NOTE TO MY READERS: This is actually the first chapter of Part Three of Bruce’s story, Parts One and Two were high school and college. Here we go!
My drive from Palo Alto down to San Diego had been made with mixed emotions—grief over Winston’s death, relief that eight years of college were over, and eager anticipation of something new and different. My eagerness was not in vain. I had met Joe Patrick there, and we had been very happy together, however briefly. Now, I was headed to my new career, and poor Joe was sentenced to an ocean cruise with his parents. I hoped he would meet a cute and willing junior officer on the ship and have a good time with him.
I left S.D. in the red convertible and headed all the way up the 5 to the Seattle suburb of Renton, Washington. There, I would be living in an extended-stay apartment paid for by my new employer. I would be sharing it with three other employees of the Worldwide Aero Corporation—at least for the six-months trial period for new hires. After that, I would either start paying for my own apartment in the same complex, or move into other accommodations.
My starting salary was $85,000, which was very good for the early 90s in a high-tech area like the one where I was to work.
It was a 20-hour drive, and I could have afforded both the time and the money to stop along the way, even more than once. But I was itching to put a lot of things behind me and start a new life, so I drove all the way through.
Foolishly, I had not considered the impact on my roommates of arriving at three o’clock on a Saturday morning. One very pissed-off young guy opened the door in his boxer shorts and just stared at me like I had three heads.
“And you would be?” he finally said, with an upper-class British accent.
“Um. Sorry. I’m Bruce Hobson. I. . . live here now.”
“You picked one hell of a time to arrive, Bruce Hobson,” he said drily.
“Yeah. I’m sorry about that. I left San Diego at 5 AM today—er, yesterday—and just kept driving. I guess I should have checked into a motel when I got here, but I wasn’t thinking straight.”
He softened and smiled a little. “Apology accepted. I had actually just gone to bed and wasn’t asleep yet. I’m just pulling your chain, as they say.” He stuck out his hand, “By the way, I’m Freddie Carlisle.”
I grinned and shook his proffered hand. “Nice to meet you, Freddie.”
“Need any help with your kit?” he asked, clearly wanting “no” for an answer.
“No, thanks. I’ll be fine. I’m just going to bring in one suitcase for the night, and then I’ll take care of the rest in the morning.”
I followed him into the foyer. To the right was a large living room with a big TV and two couches facing each other. There were a couple of side tables and two desks. The walls were decorated with hotel-style generic paintings.
There was a large closet and a small lavatory on the left. Across the foyer, I saw a hallway, which led to a spacious kitchen/dining area on the right, and the first of several bedrooms on the left.
“There’s four bedrooms, and each has a private bathroom,” Freddie explained quietly. “You’re the last to arrive, so you get the shitty room. It’s at the end of the hall, right next to the laundry and utility rooms.”
“Just my luck!” I exclaimed, but I wasn’t really all that disappointed. A room was a room, and it would only be for six months anyway.
As we passed softly down the hall, so as not to disturb my sleeping flat-mates, Freddie identified each room.
The first was his—a sign that he had been the first to take occupancy and therefore the titular head of household. I had already picked that up from his demeanor and tone of voice.
His room was followed by two on opposite sides of the hall. “This is Alison Powers, our only female roomie, and this other belongs to Daniel Chou, an MIT grad who will remind you of that fact a hundred times a day if you let him.”
I shook my head and chuckled.
“And where did you graduate?” Freddie asked, cocking his head to the side.
“Stanford—B.S. in Engineering and an MBA.”
“Impressive. . .” Freddie mused.
“And you?” I asked, a bit shyly.
“Oxford and London School of Economics,” he said, feigning modesty.
“Really? I didn’t know you could study aerospace engineering at those places.”
“I didn’t,” he said flatly, sounding annoyed. “I’m not an engineer, I’m a financial analyst. Worldwide Aero needs somebody to keep track of the big bucks we pay to hot-shot rocket jocks like you three!”
I didn’t know whether to laugh, but Freddie broke into a wide smile, “Of course, I wouldn’t have a job at all if you engineering folks weren’t turning out products like there’s no fucking tomorrow!”
I laughed a little too loudly, which earned a stern look from Freddie. I cringed and he smiled, “We are all adults here, and we tend to make a bit of noise from time to time, especially behind closed doors. . .” he paused and raised an eyebrow to make sure I picked up the subtle hint. He went on, “but we do make an effort to respect one another’s need for privacy and quiet.” He said “privacy” with the English pronunciation.
“I get it. I’m sorry.” I said earnestly.
“Not to worry. You’re going to fit in quite well, I’m sure.”
He showed me into the room that was to be my home for the next several months. It was small, but nowhere near as tiny as my shared freshman dorm room at Stanford. There was a queen-sized bed with a lamp table on each side, a desk with a bookshelf on it, a desk chair, a side chair, and double doors that were obviously the closet. The walls were painted a soft beige, the carpet was a sandy color, and the curtains were a chocolate brown. I was glad to see that it wasn’t totally hotel-room neutral.
“This is nice,” I said.
“Worldwide Aero spares no expense!” Freddie said cynically. We both chuckled. I had a feeling I was going to learn a lot more about my new employer from living here than by working in the office, where I imagined everyone would be on their best behavior.
Watching me take in my surrounding, Freddie seemed mildly amused. “I suppose this is a step down from your grand apartment in Palo Alto.”
Shocked, I turned abruptly and stared at him in surprise. “How did you. . .”
He didn’t let me finish. “Your bio is already posted on the internal company web site, as are all of ours. Don’t be surprised if people talk to you like they know you. Worldwide tries to foster a culture of easy-going friendship and camaraderie.” He winked at me as he finished saying that.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” I was wondering what he was implying, and whether or not I should have picked up on a hint or something.
Freddie went on in a friendly tone. “So. . . as I said, I just got in. I’m a bit of a night-owl. Would you like a drink or anything?”
I was totally exhausted after driving for 20 hours, but there was something about the way he spoke and looked at me that hinted that he would like to share some of that “easy-going friendship and camaraderie” he was talking about.
“Uh, sure. I’m kinda beat, but I could use a ‘drink or anything’!” I said with a cheery smile.
“Righto. Just come through.” He led me down the hall to the kitchen, opened the fridge and indicated several brands of beer and a few wine bottles.
“What’s yer poison, pardner?” he mimicked a cowboy drawl. I laughed quietly and pointed to a bottle of white wine.
“Chablis, eh?” he approved. “You’re not quite the barbarian we Brits have come to expect.” He poured both of us a glass.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended. I gave him a you’ve-gotta-be-shitting-me look, which he picked up on immediately.
“Sorry, old chap,” he said contritely. “I’ve been known to overdo the Yanks-and-Brits bullshit from time to time. It’s late, and I’ve let down my guard a bit, you see.”
I relaxed and smiled, “Not to worry. I have pretty thick skin. It’s just that we’re new to each other, and I don’t yet know how to read you—when you’re serious, versus when you’re just shitting me.”
Freddie grinned and stepped close to me, handing me the glass of wine. “Well, let’s do something about that ‘being new to each other,’ shall we?” He took a step even closer, invading my space. I didn’t budge. I was trying my best to be inviting, even though my body was screaming for rest.
“Are you always this. . . forward?” I asked, trying to sound coy.
“When the occasion merits.” He gave me a leering smile.
“I get the occasion, but surely this is not the proper location?”
His eyes, which had been piercing my own, looked around the kitchen. Sighing, he said, “No, I rather expect not. Although the idea of ravishing you on that counter is quite alluring.” He nodded in the direction of a large work island in the center of the kitchen. For a moment, I could picture myself flat on my back on it, feet in the air, being plowed by Freddie’s huge uncut dick. That is, I assumed it was uncut, since most British men are not circumcised.
I also sighed. “Well, ‘old bean’, as intriguing as that scenario sounds, I am absolutely out of steam.” With that, I took a small step back from him and looked up, smiling. “But tomorrow could well be a very different day. . .”
“Let us hope so. . . fervently!” He said enthusiastically. He leaned in, gave me a light peck on the lips, and then gently turned me around, put his arm across my shoulders, and guided me to the door of my room.
Raising his glass in salute, Freddie leaned in again to kiss me. This time, I met him half-way and wet his lips thoroughly. Farther than that I was unable to go, no matter how willing I might be.
The next day, or rather later that same morning, was Saturday, and I didn’t hear any stirring from my housemates until well after noon. I wondered if they were trying to let me sleep, zonked out themselves, or just naturally respectful of the quiet of the house.
Opening my door after taking a long, hot shower at around 1 PM, I headed up the hallway to the kitchen. There, seated around the infamous island where I had fantasized about fucking Freddie, sat a man and a woman. The man was Chinese, and I remembered that his name was Daniel Chou. He was only a little more than five feet tall, with black hair and eyes, fair skin, and a body that was clearly toned by some kind of exercise. I wondered if it was a martial art. I nodded to him and turned my attention to the woman, Alison Powers.
She was a stunning six feet tall, with long red hair, hazel eyes, freckles, and a pale complexion. “Could she possibly be more Irish?” I said to myself, holding out a hand. “Hi. I’m Bruce Hobson,” I gave her my friendliest smile.
Taking my hand, she had a firm grip. In a pleasant Irish accent, she spoke. “Alison Powers. And this is Daniel Chou. Welcome, roomie!”
Daniel extended a limp hand. He was going to have to learn American culture fast if he wanted to have a career here.
Pulling up a stool, I reached for the coffee pot and a ceramic mug in the center of the island. There was an awkward silence among the three of us. It seemed to me that we were checking each other out, wondering who was the competition and whether we needed to be on our guard.
Alison broke the ice, speaking in her musical Irish accent. “I think it’s a super idea that Worldwide doesn’t put people who do the same job together in an apartment like this.” To my curious expression, she added, “I’m in computer guidance systems, Daniel designs rocket engines, and Freddie, whom I believe you’ve met, is in finance.” She took a sip of her coffee. “If we were all in the same department, it might get a bit competitive and uncomfortable, living together in such close quarters.”
I nodded my understanding. “I’m glad to hear that. And yes, I did run into Freddie last night. I hope I didn’t make too much noise coming in so late.”
“Why were you so late?” Daniel asked brusquely. Yes, he definitely needed to learn American cultural niceties.
Ignoring his tone of voice, I responded, “I left San Diego at five in the morning and just kept driving all day. I had some idea of stopping about half-way for the night, but my mind just went into neutral and I kept going. The first thing I knew, I was here, and it was three o’clock in the AM.”
“That kind of dedication to duty will surely not be missed by your supervisor,” Alison said drily.
“Well, it’s not typical of me, so I doubt it will come up.”
The three of us chatted a while longer. The ice broken, we gradually warmed to one another, telling our stories and laughing together over funny anecdotes.
After a while, Daniel downed the last of his coffee and put the mug in the dishwasher. Looking at me disapprovingly, he said bluntly, “We all do our part to keep this place clean. I hope you can handle that.”
Annoyed, I said, “I lived on my own in a luxury apartment for six years, so I know exactly how to keep everything comme il faut.”
“Come. . . what?” Daniel asked, clearly confused.
“It’s French. It means ‘as it should be’.” Alison supplied. Daniel glared at me but said nothing. He got up, went into his room, and emerged in less than a minute with a jacket and briefcase. He gave us a nod and left in silence.
“Is he always so warm and outgoing?” I asked.
Alison tittered. “He’s one of those inscrutable Chinese. We’ve been living here together for six weeks, and that’s the most I’ve heard him say in that whole time.”
“Well, I think he’s going to have an uphill battle if he hopes to be successful here.” I predicted.
Alison chuckled again. “You clearly don’t know any rocket scientists. Chou doesn’t have to be nice to anybody, if he even knows how. His head is in the clouds—or up his arse—and he’s surrounded by co-workers who behave exactly the same. He’s not going to change, but he’ll move out some day soon. We can look forward to that.”
I took a closer look at her. I had never really paid much attention to women. In high school, Craig and I had pretended to be hot and horny for girls, but other than a little kissing and feeling their tits, we never went any further with them.
Alison was striking, even beautiful, in her tall, Irish way. Her conversation was interesting, funny, and liberally sprinkled with profanity.
We finished our coffee but kept sitting at the kitchen island, talking for quite some time.
Looking over my shoulder, Alison said, “Damn, it’s getting late!” I turned to see where she was looking, and the kitchen clock said 5:30 PM.
Turning back to her, I smiled and said, “Look, I’m new here. Would you mind terribly if I asked you to show me around a little?”
Alison flashed her pearly-white smile, tossed her red hair, and leaned in conspiratorially. “You wouldn’t be asking me to go out to dinner with you, would you now?”
Surprising myself, I leaned toward her and winked, “Well, my dear, that remains to be seen, but we do both need to eat. . .”
“And are you a dirt-poor student just out of college with a shitload of debts?” She smiled knowingly.
“Alas, fair lady. I am but a lonely rich kid who has never had a real friend. I yearn for company and consolation of my wounded spirit.” I had no idea what I was up to, or where this kind of talk was going, but it was fun, especially with her Irish brogue.
She laughed. “In that case, I suppose I could show you a couple of places where one might enjoy a bit of food and wine.” She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “But a lady needs a wee bit of time to set everything into its proper array.”
With that, she rose and went down the hall to her room. I called after her, “how should I dress? Is this place expensive? Formal?”
“Well, it hasn’t a dirt floor, if that’s what you’re suggesting.” Her lilting voice came through the closed door. “But it’s not that up-scale, really. You’re fine in what you’ve on now.” I looked at myself: chinos, a button-down shirt, and Nike sneakers. I guess I would fit in pretty well anywhere we went.
But what the fuck was I doing, going out on a “date” with this woman?