The Mayor Lays Claim

Emma turns on the steps below the Metro’s side door, looking up, and waves at Amalia. Dance is carrying Amalia’s cello case, easily, and his own violin case. Drin is on Amalia’s other side, saying something as they walk down the steps. Amalia gives a shout of laughter, throwing back her head. Then Dance is looking over at Drin with eyebrows lifted, and he says something, and Amalia smacks him on the arm, and they’re all grinning.

It’s perfectly obvious that the two men had a good afternoon, the sort of afternoon that causes gossip about who spent time in that odd little green room at the top of the building. Then Drin puts out his long arm across both their shoulders, and responds with something that makes both of them crack up even harder.

Emma looks up at their faces, awestruck by how beautiful Dance looks, and how happy Drin is, and how Amalia is just glowing with smug satisfaction, as if she’s arranged it all herself and finds it good. It is as if the moment is captured in a snapshot: There. Perfect.

She tells herself, very firmly, that there’s no need to wish that she was up there too, hugging them all.

Then Dance looks down at Emma, and his face opens up into a wider grin, and Drin gives a little shout of greeting, while she’s telling them where she parked her big old clunker of a car. Amalia pats her arm, thanking her. Dance sets down the cases for a moment and then the boys are hugging her, one on either side, and Drin gives her a kiss on the temple. Brushes back a stray curl, rests his hand on her shoulder lightly a moment. “You are rescuing us here!”

couple in sandals and jeans

“You’re welcome,” Emma says, chuckling, just because it’s all a bubbling whirl of repartee around her. “Where to, once we drop off Amalia’s case?”

It’s not a long walk to the car, discussing different options. Dance puts the cases behind the driver’s seat while Amalia wrestles her skirts into the passenger seat in front. Then Dance and Drin clamber into the back seat behind her, laughing. The chassis sags under their weight. Emma resigns herself to coaxing it along, driving a sluggish garbage scow that bottoms out on every rut and pothole in the streets. “Easy, easy, sit still back there,” she says, creeping across a speed bump, and they just laugh, cracking jokes.

Dance is sitting between Drin’s knees, leaning up into his chest, so relaxed that his head is cradled in Drin’s big hand. She’s just turned onto the street in front of the main Metro doors, when Drin cranks open a window. “Hold on, please–” and he waves at somebody.

The car idles at the curb while he’s talking to one of the office ladies, and some of the musicians stop to talk to Amalia and then to Dance. Of course nobody even blinks when Drin wraps an arm tighter around Dance to brace him in position to talk.

Amalia turns to Emma and winks, points her thumb at the boys in the back, and shakes her hand as if she’s picked up a burning hot dish.

Emma grins.

Then Amalia murmurs, “Best part–you’ll like this, Em– Happy queer boys wigglin’ in their seats? God, Young was suckin’ that lemon of his so hard, you shoulda seen his face.” And she imitates it, puckering everything on her face that will move.

Emma starts to laugh, and smacks Amalia on the arm. “You’re so rude!”

“Me? You shoulda seen these two. Make your panties wet for a week.”

Emma stares until Amalia pokes her.

“Trust me,” Amalia says. “Dance’s brain is not in his music just now.”

The boys are still busy talking to folks eddying around the car. Emma eyes the traffic in her rear-view mirror. “Soon, right, guys?”

“Okay, okay, sorry, Em, we can go–” Dance says hastily, but his hand is still moving, talking to somebody.

Drin grasps Dance’s wrists together where they are sticking out of the window. The big man hauls Dance back inside the car, and winks at the people outside, and says, “Okay, Em, I’ve got his hands, he can’t talk now.”

Dance wiggles his fingers, looking at Drin in surprise or outrage or something, just sputtering wordlessly.

Drin kisses him on the cheek. “See? It works.”

People laugh, and step back from the car.

“All mine,” Drin says, looking at Dance fondly. “Oooh, nom nom nom, mine.” He drags the other man’s wrists up so he can kiss Dance’s knuckles, nibbling on him.

Dance just stares at him, mouth open.

Of course people outside the car see and hear all of this, and are laughing harder.

“Okay, they’re all clear,” Drin says to Emma. As soon as she puts the car in motion, he starts laughing at Dance’s expression.

It’s pretty funny in the rear-view mirror, too.

“You– our Drin, please, you just made everybody know that– that we–”

“I did,” Drin says.

“Totally,” Amalia agrees.

“You okay with that?” Emma asks.

Dance isn’t making any words as his mouth moves. He’s just sprawled across Drin’s lap with his hands captured in Drin’s big fists.

“Oh, no, you did that when you went trotting upstairs at every break,” Amalia says comfortably. “Hope you two didn’t get splinters, silly boys.”

Dance’s mouth is still working. “Um. Um. Ah.”

Amalia is grinning. She looks at Emma, who is also grinning. Emma puts up her open hand, Amalia smacks it with her own palm, and they start laughing.

“So was it good?” Emma demands of her best girl friend.

“Oh yeah,” Amalia says, waving her other hand as if she’s fanning herself in the heat. “Cat, cream, whiskers sopping wet, empty canary cage, exhausted trumpeters, you name it.”

Drin opens his mouth in outrage–Emma is watching him in the rear view more than she should, in this traffic, and it’s delightful–and then he gets a rueful expression on his face, and he starts chuckling, shaking his head.

Dance is a reddish brown color, he’s flushed so dark.

Emma looks at him, too. “So you feel better?”

Dance nods. And slowly, that smile of his breaks out on his face. Widening, as Amalia twists around and shakes her finger at him.

“Don’t run up the damn stairs like a herd of elephants. People might think you really wanna do something up there.”

“Um,” Dance says, biting his lip, but the smile breaks out anyway. “I did.”

“No TMI, okay? You’re happy, Drin’s happy, we’re all good. And hey, if you’re gonna use the elevator, at least wait until the door shuts, will ya?”

Drin kisses Dance on the cheek, chuckling. “That was my fault, I’m afraid.”

Amalia shakes her finger warningly at him. “No more whistling the Ride of the Valkyries, please.”

“Oh God, you didn’t,” Emma gasps.

“He did,” Dance says. “Drin is very naughty.”

“Well, it’s not like it was a secret by then, was it? Goddamn Robert started doing the descant, and then everybody was doing it,”Amalia says, and sniffs.

Emma is laughing so hard it hurts her back and her sides.

“Off-key. That was the naughty,” Dance says solemnly.

“Just to bug everybody?”

Drin is grinning at Emma in the mirror. “Of course. Because it was funny.”

“You’re a toon! I knew it! So how many chairs did you guys break, crashing around up there?”

Dance is suddenly blushing dark all over again. He mumbles something, and Drin is just laughing.

Amalia says sternly, “Are you driving this scow, or am I?”

Emma swivels her eyes front to traffic, hastily. “Right.”

“Uh huh,” Amalia says, disbelief in her voice, and then suddenly, for no reason at all, they’re all cracking up.

Emma is pretty sure they’ll be laughing their way through dinner, and Amalia will be yawning in exhaustion by the time they drop her off at home that evening. Then, back at their cramped little place, Drin will tuck in his yawning lover, and give Emma a nice kiss on the cheek when he leaves.

If his habit of the last few weeks holds, he will drive home to his big glossy apartment alone. It just seems… sad.

She looks up into the mirror. “Hey, gotta get groceries for the weekend, too. Drin, we can swing by and pick up your laptop and files and pee jays and stuff for the weekend, if you like, it’s on the way.”

He smiles. “I’d like that.”

“Slumber party, warning, warning!” Amalia says.

Drin blushes a surprising pink at that, of all things, and grins. “Yeah, there may be way too much popcorn and computer games and soda pop.”

“Come to think– do you want to swing by the store with us too, Amalia? Save you a trip. There’s room in the trunk, Dance cleared it out for me last week.”

“And you didn’t refill it with books yet? Woman, are you ill?” Amalia exclaims.

There is chaffing about books as ‘Emma’s spoor’, and how many book bags it takes to slow down the Emma of Doom to a walk, and whether paperbacks count as books to lure an Emma, and they just have a great time with it. Emma’s just as pink as Drin was, before Drin gets a message on his cell phone that makes him groan.

The call involves giving technical advice to some distant cousin with a money problem. He seems very patient, finding six different ways to explain the same thing, and he’s got an answer for every dodge the party squawking on the other end can find. He is requiring the cousin to cough it up and admit to a transaction done with poor judgment, done in spite of good advice, done against the wishes of everybody else concerned.

“Stubborn,” he sighs, putting away his phone.

“Yeah, and now we know who’s really got the corner on stubborn in your bunch, don’t we?” Amalia says, looking around with her skeptical eyebrow cocked up.

“What? Whatever do you mean?” Drin says, in an arch tone. “Why, I have no idea–“

“Uh huh,” Amalia says, in the same tone as before, and Emma laughs.

Dance just rolls his head, smiling, apparently listening to the words resonate in Drin’s chest. He doesn’t even look imbecilic doing it. He looks… happy.

Emma drives, watching the traffic and just smiling, missing half the quips, and nobody minds.

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