Topanga Seed (Ch. 56)

“Full disclosure,” Levi said when Damien called him that night.

“Full disclosure,” Damien agreed. It was their game. When one had something they had to confess, they came straight out and said it. No hiding, no little games, no “maybe he’ll never find out”. None of that nonsense which populated bad movies, in which a character concealed from the one person they should always be able to trust some bit of information or a story that eventually came to be known anyway, causing the oh-so-predictable fight. Levi and Damien just came straight out and said it: Damien had confessed, “The props guy is hitting on me; I need to bring you to set on your next visit to make it clear that I am spoken for”, and “I think I traumatized Track by getting very firm with him and making him eat his applesauce tonight” or. . . in Levi’s case:

“The cult knows! They know everything! I’m so sorry!”

“What—The Braunstein Center?”

“How many cults do I belong to, Damien?”

“See—this is why I need you to quit your job and just come stay here in Atlanta during filming. I don’t know how many cults you belong to. Now, seriously—what are you screaming about?”

“The rabbi.”

“The rabbi?”

“The Irish rabbi. He knows. He stopped me in the hallway after my baking class—”

“Baking class?”

“Don’t ask. I’m an awful cook. I swear, I will never cook for you or Track. Ever. I love you both too much.”

“Aw, that’s sweet.”

“Unfortunately, my cupcakes aren’t.  I tossed them and promise never to give you food poisoning.”

“My boyfriend promised not to give me food poisoning. Go on.”

“That’s it!” Levi cried. “The Irish rabbi thinks you’ve got poison that needs to be removed and—”

“What?”

“You know! At the Braunstein Center! They teach us that we all have poison—personality traits we need to change. If we change. . .in other words ‘eradicate our poison’. . .we go to Heaven or something. If we don’t, we get reincarnated. Over and over and over again.”

“You’re an atheist. What does that even mean to you? Heaven. . .reincarnation. . .”

“It means I’m wasting too much damned money taking classes there.”

“Maybe you should stop.”

“But I’m so bored with you there. They keep me busy when you’re not here.  And I love the meditation classes. You can’t tell because I’m fucking screaming my head off right now, but I swear they normally work. And, look—I wanted to learn how to bake but my cupcakes came out all sorts of awful. Really.”

“Levi? Love? Either you’re really manic right now or—”

“I have so much to apologize for!” Levi cried.

Damien asked calmly, “Did you cheat on me?”

“No!” Levi shouted, aghast at the idea.

“Then all is fine, you silly monkey. Tell me what ‘s wrong.”

“The Irish Rabbi—”

“Calmly, Levi. Take a breath. A deep breath. There you go. Now, go on. Levi? Go on. Levi—”

“Okay. So, after my baking class, I was stopped in the hallway by the Irish Rabbi. And, well, I’ve been putting in change of addresses on all my bills and stuff so that I can stop dropping by the apartment every other day to get my mail. We have these tiny little mailboxes and they overflow and so I thought I’d just have my mail come to the house.”

“As you should,” Damien told him. “You live there. It’s your house.”

“No, Damien, it’s your house,” Levi said.

“It’s our house,” Damien reminded him. “Stop saying—”

“The rabbi knows it’s your house,” Levi announced. “He saw my change of address and he looked it up.”

“What do you mean he looked it up? Like on a map?”

“As in property records. He said that the house is owned by your company or corpora—”

“My corporation,” Damien explained. “It’s a financial protection. I incorporated as a corporation a while back. It helps protect me from lawsuits and the like—”

“Well, he said that you’re the sole owner of that corporation so—”

“I am.”

“So, therefore, he knew that I was living in your house.”

“Okay,” Damien said, matter-of-factly.

“Well, I’m sorry. I told him I was just your house-sitter but—”

“House-sitter? Lee—don’t. . .” Damien sounded disgusted.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, confused. “I didn’t think you wanted that out there.”

“What? That I live with you?”

“Yes.”

“Lee? I love you. I’m proud of you. I want people to know.”

“Why?” Levi asked, sincerely baffled. “X never wanted people to know. Half the time, I think people thought we were just friends and—”

“I’m not X,” Damien reminded him. “Please don’t confuse me with him. Really. He’s an asshole.”

“I’m sorry,” Levi said. “I—that was wrong of me. I just. . .I guess I think you wouldn’t want people to know we were living together and—”

“I’d send out notices if I had any real friends,” Damien chuckled. “I have moved my boyfriend into my house and am holding him prisoner in a castle above Runyon Canyon against his will. Send happy relationship gifts.’”

“I’m not there against my will,” Levi said. “I just wish you were here with me.”

“Give it another month and I’ll be back.”

“So you don’t mind that he knew?”

“Not at all,” Damien assured him brightly. “He can tell the world. I wish you would tell the world. Tell everybody you know. I’m fine with everyone knowing. And I’m glad it came up because I wanted to talk to you about that very thing. I was giving an interview today to one of the local channels here in Atlanta. They were covering a location shoot we were doing in. . .Dikahtuh?”

“Decatur.”

“Decatur. Really cute town. So I gave the reporter a quick sit-down. She asked me if I was seeing anyone and I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ When she pressed for details, I just said, ‘He’s not in the business so I’d rather not invade his privacy by talking too much about him. But he makes me very happy.’”

“Aw!” Levi cried. “You talked about me anonymously on television! No one’s ever done that before!”

“Ain’t I the sweetest?” Damien cooed at him. “So—really. Is it okay if I talk about you? The question always comes up in interviews: ‘Are you seeing anyone’? I won’t mention your name if you don’t want but I hate those fake answers my agents always want me to give: ‘Oh, I’m seeing a few people’ or ‘No one serious’. Those answers are so wrong when I feel this way.”

“You can talk about me all you want. But just nice things.”

“Those are the only things I have to say, you cute bundle of I-just-wanna-hug-the-shit-outta-you.”

“Well—hold on the hugging because I didn’t tell you everything yet.”

“There’s more?”

“Yes. The Irish Rabbi? He even knew how much your house was worth.”

“What?”

“I told him I did not want to know and Damien—I don’t. So don’t tell me how much it’s worth. It’s none of my busi—”

“How much did he say?”

“I didn’t listen when he said it. I don’t want to know how—”

Damien bluntly told him, “It’s worth five million.”

“He said four point two.”

“Okay, four point two. I’m a man; I exaggerate,” Damien said. “But it’s really three point nine.”

“Wow, that house is losing value very quickly.”

“He was probably going off some real estate site. Those sites pull an aggregate value based on street and year of build and bedrooms and things like that. It’s appraised at three point nine.”

“Why are you telling me this? I really don’t want to know.”

“Hon—you had to have wondered.”

“I actually didn’t. I figured it was worth at least a million but—”

“At least?”

“Damie—I don’t want to know. I’m not one of those Hollywood guys looking for a sugar daddy.”

“I know you’re not,” Damien assured him. “Which is why you’re living in my house.” He quickly corrected himself. “Our house. Our let’s just say-it’s-worth-five-million-dollars-house.”

“Okay. Five million. Got it,” Levi laughed. “But here’s the problem: He wants me to donate money to the Braunstein Center.”

“You are not allowed to mortgage my house,” Damien said firmly, but teasing.

“I never would,” Levi said, laughing as he realized that was what the rabbi had probably been getting at. “And I will never, ever ask you to come to the Braunstein Center for anything.”

“And I never will, even if you ask. You can do whatever you want; I will never tell you that you can’t do such-and-such. But I will never participate in that sort of thing.”

“Got it. No such-and-such for you.”

“And no money for them,” Damien told him. “You pay enough for classes there. Don’t give them money. Donate it to—”

“Oh, I agree!” Levi said. “I gave him a twenty to shut him up but really—that twenty would have been better donated to the homeless groups in L.A. or AIDS Project LA or. . .anything. Never again.”

“He really said I had poison?”

“He said I needed to save you.”

“Did you tell him you already had? That you’re my salvation?”

“Oh! That would have been so good but I’m not smart enough to think that quickly. Instead I yelled at him, ‘Anyone alive should aspire to be Damien Lanchester!’”

Damien erupted in a deafening laugh. “You told him, ‘Anyone alive should aspire to be Damien Lanchester’? Can I tell Alicia that story? She’ll piss her pants. I don’t think she’ll necessarily agree but she’ll definitely get a much-needed laugh out of it.”

“You can tell her,” Levi agreed. “It’s the truth. Everyone should aspire to be you.”

“Oh, you are making me so–I can’t wait to snuggle up with you in a few days.”

“Snuggle?”

“There are some young extras around. I have to watch my language. Consider ‘snuggle’ a euphemism.”

“A youth-dictated euphemism.”

“I wish I was there now. Oh—hold on! Alicia! Alicia! You got a minute? Lee-we’re on a night shoot. Hold on. Alicia—you have to hear this story. Lee-she’s had a bad day. This has been a really rough shooting day for everyone. You tell her the story. Make her laugh like you did when you sent those pictures of you on Hollywood Boulevard.”

Levi heard the phone switch hands and Alicia’s warm voice ask, “Levi?”

“Hi Alicia,” Levi said awkwardly.

“Your personal Cary Grant here says you have a story I need to—oh, he is laughing his head off! What have you done to my leading man, Levi Hastings?” She covered the phone’s microphone but Levi could clearly hear her as she said to Damien, “This is why you two work. Jesus, I’ve never seen you so happy.”

He assumed she meant for Levi to hear it. And he appreciated that as he sat alone by the pool, overlooking the blackness of Runyon Canyon like a prince happily locked away in a tower.

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