Chapter Four

The break in Bo’s perceived anonymity almost threw off the rest of his walk, the sudden realization that his sister would be visiting soon and that he would either have to share everything or work twice as hard to keep it a secret, an obviously apparent thought in his mind as he continued.

His concentration faltered as he noticed that he had reached his destination, the frustration of what he must deal with far too demanding of his concentration to actually focus on the world around him. The restaurant was one that he had been to before, though not in a long time, he could just remember happy memories, though it was just beyond him to recall them all the happiest stuck out. First travels to the city when he was just barely thirteen, his vocal coach bringing him to the restaurant after rehearsal.

Bo’s phone buzzed, and he glanced down, finding shelter from the sun just underneath the cabana of a bodega as he clicked it on.

OSM:

You mind if I bring

someone else along?

Nine Fourty Two a.m.

OSM:

No one special.

Nine Fourty Three a.m.

OSM:

Well…

Nine Fourty Four a.m.

Bo felt almost nervous, emphasis on almost. Though, he could assume that whoever it was was someone that Oscar wanted to bring along, and felt that the connection between the two of them was something that he could handle.

Bradley answered with a smile on his face, though he knew that Oscar couldn’t see him.

Bo:

Sounds great!

Nine Forty Six a.m.

The additive of an exclamation mark was not a usual trait of the man’s texting, as he saw no point in using anything beyond a period or a question mark. The addition was something used as, what he hoped, was a comfort to Oscar. Whoever the newcomer was, it had to be important, or something unable to be put off.

At least, that was only what he could assume.

It was fairly difficult to not overthink the situation, but Bradley just shrugged, finding the shade of the cabana comforting as he surveyed all that was around him.

Those passing by were all stuck in their own world, concentrating solely on whatever task was at hand and no matter what could potentially stop them on their way through was forgotten. The world was simply a setting in which their life played out, and by no means would they ever acknowledge their own lack of understanding of it all.

Bo found himself smiling, the potential of what all was in store had always been amiss in his life, and in an almost awful turn of events a shock to his life brought the potential to light. Helping those that he could, and existing despite the limitations on his own.

“Bo!” The voice that shouted his name was distinctly familiar and notably masculine, his eyes scanned the crowd, recognizing the smiling face of Oscar-Michael Torres as he made his way through swarming down the streets. “Hello!”

It was said with a bright smile and an energetic wave, the excitement all too palpable on his face. Bo found himself smiling just as wide as he made his way out from underneath the safety of the cabana and into the street.

Bradley almost felt the smallest amount of anxiety as he approached, the worry that Oscar would once again extend a hand to him to shake and the awkwardness that would ensue strong in his mind as he and Oscar met in the middle to the right side of the tree. Cautious that they were all tucked enough out of the way to avoid the awkward interaction of New Yorkers bumping into them.

Hi.” Both Bo and Oscar smiled as they spoke at the same time, the latter tucking his hand against his chest in a way of actively not reaching out to shake Bo’s hand. It was done with a smile, and both the action and the grin brought comfort to Bo.

It was then that Bradley noticed the small form tucked just behind Oscar’s legs. Barely reaching hip-height with her dark hair and bright eyes. Bo found himself kneeling, the action altogether awkward and unbalanced, his right leg just barely able to bend at the right angle to make the trip to the ground.

“Hello there.” Bo kept his voice soft, his right hand pressing into the ground to hold him steady as he waved to the girl with his left hand. She smiled, before ducking her head behind Oscar’s legs again. “What’s your name?”

She squeaked, the hand that she had on Oscar’s jeans tightened, it was quite obvious to Bradley that she was nervous, and understandably so.

“This is Jessamine.” Bradley lifted his eyes when Oscar spoke, finding the other man incapable of meeting his eyes.

Bo glanced back at the little girl once again. “Hello there Jessamine, my name is Bo.” His voice was just loud enough to be heard through the crowd that passed by them, and the girl smiled, her hand reaching out and making a grabbing motion, one that Bo could only assume was an attempt at a wave.

He stood, taking his time to right his leg and use caution as he moved. The feeling of his leg extending was a natural one, the false joint weighted enough to extend on its own. It was an overall awkward movement that he was able to play off as natural, a bright smile on his face despite the discomfort.

Bo looked at Oscar, the same distant look in his eyes as he bent at the waist to pick up the little girl. Jessamine tucked her head into Oscar’s shoulder, and Bo couldn’t help but smile.

“Is she yours?” Bradley was entirely unbothered no matter the answer, and he watched as Oscar nodded his head slowly. “Well, I think she’s fantastic.”

It was said slightly louder than necessary, and Bradley watched as the little girl picked up her head, looking at the man with the smallest of smiles on her face. Oscar swelled with pride, finding a sort of comfort in the kindness of Bo and the welcoming of his daughter.

Oscar didn’t want to interrupt the connection, but he spoke despite the wish, “Should we go in?” Bo just nodded as a response, waiting for Oscar to lead the way as he matched his strides with the man.

There was no limp, no slightly different step, it was as if his distracted state gave him some sort of newfound forgetfulness while in the presence of his friend (or maybe more) and the adorable daughter that he had just been introduced to. The memory of what he was missing an almost afterthought as the trio made their way into the restaurant.

It fell upon Bo to speak to the hostess, and the moment that she acknowledged their presence they were on their way to a table to be seated.

“What can I get ya started with?” She was energetic, and smiled brightly at the smallest member of the party, offering a menu and a pack of crayons.

The responses were passed around the table, Bo first, with his tea, milk, and sugar. Oscar, who took a liking to the aztec mocha listed in the specials, and a chocolate milk for the littlest member of the party. With the promise of returning in a few minutes with the drinks, Bo’s attention turned to the Torres pair sitting on the other side of the table.

Oscar was observing the menu with an unwavering look, his eyes flitting across the pages with a sort of bliss-like look to them. As if the best he could do in this moment was to figure out exactly what he would order from himself. Jessamine beside him was scribbling furiously, the blue crayon gripped tightly in her left hand, the rest in her right.

Bo found himself smiling.

“She’s adorable.” He muttered it across to Oscar, as to not disturb the little girl beside him, both adults looked down at the wonderful little girl entirely content in her scribbling art.

Bo watched as Oscar took his time to speak, though he felt no need to pressure the conversation into anything more than just pleasant conversation. It was Oscar who brought the topic to light, the softest of smiles on his face but a haunted look in his eyes.

“She’s my everything.” His voice was just barely above an audible sound, Bo strained his ears to listen, the need to hear every word strong as he listened to the man speak. “Her mother,” a pause, Oscar considered his words, “She and I were just friends, and truly such, there was a connection between us that I couldn’t consider.”

It was a cryptic way of speaking about an old friend, and Bo was entranced without any sort of forewarning. Jessamine continued her drawing, all the more immune to the seriousness of the conversation around her, her only thoughts on the paper and crayons in hand.

“Her name was Celeste, but everyone called her Cress, and when she had just turned twenty-seven,” another pause, “I was nearly thirty, though I hate to admit it.” Oscar laughed, a sort of dry laugh that missed the humor. A pause, and he seemed to reconsider everything.

“This isn’t a conversation to be had over coffee and tea and breakfast foods.” Oscar seemed to regret ever speaking the first time, but Bo smiled softly, reaching across the table in a moment's confidence that he didn’t expect to have.

Bo’s hand touched Oscar’s, and in that moment there were no germs and there was no dislike of skin to skin contact, just the two of them in the midst of such turmoil and happenings. Bo did not blame the sudden halt in conversation, he just nodded a look of what he hoped was comfort was passed from Bo to Oscar.

“It’s alright.” No statement could be truer, and Oscar found comfort in Bo’s words. Oscar was the one to pull his hand back, but only as a favor to the waitress. Whose hands were stacked high with a trays of drinks, a strained look in her eyes.

“Thank you,” She muttered it the moment she set the drinks down, before pulling her notepad out of her apron pocket. “What can I getcha?”

Bo pulled his hand back from the table top, tucking it into his lap and smiling brightly at the waitress, whose name tag said ‘Meg.’ “I’ll just have french toast please.” It was said with a sure fold of his menu and a grateful pass over to her.

Meg’s attention turned to Oscar and Jessamine, the former prodding at his daughters side and motioning for her to go on and order. Bo easily admitted that the little girl's confidence was something to be admired as she gleefully asked for chocolate chip pancakes. Oscar followed with a supposedly more mature order of waffles with strawberry syrup.

It was quiet for a moment after Meg left, the three at the table glanced around for a moment.

“I’m not sure where to start.” Bo said it with a smile, “I haven’t done this in a long, long time.”

Oscar just nodded, shuffling in his seat as he appeared much more eager to hear what Bo had to say.

“I like chocolate, and I can’t drink coffee anymore. I like to read, and hear people tell stories.” Bo shrugged, reaching for his mug and taking a sip. “My full name is Bradley Oliver Jones-”

A pause, and a sudden look of vague recognition.

Bo smiled as he continued, “Currently employed as a counselor, I run a few groups in the area. I like music, and the color yellow.” He shrugged, unsure where to continue from there.

Jessamine poked her head up rather aggressively, smiling as she shouted (probably much too loudly), “I like yellow too!”

Oscar motioned in a soft way to watch her volume, before commenting in a confused tone, “What happened to blue?”

The little girl fixed a glare on her dad, “Bo likes yellow and now I do!” She prodded his arm with the yellow crayon now in her hand, before looking back down at her drawing and continuing as if never interrupted.

Oscar just shrugged, an amused smile on his face as he observed his daughter drawing for a moment. “I’m not gonna say I haven’t done this in a while, but I’ve never just,” Oscar paused, as if trying to find the best way to phrase what he was trying to say. “I’ve never just asked someone out after bumping into them on the street and texting with them for a few days.”

Bo appreciated his honesty as he nodded and smiled, readjusting in his side of the booth as he waited for more words from Oscar.

A painful jolt flashed up Bo’s body from his right leg, the stump suddenly aching from an unknown movement coming from under the table, and Bo winced without meaning to be vocal about it. Oscar looked concerned, before Jessamine suddenly apologized loudly. She had been tucking her legs under her and the toes of her boots hit the fake knee joint.

Normally Bradley would not have been as sensitive to the incident, but the strange feeling from this morning could not be forgotten, especially as Jessamine delved into a story of her dog eating socks. Bo couldn’t bring himself to concentrate on the words for some time, the throbbing pain only easing after he set his hand on the false seam and applied the slightest amount of pressure.

Meg returned with the food, and Bo found himself out of it all, a smiling face that didn’t reach his eyes and seemed to be hollow. Oscar couldn’t seem to notice, his attention turned to sharing tales of his times on stage as Bo just nodded along, making comments every now and then with a slowly reforming attention span. The throb that seemed to echo in his ears did not ease much, but a smile sat on the man's face despite it all.

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