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The New Guy

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They went uphill on a motorcycle Feste borrowed from the guy who’d told them the news. There, on the top of the hill, was a mansion surrounded by tall walls. Cesario had never been to that part of the neighborhood but they’d heard people talk and one thing was for sure: surveillance around these parts was heavily armed, especially the ones by the gate, who Feste greeted with familiarity and good humor. Cesario might’ve drunk more than usual but not enough to ignore the disturbing sight of those guys so casually handling their weapons while smoking a joint that smelled weird.

Feste acted like it was the most natural thing in the world, so Cesario followed the lead. The driveway was packed with much more expensive motorcycles than the one Feste had borrowed. They didn’t enter the house, but went around it to find a huge swimming pool with one man in it. On the deck, under a parasol, was a woman working with a laptop. The smell of barbecue was in the air, and Cesario found a third person by the grill in an open kitchen clearly designed solely for barbecues by the swimming pool.

“Well, hello, hello, hello,” said Feste almost singing.

“You damn faggot, where the hell were you?” said the man in the pool looking angry with his eyebrows pressed together, even though he was smiling. “I sent that video of yours to everyone I know,” he laughed.

“I’ve noticed that,” Feste smiled proudly. “This is Cesario, he likes my bracelet, so we’re best friends now.”

“Nice to meet you,” he put out his hand and Cesario shook it, and the man threatened to pull Cesario into the pool but just laughed and let them go. “I’m Toby, ever heard about me?”

“Sure,” Cesario nodded uncomfortably, trying to come up with something good, “thanks for the wifi.”

Toby looked very pleased, and the woman behind the computer huffed: “There we go!” not bothering to look up.

“You’re very welcome for the wifi, you see, I try to make this a good place for the people who live here, I want what’s best for everyone here, I’m not a criminal, I’m a politician.”

Cesario wasn’t about to disagree with a man whose pistol sat right next to his beer. But now they couldn’t find the words to continue the conversation, all they knew was that they couldn’t look Toby in the eye and say “seriously, that’s your excuse?” Fortunately, that was the moment the guy by the grill decided to approach them with a tray of grilled beef.

The man hugged Feste with his free hand, then brought it to their hair, Feste rolled their eyes. “I wish my hair was as this cool,” said the man.

“Do you really?” Feste stared at them with crossed arms for a second.

“Sure, and that I had your talent for music,” he said smiling.

“You can’t teach talent, Andrew, one day I picked up that guitar and music just poured out of it,” they said, looking at Cesario and shaking their head, looking impatient.

Andrew pointed to his tray, telling them to help themselves, but when Cesario tried to refuse it, Toby was very persistent, saying it was really good stuff and they had to try it. “I don’t let people go hungry in my house, kid, now help yourself.”

“Why you’re not eating, Toby?” the woman on the computer reprimanded.

“I need that space for drinking,” he said.

She finally rose her head to look angrily at him. “How many times do I have to tell you to eat first?”

“Oops, too late,” he laughed. He then turned to Cesario: “Why don’t you help yourself to a beer right there?” he pointed to a freezer. “Oh, and could you bring me one?”

“Mee too,” said Feste, sitting on the deck to talk to Toby more comfortably.

Cesario didn’t mind, at least it was something to do when they felt so out of place, it was actually a shame there wasn’t more to do. Andrew, who was back by the grill, served a plate and asked them to take it to Maria. Cesario balanced the plate on their fists, which were occupied by three beer bottles. “Here you are,” they said, sliding the plate on the table, keeping a firm hold on the bottles.

“Thanks, sweetie,” she said without looking up from what Cesario noticed was a spreadsheet.

They went on to give Toby and Feste their beers, and ask: “Can I sit here?” They weren’t sure if there was a private conversation going on or if those two were only messing around, but they only knew Feste, so that’s where they were sitting.

“Toby says tonight we’re having a party here,” Feste let them in on the talk.

“See if Malvolio can stop this one,” Toby said in a mix of anger and excitement. “It’s gonna be huge, you’ll see. So the boys will get your equipment here, and we’re gonna need that friend of yours I like to make sure nothing explodes this time,” he told Feste.

“Sure, we can get him. Are you sure you can make this happen so fast?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Maria said, taking the time to look up and smile confidently at Feste.

“So that’s what you’re doing while we dream on the event?” Feste asked smiling back fondly.

“That’s all you have you have to do for now,” she assured.

“That I can do marvelously.” Feste stood up. “More beer?”

Now Toby was looking at Cesario, who had no idea what to say. “So how old are you? You’re in school?”

“I’m a teacher.”

“Teacher? Well, you look like a good kid, why you’re with Feste?”

Maria laughed. “Really, Toby? You’re giving him life advice, is that it?”

“What? I’m pretty successful, don’t you think?” She just laughed more. “And part of it has to do with the good companies I keep,” he told Cesario, pointing at Maria as an example of what he meant.

“I have to agree with that one,” she said, “I really am the secret of his success.”

“The dumb need the smart,” Toby agreed, nodding, still talking to Cesario. “This was a match made in heaven,” he said, pointing to Maria and then himself.

“Then why the fuck don’t you marry me?” she said going back to work.

“Yeah, Toby, why the fuck don’t you marry her? I could officiate it,” said Feste, coming back with more beer.

“If you steal the attention on my wedding day, I’ll murder you myself,” Maria said matter-of-factly, not even raising her head from her work.

“If you do it publicly, you’ll get all the attention back and then more,” Feste advised.

She just chuckled, and Toby laughed loudly. Cesario felt really uncomfortable with the murder jokes among people who lived like that. They just drank some more. Feste looked from Toby to Maria while asking: “So you don’t need me right now?”

“We need the good company,” said Toby.

“Not right now, but I know how easily your plans change, so stick around, ok?” said Maria.

“I’m not missing this for the world,” Feste informed, smiling fantastically in anticipation. “I just wanna show Cesario around.”

“Sure,” she shrugged.

“Make yourself at home, kid, no need to be shy,” Toby said already taking pride in everything he was about to indirectly show off.

“Come on,” Feste said as they pulled Cesario to their feet. Once they were up, Feste didn’t let go, intertwining the fingers of both their hands, and leading Cesario towards the house.

The wide glass doors were open but Feste crossed the doorway hand first, claiming they had hit their head on that thing too many times to trust it. “You live here?” Cesario asked confused.

“Sure, a little bit. Toby and Maria have adopted me for now, and I’m making the best of my Cinderella moment.” They crossed a living room that surprised Cesario for looking so normal, remarkably wealthy but other than that… shouldn’t a gangster’s house have some reminder it was dangerous? But the exact opposite happened when Feste opened a door and said: “Check this out.”

It was a music studio and it was all theirs. Feste showed off their many musical abilities, first with the guitar, which was new and perfectly tuned and sounded beautiful when Feste strummed. They offered it to Cesario, and went on to the drums. They went on to the bass later, and they both took turns singing. It kept them entertained for a while. They played until their hands ached and they needed a break.

“Come,” said Feste, once again taking Cesario’s hand, and leading the way.

The first time, Cesario told themself the hand holding was exclusively Feste’s doing. But now it was happening again and they were doing nothing to stop it. Truth be told, it felt nice. And they realized they liked Feste, which was surprising it had taken so long to see: why else they would’ve followed them to such a place? Cesario smiled at both their realization and how long it took.

Feste kept leading the way upstairs, and brought them to their bedroom. “This is my room,” they said to fill the silence while Cesario made a decision. Feste left them at the door, and went in, got their battered, black acoustic guitar and started singing a weird song about a woman who’s more awesome than the devil and doesn’t give a shit about expectations. Cesario stopped thinking and just followed the music into the room.

Feste was sitting on the bed, so Cesario sat next to them and listened, the name Maria came up in the chorus. When the song was over, they had to ask: “Did you write that song for Maria?”

“No, it’s an old song, I just like crazy lyrics. You wanna hear one of my songs?”

“Of course,” Cesario nodded enthusiastically.

They hadn’t seen Feste smile like that so far. Not the smug smile they gave last night when they made the others beg for another song. Not the flirtatious smile they had given Cesario all day, either. The difference was in the eyes: they sparkled with honest joy. “It’s called ‘O, Mistress Mine’.” Feste played a cheerful melody and sang about enjoying love in the present because times passes and the future is uncertain.

“It’s beautiful,” Cesario said, “I love it.”

“You do?” Feste had a hard time pretending they weren’t flattered by the comment. “Some people think it’s kind of a downer.”

“It won’t get people dancing, I guess, but it doesn’t have to. Beautiful things serve a different purpose.”

Feste chuckled, stood up, and put the guitar down. “And what’s the purpose?” they asked, walking to the door and closing it.

“Making life worth living.” Feste nodded and made the way back to the bed. There was no stalling it, Cesario realized. If this was going to happen, they had to know in advance. “I have a secret,” they managed to say before getting too anxious to speak. The smug smile back on Feste’s face worried them: “You know?”

“I have a pretty good hunch, after all, you like my bracelet, right?” they shrugged. “Yeah, I think I know. I happen to like all flavors of people, if that helps.”

Cesario chuckled at Feste’s phrasing, and asked: “Can you keep my secret?”

“What’s one more? I’ll keep your secret, don’t worry.” They sat close to Cesario, approached slowly to give them a peck on the lips, then withdrew to study their reaction.

Feste’s lips didn’t go lonely for long, they were soon met by those of Cesario, who decided it was a risk worth taking.

*

“Hey, Feste you’re in there?” asked a man, who knocked loudly and continuously on the door.

Feste and Cesario woke up in a start. They smiled at each other, both thinking of the earlier events, and would have turned back to just that if the guy on the other side of the door wasn’t so persistent. “What do you want?” Feste shouted annoyed, still refusing to get up from the bed.

“Your equipment’s here. Maria said you have to get it going.”

“Tell her I’ll be right there,” they said, finally standing up but looking confusedly from the door to Cesario, then taking their hand and pulling them out of bed: “You’re coming with me.” They left the room after a not so quick shower.

As the sun disappeared, leaving on the sky shades of red and purple, they saw Feste’s equipment waiting on the back porch, as far from the swimming pool as possible. The house had become busy with people coming and going in preparation for the party, and Feste looked pleased by the agitation, then turned to Cesario: “Can you call Orsino for me? I haven’t seen my phone in a while.”

Cesario patted their pockets, and felt a twinge of panic when they couldn’t find it. They immediately started retracing their steps in their mind, until they realized: “I left it home.”

“Alright, let’s get him in person.”

They took one of Toby’s bikes and made it to Cesario’s in no time. Orsino was in the living room, playing an fps game and shouting at his own character. “Hey, man, you have a minute?” Cesario asked.

Orsino paused his game. As he turned, he asked: “Where have you been all day?” Then he saw Feste and his voice became noticeably less cheerful. “Oh, hi, man.” And back to Cesario: “Your phone’s been buzzing all day,” he pointed to the coffee table.

They went for the phone while Feste told Orsino what was needed of him. Sebastian had send many landscape photos of canyons, waterfalls, endless fields of green seen from above, a hawk diving, and they were all breathtaking but none compared to the photo of sleeping man with the caption “I need to tell you about Antonio one of these days.”

“What about Antonio?” they texted back, knowing in their heart there was only one reason Sebastian would take a picture of a sleeping man.

“Are there naked people here?” Feste asked, one arm around Cesario’s shoulder, taking an intrusive look at the picture. “Oh!” they were disappointed. “Who’s that?”

Cesario laughed at their disappointment, they knew it was silly to feel so euphoric just because Feste had shown any interest in their life, but they were too happy to care. “I think my brother’s in love.”

“Is this your brother?”

“No, this is Sebastian,” they showed a picture.

“He looks like you.”

“We’re twins.” There was this uncomfortable feeling that was explained when they lifted their eyes from the screen to find Orsino staring at them with a strange look on his face. “What?”

“How come you tell Feste all about your brother, but never told me?”

Cesario exchanged a confused look with Feste who just shrugged. “Alright, ask me something.”

“What’s it like to have a twin?” Orsino asked.

Cesario sighed and rolled their eyes at that. Feste could read a lot in that facial expression, and started laughing, seeing just how tired of the same old question Cesario was. Orsino, on the other hand, looked expectantly at them. He wanted an answer to his unanswerable question, so Cesario made their best to keep a straight face when saying: “One is good and the other’s evil, of course.” And the face probably wasn’t too bad, because now Orsino looked confused.

Feste’s laugh broke the spell, letting Orsino know he was being mocked. He joined in laughing at himself. When he went to his bedroom to get his tool box, it occurred to Cesario: “How we’re gonna fit three people on a bike?”

“You have to go get dressed, right?” Cesario nodded, waiting for the idea. “I was thinking I’d leave you here to get ready, and come back for you later.”

“Oh! Okay,” Cesario agreed, a little disappointed, but able to see how it was probably more practical.

Feste studied their face. “You think I’m gonna forget to come back for you? I’m not that stupid, don’t worry.”

*

Three hours later, Cesario was fully ready, sitting on the living room couch, waiting for Feste, texting Orsino, but he wasn’t checking his phone. All they had as distraction were Sebastian’s texts, saying he was having a great time crossing the country with Antonio, the man he’d met his first night in the city, who had offered Sebastian a job assisting him with driving his truckload of explosives across the country. They were pretty sure the offer had more to do with Sebastian’s charisma than any skills he had. A week ago they had been a lot more worried about Sebastian’s decision than now. Not because their opinion about that shady business had changed, but because come to think of it, their brother enjoyed the thrill of danger just a little too much. He would’ve probably been working for Toby by now if he were here.

They made a video call for a while. Seeing his smirking face, and listening to his voice got them choked up. It felt like forever since they’d last hugged their brother or shared a laugh with him. He called them Cesario charging his voice with his discontent in calling them so. “It’s alright, there’s no one here,” they told him.

Being called Viola felt strange after so long, but it also felt right coming from Sebastian. He turned the phone so they could see Antonio driving. “Say hi to Viola,” he asked the driver. The man smiled and waved without taking his eyes from the road.

“Hey, Antonio, is my brother doing any work or is he only taking pictures?”

The man chuckled. “Two hundred selfies a day. They all look the same,” he teased, always looking at the road.

“He’s exaggerating,” Sebastian said in his own defense, bringing the camera back to him.

“Is he? I think it sounds about right.”

They could hear Antonio laughing. The conversation lasted until someone called Cesario outside, honking a horn, and they said goodbye to the guys. There was a guy outside on a bike wearing a neon vest which informed he transported people from the base to the top of the hill. “Are you Cesario? I’m taking you to Toby’s.”

They were slightly disappointed. “Feste told you to come?”

“Orsino,” he corrected.

Now they were more than slightly disappointed. Had Feste forgotten? Had they asked Orsino to get them a bike? They hoped so, but it was a flimsy hope. They knew so little about Feste, actually, and wanted to have a little faith in them, but instead Maria’s words kept coming back to them: “I know how easily your plans change,” she’d said, and now Cesario couldn’t stop thinking she was probably right.

The suspicion, however, was short lived. When they got there, the young man acted like Cesario paying for the service was an absurd idea, which they thought was weird but didn’t question. The house was full, brightly lit, and the music was loud. Cesario didn’t know most of them, but had seen many of those faces in the club the night before.

They went around the house, like earlier, and found Feste on the back porch, surrounded by their equipment and completely focused on it. When they saw Cesario standing there, a delighted smile took over their face, and threw their arms around them. “Thank goodness, you made it. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go get you. Things are going crazy here.”

As if to illustrate what Feste had just said, Andrew came out of the house with a plate in hand and passed it to the DJ. It wasn’t food. Feste pulled a metal straw from their pocket, and made a huge line. Cesario was uncomfortable seeing that, and even more when Feste tried to pass them the plate. It was no surprise when they laughed at the refusal, though they wished at least Feste wouldn’t be so persistent. But then they gave Andrew the plate back, and told Cesario: “I have something better for you.”

For a second they feared Feste was talking about drugs, but they produced a white havana hat with a black strap around it, which had been on top of a speaker, and placed it on Cesario’s head. “How do I look?” they asked, since there was no mirror.

“Like mothers will tell their daughters to stay away from you,” Feste winked.

Cesario had to laugh at that. They very much doubted it was true, but they were flattered anyway. And that only made them think how unreasonable it was that Feste could make them so giddy, and how great it was that someone could do that with so little effort. Just being around them made everything better. They didn’t even pay attention to the party, it wasn’t important. Sometimes they were handed food and drinks, sometimes recreational drugs. Feste refused the first, Cesario the latter, and they both drank most of what was served.

After a while, Maria stopped by to remind Feste of Toby’s speech after the fireworks. She then got Cesario talking about their life like a good hostess, and ended up pulling them from Feste saying: “You shouldn’t be stuck here all night just because he is. Come have a drink with me at least.”

Feste smiled like they knew something Cesario didn’t, and waved goodbye. Maria had a guiding hand on their shoulder, and said hello to someone every few steps they took. She asked how they’d met Feste, and when she found out where they lived she said: “Good for you, I really like those boys. They’re nothing like the ones I’ve got around here, all slackers.” She sighed, then she laughed. “But you can’t choose who you love, you know what I mean?”

“No, you can’t,” Cesario agreed, as they walked with Maria past groups of dancing people around the swimming pool, which was lit up in green and full of people, some dressed, some topless.

“I think they’re having a good time, what do you think?” Maria said after taking a look around.

“I think so. It’s a great party. Just look at them, they’re having a great time,” Cesario pointed at a group who’d made a circle and took turns doing dance steps in the middle.

“Yeah, it’s going pretty well,” Maria agreed with a pleased smile on her face.

The outdoors kitchen was now a buffet and open bar. Maria walked Cesario through it, telling them to help themself to whatever they liked. Cesario had been served things to eat when they were with Feste, and hadn’t given it a second thought, but now he looked at all that food in the same place and realized it was the exact kind of food you eat in kid’s parties, half of it was candy. “This is heaven!”

“I’m glad you like it,” she laughed. “If it was up to Toby they’d still be burning those steaks.”

Cesario got closer and had a good laugh seeing there were rolled up joints on the table alongside with the candy. They decided it was a good mix, and took one as well as some sweets, placing it behind the ear like the rest of the boys. Maria offered them a drink, and showed them the options. She had whisky with ice, Cesario a beer. They said “cheers”, and sipped their drinks.

Maria was in that spot for about a minute before some guy with the same plate as earlier found her. She pulled a pink, plastic straw out of her bra, did a line, and offered Cesario. Unlike Feste and Andrew, she was very graceful about the refusal, and just passed it on to someone else. She finished her drink, placed a hand on Cesario’s shoulder, and spoke close to their ear: “I think you and Feste look cute together.”

“Thanks,” they said, not even noticing their giggling.

“Now all we need is find someone for Andrew,” she said shaking her head, implying it was a hard task. “You need another drink?” Cesario shook their head. “I have to check on those fireworks, excuse me.”

Cesario just stood there for a second, looking around, appreciating the scenery. That’s how they spotted Orsino sitting alone on low, wide brick wall where the terrain sloped, smoking and watching the party. As they approached, he smiled and waved. “Why you’re sitting here by yourself?”

“I’m enjoying the view,” he pointed to the party.

“It’s a pretty good view,” Cesario said, sitting on the wall too.

“So… you and Feste?”

“Yeah,” they confirmed, staring at their own feet.

“I didn’t think he meant it when he was hitting on you,” he said, shaking his head. “Well, you’re a big upgrade for him, that’s for sure.”

“Upgrade?” Cesario didn’t like the sound of that.

“I’ve never seen him with a likable person before,” he shrugged.

Before they could decide if they should ask about it, they heard an explosion. Cesario looked around, startled, trying to find out what was going on, and saw everyone looking and pointing up. Golden fireworks lit the sky, followed by green, red, silver, and blue. They laughed their fear away, allowing themself to be seduced by the sight. The first ones hadn’t completely faded when new lights bloomed in different colors leaving loud cracks behind.

All around them people laughed, applauded, and howled at the sky in reaction to the fireworks. Orsino was one of the howlers, Cesario noticed. It was an exciting thing to be part of, and ended all too soon. “I love fireworks, don’t you?” said Orsino, smiling like a little boy.

“It’s beautiful! I wish there was more.”

“Me too,” he said, looking at Cesario in a way they didn’t understand, and then his hand came towards their face, and touched their ear, it was less than a second but their whole body went rigid. “Can we fire this one up?” He held the joint Cesario had placed behind their ear.

They laughed, relieved. For a second they’d thought Orsino meant to kiss them. “Sure, but I don’t have a lighter.”

“That’s not a problem,” he said, pulling one from his pocket.

The music was turned down and Toby’s voice was enhanced, thanking all for coming, wishing they were having a good time. Everyone cheered. “As you all know, last night the cops shut down the party in our club just because they felt like it.”The crowd booed, and Toby waited for it to die down before he went on: “I think everyone saw how it went with Feste.” He gave the crowd a moment to laugh. “But they fined our good friend Fabian, who owns the club. And we need our club, right?” They cheered. “So everybody has to do their part. And this is what we’re gonna do: you guys buy weed this week, and I’m using that money to reopen our club.” They cheered even harder. “Now that you know the deal, get the word out, tell your friends it’s for a good cause. And fuck the police,” he finished.

People were howling and applauding even harder than at the fireworks, they whistled and chanted “Toby,” shaking his hand, and patting him on the back as he passed them, making his way to the bottles.

When they finished smoking, Orsino laid back on top of the wall they sat on, resting his head on Cesario’s thigh. “This is the best party I’ve been to in a long time. Thanks for keeping me company.”

“No problem,” said Cesario, looking for a place to rest their hand that wasn’t Orsino. “Where are the guys, anyway?”

“Curio’s working, and Valentine will find himself very single if he comes to a party like this.” Cesario laughed, shaking their head. “So it’s just the two of us.”

They didn’t like the way Orsino’s words stirred something inside them, something they couldn’t afford to dwell on right now. “I’m hungry,” they said, “let’s get some of that candy.”

He laughed, and sat up. “Let’s go.”

They feasted on gummy, marshmallows, and chocolate, but Cesario almost couldn’t contain their laugh at Orsino with a lollipop in his mouth, it only wasn’t funnier because there were others doing the same. He didn’t notice their smile, though. He stared at the topless girls in the swimming pool, taking small steps in that direction.

“Why don’t you join them?” Cesario teased.

“What for?” he crossed his arms uncomfortably.

“I think you know.”

“I don’t want a girl everyone else has already banged,” he shrugged.

Cesario rolled their eyes impatiently. “So you’re looking for a girl who can’t tell if you’re not good?”

Orsino looked really offended for a second, but hid it in his frown. “I don’t want to think about all the guys she’s been with before me.”

“So you think about guys when you’re with a girl?” Cesario teased, unable to resist.

“You’re just trying to piss me off, aren’t you?” His tough guy attitude ruined by the lollipop in his mouth.

Cesario smiled, satisfied they’d managed to annoy him as much as his words had them. They didn’t say anything, just kept that pleased smile on their face, watching the mix of anger, doubt, and embarrassment his face was unable to conceal. The staring contest was lost by Orsino, who shook his head, and went to get a beer.

He didn’t come back. He approached a group and started talking to those people, ignoring Cesario, left alone, looking for something else to do. They went back to Feste, feeling slightly guilty for what they’d said, but not that much because his words deserved a nasty answer. Feste laughed so hard at the story, there were tears in their eyes by the end. As a conclusion they said: “Someone had to tell him sooner or later, it’s taking too long for him to figure out on his own.”

Cesario had only meant to annoy Orsino a little, but Feste’s words made them realize there really was something pretty suspicious about his behavior, and now they felt really guilty about what they’d said. Despite Feste’s conclusion, if there was a closet he needed to come out of, it could only happen in his own time.

“How about I leave a playlist here, and we sneak out?” Feste suggested. Cesario just smile and followed them into the bedroom.