Excerpt: The Tailor

Bartholomew Jay Westwood—or Jay as he preferred, not overly fond of his upper-crust name—rifled through the suits hanging in his walk-in closet. There were plenty to go around, all perfectly tailored to fit his slightly athletic frame, and they came in a considerable range of colors. There was even one white suit, which he wore about as much as the plaid one, but he felt the need to possess them to round out his collection. And of course each and every one was made of only the finest material, the labels featuring designer names, and their price tags hefty.

They were his one indulgence, the only vice—if it could even be called that—he had.

There were dress shirts and vests and ties and shoes to compliment every suit. His closet of couture, as one of his female friends has dubbed it, and yet he couldn’t find a single thing to wear. Okay, so that wasn’t entirely true: he was just having a horrible time picking which number would do the job. Jay eyed his jackets on their hangers, fully aware that time was running out. Should he go with something light like beige or dove grey, or would navy be more appropriate? And of course there was black, the one color he always looked so dashing in, the shade that went so well with every other color.

Jay sucked in his bottom lip.

Nothing but the white suit screamed holiday party and he just could not bring himself to wear it out of the house. In fact, since shoving it in amongst all its relatives, he could only recall having worn it once: A Halloween party three years ago when he went as a disco cowboy. Definitely something he should have given more thought. A quick glance at his watch showed him time was trying to force his hand. First he grabbed at a blue then put it back for the slate grey on a nearby hanger, but that also went back. Why did he have to be so indecisive, second guessing every choice?

But what if he picked the wrong suit? He’d never live it down.

Maybe no one else would care, but he definitely would, and chances were it would find a way to haunt his dreams.

Not for the first time he began to wonder about his state of mental health. After all, who owned more than twenty suits and always made time to stop at The Well Dressed Man? The upscale men’s boutique was easily his favorite place to drop loads of cash, though he managed to avoid emptying his account. For now. How hard would it be, he wondered, to find a therapy group for people with his obsession? Would he have to join one of those shoppers-anonymous gatherings, the ones with people who felt the need to buy things, mostly useless things with no relevance to their life?

Blasphemy. Suits were practical.

Unless they were responsible for making him late to the party.

Finally, he went for one of the black ensembles, not his priciest nor his cheapest, and paired it with a red vest and a forest-green tie. Standing before the mirror, Jay winced, questioning the decision to mix and match in the name of holiday spirit. Perhaps it was time he got around to shopping for ties with a little character, at least for sporting during the holidays. A little number with snowflakes would have tied the look together perfectly. He stopped to make sure his shoes were scuff-free and that the silver band of his watch shimmered.

Satisfied, Jay finally left the house, stepping out into the bitter cold of early December. Shrugging into his winter coat—charcoal gray, knee length—he made a beeline for the driveway. Little white flakes began to float lazily down to join others from previous snowfalls, a blanket of white five or six inches thick already coating the ground. Jay sidestepped a patch of pesky ice near the end of the walkway and hit the fob on his key, the lights of his sedan flashing, the engine turning over with the help of an automatic starter. If he hurried, there would still be time to stop by the liquor store and pick up a decent bottle of wine or some lovely champagne. His mother had taught him to never arrive at a party empty handed.

Even if said party was being thrown by his boss.

Another valid reason not to show up late.

Heater blasting, radio pumping out Christmas carols, Jay started for town with one destination in mind. He attempted to ease his growing nerves as well as shush his second-guessing inner voice by singing along to the radio, belting out the carols as best he could. It helped him get in the mood, seeing as it had been December for all of three days and he was on his way to the first of too many holiday parties. Stopped by a red light, he looked around. The flakes were falling heavier, and lights reflected off the wet roads.

Jay spotted the party invitation out of the corner of his eye. It sat on the passenger seat. The off-white envelope bore his name across the front in gold lettering, the same lettering that inside gave him all the essential details and proclaimed that he was allowed to bring a ‘plus one.’ Jay felt a dull ache somewhere around his heart and a little of his cheer departed. Only four months ago, he’d born witness to the ending of his longest-running relationship. Eight months they’d been together, and he had been starting to plan the holidays when the door he’d never seen coming slammed in his face. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, he was single again, his heart shattered.

Even now the bitter taste of love lingered on his tongue.

The light turned green.

Jay banished thoughts of his ex as he pulled into the little strip mail that housed his favorite liquor store. He eased the sedan into a spot closest to the liquor joint, doing his very best to ignore the glow of the window display at The Well Dressed Man. Now was definitely not the time to be out looking for new duds. A little bell over the liquor store’s door chimed. A middle-aged man looked up from the magazine he’d been reading while manning the counter.

Jay knew exactly what he wanted; he passed selections of vodka and whiskey and mixers until he reached the wine aisle. From the array of colored bottles, he plucked a wine produced in-state, one made with frozen grapes and known as ice wine.

It seemed most fitting.

So he got a second bottle.

And then a third because it wouldn’t hurt to bring one home. Perhaps he’d drink a glass in front of the fireplace while perusing the pages of a well-written novel. A perfect winter’s evening.

For a single man.

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