Sharon had put off moving until the Monday after the open house, so Evan and I showed up at her apartment around 7am with coffee and doughnuts. Rafael was already there with one of the work trucks. She'd taken all the small stuff over during the week, so we just had the furniture to move. Unlike most women, Sharon travelled fairly light and it didn't take us long to get loaded and over to the new house.
We parked in the alley that ran along the back of the Victorian and unloaded through the gate into the backyard. Kenny had just arrived and Sharon proceeded to give him the grand tour of the first floor offices. While Evan took a chair, Raf and I humped her couch up the wide steps of the back porch, then on up the winding staircase to the second floor. The stairs opened onto a large landing with an archway into the living room on the left, another into the kitchen on the right, and a couple doors behind us.
I hadn't been up here yet, and after we put the couch down across from a white marble fireplace, I took a look around. The apartment occupied the entire upstairs, about 1700sf, just a tad smaller than the floor below. The living room looked out over the street through a big bay window complete with window seat. The sleeping architect in Evan came to life and he went on and on about the crown molding and the chair rail, the built-in bookcases flanking the fireplace, the original tin ceilings and oak floors. Rafael smiled politely, but I knew he wasn't that interested in the historical aspects of the place. The windows were tall and narrow, but there were lots of them and the rooms glowed in the morning light.
Suddenly we heard a "Wow!" from the hallway. It was Kenny's voice. The three of us did a quick turn to see him there in his chair with a smiling Sharon standing behind him.
"What the..?" "How the hell...?" came from Raf and Evan at the same time.
Sharon pointed behind her at one of the hallway doors and told us about the small wheelchair elevator that the previous owner had installed when his wife broke her hip. When she showed it to us, I realized that it had been a pantry at one time. Perfect fit.
I left the three of them with Sharon discussing the advantages/disadvantages of owning historical property and wandered through the empty dining room, which was painted a dark pink, into the kitchen. It was all white, and the upper cupboard doors were inset with etched glass, behind which I could see Sharon's dishes. A small oak dining table her Grandpa had made stood in front of a large window that overlooked the back yard. I smiled as I sat down in a chair, also made by him, knowing we'd be eating some meals here. A laundry room was through a door past the table.
Along with the elevator, two bedrooms and a bath opened off the hall, with a private bath in the master bedroom, which occupied the front corner of the house. I grinned when I saw that the bathroom was in the round tower with a big claw foot tub grandly positioned in front the three curving windows. To top it all off, a tasseled canopy hung from the ceiling, turning a simple bath into something out of a harem. Or a whorehouse.
"Don't ya just love it?" Sharon laughed as she came into the room. "In case you're wondering, there's some sort of privacy film on the windows, so you can sit right there in front of God and everybody and take your bath."
With all her furniture in place, the apartment took on something of the feel the Farm had - warm, comfortable, and inviting. She thanked us by pulling an egg casserole out of the oven and feeding us. We sat around the table in the kitchen after we were finished, drinking coffee and talking before we left.
Evan told a story about one of his odder clients, and when we were finished laughing, Sharon said, "Speaking of oddballs, I had an interesting call yesterday. Kathryn something. She's moving here for a job and had very specific ideas about what she wants in a house. No window over the sink, which normally everybody wants. Said doing dishes is the perfect time to think about things and she doesn't want any distractions. A big porch to watch thunderstorms from. A fenced yard for a dog. When I asked her what kind of dog she had, she said she didn't."
Evan and I exchanged a look. "Did she run a background check on you?" Evan asked with a straight face.
"Did she what? God, I don't know. Why the hell would she do that?" She looked at us closely. "Do you know her?"
Evan sighed. "Yeah. I think that's probably my new secretary. Coolidge?"
Sharon snapped her fingers. "That's it. Kathryn Coolidge. What happened to your old secretary?"
"She'll stay with the corporate side of the business. I need one who knows family law."
"Well, she's a character. Actually, I bet she'll be great. Seemed like a no-nonsense woman to me, although I haven't met her yet."
"Wait'll you see her," I said.
"Why? Is she a troll?"
"No, she's... what, Evan? `Classic,' I guess, is the best word for her."
"Well, she's due at 10, so I'll let you know what I think. But really – as long as she buys a house from me – I don't care how odd she is."
Kenny left for home, Evan headed off to the office, Raf drove back to the shop in his truck, and Sharon walked me out to the Jeep. She was wearing a black sweater with the agate necklace we'd given her for Christmas. I reached out to touch a stone and she smiled at me. "I wear it a lot. It goes with almost anything."
"Good." I turned to look back at the house. "I love the house. Now that we have the Farm, I can't imagine living anywhere else, but if I'd seen this first... I don't know. It's pretty neat."
"Thanks. I love it, too. Hopefully, it'll be as profitable as it is charming."
I gave her a hug and went off to program with Kenny. Our little collaboration was booming along as our current clients mentioned us to their business associates. I spent a minimum of eight hours a day five days a week sitting next to Kenny at the extra desk we'd moved into his office, typing like a maniac to keep up with the programming requests. As I worked, one particular type of request began to dominate the incoming emails – support for programs that were no longer updated or maintained by their originators. I begged, borrowed and stole source codes so that I could do back-end tweaks, and learned to program work-arounds for codes I couldn't get my hands on.
Right in the middle of all this was Valentine's Day, our first together. The 13th I ran out at lunch to buy a great big pot roast, one of Evan's favorite things.
Then I sweated through choosing just the right card. I don't know who writes those fucking things, but someone should address the need for a card that a man can give to another man. I didn't want a humorous one, and the mushy ones were entirely too flowery and over the top with poetic sentiment. I wanted a card that expressed what I felt for Evan. I really didn't even know what that was, but figured I'd know it when I saw it. An hour later I arrived back at Kenny's in a foul mood with a card that was barely acceptable.
"What the hell's the matter with you?" Kenny asked when I slumped into my chair. "They outta Evan's favorite diameter of carrots or something?"
My catering to Evan's food preferences was becoming something of a joke. "No, the Valentine's cards all suck. What'd you get Raf?"
He laughed. "I don't bother with a card. I just give him a big box of dark chocolates and a blow job with all the trimmings, and he's good for another year."
Evan and I didn't yet have the sort of history between us that could support doing without a card, so I wrote out a little bit of what I felt for him, signed it `All my love, Jeff,' and decided it would have to do. On Kenny's advice I stopped at the bakery and picked up a fancy desert that we could share.
On the fourteenth, I worked until early afternoon, and then came home so I could get the roast in the oven and pick up the house a little. I bought a big bunch of pink tulips on the way, but then realized I had nothing to put them in, so I hiked out to the barn and scrounged around until I found an old metal watering can. The flaking green paint only emphasized the perfection of the blooms and it looked great in the middle of the big dining table. The chunky white candles from Christmas still had some life in them, so I put them on either side of the flowers. Sighing in nervous anticipation, I propped my card up against the can and went back to peeling potatoes.
My mood must have rubbed off on Chew because he jumped up and barked when he heard Evan's car, something he normally reserved for strangers, and startled the shit out of me. I walked down the steps to meet Evan as he climbed out of the car holding a big bunch of white roses. He handed me the flowers, gathered up his coat and briefcase, shut the car door with his foot, and planted a big kiss on my mouth.
"Happy Valentine's Day! Red seemed so... predictable," he said, nodding at the roses, "and then I saw these. Aren't they gorgeous?"
I agreed that they were, holding them to my nose for a sniff as we walked into the house. One by one, I worked the roses into the can with the tulips, pleased that Evan had thought to get me flowers. When I was finished, I glanced up to see him watching me with a smile as he held out a card and a small package wrapped in bright red paper.
"You got me a present?"
"Just a little something you'll get a lot of use out of, I think."
As I slid my finger under the flap of the envelope, Evan waved his hand dismissively. "All the cards sucked, so..."
It made me smile when I opened the card to find that he had bought one of the flowery ones that I'd rejected, but he'd crossed out the printed text and written his own.
I thought about buying a great wine
And a big box of candy so fine
But those mightn't be missed
If I just ask you this
Jeff, will you please be my Valentine?
Always - Evan
I expect my mouth was hanging open when I looked up because Evan laughed. "When I was thinking of something to write, I kept thinking in rhymes, and... well, I ended up with a limerick. Pretty goofy, huh?"
"You just sat there and thought this up?"
"Yeah. I wrote tons of `em when I was a kid. My mom's got a whole box of cards with my dumb limericks in them. Anyway, open your present."
It was a high quality digital camera, very small, the one I'd been lusting after. I missed a lot of good pictures because my old camera was too big to haul around easily. I popped in the battery, slung my arm over Evan's shoulder to pull him close, and snapped our picture. We inspected it on the little screen, smiling at our grinning images.
"I probably woulda bought it eventually, but thanks, it's great."
"My pleasure. Do I smell pot roast?"
He followed his nose into the kitchen, sniffing appreciatively. While Evan poured wine, a red he'd been saving for something special, I put dinner on the table. As we sat down in the dining room, I handed Evan the card I'd gotten him.
"As you said, all the cards sucked, so I made do with this one."
He slid the card from the envelope, and read what I'd written, then closed it and ran his finger over the embossed heart. "Thanks. The first of many."
"That's... that's the first Valentine's card I ever gave anyone." It was sort of humiliating to admit that, but it just kind of blurted out of my mouth before I could think. Evan looked at me for a moment, then put his hand over mine and squeezed.
"Well, I'm sorry you had to wait so long, but I'm glad it's me who got the first one." He kissed me, then looked around. "This is nice. We should eat in here more often."
We built a fire and spent the evening together, no books, no TV, just us on the couch talking and kissing and slowly working our way out of our clothes. We were on the rug in front of the fire by the time I tugged Evan's jeans over his bare feet and tossed them aside. He smiled as I crawled up between his legs, but the smile disappeared with a moan as I dragged my tongue up his balls and along the length of his cock. It bounced in appreciation, thumping me in the chin with a wet smack.
The feel of him was so familiar now. The long lean muscles of his thighs; the warm crease of his groin; the way my fingers sank into the meat of his ass. And his smell, the thick, humid scent of his crotch aroused me like nothing else. I nuzzled into the base of his cock, breathing deeply and rubbing my cheek along his shaft.
As I moved up his body, I stopped for a moment to nestle his dick into the valley of my chest, popping my pecs against him. While I sucked gently on Evan's left nipple, I ran the pad of my index finger around the smooth, flat disc on the right side of his chest. When his nipple tightened, I teased it lightly with my fingernail until a groan rumbled against my lips and he pushed up into my hand.
By the time I settled down onto him, my dripping cock aligned with his, I was breathing hard and had to cut our first kiss short. Evan rolled his hips steadily, his head arched back into the rug, his hands gripping my waist as he controlled the pressure and the angle of our contact.
"I'm..." I growled out, unable to complete the two word sentence.
"Unnh, yeah. Do it."
I spread my legs further, grabbed his shoulders, and launched into one of those orgasms that seem to go on forever. My cock spewed cum all over Evan's stomach and then continued to twitch and jerk for another couple minutes as I moaned and groaned. Somewhere along the way, Evan came also, filling the room with the pungent odor of fresh sex.
Finally I rolled off him, holding my nuts gently in one hand and reaching for my t-shirt with the other to mop up the trickle of cum on my side. We lay there as our breathing returned to normal, but Evan shivered in the cooling air, so I got up, pulled him to his feet, and led him down the hall to the shower. In bed later, after we'd settled in with Evan curled back against my chest, he said, "You're the first guy I ever bought flowers for."
The darkness hid my smile, but I could hear it in my voice. "Really? Cool. I'm glad I was a first for you too."
The second week in February, Evan's secretary unexpectedly gave her notice for March 15th, so Evan called Kathryn, who agreed to start work that same day. She had indeed bought a house from Sharon, a two-story plantation-style home on the river west of town, and would be moved in by then.
The first half of February slid by in a blur of programming with Kenny, cooking with Sharon, an occasional dinner with Don and Maggie, and working on the stone wall. The weather was decent most of the time - clear and chilly - and Evan and I spent a lot of our free time tinkering with the house, painting, rearranging furniture a little to suit the way we used the rooms, and falling ever deeper in love.
The handful of months I'd spent in that disastrous relationship seven years ago hadn't prepared me for life with someone who returned the depth and complexity of the emotions I felt for them. My initial intense, almost desperate, feelings during the first few months of our relationship had mellowed somewhat into a steady heat that was never far from the surface. The touch of Evan's hand, his smile, his voice, even something as commonplace as a glance across the room, brought it to life with a rush, curling something low in my stomach and skittering a thrill up my spine.
But I noticed, too, that we made love less often. Not less passionately, or less creatively, but definitely less often, and I wondered about it sometimes; wondered if it was a natural product of living together, or of the passage of time. Now that we spent every night in the same bed, we did a lot more cuddling and talking than we did sucking and fucking. Back when we'd been driving back and forth, we usually had our zippers down within five minutes of arriving, and one orgasm (each) out of the way five minutes after that. But the security of having Evan under the same roof with me had lessened that primitive urge I'd felt to claim him as mine after we'd been apart for a week.
We were still settling into our respective roles within the context of our relationship, but since my schedule was more flexible than Evan's, I did most of the household stuff and folding the laundry became one of my favorite chores. Smoothing my hand over one of Evan's shirts as I draped it on a hanger made me think of how the same shirt felt when it was draped over his firm chest. And folding his underwear always firmed my dick up, especially when I brought them to my nose for a sniff. Even right out of the dryer they somehow smelled like him.
Even doing the dishes (with a lingering hard-on from the laundry) had its bright moments. The window above the sink looked out onto the back meadow, and occasionally there'd be deer along the edge of the woods. One morning a doe stepped warily from the trees with a tiny spotted fawn hopping nimbly by her side. I froze as if they could see me, my mouth hanging open, and watched them pick their way across the corner of the field. After they disappeared into the trees, I realized I'd been holding my breath and let it out in a whoosh. I couldn't wait to tell Evan.
Everywhere I looked around the house there was evidence of our life together. Our jackets hung on pegs by the back door - pegs that Sharon's grandpa had carved out in the barn and tapped into that wall more than fifty years ago; they still worked just fine. Our boots and shoes were lined up behind the door. His, mine, his, mine, mine, mine. So I have a thing for shoes, ok?
Photos of family and friends stood in a casual display on the mantle. The one that Callie took of Evan, Chewy and me in our Halloween costumes. The black and white shot that Maggie had taken of Evan and me that first time we'd visited them. A picture Evan had taken of Raf, Sharon, and Kenny at Christmas. Evan's parent's 25th wedding anniversary portrait. Whenever I made a fire, I stopped for a look at those pictures. Before I met Evan, my collection of personal photos had consisted of two pictures of Barbara and me when we were small, a baby picture of Brendan, and a few shots of the Pan as I built her. The pictures on the mantle always made me smile, and the thought of them lived in a soft place inside me, kind of like the dog cemetery did.
The little table next to the front door held a hodge-podge collection of our stuff. Evan's extra set of keys. The heart shaped rock he'd found in the stream on one of our morning walks and presented to me with a smile and a kiss. A pinecone Chewy had carefully carried all the way back to the house one day, dropping it at my feet with a doggie smile.
Anchoring it all was the old cherry clock that counted out the minutes of our life together. Sometimes in the quiet of night I could hear it chiming softly, and it always made my heart tighten up, so grateful that I was here, in this warm old house, with Evan breathing softly by my side.
On a Thursday in the middle of February, I awoke to find Evan lying on his side watching me. When I blinked sleepily at him, he put a hand on me, splaying his fingers out and back through my chest hair.
"Morning," he said. "Know what day it is?"
Obviously it was something particular, so I gave it a moment's thought. When it came to me, I smiled at him. "A year ago tonight, you came into the garage for the first time."
"Bingo. Can you believe it's been a year?"
I grasped his wrist and rolled onto my back to stare at the bars of sunlight coming through the blind. A year. In some ways it seemed like barely a month or two had gone by since he'd stepped into the circle of light and I'd taken my first look into those gray eyes. In other ways, I felt like I'd known Evan far longer than a single year. So much had happened between us. Sex, love, buying a house together. Our rings.
I turned back to him, bringing his hand to my mouth so that I could kiss his palm. "It's been an amazing year for me. It's... I wasn't even looking for this, for someone to settle down with. At least not consciously. But when you came in that night... God, I thought about you constantly." I paused to study his face for a moment. He gazed back at me, his expression somber, his eyes dark. "I love you, Evan. So much."
He smiled then. "I love you, too, sweetheart. I'm sure glad you started the bike up when you did, or I might have walked right on by."
Jesus, that shot a chill through me. How many chances were missed, how many events played out differently, because of a few seconds one way or the other? I didn't even want to think about `what if.'
Evan squeezed my hand. "I wanna ask you something, but I don't want you to think I'm... complaining or anything. Cause I'm not - I'm just curious. You... you never call me `sweetheart' or anything. Is it... Do you just not think of me like that, or...?"
I had to force myself not to roll away from him because his question made me really uncomfortable. Evan himself didn't use terms of endearment to me real often, but I never did to him.
"Fuck." I sighed and made myself look him in the eye. "I just... those words just don't come naturally to me. Sometimes I think it to myself when I think about you, but it feels... weird to say it out loud." My voice sounded defensive, so I softened my tone a little. "No one in my family ever said anything like that to each other. Never." I glanced away from his compassionate expression. "But I really like it when you say stuff like that to me, so... I'll try, ok?"
His finger on my chin brought my eyes back to his. "I don't want you to have to try, Jeff. If it doesn't feel right, don't worry about it."
But you can't unsay something like that. Now that he'd brought it up, I knew I was gonna be really conscious of it, and I knew he wouldn't have mentioned it if it wasn't bothering him at least a little. Maggie called everyone `honey,' from Rafael and Kenny to the mailman, so Evan had grown up with it, and I guess not hearing it from me, the man who loved him, probably seemed odd to him.
Evan stretched and rolled onto his back. "So do you wanna go out to dinner or something? To celebrate?"
I ignored his considerate change of subject and swallowed hard before I spoke. "Baby." He was still for a second before rolling his head to look at me. "That's the word I think of when I'm saying it in my head. I call you `baby.'"
"You do?" Evan smiled slowly at me, a very pleased, little bit flirty smile. "I like that." He rolled closer and kissed me. "Think you can work it into a sentence?" When I rolled my eyes, he added, "Come on, just a short one."
By now I was red with embarrassment, but he was so sweet about it, smiling encouragement at me as he waited. Fuuuck! I took a deep breath.
"I... love you, baby. That night a year ago was the best thing that ever happened to me."
The smile dropped off his face and the muscles in his jaw tightened. "Ah, Jeff." He rolled onto me, aligning his body with mine as he burrowed into my neck. "God."
But there were darker moments, too, as we learned each other's little secrets. One late afternoon about a week after our anniversary, I got home early from Kenny's and was cleaning up my office when I came across an old shoe box that had been buried under a pile of computer parts. Size 10 Nike Airs. Evan's size. I sat it on the desk and lifted the lid, assuming it was more office supplies, but there was only a tattered spiral notebook and a few photos. The top picture was of Luke, young, long-haired and smiling. Jesus, he'd been a beautiful boy. The picture had been trimmed into a heart shape, and `Evan – Be My Valentine! FOREVER Yours, Luke' was written carefully around the edge. I stared at it for a long moment before dropping the lid back onto the box.
I don't know why it surprised me to find that Evan had more Luke stuff than just the handful of pictures I'd seen when I first visited his condo, but finding this box so unexpectedly really got to me. I carried it through to the bedroom and put it on his dresser, then yanked on a jacket and jogged out the back door with Chewy scrambling to keep up. I took the long way to the dog cemetery, hiking quickly to burn off the mood before it could get a grip on me, but by the time I sat down on the wall, I was pretty far gone.
Luke – pictures of him, the thought of him with Evan – hadn't bothered me much before, but now that Evan and I were finally together, it was somehow more difficult for me to accept that Evan had a past. I knew he loved me, but, like a fool, I wanted it all. I wanted his memories, his dreams, his past, his future. I wanted–
It didn't matter what I wanted. What I actually had was pretty goddamn wonderful and I was stupid to let an old Valentine's card reduce me to an insecure jerk. I moved from the wall to the ground, leaning back against the stones as Chewy curled up next to me. This is why shit falls apart, I thought. Cause no one can just be happy with what they have, no matter how good it is. I sat there a long time, turning it over in my mind, thinking about Evan and me, about Luke and Evan, wondering which of us he loved more. Real productive thoughts.
When Chewy's stomach growled, I realized I'd been sitting there for quite a while because it was damn near full dark. We walked back to the house, and as we got near, I saw that Evan was sitting on the steps, waiting for me. I stopped when I saw him, then walked slowly to the porch and sat down a few feet from him. Neither of us said anything for a while, and then we both spoke at once.
"I didn't realize–"
"What were you–"
Evan waved his hand at me, so I kept going. "I didn't know it was so late. I... nothin's ready for dinner. Sorry."
"It's ok. What were you doing out there in the dark?"
"Just... walkin' around."
He swung his head to give me a long look, then picked up the box from where it had been sitting in the shadows and put it on his lap. He looked down at it for a minute before speaking.
"This is the stuff from when I was in therapy, after the accident. Did you look at it?"
"I just opened the lid and saw the top picture. I didn't touch anything."
"But you're curious, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I guess, but..."
"I don't mind showing it to you, Jeff. It's all part of me. A fucked up part, but nonetheless..."
I sat stiffly on the step. I was desperate to know what was in the box, but afraid of what it might mean, how it would affect us. I moved a little closer as he lifted the lid and picked up the heart, holding it so we could see it in the light coming through the kitchen window.
"We were 17. That was our second Valentine's Day."
When he picked up the next photo, I recognized it. It was the one of him and Luke standing with the bicycle that was in the frame on his dresser, the one that Evan said Luke's sister had taken with her new camera. "You've seen this one before. That was the summer they moved here."
We studied it in silence for a moment before Evan lifted out the third and final photo. It was a self-portrait of the two of them. Evan was lying against Luke's bare chest with his eyes closed, his face in profile to the camera, his hand slanting across Luke's body. Luke had his head tilted to rest his cheek on Evan's hair, but he was looking at the lens, his face somber, one arm around Evan's shoulders, the other extended as he held the camera.
It was a black and white photo, dog-eared and tattered from a decade of handling. It took me a moment to work out what was odd about the grainy picture and then I realized they were lying down. They were older in this one, their faces more mature, their hair shorter, and it was obvious to me that they had just made love.
Evan stared at it for several seconds before he swallowed hard and licked his lips. He dropped the pictures back into the box, let the lid fall, and just sat there with his eyes closed. I watched the knot of muscle in his jaw work as he struggled with memories and emotions that were still strong enough, ten years later, to cause him enormous pain. He finally drew a deep breath, let it out with a sigh, and reached into the box for the notebook, fanning the pages slowly with his thumb.
"They had us write a lot. What we were thinking, how we felt about whatever had happened to us."
He turned to a page of closely written script, looked at the words for a moment, and then offered it to me. "This was in August. It pretty much sums up what kind of shape I was in at that point. If you're interested."
I didn't take it from him right away. Instead I looked at Evan until he turned to meet my eyes, but his expression was carefully blank and I couldn't tell how he felt about me reading what he'd written. After a moment his face softened and he gave me a crooked smile.
"It's okay, Jeff. Read it if you want."
I took the notebook from him as he turned back to stare out into the dark. I shifted so that the light fell over my shoulder and began to read.
I think it's mostly the rain.
The first sentence crawled down the back of my neck and brought goose bumps to my arms in spite of my flannel shirt and warm jacket. That June afternoon in my living room came back to me, watching Evan stare out into the rain. I looked at him, but he ignored me, so after a moment I went back to the notebook.
I think it's mostly the rain. The color, that silvery grayness, the sound of it on the roof, the soggy aftermath of puddles. Some days it seems to never stop and it takes so many forms that just when I become resigned to a day of soft, pattering background noise, it will suddenly pour with an intensity that seems almost unnatural somehow.
So I lower my eyes and concentrate on not seeing, not hearing. The rivulets tracing their slow, translucent way down the windows are too much to bear, and I struggle to stay in my chair at the table instead of bolting up the steps to the dark security of my room.
The meds help, but I can't function, can't think clearly, when I'm in the grip of an artificial happiness, a chemical mood that blocks rational thought like a solar eclipse. And I want to be able to feel, to wallow in the very thoughts and feelings that brought me here to begin with.
So I don't take them. And I slip a little further each day. Sometimes I can sense a slight decline in only a few hours. Hours that I spent circling through my mind, lost in places I don't recognize, have never been. In the last week it has passed beyond disconcerting to frightening.
And today I don't think I can manage to think about it clearly enough to decide what to do next. I think it's group day, but the last time I looked at the calendar, I was unable to locate the correct day.
The phone rang a day or two ago, but I didn't answer it. I had forgotten to bring it to the table with me in the morning, and it was too much effort to get up and walk across the room. So I don't know who it was. I'm not expecting anyone.
I'll just sit here, listening to the rain brush against the windows. It has to stop eventually.
When I was finished reading, I lowered the notebook to my knee, almost sick with the despair in his words.
He looked at me then, a quick glance to gauge my response. "Pretty grim, huh? That was about two months after the accident and I was miserable. My leg was killing me and I couldn't drive yet. Kenny and Raf were both still in the hospital so I didn't have anyone to talk to." He blew out a breath. "And I missed Luke so much I could barely breathe."
There was a long pause while he stared off into the darkness. Then he looked at me, a measuring look that I wasn't prepared for, and I expect everything I felt was in my face because he took the notebook back and dropped it into the box as he began speaking again.
"So what are you thinking?"
"That... that I'm so different from him."
Evan glanced at me when I paused. "Yes, you are," he agreed. "And...?"
"It just seems like... you'd want... someone more like him."
I finished in a rush and looked away from Evan's probing gaze. He was silent for a long moment, but I could feel his eyes on me.
"Jeff." His voice was soft, almost a whisper. "Jeff, look at me, please." He waited until I raised my eyes to his, and then he slowly lifted a hand to my cheek, touching me with just the tips of his fingers. "When I met Luke, I was just a kid, and I loved him with everything I had in me." His thumb kept me from turning away. "But what I felt for him doesn't begin to approach the feelings I have for you. Telling you that I love you doesn't express the way my heart leaps a little when you walk out to meet me at the end of the day. It doesn't cover how safe I feel when we're in bed and your arms are around me and I can feel your heart against my back. It doesn't convey the... the awe I feel when you make love to me." He paused for a moment, thinking. "`I love you' is what I say to you, but what I mean is that you complete me and that I was only half alive until I fell in love with you.... that sharing every day with you is a joy.... that I'm amazed and grateful that you love me too. Tonight, when you weren't here to meet me, my heart did a different kind of leap."
After the strain of wondering about the contents of the box for the past four hours and tormenting myself with thoughts of Luke, listening to Evan tell me beyond a shadow of a doubt how much he loved me just about did me in. I slid close and buried my face in his chest as he wrapped his arms around me. We were silent for a few minutes, long enough for me to decide I wasn't gonna burst into tears after all. When I sat up, Evan smiled at me gently.
"You ok?" When I nodded, he continued. "If you want to know something, it's all right to just ask me."
"Where... The accident. Was it in town?"
Evan's turn to nod. "7th and Holly. We were going west on 7th and the guy ran the light. I don't think you and I have ever gone through that intersection together. It's not really on the way to any place I go. That night we'd stopped to get burgers and we were cutting through town to a party. It was bad luck, that's all. Just pure bad luck."
He went silent for another minute or so, then pushed to his feet and held out his hand. "Come on. Let's go make something to eat and then I'll let you rub my feet while I read an incredibly boring contract."
"You'll let me, huh?" I laughed, falling in with his effort to lighten the mood. "Well, then maybe later, I'll let you suck my dick. How's that sound.... baby?"
He picked up the box, grabbed me in a loose headlock, and walked us into the house as he kissed the side of my head. "Perfect. Just fuckin' perfect."
Thanks to David of Hope for the editing, and thanks to those of you who take the time to shoot me an email. They really make my day.