When Elliot Cohen left his small town for college in the big city, he was expecting to do big things. He wanted to pull his feet out of the quicksand he called home and go where everything was bigger, brighter, and just moved faster. He planned to claim a little fame, a lot of money, and a high-powered, influential lover.
Well he found fame, he found money, and he even found a famous lover, but nothing turned out quite as he’d planned. And all the while, no matter how hard he tried, he never forgot Tony, the sweet, closeted boyfriend he left behind. He could even remember Tony's scent seven years later. So when the illusion that was his perfect life unravels and fame slips through his fingers, he knows just where he needs to go. Home.
But he's going to have to untangle the complicated and embarrassing web of lies he's woven and seek forgiveness if he has any hope of winning Tony back.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the Elliot Cohen." Robert Davis, Jenny's old man, had a booming voice and it rang out loudly through the little diner.
"Hi, Mr. Davis," Elliot said, waving back at him with Jenny still hanging on him.
"Don't you 'Mr. Davis' me, Elliot. You've hit the big time now. It's Bob."
Elliot blinked and stammered, but couldn't quite find the right words. He hadn't realized how hard his return was going to be, and Mr. Davis -- there was no way he was going to be able to call Jenny's dad 'Bob' -- had just hammered the point right home for him.
Jenny laughed, though, saving him from having to reply. "You're embarrassing him, Daddy. Nobody wants to be famous all the time. He's just the same old Elliot here. Right, Elliot?"
"Thanks, Jenny." That's exactly what he wanted.
Mr. Davis snorted. "Well, welcome home, 'same old Elliot'. Glad to see you haven't forgotten the little people," he said, and disappeared back into the kitchen.
"My mother stuffed me with pastrami. How about some coffee?"
"You got it." Jenny nodded. "Come on."
He sat on one of the bar stools at the counter and watched Jenny pull a mug from the stack next to the coffee pots. She had always been a pretty girl. Elliot remembered her being shy and sweet, well dressed and friendly. She had been a cheerleader and played the flute in the high school orchestra, and she had always worked weekends for her dad at the diner. Her father had raised her by himself because her mother passed away when she was young. The fact that Jenny's mother had died was never a secret, but to this day Elliot had no idea know how or why, or exactly how old Jenny had been when it happened, despite how close they'd always been. It just wasn't a question he'd ever wanted to ask.
Jenny set a cup of coffee in front of Elliot and leaned across the counter. "So. You see Tony, yet?"
At his age, after everything he'd seen and done in the 'big city', after all the men he'd fucked and been fucked by, he'd have bet real money that he was too jaded ever to blush again. And yet, Elliot felt the heat rise in his cheeks as Jenny said Tony's name, as if she were privy to his private fantasies. A picture of Tony, smiling impishly and looking flushed, flashed through his mind and that only made the moment worse.
He tried to sound casual as he answered, despite the display. "He's still in town?"
"Oh, yeah. He's still in town." Jenny's tone made Elliot look up from his coffee. She was grinning at him in a knowing way.
Jenny pushed away from the counter. "You'll see."
Elliot couldn’t imagine what she was up to. "Is he married?"
"No," Jenny laughed. "Oh, no."
"At the moment."
"Is he still living up on Whitehall?"
"Oh, no." Jenny was slicing something that was half-hidden by the register and he couldn’t see. "No, he's got his own place now, a house over on Mulberry."
"Mulberry? Is that still a nice part of town?"
"Yep. He's got a big old Victorian. It's nice. He's doing well."
"What does he do?"
"He bought the hardware store from Mr. Barrett."
Wow, Elliot mused, Tony owned the hardware store. He had just walked right by there not fifteen minutes ago. "God, Mr. Barrett must be older than dirt now." Mr. Barrett had seemed old seven years ago.
"Ninety-three!" Jenny nodded, sounded awed. "Can you believe that? He still walks down to the store to check on Tony every day." She turned around and held a plate out in front of Elliot at about nose-height. It had an obscenely large piece of pie on it.
"Oh my God." Elliot's eyes went wide.
"Lemon meringue. Your favorite," Jenny sang, setting the plate down in front of him.
"Get a fork. You're sharing."