Smile Upon Me...
"I thought we spent the whole night talkin'," he muttered, obviously still sleepy. "All right. Keep talkin', Chris, I'm hearin' ya."
"Nate, I..." I hesitated, not sure how to speak my mind. I sat down on the side of the bed, while he laid his head back down, his eyes fixed on mine. "Nate, I've been doing a lot of thinking tonight. Please hear me out, even if I don't make sense at times. I'm not really sure about myself anymore. Not really sure about anything. I've got a lot of confusion in my mind right now, and a lot of thoughts to sort out. These past few days, since we met... I've found a need to re-evaluate myself. Take a fresh look upon who I am. You make me feel... make me feel things I didn't know I could feel. Nate, I can feel I'm falling in love with you. If you'd want me, I'm ready to try. Ready to try a relationship. All I ask is that you're patient with me."
I had looked away as I began to talk, and now I didn't dare to meet his gaze again. Would he be happy? Confused? Would he turn me down? I had bared my soul, and my hands were shaking, my body covered in sweat, as if I'd run the marathon. I could hear his breathing, but he said nothing, the tension slowly eating away at me. Why didn't he say anything? In the end, it became too much for me, and I turned around, shaking like a leaf as my eyes landed on his face. Groaning, I almost fell off the bed as I stifled a howling laughter. I had torn my chest open, and exposed my heart to Nate, and he had gone back to sleep! I wondered if he'd heard anything at all, but I decided not to wake him up again. The evening had taken its toll on him, and he needed his sleep.
"Household rule," I whispered as I leaned down to kiss his forehead. "At least you're not getting away from that."
I undressed down to my briefs, then crawled in beneath the bed cover, snuggling up to Nate, smiling as I thought of how stunned he'd be in the morning. Well, I had said it, even if it fell on deaf ears. I felt a lot better; the shaking had abated, and I knew I had made the right decision. Even if it didn't work out, at least we would have tried.
If I dreamt anything that night, it must've fallen out of my memory before I woke up. I was dead tired when my clock radio dragged me back into the world, not at all feeling like going up. Something gnawed at the back of my head as I, still only half awake, dragged myself into the bathroom to try and make myself pass as a human being. Not until I was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, did it dawn upon me that Nate was gone. I went back into the bedroom, where I found a note on the bedside table.
Thanks for last night, I really needed to vent my emotions. I woke up this morning feeling like a completely new person. Again, thanks for being there, for being my friend. I set your alarm to wake you at nine; I had to get to the office early today, and you were sleeping so sweetly. I'll see you at the restaurant for lunch, then. Ciao!
I chuckled to myself as I read his message. Yep, that sounded like the good old Nate, all right. Thankful that his absence didn't have any deeper reasons, I finished my liquid breakfast and headed for work. My department was handling an infomercial campaign for one of the up-and-coming mobile phone companies, and I got to spend all morning on a video line to Helsinki, working through the technical details with a Finlander speaking very poor English. In the end, however, we got it all sorted through, and by then it was almost lunch. I printed out my data lists, handed them over to my supervisor, and then I was off.
Nate hadn't arrived yet, so I ordered a soda while I waited. I had booked us a table, since it is usually a very busy restaurant, and as I looked out the window at the steady downpour and the people trying to avoid it, I let my thoughts wander. Going to sleep next to Nate the night before had been good. His warm skin against my own had made me feel great. Not aroused, just safe and warm. I knew I had made the right decision, to allow him into my life, not as a friend, but as a lover. That word made me pause. Lover. A couple of days ago, it would have been unthinkable, but suddenly it felt both good and natural. It was as if I'd opened a door inside my mind, and stepped through into a new room, where the concept of a male lover was not only possible, but desirable. A tingle of excitement ran down my back, as I gathered my knowledge of male-to-male relations. It wasn't much, I realised. There was the obvious, of course; sexual techniques and such, and the ever-present prejudice about either partner playing the role of the female. I put that aside. Nate was as male as me, and I didn't want it any other way. Apart from that, I realised I knew very little. Was there any differences between how gay and straight couples led their everyday lives? I tried to think of any, but couldn't find them. Oh well, first, I had to talk to him, to see if there would even be a relationship. Then we could start planning what would happen. My train of thoughts was interrupted by a hand landing on my shoulder, making me jump.
"Hi Chris! Sorry I'm late."
"Don't worry. It's me who's early. I managed to sneak away a couple of minutes ahead of time."
"Eager to see me, no doubt." Nate sat down, winking at me. "Couldn't stay away?"
"No." That made him freeze, his mouth half open. I smiled, pretending not to notice his reaction, then handed him a menu. "You might want to try their lasagne. It's to die for."
"Erh... I think I'll do that." He hesitated for a moment, before he caught my gaze. "Chris?"
"Mhm?" I feigned innocence, studying the menu carefully. "What is it?"
"Did you... I mean, last night...?" He took a deep breath, while I signalled to the waiter that we weren't ready to place our orders just yet. "Did you wake me up last night?"
"What did we talk about?"
"Well, I talked for a while. I don't know how much you heard before you fell asleep again."
"A lot. Most of it, I think." He scratched his cheek, smiling sheepishly. "So it wasn't a dream, then?"
"No, it wasn't."
"You were holding me when I woke up this morning, Chris. That was such a feeling, I... I just can't describe it."
We sat quiet for a moment, watching each other's reactions. There was something to Nate that I just couldn't read. Some kind of suppressed emotion that was just waiting to burst. Maybe I was imagining things, but I got a feeling that he was two seconds away from screaming out, then pouncing me. I smiled at him as the waiter took our orders, and in response, he grinned widely.
"Chris, are you serious?" he asked while we waited for our food. "Please don't pull my leg, that would be too cruel!"
"No, I am serious. Maybe more serious than ever before. How much did you hear of what I said last night?"
"You said you were falling in love with me. I think you kissed me, too, but right then, I thought I was dreaming."
"I did. Household rule, remember?"
"Yeah." Blushing, he looked away. "Wow."
"So what do you think? I'm willing to try, Nate."
"It's so sudden. So unexpected. I've been teasing you, but I never thought..." Behind his smile, there was a pained look. He tried to hide it, but I could see it, and he knew I could. "Just promise me one thing, Chris. Just one thing."
"I gave you my sob story last night. Please promise me you're not just doing this out of pity. Please!"
"I promise, Nate. I never pitied you, I just hated to see you in such pain." I reached across the table and grabbed his hand. It was shivering. "I just want to get closer to you, Nate. I want to stop the pain."
"I..." Tears were forming in his eyes. "Oh Chris..."
"This isn't easy for me to say, but... I love you, Nate." I felt my own eyes sting, and I had to blink a couple of times, because his face got blurry. "I love you, and I want to be with you."
He squeezed my hand, muttering something I couldn't quite hear, but what sounded like an affirmative. We both had tears running down our cheeks, our lips shaped into silly grins. Anybody who looked our way would know exactly what was going on. I didn't care, and since Nate was already out of the closet, I assume he didn't care, either. All I felt was an unalloyed, pure happiness, and a sense of peace I hadn't even known existed. Our food arrived, and we scoffed it down, the bill arrived, and I paid it; time seemed to fly, until my lunch break had come and gone. Outside the restaurant, he slipped an arm around my waist, and kissed my cheek.
"Will you call me tonight, Chris?"
"Better than that, I'll come knocking on your door."
"Great! I'll... I'm looking forward to it."
"Me too, Nate. But I have to go and earn my salary. See you later."
"Yeah, you too." Before he let me go, he leaned against me, whispering in my ear. "I love you, Chris. I've loved you since that first night."
"Same goes for me, Nate," I whispered back. "It just took me a while to realise it."
Suddenly brave, I let my lips brush against his, the light touch sending a shiver down my spine. A shiver of pleasure. Stepping back to smile at my dumb-founded friend, I patted his shoulder, then turned to walk away. I could feel his eyes on my back as I hurried through the rain towards my office.
The rest of that day passed quickly, leaving no real traces in my memory. All I could think of was my lunch with Nate, and the evening that was about to come. Clearly, I still performed my duties, since I wasn't fired, but I can't believe I was anywhere near efficient. Someone said I looked like the proverbial canary-devouring feline, but I think I only smiled in response. Before long, I was at home, taking a long, hot shower. Feeling invigorated, I dressed semi-casually, trying to look both dressed up and comfortable. All of a sudden, time slowed to almost a halt. I all but opened the wall clock to check if the hands had been glued down. Nate quit work an hour later than me, and I wanted to give him some time to move into low gear, to get cleaned up and chill down after a day's labouring. Finally, I couldn't wait any longer. I felt as if I was trapped, and I knew I had to get out of my apartment. I wasn't exactly nervous; more a mixture between excited, scared and impatient. Once out on the street, I managed to catch a taxi, thus avoiding a walk in the rain. Since I was still a bit early, so I asked the driver to stop by a florist's. A couple of minutes later, still ahead of schedule, we pulled up outside Nate's house. As I paid the driver, he winked at me.
"Good luck there, guy. Go for broke!"
"Th-thanks," I stuttered, and I ended up tipping him more than I'd meant to.
I still had my finger on the door bell button, when the door was yanked open, and I found myself staring into a pair of deep, blue eyes, radiating love. Whatever I had thought to say vanished from my mind, as I felt Nate's arms around my waist. I leaned into his embrace, returning it as he whispered into my ear.
"Hi there, Nate," I whispered back. "How are you?"
"Just fine." He kissed my cheek. "Better than ever."
"This is for you." I gave him a single, red rose. "A token. I can't actually give you my heart, Nate, so I bought you this, instead."
His voice broke before he could go on. He took my hand, leading me into the apartment and closing the door behind us. I hung off my jacket, then I had every molecule of air wrung out of my lungs. We held each other for a little while, before Nate leaned back. I could see tears running down his cheek, but this time, they were happy ones. Knowing what was to come, I closed my eyes, and a second later we met in our first real kiss.
A short chapter this time. Is this the end of trouble? We'll see... As always, thoughts and comments are warmly welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org. `Til next time!