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

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1-5 Recap: Volume 1

A go-go boy, a fresh-off-the bus newbie, and a romantically hapless high school teacher meet in the first week of BOYSTOWN. Volume 2 will launch 8/27, right here on and the GoPride network!

1-5 Recap: Volume 1
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A go-go boy, a fresh-off-the bus newbie, and a romantically hapless high school teacher meet in the first week of BOYSTOWN. Volume 2 will launch 8/27, right here on and the GoPride network!


Charlie always swore that he'd move out of Boystown by the time he was thirty. The allure of living in the heart of the bustling thump-a thump-a of Chicago's gayborhood had drawn him in right out of undergrad, but something about living there past twenty-five always bothered him. It was sad in a way, like a forty-something wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt. "I should've outgrown this by now," he'd insist to himself every year when his lease was up. The time for random hook-ups, future ex-boyfriends, and hopeless one night stands should stay firmly rooted in one's early twenties. But a wildly awesome night out with his friends or an especially sentimental and drunken Pride Parade would seal the deal for another lease term. And so it would go, year after year, until finally here he was, twenty-nine years old with an unforgotten oath lingering over the lease renewal slipped under the front door.

The decision seemed pretty obvious. His roommate Becka finally got the ring and was moving into Brad's high-rise in the Gold Coast. His other roommate David and his boyfriend David were migrating happily-ever-after to the land of semi-legal marital bliss known as Andersonville. Their intentions were declared to the landlord and there was Charlie's name, all by itself, on the lease renewal. Charlie was twenty-nine years old; he was a grown-up. It should be time for him to get a one-bedroom with office for half the price and twice the size in Lincoln Square. Or an affluently cozy studio in Old Town within walking distance from the high school he taught at. Yet for whatever reason, any option other than staying terrified him.

Usually in moments of moral crisis such as this, he'd break open a bottle of pinot grigio with Becka and David and talk it out until the bottle was empty enough for him to forget the problem in the first place. But their rooms long lay vacant and paid for until the end of the month. And his bar bestie Tristan's bias towards keeping Charlie's apartment in walking distance to couch crash post after-hours made him an unreliable confidante. "This decision," Charlie realized, "is best mulled over with a pint by myself, out at the bars." And so it followed, Charlie descended down the apartment steps, out the front door, to take on what the humid June evening on Halsted and Roscoe had to offer.

He quickly ruled out Roscoes. Once, he had run into a former student from his student-teaching days who wasn't there on a fake ID and the incident left him feeling positively ancient. Besides, Roscoes was only fun in a group and pretty sad by yourself. Hydrate was great for dancing, not contemplating over a drink. He didn't look pretty enough tonight for Minibar or fratty enough for Scarlet. There was some semi-famous drag queen in town at Spin and the drama of sequins and glitter was not conducive to navel gazing. No, tonight, it'd have to be his old standby Sidetrack. Maybe instead of a beer, he'd opt for a fruity vodka slushy on the roof deck.

As he waded his way through the mass of guys watching a Donna Summer tribute video, the svelte linebacker silhouette at the main bar stopped him dead in his tracks. The piercing blue eyes that met Charlie's own chocolaty hazels confirmed the identity of the Ultimate Heartbreaker: He Who Shall Not Be Named. Turning a complete about face, nearly trampling several innocent bystanders in the hasty retreat to the exit, Charlie could faintly but distinctly hear He Who Shall Not Be Named calling out to him. The potential salt on this perpetually open wound outweighed the pathetic three seconds of bliss he'd feel talking to him, Charlie decided. He needed to get lost and so he ducked into the dark, crowded dank that was Cocktail.

He pushed his way to the far end of the bar and quickly ordered a pint of Magic Hat #9 and a shot of Jameson. Downing both in less than five minutes, he made a quick assessment of the situation. Even in the dim lighting, he knew that no one here was his type. The sweaty go-go boys thrusting their bulging crotches for tips added to the general seediness of the situation. He reached into his pocket, ready to settle up when he saw that svelte linebacker silhouette pass the window, group of friends in tow. He sat back down and ordered another pint and shot. He looked down at his drinks, trying to stop himself from believing that those piercing blue eyes were still searching for him.

Pint. Shot.

The desperate group text to Becka, David, and Tristan that simply stated: "HWSNBN! Help!" went unanswered.

Pint. Shot.

The passive aggressive Facebook status update "FML" fell on deaf eyes. Except a "Like" from his mother. Awkward.

Pint. Shot.

Is this what he had to look forward to if he stayed in Boystown? Avoiding exes that break your heart, drowning your sorrows all alone, on the fast track to bitter?

Pint. Shot.

He looked around. "Ok, maybe it wasn't so bad," he thought as the latest shot of Jameson warmed his chest. Guys were smiling at him. The go-go boys were actually starting to get cute. Especially...

"Want a shot?" the Go-Go Boy had sidled up to Charlie so abruptly that Charlie almost knocked over his tray. Go-Go Boy gracefully regained his footing, revealing a garish phoenix tattoo on his right shoulder. If Charlie were on the other side of sober, he might've waxed poetic about the symbolism of Go-Go Boy's tattoo and his current metamorphic conundrum. Instead, he focused on Go-Go Boy's clumsy charm: the adorably crooked smile peeking out from underneath the camouflage makeup that matched his helmet and jockstrap. "Dollar a shot," Go-Go Boy offered again.

"Thanks, I'm drinking with the grown-ups," Charlie replied, hoping his earnestness came off more flirty than snarky.

"I don't blame you. This sugar water is piss." Go-Go Boy leaned in closer, giving Charlie a huge whiff of his Axe body spray. "For twenty dollars," he whispered, "I'll let you play with it."

"Is that tonight's special?"

"Only for really cute preppy guys who shouldn't be sitting by themselves on a Saturday night."

They locked eyes, playfully waiting for the other one to call the bluff with the seriousness of a Fortune 500 merger. Without breaking the gaze, Charlie pounded his pint, pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and held it to Go-Go Boy's face. Go-Go Boy smiled that crooked smile and guided Charlie's hand down to the jockstrap. Charlie tucked the bill under the strap as Go-Go Boy continued guiding the hand's voyage. Charlie must've gasped when he felt how big and thick it was because Go-Go Boy chuckled as Charlie stroked. And there they stood, in a crowded bar, eyes locked, Charlie giving some random guy a hand job. The bartender's lispy voice broke the moment. "Another round?"

"Jimmy!" called Go-Go Boy, his eyes never leaving Charlie's. "His next round's on me."

It was his phone vibrating that woke Charlie up. The next thing he realized was that he wasn't wearing any underwear. And the snoring guy to his left, face down, garish phoenix tattoo lit by the rising sun confirmed that he wasn't in his room. Through the morning haze of beer, whiskey, and sleep deprivation, he got flashes of hungry kisses, of hands and mouths groping, of fluids exchanged. Not his classiest moment, but a good time to be sure. If only he could remember most of it.

As quietly as he could, he fished his clothes out of the piles of laundry and fast food bags that swallowed the floor. Besides the mattress that he'd been asleep on, these seemed to be the room's only furnishings. He checked his wallet. Everything was still there. The cackling drag queens doing bumps at the coffee table betrayed any graceful exit Charlie was hoping to achieve. He was still putting on his shoes as he ran out the front door. And that was that, a Saturday night out in Boystown for Charlie.

The text that woke him up was from Becka: "HWSNBN?! WTF?!" He grinned to himself, thinking of the phone call recap of last night's events to Tristan. "You didn't black out," Tristan would say, "You time travelled." And as he did the walk of shame past Nookies, avoiding the knowing stares from the tables of brunchers, he thought about the future.

Charlie was twenty-nine years old. Before he knew it, ten years would fly by and he'd be thirty-nine. Almost forty. He'd probably have a mortgage and tenure. Maybe he'd be married. Maybe he'd be alone and the gay version of a crazy cat lady. He had to make a decision. Grown-ups do not have nights like this. Nights like this are almost unavoidable living in Boystown. If he moved, he'd have to say goodbye to random nights out, the thrill of possibility after every pint, the potential for the love of his life to be the next guy who grinds up on him on the dance floor. If he moved, he could count on sensible nights in, book clubs, and neighborhood associations. If he moved, it would be everything that he theoretically worked for all of his twenties: adulthood, being responsible. Being a grown-up.

An hour later, he'd posted his ad on Craigslist: SGM looking for roommates for a 3BR in the heart of Boystown.



The first time Tyler saw two men kiss was the Chicago Gay Pride Parade. There was nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary about these two men, at least that Tyler could remember. He was, after all, a questioning twelve-year-old stuck in Podunk, Ohio at the time. What was remarkable to Tyler was how commonplace, how pedestrian this simple kiss between two men was in the foreground of drag queens and rainbows that he'd long associated with the word "gay."

"These could be any guys, anywhere," marveled twelve-year-old Tyler. "They could even be here." His father changing the channel, muttering something about the liberal media and decent god-fearing folk, quickly interrupted that hopeful musing. But the "damage" was done: Tyler knew there was a place where there were people like him, who could be free to be themselves. And he knew that he'd live there someday.

So that's how Tyler found himself at twenty-one, standing at the corner of Halsted and Roscoe, with only a duffle bag, $600 cash, and an associates degree to call his own. Right away he recognized the random red phone booth from the Pride Parade news clip forever embedded in his memory. It was his lighthouse tower, a beacon of uniqueness on what would be an ordinary street corner. It made him feel right at home. He took a breath. The "I'll live my life the way I want" argument with his dad was a six-hour bus ride behind him. He'd finally made it. Now what?

He ducked into the first bar he passed. The overwhelming smell of locker room mixed with an Abercrombie and Fitch store reminded him that he still had the stink of MegaBus on him. That wasn't going to stop him. He was going to make a place for himself here, starting tonight. Fighting his way through the dark and crowded front room, he almost took out three pretty boys on the dance floor with his huge duffle. The posters promising frat parties and ice cold 40's hanging over the bar made this seem like the bar that Tyler could call home.

He made a mental note of the $5 he paid for his beer, almost twice as much as what he would've paid back home in Strongsville. That was now $595 he had to his name. "No big," he thought. "Just like an investment in my future here or whatever." A cute boy that seemed to walk out of an American Apparel ad came up to the bar next to him. This was it: now or never.

"Hi," was all Tyler could think of to say.

"Huh?" American Apparel Ad seemed disinterested. Tyler didn't let this faze him: as soon as he got to know him, they'd be instant friends.

Try again. "Um... hi? I'm... "

"You wanna buy me a drink?"

It's a start. "Oh, hey, yeah, sure, that's... "

"Vodka tonic," American Apparel Ad told the bartender, nodding at Tyler. "And two Jager-bombs." Tyler didn't want to think of what that would cost, but again, no big deal. It was a friend investment. American Apparel Ad handed him one of the shots and knocked it back with him as the bartender finished the vodka tonic.

"Thanks," said American Apparel Ad, grabbing his drink. And before Tyler could even get his name, American Apparel Ad disappeared with his drink into the sea of people. That left him with $570 to his name and still friendless. The next hour went on like this, with one more nameless drink bought and two more double priced beers downed. Maybe he was a little too quick to call this bar home. He left, dejected, this time not caring that he knocked over two pretty boys with his huge duffle. They'd get over it.

Back onto the humid night on Halsted, the panic began to overwhelm him. The romance of leaving home on a whim was beginning to die off. Everything he owned was in a bag on his shoulder. Every cent he had would barely last him the week. He had no job, no place, no friends. What the fuck was he doing?

He kept walking up Halsted, debating on how much crow he would eat if he ran back to Strongsville now with his tail between his legs. How many more sexless nights or dodged questions from Dad? He breathed in the dimming neon lights and the exiting last-call crowds as he said a silent prayer, "Please God, where do I belong?" Then he saw his beacon, his lighthouse tower. And as the packs of gays went in search of the after-hours bar, or the next booty call, or dejectedly walking towards the train, Tyler saw two male figures backlit by the light of the phone booth. Just looking at each other. And after a minute, one touched the other's face and drew it into his own. The kiss was simple. Pedestrian. Remarkable. Tyler knew where he was meant to be.

He'd seen a hotel on Belmont on his way to Halsted Street and figured that'd be as good a place as any to start, at least for tonight. Most importantly, he had to find a job. Once he had a job, he could get a place of his own. He'd have money, he could go out, make friends. He'd make a place for himself here. As he arrived at the hotel on Belmont, he was greeted by a drunk homeless man sleeping under the sign in the window that said SRO. The despondent Latina desk clerk looked up from her cracked iPhone as he approached, the two caged doves by the desk chirping their welcome. "Odd," he thought. "But hey, it's the city." When she offered the option to pay by the night or by the week, his heart nearly leapt for joy. He could stay here! He could put all his focus on finding a job. As she led him down the hallway that smelled of mildew, vomit, and feet, he thought, "I might actually make it!"

It wasn't the smell of the room or the blood and pubic hair on the sheets or the five roaches he saw in five minutes that made Tyler reprioritize his objectives. It was that he heard his next-door neighbor's bed was right against their adjoining wall and she did not seem to lack for gentleman callers. He'll sleep on top of the comforter tonight. Tomorrow is a new day: he will find a place to live, find a job, conquer the world. He had $450 in his pocket: anything was possible. Using the last bit of battery on his phone, he started looking at prospects. That's when he saw the ad: "SGM looking for roommates for a 3BR in the heart of Boystown."



Today was gonna be Tristan's day and he didn't give a fuck who knew it. He was looking too cute and feeling too fierce to worry about the haters. "Them bitches ain't gonna stop me," he said to his freshly lip-glossed reflection. "They can try!" And upon assembling the perfect ensemble of complementary pastel v-neck and jorts, he was out the door and ready for brunch hopping.

Donning his red wayfarers, Lady Gaga blasting in his earbuds, he stretched out his arms wide, twirled as if embracing the morning, and declared, "That's right world! It's my motherfuckin' day!" The grandness of this "the hills are alive" Mary Tyler Moore moment was halted by his left flip flop anchored to the sidewalk by gum baking in the morning sun.

If it had been any other day, Tristan would've lost his shit on both the inanimate gum and its long-gone former chewer. Imaginary rings and earrings would've been removed, non-existent wigs would've been straightened; it would've been a spectacle to be sure. But this was no time to be ignorant. He took a breath, counted on each bead of his Buddha bracelet as he chanted the old meditation learnt from his patron saint Madonna (circa 2000): "Kabbalah, kabbalah, kabbalah" and hobbled down Halsted.

The first stop was Nookie's where Braden, Jaison and Efrain were saving a table on the patio. He'd have to make a stop at Minibar to say hey to the A-Gays, but these were his Bitches: they came first. "Hey ladies!" he waved as he crossed the street at Buckingham.

"Heeeyyyy!" came the union response from Tristan's Bitches, as air kisses and arm's length hugs were exchanged. The hot Eastern European waiter brought a second carafe of mimosas as Tristan sat down and the dishing started.

"Girl, you should've seen this bitch after you left HO-drate last night!" Jaison cackled, mussing Efrain's perfectly coifed mane. "Bitch was on fire!"

"Trick, please, " scoffed Efrain, pushing Jaison off of him. "We are not talkin' ‘bout yo' flamin' ass!"

"Ladies! Decorum, please!" Braden scolded, pouring himself another mimosa. His eyes coolly shifted towards Tristan. "And I see someone is much perkier than usual this morning."

"Oooh! Bitch got him a good dickin!" Jaison went for the high five, but Tristan demurred behind his wayfarers.

"And where did we meet our new gentleman friend?" Braden prodded.

"She can't even remember trick's name," Efrain cackled with Jaison joining right in. Tristan should've known better: his Bitches could read him like an issue of Us Weekly. But it was still his day and even if they were right about this brief (albeit highly enjoyable) indiscretion, he had to regain control.

"Speaking of tricks," he deflected, shifting focus to the slightly disheveled preppy boy obviously doing The Walk of Shame right past them. Jaison clutched "the pearls" and then clutched Tristan's shoulder.

"Tristan, ain't that your boo?"

"My who?"

"That cute nerdy guy that's always following you."

"The Doctor?"

"No. The teacher."

"Charlie?!" The Bitches took a collective inhale of breath and lowered their shades to half-mast. Sure enough, it was Charlie, trying as hard as he could to avoid eye contact with all onlookers. Tristan checked his phone quickly as this was out of character for Charlie. A coy make out on the dance floor, sure, but random hook-ups were few and far between. Scrolling through texts, there was one from Charlie that remained unanswered: "HWSNBN! Help!"

"Oh fuck!" thought Tristan. Had he seen... ?

"The nerdy ones will always surprise you," tutted Braden.

"He's not that nerdy," defended Tristan. "He's just smart. Usually."

"Well from the way he's walking, looks like he's still drunk."

"And took as good a dickin' as you, boo-boo," added Jaison.

"Ok'rrr?!" added Efrain.

Tristan rolled his eyes. "You guys... "

"You know Tristan," said Braden, pushing his Dolce & Gabana shades back to their proper place. "I cannot help but notice that while your friend there hurriedly makes The Walk in disarray, you're as fresh as a daisy. How did we manage that at such an early hour on a Sunday?"

"That's right!" Efrain said. "No way this Bitch woke up early to run home and shower!"

"Oooh, you had that trick over to your place!" Jaison almost sounded scandalized.

"You graciously excused yourself and walked him out to have brunch with us?" Braden was touched.

"Yeah. I... " Wait. Oh shit.

"What?!" demanded the Bitches.

"I... think... I think I forgot about him. And just... left."

The Bitches cackled at his folly for a good five minutes before Braden had the good sense to ask, "Wait. Where did you say you met him?"

Fuck. "... Grindr... " came the sheepish reply. The Bitches quickly threw cash down on the table and scampered up Halsted to Tristan's apartment.

His front door standing wide open did not bode well for the situation. They all slowly entered, armed with sandals and murses as makeshift weapons. As the Bitches assessed the rest of the apartment, Tristan at once noticed his sixty-inch flat screen and Blu-ray player were missing. At least his collection of Sex & The City DVDs was still there. But with his MacBook also missing, he'd have nothing to watch them on. He cursed himself for never getting renter's insurance. And as the Bitches ran to market to obtain booze (for medicinal purposes) Tristan couldn't help but feel a lot salty. This was his motherfuckin' day. He wasn't going to let some one-night trick ruin it. He picked up his Louis Vuitton encased iPhone and made a call.

"Hello?" came the raspy voice on the other end.

"Hi, Daddy," Tristan chirped, his voiced instantly pouty and up-inflecting.

"Well, well. Hello Son,"

" Daddy, I was robbed!"

"Oh no! What'd they take?"


"Don't worry, Son. I'll wire some money into your account. And some extra... just because."

"Thanks Daddy!" he was ready to hang up when Daddy went on.

"We can talk about it over dinner. Tonight."

"Oh, Daddy, I've already promised my friends that... "

"You can make time. To say thank you."

Sigh. Fine, whatever. "Yes, Daddy," came the actual reply.

"Oh and Tristan? Where that low-cut tank top and short-shorts I love so." Click.

This morning was the epitome of #FML. But the Bitches were back with medicine. There were hours before dinner and so it was still Tristan's motherfuckin' day. Who knows what could happen this afternoon?



The first thing Tyler noticed was that he could see the red phone booth on Roscoe from the bedroom window. "I need to live here!" he declared as Charlie came back in with his glass of water. Awkward.

"Why don't I show you the rest of the place before you jump into anything? Charlie's tone gave Tyler pause; he knew he had to stop spazzing out. He had to be cool, or at least play it. He nodded appreciatively as Charlie pointed out the amenities of the apartment as they walked through it. The rehabbed kitchen amidst the Art Deco architecture, the spacious rooms streaming out of the oddly long and narrow hallways, none of it really meant anything to him. It was all about that view from the bedroom.

"So what do you do?" asked Charlie, nicely enough. It didn't matter in what tone the question was phrased: it made Tyler panic. How could this Podunk boy from Ohio spin his situation to not make him seem like a complete loser to this attractive and sophisticated city guy?

"Well, I just moved here from Ohio. School. Finished school. So... now, I'm here." Good enough to pass, it seemed. But more questions were likely.

"That's great. Welcome. What did you study?"

Easy enough. "Communications. I figured it was general enough that I could find a good job."

"So what do you want to do?" If only Tyler could honestly answer that question...

"I'm still figuring that out yet."

"That makes sense. First year out was weird for me too." God, why was this guy being so sweet and charming? It was making it harder for Tyler to white-lie to him.

"I just knew I had to come here. There was nothing really for me back home." Charlie could appreciate that. He'd never been a small town guy, but he spent enough time romanticizing about the quaintness of Main Street, USA to empathize.

"This city is great. Small-town feel but still a big city. You're crashing with friends?"

"No, I... um... I'm staying at a hotel. Until I find a place."

"The Best Western on Broadway?"

"No, it's this hotel. On Belmont." Tyler didn't have to elaborate; Charlie knew what hotel he was talking about. And Charlie could see from the way Tyler said it that he was terrified to go back. Right away, it made him wonder what could've been so bad at home that a kid would pack up and stay at a no-star SRO. Just passing the place gave Charlie the creeps. He couldn't imagine anyone living there, especially this sweet-faced kid. "I've been there a couple of nights," Tyler continued, sensing Charlie's trepidation. "It's not that bad, just... funky. Urban?"

"Sure, that's... one way of looking at it. But you've got a job?"

Fuck. "Um... looking?" And there it was, twice in one week: moral crisis. On one hand, Tyler had no job, no foreseeable way to pay rent let alone the security deposit, and no direction in life. There was no way Charlie wanted to take responsibility for that. On the other hand, Tyler was a complete newbie who was just waiting to get swallowed up whole by this city. As ancient as Charlie felt, it really wasn't so long ago that he was in the exact same situation. His life would've been a helluva lot easier if someone was there to help him out. There was only one answer for a moral crisis like this.

"Would you like a glass of pinot grigio?" Tyler looked relieved and grateful at once.

They sat in the dining nook that overlooked Halsted, sipping wine, watching the sunset over Chicago. This was one of the huge perks of living in this apartment; the skyline in a silhouette of blues and oranges was awe-inspiring. There was something magical about seeing Tyler notice it for the first time. As the bottle emptied and glasses were shared, they both a little bit of themselves slip out. Nothing as deep as hopes and dreams; more nickel-dime stuff like favorite movies and schoolboy hijinks. About the third glass into bottle two, Tyler became a little introspective, almost melancholy. Charlie waited politely for the moment to pass, but Tyler lived in it and looked at him squarely with those doe-like green eyes.

"It's just... my dad, y'know? I mean, it's so cliché. Every gay guy has dad issues." He paused. He realized that he hadn't let that cat out of the bag, but the way that Charlie nodded in acknowledgement assured Tyler that he knew exactly what he was talking about. He sipped his wine and continued. "But my dad's just... I honestly think he'd rather see me dead than be alive and a fag. He doesn't think I'll amount to anything. Whether that has anything to do with being gay or not... I don't know. But I'm going to show him. Not to prove him wrong, but to prove I'm right. Doesn't matter how much money I make or who I know. I'm going to make things happen. Cuz anyway, fuck him, you know?"

Charlie laughed at that. There was something about the way Tyler looked at the world. The way that somehow, anything was possible: it was refreshing. Tyler blushed and whether it was from the wine or from the way Charlie was looking at him, it just made him even more endearing. Precious. As Tyler gazed out the window, sipping his wine, watching the hustle and bustle of Halsted and Roscoe below him, Charlie feared that Boystown would suck that joyous naïveté out of him. Both literally and figuratively.

The gayborhood had a way of doing that to people. If Tyler stayed here long enough, he could end up a jaded scene queen, whose only purpose in life was the drink, the dance, the dish. If he stayed here even longer, he could end up a bitter old queen who only finds joy in making those around him miserable. Or worse... he could end up like Charlie. And as a neon bar light flashed on Tyler's face through the window and his ears perked to the hum and buzz of endless possibility walking to the next bar, Charlie just... knew. Fuck the security deposit and fuck the unsteady income: someone had to look out for this kid.

"How'd you like to move in?" The tears of gratitude welling up in Tyler's eyes as he abruptly hugged Charlie were almost heartbreaking. This kid had no idea what he was getting himself into.



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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