place to murder someone. Jonny sympathizes with the latter.

But Patrick Kane is an odd one. Jonny had inherited him from the Meiers, an actor by trade who came through the Berkshires in the summer to do shows at their local Shakespeare company. That first summer, Patrick had mistaken Jonny for the gardener, made a crack about the weeds, and Jonny had disdained him ever since. Patrick frequently came back to the inn late, waking Jonny up with the loud sound the bells above the door would make when someone slammed it, and always sauntered in for breakfast at 9:25, expecting eggs or pancakes just as Jonny turned off the skillet. He sang in the shower, which everyone could hear, and liked to add vodka to his afternoon tea and lemonade.

He was, in short, an irritant. But an irritant that paid, and who entertained the other guests and liked to bring Jonny little windmills whenever he visited. Patrick was also the only person who called Jonny out for being the facist asshole he often was.

Today, on a particularly chilly June afternoon, the argument is: “I want to turn up the thermostat by like two degrees, and I can’t cause, what, it’s gonna break the bank or something?”

Jonny scowls down at Patrick, who has emphasized his apparent aversion to the 69 degree weather by wearing what looks like a gnarly fisherman’s old cardigan. His blonde curls peek out of a beanie.

“You don’t need extra heat. It’s perfectly fine down here.”

“Dude.” The informality grates on Jonny, who has become accustomed to being addressed as Mr. Toews. No one who recognizes him, on the rare chance that it happens, ever calls him Tazer. “Every time I come here it’s like the arctic. I swear to god you refuse to turn it up just to spite me now.”

“That’s not true.” Jonny denies, “The Rosensteins in room eight aren’t complaining, and they’re almost 80.”

“That’s because the Rosensteins are already dead and have been haunting this place for decades.”

Jonny gives him a look and then leaves the conversation, walking behind the check-in desk to straighten up the welcome cards and make sure the list of rules (numbered, in bold and all-caps) is pointing at whoever comes through the main door.

Patrick, who apparently doesn’t need to be anywhere at 3pm in the afternoon, follows him, sinking into one of the antique chairs that Jonny also inherited from the Meiers, which practically sends up a cloud of dust whenever anyone touches it, no matter how many times Jonny has cleaned it.

“Mr. Innkeeper Sir, I’d also appreciate some more soap for my bathroom, when you have the chance.”

Jonny glares at him “Unbelievable. You just got new soap last week. You’re done.”

“I will take all the soap I want, Jonny, cause I’m a paying guest, and they cost like, what, fifty cents to buy?”

“You are entitled to one, maybe two, but I swear to god Patrick I’m running low on Lilac and you shower like ten times a day.’

“What? How do you even know that?”

“This house is 150 years old, I hear everything.”

Patrick throws his head back and laughs, and Jonny doesn’t look at the line of his throat, the same pale skin that Jonny definitely hasn’t been looking at for the past three summers.

When he’s done, Patrick says, “Yeah but dude I work hard all day. You don’t understand.”

“I’m sure prancing around on stage in tights is very grueling,” Jonny quips, thinking with a pang about the long hours of conditioning he used to put in before the season began. He thinks that maybe he should get to the community center’s gym later today before it closes.

“Man, you don’t know anything about what I do. Or at least you would if you’d ever come see one of my shows.”

Jonny scoffs. Every summer Patrick leaves aside a ticket for whatever show his Company is putting on and every summer Jonny goes and gets wasted instead. He doesn’t ever see Patrick outside of the inn. Half of him is convinced Patrick is a figment of his imagination, or a long-dormant symptom of some concussion he might have suffered in his hockey days. He won’t ever admit that the times they bicker are some of the best parts of his day.

-----------

Yelp, 2012

We stayed at the Cozy Windmill as part of a wedding party and I knew it wasn't going to be good from the very first minute we walked into the door. As others have said Mr. Toews the owner is extremely condescending which begins with a list of rules and regulations about the inn. He was extremely rude to others that stayed at the inn and I just couldn’t wait to leave. The place is rundown and dingy and there are much nicer places to stay in the area. This is definitely one of those places to avoid.
Liked — The view as I drove away
Disliked — The Owner

 

Normally Jonny’s neurotic enough that he can take care of every aspect of the Inn during the off-season, but summer is a different beast, and even he can admit to needing a bit of help once in a while.

Luckily, the Berkshires is full of disaffected youths who eagerly jump at the chance to make $20 for eight hours of hard labor. Jonny has, over the years, amassed a tiny army of ex-baristas, ex-camp counselors, and ex-trail guides to take care of the gardening, mowing and dishwashing during the week, and every year he’s convinced that he could hire no one more strange.

This year is no different. Andrew Shaw, Shawzy, is a kid who lives in one of the less glamorous towns, occupied by actual locals, who unabashedly smokes pot with Bollig in the alley next to the toy store in town, but is enthusiastic about pulling weeds. Bollig, arms covered with tattoos, works part-time at a yoga studio and is training to become a cheesemonger.

This summer they’re joined by Saad, a trust fund kid who's been coming to the Berkshires every summer for the last ten years, and had quietly confided in Jonny when he showed up at his door with a scrap of paper in his hand (the only way to find any help in this town is by making a flyer for the coffee shop, which is dedicatedly minded by Brent, who runs the joint with Duncan, espresso extraordinaire). Saad explained that he was so bored of spending his days swimming in the lake, eating ice cream and going to music festivals in the evening. Jonny had nodded sagely, cause duh, and had ordered him in the back to help the guys lug rocks around because this year Jonny’s going to have a goddamn vegetable garden, because guests love that shit.

Patrick’s out there, sunglasses on and a script by his side, lounging on the antique wicker furniture that Jonny’s mother had helped him pick out. He’s staring at Bollig and Shaw as they work shirtless to map out a plan and bicker about where the snap-peas are going to go.

“Don’t freak out the help.” Jonny tell him, and Patrick whirls around, face breaking out into a grin.

“I’m thinking you should be advertising this place somewhere a little different, if this is the main attraction.”

“The last thing I need is for your gay friends to come up here and host an orgy in the Summer Room.”

“I don’t know why you call it that,” Patrick says, “It’s like the darkest room in the house.”

“Irony.”

Patrick snorts, looking tan and relaxed, and Jonny bites down on something he wants to say, like can I join you?

Instead, he says, “Shouldn’t you be at rehearsal now?”

“I’m done for the day. Nice thing about being Puck is that he shows up, does his thing and then fucks off for most of the play. That, and I get to have my whole body painted by this hot chick. But I thought I’d come back and enjoy my complimentary afternoon tea a little bit early.”

“Tea is between 3:30 and 4:30. No exceptions.”

“Aww.” Patrick lets the sound draw out, eyes never leaving Jonny. Jonny realizes that he’s probably sweating through his t-shirt from helping the guys out with weeding and shifts awkwardly. If he didn’t hate his pool so much he’d go for a dip.

He settles for taking a seat on the chair across from Patrick, basking in the light breeze. Out here, it’s easy to relax, the sound of the guys joking around in the distance and Patrick silent beside him, yet very much there.

In fact, Jonny feels a bit like dozing off, and almost does if not for the sudden light weight on his head. Jonny opens his eyes to find Patrick has placed his floppy hat on Jonny, smiling softly at him.

“Don’t want to get sunburned.”

“Thanks.” Jonny replies, feeling vaguely uncomfortably with the gesture, but not in a bad way.

Patrick shrugs, something lurking in his gaze, before saying flippantly, “Especially since you might be all scalp next time I see you. I mean, every year it’s like your forehead gets bigger.”

Jonny drops whatever smile was building on his face in favor of a glare. “You’re no spring chicken either. How long until the Company ups you to playing the nurse?”

Patrick gasps, affronted, and then saunters off, no doubt to steal a muffin from the pantry.

“Hey man,” Bollig says, dousing himself in water from his bottle, “You guys banging or what?”

Jonny ignores that, barking at him to get back to work instead.

----

It’s not two weeks later that Jonny gets a call from a prospective guest looking to know more about the “deluxe treatment.”

“The what.”

“Um, it said on that travel site that you guys do complimentary back massages with afternoon tea and the innkeeper specialized in the Swedish technique?”

“I think you have the wrong number. This is the Cozy Windmill Inn.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m looking at. The site also says something about karaoke night?”

Jonny slams the phone down and rushes to the computer, googling the Inn’s name and clicking on the first travel review site he sees. There, underneath the exterior shot of the place is a recent review, done five days ago, proclaiming the many and varied amenities that the place offered.

Jonny thinks back at who was staying at the Inn last weekend. It was sold-out, filled with folks in town for Fourth of July weekend. Young, old, it could have been anyone and the reviewer is listed as anonymous.

He emails the website asking for it to be taken down and doesn’t think anything of it until two days later, when he fields more calls about the natural hot springs in his backyard or the personalized chef appointed to each guest. The reviews continue to pop up on various websites, despite Jonny’s efforts at taking them down.

“We are a country bed and breakfast, not the goddamn Ritz!” He complains to Duncs, who nods and obligingly adds the extra shot of espresso to Jonny’s order.

“You must have pissed someone off,” he remarks, punching Jonny’s card (he has two more before he gets his free coffee). “I mean, this is almost like reverse flaming.”

“I can handle bad reviews,” Jonny tells him, “I get called obnoxious or condescending all the time. The fact is, people are getting what they pay for: a bed and breakfast in the morning. You don’t need anything else.”

Duncs gives him a look. “Look, do you think I like covering my walls in this hipster shit?” He waves around the coffee shop, which is one of the last independently-run in the county. They double as an art gallery, with local artists getting a month each to show their works. It gets mostly ignored by the actual patrons, but this month features bright, garish collage displays of farm animals. “No, I hate it. But Seabs is always telling me that people don’t want a place to get coffee, they want an illusion of being surrounded by quirky small town charm while they type away at their laptops. Similarly, no one comes to a country inn looking for something like the Marriott. You could afford to be a bit more...”

“Wholesome, quirky, whimsical?” Jonny supplies, raising an eyebrow.

“Nice!” Seabs calls from where he’s checking expiration dates on the milk below the counter.

“I’m plenty nice,” Jonny defends. “I make their beds, I put chlorine in their pool, I fry their goddamn hash browns every morning without much help and all I get is crap.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t be doing it alone then.” Seabs offers, rubbing his partner’s back affectionately. “You do the bulk of the cleaning and cooking yourself and only hire help seasonally and part-time. That’s no way to run a business. No wonder you’re always so grumpy.”

Jonny furrows his brow. It’s true that he prefers to be self-sufficient, that part why he does everything himself was to prove to others that he could be just fine without hockey, without the NHL career and endorsements. He approached learning how to manage account books and format his website and bake muffins the way he did with training: ruthlessly and with a single-minded determination that bordered on obsession. If he was going to go from athlete to innkeeper, then he’d be the best damn innkeeper in the state. He’d win the fucking Stanley Cup of innkeeping.

He doesn’t like to think about those long nights, waiting for people book rooms or show up, or walking through that old house in the dark, knowing that everyone around him was just passing through. Patrick stays, he thinks, but then un-thinks it. Patrick leaves at the end of the summer with a grin and a joke and Jonny spends all winter freezing his ass off because he refuses to turn up the thermostat. He’s no more permanent than the neighbor’s old cat that likes to sunbathe on his lawn in the afternoons.

-------

The reviews abate as the summer season really begins to swell. Jonny has a full house almost every night, and takes Shawzy, Bollig and Saad on to do work inside, helping Jonny out with breakfast and cleaning the rooms. He has to go over proper bed-making technique at least twice a day, but it’s worth it to have some relief with the punishing pace.

Patrick is noticeably more absent during these this time. He does eight shows a week, and comes back to the Inn late at night. Jonny can hear the tinkle of bells above the door when he gets in, softer than usual, which must mean that Patrick has finally learned to respect the other sleeping guests.

He looks sedate at breakfast, shadows under his eyes as he munches on some granola and yogurt. Jonny doesn’t usually like to chat with guests, hating the immeasurable small talk that’s expected between innkeepers and some of the older clientele. Thankfully enough senior citizens visit the Inn that they can always talk to each other. But Patrick looks tired and a little too alone in the corner of the breakfast room and Jonny finds himself clutching the coffee pot and heading over to refill his cup.

“Hey, thanks man.” Patrick tells him, gratefully downing about half the liquid and then rubbing his eyes.

“Rough couple of days, huh?” Jonny asks, blinking in surprise with himself.

“Hm? Yeah, I guess,” Patrick says, looking just as surprised. “The show is really grueling and my part can get pretty physical, you know?”

“I guess. I mean, I’ve never seen any Shakespeare.”

Patrick opens his mouth, closes it, and then repeats the motion for a few moments. “Wait, am I hearing you right? You’ve never seen any Shakespeare?”

“I mean, I saw that DiCaprio movie when it came out like ten years ago...”

“No, Jonny--” Patrick looks like he’s about to have some kind of fit. “That doesn’t count, you fool! You’ve lived twenty minutes away from Shake & Co for how many years and you’ve never seen a show there? What were you even doing before this?”

“Playing hockey.” Jonny tells him curtly, which shuts Patrick up. The other man tilts his head, as though mentally reconciling the man in front of him with the blue apron to some kind of goon he’s seen on tv.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. It’s not like I grew up dreaming to own a bed and breakfast. I was in the NHL for a few years and then I...left.”

“Wow. I mean, I’ve never watched hockey so I probably wouldn’t have heard about you. I guess it’s strange.” Jonny can’t make out the expression Patrick is wearing. It’s not judgement, or at least he hopes it’s not. And it’s definitely not pity. But it looks foreign against the familiar planes of his face, almost as though Patrick is seeing him for the very first time.

“Strange as in, it’s strange that the man serving you pancakes was also nominated for the Calder trophy in his rookie year?”

Patrick huffs out a weird laugh, obviously not getting Jonny’s reference. “No, I mean it’s strange that I basically live here for three months every year and I don’t know anything about you.”

“Well. You do now, I guess,” Jonny says, feeling awkward and a little too exposed. He doesn’t love telling people that he used to be on track to being one of the NHL’s most promising young stars. That part of his life is over, and he takes pride in owning his own business in a sucky economy. He wonders how this will change Patrick’s opinion on him, although he can’t tell for sure what he thought of Jonny before.

Patrick raises his eyebrow, looking a lot more awake now. “So if you were making hockey money, why are you so stingy on giving me extra soap?”

“You get the soap you’re given and you make it last. I’m not in the business of handing out freebies to starving actors.”

“The only reason I’m starving is because someone is holding up my eggs over easy,” Patrick tells him, waving him back to the kitchen. Jonny lets himself go without a retort, smiling to himself on the way and making sure to burn the toast extra crispy. Patrick will probably retaliate by leaving a mountain of crumbs to sweep up, but that’s what he has Saader for.

-----

A week later and the reviews are back, this time more and more outrageous. Jonny suspects one of the asshole New York guests who bitched about the internet all weekend, but generally those types are less creative with slamming his Inn on Yelp.

One review rhapsodizes over his blueberry muffins, claiming that Jonny gets the berries imported from France and the rest of the ingredients are handed down from a two-hundred year old Shaker recipe. Another advocates guests to take advantage of the mid-afternoon knitting circle led by the innkeeper. Unfortunately Jonny can’t take those down in time, and the guests who arrive that week are disappointed when he isn’t brandishing knitting needles when the clock strikes 3.

Patrick finds this all very amusing when Jonny sees him. Which isn’t much, since when he’s not acting, Patrick is either napping in his room or taking walks around the property. It’s not like Jonny misses him or anything, but he does feel like maybe something should’ve happened after he told Patrick about his hockey past.

That is, something other than the evening Patrick found Jonny sitting on the porch reading and quietly informed him that he’d been googled.

“I mean, I did think it was strange that someone as young as you was owning an inn, but I guess it makes sense that you’d want to find something that was the complete opposite of what you were doing before. I mean, I can understand not wanting to be around any reminders.”

Jonny swallows, feeling a soft ache in his chest that used to be a burning pain whenever he thought of opportunities lost and chances taken away.

Patrick nods and takes a seat near him, but not next to him. They sit in silence for a little longer, before Patrick says, “This may be my last season with the Company, you know.”

Breath catching in his throat, Jonny turns and asks why.

“Um, I guess it’s just harder as you get older. I mean, when I was fresh out of school it was kind of an adventure to go from theater to theater and not have to settle for anything permanent. But I’m almost thirty now and I have no real home, and this schedule is just fucking brutal. I don’t know, I guess I see you and what you’ve made for yourself here and it makes me want to have something like that for myself. Not an inn, or anything,” He says, grinning, but that fades pretty quickly. “I don’t even know how you do all this yourself.”

“Well, it helps to hate people.” Jonny tells him, and Patrick cracks up.

“Seriously, man.”

“I am serious,” Jonny tells him. “I’m not running this inn because I love meeting new people or talking to guests. I do it because it’s mine and it’s run on my rules and I never have to answer to anyone but myself.”

“Huh.” Patrick ponders that for a moment before shrugging. “It’s funny, I’m like the complete opposite. I got into acting because I wanted someone to direct me. I want to be told where to go and what to do and that’s when I was the most comfortable. Once I got the directions I could just be, inhabit the role I was given and not have to worry about anything else.”

Jonny thinks about those words in a different context, thinks about telling Patrick to raise his hands above his head and leave them there. About telling him not to move, and letting Jonny map out his skin with his lips and teeth.

Thinking about Patrick sprawled out on his bed makes things uncomfortable real fast, so Jonny makes his excuses and leaves, watching Patrick watch him as he heads back inside.

-------

It’s a Friday night, so bars are open approximately one hour later, until 11pm. Country living at its finest.

Jonny takes advantage of his policy of always leaving the front door key under the old milk container on the porch so that guests know how to get in, and goes out to get a drink.

He sits with Duncs and Seabs, drinking his beer and scowling up at the Bruins on tv. The bar typically serves off duty cops and landscapers, so Jonny’s never been able to watch any other team.

About an hour before closing the door to the bar opens and a group of laughing adults streams in, led by Patrick. He spots Jonny almost immediately, sauntering over and leaning against their table with a wide grin.

“Dude, you’re actually allowed outside?”

“I get out occasionally,” Jonny replies, glancing over at Patrick’s friends, who all seem to be actors if their showy gestures and unrestrained emotions are any indication.

“Well, then let me buy my innkeeper a drink. We had a great show tonight, and if compliments were tips I’d be flush.”

Before Jonny can decline, Patrick’s already at the bar, ordering up some pretentious craft beer. Duncs raises his eyebrow. “An actor, Jonathan?”

“Shut up.” Jonny mumbles, admiring the the line of Patrick’s back as he leans over the bar chatting with Joel, who’s owned the place for years.

Seabs shifts over to make room for Patrick when he returns with their drinks and the four of them fall into easy conversation. Patrick talks about how he got into acting, how it made him a bit of a freak in his blue-collar town in Buffalo.

“But once you go Pippin, you don’t go back,” He finishes with a thirsty slurp of his beer. Jonny tracks the movement with his eyes, feeling himself get warmer.

“And now you have to deal with Jonny the Hash Brown Nazi every day,” Duncs quips, nudging Jonny in the side.

Patrick laughs. “He’s not so bad. Really, it’s good to have some structure with my day. The morning Jonny budges on extra bacon is the day I retire.”

“I’m not that bad,” Jonny protests, only to receive indulging looks from the rest of the table.

The night continues on, and Jonny finds himself thinking back on Patrick’s comment from the other day, about how weird it was that they really didn’t know anything about each other. Jonny wonders about Patrick’s childhood, about wanting to act and feeling ashamed because of it, and gets angry on his behalf. Hockey had always been his crutch, something to rely on when nothing else went right. When he lost it, he figured that nothing else would ever mean as much again.

Looking at Patrick, who catches his gaze and holds it steady, he thinks he may have to reevaluate some things.

At last call, Jonny and Patrick find themselves walking up and down Main Street, the town completely silent except for the occasional car. All the shops are dark and the moon is bright in the sky, casting a glow on Patrick’s face. Despite the fact that he must be close to thirty, Patrick looks eerily young, with his blond curls and high cheekbones. Jonny feels older than his age most of the time, like he already lived one life and is now just waiting around for the next one to begin.

As if he’s reading Jonny’s mind, Patrick asks, “Are you happy? With owning the inn and all? I know we all joke about how much you hate it, but I can’t ever really tell what you’re thinking.”

Jonny sighs, thinking about the time and effort he’s put into making his business work. Throwing himself into the details to avoid thinking about hockey or the career he’s missed out on. “I guess for me it’s not really been about whether I’m happy or not. I needed something stable, something to distract me from retiring way too early and this came along at the right time.”

“Hmm.” Patrick and he walk in silence a little bit longer, before he asks, “And do you think there will ever be a Mrs. Cozy Windmill Inn?”

Jonny looks over at Patrick, taking in the still way he’s holding himself, the nonchalant expression on his face, and thinks, oh.

Oh.

“Not a Mrs.”

Patrick’s breath stutters, and they stop. Patrick turns towards him, his gaze questioning, and Jonny thinks he’s had the answer all this time.

The first press of lips is too timid for either of their personalities, and Jonny corrects himself quickly, pressing harder against the soft skin and relishing in Patrick’s sigh of relief. They continue to kiss, Jonny angling Patrick’s face to catch his bottom lip between his teeth and skimming over it with his tongue. It’s been far too long, almost two years since Jonny was even interested in being with someone, and he realizes now that buzzing feeling he got whenever he and Patrick spoke must have been this euphoria, this recognition that this was what he’d been waiting for.

He pushes Patrick against the nearest brick wall, moving to attack his neck with deep, sucking kisses. Patrick moans out a “God, fuck, Jonny,” and this is real power: the desire to make Patrick feel good was more urgent than his own pleasure, an immediate need that made his spine tingle and left his throat dry.

They continue to kiss, Jonny skimming his hands down Patrick’s side and reaching around to cup his ass, soft and perfect. Patrick arches into it, letting their groins meet with a startled hiss. Jonny could do this right here, could lift Patrick up against this wall and get his legs around his waist and fuck him slow and determined.

But then a car speeds by and honks obnoxiously, causing Jonny to wrench apart from Patrick. They take each other in, panting harshly and then Patrick lets out a happy noise.

“Wanna take me home, Jonny?” He asks, eyes heavy-lidded as he leans against Jonny’s side.

“Yes.” There’s no hesitation, although Jonny does wonder when home become his inn.

When they get back, Patrick pauses towards the entrance to Jonny’s quarters.

“What?” Jonny asks, unable to stop touching Patrick--rubbing his shoulder, cupping the back of his neck with tender authority. Patrick shivers and then grins. “I wasn’t sure if we were going to do this in my room. I mean, I’ve never been back here before and the “Private” sign is underlined and bolded.”

“Do you want to go to your room?” Jonny would prefer having Patrick against his bedsheets, but whatever makes Patrick more comfortable.

“Fuck, no! I’m getting privileged access here. Plus, I would feel weird fucking where all those carved cherubs are watching us.”

“You don’t like the cherubs? My mom told me they were charming.” Jonny had inherited the bulk of the furniture from the previous owners and hadn’t the design sense to know whether he should change anything.

“Oh Jonny, you sweet simple soul. No one wants fat babies with wings watching you at night. Please tell me your room is full of solid colors and floral-free.”

“You’ll see in a second,” Jonny tells him, leading Patrick through the door and up the stairs. His quarters are pretty modest and underwhelming, but Patrick takes it all in with an inappropriate amount of interest, getting distracted by Jonny’s collection of hockey trophies before Jonny pulls him back against him.

“You want to look around a bit before I fuck you?” He asks facetiously, and Patrick seems to seriously consider his question for a moment before shaking his head and reaching his face up for another kiss.

“Nah, let’s get to the part where you make me scream.”

Jonny’s never been one to see a job half-completed, so he obliges, stripping Patrick and getting him on the bed. They kiss for a while, exploring each other’s noises and reactions and smells, and Jonny thinks he could do this forever, Patrick responsive and soft underneath him.

“Let me blow you,” Patrick whines as Jonny does a thorough appraisal of his nipples, teeth just this side of too hard. Jonny nods breathlessly, letting Patrick flip their positions so that Jonny’s sprawled on his back, feeling a rush of affection and desire as Patrick slowly kisses his way down Jonny’s chest, fucking his navel with his tongue in a hot parody of something dirtier, and then letting his mouth envelop Jonny’s dick.

It’s been way too long, Jonny thinks, already at the edge as Patrick traces his tongue along the vein underneath the head before taking him down to the root. He makes obscene slurping noises, as if this is a performance on opening night. An apt metaphor, Jonny thinks. They’ve been auditioning for each other the past three years and Jonny wants to last, wants to show Patrick how much this thing that’s grown between them means.

He pulls Patrick off just as he’s about to come, and roughly rolls them over, taking advantage of Patrick’s wet and perfect mouth while he grabs his wrists to pin above his head.

“Don’t move,” Jonny commands, feeling satisfied with Patrick shudders and replies, “Yeah, oh my god, whatever you want Jonny.”

“I want to open you up and fuck you, would you like that?” He asks, already knowing the answer and reaching across the bed to the night table, where he'd stashed lube and condoms that he never thought he’d actually use.

“Um, yes. Please. I mean, god, I’ve wanted this since I first saw you. You fucking growled at me and I got so hard I had to jerk off in that ridiculous room with those fucking fat babies judging me like you judged me.”

Jonny laughs, delighted and surprised, and so fucking gone for this guy that he pauses to just kiss him for a while. But then he gets back on track, coating his fingers in lube and rubbing along the crease of his ass. Patrick sighs, opens his legs wider to let Jonny in. Jonny kisses the inside of his thighs as he caresses this part of Patrick, dusky and pink sprinkled with blonde hair. He takes one finger easily, but two proves a bigger challenge as Patrick whines and tightens up. Jonny has to take deep breaths, eager to just take what he wants, push in and make Patrick love it. But he goes slow, easing his fingers in and out slowly until Patrick’s body unclenches, allowing the intrusion. By the time he’s up to three fingers Patrick looks like a mess, drooling and writhing and moaning.

“I’m ready. I’m so ready Jonny.”

Jonny’s ready too, almost at the point of no return. He puts on the condom and presses himself against Patrick’s opening, a dark curl of satisfaction running through his system at how easily Patrick opens himself up for Jonny. The heat and tightness is overwhelming and both of them can’t be quiet, and Jonny spares a thought for the fact that the inn is old and they might be overheard. He decides he doesn’t give a shit, not with Patrick arching underneath him and looking gorgeous, mouth open in a gasp as Jonny fills him all the way, before drawing out and pushing in again.

They build up a rhythm, their bodies working together seamlessly, and Jonny remembers for a moment about what it was like on the ice, skating with a partner who had your back and knew your moves before you even did them. That is was this feeling reminds him of, and as Jonny’s thrusts get rougher and faster, he thinks that this might be the best he’s felt in years. If Patrick’s cries are any indication, he feels the same way. Jonny grunts, feeling out of control yet so blissfully in control that his orgasm almost blindsides him. Patrick groans at the feel of Jonny coming, and Jonny continues to thrust, needing to get Patrick there with him.

Patrick’s practically off the bed with the force of his climax, clutching at Jonny’s shoulders as he shudders and whimpers.

They fall back to the bed, sated and panting. Jonny can’t stop touching him, running his hands all over his chest and back, turning Patrick’s face towards him for a kiss, and then another.

They fall asleep like that, and it’s the best rest Jonny’s had in ages.

-------
Jonny’s a bit worried the next morning that things will be awkward and uncomfortable, but the feeling’s quickly dispelled when Patrick rolls over, pecks him on the mouth and makes a crack about wanting breakfast served in his suite.

“You have twenty minutes to get your ass downstairs, cause I’m not saving you any muffins.” Jonny informs him, changing into fresh clothes. Patrick makes an affronted noise, stretching out on the bed and Jonny wishes he could just say screw breakfast and join him there for the rest of the day.

“What’s the point of sleeping with the innkeeper if I can’t get any perks? At least we can come to some compromise about upping my soap quota.”

“You can use my soap.” Jonny says, basking in the pleased smile he gets in return.

They hook up again the following night, and the next couple of days feel like a vacation. Patrick comes back from his shows and they curl up together in bed, exploring this new thing between them.

Jonny feels bittersweet though, because it’s mid-August, and Patrick’s season is almost at an end, and they haven’t spoken about what this thing means for the long term. They haven’t even discussed what they are now, and if there’s anything Jonny hates, it’s not knowing where he stands. It makes him grumpier during the day, more inclined to snap at guests and order his workers around.

Then he gets distracted by another flood of stupid reviews, this time upping the crazy. He gets about twenty calls a day from people wanting to know which rooms in particular George Washington screwed a prostitute in, and whether the free iPad upon check-out is for each guest or per family.

Jonny’s at his wits end, no longer willing to just ignore the ridiculousness. So he enlists some outside help.

“I think this is a bit extreme Jonny, even for you.” Leddy, who is usually stoned to the gills, but works at the local bookstore and runs their website, is the only person Jonny knows who can do computer things.

“I don’t care. People can leave me all the shitty reviews they want, most of the time it’s true. But whoever this is, they’re just making shit up.I need to know who he or she is, so I can ban them for life.”

Leddy sighs, but gets to work. Jonny silently paces, adjusts a few coffee table books so that the one on Gibson guitars covers the Vanity Fair Hollywood one, and surveys his kingdom.

For all that he bitches and moans about it, moving here and running this place has given him satisfaction. It’s not hockey (it’ll never be hockey), but its something he controls, something he has ultimate power and authority over.

“Um, Jonny...” Leddy sounds hesitant, and Jonny stomps back over to him, leaning over his computer to try and make sense of the numbers on the screen.

“What does it say.”

“Well, I tracked the IP address and this is the exact location of the computer the reviews were written with. It’s...”

Leddy doesn’t need to say, cause Jonny knows this address. He looks at Leddy, and then turns away, facing the gardenias that Bollig had dropped off before his shift at the Cheese shop, clenching his jaw and feeling a drop in his gut.

“It’s coming from inside the house.”

He finds Patrick in the Game Room, working fastidiously on a puzzle of a Norman Rockwell painting that he’s been consumed with the last week.

“You.” Jonny slams his hand down on top of a gap-toothed freckled kid in the scene and Patrick looks up, curious.

“Dude, if this is about the soap again--”

“No. You,” Jonny, feeling sick and cold and weirdly humiliated, shoves the printed out reviews in his face, “have been driving me crazy with this shit all summer long.”

Patrick pauses, face pale, before shaking his head. “Are you talking about us hooking up, because Jonny, I wanted to say--”

“No, I mean these ridiculous reviews, you asshole! Do you know how many people have been calling me up wanting ‘my magic fingers’ to attend to their aching muscles at the end of the day?”

Patrick does a good job looking confused as he reads the reviews, and then looks up disbelievingly at Jonny. “Um, I never wrote those.”

“Don’t lie to me, Patrick. These have been going on since you started staying here this summer. If this whole thing was some big joke to you, Innkeeper Jonny playing house, then go fuck yourself. This is my business!

Patrick gets up, looking angrier now. “Jonny, I wouldn’t do this. I don’t even have the time to write this. And fuck you thinking that I would treat you as a joke. You know that I respect you.”

“Yeah, you respect some washed up former athlete who goes around bitching about soap all day,” Jonny can hear himself speak and wants to stop, wants to run somewhere and hide, but it’s not like he’s lying. He's always known he was a source of amusement to Patrick, who flitted around his Inn like a movie star slumming it at a Starbucks to get into a role. These past couple of days must have been some sick summer fun for Patrick, and Jonny burns with wounded pride and anger.

“Jonny,” Patrick looks stricken, reaching for him. Jonny moves out of his path, setting his jaw and delivering what he knows to be his most unaccomodating stare.

“I know tonight’s your last show. Pack your bags and leave after that. You won’t be welcomed back here next summer.”

Patrick reels back, stunned, like Jonny punched him. Jonny thinks he may deserve it, even though the thought feels awful in his stomach.

“Jonny, I swear to god, this wasn’t me. And I can’t believe you would...” Jonny witnesses a dozen thoughts expressed on Patrick’s face: anger and sadness and disbelief, before he finally rests on cool resolve. “I guess this clears things up then, about what you think of me. About where we stand. I’m sorry you think that way.”

“You have no one to blame but yourself.” Jonny says, matching the cool tone.

Patrick pinches his lips together, looking for a second like he wants to say something else, but then settles on a small “Bye, Jonny.”

Patrick gathers his things and walks away, leaving the puzzle and Jonny alone in the game room. A moment later Jonny can hear the slam of the front door and then the angry buzz of a car swerving out of the parking lot.
------
Jonny walks around his Inn like he’s never seen it before, sitting on couches and playing with the antique spinning wheel his mom bought at an auction last fall. He nibbles on some leftover coffee cake and drinks from the ice tea he’s set out for the guests, warmed from the sun coming in from the window.

He doesn’t know how much time has passed before Jonny hears a throat clearing behind him. Looking up, he sees his Bollig, Shaw and Saad, sweaty from the heat outside and looking unusually nervous.

“What,” he says, feeling tired and heavy.

Bollig looks guilty and Saad refuses to move his gaze from the floor. Shawzy rings his hands, saying,

“Um, your friend Leddy just told us about your internet problem, and, um, we heard you argue with Mr. Kane.”

“That’s none of your business,” Jonny tells him, anger bubbling up again.

Saad shakes his head, face beet red. “It is, actually, because you see, the thing is, we were the ones who wrote those reviews.”

Jonny lets the sentence hang, something clicking in his brain as his heart begins to thump.

Flustered, Shaw takes over by explaining, “We were only trying to blow off some steam. It was a joke, I swear. You’d work us for hours and then we’d go write these on our breaks.”

Bollig continues, “It wasn’t Mr. Kane, Sir. I know you guys are...something. But it wasn’t him at all.”

Jonny hears him, but it doesn’t compute for a while. He just stares between the three guys, who are each twenty three and stupid, and doesn’t feel anger, just a little bitterness.

“You need to take them down, now.” He tells them, and they nod vigorously.

“Are we fired?” Shaw asks, earning a sharp nudge from Bollig.

“No,” Jonny says, “But only because it would be a bitch and a half to hire and train new people this late in the season. But you are going to go back outside right now and mow every inch of my property and then weed until your backs give out.”

“Yes, Sir!” They all do a weird bow-like thing and then stumble outside, the screen door slamming shut behind them.

Jonny takes himself to the game room where Patrick’s half-finished puzzle lays out accusingly. He’s tempted to sweep it off the table, but that just seems mean. Instead, the returns to the front desk where, sitting on the counter, is a little wrapped package with his name on it.

Unwrapping it reveals a tiny carved windmill out of soap, with a tag attached that reads looking forward to buying all the soap with you soon, you cheapskate--P

He must have dropped it off before Jonny barged in and accused him of basically being the embodiment of Jonny’s insecurity. He wants to rush off immediately and find Patrick, tell him what a dumbass he was and apologize, but he knows Patrick is probably backstage now, preparing for a show.

That’s when he notices the slip of paper underneath where the package was sitting. It’s a front row ticket for Patrick’s show that evening. Jonny looks at the clock, gauging that he has about an hour to get there.

He walks back to the kitchen, opens the screen door to the deck where his deviant workers toil in the late afternoon sun, and calls out, “I’m going out for a while. You guys are in charge of the Inn. Don’t fuck this up or you are for real fired.”

“But---!”

Jonny’s already left, tearing down the parking lot to his car, ticket clutched in his hand.
-----
It’s a packed house at Shakespeare and Company, and Jonny is half-paying attention as he navigates parking and then finding his seat in the house. He doesn’t know the plot of the play, doesn’t even know who Patrick is playing. But he feels tense and strung out, just wanting to see Patrick’s face and explain his stupidity to him before it’s too late.

Jonny doesn’t even follow the first few scenes, not really paying attention until Patrick’s entrance on stage.

Jonny stares. Patrick’s torso is bare, painted in pastel colors that swirl erotically around his pectorals and nipples and then drag down, like fingertips, towards his hips. Jonny swallows, already a little hard, but then Patrick opens his mouth, sounding strong and assured:

“Thou speak'st aright; I am that merry wanderer of the night. I jest to Oberon and make him smile When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile, Neighing in likeness of a filly foal: And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl, In very likeness of a roasted crab, And when she drinks, against her lips I bob And on her wither'd dewlap pour the ale...”

He’s entrancing , a mischievous spark of a boy with the sensuality of a man. The audience around him gasps as Patrick twists and turns dramatically as he orchestrates the scenes. Although the rest of the play passes over Jonny’s head, he can’t take his eyes off of Patrick.

This is the real Patrick, he thinks. How could he have ever doubted someone who moves and speaks with such sincerity, wearing his emotions on his sleeve. And then it’s like the past three summers are shoved in his face, every conversation, every glance they shared between them. Patrick was always orienting himself towards Jonny, always in his face and bothering him, but it wasn’t a bother, it was the antidote to an illness Jonny didn’t even know he was suffering from.

He’s on his feet applauding as the show comes to an end, Patrick’s final monologue trailing off as he winks out to the audience. When he notices Jonny, clapping and cheering the loudest, his facade crumbles, looking shocked and hurt, and Jonny doesn’t even pause before he’s sprinting to where the backstage doors are.

He waits in agitation for the actors to come out, eager for a glimpse of Patrick’s face. He’s the last to come out, receiving another round of applause from the audience waiting with Jonny and posing for pictures with his fellow actors. When he finally heads Jonny’s way, Jonny starts speaking even before Patrick can get a word out.

“I’m an idiot. God I am such an idiot. Patrick, all that shit I said to you, I didn’t mean it.”

Patrick, makeup rubbed off and face a little puffy, clenches his jaw and waits.

Desperately, Jonny says, “I know you didn’t write those reviews. I was acting crazy because I was unsure of what we were doing, and it was easier to think this was all a joke to you than to think you actually wanted me.”

Patrick lets out a frustrated noise, forcefully running his hands through his hair. “Jonny, you know I don’t, I don’t know, pity you or think less of you because you were once a hockey player. I mean, look at who you’re talking to. I just paraded in front of two hundred people wearing tights and pink body paint!”

“You were beautiful,” Jonny tells him seriously, which causes Patrick to blink and flush, before he clears his throat.

“Jonny, why do you think I kept coming back to your inn every year? Yeah the old owners were nice and I liked my room, but then one day you were suddenly there scowling in my direction and making it so easy to rile you up. God, staying with you is the highlight of my year.”

Jonny feels relief course through his system, and then shame for ever doubting Patrick. “God, me too, and it was so dumb to think you would do something like that. I mean, it ended up being Bollig, Shaw and Saad, which now makes it all seem a lot less mean spirited. They’re dumber than a pile of bricks.”

Pat laughs with sympathetic understanding. “Of course it was them. I mean, you know they love and fear you in equal measure, right? I’m sure that this was the result of a lot of illicit booze they’re stealing from your honor bar.” He takes Jonny’s hand and Jonny wants to kiss each of Patrick’s fingers.

Patrick grins, dimple’s deepening. “Did you think i was seriously masterminding some kind of internet attack to get back at you for depriving me of soap? I mean to be honest, I was definitely masterminding a different kind of attack, but that involved a lot less clothing.”

“You were?”

“Oh yeah, definitely. Jeez Jonny, you’re like something out women’s porn! You walk around in flannel, even in the summer, frowning and smoldering at everyone with those shoulders and then you whip up the most delicious frittata ever which, of course you did, and then you go make my bed with military corners.”

Jonny moves closer, taking pleasure in the hitch of Patrick’s breath.

“How about we see about unmaking that bed right now?”

Patrick laughs, loud and happy. “Oh my god, don’t ever flirt again, but yes, let’s do that right now.” He then gives an exaggerated look around, “And Jonny, what, no flowers? Jeez, you come to seduce me on the night of my last performance and and you don’t even bring flowers? How were you expecting this night to end?

“With me fucking you across my grandmother’s antique Queen Anne desk,” Jonny tells him.

Later that night, after they do successfully fuck on every piece of furniture in Jonny’s room, they lay panting on the floor, tangled in the sheets the dragged down with them. Patrick mouths at Jonny’s shoulder, tracing over bite marks with his tongue. “They asked me to stay on and become a full company member,” he whispers against skin. “I’d have a permanent place there for as long as I want it, even in the off-season.”

Jonny doesn’t even need to think about it. “You always have a place here.”

He feels Patrick smile. “Good. I was going to miss the duck decoys.”

“I mean,” Jonny, sleepy and sated, tumbles over the words, “You can stay here in my quarters if you wanted to.”

“Yeah,” Patrick replies. “I want to.”

“Good.” And it is good, this feeling that things are finally coming together. Jonny’s had enough time to doubt and regret. With Patrick beside him, he’s finally looking forward to the future.

-----
Yelp Review, 2014

My husband and I were looking for a nice place to get away for the weekend without the kids. At first we were skeptical about The Cozy Windmill because we had read negative reviews about it in the past, but recently those reviewers have changed their tune, praising its comfort and hospitality. So naturally I was curious and decided this would be the place we’d stay. Happily, we weren’t disappointed by the experience. Innkeeper Jonathan and his partner Patrick are welcoming and accommodating people, treating their guests with courtesy without veering into nosy and fussy. Furthermore, after seeing them interact with a guest who was, to put it bluntly, a nightmare, I have a new respect for the work innkeepers do in managing so many different people--all of them strangers--on a daily basis. Jonathan was patient, not condescending at all with this guest, and after things threatened to get worse, co-innkeeper Patrick swooped in with a smile and charmed the pants off that guest. I guess it’s true what they say that a happy couple makes for a happy business. I anticipate many more seasons spent at The Cozy Windmill, and I look forward to seeing Mr. Toews and Kane together again next year.