There is not sex in this first one! Sorry… more juicy stuff later.
I couldn’t suppress a sigh as I pulled my hair back into a short ponytail. Eric and Kyle had been badgering me to go out with them for the past month, and as it did not look like they were going to let up at any point in the near future, I decided to just give in and get it over with. I did not want to leave the comfort of my house, let alone go out to dinner, and going out to club? The last thing I wanted to do. Eric and Kyle were persistent, though, and even though I didn’t feel like going out, I didn’t want to lose them as friends, either.
So, I agreed to go, when what I really wanted to do was to sit on my couch in lounge pants and my ratty flannel bathrobe, have a nice glass of wine (or four) and eat ice cream straight out of the carton. That had been my nightly ritual for the past six months. Sometimes it was beer instead of wine, and sometimes it was cereal out of the box, or mac and cheese still in the pot that I cooked it in. It really didn’t matter… nothing really mattered. I knew I should take better care of myself — I was starting to develop a little chub on my once-flat stomach — but I couldn’t seem to muster up the energy to care about anything.
“Hellooooooooo!” a chipper voice called from my living room. Eric.
“Be right out!” I called back, turning to look at the mirror above my dresser. My face was pale, and the skin around my eyes looked too dark. And it made my gray eyes look buggy. My nose looked too big for my face. Wrinkled blue jeans, slightly ratty sneakers, and a boring brown t-shirt. At least my black hair was smooth and shiny, and my ears didn’t stick out. I sighed again. Hair and ears aside, I looked like crap, and I was only too aware of that.
“You’re not even dressed yet!” Eric whined. I glanced in the mirror and saw him standing in the doorway. I raised an eyebrow. “What! You are not!”
“Huh? I didn’t say anything,” I defensively.
“Hon, you didn’t have to. That’s what you were planning on wearing! I can tell by the look on your face. And let me tell you, I’m not being seen with you looking like that.”
“Oh,” I said flatly, “Guess I’ll stay home then. You guys have fun without me.”
Eric snorted at me and crossed his arms over his chest. He set his jaw and shook his head while he stared at me. A strand of light blond hair fell over his forehead, and he blew at it in an agitated manner. It was a look I was actually growing quite familiar with, because I every time I hung out with him I’d get this look at least twice. I frustrated Eric, and I don’t think he knew quite how to deal with me. This time, though, I stared back for a moment longer than usual, and I saw his face soften before I dropped my eyes and turned to stare at the top of my dresser.
“Travis,” he said soft and low, coming over to me and putting his hand on my shoulder, “I’m sorry. I know this isn’t easy for you.”
“Whatever. I’m fine,” I said as nonchalantly as I could as I shrugged my shoulder. “I just don’t know what to wear.”
“Yeah, of course,” Eric said softly before clearing his throat and continuing in his normal voice, which was higher and, if I’m being completely honest, kind of gay sounding, if “gay” can be a considered a tonal quality. “I always have that problem! Takes me an hour to get dressed!”
“No!” he said, laughing. “I’m not that gay! Jeez. Well, okay, I may be that gay, but it doesn’t take me an hour!”
“Don’t listen to him; he’s lying,” I heard Kyle say from the doorway. He gave me a lopsided grin and a wink.
“I do not!” Eric snapped. I swear I saw him stamp his foot as he said it. “I only take five minutes. I’m faster than you, even.”
“Five minutes?” Kyle repeated.
“Yes. I’m in and out, like that,” Eric said as he snapped his fingers for emphasis.
“I don’t know if that’s something to brag about, Eric,” I said quietly.
Silence. I hate that, and for a moment I wondered if perhaps nothing had really come out of my mouth, because they both just looked at me. Then I realized they wouldn’t be staring at me if nothing had come out of my mouth. Failed joke. Note to self: don’t make jokes. Ever. Again.
“You made a joke,” Eric said incredulously, right before Kyle burst out laughing. He continued, and he sounded almost excited, the weirdo. “Aw, honey, you made a joke!”
“Uh, yeah,” I said, suddenly uncomfortable again. Never ever going to tell another joke again, I swear. “So, we leaving or what?”
“I’ll wait in the living room,” Kyle said, still grinning.
In the end, Eric picked out a black t-shirt for me to wear under a short sleeved white pin-stripe button down that looked more casual than it sounds. We managed to find a pair of jeans that I never wore in the back of the closet, and Eric dug up some black shoes.
“They’re hot, Trav, why don’t you wear those jeans? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in them,” Eric said büyükesat escort as stepped out of my bedroom. I shrugged; I knew why I hadn’t worn them after I had bought them, and I didn’t see as it was really relevant.
“You do clean up well, Travis,” Kyle told me, his easy grin making it impossible for me not to smile back. Just a little one. Tiny.
“Seriously, why don’t you wear them?” Eric asked again. I shrugged again.
“Mark didn’t like them on me,” I said quietly, not looking at either of them, because I didn’t want to see the reactions. Neither of them said anything, but Kyle jingled his keys, so we headed out into the night.
I could count the number of times I had been in a gay club on one hand, that’s how inexperienced I was with these places. One hand! And I was 28, not exactly new to the whole gay scene. The truth was, though, I probably would have gone clubbing more if it wasn’t for Mark. I’m a rare oddity that actually enjoys listening to club music, and I used to love to dance. Past tense. It had been six years since I had been out dancing, and I could not imagine moving to the music, at least not at this point in my life. I used to be able to dance — and enjoy it — but I was no longer the person I used to be. Gone was the happy and idealistic wanna-be rebel. Gone. Does it bear repeating? Yes. Gone. The sooner Eric and Kyle realized that they happier they’d be. I’d say that we’d all be happier, but that would be a lie. I wouldn’t be happier — I would be the same miserable wretch I’ve been for a while, but at least I would be a less harassed miserable wretch.
“Drink!” Eric said, plopping down something that looked a toxic shade of pale green.
“What is it?” I asked warily.
“Margarita, silly,” Eric said. Then he added slyly, “Cadillac! Only the best for our boy. Drink up!”
I did. It was surprisingly good; definitely better than the margaritas I remembered. I perched on the stool while Eric and Kyle danced, and sipped my drink. At the end of almost every song one of them would come over and try to get me to dance, but I wouldn’t leave my spot. Every time I emptied my drink one of them would buy me another. It may not sound like it, but I was actually having fun watching everyone dance. For once, I wasn’t lonely. I was just watching the men dance, and sipping a nice drink, and not thinking about my life.
I was almost content when we left. I could tell Kyle and Eric were worried that I hadn’t enjoyed myself, but I was just telling them that I did actually have fun when I saw him. Him. Oh, him.
If this was a different kind of story, I would start describing the man of my dreams, and how he was staring at me and licking his lips.
It’s not that kind of story.
It was Keith. Dear Keith. I have been avoiding him for a while. When he would call, I would answer, but blow him off so I didn’t have to see him or talk for very long. The only reason I answered at all is because I was afraid that if I didn’t, he would come over, and I really didn’t want that happening.
Perhaps it was the fact that I had a good night, and my guard was down. More likely it was because I had drank a number of Cadillac Margaritas and was probably drunk. For months — ever since I got the news about Mark, in fact — I had felt cold inside, like ice ran through my veins, or nothing ran through them at all. At the sight of Keith, however, I felt fire. It was like a heat was consuming me, and I got tunnel vision. All I saw was Keith. Gangly, pinched-nose Keith. The bastard.
I had walked up to him before I realized what I was doing, and in the split second before I punched him I could see his face light up at the sight of me. Fuck him. I punched him. He staggered backwards, and I grabbed his shirt and shoved him up against the brick wall of the club. I heard Eric and Kyle call out, but I didn’t care. My focus was on Keith.
“You thought I’d never find out, huh?” I growled into his face. “How could you?”
Eric and Kyle — at least, I think that’s who it was — pulled me off of him before I could do any more damage. Keith was crying.
“I’m sorry! Travis, I’m so sorry. I wanted to tell you –“
“Fuck you,” I spat at him with a glare. We locked eyes. His eyes were wet and his nose was bloody. My heated glare lasted all of two seconds, though, and before I could stop it I felt my face crumble. Fuck. Me.
“Let’s go,” I growled to Kyle and Eric, who still held onto my arms. I let them steer me toward their car, and we left. Simple as that.
“What was that?” Kyle asked calmly. We had been driving for several minutes in silence. I was slumped in the back seat. A million non-committal answers went through my head, warring with the million lewd answers that ran through my head, but none of them were what came out of my mouth.
“He had an affair with Mark.”
“What?” Eric gasped.
“Are you sure?” Kyle asked from the driver’s cebeci escort seat. “How do you know?”
“Mark kept a pretty detailed journal. Keith,” I replied flatly, almost choking on his name, “He wasn’t the only one, but he was…”
“Your friend?” Eric supplied quietly. I grunted in affirmation, and I fought back a fresh wave of tears. I hadn’t allowed myself to cry, not since the week after Mark’s funeral. The tears tonight were not welcome.
“How long have you known, Travis?” Kyle asked me. I stared out the window and thought about it. I had always known he kept a journal, and I had actually never snooped, but after Mark died I started flipping through some of them. I missed him so bad sometimes that I couldn’t breathe, and I wanted to see his writing, read his words, do anything that would bring him back to me, even if it was only for a moment. Honestly, though, it was dull. I don’t really know why he felt a need to write about going to the grocery store or what we cooked for dinner, but he did. He wrote every day, documenting his main activities and not much else, in a calm and detached way, mostly. So, I flipped through, because I couldn’t deal with how boring most of it was. Hey, I may have been morning my dead lover, but that doesn’t make reading last month’s grocery lists any more interesting. I was flipping through the older journals, skimming the occasional entry, when I saw something that made my stomach drop.
January 9 While at the Stop & Shop, Keith “accidently” ran into me again. He wanted to go somewhere, so I followed him back to his place. Then he told me that he wanted to tell Travis about the affair, and that he can’t handle the guilt anymore. I managed to talk him out of it again, and I think I really got through to him this time.
It was less than a year ago, and just four short months before Mark had died. I dragged out his box of journals, his carefully documented life. I started at the beginning, or at least as far back as I could find. Almost seven years worth of journals, and at least six affairs that I could find. Almost one a year.
“Travis?” Kyle asked quietly. I remembered that he had asked me a question.
“Two weeks after the funeral,” I said quietly.
“Oh, honey, why didn’t you tell us?” Eric asked me.
“What’s the point?” I asked flatly, shrugging.
They wanted me to stay with them, but I declined, so they (not subtly) invited themselves over to my house. They didn’t want me to be alone, they said. They worried about me. I couldn’t really understand it, to be honest. Other than a little crying episode and punching Keith, I was really the same as I had been for the past six months. I told them as much, and they both looked at me like I had three heads.
“Hon, that’s why we’re worried about you,” Eric said finally, in the same way he would have explained something to a small child.
“Well, I’m not crying now, so I’m fine. You guys don’t need to stay,” I said. Truthfully, I felt very close to tears but I wasn’t going to admit that. And I definitely didn’t want them to stay.
“That’s the thing, Travis. I think we’d feel better if you were crying,” Kyle said gently. “When was the last time you cried?”
I shrugged. They last time I had cried had been two weeks after the funeral. I had read the journals, cried, and then that was that.
“Have you even cried since the funeral? I mean, common Travis, it’s okay to be sad about this.”
“Travis, seriously,” Eric jumped in. “You don’t do anything. You don’t cry, you don’t go out. You’ve removed yourself from your friends. You sit around and eat dinner in front of the TV, which you don’t even bother to turn on half the time. You told me that yourself! You sit here in the dark, and you don’t do anything. You need to let yourself feel. Or do you really want to be a zombie forever?”
Fuck. He sunk my battleship. I felt my face crumble at Eric’s words, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I sat down heavily on my couch, before either of them noticed I was crying, and tried to calm down. Failed at that. I felt the couch sag as they sat down on either side of me, and they were rubbing my back, smoothing my hair, kissing my cheeks, and telling me everything was going to be okay. It was actually kind of nice.
I woke up in my own bed, with my head pressed against a hard chest and an arm thrown over my waist. I was curled up against a man. My head throbbed, but who knows if that was from the alcohol or the hour of crying the night before. I was disoriented, and could not for the life of me figure out what the hell was going on. Then it came back — the crying, the blubbering as I told them about the journals and all of the affairs, more crying. I remember I whimpered when one of them took their arms away. I remember falling asleep in their arms, on the couch, before they woke me up to get me into my own bed.
“Morning,” Eric said sleepily. “How are you kolej escort feeling?”
“Like my brains are trying to escape from my skull,” I growled as I pulled away. My head swam as I sat up.
“Crying hangover,” Eric said simply. “I’ll get you some aspirin.”
I pulled on a pair of sweatpants and slipped on my old flannel robe. I was kind of embarrassed that I had been sleeping only in my boxers and curled up next to my friends. Other than an occasional swim party at a friend’s house, I don’t wander around without a shirt on. I wasn’t sure how I ended up in my boxers, but it was entirely possible I had shucked my clothes off at some point in the night. If that was the case, I was grateful I hadn’t shucked off my boxers as well — I usually sleep naked.
Kyle was up and leafing through a journal. I felt a rush of cold in my veins at the sight of the journal, but I didn’t really care that he was reading it. He looked surprised that I was up, and a bit bashful to have been caught with it in his hands. He opened his mouth to say something, probably apologize, but I cut him off.
“I don’t care that you’re reading it.”
Shutting his mouth, he nodded, just as Eric swept out of my kitchen with a glass of water and a bottle of Excedrin.
“Oh, you’re up. Want me to make you breakfast?”
I let him. I sat at my kitchen table and watched him make his way around the kitchen. He made French toast for all of us. It dawned on me that I missed having someone around.
“So how are you feeling?” Kyle asked. He was giving me a weird look that I didn’t know how to take. It was like he wanted to say something, but didn’t know how to go about it. I shrugged.
“Thanks for everything,” I mumbled before taking a huge bite of French toast. Eric grinned and patted my arm. Kyle just nodded. As I looked up, I saw Kyle shoot a glance at Eric. Curious.
“Sorry I’ve been acting so…” I started to say after we had cleared the dishes. I was filling the sink up with water, and I didn’t know how to finish. “Weird. Off. I’m sorry I never said anything to you guys. I just… I guess I didn’t know what to say. I just felt so… I don’t know. Confused. Hurt. Or something. I don’t know. Hell. One of you say something, will you?”
They didn’t get a chance, because the doorbell rang. I dried off my hands and went to answer it. Stupidly, I opened it without looking first, and found a forlorn and bruised Keith on my doorstep. I froze. I stared. He stared. He looked like he was about to cry. Dimly, I noticed it was cold. Late October and the weather was just starting to catch on to that.
“Travis,” Keith started carefully, flinching a little. He was probably afraid I was going to hit him. “I just wanted to come by… and apologize. Again. I –“
“What do you want?” Eric hissed from behind me. Eric did pissed better than I did, that’s for sure. The icy hostility made me a bit envious; I wish I could pull that off.
“I wanted to say –“
“Fuck what you have to say! Why are you here? So you can make yourself feel better? Well, I’ve got news for you! You’re not spilling your guts just to feel better about yourself, while in the meantime making Travis feel like shit! It’s not going to happen. You just let it stew; you live with yourself, and don’t come around here trying to beg forgiveness!”
Oh, the sweet venom. I really do love Eric. He was standing up for me when I wouldn’t, and… it just felt nice. At the same time, the look on Keith’s face was almost more than I could take. That fucker, I wanted to give him a hug to make him feel better, even though he didn’t deserve it. I wanted to comfort him. Keith has always had that effect on me, and it dismayed me to realize that he still did.
“Hey, wait!” Kyle said, pulling Eric back. “Keith, wait. I think you should come in.”
Keith had turned to go, head down, looking every bit a kicked dog. Which was exactly what he was, I tried to remind myself. That rat bastard had fucked my boyfriend of nine years, even though we’d been friends for nearly as long. He had fucked my pudgy, balding boyfriend. I had to repeat it, because I felt myself weakening. How could I forgive that?
Eric and I had both turned to give Kyle a look that probably should have struck him dead on the spot. What the hell was Kyle doing? And why was he doing it to me?
“What’s the point?” I finally growled at him.
“Because I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” Kyle said gently. “Seriously, just hear me out, okay? I really think you should listen to me.”
I glared and crossed my arms, but I stepped back from the door. Eric followed my lead. Keith walked gingerly through the door, shooting a look at Kyle. He didn’t look entirely grateful, more like mildly confused. Kyle led us into the kitchen and told us all to sit down. I suddenly dawned on me that Kyle was a counselor; he did this stuff all the time. It made me feel slightly better. Slightly.
“Travis,” Kyle started, “As you know, I’ve been… reading. I’m just curious… how well did you read it?”
I know the infamous It that he referred to. In fact, it was permanently etched in my brain: the moment I realized that my best friend had an affair with my lover. I recited the journal entry in question, verbatim. Keith inhaled sharply.
“That’s all?” Kyle prodded gently.