"Hey babe," Brad said as he slipped a protective arm around me and kissed me on the forehead. "Sorry I'm late."
"No problem, bubz," I replied. He sat down next to me on the wooden bench of the bar booth. I motioned with my head toward the dark-haired man sitting across from me.
"I've just been talking to Jake, here. Jake, this is my boyfriend, Brad." They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries, assessing each other from across the table. I had no reason to, but I felt a little awkward at this meeting. It was mostly because of Brad. He was always the jealous type, and I knew he wouldn't necessarily like the fact that I'd been sitting alone in a bar with another guy, engaging in a private conversation. I could tell he was checking Jake out to see if he posed a threat to him. I hoped it was obvious that he didn't.
Jake, for his part, seemed to be a little startled by Brad's sudden appearance. That was my fault. I hadn't mentioned he was coming. I suppose he was shaken by the idea that he might have been overheard. I couldn't blame him for that. If I were him, I would want to keep what we had been talking about private, too.
He quickly lost interest in our conversation once Brad arrived, and sat quietly for a few moments listening to the two of us talk before making his excuses. He deliberately placed a few bills on the table as he slipped away, quietly thanking me again for listening to him. I didn't envy what he was going back home to.
"Who was that? He looked kind of familiar," Brad asked once Jake was gone. He didn't seem to be on the offensive, just mildly curious. That was good. It seemed he hadn't picked up any worrying vibes from the table. I wouldn't have blamed him if he had started acting jealous. Jake was a really good-looking guy.
"I don't know how you would know him. He's dating this girl who works in my building, is all. I only met him a few weeks ago." The information seemed to appease Brad. And it was the truth. I hardly knew Jake. Brad nodded, smiled, and proceeded to tell me about his day, as was our nightly routine.
"Oh, by the way, I think PJ might be dropping by in a bit," he said after a few minutes. "I hope you don't mind." I didn't. I liked PJ, kind of in the same way that I liked Jake. I couldn't quite place my finger on it, but they reminded me of each other. Like Jake, PJ always seemed a bit sad, and something in me wanted to help him. Besides, he was like family to Brad. He was always welcome as far as I was concerned.
"It'll be good to see PJ. How's he doing lately?"
"I don't know. I haven't seen him since we went out for dinner a few weeks ago. And he was acting kind of strange all night. Really quiet. I don't know. I worry about that boy sometimes."
I knew what Brad meant. PJ was a great guy. Handsome, kind, charming, funny. But there was something about him that made you worry, made you want to take care of him. It would surface every once and a while. He was really sweet, maybe a little too sweet. Easily crushed, I guess you could say. It had happened before, I'd heard.