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Bending the Rules

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Book: Bending the Rules


Mark carried his suit jacket into the house and took his shoes off at the kitchen door. He didn’t look back as he walked through the house to the stairs and climbed to the upper floor to his bedroom. Hearing Steve below, closing the door that connected the garage to the kitchen, Mark removed his business suit and stood in his briefs packing a small overnight bag.
When Steve walked in he asked, “Aren’t we going for a run?” as he took off his tie, removing his work clothing.
“No.” Mark folded a shirt and tucked it into the suitcase.
“Mark…you’re going to drive to Paradise tonight?”
“Yes.” He walked to the bathroom and turned on a light to get his toiletries. The minute he looked into the mirror he gasped at the bruises on his face. Dark yellow and purple discolorations were like a frame on both sides of his mouth. He covered his eyes and felt his emotions well up.
“Baby.” Steve held him.
“What have I done?”
“Mark…slow down. Okay?”
“I can’t be seen like this.” Mark wiped his eyes. “Let me go.” He shook out of Steve’s hold and continued to gather his shaving cream, razor and toothbrush.
“Mark, it’s an eight hour drive and you seem exhausted.”
Mark brushed by him, placing his shaving kit into the bag. He felt sick, as if he were being driven compulsively to go to that place. The place where he grew up; where he lived with his mother and father and a host of servants and nannies.
Steve’s touch on his shoulders made Mark sigh loudly.
“What’s the rush to get up there tonight?” Steve kissed Mark’s neck.
“I must. You don’t understand.” Mark wiped at a tear as it ran. “I’ve asked it of all of you week after week, and you three put me off.”
“We’re not doing it intentionally. Help me understand why you have to go right now.” Steve sat down on the bed. He too, just in his briefs. He coaxed Mark to sit on his lap, beside the open suitcase.
“That house has a hold over me, Steven. The demons as well as the good times.” Mark wiped his eyes and his skin tingled from where he’d had injections. “And I don’t want Jackie and Adam to see me like this.”
“Can we go in the morning?” Steve brushed his hand over Mark’s leg.
“I’d prefer now.” He checked his watch. “If I leave now I shall be up there by one.”
“We can set the alarm for five and be there by noon.”
“No.” He stood and continued packing shorts, shirts, bathing suit, and briefs.
“I don’t want you going alone.”
Mark stopped what he was doing and caught sight of the black and white photograph on the wall near his bed. It was of him licking Jack’s face, done so long ago, when they were in their twenties. “I need to do this alone.”
“Why? Mark, you look exhausted. I’m not letting you drive that far by yourself.”
Mark spun around. “Make a pot of coffee for us, would you?”
Steve appeared angry. “I am going.” He pointed his finger. “You got that, Richfield?”
Mark didn’t answer as Steve left the room. While he was gone, Mark walked back to the bathroom and looked closely at his face. He was so upset at the bruising he was a wreck. He had never done anything like this before and swore this would be the last.
Steve filled the carafe with water and then dialed the cordless phone, peeking into the living room to make sure Mark was still upstairs.
“Adam, hey.”
“Are we having dinner?”
“No. Look. Mark’s hell bent on driving to Paradise tonight.” He tucked the phone between his shoulder and ear and scooped coffee into the filter.
“Tonight? That’s an eight hour drive. Why tonight?”
“I don’t know. Why does Mark do everything impulsively?” Steve turned the coffeemaker on and opened the cabinet, searching for travel mugs.
“Are you asking if Jack and I want to go?”
“Mark doesn’t want you guys to. He got some crap done at the plastic surgeon and is all bruised.” Steve again looked into the living room.
“Fuck no!” Adam said, “Please, please God tell me he didn’t get surgery.”
“No, some filler shit. I have no clue but his face looks a mess. He’s all black and blue.”
Steve could hear Adam filling Jack in. Soon Jack picked up the phone and Steve grew nervous Mark would come down and catch him.
“What the fuck did he do?” Jack asked.
“Look, I can’t talk now. He’ll kill me. I’m driving to the estate with him tonight. If you guys want to go, we’ll probably be there ‘til Sunday night.”
“We’ll head up there in the morning,” Jack said.
“Thanks, babe. I need you up there. I think Mark has it in his head to exorcise a few demons.”
“The demons of Milt Richfield.” Jack blew out a breath. “I know them well.”
He heard Mark coming down the stairs. “Gotta go.” He disconnected the call and raced to stick the phone into the cradle, then continued looking for the travel mugs.
Mark, holding his suitcase said, “I shall go alone.”
“No.” Steve put two mugs on the counter. “You shall not.” He shot Mark a warning glare and raced up the stairs to get dressed and pack a bag.