Ayden's Eyes: Book One

Chapter 34

Ayden’s Eyes 34

 Rest…I need rest, but I threw a one-nighter again. Evan wasn't pleased at all when he came to get me at four thirty in the morning. He chastised me to no end. I climbed into bed and he held me trying to get me to get some sleep at least. My hand had other ideas as it snaked around his member. I wanted sex he wanted me to sleep. He finally gave up when he couldn’t take it anymore so he allowed me to slide down the bed and gobble on his dick. I fell asleep in the process, when I woke he was gone I could hear yelling coming from the surf. I know it was from our beach because the foreshore was almost empty, my guys had moved back closer now that the crowds of kids have gone.

 I walked out and looked at the new work. In my own mind it was awesome, and that’s a hard thing for an artist to say about his own works. Coffee was waiting and Ayden was in his walker, again talking his head off. When he saw me he said.
"Dada, up!" His arms reached out for me and I hugged him tightly.

 "Good morning, Den. Did you attempt another one-nighter?"

 "Yes, but it backfired - Evan came and got me." I laughed.

 "Well, when I poked my head out at two a.m., you were hard at it. Don't you think you had better think about building a studio or something? I mean, if you have found your mojo, maybe you will do better alone with no interruptions."

 "I have been thinking about it, Rita, but I think it's safer to do what I'm doing here. Otherwise, I will be locked away in a cabin. At least out on the porch people see me and feed me." I was laughing again as I walked with my coffee and bubs down to our table.

 I looked across at Tony's house. The workmen were hard at it. I think the electrics are being done today because there were three vans outside. I also noticed a ‘for sale’ sign on the old house next door that wasn't there yesterday.

 "They put it up this morning, Den. Are you going to buy it?"

 "I don't know, my lovely. It’s a nice little house, maybe I can turn it into a guest house or B&B or something."

 "Well, you had better ring the agent and find out a bit more on it, like how much." She giggled.

 I drank my coffee. Then, with bubs in hand, I walked him slowly next door. I looked at the sign and then through the windows of the house. Sadly, they would only want land value for this: it's falling down, part of the roof has collapsed into the living room and the electric box has been disconnected from the pole. I carried bubs back and grabbed the sandwich basket.

 Stones were thrown, leaves picked and sand kicked as we walked down to our old spot. I placed the towel down for bubs and me. The guys came over to eat. I thought about going to get Ayden's toys sometime today, but lost that line of thinking when he found his truck behind the big tree. Evan was staring at me. God knows why, but he still seemed a little mad. We ate and Tiny was telling us about the phone call he got from Nuts who is thinking of coming back. He missed us all. He said the girls have met up with the English backpackers and decided to follow them around. Nuts said they will be safer in a big group and he was over trying to get a lay. We all laughed, I thought that might have been the case – they were a couple of responsible types and their only focus here was to see the country. I didn’t think they would settle here.

 “Are you okay, Den?"

"Yes, Bubs. I am going up soon to have a sleep. I'm sorry I won’t do that again."

 "Den, I don't mind you staying up all night, but you don't sleep the next day, and that worries me to no end."

 "I'll be more careful in future. I am sorry." He kissed my lips and then Ayden's, then left for the water.

 I heard shouting and some yelling as I forced my eyes to open.  My first thought was Ayden, but he was asleep next to me. I turned over and heard a frightening scream.

 "Den!!"

 I did awaken fully then. Ayden was gone and Evan and the boys were on the beach. They were crowded around something that was laying on the sand. I jumped up and raced down to the water screaming Ayden's name. He was laying in the sand kicking his legs and laughing.

 Evan gave me the filthiest look and said, "He's all right, Den, this fucking time." Then he marched into the surf.

 My heart had stopped as I held my baby, he was all talk and I don't think he got any water in his lungs.
"He waddled down quite quickly, Den. I grabbed him just as he made the water’s edge." Horse was upset too, but he didn't accuse me.

 "I will go and get the twine for you." Alex raced off.

"Horse, I don't know what to say. I let this happen he could have drowned."

 He hugged me and whispered, "It's okay, Den. Nothing happened. Evan was just a little upset that's all."

 "And you’re not?"

 He hung his head. "Go get a proper sleep, Den. I'll talk to you later."

 With that over, he took off into the surf. Blue stood and stared at me. I think he was just checking I was all right, then went on his way.

 I took my baby up to the house and placed him in his high chair. Rita will keep an eye on him - she's a good reliable nana. I climbed into bed and cried my heart out. I was frightened - so fucking frightened.

 I woke and threw the sheet back as I heard, "Don't even think about it, Den. If you are going out to paint, I will throw all your works in the bin." He was still angry and it was night time. He was talking through his teeth. I could still feel the anger in his voice.

 "Toilet, Bub - I just need to go to the toilet."

 "Good, then get back in here."

 I moved about three metres to the bathroom door and my leg stopped. I looked down and Evan had tied twine around my ankle, I slipped it off getting the message loud and clear. A slap in the face and the biggest fright I have ever had. I pissed and looked at my watch - it was two a.m. I didn't feel tired now - I had slept for ten hours. But I did get back into bed because Evan was there and he will calm me. I moved closer and felt his arm slide under my neck then he whispered, "I love you."

 My tears began almost right away. I didn't sleep anymore, but I didn't dare get up. So, I lay there listening to Evan’s breathing. Eventually, as I saw light breaking, I quietly got out of bed. Rita won’t be up yet, so I made coffee in my kitchen and went and sat on the porch to watch the sunrise. I had let my guard down with Ayden and I won’t make that mistake again: it only takes a second. I shuddered thinking about what could have been. I sat and tears dripped down my face as I recalled Nuts’ painting of his wife and baby: even though I hadn’t seen it, deep down I knew what it looked like.

 A hand rested on my shoulder. It was Evan’s. He had a coffee in his other hand and bent down to give me my morning kiss. He sat down next to me, putting his arm over my shoulder, and we watched God create another glorious day for us and our family.

 He eventually said he was sorry for ignoring me. It could have happened to anyone, even him, and Ayden's surfing with Blue put him in even bigger danger. He thought it best to not do it again. He also told me how much he loved me and asked my forgiveness.

 "Nothing to forgive, Bub, I won’t be doing that again in a hurry. Let’s just put it behind us, and, yes, no more surfing. I couldn't handle the guilt if something happened to him."

 He smiled then kissed me. Rita came out with a pot of good coffee and we talked about the house next door and buying it just for the land. Evan thought it was a good idea. I sort of talked about building a studio in its place, somewhere where I can paint in peace, like the loft at Evan’s mum’s place - somewhere that was safe for Ayden and me in the long run.

 We chatted about Spud, and Rita was adamant he was too young to date, but she saw reason in the end. He was a very happy boy at the moment and they did look good together. When she left to start her grill and make pre-made bacon and egg rolls, we talked on.

 "She's just being a mother hen, Den. Spud told me they would be taking it slowly until they get to know each other a lot better. Jayden was telling him he's had no experience because he was the only gay in the village, or so he thought until he met Spud." So, he's happy to take things easy."

 "Good then, they might fall in love first then do the happy dance later, like you, Bub."

 "Yes Den, like me. Now are you going to be okay if I slip down the beach for awhile?"

 "Yes, Bub. I will bring your breakfast down soon." I kissed him and then followed him to Ayden's room. He was rattling on his cot. That kid is going to make it collapse if he doesn't settle down! He got lots of kisses and hugs from us. Evan slipped into his wet suit. I watched him - Ayden watched me. He was wanting his bath and clean clothes, so I snapped out of it and did our morning routine.

 Rita took him and gave him the same. He giggled his head off as she slobbered all over his face. Well, so much for a bath.

I took my current painting down to his room and will do some more of it later on, but for now I had a bottle of milk to feed a struggling bubby. He wanted to walk. The bottle was tipped up and his eyes looked down to see where he was going. It dropped to the floor because he wasn't coordinated yet. I picked both of them up and hugged him. I held his milk and he surprisingly got droopy eyes and played with his feet again.

 "Good morning, Den! Another beautiful day in paradise, I see." It was Tony and Horse. All of a sudden my kid was awake so I passed him over.

"I am thinking I might buy that old house and knock it down - maybe put a studio on the land."

 "Good idea, Den. Place it up the back of the property in case you want to build a house on the block later on."

 Tony's so wise - I didn't think of that one.

 "Well, it's early days yet."

 "Talk to Tiny's brother-in-law. He will know their bottom price," he smirked.

 "He probably owns it. He owns a lot of properties down here in the bay, Den," Horse offered.

 "Well, I’m not looking for handouts, Horse. Maybe I will just ring the agent." I sat back and thought about it. If I do build, Horse can have the job.

 "Den, one day we can go look at relocatable homes and sheds.  There might be something that would suit you. All you would have to do is hook it up to power and water." Horse was thinking too.

 "Great idea, honey. Where is the display property?"

 "In Warragul, Tony. The guy has heaps of studio-shed type buildings too. It wouldn’t cost much to transport it here."

 I think they have me all organized.

 "When are you going to Bali, guys?"

 "Next week, Den - only for five days though. Horse will miss his little mate, and I don't care for it much there - it's so dirty.  There’s no hygiene rules in the restaurants. I always eat at the hotel," he smiled.

 "Okay, do you need a lift?"

 "No. Blue has offered. He actually insisted, Den. He doesn’t know yet, but we bought tickets for Blue and Alex to come with us. Blue will go ape shit with the surfing over there. We would take Spud, but I think Rita has other plans for him next week," he grinned.

 "That's great, Tony. So you will leave the car at the airport then?"

 "Yes."

 "What plans?"

 "What?"

 "Rita's plans - what are they?"

 "She's going to shout the boys a night out at the pictures, gold class, I think."

 "Good." I was still thinking about the studio.

 Eventually, I got the name of the place in Warragul off Horse, and I will go to Rita's later and have a look online. Rita came out with breakfast for Tony and Horse. I asked if they could babysit while I took the boys’ food down to them. He would be safe with Horse. They were going to eat, then go to the build.

I walked down the path with the picnic basket in hand. The guys saw me enter the beach and started coming in. Blue asked where bubs was and I told him. We discussed him not taking Ayden out in the surf again. He thought that was too drastic and he produced the littlest life jacket I have ever seen.

"Got it covered, Den." He smiled. I gave in because Blue wouldn’t let anything happen to my kid, not like me.

 We talked about Horse’s impending holiday and Blue was excited that he might get to go there one day. Alex smirked and winked at me. Of course, the passport he made Blue get in case they went anywhere was a ruse. He was in on it. I suppose they won’t be telling Blue until they are at the airport. What a great surprise! Evan ate his brekky and drank his drink, then asked me if I needed him.

 "No, Bubs. I'm just going to paint after I put bubs down for his nap."

 "Okay. Any more thoughts about the adjoining property yet?"

 "Plenty, Bubs. I am going to ring the agent when I get back."

 "So you will build?" Tiny inquired.

 "No - I think I'll buy a ready-made studio. Horse will hook it up for us, and Tony suggested we put it down the backyard in case we want to build a house later on."

 "Good thinking, Den. There's lots of room for anything, really."

 "Do you own it, Tiny?"

 "No, Den, not that one. Just the four blocks the other side of Tony's property," he smiled.

 I said my goodbyes and walked back to the house. I set about ringing the agent. He said he would meet me there in an hour. When he arrived he showed me through. It was close to collapsing. He told me a figure. I counter-offered a much smaller one. He was on the phone to somebody for five minutes then tried to talk me up. I wasn't in the mood so I started to withdraw my offer - the owner could keep it. The agent interrupted me and said.

 "Sold, then."

 So I had snapped up a bargain block of land. We can add that to Ayden's portfolio. I made an appointment to go sign some papers and said my partner would do the title’s transfer for me. It was dirt cheap, like two paintings cheap. Nobody wants to build down here anymore, although there were plenty of holiday houses that were now locked up again until Easter. I will go look at studios when I'm in Warragul.

 I went into Tony's and picked my son up. He was pleased to see me - all he wanted to do was kiss me. The place was looking ultra-modern, pretty bloody stunning actually. He's a great designer, that Tony - he's in the right business. I told them I bought the property and they were pleased. Horse said he would set about demolishing it when he gets back. He will warn the others to stay away from it - it's too dangerous.

 We walked back. It took ages because Ayden wanted to use leg power. He also wanted to look at everything on the way. I picked some wildflowers for him to give to Rita, but in the end he wanted them for himself. I found the twine and put bubs down in his bean bag then went to get the painting. I looked at it for ages, then started applying paint.

 I had been at it for two hours and aware that Ayden was waking up. He will need changing, so I put my brush down and looked it over. My butterflies arrived and all I felt was love.

 I changed bubs and blew bubbles on his tummy - he's not quite awake yet but he is cleaner. While I was there, I hung the five works on his walls. I wanted to see them all together and couldn’t wait for the sixth one to be finished. The room burst into brilliant colour and Ayden was talking to them as if he knew what they were all about. His hands clapped and he pointed at them all the time saying, "Dada, up, up!"

 I picked him up and gave him a closer look. He was talking to them as he passed, or was he talking to his fairy mates? He screamed, pointing at one. Then his head flew back, making him off-balanced. He laughed his head off.

 Out on the deck I was met by a very nice looking woman having coffee and a piece of Rita's carrot cake. Cynthia had arrived while I was doing bubs, and she didn't look too pleased either. She started by going for the throat.

 "And when were you going to tell me about this?"

 "What?" I opened my arms.

 "Don't get smug with me, Den. That! You know what I'm talking about - that painting!" She indicated my easel. She must have peeked because I had covered it up before I left.

 "It's not finished yet."

 "Fifty."

 "What?"

"I will give you fifty grand - cash if you want it."

 I slumped down on my chair and took a deep breath. If she's offering fifty I can get a lot more for it then.

 "It's part of a series of six, Cyn. I wont separate them. I haven’t decided what to do with them yet – it’s all new stuff."

 Her eyes nearly popped out of her head. "What are you talking about? Are there more of the same?"

"Yes, Cyn, Settle down, will ya? There are another five in Ayden's room."

 "It's fucking totally brilliant, Den. I must have it. Show me the rest."

 She wasn't going to take no for an answer. I made her follow me to Ayden's room. She nearly collapsed there and then.

Her eyes were everywhere as she looked closely at every piece.

 "Bobby Thompson is going to be totally pissed off, Den. These are a hundred times better than his."

 I gulped, the thought of him getting pissed at me - it frightened me a little.

 "When can I have them?"

 "No, Cynthia, you can't have them. I wanted to see if Spencer or Lindsay wanted to have a go at buying them too."

 "No, you don't do that to me! Don't you fucking dare do that to me! They are mine - seventy-five each - still cash if you want."

 "What?"

 "You heard."

 She was desperate for these works, I could tell. I chuckled to myself.

 "Ten percent of final price at auction," I offered her.

 "No, twenty," She counteroffered.

 "Fifteen." I was winning.

"Okay, and you pay the freight"

 "Done." I breathed out.

 I grinned because I got what I wanted, Lindsay and Spencer can bid for them.

 "When can I have them?"

 "Next week or the week after. I should be finished by then."

 "Good I want some photos to do a special announcement. The auction will be in six weeks, but I want to generate interest in them long before it starts." She hugged me close and kissed my cheek, then thanked me. Her hands shook.

 "What's Ayden talking about?"

 "I don't know, but he's using his happy voice."

 She snapped away with her phone. I opened the curtains so she had more light. Then she gasped as she noticed more and more in the works.

 I thought I heard little giggles again when we left the room.

 "Now we have a deal, Den. Don't you go back on it." She was making sure I heard her.

 "Of course I won’t honey. They are yours at fifteen per cent of final price. I will pay postage." I laughed at her.

 "You kill me, you know. This is a whole new ball game for you, Den. They are absolutely stunning."

 "I have changed my style and, hopefully, there will be more of the same. So put aside my old ones - they will become collectable if these take off."

 "I have nothing left. I came by to get some more, and to give you this check. I will take six, and the prices I will charge are doubling again."

 "So, do I need to haggle over my prices on them?" I lifted my eyebrows.

 "No, just order me another coffee. You have got me all hot and bothered, Den, and we haven’t even had sex yet." She laughed so loud Ayden tried to top her, but he wasn’t very loud at all. He was too busy playing with his blocks.

 I told her I was setting up a studio. She told me to take down my paintings. I was in the super big league now and I shouldn’t be selling cheap art works.

 "Concentrate on your new style, Den - no more painting for the masses."

 Good advice I thought, she knows this business better than me.

 I started packing up the ones she wanted, then six of Spud’s. She thought one of her buyers would take her last three, and wanted to give him a wider choice. We shook hands - I think she doesn’t trust me. But between you and me, she was the only choice in the end. Her customer range is bigger than mine.

I sat back after walking her to the car and felt like I had just found the golden goose. 

 Bubs was talking to me and pointing to his bedroom, so I took him back to see his paintings. He cooed and ahhed at them until he wanted down. He did a happy dance turning around in circles on one foot. Then he walked out to the lounge room and sat in front of the TV. I grabbed him before he got too comfortable and turned on the porch TV, and slid his bean bag around so he could watch it. He giggled every now and then, the cartoons must have been funny.

 I nearly finished the last one, then started another. We had an artist here in Australia called “Pro Hart”. His signature was a group of Ants and he put them in every painting he did. He was very popular and I thought with bub’s fairy friends, I was sort of doing the same. The boys came up for a late lunch today. None of them looked very excited about the surf - it was dull.

 They were going up to the build to have a look and Evan sat with me. He had grabbed a pastie - Rita always had them hot and ready to go. Did you look in Ayden's room, Bubs?"

 "No, Den. What am I looking for?'

 "Six new works."

 He got up and went to have a look. He took his time because I could see the boys starting to walk back with Horse. He came out and looked at me.

 "Fucking hell, they are beautiful, Den! Where did that come from it's so unlike you."

 "Cynthia offered me seventy-five grand each for them, Bubs."

 "No! What the hell's going on?"

"My new style. I no longer paint for the masses, Bub. I paint what I want to paint and these are the result."

 "They are awesome, Den! Did you take the offer?"

 "No." I then proceeded to tell him about the deal.

 "Well, I can see you have changed your style, and, for what it’s worth, they are amazing, Den! I can't get over it."

 He went to have another look. When the guys got back I told them to go find Evan and where he was.

 My biggest concern was Spud - he hasn’t seen them all yet, and I do value his opinion. I walked up to Rita's and found him on her sofa.

 "You sold another six." His grin said it all.

 "Spud can you go around the back to Ayden's room for me and fetch Evan."

 "Sure, Den. Any reason?"

 "Just fetch him kid." I winked.

 He took off out the back door. On my way back to bubs, I heard a scream, then a lot of whooping. He ran out to me and grabbed me in a bear hug.

 "The greatest artist in the world and I live with him!" His tears started and he couldn't contain his excitement. Horse came out and asked how much. I said half a mil. He groaned because he knew I wasn't joking - not that I thought he couldn't afford them.

 "You can bid for them online in six weeks. Cynthia is going auction them for me."

 The dam had burst and I felt freedom for the first time this year. It was as if a weight had lifted off my shoulders all of a sudden.

 "The cokes are on me." I smiled at Spud who punched the air.

He ran to get us drinks and Rita must have slipped out the back to look, because when she came through the shop, she had been crying.

 "I love them and I love you." She also hugged me.

 Later that afternoon I looked at the paintings once more. On my all nighter I had a sudden urge to paint Spud - in fact, that urge was greater than it had ever been. I had done another beach skimming scene with all the folks and Ayden being pulled behind on his own little board. In my head, this one was the best of the lot.

 The next day the shit hit the fan. I had a phone call from Lyndsay. He was pissed off, but happy to bid. He congratulated me for my outstanding work and Spencer was laughing so much he nearly dropped the phone.

 "I'm moving back to Australia. Cynthia can't have all this to herself."

 "You do that, Spencer. She needs some sort of competition - she's had it too good for too long."

 It was good to hear from the both of them. Next I had to hand the phone over to Evan - I couldn't speak when the Tate gallery rang from London. They were also bidding for my works and were thinking of sending a representative down to have a look at the real thing. That must have irked another few galleries who also called. I gracefully answered all their questions. The Australian Arts council was next and they said they were too important to go overseas. My god –Cynthia, what have you done to me?

 I spent the rest of the day in a haze. I had to eventually have a lay down my head was spinning so fast. Six paintings done out of love and I got the world clamouring to see them. Spud was beside himself, he didn't know what to do for me, so he just kept the water and the sympathy up.

 Three days after the initial announcement, two young guys came up the staircase. They ordered coffee from Alex then came over to my table and sat down. One of them had a slight limp and I already knew who the other one was.

 "Bobby Thompson! Welcome! It's good to meet you at long last."

 I shook his hand and he introduced Rory, his mate. He looked me up and down then said.

 "Show me."

 "Show you what?"

"The paintings. And I want to see Spud’s too." He sounded sort of official like.

 "Drop the attitude Bobby. We already decided not to kill him." Rory chuckled his head off. Then he spotted Ayden in his bean bag. He swooped down and picked him up and bubs started talking to him immediately.

 It was like they were old friends. Bubs is sometimes a bit standoffish with strangers but not with these two.

 "Better not tell Cody about him, Rore's. He collects babies like I collect artists." He grinned at me. He was on my level and I got his joke. I knew he lived on the north side of Brisbane with   Daniel Lawrence and Cody Mitchell who have three sons now, if I remember rightly.

 "How many do they have now?" I grinned.

"Three, but there's always room for one more, and that's not counting Teddy Richards and a whole bunch of assorted nephews."

 I knew Teddy was Rick Conner's son. Wow! I am moving up on the ladder today. He's an awesome singer.

 "Step this way Mr Thompson, Mr Rory.” I bade them come into Evan’s shop. Bobby looked at Spud’s paintings on the wall and blew out a little moan.

 "He's fucking awesome, Den. Does he know it yet?"

 "No - and when he meets you, he's either going to piss himself or spew his guts out." I laughed.

 "That shy is he?"

 "Yes." More giggles from us all.

 He also looked mine over. He smiled childlike and it was genuine.

 "What's this, Den? ‘Surf's up’ and no Cody Mitchell or Rory stuff? We make beach wear too, you know. Rory had spotted Evan’s shelves.

 "Umm they are using one of my paintings for their logo and they gave us a really good deal."

 "I'll box something up and send it down then," he giggled.

 "Thank you, Rory. I love your stuff, and if we could have fit you on our shelves, we would have got around to it eventually. It’s just that this place is all new to us and we are still sorting out what lines to keep or ditch.”

“Well, I will send something anyway. Cody will insist on it - I know that for sure. He would have been here today with us but he's busy doing something with Dan," he muffled a laugh into his hand.

 "Is this the logo painting?" He had spotted Evan’s father on the wall.

 "Yes, that's it."

 "Is this your Evan?" He took me back a bit, but I thought, ‘what the hell’.

 "No, his father, but Evan is very much like him. He's down the beach surfing at the moment. He will be back soon."

 "Where's Ayden’s Eyes?" With the mention of his name, bubs squealed.

 "In the living room, this way." I showed him through and he walked up to Ayden's painting and gasped at its beauty.

 "He has fairy folk all around him. You're the catalyst."

 "What?"

 "Your son has a bunch of mischievous fairies hanging around with him, and they show themselves through your paintings.  Have they been really nasty to you, or are they good ones?"

 What the hell is he talking about? Oh fuck it.

 "I think they are good ones, but you can see for yourself in here.” I opened the door and I felt thousands of butterflies moving in my tummy again. I bent over a bit. He was watching me.

“It gets better, Den. They are just reminding you they have your back - that's all." He stunned me.

 "It's the same with Evan - they sometimes go spastic when he's around me too."

 "That's love, Den. Don't confuse the two."

 "He's good, isn't he?" Rory smiled at me.

 "He sure is Rory." Maybe some answers at last.

 Bob had already started on the paintings and he went silent as he almost touched the fairy folk with his hands. I saw tears streaming from his eyes. Is he upset or overwhelmed? It took him and Rory a long time to take in every aspect. I suspected Rory was just there for comfort.

 "May I photograph them, Den?" Rory wiped his eyes with a tissue.

 "Sure. Knock yourself out. Take your time, Bobby. I'll wait on the porch."

 "One more thing - what are those?"

 "Ayden's eyes in miniature. When he gets sick, they change shades. I know his colour off by heart and if I detect a change I can diagnose his illness from almost nothing to urgent."

 "That's his friends, Den. They are alerting you he's sick. They love him so much."

 "We all do Bobby."