excerpt: Of Dreams and Ceremonies

An excerpt from the novel. It’s Dave’s first full day in England, and not only does he meet the infamous chauffeur, but he and Nicholas have to work out what happens next.

Another Butterfly from Wikimedia Commons“Poor David has had to leave his beloved Land Cruiser behind in Australia – “

“Are you joking? I’m having it shipped out.”

“So, Frank, I thought maybe you’d give him a tour of the cars sometime, and see if there’s something that might distract him from the grief.”

“Of course, Nicholas,” Frank replied. “Tomorrow morning, perhaps, sir?”

“Um, after lunch would be better. If that doesn’t get in the way of your work.”

“Plans already?” Nicholas commented with a slightly quirked smile.

“Plans … jetlag …” Dave gestured vaguely: Who could possibly know?

They agreed that Nicholas would accompany Dave to the garage at around two-thirty the following afternoon. And then Frank added that if there were any motors that Dave took a shine to, there’d be no problem with him using them, working on them, driving them …

“Thanks,” said Dave, quite genuinely. Though as he and Nicholas finally took their leave of Frank and started heading back towards the house, Dave complained, “I can’t believe you want me to cheat on the Cruiser!”

“Aw, don’t think of it like that … The Cruiser won’t mind you having a meaningless holiday fling.”

“Yeah, well, look how that worked out for you! And anyway,” he continued, “if we’re getting married or whatever, don’t you want me to be the loyal type?”

“If … ?” Nicholas echoed, with a quiet little edge to it.

“Well, we are, aren’t we?” Dave confirmed. “Getting married.” He found himself literally scratching his head in puzzlement. “And I’m the loyal type. Whether that’s Denise, or the Cruiser, or you … Wasn’t that one of the first things you knew about me?”

Nicholas took Dave’s hand, just very lightly, and stopped them both somewhere on the lawn between the flower beds and the terrace. “This got rather serious,” he said with a solemn kind of humour. “I thought you’d enjoy seeing the cars, and maybe driving them. That’s all.”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Dave replied, though he suspected there was more to it than that. “That’s good.”

“I really didn’t mean it about you cheating on the Cruiser, you know.” Dave smiled. “That’s even better.”

Nicholas took a tiny step closer, suddenly seeming a little breathless. “I like you being loyal. I even liked that you were loyal to Denise – and still are!”

“I know.” It was fine. He squeezed Nicholas’s hand, and they turned to continue slowly on their way.

A long moment passed before Nicholas asked with deceptive lightness, “How long were you planning to stay?”

“Well …” He hardly knew how to answer that.

“I mean … you have a return ticket … ? Is it an open ticket, maybe?”

They hadn’t talked about the future in anything but the most general terms. Dave cleared his throat, wondering if Nicholas could pick up on how nervous he was. Knowing that he probably could. “No, I don’t.”

“You don’t – ?”

“Have a return ticket. But I do want to go back, right? I want – I’d really like it if we lived there. Nicholas, if you – “

“No, I want that, too. To live in Australia with you. In your home … ?”

“Yes. Please. Unless you – “

“No, I loved it there. I really did. Your family home.”

“Good.” Not that Dave had family any more, but it was the house in which he’d grown up. The house his parents had bought when they married. The house which, between the three of them over the years, they’d fixed up and made into something pretty special – though nothing to compare to an English manor house, of course.

“And – Well, if – ” Now Nicholas cleared his throat. “Um – I don’t understand. They let you into the country without a return airline ticket?”

“No. I, um – Well, I applied for a British passport before I left. I mean, I’m still Australian, but Dad was English, yeah? So I can be both, and I thought – “

“Oh, David!” Nicholas had stopped again, and was standing there staring at him with his eyes glowing. “That’s marvellous!”

“It’s one of the reasons I didn’t come over right away. To be honest, it took me a while to realise I should, and then it took a few weeks to get the passport, but that was okay because I had to get things sorted out with the house. I did one trip I had booked, but there’s another I’m meant to be doing in September.”

“So we have until September?” It wasn’t quite August yet.

“No, I’ve got – Well, there’s a couple who help me out with the larger tour groups. They’re gonna do this one for me.”

Nicholas asked, kind of hushed, “How long were you planning to stay?”

“As long as it takes, I guess.”

“Oh God …” Nicholas looked almost more overcome than he’d been when they’d been announcing – in front of Nicholas’s entire family – their intention to marry. “Thank you. Oh David, thank you.”

Dave cast a look about him as if there’d be some answer to the nervousness he felt. He hadn’t counted on this meaning so much to Nicholas. Except he’d known that it would, hadn’t he? “I figured the passport – I mean, having British citizenship or whatever – would make things more straightforward.”

“It will. Oh, I’m sure it will. And you’ll stay while we’re planning the ceremony and everything?”

He sighed, and ventured, “We’re not talking about just swinging by the registry office next time we’re in town, are we?”

Nicholas shook his head very solemnly. No. No, they were not.

“How long are we talking about?”

“Six months?”

“All right,” he said stoically. Six months of – he assumed – living in a mansion house with an Earl, with nothing to do all day but plan a big gay wedding and be tempted to cheat on the Cruiser. Well, he didn’t suppose that was so bad.

  • The image of the butterfly was taken by aussiegall, and was sourced from Wikimedia Commons.