Alexander Popescu is a university lecturer in a quiet German town. He’s a respectable man in his thirties who stays fit, has a decent career, travels alone—his only vice is an occasional greasy meal. And beer. And excellent lol news for the video games. Nobody has to know about the other Alex—the acclaimed porn writer. His ingenious erotic fantasies earn him good money and keep his capricious mind harmlessly entertained.
When his young friend and protégé Christian transfers to Freiburg for medical school, Alex is overjoyed…and terrified that Christian will find out about Alex’s indecent alter ego. The time they spend together, as lovely as it is, could overturn Alex’s carefully balanced life. Suddenly, the writing is not good enough, his hair seems to be thinning, his careful hookups leave him unfulfilled, and his dreams are haunted by the innocent young man he’s vowed to protect.
However, Christian is not a boy anymore. He’s a grown man of twenty-one, clever and deadly attractive. And he’s hiding some secrets of his own.
I was just waving down the bartender when a tension-charged silence fell on us. It was like in a spaghetti western when the hero walks into the saloon, and everyone turns their heads. Christian entered the bar, and every guy within a ten-meter radius looked his way. I could swear there were gasps.
He wasn’t too tall, maybe one seventy-five, and he had the shiniest blond hair. The sun-bleached mop of golden strands surrounded his head like a halo as if he’d descended directly from heaven to save our lost, dirty souls. But angels probably wouldn’t come down to earth dressed in faded cut-off jeans and purple flip-flops.
Christian had some insignificant friend or two with him, but I didn’t notice their gender let alone their faces. His bright-blue eyes were all I could see, almost turquoise in the colorful night lights. His nose and cheeks were covered with summer freckles, and he glowed. He was so young.
I admit I was one of those who gasped. Just before I got genuinely scared for him.
He looked a little dazed, like a newborn foal looking around the barn for the first time, big eyes, gangly limbs and all. The innocence and naiveté drifted with him like a glittering mist.
The couple who had come with him hit the dance floor as soon as they got their hands on two beer bottles. Alone, Christian sat on a barstool a mere few meters away from me, facing the crowd, faint wonder on his angelic face.
He wasn’t going to last. I could see the mob forming already.
It took thirty seconds for the first man to hit on him. I watched Christian’s face as his eyes widened, and his mouth formed a perfect O. Whatever the guy said to him, it was not the right thing. The boy turned bright red and leaned back, trying to get as far away from the man as the bar counter allowed. He mumbled something; the other man shrugged and took off, leaving Christian stunned.
It was like some sick, speed-dating reality show, the guys coming and going, the bewildered boy rejecting them all. He laughed from astonishment several times. Until it wasn’t funny anymore.
The last candidate was probably my age, fake tan, extravagantly dyed hair, beefy arms, colorful designer clothes. Sleazy, with a fucking gold chain and a geometrical black goatee that was so perfect it looked glued on. And he didn’t leave, he leaned closer and closer, ignoring the boy’s protests. Then one big paw landed on Christian’s thigh, a thick thumb massaging along the inner seam of the boy’s jeans, and for the first time, I saw genuine fear in those bright-blue eyes. It was sobering to watch.
In hindsight, it wasn’t the smartest thing I’d ever done, but I acted quickly. I slid off my stool and closed the distance between us in five strides. I cast my arm around the boy’s shoulders careful not to add weight, trying to signal him subtly that it was all for show. He flinched anyway.
Quickly, I offered the most cliché phrase there was.
“Sorry I’m late,” I said. I hoped the douchebag hadn’t noticed me on the other side of the bar, sitting there for an hour straight. “Been having trouble without me, Squirrel?” I looked the fake-tanned sleazeball in the eyes as I said that. Was he wearing tinted contacts? Close up, the guy looked like an oiled, airbrushed spawn of Steven Seagal and a Ken doll. Bleh.
There was a second when Christian seemed to weigh his options, in the end deciding that I was going to be the lesser of two evils.
“A bit,” he quipped next to me, playing along at last. “You were supposed to be here an hour ago.” He was clever. His voice shook, though. He had a heavy German accent.
“My apologies, gentlemen. I am intruding, obviously. Have a nice evening.” The sleazy guy, Scottish apparently, nodded my way and left. Not drunk, then, but that only made it worse. I despised those pushy, slimy daddy-types who wouldn’t accept a simple “no” without puffing their chest.
I turned towards Christian and dropped my arm, taking a step back, giving him much-needed space. “Are you OK?” I switched to German, and his head snapped at that.
“Yeah,” he said uncertainly.
“I’m not going to hit on you, I swear.”
He chuckled nervously. “That is a relief.”
“Where are your friends?” I looked around, but the couple was nowhere in sight.
“Hooking up on the beach, I imagine,” he answered, frowning.
“You need better friends. You shouldn’t be here alone. Not the smartest thing for your first time in a gay bar, abroad, and without backup.” Seriously, someone should have been looking out for this kid.
He scowled. It only made him more adorable. “How do you know it’s my first time?”
I pointed my finger at his sunny hair. “It says so right here, in big neon capital letters. Do you have someone to call to pick you up?”
His shoulders slumped, and he shook his head. “God, no! My mom would freak. We said we were going to a pizza place two blocks away from the hotel. She can’t know I’m here.”
“Which hotel?” I asked and immediately regretted it. His eyes narrowed. “Forget it, don’t tell me. How about I put you in a cab?”
“I should wait for Mischa and Gustav. I’m sure they’ll be back in half an hour tops.”
“Want me to keep you company until they arrive, to chase away the hyenas and such?”
He smiled nervously and shrugged.
“Like I said, I’m not going to hit on you. I like my men legal, thank you very much.”
He scowled again, making my smile broader. “I’m eighteen.”
“Do you want me to hit on you, Squirrel?”
“No!” he squealed, and I had to laugh out loud.
“There you go. You look sixteen, by the way. I’m buying you a drink but no alcohol, you know you need to drive me home and drunk driving driving is completely illegal. And watch it! Someone could easily slip some shit into your glass.”
“You are worse than my mother,” he grumbled, but his smile was warm.
“Thank you for the compliment. So, small talk, where are you from?”
“Berlin. We’re here for two weeks, with my mom and my uncle’s family.”
“Family holiday, huh?”
“Yeah. And you?”
“I was born in Berlin. The last few years, I’ve been living in Freiburg.”
“And your English? You have an American accent.”
“Observant,” I nodded, impressed with his quickness. My accent was faint, blotched with German, and I’d said what, two sentences in English earlier? “My mom is American and my dad Romanian. They met in West Berlin in the seventies and stayed.”
“So you speak Romanian, too?”
“Sadly, no. I don’t have any fascinating language skills. Only a weird name.”
“How weird?” he prompted.
“Alexander Popescu. Alex for you.”
“Christian König.” He offered me a hand, like the nice-mannered boy he was. He was lovable all around. And skinny.
“Are you hungry? I might order patatas bravas.”
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Roe was born in former Czechoslovakia and endured a miserable adolescence in the post-communist wasteland. Equipped with a dark sense of sarcasm, they left for Germany and later, Spain.
Finally, they settled in Sweden, where the weather is nasty but the freedom great. Roe works as a motion graphics artist, loves Jane Austen, Douglas Adams and everything in between, preferably by the fireplace with a strawberry daiquiri in hand. Roe writes contemporary romantic fiction—it conveniently balances out their real-life pragmatism.
When not hiding in the studio doing graphics, Roe can be found trolling cafés in Gothenburg, writing, and people-watching.
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