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The New Guy

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They’d sent Sebastian pictures from Crazy Tombolo, but on the ride back home, they wrote him: “I have no idea what I’m doing anymore.” No context, just that. They didn’t know how to go on from there, and Sebastian was away from his phone at the moment, so Cesario forgot about it.

They barely had left the car, when they heard a loud voice coming from higher ground, shout: “Crazy night, am I right, Sweetie?” Cesario couldn’t see where the guy was hiding, but answered in all honesty: “You have no idea,” and kept going.

They slept until noon, and woke up to a bunch of question marks from Sebastian. So they told him about the previous night’s events, which he found hilarious, but had no advice to give. Well, he did have one piece of advice, but nothing they hadn’t already considered: “You should let them know what they’re in for.” Although he was probably right, their brother was making his calculations based on the idea they’d be up for it a second time, which Cesario wasn’t so sure they were.

When they left the bedroom, the smell of food denounced Orsino’s presence. Cesario seriously considered hiding from him, but the need for water and food was greater than their embarrassment, so they entered the kitchen, and said hello.

“Hey, man,” he greeted them, smiling, like he was too happy to see Cesario to be uncomfortable. “How you’re doing? Hangover?” His cheerful tone, and friendly smile came as a surprise. He looked so happy, they didn’t have the heart to disturb it with their discomfort. “No, I’m fine. I thought you’d be with Olivia,” they said, instead.

“I took her home, and made sure she was alright, but she’s gonna need some time to recover, and her roommates don’t want some guy hanging around,” he explained. Cesario just nodded, failing to ignore their thoughts about the previous night. “I’m making zucchini, do you like it? There’s enough for two.”

“No, I don’t like zucchini,” they told Orsino, who looked slightly disappointed in the answer, which made them add: “but I don’t like eggplant either, except when you make it.” The cook recovered his pleased smile, and asked: “How about you get that guitar of yours?” They nodded in agreement.

“What would you like to hear?” Cesario asked, when they came back with the guitar. “Surprise me,” he said, which his friend took like a challenge. So they played Never Gonna Give You Up, feeling they had won the challenge already, because Orsino couldn’t stop laughing.

They moved on to playing other songs, while their friend was busy cooking, and for a moment even forgot the rest of the world. They were brought back to reality first by Orsino’s stare, and immediately after that by the realization they were singing Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love). They froze.

“Don’t stop,” Orsino protested. “I love that song. I have it on vinyl, I didn’t know you could play it on the guitar.” “You can play anything on the guitar,” Cesario said, happy to go with any subject that would distract them from what they’d done. “It may not sound very well, but you can play any song.”

“Just keep playing,” he asked. “I forgot how it goes,” they explained, and it wasn’t a lie, but they’d had no problems remembering the lyrics in the past. “Something else, then,” he insisted.

Any song would be better than the last one, Cesario thought, as they picked a harmless song. They didn’t freeze this time, but in the middle of Satisfy My Soul they started thinking the lyrics weren’t all that safe. Maybe a different genre, they decided. But they found themself plagued by some kind of theme, singing Ask. They had to stare at the wall just to stand going through with the song.

It was time to put that guitar down. Orsino didn’t protest this time, so Cesario figured their music had succeeded in making him uncomfortable as well. Instead of music to fill the silence, Orsino told them about a house he’d worked in during the week, where a kid had flushed down dozens of marbles, causing very expensive damages to the bathroom, and kept going to him and asking if he’d found them. “Did you?” Cesario asked. “Of course,” Orsino shrugged. “I just wasn’t allowed to give them back to him.”

“So how many are we talking about?” they asked. “Fifty-six,” he said, looking impressed. “Fifty-six?” Cesario echoed, wondering why Orsino had gone through the trouble of counting them. But his next words were even stranger: “Thirty-five babies, two tom bowlers, the rest was green glass.”

Cesario started laughing. “You know marbles names?” “What? Didn’t you play marbles as a kid?” “Not enough to know that.”

“I used to play all the time, and I was very good at it. I bet I still am. Let’s find out,” he said going to his bedroom and coming back with a can full of marbles. He shot one that stopped in the other end of the living room. “Hit me,” he dared.

“So you found these in a pile of shit, and brought them home?” Cesario asked, instead of playing. “Of course not, those are mine.”

Cesario was laughing at him for still keeping his toys, when they shot one marble that went nowhere near where they aimed. And so, they tried hitting each other’s marble with their own, both discovering it was more difficult than they remembered it. They were kneeling in the corridor, when Curio opened his bedroom, and found them.

“What the hell?” he said, still sleepy. Then he understood what was going on, and grinned. “Can I play?”

A few minutes later, they decided they had to go outside to play properly. They moved their game to the square, where the ground was level. Little by little, their game attracted the attention of some other people who also believed themselves too old for marbles, including the surveillance team, and the old men who played checkers.

The only addition to the match no one would have expected was the smoldering hot girl all guys stopped playing to watch pass by. Cesario knew her as the Twerk Queen. She didn’t pretend not to notice them staring. She looked at them and wished them a good afternoon, getting a ton of eager responses, but also causing some discomfort.

For a second, Cesario thought she was smiling at them. She came their way with purpose, making them wonder why. And then she kissed Orsino’s cheeks. “Look who’s outside, playing with the other kids,” she teased him. “I could bet good money you’re the one who started this,” she said, pointing at the marbles. He just shrugged, and smiled sheepishly. The girl saw the can by his feet. “I knew it.” She picked a marble for herself, and announced she was playing, which was met with laughter by some, but Cesario didn’t miss Orsino’s sudden interest: he knew something the others didn’t, and it became clear what it was when she hit two out of the game in a row.

In the end, Tie-dye hit Orsino, but missed Titania, who finished him. As Tie-dye was teased by the rest of the guys, especially his friends, the winner waved goodbye, and left. After that, Cesario went home with Orsino and Curio, who kept asking what was going on between his friend and Titania, but didn’t believe when he said they were friends. Cesario, too, had some trouble believing in Orsino’s answer, but didn’t think Curio’s persistent questions were the way to go about it. He insisted so much, the man came close to losing his patience. “You know I’m dating Olivia. I wouldn’t cheat on her.”

Cesario wasn’t sure which part of his discourse bothered them the most, the reminder of his relationship with Olivia, or the one that said some people did cheat. People like the one texting Cesario to come to Toby’s and listen to their new song, which they ignored.

Sometime later, Feste sent another text: “You have time for marbles, but not for me?” Which angered Cesario enough to write them back. “Show Oberon your new song.” They tried forgetting the rich guy’s name, but since they hadn’t, it was time to use that piece of information to their advantage. Feste didn’t text after that.

Valentine arrived early in the evening, and the four of them played games, and had pizza for dinner. They had literally just gone to bed, when someone knocked on their door. “Hey, Cesario, come check this out,” Valentine said. So they left the bedroom, and before their friend had to say anything else, they heard Feste’s music coming from outside. “Please, make him stop.”

Cesario huffed, exhausted already, and dragged their feet to the door. Feste kept playing the guitar, and singing, when the door was opened. Andrew stood next to them keeping a too fast tempo on the tambourine. Cesario stared at them with their arms crossed, unamused. And it wasn’t just anger this time. It was something that didn’t falter, no matter how funny it should’ve been in theory that Feste was singing The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get. But Cesario wasn’t interested in anything from Feste at the moment.

“Go home,” they asked, without the energy to have any kind of conversation with Feste, who asked: “Come with me, let’s have some fun.”

“I don’t have time for this, I’m going back to bed.” “Wait, I have another song for you!” This time they didn’t sing, they just played gipsy jazz like some kind of wizard, in a show of virtuosismo Cesario couldn’t just walk away from, although they wanted to.

No matter how good the music, though, they still had nothing to tell Feste, especially standing there, where Andrew and Valentine could hear them (and probably the neighbors, too). As soon as the song was over, they insisted: “Go home.”

It didn’t look like Feste would do as told, so they went back inside, and closed the door. “Cesario!” Feste shouted, much louder than necessary. When they got no answer, they kept calling at the top of their lungs, and banging on the door, which brought Orsino and Curio out of their rooms to see what was going on.

Cesario, who stood with their back to the door, looked apologetically at the guys, at a loss for words, even angrier at Feste for embarrassing them like that. “Make him shut up, will you?” Curio asked, rolling his eyes. Outside, Feste kept calling.

“I’m sorry, guys, I don’t know what to do.”

“Just let him in,” said Orsino, who looked almost as annoyed as they were. “Something else,” Cesario asked, since he was making suggestions.

“What’s going on?” he asked, frowning. “I don’t wanna see Feste, that’s what’s going on,” they answered, too angry and embarrassed at past and present to be cool. “He cheated,” Curio shared what he knew.

“The right way to get rid of serenaders is by throwing water on them,” Orsino said, shrugging, looking a little too amused by the idea. “I’m not doing that,” Cesario refused.

“Please, do something,” Valentine, whose bedroom window faced the front of the house, asked.

Cesario opened the door again. “Go home, Feste, people want to sleep.” But that only made the musician give their guitar to Andrew, and run to the door. “Let me in, let’s talk.” Before Cesario could close the door, Feste forced it enough to let themself in. “Why you’re doing this?”

“Get out!” they shouted, instead. “No,” Feste refused. “I miss you, I wanna be with you.” That was the moment the rest of the guys decided to go back to their rooms.

Cesario sighed. “I don’t have the energy for this. I have to work in the morning. The guys want to sleep. Just go, alright?” Feste still refused. They sat cross legged on the floor, like a peaceful protester, and demanded: “First, tell me what’s going on.”

“You took your boyfriend to Fabian’s, remember?” Cesario didn’t just hate spelling it out, they hated there was no avoiding this talk, when it felt like the worst time and place for it.

Feste looked surprised. “Is that what this is about? You’re jealous?” They started laughing.

Cesario was furious, and Feste was the perfect height to be kicked in the face, sitting on the floor. “Go for the soft parts,” Sebastian had said. But not “go for the head,” like they wanted. If they kicked Feste’s ass, they surely would regret it later, but at the moment Cesario really considered doing so. Oh, who were they kidding? They couldn’t even wrestle a remote out of Sebastian’s hand, trying to kick Feste’s ass would’ve made them laugh even harder.

“It’s not funny,” they told them, instead of resorting to violence, or leaving, like they were thinking about. “It’s a little funny,” Feste disagreed. “You’re so angry at nothing.” Those words opened Cesario’s eyes to the fact they didn’t even plan on apologizing. “Nothing?” they repeated in disbelief, giving Feste the opportunity to make their argument.

“If you’re angry because I wasn’t around, then you’re angry at things I didn’t do, and that’s nothing.” “It’s not about you disappearing, it’s about you taking that guy to a place everyone knows we’re together.”

Feste insisted on arguing, standing up. “Being jealous of a boyfriend I don’t have, is being jealous of nothing.”

“Why did you take that guy to Fabian’s? I didn’t want to know, much less see.” “Oberon had to see how people react to my music, he’s getting me a gig at Faerie Experience,” Feste explained, with a shrug that once more reminded Cesario they were getting no apologies.

“I guess I wasn’t as important at the time.” Their voice rose as they said the words.

“Are you serious?” Feste asked, finally beginning to see the reality of the situation. Cesario stared at them, waiting for the information to sink in, and the question to find its answer. “Oh, come on! You know I like you.” They placed both their hands on Cesario’s shoulders for emphasis. “Why do you have to be like that? I’m here now. Why can’t we just have a good time together?”

“I don’t want to have a good time. I didn’t even want to let you in,” they said, pushing Feste’s hands from them. “Because of Oberon?” they questioned, as if there was something absurd about it, that Cesario failed to notice. “Because you don’t care,” they corrected. “Of course I care,” Feste objected.

“Who do you care about? Not me. You didn’t care how I’d feel when you took him there, and I don’t think you cared what I wanted when you decided you had to come here so late.”

“It’s not that late,” Feste made light of their words. “It’s only ten past midnight,” they said, checking their phone theatrically.

“It’s way too late, Feste.” Those were the words that brought an angry look to the listener’s face. “No, it’s not,” they said, advancing towards Cesario, kissing them before they could say anything.

The kiss did cause a reaction, but angry as they were at the moment, Cesario only resented it, as they pushed Feste away. “Get out!”

Their hurt, confused face almost convinced Cesario they’d been too hard. Almost. They watched silently as Feste left the house, then locked the door, and went back to their bedroom. Unfortunately, after what happened, whatever sleep they could get was too little.

*

 

They made their way to the subway station even more distractedly than their usual, the next morning, yawning, and rubbing their sleepy eyes. “Too early for trouble,” said Valentine, who walked with them, bringing Cesario’s attention to the police car parked by the base of the hill.

Before they could articulate any thought, Andrew walked out of Snout’s bar. “I need to talk to you, Sweetie,” he said, too loudly, slurring his words, sniffing his runny nose. He smelled of alcohol and sweat, and held Cesario by the arm. “I have to go to work,” they said, trying to free their arm from Andrew, while Valentine threw a confused look at both of them.

“No, we need to talk now!” he said, very drunk, tightening his grip on Cesario’s arm. “Let go,” they complained to no avail. “Come on, man, you’ll make us late for work,” Valentine said, in an attempt to change Andrew’s mind.

“You can go. It’s him I need to talk to,” the drunk man said, pushing them towards the bar, under Cesario’s protests. Valentine followed. “No, we take the train together, just talk to him later.”

“Oh, come on, Andrew,” the bartender complained from behind the counter. “I thought you were leaving.”

“Nobody’s leaving!” Andrew shouted, furiously. And pulled a pistol from under his shirt. The three other people in the bar gasped, to his delight. “Oh, now you’re listening!”

“Please, Andrew, we have a deal,” the bartender tried to negotiate.

“I’m keeping my part, do you see me shooting?” he said, pointing his pistol at the poor man, who just cowered at the sight. Then he moved on to Valentine, who was already pale, and looked ready to faint being faced by a madman’s gun. “I said go to work, but did you listen? No! No one ever listens until you pull out the guns.” And then he turned to Cesario. “And you,” he shouted, droplets flying from his mouth, his hand shakier than ever, “you made Feste cry.”

“What?” they said, still flinching. They couldn’t believe that was about Feste. “You ruined the night. He was all sad and shit. It’s your fault,” he accused. And then he simply stopped pointing the gun at them. “That was mean!”

“But… Why do you care?” Cesario asked, trying desperately to find the words that would get them out of the situation, but getting confused about what situation that was.

“Because I was the one who had to listen to him crying about you, ok?” said Andrew, still angry, but gesticulating with his free hand, which was slightly less troubling than it had been a minute ago.

Convinced his anger was winding down, Cesario tried negotiating with him. “How can I make it up to you?”

“Well,” Andrew looked like he hadn’t planned the conversation ahead, “since it was Feste you hurt, maybe you should apologize to him.”

Like hell they would, but that wasn’t the time to say so. “I will,” Cesario promised. “You don’t need that gun.”

“This?” Andrew waved his hand carelessly, but at least he didn’t point it at anyone. “It was just so you’d listen, I was never gonna shoot it.” Immediately after saying so, he accidentally fired the weapon at the ceiling.

Everybody screamed and dove to the floor, trying to take cover, including Andrew, who dropped the gun, frightened by the shot, which probably saved his life, because the police arrived within seconds, and would most likely have shot anyone holding a gun. They didn’t even have time to think about getting up, the police got to the bar, their guns out, telling them not to move.

“What happened here?” Malvolio asked, when his partner had checked no one else was in the bar except for the four lying on the floor.

“It was an accident,” Andrew said, sounding too agitated to lie still, or not incriminating himself. “Is this yours?” the officer asked him, picking up the abandoned gun. “Yes, but I didn’t mean to shoot it, I know the rules.”

“Search him,” Malvolio told his partner. And to Snout: “What happened here?”

“What he said,” the bartender answered nervously, “it was an accident.” His answer reminded Cesario if they told the police Andrew was pointing his gun at them, they’d be a snitch. But Andrew had confessed to something big, and Snout couldn’t deny it when Malvolio insisted on that: “So this gun is his?”

“I don’t know who the owner is,” the frightened man tried to evade the question. “But it was in his hand when this accident happened, right?” Snout couldn’t deny that, Andrew himself had admitted to that much. “It was,” he confirmed.

“What about those two?” Malvolio pointed at Cesario and Valentine. “They’ve just got here,” said Snout, like they hadn’t been involved in the event.

“Get up,” the officer commanded both of them. There was a certain look of recognition in his face when he chose Cesario to ask: “You’re together?” His finger pointed at Valentine and back to them. Cesario nodded excessively, having a hard time putting words together. “What are you two doing here?”

They followed Snout’s example, and softened the truth. “We’re on our way to work, we just came over to say hello.” Malvolio didn’t look like he cared about the answer. He looked like he was doing math in his head, and his calculations were around Andrew. “Go on, then, get to work,” the lieutenant told them both.

Cesario and Valentine ran to the subway station, leaving that madness behind. Once on the platform, waiting for the train, they looked at each other, amazed at the direction the morning had taken without any warning. “It’s not even eight-thirty yet,” Valentine commented.

His words were so ordinary, yet they felt so absurd after the morning’s events, Cesario started laughing uncontrollably, something that ended up infecting their friend. There was more relief than amusement in their shared laughter, but it was all they could do to get over that scare.

The rest of the day was drowned in the strange side effects of the morning’s adrenaline rush. They were jumpy when they got to work late and explained why, still laughing nervously about it, and then for some time they were distracted, not really there. Until, in the afternoon, came the news that made them anxious: Olivia had decided to attend classes in a different campus, and would no longer be their student. Cesario was confused about her decision. After the events of Saturday night, they expected Olivia to be the first to arrive on monday. Was she embarrassed? Had she decided it was better if she didn’t have to look at them again? Cesario didn’t know the reasons behind her decision, but their thoughts were full of guilt.

And to their puzzlement, Feste called later, between classes, as they sat looking at nothing, and feeling something wasn’t right. They would’ve ignored the call, but figured Feste had heard what happened, and wanted to make sure they were ok. So they talked to Feste, who gave them the news: “Andrew was arrested.” Cesario wasn’t surprised. “Everyone wants to get back at Malvolio.” They knew Toby and his guys wouldn’t care that Andrew was in the wrong, so they didn’t say anything. “Anyway,” Feste went on, “Maria wanted me to tell you they know it’s not your fault, Snout told us what happened, the real story, don’t worry about it.”

“Ok, thanks,” said Cesario, who hadn’t even considered that possibility, but realized it was a very real one, as Feste spoke.

“Listen,” they said, after some silence, “I’m sorry about that, I never asked Andrew to talk to you, or anything.”

“I know you didn’t.” Feste would never send a messenger who would say they’d been crying.

When they got home, a very little kid was sitting by their doorstep, and jumped up upon seeing them. “Hi, Cesario,” the kid said, looking excited. “Hello, what’s your name?” they asked, looking around, trying to find Feste, because that kid could only be one of their minions.

“I’m Willow. I wanna show you a magic trick,” the kid said. “Sit.” Cesario humored the cute little kid, and sat on the doorstep, waiting to be amused. “I think there’s something behind your ear,” Willow said, producing a small candy that looked just right to be concealed by a little hand.

“Very good,” Cesario said, smiling, trying to keep in mind it was rather impressive for a small child.

“Oh, I think there’s another,” the kid said, so theatrically Cesario almost cracked up, ruining the kid’s show. Willow approached again, and made another candy appear. And then, to Cesario’s actual surprise, kept pulling more and more, throwing them carelessly about, making it seem each one came out of their ear. “So many, don’t you ever use a q-tip?” Willow said, making them laugh. “What’s this?” the kid went on, with an unnatural intonation that was funny in itself, and started pulling tape gum, apparently out of Cesario’s ear, and the tape was so long, they were both laughing before it was all out.

“That’s all I got,” the kid said, when the laughter died down. “It’s great,” they told Willow, a lot more honestly this time. “Thanks for the show.”

“Do you like it? Can I tell him you laughed?” the cute little thing asked excitedly. “Tell who?” Cesario asked, but they already knew the answer.

“No one,” Willow said, realizing the slip, and running away. “Bye!” The candy was left behind, telling Cesario that was no ordinary kid.

“Thank you,” they texted Feste. Maybe they did care.