"So how are the tomatoes doing? You're watering them, right?" Callie and I spoke every week, and every week she grilled me on how the garden was coming along.
"Yes, I'm watering them, whenever it doesn't rain," I assured her, as I stood in the middle of the garden on Wednesday evening, surrounded by lush foliage and ripening produce. "Come see for yourself, if you don't believe me."
"Good idea... how about Saturday?"
"Only if you arrive with a pan or two of cinnamon rolls. I can't tell you how much I miss those rolls."
"Deal," she laughed. "I'll be there in time for lunch."
So Evan and I spent that first Saturday morning of July sprucing up the place. If anyone had told me five years ago that I'd think pulling weeds was an acceptable way to pass a Saturday morning, I'd have said they were out of their fucking mind, but there I was, plucking uninvited guests from between the garden rows. The cold beer in my other hand probably made the job a little more tolerable.
Yeah, I know -- drinking before noon is the road to ruin. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.
Evan had swept the porch and then moved on to mowing the lawn, striding back and forth behind the ancient mower Sharon had left in the barn. He was wearing only baggy old shorts, his body pale in the strong morning sun, and I stopped for a moment to watch the long lean muscles of his back shift as he wrestled the mower along. When he turned around at the far side of the lawn, he glanced up, saw me watching him, and grinned at me. It was impossible to keep from grinning back.
Ever since our walk through the woods last week, when Evan had asked me when I'd begin to believe in us, I'd been thinking about it, wondering why I didn't. At first, I had told myself that I did, but laying in bed, unable to sleep as Evan snored softly next to me, I knew he was right -- I wasn't really convinced that we'd be together until one of us died and - I wasn't sure why.
Was it the lack of a recognized ceremony? Was I so hung up on society's rituals that not being able to get married made me view our relationship as second-class, inherently less stable in some way? No, I didn't really buy that, either. With or without the sanctified words and the stamped document, I was pretty damn sure that a relationship was what you made of it. The two people involved determined the course it would take - good, bad or indifferent.
No, in my more honest moments, I knew that the problem lay with me and my sense of being inferior to Evan. Breeding, education, financial potential -- I lacked Evan's advantages in all those areas.
Evan's life had contained hardship, certainly, but he'd grown up with parents who loved him and each other, who believed in him and his ability to do well in the world, and with that background he had no reason to believe that our relationship would do anything but flourish. I envied his childhood, and wished I had his positive outlook, but life had been less kind to me and I tended to see the glass as half empty.
I watched Evan for another few moments and then yanked a weed from the ground and flung it into the wilting pile at the end of the row. There wasn't much I could do about my family. I came from a long line of low-life hillbillies, and although I didn't plan to continue the tradition, that wasn't something I could change no matter how much I moaned about it.
Education, though, that was something I could improve on. Ever since the night of the scholarship awards, I'd been toying with the idea of going back to school, or at least taking a class or two, but the thought of sitting in a room full of college-age kids made my palms sweat and gave me heartburn. I'd barely made it out of high school, and although I'd gone to computer school a few years later, I'd already had a knack for that and sailed through the classes. Regular old college was another thing altogether.
The other little problem was that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be.
I worked my way across the length and width of the garden, stopping only to stand and stretch my back now and then. Evan had finished the lawn and was pushing the mower back to the barn with Chewy trotting along side. Chew liked the barn cause there were critters to chase and lots of corners to sniff, but he wasn't crazy about going in there by himself, so he always waited for one of us to lead the way. As they disappeared, my stomach growled and I looked at my watch. Five after twelve. No wonder I was hungry; the bowl of cereal and bananas I'd had way back at 8am was barely a memory. I flung one last weed into the pile and headed for the barn.
"Isn't she supposed to be here by now?" Evan asked as we met up at the barn door. "Has she called?"
"No." I was getting worried, imagining her little red car wrapped around a guardrail on the freeway, so I punched her number. On the third ring, she picked up, laughing as she answered the phone.
"Where the hell are you?"
"Oh, hi, Jeffrey. I'm almost there, actually. One of Sonny's hens was in the road, so I stopped to chase her back in the yard and we've been chatting ever since."
"You and the hen? Oh, you and Sonny, I get it, ha-ha. Well, get back in the car -- we're starving."
The phone made scuffling noises and I realized she'd put her hand over it. I tapped my toe and rolled my eyes as I waited, watching Evan throw a ball for Chewy. She finally came back on the line. "May I bring Sonny for lunch?"
"Yes, yes - bring the damn chicken if you want, just get here."
She pulled in the drive a few minutes later with Sonny's old beater truck rattling along behind her. They hadn't brought the chicken, but they had brought all the dogs, and they poured forth from the open door before Sonny could ease his way out. We watched them envelop Chewy in their midst and sweep across the lawn like a furry tsunami.
"I hope it's ok me bummin' lunch," he said. "Callie swore you wouldn't mind."
"'Course not. Any friend of Callie's..." I waved a hand in the air to finish off the phrase. "Wanna beer?"
We trooped into the house and I carried Callie's overnight bag to the guest room while Evan took her small cooler to the kitchen and got drinks for everyone. We stood around talking for a few minutes while I grabbed a big tray and piled lunch onto it -- chicken salad, raisin pecan bread from the deli, olives, cheese, grapes, chocolate cake -- and then we all headed out to the picnic table.
The mares and Dory wandered up to the fence as we were eating, and when standing there looking cute didn't produce the desired result (carrots), Dory took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and broke into song, wheezing and braying at the top of her lungs like a dysfunctional bagpipe. Since it was an almost daily occurrence, Chewy was used to it, but Sonny's pack whipped their heads around at the awful noise, staring in horror before hightailing it to safety under the picnic table.
Now, one medium sized dog like Chew under the table was no big deal, you can barely tell he's there, but seven dogs of varying sizes, milling in terrified confusion, was quite another. As the silverware began to rattle, we grabbed our drinks and tried to steady the table, shoving the dogs aside with our feet as we hollered at them. Chewy sat watching from the middle of the yard, head cocked to one side, clearly bewildered at all the fuss.
Normally, Dory reserved the racket for morning and evening when we brought out carrots anyway. If she was going to start yodeling whenever she decided it was treat time, she was going to become a real nuisance, and, unfortunately for her, Evan hadn't been quick enough and was wearing his iced tea in his lap.
"Goddamnit!" He leaped to his feet and ran to the hose that we filled the stock tank with, cranking it on and aiming the spray at Dory. She shut her mouth the instant the cold water hit her, shuffling off in her three-step trot until she was just out of reach before turning around to stare at Evan with an indignant expression. "Now shut up!" he yelled at her. "You'll get carrots tonight and not a damn minute sooner!"
He turned off the hose and, holding the cold, wet crotch of his shorts away from his body, started for the house to change. Callie and Sonny stared at Dory as she hopped back up to the fence, then Sonny squinted more closely at her before asking, "That donkey only got three legs?"
"Yes," Evan said crossly as he stomped up the back steps, "but her lungs more than make up for it, so don't feel bad for her."
We shooed the dogs away and cleaned up the table as I told them the story of how Dory came to live here. Callie said oh and aw at all the right spots while Sonny just shook his head and watched Dory shoving the mares out of the way to get at a choice patch of grass. Evan came back to the table in dry shorts and a better mood, and we resumed eating.
Callie seemed a little different to me and at first I figured it was just cause I hadn't seen her for a while, but then I realized that she was flirting with Sonny. She had never talked much to me about her younger days, but as I watched her smile and laugh at Sonny's story about a chicken and a June bug, I had no trouble imagining her at twenty, charming the pants off the boys in Prague or wherever the hell she'd grown up.
After lunch, we inspected the garden. Callie was suitably impressed with my caretaking and said that everything was coming along nicely. We admired all the unripe tomatoes, and while poking through the greenery, she found a handful of small yellow squash that she said would be great sliced thin in scrambled eggs in the morning for breakfast.
"With cinnamon rolls?" I asked pointedly.
"Yes, they're in the cooler. One for tomorrow and two for the freezer."
"Homemade cinnamon rolls?" Sonny asked, one untamed eyebrow up by his hairline.
"Yes," Callie said as she turned to me with a lifted eyebrow of her own.
"We'll eat around nine," I told Sonny, giving in to the inevitable with a smile.
He grinned and said he'd bring the eggs. He went home soon after that, and we spent the afternoon hiking back to the dog cemetery. Callie was affected by the place, gently touching each gravestone with her fingertips as she read the names aloud. On the way back to the house, we cut through the pasture. As soon as they noticed us, the mares and Dory set out on a path to intercept us and then followed along like overgrown dogs. Evan ignored Dory, pushing her away when she nudged his arm, but Callie put an arm around her neck and talked nonsense in her furry ear as we walked along.
Dinner was fajitas -- chicken, shrimp and steak, just like the fancy Mex place in town. We all worked in the kitchen, chopping veggies, peeling shrimp and mashing up avocados for guacamole. Sharon had recently cleaned out the rafters of her old garage and given us a few things she thought we'd enjoy, including a set of old dishes that had chili peppers on them. She said they were just tacky enough to be fun and I agreed as I set the dining room table with them. We ate and talked and laughed, washing the spicy food down with cold Dos Equis, and by the end of the evening we were all pretty tanked. I made sure Callie got down the hall to her room, gave her a goodnight hug, then wandered back into the kitchen to help Evan get the leftovers put away.
Finally in our room, I dropped my clothes at the foot of the bed and crawled up between Evan's legs. He was lying on his back with one arm over his eyes and the other flung dramatically out across the sheets. I nuzzled his balls mostly because they were there, not because I really had any intention of doing anything, and noticed that his crotch smelled like tea.
"Mmm," I mumbled as I lifted his soft cock into my mouth. "It's a Lipton lollipop."
His belly bounced up against my forehead as he chuckled. "I should probably shower."
But he didn't. He just lay there as I gave him a drunken but effective blow job, and then we both conked out.
At 8:45 the next morning, we were out of the shower and pulling on our clothes when I heard Sonny's truck rattle to a halt. I knew Callie was up already cause I'd heard the back door squeak when she let Chewy out, so I let her greet him. When Evan opened our bedroom door, the smell of coffee and cinnamon rolls hit us and we almost fought each other to get to the kitchen first.
Confronted with the unmistakable evidence of our still-damp hair, Sonny's realization that we actually shared a bedroom and thus a bed, and apparently a shower, hit home with full force. I watched his neck redden slightly as his thoughts took him down the road to what we undoubtedly did in that bed, and for the next few moments, he looked everywhere but at us. Evan didn't notice as he poured coffee, but I watched Sonny until he looked at me, and when our eyes met, I didn't smile. I figured he could get up and leave if he was that freaked out, or he could decide he was cool with it. It took a few moments, but finally one side of his mouth quirked up and he shook his head slightly. I grinned at him then, gave Callie a noisy smack on the cheek that she waved away with one hand as she stirred eggs, and got myself some coffee.
Breakfast was wonderful; I was beginning to think Sonny was right about those fresh eggs, because every time we had them they tasted great. The sautéed squash was a nice touch, and accompanied by cinnamon rolls and link sausage, it was a perfect way to start the day. Sonny went home after a third cup of coffee, and we set off for an old historic farm in the next county that was having an antique fair and sheep dog trials. I was amazed by both the prices on the antiques and the ability of the dogs. Using just a whistle and hand signals, the dogs made those sheep do everything except turn back flips. I thought about Chewy, who could sit up and shake hands, and idly wondered if Bill had any sheep.
We finally waved Callie off in the late afternoon after loading her car with the several things she'd bought at the antique fair. Evan stretched as we walked up the front steps. "I think I'll read for a bit," he said, aiming for the couch as we came in the house.
"With your eyes shut?"
"Maybe," he laughed with a `fuck you' look. "What are you gonna do?"
"Email, I guess. Probably kill a few bad guys. I'll wake you for dinner." Evan stuck out his tongue at me as he hit the couch and I bet he was asleep before my ass hit my office chair. The first email on the list was from Brendan.
Yeah I got a job. Theres a big plant place here and they always hire a bunch of kids for the summer so yesterday I spent 4 hours!!! putting flowers in pots and then I unloaded a truck full of dirt and then I built fountains for the rest of the day. That part was fun or at least funner than the dirt truck. Did you know they make like 20 kinds of tomatos? I only spent a little of my first check taking this girl for hamburgers and then I put the rest in the bank.
I cut school that day. Don't tell my mom alright? She'd shit. It was almost the end of the year anyway so I didnt miss anything. I'll be a junior next year yay.
Send the donkey video -- I could use a laugh.
I read it a few times, trying to get a feel for him. His punctuation hadn't improved any but I was more concerned with the fact that he sounded unhappy. I hadn't been a barrel of laughs at that age myself, so I could sympathize. Growing up was just a bitch. I'd had the added conflict of coping with my attraction to boys and wondered for the first time if Brendan was straight. Taking a girl for a burger wasn't much of an indication one way or the other. I sighed, and then opened up Call of Duty and spent the next hour sneaking around corners trying not to kill my own team mates with my twitchy trigger finger. But my mind was on Brendan and when I was finished playing soldier, I went back and read his email again, then hit `reply'.
Good deal on the job. We've got a big garden this year with lots of tomatoes. Maybe you can give me some gardening pointers lol.
I won't tell your mom but you gotta stay in school. You'll be shoveling dirt the rest of your life without at least a high school diploma. I know college sounds like just more school, but you could do some kind of vocational thing like I did. Computer stuff pays pretty well and it's easier on your back when you're old than shoveling dirt, but there's all kinds of things you could do with yourself.
Here's the donkey. Her name's Dory and she's only got 3 legs but it hasn't slowed her down much. Turn the sound up loud so that you get the full effect.
As I read it over, I wished there was some sort of way to sign off without just signing my name. `Love' was way too much and `Affectionately' sounded totally gay. `Take care' had possibilities, but I still felt weird about it, so I finally just clicked `send' and went down the hall to wake Evan up for dinner.
The following weekend, Evan went to the city with his dad to a meeting of the state BAR association, followed by a formal dinner. I'd never worn a tuxedo, much less owned one, so I insisted that Evan model his for me on Friday night. Although I have a definite thing for scruffy construction-worker types, a hot guy all dressed up in formal duds totally makes me think about undressing him, so Evan indulged me. He made me go sit on the couch while he got gussied up and then he came walking slowly into the room.
My mouth actually dropped open a little as I looked at him. Evan had a body made for wearing clothes well -- tall, broad shouldered, slender-hipped -- and in the stark formality of a custom-fitted tuxedo, he was breathtaking.
As he paced back and forth, he unbuttoned his jacket, and then slid his hands into the front pockets of his trousers. He stopped in front of me as his hands slid toward his groin. I could see the lumps of his knuckles moving under the black fabric, and soon I could detect the outline of his hard cock slanted up his belly. He stood just far enough from me that I couldn't reach him, smiling and watching me with half-closed eyes as he played with himself, his hips moving in a slow grind.
I held out as long as I could, but finally I growled at him, "Get over here," and he stepped close enough for me to touch him. I gripped the back of his legs and pulled him close, burying my face into the stiff fabric, nudging along his hard-on with my nose. Things progressed to the point where I had his dick out, but then Evan got worried about gooing up his tux, so he pried my hands off his ass and backed away. I watched as he stepped out of his trousers and hung them over the back of a chair, then draped his jacket over them and turned back to me.
The fly of his gray boxers stood away from his crotch, poking through the tails of his shirt, held there by the weight of his erection, and as he moved closer to me, I locked eyes with him and got to my feet. I placed my hands on his chest and flexed my fingers into the meat of his pecs, then ruffled my fingertips across the small pleats on either side of the buttons. His eyes narrowed slightly and one side of his mouth curled up when I stopped over each nipple and tapped a few times. When I tilted my chin to kiss him, he smiled wider and moved his head back just out of reach.
Wanna play it like that?, I thought. Fine.
I slid my arms around him and went for his neck instead, my teeth scraping on the stubble of his beard. As I nuzzled him, I sort of stepped us around until I had his back toward the couch. I moved up his neck to his ear, and when I had him good and relaxed, I began to work my way lower, unbuttoning his shirt as I went. When I had my mouth just below his breastbone, I whipped my hands down to the back of his knees, pushed with my head, and dumped him on his back on the couch. He scrambled to get loose, but I held his upper arms and pressed him into the cushions with my weight and after a moment or two of bucking underneath me, he began to roll his hips instead, and well... I played out several of my GQ fantasies that evening.
Anyway, I'd been thinking about Sonny's eggs, and with the entire day to myself, I decided to tackle the old chicken coop as a first step toward having our own hens. I figured if we had a ready-to-go place for them to live, Evan would have a tougher time arguing me out of it. As I walked slowly around the coop, studying what might be salvageable and what had to come down, I heard a truck come up the drive. After a moment or two, Raf came into view, parked and ambled toward me dressed in work clothes similar to mine -- cutoff jeans, snug t-shirt, sturdy work boots -- as Elvis scampered to meet Chewy. Raf's cutoffs were old and faded over parts of the crotch, and since I'd recently seen him in the yellow speedo, it took zero effort to imagine what had worn the denim white. The sight of him made me start thinking about other things than a ramshackle chicken coop.
"Need a hand?" he asked as he got closer, grinning at me from under the brim of a John Deere cap when he saw where my eyes were.
I dragged my gaze up to his face and tried to get my mind back on the coop. "You look like one of the boys down to the feed store," I drawled in Sonny's voice. "Know anything `bout chickens?"
"I know I like 'em on the grill with lots of barbeque sauce." When I smirked at him, he laughed and continued. "Not really, but this might help."
He tossed me a small book titled Sheds & Coops. I looked up to see him smiling at me and I grinned back. "Thanks. How'd you know I'd be doin' this?"
"Evan," he replied. "Told me to keep you company."
So Evan had figured I might be thinking about chickens. "Where's Kenny?"
"Drove over to visit his mom for the weekend. I guess it's his uncle's birthday or something. His mom's ok but the rest of the family think I'm a degenerate, so I begged off."
"A degenerate, huh? Just my type."
I sat down on a bale of hay to leaf through the book. Rafael joined me, sitting close so he could see the book, close enough that his dark thigh lay along mine. I got sidetracked looking at the black hair that drifted along his thigh, the contrast it made against my own paler leg with its brown hair, but I got a grip and opened the book.
"That's a cool one," Raf said, pointing. The photo showed three fat, contented-looking chickens pecking around in a pen with a rustic little coop behind them. It looked like an old farm house in miniature, and I nodded.
"Yeah, it is. Think we can build it?"
"Prolly, but if we get totally stuck we'll get my dad out here. He can build anything."
We poked and prodded the existing coop, but finally decided there was nothing worth saving and pulled it down by the simple expedient of tying one end of a rope completely around the coop, the other around the hitch on Raf's truck, and easing it over. The coop trembled for a moment, and then gave way, tumbling to the ground in a cloud of dust, chicken shit, and fifty-year-old feathers. We loaded it all into the bed of the truck, cleared the site, and made a shopping list from the book.
By then it was early afternoon, so I dished out some of Maggie's never-fail tuna casserole, sipping a Dr. Pepper while Raf chatted with me from the table. I no longer had odd moments around him when I wondered what the hell he was thinking. Not that he told me what he was thinking now; more like he didn't try to hide his thoughts and feelings from me any longer.
I put the plates in the microwave and leaned my butt against the counter. Raf got a beer from the fridge and took a sip, looking down at the bottle for a moment, then up at me. I held his eyes as he crossed the room, setting his beer on the table as he passed it. I put my can on the counter behind me, feeling a little flutter in my gut. I had thought about kissing this guy since the day I'd seen his picture in Evan's bedroom, and it looked like he might be about to make my fantasy come true.
But did I really want that to happen?
Evan's words as he'd told me goodbye this morning popped into my head. "Have a good day," he'd said. "Do something fun." While I was damn certain that kissing Rafael would be fun, I figured it probably wasn't quite what Evan'd had in mind. Although, he had sent Raf to keep me company. What the fuck was going on here? Would Evan even be mad if I kissed Rafael? He'd kissed him plenty of times, long before I came on the scene, but still...
Raf put a foot on either side of my crossed ankles, linked his hands loosely behind my neck, and settled his crotch against mine, gazing at me with those dark chocolate eyes. We looked at each other for several moments, and I could see that he was still thinking about it too, weighing the possible consequences against the attraction we both felt.
I finally made the decision for both of us, gripping his hip with my right hand, lifting my left to his scarred cheek, and bringing his mouth to mine.
The first time Evan kissed me, it had begun with an electric jolt that zinged through me, sizzling at every nerve ending and taking my breath for a second. Now, more than a year into our relationship, his kisses felt like home to me, familiar and comfortable, and arousing at least in part because I knew where they usually led.
Raf's mouth was cold from the beer, but his kiss started as a slow burn in my chest that curled its way south. Before I could register more than that initial feeling, he broke the kiss and turned away to grab his beer, gulping at the bottle as he walked to the back door. I pulled my tongue back in my mouth and went after him.
"Don't walk away, man. That was gonna happen eventually. You know it as well as I do." When he turned to me, his face was carefully neutral, no hint of the emotion I'd felt from him a moment ago. We stared each other down for a few seconds. "Why the fuck are we always ready to deck each other?" I asked him.
He shrugged, holding my eyes for another few seconds, but then sighed and looked out the back door. I stepped close enough to pull him into a hug, and after a moment he put his arms around me.
"You kiss good," he murmured into my neck. "Different than Evan or Kenny."
Different than Evan? How long had it been since he'd kissed Evan like that? "Yeah, you too," I agreed with a sigh
I held him loosely in my arms, enjoying the feel of his hard body against mine. Raf was a rock, all steely tendons and granite muscles. We embraced for a minute or so until the microwave's ding interrupted us. As he eased away, he smiled at me - the sweet, affectionate smile that he normally reserved for Kenny and, occasionally, Evan.
We ate, then loaded up the dogs and drove off in his truck for the dump, where we got rid of the old coop, and then to the lumberyard, where we bought ingredients for the new improved coop. Back home, we unloaded everything into the barn in case it rained, leveled the ground, and measured and cut boards. We each stirred up a tub of quick-setting concrete, then shoveled it into the frame we'd built for the floor. No more was said of the kiss, although I thought about it quite a bit, stealing a look at Rafael now and then as he worked.
We decided to keep going while the light lasted, so after we leveled the concrete, I went in and made us a couple huge sandwiches which I took to the barn. There were a lot of parts to the new coop, and since neither of us were accomplished carpenters, we worked slowly, checking off each piece as we cut it, numbering and stacking it all up for assembly the next time we had a chance to work on it. Raf finally stood up and rubbed his lower back. "Ok, all the boards are cut; let's knock off."
That was fine with me so we washed up with the hose and headed for the kitchen for cold beers. As I was twisting the top off mine, Dory started up her evening chorus, startling both Rafael and Elvis. As they stared out the door, Raf said, "My uncle kept a couple donkeys when I was a kid. Goofiest noise I ever heard."
We took a bag of carrots out to the fence and spent half an hour feeding the mares and Dory. It had become a normal part of my day, one that I looked forward to. I'd never been around farm animals before and was really enjoying having them in the back yard. Elvis, once he'd gotten over his initial shock at Dory's racket, bounced over to the fence to greet her, touching noses with her between the rails. Chewy stared apprehensively from a few feet away, certain that Dory was going to bite his head off. Raf watched Dory hop around on her three legs and shook his head a little.
"What?" I asked him.
"Nothing really. Just wishful thinking." He stopped for a moment, but continued when I prodded him with an elbow. "Kenny. I wish..." Deep sigh. "We didn't get together until after he was hurt, and sometimes I really wish that we could still do some of the stuff we used to do when we were kids, now that we're... a couple." His gaze roamed over the pasture, back to the shadows of the tree line. "But we can't, so no point thinking about it."
He took a long pull on his beer, then turned away from me and walked back to the porch, and after a moment of watching him, I followed along. Raf took the chair on the left, which put the bad side of his face toward me, another sign that he and I had gotten past me being simply Evan's friend. The peepers down by the creek started their nightly song as we sat there watching the tail end of the sunset over the meadow, thinking our own thoughts, mostly at ease with each other after months of wariness and distrust. He continued to look at the darkening field as he began to talk to me.
"I've never cheated on Kenny, not in all the time we've been together, almost ten years. Thought about it a time or two..." He glanced at me as he said, "But I been wantin' to do that."
I nodded slowly. "Me, too, but..." I blew out a heavy sigh. "Fuck, this is gonna make me sound like Mary Poppins or something, but I gotta tell Evan."
He snorted out a laugh and took a hit off his beer. "You won't have to. You look guilty as fuck." I felt guilty as fuck, so I wasn't surprised it showed, but I felt myself flush at his words and hoped the shadows of the porch hid my face a little. "I think they've been expecting it anyway, him and Kenny," Raf added.
I stared at him. "Expecting it? I never gave it a serious thought until you got in my face in there. Why the hell would they be expecting it?"
He looked away off across the yard as he lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "They aren't blind..." He was silent for a long time and I followed his gaze as I waited him out. Finally he started talking again. "If you knew they'd never find out... would you?"
Jesus. How do you answer something like that? With the truth, I guess, if you don't want to fuck up the best thing that's ever happened to you. I may be uneducated, but I ain't stupid. I let out a long, slow breath before I replied. "No. Evan means too much to me. And so does your friendship -- you and Kenny. And I sure as hell wouldn't be able to hide it. So, no, I wouldn't." He turned to look at me then. "But you are a temptation," I added with a grin.
He gave me an ironic smile, the good side of his mouth curling up. "Ditto," he said.
I got us another beer and we were still sitting there when Evan pulled in around nine. We listened to the front door open and close, then Evan's footsteps through the house. Raf gave me a look and leaned forward in his chair. "My cue to leave?"
I grabbed his arm. "No. Sit your ass down. We're gonna talk about this."
A moment later, Evan, resplendent in his tux, came out the back door with a beer in one hand. "Talk about what?" he asked.
Many thanks to David of Hope who always offers good suggestions every time he proofs a chapter. And thanks to everyone who reads this story. Not many of you comment, but I really appreciate those who do.