Public Display of Everything (5 page)

I shoot her a dubious look. "You don’t go to church."

"What Daddy back home in Lubbock doesn’t know…" She grins gleefully.

"You're horrible," I chuckle.

"And you're tryin' to distract me." She wags a finger. "Can you please tell me why you were sittin' with that kid last Friday?"

I sigh, my shoulders sagging. "I'm not getting out of this one, am I?" She shakes her head no. Time to fess up. A
little
. There's no way I'm telling her about last night. "His name is Flynn. We're…" I shrug. "He's a friend. And don’t call him kid."

At least I hope he's still a friend. The jury might be out after this morning.

Awkward became the official running theme, especially when last night was brought up by his handing over an envelope with a thousand pounds in it. It threw me for a loop—so much that I forgot to ask him the cost of the room.

The payment
unleveled
the playing field. It made me feel like a rent boy, but I didn’t exactly have a choice.

I don’t like how we ended things, either. Yesterday he asked me to rent his guest room and talked about things he wanted to show me in the future. This morning he apologized for being "inept" and said he felt "discombobulated," which he turned into an excuse to not speak much at all.

No plans were made. 

"Just like that?" Tammy snaps her fingers. "You meet once and now you're friends?"

"You and I met once, you know," I point out. "And we became friends."

She knows I have her there, but that doesn’t mean she's satisfied. "Y'all are very different, is all. He's young, too."

"And I'm ancient?" I laugh.

"You shut your mouth. You know what I mean." She reaches over the bar to whack my arm. Fuck. Always with the violence. "None of this explains why you've been dodgin' my calls."

I dip my chin, conceding. But I can't tell her the whole truth. White lie it is. "I didn’t wanna tell you that I got kicked out of the apartment the same day I got fired—"

"Cory—"
whack
"—fucking—"
whack
"—Matthews!"

"Control your hands, woman!" I leave the barstool behind and put some distance between the bar and me. "Will you let me finish, goddammit?" I scowl and rub my arm.

Tammy just huffs and folds her arms across her chest.

"As I was saying," I continue irritably, "I didn’t wanna tell you. Because I wanted to fix it first. Which I have." Sort of. I'm still at the hostel, but I can afford my own room for a couple of weeks now. Then I get an idea. "That’s why Flynn approached me." I'm nodding, liking the plan forming in my head. "He had a room for rent."

"Oh." She ponders that for a moment, and despite my story being full of gaps to fill, Tammy doesn’t ask. "Shoot." She glances at the door as a group of suits comes in for lunch. She turns back to me with another one of her serious expressions. "We're not done talkin'—"

"Actually, I'm in the area because I'm on my way to the museum," I say honestly. I've given myself a day off from all job-hunting. I'll be back at it tomorrow, but for today, it's just me, Rosetta, and a nice meal. "I'll stop by in a few days, okay? You taking any time off soon?"

Tammy's always working. As far as I know, she only has one day off—Mondays. The pub is closed then, anyway.

"I'm going out to dinner with a few friends on Saturday," she answers, grabbing a handful of menus by the register. "But I'm starting late on Sunday. Brunch at eleven?"

I never understood the concept of brunch, but whatever. "Sounds good. The usual spot." Pulling out my shades, I drop a couple pounds for my untouched soda on the bar, then start to leave. "See ya later, Tammy."

"Say hi to your girl for me!"

I shake my head, grinning. On the other hand, she's kinda right. I joke around about my "favorite girl," and the fact that she's a rock—stone-cold, literally—doesn’t matter. Rosetta has a place in my heart, end of story.

As I walk toward the museum, the cheap phone in my pocket is nearly burning through the denim to my thigh. I wanna text Flynn and keep our connection, and I'd be a liar if I said he wasn’t on my mind when I decided to go to the museum today.

What're the odds he's having lunch with his sister-in-law today? Probably not great.

Sticking my hands into my pockets, I speed up and maneuver my way through the packed sidewalks. The hordes of tourists tend to walk slower. Businessmen walk briskly, always on their way someplace
important
. City workers take up their space as well, and I'm somewhere in the middle.

*

The Rosetta Stone looks the same. I stare at her—she's a woman somehow—and she still evokes the same feelings as always. When thinking about them all, I shouldn’t favor this artifact, but I do.

Locked in behind walls of glass, the world famous stone never fails to send a small spark of disappointment through me. It's so small. Not tiny, but with the reputation it has…I don’t know.

Despite having known the measurements before I set foot inside this museum for the first time, I expected something grander. Larger, like a boulder. Not this. Yet, I remain drawn to it.

I feel like the kid I once was when my mom used to take me to museums. I look for hidden messages—
answers
—that aren't there, leaving me to make up my own stories. Crazy ones, sometimes. Far-fetched ones.

The decoding is finished for this piece, so I have no clue why I keep looking. Or what I'm looking
for
.

I smirk at the thought of sharing my obsession with Flynn, doubting he'd understand. Especially since I don’t understand it myself.

Aside from the less-than-impressive size, Rosetta isn't unique. Other relics similar to this one have been found. And lastly, my favoring Roman history should've made me pick another find as my favorite. Nothing Egyptian.

"Sorry." A tourist sneaks past to get closer and take a photo.

With my eyes trained on the stone, I dig into my pocket and pull out my phone. My fingers trace the cracked screen, my mind spinning.
A text wouldn’t hurt
. I want to keep it simple. I want to have a plan with Flynn. A "next time." Friends should have those, or at the very least an "I'll call you."

Unlike the Rosetta Stone, I know exactly what draws me in about Flynn. I've just been surprised by how much I want it. In such a short time, only a few days, I find myself wanting to include him in the little things in my life. Whether it's going out for a beer, catching a movie, or…

I let out a breath and peer down at my phone, deciding to send off a text before I can back out.

Wanna hang out this weekend?

It's only Wednesday and the weekend seems too far away, but the distance might be good for me. Give me some perspective and shit.

To my relief, his reply is almost instant.

Yes.

My thumb hovers over the buttons, and I debate sending something more. His response was short and to the point, which I'm starting to learn is just how Flynn functions. I've stated it before; he's like a breath of fresh air. To even imagine Flynn having a second agenda seems unlikely and fucking nuts. But, regardless, I wouldn’t mind hammering out some details about the weekend, so I know exactly what to look forward to.

However, before I can type a single word, he texts me again.

What are your thoughts on movie marathons?

That’s how he makes my day. Warning bells go off in my head, as they have in the past, and also like the past, I ignore them. But as I leave Rosetta behind for today, I do give myself a stern talkin' to.

I will not make the same mistake again.

 

Chapter 5

*

Cory,

I had a whole essay written, but I deleted it. The last thing you want to hear is about my pity party. I thought about you a lot today.

Hope you've had a great birthday,

Luke

*

On Friday, I finally get a new job. I probably won't last long, because it's at a restaurant and I'll be handling breakable items as a waiter, but it's something. It also pays enough so I can keep my single room at the hostel, afford to top up my Oyster card,
and
eat.

I would've preferred to work closer to Bayswater, but while I'm at it, I might as well
prefer
to win the lottery, too.

Maybe I'll try to find a hostel near the London Eye instead—to save money on the commute. It's where the fancy lunch restaurant is, and I get the chills just thinking about the sheer number of Armani suits and Chanel bags I can ruin when I fall on my ass with a tray of ridiculously expensive wine.

It would be the Cory thing to do.

Fuckers all over the world put obstacles in my way.

But whatever. I have a job, a place to stay, and more cash than I've had in a long time. That’s why I don’t feel bad about buying a tablet. It's cheap, and it'll give me access to the internet. After paying for the Wi-Fi password at the hostel, I disappear into my room and download Flynn's app for Public Display of More. It's my first stop before I'm gonna cruise for porn.

I figure if I get my fill of naked men fucking each other's brains out, I'll cope easier seeing Flynn tomorrow.

With my Visa ready, I pay the monthly fee of ten pounds—or nine ninety-nine—and become an official member of Public Display under the name of WindowGuy30.

Curious about how popular all this is, I check the listings under
"Come and See"
first and blink in disbelief when I see all the addresses. People all over the UK get off on having others watching them.

One couple in Braintree is inviting voyeurs to watch while they have car sex in a parking lot. Another couple in Brighton is letting others know they'll be looking for a third to take home tomorrow—and that the curtains won't be drawn in the living room. Yet another couple, this time two women, are currently getting it on in their London house.

Frowning, I click on a link right under the women's ad that says "Chat." It takes me to a blank page, but after a few seconds, messages start popping up. Members are fucking talking. About these two women.

Every now and then someone sends a message with an attachment, and I open one to see a photo. A grainy photo of two chicks going down on each other on a kitchen counter.

"Well, fuck." My eyebrows rise. Another attachment brings me to a few-seconds long video of the same couple. So…these people are just standing outside their window filming…? "Shit!"

Did anyone film
me
?

Flynn did warn me that it happens frequently.

Suddenly frantic, I search the site for ten minutes before I finally find an archive on the page I originally started from. I click on it and scroll down until I find the right one.

FTW (Webmaster):
Solo session. Window view. Hotel…

The description goes on to list the address and time, and I glance back at the username.
FTW?
Well, "Webmaster" sounds about right. It's Flynn's site, but I'm curious about "FTW."

It almost makes me laugh, 'cause I'm not sure he's the kind of guy to abbreviate "for the win" like many others seem to do these days. But what the hell do I know? He did say he's different online—more confident.

Regardless, I click on the feed and end up with a mile-long list of messages. They're all about me. Some described what they were seeing, some took pictures…two filmed. Wading through comments about my physique and requests to see more, I steel myself before I open up the last video, captioned, "Full video."

As I push play, I can't help but wonder if Flynn has watched it.

Wishful thinking.

*

The next day, I show up at Flynn's place with a bag from Tesco full of snacks. His building faces Hyde Park, and with the sun shining brightly, it feels a little odd to be heading indoors for a whole day of watching movies, but I'm not gonna complain. In fact, this couldn’t be better.

Flynn buzzes me in, and I walk up three flights of stairs—not even the rich and famous can count on having an elevator—before I come face-to-face with his door. Now is the perfect opportunity to get Public Display of More out of my head, because since yesterday, it seems it's all I can think about.

Nothing shows the slightest indication that Flynn has watched the video of me, which frustrates me, which makes me feel arrogant—
why don’t you wanna look at me beating off, Flynn?
—which cracks me up at my own insanity, which I ignore by getting hard and getting off.

Yeah…that’s new. Yesterday I discovered that the thought of Flynn filming me makes me hard as a rock.

Can't really help it, though. On another page, appropriately titled
"The Studio,"
I'd found Flynn's members putting up clips of themselves. Similar to
"Live Online,"
except these were more orchestrated and rehearsed. Like amateur porn with a voyeur theme, and not live.

One woman had filmed her husband from the inside of a closet while he was on the bed fucking himself with a dildo. Another couple had obviously been engaged in role-play, and the video was of a woman dressed in clothes for younger girls; she was on a couch, waiting for "Uncle Fred" to visit. Meanwhile, the man was already there, filming her from the staircase.

These images keep fucking with me.

Turning me on.

"I blame it all on you, Flynn," I mutter to myself and knock on his door.

Only a couple seconds later, Flynn rips the door open, a bright smile on his face. "Hello, Cory."

I smile back and remove my shades. "Hey, you." It's simply impossible to be a downer in his presence. I hold up the bag from the grocery store. "I come bearing snacks."

"Exceptional." He opens the door wider to let me in. It smells like lemon air freshener, fabric softener, and whatever scent Flynn uses on himself—shampoo, deodorant, aftershave. "I've Googled movie marathons, so I'm prepared, too."

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