Adam was tapping his hands frantically on his thighs. Why did everything have to be so loud? What was that odd smell? Why was the food so weird?
He jumped when a hand clapped on his shoulder. Harlan turned the touch into a soothing rub as he faced his surrogate son. Adam offered a tense smile, you were supposed to smile at weddings.
“You having a good time, Adam?”
“No, it’s too loud in here and your cousin Denise keeps asking me to shake my cute little ass on the dance floor. I don’t like her. Her perfume smells.” Adam blinked. “But I’m happy you’re married.”
Harlan laughed, and pulled Adam in for a hug.
“I’ll talk to the bartender, any more than two drinks and Denise is on the prowl.” Harlan ushered Adam to the mouth of the tent, eyes on Adam’s frenetic fingers. “Why don’t you step outside for a little bit? Get some fresh air and quiet?”
“I’m supposed to stay with the party. Beth says it’s rude when I leave.”
“Beth ain’t here and Harlan says it’s just fine.” A sure hand gave Adam a little shove into the garden outside of the tent. “Go get yourself together and come back in a bit for cake. I’ll talk to the DJ about turning down the speakers a bit.”
“I won’t cause a scene, I promise. You should be with your wife.”
Harlan gripped Adam’s shoulders, expression serious.
“You are not causing a scene, Adam.” Harlan squeezed him just a bit. “But it’s loud in here, and I have funny smelling relatives who need to keep their damn hands to themselves. If I could get away with Shelly for a quiet turn in the garden, I’d do the same. Look at the sky, son, it’s so clear I bet you can see the Milky Way.”
“Ok, I’m going to go outside.”
Harlan winked before striding toward his bride. Adam walked into the depths of the garden, outside of the city, the sky was a brilliant swath of stars. Blanketed by familiar constellations, Adam felt his breathing return to normal. He wished he’d thought to bring his telescope.
Adam was chewing on his lip, tracing the angles of Cassiopeia when he heard high-heels clomping on the stone steps of the garden.
“Adam, baby, where are you?”
Adam’s breath came up short and he whipped his head around looking for a place to hide. He ducked behind a shrub, angling his body with the branches. Denise rushed past, but turned and started heading back toward Adam’s shrub. He scrambled to a bush, scrunched down as Denise continued her search.
A hand clamped around Adam’s mouth, another arm twined around his middle, dragging him backwards.
“Not a fucking sound gorgeous, and I’ll get rid of her.” The voice was warm in his ear. Adam could smell cigarettes and stale alcohol as he was pressed to a hedge wall. The arms around him slackened slightly, allowing Adam to move. He tilted his head toward the man who held him. He couldn’t see his face, but he could make out the lines of a woman tattooed on the man’s throat. He should be panicking, but the heat from the man’s body was soothing.
“Adam, get your cute butt out here! I caught the bouquet! That means I get a dance!”
Adam nodded against the man’s hand, anything was better than having Denise with the too-strong perfume grope him again. He was released in an instant, the man stepped into the dim light, his cheekbones striking in the dark. He gave Adam a wink before stepping forward.
Adam watched him go. He didn’t remember seeing the man at the reception.
“Adam is that y- Oh, hello. You seen a fine little muffin with big blue eyes out here?”
“No, but I do see an old fucking hag who’s disturbing my smoke break.”
“You can’t talk to me-”
“This is a free fucking country. Isn’t that what you Americans are always say? So I’ll tell you what, bitch, I’ll call you a hag, you call me a fucker and we can both get on with our nights.”
“How dare you! You’re a fucking waiter.”
“That I am, nearly sprained my back bringing you seconds,” The man lit a new cigarette.
Denise flung the bouquet at the waiter, he caught it easily and sat it on the bench behind him.
“I’m talking to your manager! You’re fired, you bastard!” Denise stomped back to the party.
“Thanks for the fucking flowers!” The man took a few more drags before turning slightly to the shrubs behind him. “Adam? I think you’re safe gorgeous.”
Adam emerged from the hedge, worrying the sleeve of his suit with his fingers.
“You shouldn’t have said those things.”
“Why? Did you want to dance with her?”
“No.” Adam looked up at him, eyes serious. “But now you’ll be fired.”
The man snorted.
“Darling, that’s not even the worst thing I’ve done this week.” The waiter smiled around the cigarette. “Darko will listen to her run her mouth, offer her fat fucking ass a free dessert and I’ll be back in this fucking suit for tomorrow’s reception. Don’t worry.”
“So, why didn’t you want to dance with the Crypt Keeper? Too fucking old? Too fucking annoying?” Adam felt a small tremor as the man leaned a little closer, “Not your type?”
Adam scrunched his face.
“Her perfume is too strong and she wouldn’t stop grabbing at my behind.”
The man let the cigarette drop to the ground, grinding it with the toe of his shoe.
“I understand the fucking temptation, gorgeous,” He said with a wink. “Tell me, would you dance with me?”
Adam dipped his head, he really didn’t like being that close to strangers. But he hadn’t minded when the man had wrapped his arms around him.
“I don’t know your name.” Adam mumbled.
“My name’s Nigel, gorgeous,” The man moved closer still, a breath away. Adam could hear music playing softly from the tent, Harlan must have asked the DJ to turn it down, as promised. “And I swear, I’ll keep my fucking hands above your belt, yeah?”
“Oh, ok.” He had barely finished the word before Nigel’s hands were at his waist, gently leading Adam as they began to sway to the music. Adam settled his hands on Nigel’s waist, gripping onto the man’s shiny belt. One hand left Adam’s side, sliding smoothly up to Adam’s curls. Nigel plucked a twig from Adam’s hair with a small smile before putting the hand at the base of Adam’s skull, guiding him to rest his head on Nigel’s shoulder.
“Oh? And Darling?” Nigel whispered against Adam’s ear. “You can put your hands wherever the fuck you want.”
Adam scrunched his face, considering. He had a few places he would like to touch, like the firm chest he was resting on or the stubbly chin brushing along his neck. He settled for running one hand up to trace the girl he was staring at.
“Why is she in her underwear?”
He could hear Nigel’s smile. Adam bobbed softly when Nigel shrugged.
“She was when I fucking met her.”
“Oh, is that your girlfriend?”
“No gorgeous, just a fucking mistake.”
Adam’s head popped up.
“Worst fucking one I’ve made yet. I’ll let you see the others a little later, darling, but it’s cold out here and I’m shy.”
“You have more?” Adam’s finger still pet the girl on Nigel’s neck.
“Six so far,” Nigel replied. “But there’s a big fucking space available right over my heart. Might fill it with a blue-eyed boy. What do you fucking think, darling?”
Adam tilted his head, nose scrunched.
“I’d have to see the space, and the design.”
Nigel laughed. Adam was about to ask why when another man in a tuxedo burst into the garden.
“Nigel! Get the fuck back to the kitchen before I have to give that bitch another apology!”
Nigel turned to Adam, bumping his nose along the boy’s cheek.
“Will you wait for me? I’ll be back here in 15 minutes, I promise.”
Nigel smiled and ran toward the man on the garden stairs. They both started yelling in a foreign language and Adam went back to watching the sky.
It had been ten minutes before Adam heard soft steps behind him. He turned to see Nigel, carrying two plates.
“Here, I got you a piece of cake.” Nigel held out a plate. “Your friend inside said you don’t like fucking complicated tastes, so I figured vanilla with vanilla frosting? There’s also red fucking velvet if you want.”
Adam smiled at him.
“Thank you. I prefer this.” Adam reached for the cake, but Nigel pulled it back, stepping closer.
“You going to put it under your pillow and dream about me?”
“It’s a tradition. You put a slice of wedding cake under your pillow and you dream about the person you’re going to marry.” Nigel was so close Adam could feel the man’s breath on his neck. He found he didn’t mind the proximity. It reminded him of dancing.
"That’s ridiculous!” Adam said, eyeing the cake in Nigel’s hand. “It would ruin your sheets. Besides, cake does not determine dreams.“
"Fine gorgeous, fuck the cake,” Nigel tossed both plates behind him. “And fuck the dream. Sleep with me and you’ll wake up with the man you’re going to fucking marry.”
Nigel swooped in and stole a kiss. Adam releasing a little gasp as the older man pulled back, smiling. Unlike Denise and her grabby hands, Nigel left him wanting to lean forward, seek out that slightly bitter mouth again. He was sexually aroused.
“When you say sleep, do you mean sex? Because you’re kissing me and I want to make sure you’re sexually aroused too.”
Nigel’s smile grew bright, eyes glinting in the darkness.
“Yeah, gorgeous, I mean sex. Lots of fucking sex.”
“Then we should leave soon. I prefer to be asleep by 11.”
Nigel tilted his head, mouth twisting.
“Darling, that’s not nearly enough time, you’ll be late for fucking bed, I’m afraid,” Nigel shrugged. “But I promise I’ll plan better tomorrow and have you in bed at eleven on the fucking dot. Deal?”
Nigel reached behind him to the wooden bench, picking up the bundle of flowers.
“Deal.” Adam agreed.
With a wink, Nigel tossed the bouquet to Adam, wrapping his arm around the boy’s waist and leading him through the garden.