The daily serial fictional based on Chicago's Boystown neighborhood: Boystown series by Danny Bernardo

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5. For Rent

Steve had had enough. If Bruce was going to leave him to chase little twinks into his midlife crisis, so be it. He'd spent most of the month not leaving the house, lounging in his underwear, sipping gimlets, and feeling sorry for himself. Not anymore. Steve needed to take control. He decided that he

5. For Rent
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Steve had had enough. If Bruce was going to leave him to chase little twinks into his midlife crisis, so be it. He'd spent most of the month not leaving the house, lounging in his underwear, sipping gimlets, and feeling sorry for himself. Not anymore. Steve needed to take control. He decided that he was going to enter his fifties with grace and style, unlike some recent exes he might mention. If Anderson Cooper could rock the silver hair, so could he. Steve called Robert Jeffrey to cancel his monthly coloring. Instead of hitting the bars during the week, he stayed in for DVR marathons of Oprah's Next Chapter and Life Class. Gone were the Botox injections and microdermabrasion facials; it was green tea and hot room yoga from now on. Age was no longer his enemy, Steve decided. The desperation of his so-called better half ditching out on twenty years of a shared life all in the name of reclaiming some long-lost post-college glory was just sad. Steve was not going to be that. To reclaim the mantra of his youth, "Today was the first day of the rest of his life." And if Oprah had taught him anything, he had to own his life. He wasn't going to be a pushover anymore. He was starting with his financial situation.

Thankfully, the properties they owned throughout Lakeview were all in Steve's name. The consequence of owning rentals in Boystown was the transient nature of the tenants. Usually they never stayed more than a couple of years, moving onto the next chapter of their lives. The only exception was one tenant at the Halsted and Roscoe building, who lived there for seven years. He was the lone standout in a month full of new tenants moving in. And with the first of the month two days away without an official lease renewal, Steve decided he was through being nice. He needed a decision and he was going to be proactive about. He bought a FOR RENT sign, taped it on the front door, and walked up to talk to Charlie.

When Charlie answered the door in just gym shorts, Steve had to remind himself that this was a business visit. True, he wasn't as muscular or skinny as most of the pretty young things running around Boystown; instead, Charlie had a naturally lean body which was mostly hairless with just a tuft of hair between his pecs. He'd really grown into a man over the years. Charlie seemed genuinely surprised to see him and offered him a cup of coffee as he asked him in.

"I'm not staying long," Steve said, remaining firm. "It's going to be the first of the month and I need to know if I have to show this apartment or not."

"Oh," said Charlie. In the kitchen, Steve could see a boyish post-teen who looked like something right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. "New roommate," was all Charlie could say.

"And when were you going to see fit to tell me?"

"It's just…well, I was looking for a third roommate, and there are a lot of crazies on Craigslist…"

"Hi!" Steve called out to Norman Rockwell painting. "I'm Steve. The landlord."

"Tyler," came the charmingly timid response.

"What do you do?"

"He's new," interjected Charlie. "And looking for work. So I figured, for the first month, I could float him."

"Uh huh. And the third part of the rent?"

Charlie had never seen Steve be such a hard ass. "Well, like I said, we're looking…"

"It's going to be the first in two days!" Steve took a breath, careful not to let any stray Bruce aggression out on his favorite tenant.

"Charlie," Steve started again, allowing the calming breath to breathe into his tone. "You can float for the two of you, sure, but I know you can't afford the whole rent on your own. I like you, but I can't cut you any favors. It wouldn't be right. So unless you find someone else today…"

And that's when the buzzer rang. Neither Charlie nor Tyler was expecting company, so it was with a little apprehension that they buzzed the mystery guest up. On the other side of the door stood some guy in his mid twenties, wearing a tank top, board shorts, and a backwards Cubs hat. He was squarely muscular and could've been an Abercrombie model if his face were a little less rough looking.

"I saw the for rent sign," he stated simply, in a throaty, jocky voice. He regarded Charlie for a moment, but never voiced the acknowledgement. That was the problem with living in Boystown for so long: everyone starts to look familiar.

"Yes, absolutely, come on in," Steve cooed. Charlie rolled his eyes at his coquettishness and turned to Tyler for support only to find him also as smitten as a school girl. Charlie went to the kitchen for more coffee as Steve gave the tour, Tyler following like a puppy dog. Charlie couldn't believe that Steve had put a FOR RENT sign up behind his back.

"That's how I know you!" he heard Steve exclaim as Charlie met them in the front room. "You work for Geno!"

"Yeah, that's right," said throaty Abercrombie.

"So he can vouch for you?"

"Yeah, for sure. Worked for him for a while. I just, you know, kinda really need to get out of my current sitch. It's not the greatest."

"Well we are in luck, aren't we? Charlie, this is…"

"Hunter," said throaty Abercrombie, giving a nod and quickly looking away.

"Hunter, the boys need someone to move in right away."

"That's cool. Yeah, I mean, I just gotta get my shit and…"

Charlie had to protest. "Steve, wait a minute. Hunter, no offense, I'm sure you're very nice, but I just can't live with some guy who just came off the street that I've barely known five minutes."

"Charlie, I really don't see that you have any other options."

"I can pay the security deposit. Now. In cash." Hunter stood cool and confident. This deal was going to happen and there was nothing that Charlie could do to stop it. Steve began to usher Hunter out to sign the lease, Hunter giving another quick nod as a goodbye to Charlie. That nagging feeling of familiarity attached with all Boystown boys, Hunter in particular, was driving Charlie nuts. It was almost enough to make him reconsider staying in Boystown at all.

And as Hunter turned to go out the front door, Charlie saw it, the reason why Hunter seemed so familiar. On Hunter's right shoulder was a garish phoenix tattoo.


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