Indulge Yourself

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Failing Forward

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Book: Failing Forward

Jack Charles Larsen stood under a canopy in the miserable Florida heat. His husband, Adam Lewis, was holding his hand beside him. Jack listened to the droning voice of a priest as he gave a sermon over his mother’s coffin.
Shell-shocked from her sudden death, Jack was numb.
His free hand was clasped, his fingers interlaced with another’s.
Jack squeezed that hand and found comfort.
Tadzio Andresen-Miller tapped her toe on the carpet as she waited for her idiot brother. Finally the water in the shower stopped running and noise of rustling behind the closed door made her frustrated. She swung open the door.
Pontus was rubbing a white towel over his bushy beard and hair. He peered at her and sneered with contempt.
In Swedish she asked him, “Why have you come?”
Pontus stared directly at her chest. “I can’t believe you have tits. What the hell is wrong with you?” He threw the towel onto the floor and moved by her to the bedroom where he’d left his backpack.
Tadzio recently had top surgery in her transition to female. She had been taking hormones since she was in her early teens, and finally felt as if she could breathe and be who she really was. A woman. She watched her brother remove clothing from the backpack and dress in long pants and a long-sleeved top.
“It’s going to be hot outside. How can you dress like that?”
He appeared distracted and dug into the pocket pouch of the backpack, then he threw papers at her.
Tadzio picked them up, seeing, yes, this was how her brother found her in Paradise, California. Jack Larsen had sent forms to the Swedish government requesting a change to Tadzio’s gender on her passport and other official documents. So her hunch was correct. She unfolded the forms and placed them on her dresser.
Pontus sat heavily on her bed and stared at her. “I can’t believe you live in a mansion.”
Still communicating to him in Swedish, Tadzio folded her arms over her chest and leaned back on the dresser behind her. “You can’t believe, you can’t believe…” she said sarcastically, “So? You see where I live. Now go home.”
Pontus stood from the bed and approached her. He loomed over her, menacing.
Tadzio asked, “Where did you get the money to come here? Hmm? Steal from Mom and Dad? Huh? Tap their store till?”
“If Dad saw you now with tits, he’d kill you.”
She shook her head in frustration. “Pontus? Just leave. Okay?”
“Sure.” He held out his hand. “Money.”
Tadzio’s anger grew.
Steven Jay Miller finished his evening running route across the meadow. It was ten miles round trip and by the time he’d reached the mansion’s back door he was exhausted. He’d already put in a day’s work at Miller-Richfield International in Sacramento.
Steve stood on the patio and inspected a new pool slide Stan had installed for Stan and Mark’s son Isaac. Steve heard shouting coming through the glass slider and spotted his wife, Tadzio, arguing with her weird brother. Steve jogged to the sliding doors of his bedroom and tugged on the handle.
Tadzio approached it and unlocked it.
Steve entered the bedroom and slid the glass door closed, keeping the heat out. He spotted Pontus, who had obviously showered since Steve, Stan, and Blake had grabbed him from the woods where he may have been sleeping in the rough.
“What’s going on?” Steve asked, not liking the look or attitude of this strange man.
Tadzio pointed to Pontus. “He say he wants money to leave, Steven.”
“Money?” Steve, who was a former LAPD police officer, approached him. He was sweating from his run, and wearing just gym shorts.
Steve studied the blue-eyed redhead and assessed him quickly. Pontus was rakish, skinny, with angular facial features, and prominent freckles. His fingernails were dirty, and his shoes were worn. “Do you speak English?”
“Little bit.” He didn’t appear intimidated by Steve.
Tadzio threw up her hands. “He can understand, Steven. He’s just a jerk.”
Blake Hughes, a good friend and LA fireman who was on leave for a back injury and helping with Mark’s infant son, Isaac, poked his head into the room. “Everything okay?”
Tadzio made a noise of anger and glared at her brother.
Steve cooled off in the air conditioned room. He pointed to the bathroom. “I need to clean up for dinner.” He entered the bathroom and noticed towels all over the floor and wiry curly hair in the sink.
Shutting the door and removing his clothes, Steve exhaled loudly and entered the shower stall, wishing he could get a goddamn break from all the drama.