While his family was at dinner, Jace sat in a BMW in the parking lot of Cedars-Sinai, his long legs in black leather pants crossed like matchsticks against the dashboard. He flipped down the sun mirror and checked out his hairline. It was perfect, just like every other day.
Jace was waiting for his on-again-off-again boyfriend, who, at 57, was only two years younger than his father. And in typical sugar daddy fashion, he had showered Jace with a number of overpriced gifts over the years; a Bernedoodle named Bernie Sanders (a rare combination of Bernese Mountain Dog and Poodle) he had given to Vanderpump Dogs after it pooped all over his white shag; a vintage Cartier watch auctioned off by none other than Stassi Schroeder, his father’s former flame and co-star on the long-cancelled Vanderpump Rules, and most recently, the leather pants he was currently wearing, which, while extremely chafing, made his ass look like two scoops of ice cream. Or so he was told.
Jace was used to waiting, of course. His boyfriend Francois (okay, boyfriend might be a strong word) was married to a woman with lung cancer, so he often had to visit her, bringing her flowers to brighten up the hospital room, schmoozing with the nurses to get her preferential treatment (read: extra morphine) and fluffing up her pillows or whatever the hell that fat cow needed while she lied there, her trust fund getting smaller and smaller with each day that she stayed living.
Okay, maybe he was being a little bit harsh. Pam was a nice person, and even accepted Francois’ blatant homosexuality, which was a bit of an open secret in Los Angeles. The truth is, after her Dad died in a tragic mimosa accident, she was lonely and wanted companionship— she didn’t care about the motives behind it. Naturally, she married her best friend Francois and they spent 25 years living together happily, jetting off to the South of France, shopping til they dropped on Melrose, and sometimes even doing each other’s hair. Who said having a gay husband was a bad thing?
But it was all going to change once Pam died. Having no siblings and estranged from her rich, drug-addict cousins, she had no one to leave her inheritance to except Francois, and by the trickle down effect, Jace. And sure, Jace made some money from his partnerships with his Mom, playing the bashful son to his adoring mother Brittany. But he still flew commercial, which in Hollywood means that you’re poor. And what was the point of looking so damn good if, at the end of the goddamn day, he was poor?
Jace saw a flash of silver, realizing that Francois had left his iPhone in the car. He rolled his eyes— who but elder millennials had physical devices anymore? He picked it up, enjoying the smooth, chrome exterior and the feeling of pushing an actual button, something he hadn’t done since he had his voice assistant Joan implanted behind his ear. Suddenly, the phone turned on, displaying a text message from a contact named Declan Teiser that read simply “ooh, ok. See you later then Daddy” with the heart eyes emoji.
Without thinking, Jayden threw the phone against the dashboard, where it bounced and landed into the cupholder. He felt like he had just sprinted a mile. His heart pounding, he took a few cleansing breaths, counting in for three, holding for three, and exhaling for three. One time a yoga teacher had told him that the difference between excitement and fear was breath. He tried to remember this useless aphorism as he heard Francois opening the door, his head in a slump on top of his neck. Jayden assumed his lopsided posture, adapting a bored/ fussy/ hot attitude he knew Francois would go gaga over.
“How’s the wife?” he asked with a sideways smile. Francois buckled himself in and started the car, driving out of the parking lot. He sighed like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. No, this did not sound like the sigh of a man that was about to be a millionaire.
“It’s funny. She’s lost so much weight from the chemo that she’s finally at her goal weight. The entire time I’ve known her she was trying to get down to 120, always doing fad diets, losing weight, gaining it back, rinse and repeat. Turned out all she needed was lung cancer,” he said with a smirk, his eyes filling up with water. Jayden snorted.
“Doesn’t sound too funny to me”.
“Not funny haha. Just, funny. Maybe you’ll understand when you’re older,” Francois said, his mouth turning into a straight line. God, he looked so old when he did that.
“You still up for Nobu or nah?” Jayden said, crossing his fingers. And, another sigh like the world was going to end. This was not the positive energy they had learned about from their five-day Tony Robbins seminar.
“Do you mind if we should hang out at your place and watch old movies? I rented Miss Congeniality on Amazon”.
“Ugh, is this one of your rom coms? You know I only can pay attention to movies if they’re like, played at three times their speed.” He crossed his arms and pursed his lips. Before he was a TV personality and influencer, Jace had dabbled in acting, much like literally every person in Los Angeles. A spot on Grey’s Anatomy season 35. A part in an artificial intelligence pharmaceutical ad, playing a handsome doctor recommending supplements to passerby. But there was no money in acting, even less money than there was in hosting TV shopping specials with his Mom. God, he was pathetic. The silence hung in the air like a wet bra.
“You know what, you can actually just let me off here,” Jace said, gesturing to a random street corner. “You seem like you need some time to yourself.”
Francois’ eyes widened, but he was too tired to protest.
“If that’s what you want,” he said, gripping the wheel and looking straight ahead. Jace hopped out of the car, dusting off his pants as Francois drove away.
“Yea? Then stay out!” Jace screamed at the vehicle like he was Sandra Bullock or another Old Hollywood actress. Suddenly, he heard a ring in his ear.
“Joan, pick up.”
“Please,” said Joan, who was programmed to be a little bit sassy.
“Please,” Jace said, wishing A.I was more friendly to men who were attracted to other men.
“Hi, sweetie, what are you doing?” It was Brittany. Jace checked his watch— yep, 8 PM. Right on time for her third glass of Prosecco.
“Not much, I’m just in West Hollywood. What are you doing?”
It all came out— Jayden, his horrible new girlfriend, how Brittany had embarrassed herself by making assumptions about the girl’s financial situation. God, why did Brittany have to go to him for emotional support and not one of her many girlfriends? Was it just because he was gay that she assumed he was also sensitive? This is why stereotypes are harmful.
By the end of her tirade, Brittany was a snotty mess. Jace could see her, cuddled up in bed with the dogs and her mascara dripping. She was like a giant little girl, always weeping, always leaking, her heart as flimsy as her terrycloth robe.
“I’m sorry Mom. That sounds really hard. I know it can be hard to let go sometimes, but that just shows how much you love your kids, and that’s why everyone loves you. You’re so nice. I’ll never forget you,” Jace said, following the words Joan had projected onto his contact lenses.
“Oh sweetie, thank you so much. You just make me the happiest girl in the world when you say that. Do you want to go on Wendy Williams with me this week?”
Jace nodded and smiled, knowing it didn’t matter that Brittany couldn’t see him.
Read the next installment of 20 Years Later: Part Five
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