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Lavender

By Xavier Axelson


Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

Visit jms-books.com for more information.


Copyright 2017 Xavier Axelson

ISBN 9781634864220

* * * *

Cover Design: Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com

Image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.

All rights reserved.


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No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.

This book is for ADULT AUDIENCES ONLY. It may contain sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which might be considered offensive by some readers. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

* * * *

To “E,” the one who tames my wild fields…and to the lavender farms of California, bloom ever on.

* * * *

Lavender

By Xavier Axelson

Immediately following my father’s funeral, I fucked a stranger at a rest stop a mile from our lavender farm.

The week leading up to the funeral proved horrendous. Dad’s death sent my mother and I into a fugue. We wandered around the farmhouse like untethered specters, unable to cope with his sizeable absence. She wrung her hands and I chewed my nails.

She’d found him in the lavender, the sun dipping below the horizon, the fields on fire with sunset reds and blazing oranges. She’d hoped to share the moment with him. The heart attack had other ideas.

Tears, endless pacing, muttering in French, and vacant staring into the violet-streaked fields consumed her time. No amount of hugging, holding, and comfort eased the sorrow. Impotent and grieving, we recoiled into solitary shells.

The funeral consisted of local well-wishers offering condolences, sweets, and casseroles. Around us, the black mass moved among the lavender.

“They just don’t know,” she whispered.

“No, they don’t,” I agreed. “Go inside, let me handle the rest.”

She shook her head. “I won’t leave you to the Crows or the monks.”

“Kind of them to come.”

“Monks sense death.” She didn’t share my father’s religious pursuits, preferring more reserved, private expressions of faith.

Brother Lucius caught my eye. I looked away. My body ached and my head throbbed. I needed a man.

“That old sewing machine,” my Uncle Dart said, wrapping his hands around mine. “It really belonged to our mother. Your cousin Shell would love—”

Startled, I jerked from his grasp. “What?”

“Take the sewing machine,” Mom said, “and leave.”

Dart backed away. “We’re family, Lu. You’re as much a Crow as anyone.”

No one called Mom “Lu,” except Uncle Dart. She hated him and most of Dad’s simple, uncultured family.

“‘Vulture’ is more like it,” Mom spat. “Circling, always circling! Take the sewing machine and get off our land.”

Uncle Dart looked as though he wanted to protest, but thankfully, remained silent.

“Come, Law,” Mom said.

“I was hoping Law would bring out the sewing machine—”

“Absolutely not.”

“Mom, I don’t mind helping—”

She smiled at me, then turned on Dart. “I want you to have to take it from your brother’s house—be the vulture you really are.”

I shrugged at my uncle’s shocked face. “She’s grieving.”

“We’re all grieving,” he retorted. “I lost my brother.”

Dart left with the sewing machine, and my cousins in tow. I waved but didn’t care if I ever saw them again.

Inside, Mom stared out the windows at guests as they got into their cars and drove off.

“Your father didn’t care about anything but us,” she whispered. “All this, we built for you. The farm is yours.”

The memory of my father prostrate beneath the waving lavender stems rose up like a wave. “I have to go…”

She didn’t move, or speak. I left her staring at the empty gravel parking lot and the lavender fields.

I stumbled along the long dusty driveway onto the street. Black limousines snaked by, kicking up dust as they passed. My suit smelled of lavender and dirt. I couldn’t wait to shed the clothes and get off.

Piano music played in my head, the song Dad insisted I learn, mastered days before he died. He loved hearing me play.

“Play that song again, Law,” he’d said, whisking Mom across the creaking floorboards.

Dad called me Law; the dreaded “Lawrence” came out only when I was in trouble.

The blaring of a car’s horn killed the music. The driver leaned on the horn, and gestured. I moved closer to the side, not realizing how far into the road I’d strayed, uncertain how much I cared.

Twisted and dangerous, the road wound through the mountain towns like a dusty serpent. Tourists stopped at scenic rest spots to take pictures and stretch their legs.

Sweat streamed from my armpits and back. I shed my blazer and slid off my suspenders, leaving wet stripes down my chest. The suspenders hit my legs as I walked. I pulled the sweat-damp shirt from my pants and tore the tie from my neck.

The first rest area proved unlucky as a noisy family had stopped and was eating lunch and taking pictures.

I threw my coat over my shoulder and kept walking. The second vista point/rest area was more secluded and only those who were looking for action, or seriously lost tourists, wound up there. I rounded the sharp curve in time to see a car swing into the parking lot.

I walked to the rotting wooden tables designated for picnics. Beyond this, a slatted fence of dubious repair urged people to watch their step. The other side dropped off into a pine forest. This didn’t stop me from climbing and sitting atop the rickety fence. I flung my coat and watched the jacket plummet, catch wind, and sail to its grave amid the trees.

The week before my father died, we’d made plans to travel to France. Dad had been so excited, planning our route, talking endlessly about the first time he saw Paris and when he met my super glamorous, beautiful mother.

“You should have seen her, Law,” he’d said. His voice full of awe and his eyes dreamy, he’d gazed at my mother, mixing up a batch of lavender water. “How or why she agreed to marry a farmer, I have no idea.” He’d gotten up and went to her, kissed her neck, and she’d laughed. “Play the keys, Law…”

Loss opens you up, and I couldn’t fill the holes fast enough.

A voice interrupted my thoughts. “Hey.”

The dude from the car leaned on the fence. He smelled of too much cologne and his face had an irritating earnest quality.

“Hey.” I slid off the fence, my back to the killer pine tree drop. My heels poised, straining against gravity.

“Careful,” the man said.

“Nope, never careful.”

I appreciated his surprised look and hopped back onto the fence.

He looked as though he wanted to talk. I had no intention of wasting words with a stranger. Undoing my belt and unzipping my pants eliminated the unnecessary need for conversation.

I fucked him like my father’s funeral hadn’t broken my heart.

Not one for chatter during fucking, I gave him little to go off besides grunts and snorts.

The bottom’s face looked agonized and thrilled. “Fuck, yes,” he said over and over like a mantra.

My father’s dead, fucker, I thought as my balls slapped against his ass. The rhythm of his body melted into mine. The memory of the priest standing in the lavender fields sprung into my head. “Ashes to ashes…”

I fucked harder.

“So fucking deep,” he grunted. “Harder, fuck my ass!”

My ankles ached and sweat pooled at the band of my black nylon socks. “Fuck you,” I spat, drool dribbling onto his face as I drove into him.

“Yeah, fuck me,” he returned as he stroked his cock.

I didn’t give a shit about his enjoyment.

“You gonna come?” He looked up and raked his fingers along my thighs.

The question pierced the veil. “When I’m ready,” I said. “When…I’m ready…Uggh!” I forgot death and let pleasure win. Gravel ground beneath my shoes, and my feet slipped. I lost my balance and collapsed onto him. Cum pumped from my balls and ballooned the condom.

I withdrew my still-hard cock and rubbed it back and forth along his gaping, pink asshole. I slid back in and relished the relaxed warmth until my cock shrank.

“I’m coming,” the man growled as cum spewed from his cock.

The desolation of death crept back into my thoughts, and I wanted another distraction. For a second, I thought of punching him.

The man must have sensed a change in my demeanor because he struggled beneath me.

The sound of a car passing made us jump.

I sprung up, discarded the spent condom, and scrambled into my funeral pants and shirt. “Come on,” I said, offering my hand.

He snatched his discarded shorts in one hand and my hand with the other.

“Thanks,” he said, sliding into his shorts.

The car blew past, passengers none the wiser.

“Great fuck,” the man said. He drew close, sniffing. “What’s that smell?” He sniffed again. “Cologne?”

“I don’t wear cologne,” I replied before yanking the hair on the back of his head.

He winced. “Flowers, or—”

“Lavender,” I answered, then let him go. I tossed the crushed remains of lavender flowers from my pockets.

“Can I kiss you?” he asked.

“No.”

“You sure?”

I nodded and backed away. Overhead, hawks wheeled and the hot wind whispered in the pine boughs.

“Ashes to ashes,” I said, leaving him standing in his shorts.

* * * *

Walking back to the farm, my emotions swung from extreme to extreme. Several times my stomach dropped as though I were on an elevator. I composed myself before entering the gate. My grief-stricken mother didn’t need to catch me in crisis.

Surrounded by lavender fields, the isolated farmhouse stood out against the sunburned sky. My mother, statuesque and graceful, cut a striking image amidst the swaying lavender, reminding me of a knife stuck in the earth.

With the mourners long gone, only heat and the incessant hum of insects remained.

“Mom?”

She stood in front of an old potting bench, my father’s urn in her hands. We’d set up several of these benches so guests could bundle and tie their freshly picked lavender with silk ribbon or brown twine. God, how my father loved chatting with people; he could talk incessantly about lavender, the land, where to eat in town, and what to see before they headed back to L.A. or wherever.

Suddenly angry, I hated anyone who’d ever traipsed through our fields. “Mom, what are you doing?”

She shook her head but didn’t speak.

“Let’s go inside where it’s cool,” I said, coming beside her.

“Is he really dead?”

“Yes,” I answered, fighting to control my voice from cracking.

She released the urn and fingered rolls of partially used ribbon and twine left on the potting table.

“Your father never tied ribbon correctly,” she said, forcing a pained smile. “Every time someone came to this table, he’d yell, ‘Luelle, for Christ’s sake, can you tie this damned thing?’” She looked at me. “Remember?”

“Every time.”

“His hands were so rough.” She shook her head and sniffed. “I loved him.”

I covered her hands with mine. “I know.”

“Your hands are just like his. Can you tie knots with the ribbons?”

“Nope.”

We smiled at each other.

“Let’s go inside,” I urged.

Mom removed her stylishly large sunglasses and surveyed the land. “Can you believe this came from a single French lavender bush he bought on our honeymoon? He loved Paris.” She dabbed the corners of her eyes with a delicate handkerchief.

I nodded, envisioning the trip we would never take. The image proved too painful. The ground shifted and my head ached. Electric tingles crept along the base of my spine. My knees buckled and I fought to stay upright. The urge to run back to the rest area and take another man, or be taken by a man, possessed me.

“Lawrence!”

“I’m fine.”

I declined her help and steadied myself on the thought of taking a cock. Something inside my gut beside grief, fatty casseroles, and sugary desserts would be welcome. The image of the funeral banquet filled my head and I fought the urge to vomit.

Mom looked at me. “You need a change—we both do.” Her eyes flashed with life. “We can still go to Paris. We should still go to Paris!”

Since my father’s death, her need to return to France had grown from casual longing to a desperate need to escape.

“Mom, my life is here. The farm, our business, everything you both worked so hard to create. How could we leave?”

“Let’s close the farm for the season and come back—”

“I’m not going to Paris, Mom. Not now.”

“Ahh, Law, you are so much your father’s son.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

She hugged me. “Never stop being his son or mine.” When she let go, she stared at the urn. “I cannot mourn here. Memories, prying eyes, concerned neighbors…I will go crazy if I stay.”

“We have to find a way.”

“Will you hate me if I leave?”

“I hope not,” I answered, unable to sort the emotions flooding my thoughts.

“Your father wanted to go to back to France. He so wanted you to see Paris as an adult.”

“Mom, stop! Leaving is out of the question, for me anyway, but you do what you have to.”

“This pain is unbelievable.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “I can’t scatter his ashes.” She backed toward the house. “I can’t.”

I watched her leave the fields, walking then stumbling into a run, and finally heard the screen door clanging shut.

The sun setting, the lavender swaying in the cool night breeze, I imagined Dad bent in the fields picking stems, and the fear he must have felt when his heart stopped. He died alone.

Tears spilled down my cheeks and my chest ached. Maybe I would drop dead, too, and for the briefest second, wished I would.

“Fuck!”

Disturbed by my screams, birds cried out and took flight from nearby jacaranda trees.

* * * *

Wow, life following the funeral couldn’t have been darker. My mother descended into a pit of despair unreachable by anyone. She didn’t speak except on the phone to relatives in France. When we saw each other, she ignored me, until I returned the favor, and days passed when we wouldn’t speak.

I dissolved into a nether beast consumed by the need to fuck, and occasionally, on very bad painful days, be fucked. Incessantly, viciously, and relentlessly I hunted men in any and all forms possible. The rest areas proved fertile hunting grounds and there were occasions when condoms littered the ground and my balls ached for mercy, but I didn’t stop until I fell exhausted and filthy with sweat, cum, and dirt to my knees. I even fucked a cop who threatened to arrest me after catching me cruising a rest area. I fucked the need right out of his smug face, and his eyes bulged with the shock of being taken by a man while handcuffed to the rotting fence. I refused to give him my number and left him chained there.

Public bathrooms, gym steam rooms, local bars, anywhere men congregated, I found relief. One night, I picked up a hitchhiker and had him blow me while I careened through the Los Padres Mountains in my old pickup. Those roads on the best days are perilous; at night, they are downright treacherous. How many times we nearly went off the road into the dark depths of the forest I couldn’t count. I wanted to die. I came when we emerged on the other side of the mountain and the Pacific Ocean spread like a black wasteland. I’d barely rolled to a stop before the terrified hitchhiker jumped out.

My diet consisted of barely cooked steaks and muddy beer. Nothing about that time was pretty or decent. The mirror in my bathroom revealed not a man, but a demon—lean, raging, and unbearably wounded.

One day when I woke up in my own bed, a rare occurrence in itself, my mother stood over me. It’d been weeks since we’d spoken.

“I bought a ticket.” She sat beside me.

Unable to look her in the face, I rolled over. My eyes burned with insomnia and my head buzzed.

“It’s time to go.” She touched my back. “Whatever you’re doing to yourself, please stop.”

“Get out.”

Later, I found her sitting in her room, an open, half-filled suitcase by her side. She looked at me with such pain, the hairs on my neck stood on end. I kneeled beside her.

She touched my face. “Promise to scatter his ashes.”

I nodded.

“His family will try and take…” She sighed and forced a smile. “It doesn’t matter. You are smarter than all of them.”

“I’m not that smart.”

She smiled. “Smart, handsome, talented…I couldn’t be prouder.”

“Don’t leave. I don’t want to be alone.”

She looked surprised. “Says the boy who always loved being alone.”

“Not now.” Tremendous ache gripped my heart. The vacancy of my father’s death enveloped the farm like a black fog. “I can’t face this alone.”

“You don’t need me, Lawrence. You’ve always been independent and strong. If you needed me, you’d get on a plane and run away like the coward I am. It’s me who can’t face it.”

Maman ne partez pas.”

“Ahh, you speak French only when you are desperate,” she said and touched my cheek again. “Stay, look after the lavender, and try not to hate your mother.”

“I’m sorry.”

“We both are, but now we have to stop being sorry. You have to take a shower, and I have to finish packing.”

I got up.

“You’ll scatter his ashes?”

I nodded and left the room.

* * * *

Two days later, I found a note on the kitchen table. Beside it stood a glass pitcher filled with her “famous” lavender lemonade.

Dearest Law,

You know I cannot say goodbye without crying, and I hope you can forgive me.

Love, Mom

P.S. Play the piano.

I folded the note, got a glass, and poured lemonade. Tears threatened to make me a sobbing fool, so I took a breath and left the kitchen.

The piano sat ignored in the living room, a room left alone since my father’s death had consumed our lives. I approached the instrument and looked at its dusty surface.

My mother had drawn Play Me in her feminine hand with plenty of flourishes and ending with a giant XO.

I considered the keys and conjured the sounds of songs played, fingers tingling, heart racing.

A knock on the kitchen door, followed by a man’s voice, interrupted my thoughts.

“Hello?”

I wiped the tears from my cheeks. “Yeah, coming!”

A stranger waited on the other side of the screen door. “Hi. I’m Denny. Just moved into town a couple weeks ago. Been meaning to come up and check your place out.”

I felt unsure of what to say.

“I should have called.”

“It’s fine,” I managed but couldn’t bring myself to go to the door. “I’m Law.”

“Naw,” Denny said, backing away. “I’ll come back.”

The empty presence of the house descended, and I couldn’t think of standing there alone. “Hey!”

Denny looked back, a touch of the lion in his slow, ambling movements.

“I made lemonade, have a glass?” I offered.

“You don’t have to.”

“No, but I am.” I opened the door.

Denny’s beard—dyed blue, braided, and tied with a piece of black leather—proved the tidiest thing about him. He wore mismatched socks, had a multitude of food tattoos, and heaped his hair into a man bun on top of his head. Trendy could easily equal douchey, but this didn’t stop me. A lasting distraction could be just the tonic I needed to pull myself up from the quagmire into which I’d descended.

“Come in,” I said and moved aside, letting the door slam behind him.

Denny smiled. “This place is amazing. I wanted to buy lavender.”

I lifted my T-shirt and wiped sweat from my face. When I lowered my shirt, Denny moved closer and stared at me.

“It’s hot,” he said.

“This is nothing. It’s not even summer yet.”

Denny dug a bandana out of his back pocket and mopped his glistening forehead. “You mentioned lemonade?”

“The best lemonade.”

“How long you lived here?”

“Forever.”

“Yeah?”

I nodded at the stool set up next to the kitchen counter. “Take a seat.”

He did, and I got two glasses out of the cupboard.

“So, forever huh?”

“Feels like it,” I muttered. The window above the sink was open, and the curtains moved in the breeze. The fragrance of lavender wafted in, and inhaling, I closed my eyes and imagined being somewhere else. I wondered if I could catch the next plane to Paris. I pictured laughing at some café in a small French town, with an alluring French man.

When I opened my eyes, the table with my father’s ashes stood in stark relief against the sun-streaked fields. Paris faded, and I poured the lemonade.

“You live here alone?” Denny asked.

I placed the glasses on the counter. “I do.”

“Is there lavender in it?” Denny asked, inspecting the contents of his glass before taking a drink. “Decent.”

I laughed.

“What?”

“Nothing.” My mother would have slapped Denny in his cute face. Nothing she did was “decent.” It was great, period. I put my glass on the table. “You said you wanted to buy lavender.”

“I’ve just opened a diner in town and am looking to use only local ingredients.”

I nodded and imagined slapping my cock across his face and shoving it into his mouth.

“We could collaborate,” he said, “I’m thinking lavender lemon curd, or—”

“What?” I brushed my hand against my boner, trying to dissuade it from becoming too noticeable.

Denny stared between my legs. “L-lemon c-curd infused with your lavender, and we could both sell it. Don’t you sell stuff?”

“Bath products.” I scratched my crotch. “My mother is a perfumer and my father was a farmer.”

Denny’s eyes widened. “But no treats, snacks…nothing?”

“My father wanted to expand into food, but my mother didn’t like the idea.”

“Where’s your father now?” Denny asked, looking around the kitchen and draining his glass.

Death is the ultimate cock-blocker. Any fantasy of throat-fucking Denny dissipated, and the blood drained from my dick. “Outside in an urn.”

Denny looked mortified. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. I’m sorry. I’m not sure what I’m doing.” When tears burned my eyes, I collected his empty glasses and went to the sink.

“And your mother?” he asked.

“Gone.”

“She died, too?”

“No, just gone. I should have taken off with her.”

Denny’s woodsy cologne intensified when he came near. “I don’t understand. Where did she go?”

“Paris. She’s French and wanted to go back home.” I sniffed. “Wow, what drama, huh?” I wiped my face with the back of my hand. “So, I say why the fuck not to collaborating.” I put the pitcher of lemonade in the fridge. “Bring me something and we’ll go from there.”

Denny hadn’t moved from the sink. “You sure?”

Before I answered, the sound of an approaching car interrupted us. Outside the kitchen door, a large Nova pulled next to the house.

“Brother Lucius from the mountains,” I said as the monk got out of the car.

Denny looked confused. “Brother?”

“There’s a monastery nearby, and every couple weeks, they send a brother for lavender. They use it in incense and who knows what else.”

Brother Lucius approached the door, the large silver cross around his neck being the only identifying marker of religious fervor.

“Law? You home?” he boomed, sprinting up the steps.

“In here,” I called.

“A fucking monk?” Denny snorted. “This town gets wilder by the day.”

Brother Lucius flung open the door. “Who said that?”

Denny’s jaw dropped. “You’re a monk?”

“A ‘fucking monk’ to be exact.” Brother Lucius put his right hand over his cross and looked up, muttering.

I bit my cheeks to avoid smiling.

Brother Lucius regarded Denny with a smirk. “Who’s this? I’ll be praying an extra hour tonight for cursing.”

“I’d bet that’s not the exception,” I said. “Lemonade, Brother?”

He nodded but stared hard at Denny. “Who are you, Blue Beard?”

Denny didn’t flinch, but regarded Brother Lucius from narrowed eyes.

I burst out laughing.

“It’s good to hear you laughing,” Brother Lucius said.

“Denny just moved to town,” I said, collecting another glass and the pitcher.

“Well, good for you.” He jerked his chin at Denny’s beard. “You dye that thing for any reason?”

“To piss monks off, I guess,” Denny retorted, looking at me. “I’ll see you soon, Law, right?”

I nodded. “There are burlap sacks outside by the dried lavender in the wine barrels. Take what you need to get started.”

He tipped his chin at me and bowed at Brother Lucius. “Good afternoon, gentlemen.”

I licked my lips and watched as he left, wondering what underwear he might be wearing.

“What’s he doing here?” Brother Lucius stared at me with appraising blue eyes.

“Opened a restaurant in town,” I answered, pouring lemonade into the glass, then handing it to him.


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