Aeril sat across from her younger brother at the dinner table as she always did. Her father sat at the head of the table to her right, a spot that was left empty on more occasions than she knew it should be. Her mother, who sat across from her dad and to Aeril's left had told her that her father's job was only for four years and that Aeril should feel privileged that her dad worked for the President of the United States. At age 12, Aeril understood the importance of such a job, but she really didn't care. She wanted her dad to be home more often than not. She didn't want him around 24/7, but a hell of a lot more than two or three nights a week.
As expected, Aeril's dad tried to engage his children into a conversation about their lives, a task that was proving harder and harder to do, especially with Aeril. This night was no exception.
The dinner plates were being cleared from the table when out of the blue Aeril froze still for a brief moment. She then looked up at her dad with a cold look in her normally soft blue eyes and told him that she had a surprise for him. Without asking to be excused from the table, Aeril left to fetch her gift. Both dad and mom looked at each other wondering about Aeril's sudden action. It wouldn't take long for them to see what the surprise was.
By the time Ariel returned to the table, her family was eating cut apples for dessert. Aeril's brother was the first to see her walk in with a Colt .45 in her right hand, pointing it directly at her father.
"Cool," her brother began to say, "where...."
A piercing gunshot could be heard as Aeril's father fell forward in his seat with his head falling into his dessert plate breaking the dish.
Aeril's mom jumped up at that moment looking between Aeril and her dad in shock at what just happened. Before her mother could pull her thoughts together, Aeril turned the gun on her and fired. Another thumping sound could be heard as a body fell onto the table breaking yet another dessert plate.
By now, Aeril's brother was under the table trying to hide from Aeril, but that too was a waste of time and energy. Aeril bent down, found him, and shot one round into his head as he pleaded for his life.
It took Aeril no more than 90 seconds to kill her family. It would be no more than three minutes more before she would hear the faint sounds of sirens rushing down the Virginia roads towards her house. She heard the final gun shoot sound as she took her own life while sitting at the dinner table.
Neither the Secret Service, nor the FBI, nor the State Troopers would be able to fully understand what had happened that night. The Colt pistol was untraceable and other than Aeril's suicide, there was no indication of outside influence credited to the family murders. The final reports were written up in less than 30 days reporting a distraught daughter killing her family prior to killing herself.
This was the third time a crime like this had taken place around the world in less than one year. No one in the law enforcement agencies saw a connection. They were just sad events that happen around the world. An increasing aspect of today's life.
It had been 10 years since Jovan left Houston, Texas. He had sworn never to set foot in that swampland ever again. But this time was different. He was coming back as the lead act for the Cirque du Soleil's Illusions Fantastic show. This was a position that he had worked his way into two years previously and he was now enjoying all of its benefits.
The show itself had not changed much in its presentations, still doing a tent in a parking lot, selling tickets to the show from $25 - $75 each. The atmosphere had remained the same, yet the overhead had always increased with each show’s specialty. In this case, the main star was worth every penny to the show’s producers in Canada.
A word about Jovan had spread so quickly when he joined the troupe that the producers had to change their normal one-year tour into a two-year tour of the U.S. and a year in Europe. Jovan was now on his last year in the U.S. He had already been to Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Seattle, and all the major cities of the West Coast and Southwest. He was working his way along the South to Florida, then North and again West to middle America as he wrapped up his tour. Houston would have been a one-week stay, but now it was a two-week visit, which he could not wait to be over. Just being back in Texas sent his skin crawling with revulsion and dread.
The only good that came out of living in Texas for 6 years was meeting Phillip. If it weren't for that chance meeting as they both sat in prison, Jovan would not be the superstar he was today.
Jovan snickered at that thought, as he looked at himself in his dressing mirror while he applied his makeup. Phillip would die of pure agony if he really knew how Jovan was using his powers.
With a steady right hand, Jovan applied the mascara on his eyes as his thoughts continued to wonder on about poor Phillip. Whatever did happen to that poor soul? The last he saw of him was in Houston the night Jovan chose to skip out of town. Oh, that poor man, pleading with him not to run, not to throw away all that he had learned.
"Jovan," Phillip began in his soft slightly fem voice, "you've got one year left on parole, don't screw it up now."
"Listen to you, Phillip," Jovan said back to him in his thick New York accent. "You think I give a damn. Man, you don't know shit."
"Don't give me that crap. You've lasted this long, what's another year?"
"Fuck man. A year is a year too much. I can't stand this town and all its crap. Man, there ain't nothing to do here. I'm in some piss ass job going nowhere. I'm dying here. I'm not you, man. You just fucking don't get it."
"No, I guess I don't," Phillip said as he took a deep breath to clear his thoughts. He knew deep down within himself that this had to happen. He had to chuckle at the thought that his friend had lasted this long in this town. "Just promise me that you won't get caught up in something. OK?"
"Hey," Jovan said in a long stretched out tone, "you’re talking to me..."
"Exactly," Phillip responded with a slight chuckle as he turned to look at Jovan. Phillip laughed again at the thought of Jovan staying out of trouble. One could only wish that those they love would stay out of trouble, especially when they knew how prone they were to finding or creating trouble. Jovan was just one of those people. Forever outspoken regardless of what anyone else thinks or feels, he will always say it, the way he feels it or sees it.
"...I'll do my best. Besides I have such a better understanding of the Universe now thanks to you."
"Well, use that knowledge wisely."
"Eh," responded Jovan with a shrug of his shoulders to indicate it wasn't a big deal. No problem for him.
"Where will you go?"
"I'm heading west to L.A. To catch up with an old friend and before you say anything, he's a cool cat from years back. Before I got into trouble, so he's cool. 'K?"
"Hey, you’re on your own now. I did the best I could with you."
"And I 'preciate it, man. You've kept me out of trouble a few times."
"As you did for me in prison."
"What's a boy supposed to do for his buddy?"
"When are you leaving?"
"Actually, I'm packed and ready to go."
"Yeah. The sooner I get out of here the better. You know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Phillip walked across the living room to stand next to Jovan. "You need anything?"
"Nah. I'm cool."
Phillip reached out for Jovan to hug, and as they had done since their release from prison, they gave each other a strong bear hug. Unlike the others, this one would last for a few minutes.
"I'm going to miss you," Phillip whispered into Jovan's left ear.
"Yeah...well...good. Maybe now you'll find someone to settle down with."
"Is that why you’re leaving?" said a shocked Phillip.
"No man, I got to go," Jovan paused as he thought of what to say to keep things cool, "I'm just saying it's time for you to find a man and settle down, that's all."
“Jovan, you fool. You really think that's what I want in my life?"
"Well, hell Phillip, you've been single since you got out of prison."
"Not because of you!"
"You sure man? I've often wondered if you...well, you know..."
"Oh please. You’re cute and sexy in that European sort of way, but NOT that way to me."
Silence fell between the two of them as they looked at each other sizing each other up to see who was bullshitting whom.
Finally, after they both realized that enough had been said, they decided it was time for Jovan to leave.
"Keep in touch Jovan. Don't forget my house is always open to you."
"Yeah man, I know."
Phillip extended his hand to Jovan as they stood at the doorway. Jovan grabbed it hard and pulled Phillip close to him for a final hug.
"Thanks, man. I owe you," Jovan said in a low voice.
"We're even man," Phillip replied as Jovan pulled away.
Phillip stood there and watched Jovan walk down the walkway to his car. He knew then that Jovan had never really understood what he had been teaching him over the past few years. No matter how much it hurt Phillip’s heart to see Jovan walk away, it hurt more for him to realize how he had failed Jovan.
Phillip closed the door and leaned against it with his back, as a tear of sadness rolled down his cheek. It was at this point that he swore to do a better job. To help kids who were as gifted as Jovan was to stay clean and to work with their powers in a positive life-giving way.
Jovan never knew how Phillip felt that night. For him, it was a matter of getting free of the noose that had been placed around him in a snug fit ever since he had arrived in Texas.
He knew his powers were good and getting better with practice; it was just how he could use those powers that he fully didn't understand. He had a rough idea, one that would need to be worked on in time.
As Jovan looked into the mirror for the final time, he made a few faces at himself as he would to the audience during the show. Everything was ready. Now it was time to check on his team. It was showtime.
This show of Cirque du Soleil had all the standard features; exotic music, exotic costumes, and unique acts. Jovan was a perfect fit for this circus. He had always been an actor of sorts, from his boisterous storytelling, his crazy dancing, and his flamboyant talking to anyone within twenty feet or so. It would be to his lifelong admiration of Jerry Lewis that Jovan owed a great deal of his inspiration and antics.
In his act, he used his six protégées and one child from the audience to play his wild games. He loved the attention, the applause, the money, but it would be other things that kept him going on the circuit; things that only a small number of people would ever know or understand.
The house was packed, as it had been for the past two years. Each person, sitting on their cold hard seats, entranced by the spectacle of achievement each act would display.
The show had reached the final act that would leave audiences speechless for days. Jovan was standing backstage ready to make his appearance. The last act was coming off center stage, the music was segue into Jovan's number, the lights went dim… it was time.
When the lights began to come up in a slow pace to match the music, the audience saw three figures hanging high above the floor and three figures on the floor. Each one was a bright color from the rainbow; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. The three above began to lower themselves down the ropes in a variety of speeds, positions, and angles. It was the bottom three that the audience’s attention was drawn to as they did a variety of acrobatics working their way to stage right, the audience’s left. The announcer’s voice boomed over the speakers, first in French and then in English, "Messieurs and Mesdames, Cirque du Soleil is proud to present, JOOVVAAAANN." It was a simple introduction spoken with great flair and drawn out by the announcer with great care.
A spotlight went on as a multi-colored man dressed as a rooster stepped out from behind the side curtain. Jovan had feathers attached to the backside of his costume in the same colors as his team members. The feathers were made of ostrich feathers but dyed to match the other costumes and measuring no less than five feet long, allowing for at least two feet to extend above his head. On his nose was a two-foot-long beak in a bright red color, strapped to his head. Under his chin was a yellow and orange waddle to further accent the look. His arms were covered with small feathers in a variety of the six colors already displayed.
Jovan had been able to maintain a strict diet and did plenty of aerobics to maintain a tight, hard body, which was covered by a black Lycra suit from his neckline all the way down to his toes, where he wore simple yellow slippers. The black suit allowed the colorful feathers to shine brighter and bolder in the spotlight. He always had to have the spotlight, the attention. Jovan had never changed in that respect.
The children already knew that Jovan would pick one of them from the audience to help in the show’s performance. As expected, hundreds of small hands would go up into the air trying to get his attention. Each one wanted to be a part of the magic. However, on this particular day, as with all first acts in a major city, Jovan had pre-selected the child weeks in advance. On this particular night, it would be a ten-year-old boy, the grandson of George M. Reinhart, the President of a major oil company.
The seats had been pre-arranged and Jovan had confirmed earlier that little Zachary had arrived with his parents.
With a musical step and grace, Jovan walked to Zachary's seat while his team members did acrobatics and dance moves on stage. Within a minute, Jovan and Zachary were on stage to continue the act.
One of the many acts to be performed with Zachary was the simple levitation act, floating high above the floor. Unlike many magicians, Jovan had no need for tables, ropes or any other safety, or magical apparatus to create the illusion. Jovan and his team used their mental powers to create the illusion.
Jovan would work with the child doing acrobats, juggling and a few smaller things that gave the illusion of magic in the works, such as juggling balls perfectly the first time, and then suddenly the balls floating in space to one or several of the team members, leaving the child looking in amazement at what was happening. Often they would look at their hands trying to understand how the balls or fruit that they were just juggling all of a sudden flew up high above them, or far to the right or left, much further than the child would expect them to go. Jovan would act mad at his cohorts and stomp off to get them back; they of course would refuse to return them to him, thus starting a battle of wills.
With the child's help, Jovan would rise above the air to fetch the item; in many cases, that wasn't enough, so he would wave at the child to come and help. The magic was in the sudden rising or floating of the child above the floor. The team members would tease the child by holding the item out for him to get it. The child in many cases would try to walk or run in air to get it, but instead of going forward, he or she would go backwards thus causing laughs from the audience.
Once in awhile, Jovan would chase after an item being thrown back and forth between two team members. Other than the obvious humor of watching Jovan's antics trying to catch the item and running back and forth in the air or on the ground, the highlight would come when Jovan finally got a chance to catch an item that had been overthrown by running into a wall. But he would go through the wall while the item he went to catch smashed and usually broke into pieces on the wall. People's first response was to laugh at Jovan's folly, but with the item stopped and slowly sliding down the wall, people would suddenly hush in wonder as to what had just happened. Had their eyes deceived them? Jovan had gone through the wall, but the fruit or whatever it was didn't. How could that be?
In the meantime, while Jovan would walk in and out of the wall looking at the smashed fruit, his team members created a fire in the center stage with nothing in their hands. What only a few audience members realized was that the child, in this case, Zachary, had somehow been tied up high above the floor and was now rotating in space as if he was on a skewer being roasted. Jovan was still trying to figure out what had happened at the wall while the audience began to talk loudly as Zachary was being roasted. Since the child had no clue as to what was happening, fear was clearly seen in his face. The audience would always respond to this. A few would begin to yell at Jovan while pointing at Zachary. In his comical way, Jovan would go to the audience members to hear what they were yelling. By this point, his team members had brought out extremely large utensils that they intended to use on the child; it was feeding time.
The music had changed its tempo several times to indicate the fun, or seriousness of the moment. At this moment, a strong drumbeat was pounding away as if a tribal war was taking place. It was a very slow, deliberate beat, as Jovan realized what was happening to the child. In his good-hearted attempt, he would offer himself for food. However, his team members would push him away or laugh at him. This was the critical moment of Jovan's act. All team members had to use their powers to keep the fire going and keep the boy rotating in space. It would be here that Jovan would do his true magic, the magic that no one in the audience would ever see, or even know what actually happened.
As Jovan would flap his wings and rise above the fire, he would communicate with the child through telepathy to calm him down. As he silently spoke to him, Jovan would hover above the crowd; suddenly, out of context and coming unexpectedly, a flash of light entered into Jovan's mind. It was a bright momentary flash of light that had never happened in his act before. It startled him and caused him to fall towards the floor; this then startled his team, which caused them to react in surprise and fear.
Their attention was directed to catching Jovan, their mentor, in mid-air, but this then allowed for the fire to disappear at the same time that Zachary came crashing down to the floor. Before any of them could react and recover their composure, Zachary was already standing straight up in the center of the floor, safe and sound.
Jovan turned to the audience waving his arms at Zachary and taking credit for the illusion of saving his life. The audience, not knowing anything different, exploded into cheers and applause. However, Jovan was scanning the audience to see who was out there, who was it that had startled him, and then saved Zachary from sure death. While he continued his bowing to the audience, his eyes kept scanning the scene with no luck. Jovan's troupe led Zachary behind the stage as Jovan took his final bow, before stumbling offstage, giving the audience their last laugh of the night.
Every team member knew something wrong had happened out there. They were too afraid to say anything to Jovan. They knew it was best to let Jovan calm down and broach the subject on his own. None of them wanted to experience a verbal or mental tongue lashing from Jovan. A verbal one would sting badly enough; it was a mental one that caused more harm.
Jovan ushered Zachary to his private dressing room quickly. He still had time to plant the hypnotic suggestion of calm and peace before his parents arrived to claim him. Quickly, he worked as they walked into the RV. By the time the door was closed, Zachary was out cold under his hypnotic suggestion. Within another two minutes, the job would be done and no one, especially Zachary, would know what happened. Jovan had to take an extra 30 seconds to erase any fear that might have lingered from the sudden, unexpected scare of him falling. As the door rattled from a heavy knocking on it, Zachary was coming out of his hypnotic state.
Jovan opened the door on the second knock with an excited and extremely thrilled Zachary standing next to him. His parents were ecstatic as well, to see him in one piece.
Zachary launched into an hour-long speech of everything that had happened in his 15 minutes of Circus fame. His mother escorted him away as Zachary's father thanked Jovan for the show and for choosing his son. Their video camera had caught it all on tape.
Jovan, as always, was the perfect gentleman and thanked them for their support of the show and for allowing Zachary to participate. Inside, he was actually wishing them to leave quickly so that he could be left alone with his thoughts and try to figure out what had happened.
Zachary's family finally left, as Jovan closed the RV door. Before he could take a step away from the door, another rattle of a knock came. Jovan was ready to explode as he opened the door for whoever was standing on the other side; instead he caught himself when he saw Phillip standing in the doorway. Jovan was caught off guard and left speechless for a few seconds before he recovered.
“Phillip, my man," he said in a surprised and not too happy tone to see him. "What brings you here?"
"Your act of course," replied Phillip as he reached for the door to open it. "May I come in?"
"Oh sure, please come in." Jovan pushed the door back to allow his old friend in. "You caught me off guard."
"Yes, well, that's why I'm here," Phillip said softly as he looked Jovan over in his costume. "I owe you an apology."
"An apology? For what?"
"May I sit?"
"Please do. Here, have a seat on the couch while I take off my costume. Can I get you something to drink?"
"No, I'm fine. I won’t stay long. I just came by to apologize for what I did."
"Man, I don't know what you mean. What are you talking about?"
Jovan stood in front of his makeup mirror as he started to remove his costume.
"I meant to send you a little hello during your act, but I believe I messed you up by accident."
Jovan, now stripped of his Lycra suit and feathers, stood facing Phillip in a black g-string, which caught Phillip’s attention and surprise.
"You mean the bright light was you?" said Jovan in mild recognition that made plenty of sense. It had been one of the tricks they had learned early on in their adventure together. It was their way of getting each other’s attention, quietly and very privately, in a prison full of men.
"Yes, and I am truly sorry for the incident."
"Don’t be, man. It all worked out OK," Jovan said out loud as he silently added under his breath, “You don't know the trouble you caused.”
"No. Really, I am sorry for what happened. I just hope that my way of bringing the child down to safety didn't mess up your act."
"You did that? I just expected one of the teams to have taken care of it. Thank you. It did just fine."
"Man, Phillip. Would you ever know me to bullshit you?" Jovan looked at Phillip’s raised eyebrow and got his answer. "Well, trust me, man, it all worked out just fine."
"Now, let me jump in the shower and wash up and I'll be out in a minute. We can catch up then."
"Actually," began Phillip as he stood up. "I have to leave. I have some people waiting for me. I brought some friends to see your show and they're waiting."
"Hell, man. We haven't seen each other in years, and you’re running out on me. Tell me it ain’t so?"
"Sadly, I must. But let's get together for lunch one day at my house. Say… tomorrow?" "Tomorrow's bad. We've got an afternoon show and an evening show. The weekends are always bad. How about Tuesday?"
"Tuesday it is. I'll send a car for you to say about 11 AM."
"A car? Have we become rich these past years?"
"Nah. I'll see you Tuesday," said Phillip as he opened the door to leave.
"Phillip. Thanks, man."
Phillip turned and smiled at Jovan as he walked down the steps. Jovan closed the door and went along his way cleaning up. He knew that Phillip and he would never be a perfect team on so many levels. But, he always did enjoy Phillip’s company. Phillip had his way of putting up with his antics in a non-judgmental way. He just let Jovan be Jovan.
Jovan sat quietly in the co-pilot’s seat of the Bell helicopter as it flew N.W. from Houston. The pilot, a young Vietnamese girl named Sue Kim, had picked Jovan up by car at 11 AM as scheduled. It was now approaching just after noon as the helicopter circled over a large estate, while descending onto a landing area set behind the main house.
Sue Kim hadn't said much during the time they had been together. In fact, her brief statements were polite but efficient as she guided Jovan to the car, then to the helicopter, and now to the house.
"Sir. If you follow that path it will take you to the main house. Mr. Dunn is waiting to see you," she said as the chopper landed with just a slight thump on the green grass. Jovan could see the trail lead off into the pine trees, as he thought that it most likely went to the house he saw a few seconds earlier.
"Oh, by the way, sir," Sue Kim started to say as Jovan opened his door, "I really enjoyed the show the other night."
"Thank you," Jovan responded with a smile as he stepped out. He had wondered if she had seen the show. His attempt at trying to read her mind earlier had failed, leaving him with a certain amount of boredom on the ride up. With no more hesitation, he closed the door, turned away from the machine, and walked slightly humped over onto the trail. A couple of minutes later, he emerged out of the pine trees to see a large three-story white stone house another 100 yards ahead of him.
The trail had gone from grass to sand through the pines, back to grass, and then to a cement and stone walkway with short well-manicured shrubs and perennials lining the path. A variety of colors and smells greeted Jovan's senses as he walked up the pathway. 'This has got to be Phillip’s doing,' Jovan thought. He remembered the house those two had shared a few years ago in Houston. Phillip loved working in the garden and actually did grow a wonderful collection of plants, herbs, and flowers; roses of different colors and styles were his favorites. Suddenly, Jovan stopped and looked at the country's ground surrounding him. With a cautious eye he scanned the grass area, the pine trees, and the walkways. He noticed that not a single rose bush could be seen. He knew his eyesight hadn't failed him, so where were they? Phillip always had to have rose bushes around him. And yet, there was not a one to be seen.
"Did you lose something?" Phillip asked from the doorway of the house. Jovan snapped back to why he was there and continued his walk to the house. "No Phillip. I was just looking for something."
"What could that be?"
"Your rose bushes."
Phillip smiled at the concept of his old friend remembering his love of roses. "They're on the other side of the house."
"Welcome Jovan," he added as he stretched out his hand to Jovan to shake. "I hope the flight up was comfortable?"
"Very," replied Jovan as he took Phillips's hand and squeezed it. Phillip pulled Jovan towards him and gave him a strong healthy hug.
"God, it's good to see you again."
"You too, Phillip."
"Come on in and I'll show you around. Lunch will be ready at once and we have a lot of catching up to do."
"A hell of a lot, man," Jovan said as he entered the house. "The last time I saw you were at your small two-bedroom house in Houston. Now, look at you. What the hell have you been doing?'
"Don't give me that crap, it's Jovan, not some stranger you’re talking to. Now, what gives?"
Phillip led Jovan down the corridor into a large living room that was 60' long by 40' wide and two stories tall. The ceilings reached in a pitched arch to the third floor with cedar beams. In front of them were floor-to-ceiling windows that stretched the entire length of the outside wall. It was at this point Jovan could see Phillip’s rose bushes, planted in a unique hexagon shape with seven very distinct colors planted in seven sections, with each color, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple on the outside ring and white in the center. It took a second for Jovan to place the shape and why it seemed so familiar to him. Then, as his mind settled on the design, he knew its importance. The hexagon was the shape the two of them had used to practice their initial meditations.
"The hexagon," Jovan said quietly as he walked to the windows and stared out looking at its beauty.
"Yes, the hexagon. I still use it to help people in their meditations."
"You teach now?"
"Oh, from time to time. After you left I started my career as a spiritual teacher. But now, I attend to other things that demand more of my time."
Jovan turned back to his old friend and smiled. "You never could stay with one thing, could you?"
"Nope. But as you can see, it's paid off nicely."
"Boy, ain’t no lie there."
Phillip led Jovan to a pair of doors that led out to the hexagon design, as he described his property and its various buildings.
"I bought the land about five years ago and had the house built four years ago. The property is a thousand acres of mixed-use. A clumping of pine trees here and there which hides our deer colony most of the time. A 30-acre man-made lake filled with bass and catfish. No fishing allowed. It's mostly just for ascetic use.
"Over there, to your right and behind those oaks, is a teaching center and the business offices. It’s two stories tall, with only one story above ground.
"Back behind the house where the heli landed, you probably saw the garage and barns. We have a variety of vehicles to use for the property and for the associates that live with me. We also have a dozen horses and other farm animals for use as needed. We are a vegetarian facility, so no red meat for lunch, sorry about that. I did, however, have Sue Kim pick up some lobster and clams for you instead. If memory serves me right, you prefer fish anyways. Right?"
"Yes, I do and thank you. You didn't have to go through all that trouble."
"Yes, I did. You have no idea how much I'm glad to see you, Jovan."
"Are you still carrying a flame for me Phil?" Asked Jovan with a sly smile on his face.
"Oh, please!" Responded Phillip with a laugh. "Like I ever did."
"Yeah, whatever Phillip."
"You know better Jovan. I got over you a long time ago. There was no way that I could compete against that parade of women you had coming and going out of my house,” Phillip chuckled as he thought back to those days. "Hell, thanks to you, the neighbors thought I was straight. No one thought twice about it until I moved away."
"Ah, the women," responded Jovan with a large smile. "How I miss those days."
"Oh, please! Now, who’s bullshitting whom?"
"No. Really. Ever since I started with the circus back in Venice, I don't have half as much fun as I did then. Don't get me wrong, I do get to enjoy the female species on occasion, but nothing like I did living with you."
"Well, you always knew that going with me to the gay bars always set you up with the pretty girls."
"Boy, did it. And then you became a fuddy-duddy."
"Well, what can I say? It just didn't fit my lifestyle anymore."
"Well, it does mine. But I just don't get to enjoy it like I used to."
By now the two of them had walked completely around the one-acre house. Phillip was now leading Jovan into the dining room, where two lunch settings had been set out next to each other at the corner of the table closest to the windows.
The sky was partly cloudy, which allowed for the hot spring sun to shine down on the estate. The property was bright and full of colors, with the lake about half a mile away, shining a deep blue. The view was marvelous from this side of the house.
Jovan and Phillip sat down at the long cherry wood table. A glass of water and unsweetened ice tea was freshly set out for the two of them to enjoy. Before either of them could sweeten their teas, a young Hispanic male came out of the kitchen with two plates. The first had the lobster tail on it, the second was a plate of linguini with clam sauce on it; both were set down before Jovan. The cook immediately walked back into the kitchen to fetch another two plates. One was a mixture of sautéed veggies and the other was a plate of linguini with cream sauce for Phillip.
With the plates set before them, the two of them dug in to eat as they continued their talk.
"So… Jovan. Tell me what made you get into the circus?"
Jovan set down his fork and picked up his ice tea as he sat back into his chair while he contemplated how to answer Phillip’s question. It had been a question asked many times in various interviews, but this time, the question was more than just trivial in nature. How was he going to explain to his mentor what motivated him to join the circus? He wasn't sure he even knew the real reason himself. Finally, after a sip of tea, he looked at Phillip and smiled at him as he began his story.
"Well, you know how I love to be a comedian, right?"
Phillip nodded his head in agreement, while he continued to eat.
"Well, as I was getting use to life at Venice Beach, I was watching the various acts that lined the strip during the day. I was amazed by the amount of crap acts there were and it made me wonder if I could create an act that was simple and fun to do.
"It took me about two weeks to come up with my act as a clown. With the skills you had taught me, I was able to create a few 'spellbinding' illusions with no props. Within a month, I was a hit.
I could flirt with all the women I wanted to, and I even flirted with the gay boys that I spotted. But I can honestly say that it was my act that won people over.
"During the winter months, the strip is pretty quiet so. I fine-tuned my act. By springtime, I had developed an act of illusions that got a lot of local press. It was sometime during that summer that an agent for a circus saw my show. He signed me up and I began to travel. Within three years I had gathered my associates and moved to Cirque du Soleil. That was two years ago. The rest, as they say, is history.
"And you? How did you manage to earn all of this?"
It was Phillip’s turn to sit back in his chair to ponder his answer.
"Well, like I mentioned earlier, I started my spiritual teachings right after you left. Which by the way, thank you."
"Thank you for what?"
"If you hadn't left me, I wouldn't have all of this,” Phillip paused to drink some ice tea as he allowed the thought to penetrate Jovan's mind.
"I don't get it. You were well on your way to starting your Center before I left. What gives?"
"How can I put this?" Phillip wanted to be delicate in his words, for he didn't want to assign any blame or guilt to Jovan for what happened. "I felt that I had failed you, Jovan." "Failed me?" said Jovan with a tone of confusion and surprise.
"Yes. Failed you. See, when you left I made a pledge to do better. Not to fail another person, to help those like you to fully understand their gifts. It was that driving force that allowed me to build up the Center into what you see here. Everything happened so fast, I'm still pinching myself at times to make sure it's all real."
"I still don't understand how you made so much money. They can't be paying you that much for lessons."
"Oh, but they do. Don't get me wrong. You know how much I hate people taking advantage of others, so I don't charge for my services. All the money I've earned is strictly by donations."
"Phil, you've got to be joking."
"No, I'm serious. My classes on spirituality and God's powers have helped thousands of people. Remember… like you, I've traveled around the world to share my knowledge.
"At first, I couldn't make ends meat. I was too wrapped up in setting up the classes that it prevented me from doing as many as I wanted. And like you, I gathered up some associates to work with me. They now handle the business end of it, the day-to-day operations, while I of course oversee it. But that change allowed me to hold more classes, and, well, now I have all of this.
"Actually, I should say the Center has all of this. I personally don't own any of it. When I die, the Center will go on with someone else leading it."
"That will not be anytime soon, I'm sure," laughed Jovan as he went on to finish off his lobster.
"You know as well as I do, no one knows when they will die."
Jovan smiled. He knew what his mentor was saying; yet, he also knew a bit more.
"Besides, I'm no young chick anymore."
"Oh please, Phil. You’re just over 50, don't give me that crap."
"True," Phillip chewed a few pieces of the veggies before he spoke again. "So tell me. What are your plans next year when your tour is over?"
"Ah. That is a good question. One that I can honestly answer by saying that I don't have the foggiest idea."
"Yep. I've talked with my group at times, but no real answer comes to mind."
As Jovan spoke those words, Phillip got his first real negative vibe from Jovan. He had tried to probe into Jovan's mind from time to time, as Jovan had tried with Phillip’s. But both of them had set up their walls of defense strong enough to keep each other out. Phillip had chuckled at himself for being such a good teacher to Jovan.
However, it was the tone that Jovan had used that set Phillip’s mind bells off. He could sense that his friend's statement was not as honest as it was supposed to be.
"You have absolutely no idea what you’re going to do?" Phillip pushed.
"Well, you can always come here and lead the Center."
"Yeah. Right! Come on Phil. You know darn well that I couldn't or wouldn't be the right person to lead your Center. Hell!!! I still drink and cuss. Not quite the pure life you live."
"True," said Phillip with a laugh. "But, if you ever change your mind, my door is always open for you."
Jovan had to admire his friend for trying to bring him back. Or as Phillip would say, 'Trying to save him from himself.' But, Jovan knew better. His way of life would never change and if his friend really did know what he did, it would literally kill him.
But that was not likely to happen. His friend had taught him well on many things, one of which was keeping his mind closed up from others. The new generation of star children were much more adept at their skills without even knowing it, and as he had found out by mistake a couple of years ago. Oh, the sadness that thought brought on. Jovan pushed it from his mind as he finished his lunch.
"Well Phil, your cook has done a great job with lunch."
"Thank you, Jovan. I'll be sure to tell him later when I see him. What time do you have to be back?"
"I would like to be back by 4 PM. That way I can freshen up and take a nap before the show starts."
"Well good. That gives me about a ½ hour of your time before you leave," Phillip stood up and walked over to a phone on a small stand. "I'll call Sue Kim to make sure she's ready to go soon."
After he spoke with Sue Kim, he then called the kitchen to ask Rafael to bring out dessert.
"I had Rafael cook up your favorite dessert, key lime pie."
"You have gone out of your way, Phil."
"Yeah, I know, but it's been 10 years since you left. I've missed you guy."
"Well, I must be honest, I've missed you too. You always knew how to take care of me and keep me out of trouble. Sometimes, I had wished you were around."
"That's sweet. But you had to leave. Not just for yourself but for me as well. You knew I wasn't going to get hitched to anyone, and I'm sure you thought I was a bit possessive with you..."
"A bit," said Jovan with a chuckle.
"But I knew we would only be friends. Damn good friends, but just friends. So no matter how much I wanted you to stay, you had to leave."
"That is true. And look at how things turned out. I mean Phil, you've actually got what you always wanted. A successful spiritual center and you’re helping people. That's what you always dreamed of. As for me, I'm famous! I get to do something I love doing and making damn good money at it as well. I can't be happier."
"Are you?" Asked Phillip as he sensed that negative feeling once again.
Phillip looked Jovan over as Rafael served him a piece of the key-lime pie. He didn't totally believe his friend but he knew that he would have to accept what he said at face value. Jovan would have to approach or say something to Phillip in order to get his help. Phillip’s time of stepping in to save Jovan ended years ago, and no matter how much love he had for him, he knew that it was best to leave things alone.
"Oh, this is shit, Phillip. Rafael, this is marvelous."
Phillip smiled at Jovan as he tore into his pie. Watching Jovan's boyish sense of humor and joy eating the pie would be the last image he would keep in his mind for the rest of his life, or until they met again.
Phillip knew that it was moments like this that brought him as close to being a parent he would ever get. He was, after all, a 54-year old gay man, who had been out for over 35 years and without any prospects of having any kids of his own in the future. His six associates were his adopted family now.