Loving an Artist

Chapter 7

Over the next four years Miriam’s house became the “go to” place for gay and straight weddings in Saugatuck. That wasn’t the intention it just happened that way. In the spring after the wonderful first Christmas celebration friends of Seth and Max approached John about using front yard for their Jewish wedding ceremony. They wanted the glorious lake and lush green trees as the romantic backdrop for their ceremony.

Richard and C needed to be in Chicago so John moved to Michigan semi-permanently to arrange for a caterer, design and bake the cake and supervise the celebration. The men invited about thirty guests and specified Kosher food. John made several trips to Chicago to order and pick up the corned beef for Ruben sandwiches and smoked salmon. One of the guys was obsessive about getting everything perfect. That required John to speak to him daily to answer his myriad of questions.

Their wedding day was cool and clear as the couple stood under the chuppah. A rabbi from South Bend led them in the traditional Jewish vows. Their smiles told how happy they were as they smashed the traditional wine glasses. The couple seemed totally pleased with the celebration that followed the ceremony. Word got around that the house was available to host such occasions. Over the next three years John managed over thirty ceremonies of one sort or another either in the yard or in the house. He incorporated a business called “By the Lake, Inc” and had a website designed and uploaded. John bought matching chairs, tables and other accessories because he was tired of having rental company trucks tearing up the yard.

They paid Art and a friend to construct a big wooden storage shed to store everything including a floral archway. The archway was prominent in the design for the website. All inquiries included understanding John’s rules for those wishing to use the house and grounds. He did decline Archie who wanted host a fraternity rush party on the lawn. John didn’t want to be accused of encouraging underage drinking. Archie was disappointed but understood. John spent more time away from Richard than he did with him. They were rarely in bed together which frustrated John.

John’s sixty-fifth birthday was approaching and he was tired. In consultation with Richard and C they agreed to hire a manager to deal with the day-to-day details. John continued to manage the reservations and the money and was on-site for most of the events.

Richard was flying as little as the company would allow because the photography business was busy and profitable. He had stopped using the Michigan Avenue condo for photo shoots even though he painted there when he had time. C provided a lovely studio for Richard’s photography. He hired an assistant to do touch ups, final printing and matting. He refused to do family portraits and preferred to do gay and lesbian weddings. He caused himself some grief because a straight couple, who C had referred, Richard rejected. They wanted to hire him for the day before the wedding, the wedding day and the honeymoon send off the following morning. When he turned them down during a testy phone conversation the man suggested that Richard was discriminating against them because they were a straight couple. Fortunately, the matter was quietly settled by their attorney who wrote the couple a letter stating that Richard was not able to commit three days to their wedding. Richard did not hear anything more but was more careful how he handled inquires.

While Richard C remained a joint owner of the house his attention turned to furnishing a fabulous penthouse condo and engaging with a new boyfriend named Carlos. The kid was beautifully brown and Latin. He had slick black hair and was well hung which was revealed one day when they were skinny dipping. C was totally in love with Carlos and showered him with new clothes and even helped him buy a modified BWM 325. Carlos didn’t work except on C. When Carlos wasn’t around C, which rarely happened, C would describe their fantastic sex and gush constantly about how wonderful Carlos was for doing this or that. John warned him that young, cute guys sometimes have wandering eyes and may not be monogamous. Six months later what John warned C about happened. One evening when C returned home from a charity auction he found Carlos in bed with a guy who C described as a model. C told Richard and John that after the guy left he and Carlos had a fight. Carlos said he was moving out. When he did leave he took all his new clothes and the car. C was moody and depressed for a month until he latched onto another Latin man.

Teddy was older than Carlos. He worked for a janitorial company which did major cleaning when companies vacated leased space. He, like Carlos, was darkly handsome. C bragged that Teddy was well endowed. He and Teddy visited us one weekend in May. Teddy wasn’t modest like Carlos was. Teddy wearing only an apron prepared delicious Mexican dishes which were a pleasing addition to their usual American menu. Unlike Carlos, Teddy seemed to really like C. John was pleased when Teddy took the driver’s seat of C’s Mercedes. C’s eyesight was not as sharp as it had been.

C sold the gallery to an aggressive Jewish woman who was interested in showing Richard’s paintings more than his photographs. The problem was Richard didn’t have that much time to paint but his style continued to mature. He did a lovely fall painting of the dock and the lake which hung in the increasingly cluttered living room of the Michigan house.

Richard continued to fly. His seniority allowed him to bid for international flights which he occasionally got. He decided to start taking his camera along since he was going to historic, picturesque places. Layovers gave him at least twenty-four hours on the ground in new cities. On those days he found famous and not-so-famous subjects for his camera lens. On an extended layover in Acapulco, Mexico he took pictures of colorful doorways in the old town. With the photos he created a collage of colorful doors which was the first picture he sold on his updated website. About a week after the photo was up on the site he received an order for one hundred fifty matted and framed photos. He called the hotel interior decorator who ordered the prints to find out a few details. The decorator’s assistant told him the photos would be hung in each room of a new boutique hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

When Richard wasn’t flying he spent most of his time in the studio or the condo. John would go to Chicago as often as he could to be near Richard. He and John had more intimacy in their condo than they did in Michigan. Like everything in their lives their time together was rushed. When Richard was in Michigan there were always things that needed to be done or repairs to be completed. Most mornings they got out of bed and went to work.

John fondly remembered how in Chicago they could leisurely stay in bed and enjoy each other’s company on Sunday mornings. Richard’s manner was caring but he rarely told John he loved him the way Howard did. Unfortunately, John’s cock didn’t respond as quickly and firmly as it did in the past. He started using the little blue pill which helped. Richard never had difficulty getting hard and staying hard. The longer they were together the more Richard was the top which John really liked. Richard liked to be rimmed with John’s uncut stubble which scratched Richard’s smooth ass. The rimming usually caused him to cum before John was ready. Richard was willing to help John and was patient when it took him longer to climax.

The woman they hired to manage events at the Michigan house was pleasant and highly competent. Being free of on-site management John began to occasionally travel with Richard. Every couple of months Richard could get partner rates on flights to places like Rome, London, Tokyo and Beijing. With his seniority he could schedule extra time on the ground and several times took almost a week between flights. On one trip to London, where he flew frequently, he suggested inviting Archie to be paired with a local model for a series of gay romantic photographs. Archie had finished at Michigan State and was considering graduate school but had decided to work in construction to improve his finances. He was strikingly handsome at six feet tall, one hundred eighty muscular pounds with his piercing blue eyes. When Richard presented the idea to him Archie said he could be ready any time. Richard explained to Archie that there would be nudity and faux sex involved. Archie said, “If the guy is cute enough anything is possible. It doesn’t have to be faux if it makes for a better photo.“

The London trip took place in early June. Rather than work the flight Richard and the others flew economy together. In London Richard arranged to stay at a tidy, gay-owned Airbnb that Richard had scouted out on-line. The place had traditional worn English furnishings but was light enough for internal shoots. We met the owners who saw our camera equipment and asked what we were doing. When we explained our objective they suggested a photogenic friend as Archie’s boyfriend. Richard being direct, which was his normal way, said, “I will meet him so don’t promise him the job.” The next afternoon a handsome Indian fellow appeared. He was well built and unusually smiley for a South Asian. Richard told him his plan was to capture a budding love story with shots at well known London locations. He explained that there would be intimacy. The fellow whose name was Raj said he was comfortable with what Richard described and said he had been an escort for a short time. Richard said smiling, “Let’s see what you have.”

“So you want me to get naked? Can I ask the same of Archie?”

“I want to see the whole package.” At that he began to undress starting with his shoes. He stood before us as Archie without commenting finished undressing. Two handsome, well endowed young men stood before Richard.

“I want you to kiss each other.”

Raj hesitated. “I have limited experience kissing because we don’t do much kissing in our culture with man or woman. I’ll try.” He stepped toward Archie and put his lips on Archie’s and then stepped back.

Archie said, “Let me show you. Just trust me. You’ll like it when you get used to it.” He stepped forward and put his hands around Raj’s waist and pulled him into a deep open mouth kiss. We watched as both young men grew in the groin. Archie held Raj for a few moments and then pulled back.

Raj said, “Yeah, I can do that.” They both got dressed and Richard invited Raj to come over the next morning so they could go together. Raj said, “It could be raining. It’s always raining in London.”

“Raj, I have been here many times in my regular work so I know it rains often. We have limited time so we will do the best we can.” That began three days of John lugging around a sun light reflector and camera accessories following the three of them. Richard took pictures in the standard places - Trafalgar Square, Marble Arch, the Tower and in Piccadilly. At night when Richard and the boys weren’t clubbing they were looking at their proofs on Richard’s laptop.

Two young men embracing

Archie and Raj

John thought the best shots were taken in the small alleys and in lush public parks. The third day was rainy so Richard decided to do intimate shots. He called the owners of the Airbnb who had offered their newly redecorated apartment if Richard needed it. Neither Raj nor Archie seemed concerned as Richard positioned, touched and lighted their intimacy. John marveled at how easy it was for them to get hard and stay hard. Richard didn’t smile and just kept snapping shot after shot. The owners watched with John and commented at the genuine passion the boys showed for each other.

Two hours later with the boys dressed and sipping sparkling water Raj said to Richard, “Have you ever considered a photo shoot in India? There are unique places in and around Mumbai. We could stay at my grandparent’s house. You would love their traditional house.”

Richard ferruled his brow, “Oh, pictures of what you did this afternoon?”

“They know I’m gay but they’re planning my marriage to a woman in two or three years. If I ask them to go to my sister’s so we can take photos I know they will go and won’t ask any questions. That’s the way Indian people are.” Richard made no commitment but John made sure he had Raj’s contact information. Richard paid him three hundred pounds which he appreciated. The Airbnb owners asked if they could buy some of the pictures taken in their apartment. Richard told both models he would send them proof sheets to review. Raj suggested the group go to his favorite Indian restaurant.

When John, Richard and Archie returned to Chicago Archie stopped looking for a job because of Richard’s planned trips to Rome and Amsterdam. These were not vacations like the one in London but trips he worked as a flight attendant but had long enough layovers. Archie was the constant so John contacted modeling agencies to provide Archie’s partner. Based on portfolios Richard would meet Archie’s prospective partners at the Airbnb which Richard had reserved. He followed the same procedure that he had used with Raj and Archie in London. He did the outside shots the first day depending on the weather and the second day was reserved for the inside shoots. He got push back from the first Rome escort when Richard mentioned naked shots. The next model, a hunky Italian guy, was agreeable. Archie complained that the guy was too beefy so that guy was rejected. On the third interview both Archie and Richard were satisfied with a fellow slightly shorter than Archie with black hair, dark eyes and a healthy bulge in his athletic shorts. In Amsterdam the model they selected was shorter than Richard had requested but was well endowed and extremely sweet. The lovemaking scenes were really genuine. John could tell that Archie really liked Luuk.

After Luuk dressed and left Archie said he was going to invite Luuk to Chicago. “I really like him. He’s boyfriend material. I’m getting together with him tonight and we’re going clubbing. I promise I’ll be back tonight.” That didn’t happen and he showed up only thirty minutes before they left for the airport. Richard was annoyed because Archie hadn’t called. His attitude improved when he realized Archie’s cell phone didn’t work in Holland. He told us that Luuk would be coming over in August. Richard said, “We’ll do some shooting in Saugatuck.

“He may try to get a visa to work in the US.”

“That’ll be a challenge because of Homeland Security.”

“He’s a registered surgical nurse so he seemed quite sure he could get the visa.”

Richard and John were surprised how quickly Archie and Luuk connected and wondered if their relationship would last. On the plane back to Chicago Richard asked Archie, “Should we go through with the planning for the shoot in India with Raj? If you get together with Luuk how do you think he’ll feel?”

“I never thought of that. I like Raj but I don’t see him as a boyfriend.”

John said, “Richard really likes the pictures he took of the two of you in London.”

“I don’t think Luuk will care but you are right I should talk to him before you make any travel plans.” Nothing more was said but Archie indicated that he would let them know after he spoke with Luuk.

After they returned from Amsterdam John went directly to Michigan because there were some issues that needed attention and there was a full schedule of weddings and anniversary parties. Richard was flying regularly so he put his camera away and returned to his paint palette. He painted Archie in a series of poses. Archie was put on our payroll since he needed money. When Archie was in Chicago he slept in our bed or on the daybed in Richard’s studio. He was not a typical twenty-two year old because he was very tidy. He cooked, all be it, a limited menu of Italian dishes, and always cleaned up after he and Richard finished eating. He washed, folded and even ironed the laundry.

As things evolved John told Raj that the earliest the trip to India could take place was December or January. Raj texted John that he had been hired as a flight attendant for a subsidiary of British Air. He said his schedule was totally unpredictable for the next several months.

On August 4th Archie and John went to O’Hare to meet Luuk. They decided to drive directly to Michigan. Richard would come over when he returned from his current trip. Luuk was through security quickly. Archie explained to Luuk that John had a big wedding planned at their house the following day. In his accented English Luuk inquired, “Who’s getting married?”

John was surprised when Archie claimed the house as his with, “I don’t really know but we rent our house and grounds for special events. You’ll understand when you see the place.”

“So people rent your house?

John reclaiming ownership said, “Yes, we rent our house and grounds out. You’ll understand.” The conversation ended until they pulled into the parking area behind the house.

As they walked around the house the lake came into view and Luuk said, “Now I understand.” He took Archie’s hand and squeezed. It was obvious that Archie and Luuk had something else on their minds since they couldn’t keep their hands off the other’s thighs. Archie smiled as he led Luuk to their room. The manager and cook were finishing preparations for the wedding. Dinner was some of the prepared food which they ate after Archie and Luuk finished in the bedroom. When they came downstairs freshly showered Archie said, “We’re ready for dinner. Hope we didn’t hold you up?”

The next morning they were up and gone by nine with plans to meet Archie’s high school friends and visit Archie’s father. Archie told John he was going to introduce Luuk as his boyfriend to his father. He seemed sure it was going to go well. The setup crew arrived as John left for the Dunes Resort on a hot, muggy Saturday morning. He saw several friends and for the first time in a while sat quietly by the pool hoping there were no interruptions. John’s white skin was clear evidence how little time he had to take care of himself. His gym routine had disappeared. His skin was rough and scaly. He wasn’t happy.

Shortly after noon Richard stood before John’s lounger and didn’t greet John or touch him but said, “How about some lunch? I ordered burger, fries and a beer for me. Same for you?” John smiled trying not to be mad. When Richard returned the conversation turned to Richard’s possible retirement from United. When the two of them met he had been flying for five years and now he had twelve years of flying experience. He had improved seniority. He had never taken an extended furlough. He was eligible for full retirement benefits which included two annual retirement passes including two buddy tickets. If he retired he wouldn’t get his pension since he was only thirty-nine. His upcoming fortieth birthday coincided with John’s birthday. From their conversation at lunch it was clear that Richard loved the travel but loved his work as an artist more. He was an extraordinary artist not only with a palette knife and paint brush but also with his camera. He was in the prime of his career so he decided rather than retire he would apply for an extended furlough which he knew, if granted, could be for up to three years.

John’s investments much of which he inherited when Howard died had appreciated markedly. The house in Michigan was worth more than twice what they paid. Richard had lived frugally on his flight attendant income. He saved almost all the money from his photography business except for the purchase of equipment and his assistant’s salary. They knew they didn’t have to be too concerned about money but John knew Richard’s money had to last longer than his. Richard knew he would get everything when John died. John and Richard rarely ever talked about the future but with their age difference it was obvious John would die first unless something unforeseen happened. The sun felt refreshing on John’s tired skin. As evening approached they decided to go into town to their favorite Saugatuck road house knowing the party was still going on at their house. John texted Archie and Luuk and invited them to join them but they declined. John and Richard started with brandy old fashions followed by steaks, baked potatoes with sour cream, creamed green peas and onions and dessert. They never ate that much on a regular basis.

During dinner their conversation turned to the trip to Asia to continue the photo shoot with Raj. Richard speculated that Raj might not get off for the Mumbai shoot because he was so new in his new job. If he did come they assumed he would have to return to his job after a few days. Luuk would be working so that meant that Archie, John and Richard would travel to Singapore; Malaka, Malaysia; Bangkok and Pattaya, Thailand before ending in Hong Kong. Richard decided to put his request for furlough in when he returned to Chicago. He said it could take several months before the furlough could be approved.

They returned to the eerily quiet house late. The ticking of the standup grandfather clock in it’s Scandinavian case sounded like a snare drum as they walked in. The few automatic lights that came on threw off weird shadows. No one was around. They heard voices and soon two young men wrapped in towels came into the entry hall. Archie said, “Just taking a moonlight swim.”

“You guys have a nice day?”

“Perfect. Saw my dad which went well. So well, in fact, that he invited Luuk and me to go with him so see my grandmother. Dad wants her to meet Luuk.”

“We had a great day as well. Tomorrow whose fixing brunch?” Luuk’s hand went up.

“OK, we’ll bring the champagne. Will you be ready by 11:00?”

Archie snarled, “Depends how long Luuk’s dick holds out.” Luuk smacked him on the bare shoulder.

“It’ll hold out longer than yours. Dickhead.” Everyone laughed.

“So we’ll have brunch at 11:00. There are things we need to discuss.”

Shortly after 8:30 the next morning Richard and John came downstairs in tee shirts and underwear to get coffee. They took the coffee onto the front porch, “Do you think we’ll have brunch at 11:00?” They talked quietly enjoying the gentle breeze that moved the sycamores and the willows. The birds were flitting around the bird feeders. When Richard returned with our filled coffee cups he reported activity in the kitchen. He said two naked boys were working together and seemed to be having a good time. By brunch time they remained undressed.

Archie came out onto the porch and announced that brunch was being served in the dining room. The boys had found the fine china and silverware that John used for Christmas and other special occasions. Luuk had the champagne flutes ready for the cooled beverage. Water filled the crystal stems. After sitting down Luuk came in with a breakfast cheese and egg casserole, fried bacon, herbed potatoes and several baskets of toast. John was overwhelmed and told him so. Archie said, “What about me, I made the toast.” He got a hardy laugh.

Richard brought up the trip to India. “Archie, you know we discussed the idea of traveling to India for a photo shoot.”

“How long do you think we’ll be gone?”

Richard said, “Well, the shoot with Raj, an Indian model, will probably be less than a week. He has a new job as a flight attendant so I’m sure he won’t be able to stay very long. However, if you want to join John and me we’re traveling onward. You can stay with us or fly home. This is a celebration trip for my fortieth and John’s seventieth birthdays.”

“Well, Luuk and I have discussed the situation about Raj. He has no problems with the photographs and told me he will go all the way with us. He has been approved for an H-1B visa which allows him to work in a hospital or surgical clinic. When I told him about the possible trip he decided to put off getting a job until we return.”

“OK, let’s start by contacting Raj to see when he is available. When we hear from him we will start to make travel arrangements.”

There was a strained look on Luuk’s face before he spoke, “How long before we leave?”

“Probably not until December or January.”

“I don’t have enough money to live that long without working. I think I will investigate working for a temporary agency. I know you have such companies like we do in the Netherlands.”

Each agreed what needed to be done to move forward. Being barely dressed Richard commented that the house had heated up. As Archie and Luuk cleaned up the dishes Richard started closing windows getting ready to turn on the air conditioner. John went upstairs to make the beds. After making their bed he went into the boy’s room and found plenty of evidence of their sexual activities - four spent condoms, an open bottle of Wet lubricant and a sticky washcloth on both sides of the bed.

He went back downstairs and deposited the evidence in the trash before going onto the front porch where he found Richard reading his mobile device. John sat down enjoying the warm air and suggested a swim in the lake. Richard said, “Let’s wait for the boys.” About ten minutes later dressed in swim suits the boys came onto the porch.

Archie looked at John and smiled, “I see you invaded our room and found evidence.”

“Yes, but, at least it was safe sex.” Richard looked at me with a funny face. “Well, Richard, I went into the boy’s room and the evidence of sexual activity was clearly present. These two seem to use little discretion.”

Archie smirked, “You invaded our privacy.”

“And I will again so clean up after your lovemaking.”

Luuk thinking I was serious jumped in, “Oh, we will. Sorry.”

John said, “I’m going skinny dipping another want to join me?”

“Sure, old man. We will be there to save you when you get a cramp,” Archie joked. The boys dropped their swimsuits and walked casually across the lawn. Towels were gathered from the rack in the boat house. Rafts and tubes were ready as they jumped into the water when Art’s truck pulled up. Two couples got out. Two couples came down to the dock. Art said, “Sorry I didn’t call. But what about us joining you? The girls can get naked if they want to but George and I will for sure.” All four of them undressed and neither girl hesitated in getting naked in front of the group. They swam and sunned for an hour until Archie got out to bring snacks and drinks. He brought a cooler of beer and soft drinks plus multiple bags of munchies which he spread out on the picnic table. The entire group stood around comfortably drinking and chatting until Art said, “Guys we’ve got to go if we’re going to make the concert.” They quickly dressed and thanked us before leaving.

Standing naked by the table Luuk said, “In the Netherlands we often swim naked with boys and girls but I heard the US is much more prudish. Does what happened this afternoon happen often?”

I said, “Luuk, you experienced a first in this house. That doesn’t mean that coed nudity doesn’t happen in the US but it’s never happened here.”