Arty refused to talk to me over the next couple days. She didn’t respond to texts or answered my calls. I finally messaged Kiley. I didn’t want to go that route but I really needed to discuss things with my sister. At first I thought Kiley was ignoring me too since she didn’t reply to my text but then that evening Arty showed up at the house. We sat in the living room and talked for a good long while. After she asked I ended up telling her how it started and why I did it.
“So, you’re just in it for money?” she asked.
“Not exactly. I mean, that’s a big part of it but… I’ve found I can really make people feel good about themselves,” I explained. “Women who aren’t conventionally attractive or older and cannot find someone who appreciates them for the amazing ladies they are.”
“How can they be amazing if they pay for sex?”
I rolled my eyes. “No, no! It’s not like that for everyone. I mean yes, a lot of people do want the sex, but a lot of people want the dating thing. To go out on the arm of someone like me. To have me shower them with compliments and adoration.”
“But, it’s only gotten through paying someone, how can that make anyone feel good about themselves?” Arty asked very impatiently.
“Look, I won’t pretend I fix things. I don’t know how some of the people feel after. I just pour everything I can into the date we do have, or dates. I just… I give them a moment. I’m good at what I do, and overall I’m honest. I do feel that these people I go out deserve what they’ve been denied because of society’s obsession with certain looks, weights, or ages, and haven’t had the luck to meet someone who can get past that. The only people I have difficulty with are, frankly, because of their personalities and not looks. A woman I went out with a couple weeks ago started yelling at our waitress because she didn’t bring us a new basket of bread.” The mere memory of that incident made my toes curl. “I pointed out that the restaurant was busy and all of that but she just told me that the restaurant needed to hire smarter people. She said this in front of her! And of course didn’t leave a tip.”
Arty tipped her head to one side. “Did you finish the date?”
“Ye-es,” I drew out. “And I gave her what she paid for. But man, it was very difficult. I went back the next day and gave the waitress a big tip.” Actually I gave her half of what that woman paid me and the girl looked like she might cry when she saw the money.
“Have you ever ended a date?”
Now my lips pressed tightly together. “Yes, a couple times my dates have ended. A few times have been because of my–err–visions. I warn in my profile what could happen but some people don’t believe it or understand. Then sometime last autumn a woman wanted something I didn’t want to do, and I stated explicitly in my profile I don’t do.” When Arty just waited for more I coughed. “BDSM. I don’t care if there’s some tying up or, uh, spanking, but more than that I just don’t feel okay doing and this woman really pushed for more and I ended the date.”
She had more questions though some of them as soon as I started answering she’d stop me because it was TMI. Most of them were along the lines of trying to figure out the why. I did my best to explain to her that I liked making people happy and giving them their night or nights of pleasure. Some people were lonely and were willing to pay for companionship, or some people–most people–wanted some sex, if not from me they’d pick someone else. I didn’t feel guilty.
Finally her questions seemed to end. “I still don’t get why you do this instead of a normal job.” She folded her hands in her laps and frowned. “It just seems so… gross… sleeping with strangers all the time.”
“Eh. People have casual hookups all the time. I get paid for it.” We sat in awkward silence for nearly a full minute. “You don’t hate me, do you?”
“No. You’re my brother, I couldn’t hate you!” Arty gave me a bit of a smile. “I think it’s disgusting but it’s your life, your body. It’s better than being a crooked politician or embezzling CEO or something.”
Arty and I hugged tightly before she left. I thought that was that until Grandpa fixed dinner. We sat down to eat like normal but before I even got through two bites Grandpa blurted out that Grandfather had accidentally overheard the conversation Arty and I had earlier.
“What?! Accidentally? Or purposefully?”
Grandpa stared at me with huge, huge eyes. “An accident I promise! He doesn’t stay by my side all the time, sometimes I need some alone time, sometimes he does.” He began poking his food fervently with his fork. “So you, um, you… you…”
I bowed my head and began massaging my forehead. I felt too tired to dance around this. “Yeah, I get paid to date people and sleep with them.” I peeked up past my hand to see his reaction.
He just kept staring with those big eyes. “Are you happy with your life doing this?”
“Well, sorta. I mean like, if something better fell in my lap that gave me as much money for similar hours, I wouldn’t say no… but I am as happy with this job as I would be with any other, I imagine. Happier than being in the business world like Piotr, that’s for sure.”
“Oh. Ok!” He smiled and began eating again.
“Is that it?! Is that all you’re going to say?”
“What do you want me to say?” he asked.
“Your grandson just told you he’s a gigalo and you’re just, okay with that?”
“Why not? It’s nothing I’d ever do. I’ve only ever been with Specter.” He turned to smile at the air. “Only one I ever really wanted to be with, really.” Now he bent forward to look me in the eye. “It’s not something I’d choose for you, of course, and I’d like it more if you were, uhhh, if you had a different job. But, um, yeah, as long as you’re happy with your choice than I can’t complain too much.”
I let out a long, relieved sigh. Then he added, “Your grandfather’s not as happy but he’s just worried about meeting up with strangers. But I think you can handle yourself. Stop scowling at him, Specter, it’s not our decision. He said he’s happy so we should accept that. Well I doubt he meets people in dark alleyways! You know, you chose a lifestyle that threw yourself into danger for a long time so you can’t just–oh stop that, it was so dangerous! After we got together I was worried about you lots and lots and you were SO in danger sometimes! Stop it!” Grandpa shook his head and then continued arguing with his dead husband for almost the entire meal.
Well with Arty, Kiley, and Grandpa all knowing the truth I figured I should let the rest of my family know. I told Reeny first. Her nose wrinkled up and like Arty she had some questions (not as many as Arty though). She wasn’t as accepting as Grandpa but not as disgusted as Arty.
“Just be careful, and if you ever need to get out of a situation call me,” she said.
Next I talked to Dad. I was worried most about this conversation since I had no idea how he’d take it. He was very shocked when I admitted everything and gave him my reasons. He wanted some time to process the information and the next few times I saw him he would give me this upset look. I knew I had disappointed him and that hurt more than Arty’s disgust. After a couple weeks he began talking to me again though it seemed a bit strained. When we properly chatted about it he admitted a big part of it was anxiety like Grandfather: worried about me meeting up with strangers from the internet.
“I’ll never understand it… but…” Dad hesitated then laughed. “Jeez.”
“What about him?” I asked.
“I can just see him now, complaining about this and being a total hypocrite.”
“Hypocrite?! Did he ever–” I stopped myself, utterly bewildered at Dad’s words. “What do you mean?”
“Oh come on. Lucja Rutkowski is a nice woman but you honestly don’t believe she and your father ever felt romance between them? No, she was pretty much his sugar mama.”
If I had a drink I would’ve spit it out all over myself.
After my family found out the truth things felt better. For the most part. Sure sometimes things would feel awkward between me and my sisters or father (and probably eventually Piotr but I hadn’t really told him yet). But at least I didn’t have to make up explanations for all my random dates. Or my money.
Speaking of money, Arty and Kiley’s wedding came up. I knew they had struggled to get the funds together for their wedding and I wanted to help out but they politely turned my offer down. So I bought them most their registry including some nice furniture they wanted. I knew they’d both yell at me when it was delivered but I didn’t care. I could afford to give them these things, why shouldn’t I?
Artemis and Kiley got married on September first, a little over a year since they started dating. The morning of when I went to our dad’s house I bumped into Arty in the hall. It was the split-second vision I had a long time ago. She stood in her wedding dress and looked completely beautiful.
“I can’t believe you’re getting married,” I said and put my arms around her tightly.
“I can’t either,” she breathed out, a few tears coming to her eyes. “I’m so lucky to have found Kiley…!”
The wedding was wonderful. They exchanged vows and rings, kissing under a shower of flower petals. Watcher! Arty and Kiley. Kiley was now my sister-in-law!
“And I couldn’t be happier,” I told them at the reception and gave them both hugs and kisses on their cheeks. Kiley’s eyes shone while Arty grinned all embarrassed.
Our friends from school had been invited. Blake, Eli, Varuna, Booker, and Ginny especially, although Lilah had been unable to make it. It was awesome seeing them all again except for Eli who looked even thinner and paler and spent pretty much the entire time with a deep frown on his face. Varuna kept arguing with him like they always did in school but he’d just shrug.
They were all invited to Sam and Reeny’s wedding, too, six months later. Now this wedding hit me a bit harder than Arty and Kiley. Sam was my best friend, pretty much my brother! And I stood next to him while he held my sister’s hands and told her how much he loved and adored her. They also exchanged some sort of elvish vows. None of us really understood what they were saying but it was still beautiful.
Their reception was small and held outside despite the very cold February weather. At least the sun was shining even if there was snow everywhere. Dad was so happy and emotional he didn’t even scowl once at being outside so much (although Arty grumbled about the insanity of our sister having an outdoor February reception in ankle deep snow).
That evening after everything was said and done, Sam offered for me and our friends to come back to their place to hang out.
“What?” Blake cried out. “Hang out while you two get it on? Nah!”
Sam punched him in the arm. “No! Come on, we rarely get to see one another anymore, and Eli is leaving tomorrow morning. So I think we should all visit.”
“But what about the wedding night?” Booker asked with a yawn.
“Plus we all hung out at your boring, stripper-less bachelor party last night,” Blake added.
Sam punched him again. “Boring? You got blind drunk and kept trying to kiss my fridge and you told it you loved it.”
“It had pizza in it.”
“If you don’t want to hang out that’s fine, but I’d love it if we could visit some more.”
We did end up hanging out at his and Reeny’s house along with a bunch of college friends of Reeny’s. Blake got blind drunk again and this time tried to kiss one of Reeny’s friends who seemed more than happy to reciprocate. We had an absolute blast playing video games, dancing to music videos,and playing stupid games that got us all laughing.
At about four in the morning when things were winding down Reeny took me aside. “I’m glad you’re okay with all this.”
“I’ve been having fun tonight!”
My sister chuckled. “No, I mean, me and Sam. Ever since I realized I had feelings for him I’ve been worried about how you’d react. Even when you seemed fine while we were dating… to be honest, a little part of me wondered if our wedding would make you realize we were… you know, getting married.”
I put my hands on her arms. “Reens I couldn’t imagine a better wife for Sam, and I couldn’t imagine a better husband for you.”
“Because we’re both elves or because he’s asexual so you won’t go all weird brother?”
“First of all, I’d never go ‘weird brother’. Because you two are incredible together.” Our eyes met and I gave her a big smile. “Anyone can see that. No matter what. Okay?”
We hugged each other then I gave Sam a hug and then Booker drove the guys back to my place where they’d been staying. Blake crooned some sort of love song while Eli just looked grimly out the window as if he expected something to happen.
Sam and I still hung out all the time and often Kiley joined us. Sometimes I looked at them and felt shock that they were both related to me now, officially. Yet it felt right. It had always been meant to be. In fact when I began planning a big summer vacation I invited my sisters and their spouses to come along without needing to help pay for the rented house, just gas and food. They all seemed uncomfortable until I gave in a bit about the rented house. Artemis still frowned about it but they agreed, and we began planning a big two week long vacation to Sunlit Tides.
However just as we started the planning I had a vision. A horrible vision. I was on a date when this vision hit and when I came to I found the woman kneeling next to me, a cold washcloth in hand.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said, eyes huge. “You said–some things–“
“I know,” I gasped, struggling to get to my feet. “I’m sorry I have to go, I’m so sorry. If you want to do this again sometime you won’t need to give me anything.”
“Oh! I understand. Yes, that’d be fine.”
I grabbed all my clothes, apologized once more, then got a cab as quick as I could. I paid the driver extra to hurry. I called Sam and explained to him about the vision as well as my plans. “Have you called him?” Sam asked through a yawn though I could hear him getting dressed as he spoke.
“No, I’d rather say this to his face. I’ll give you a text. I think he’ll agree.”
We got to my place and I threw a lot of money at the cabbie and ran in. My heart felt ready to leap out of my throat. How could I say this? I had failed once before. I couldn’t fail again. Memories of Aunt Lumie filled my head as I ripped open Grandpa’s door.
It took me a moment to wake him up. Watcher. He looked so innocent and young as he sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Grandpa… I’m sorry to wake you up I just, I had a vision and it involved you.”
His mouth formed an ‘o’. “What’s wrong, Poliwag?”
I reached out and took his hands. “It’s your sister. Something’s happened, or will happen. She’s going to… to pass away… in twelve hours…”
Sam drove us to Green Valley, where my great-aunt lived. Grandpa called immediately after I told him about my vision. My vision had been him receiving a phone call and how he slid down to the floor crying. He said out loud ‘My sister just died’, probably to Grandfather. I had noticed behind him the calendar (he always Xed the days off) and the clock.
In any case, Grandpa called and found out that his sister was in the hospital. She had felt weak and had been having a lot of issues walking because everything was dizzy. They thought something was wrong with her heart.
Grandpa cried into my shoulder for most the trip while Sam pretty much ignored the speed limit signs. Green Valley was several hours away and we didn’t have that much time. He had talked to his nephew, Michael, and Michael had promised that his mother felt good. Grandpa didn’t mention the vision.
“I didn’t wanna scare him,” Grandpa croaked out. “I should have visited her more often. I didn’t see her much, not recently.”
“Already my vision’s been changed with us leaving our house to be there,” I said, squeezing Grandpa. “So the rest could change.”
“Could,” he sniffled.
In the end the rest of my vision didn’t change. Great-Aunt Miracle still passed away at the time I had guessed. She had a heart attack and just couldn’t survive. However instead of Grandpa hearing it over the phone, he was in the room with her. He had talked to her in her last hours and held her hand until the Reaper showed up to take Miracle’s soul to the Nether.
Because Sam and I didn’t have ‘regular’ jobs we stayed in Green Valley for the week. I canceled my plans and all Sam had to do was let Reeny know which of course she was more than okay with.
“I’m so happy you can be there for Grandpa,” she told him.
Great-Aunt Miracle’s memorial service was huge. Her late husband had been a beloved pastor of the community so practically half the valley came to pay their respects. Grandpa spoke at the service, recalling the few, spotty memories he had of his childhood with his big sister. Then he sat next to me nodding his head as his nieces and nephew spoke about their mother. Commanding, strong, stubborn. Kick down the door if she thought you needed help. Later after the graveside service Grandpa told me about how she had searched for him nonstop for literally decades.
“I was never a good enough brother to her,” he said when he finished.
Sam put his hand on Grandpa’s shoulder. “If she spent so much time searching for you, it sounds like you were more than good enough for her.”
Grandpa broke down in more tears at that.
And when we got home I hugged Reeny tightly, hugged Arty tightly, hugged Angel tightly, and called Piotr to let him know how much I cared and how happy I was to have them as my siblings.