Apartment # 4

Friday nights typically involved some form of social interaction. At the ripe old ages of 26 and 25, we weren't entirely out of the trendy gay bar scene, but we weren't entirely in it, either. So we still went out at nights, but sometimes to friends' houses, and sometimes to the bar, and sometimes we entertained at home.

Last night was a bar night.

That's really all I remembered of the night. Sean and I left our car keys in the reed-woven bowl on the counter on the way out, and that's it. I either drank too much…but didn't really feel hungover, or…no, I didn't take any drugs…those days were behind me. So what the hell?

I stretched out in bed. I moved my fingers and toes, and then arms and legs. Everything was still attached and functioning. I decided to take the biggest risk of all, and I opened my eyes.

The room was bright- Sean always opened the curtains when he got up- but not glaringly so. The clock read 10:30. I sat up- no headache- and swung my legs down to the floor.

When no one's around, I liked to dress casually, meaning I pulled on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans that fit around my hips more than my waist. All grown up and still pretending to be a 19 year old skateboarder. Except I never skateboarded. And now, it's too late. As an unspoken rule, passed down through the ages, high school English teachers do not skateboard.

I went out to get breakfast. The apartment was quiet. What the fuck? Where was Sean? And my dog? And his dog?

No, of course Sean wasn't still in bed…the curtains were open. The living room was empty, as was the kitchen.

This wasn't right. Sean usually woke me up if he was going somewhere. Even if it was to take the dogs for a walk. He was a sweetheart like that. And now, he was MIA.

There was no note on the fridge. I sat down and began a checklist of what could have happened.

After five minutes, I crumpled my list. There was no way reality had become like the music video for "Is Anybody Home?" by Our Lady Peace, and there's no way that Sean and I had gotten lost last night, with him somehow winding up in a gutter and me being spirited back to our apartment. How else would I have wound up home? God, I shouldn't be allowed to think until I've had coffee.

I reached for the phone. If something had happened, the gay gossip network would be abuzz with it. Of course, they'd all conveniently forget to tell me until I asked, out of concern for hurting me. Gotta love what passes for etiquette these days. Fags.

As I dialed Dave's number, the door opened. In walked Sean, dressed in jeans, a buttoned up shirt, and a ¾ length coat, with the newspaper and with both dogs on leashes. My white and grey husky, Saber, and his, Steel, went straight to their food dishes- by the door to the laundry room.

"You're awake," he said. "I was hoping to surprise you."

"You did," I yawned. "I had no idea where you were. Or of what happened last night. Why are you so dressed up this morning?"

Sean tried to suppress a shit eating grin. "Yeah…"

Being with Sean for four years has taught me that when my boyfriend trails off in mid-sentence, bad news tends to follow. Last time he did this was when he wrecked my car. "Don't tell me you wrecked my car again."

Sean grimaced. "Um…no, not exactly."

Oh, shit. I looked at my list. I was starting to wish he had somehow wound up in a gutter.

"What do you have there?" he asked, snatching the paper from the table and unfolding it. He chuckled. "You're full of surprises, Nathelmi."

I stood up, unimpressed. "Stop stalling and start talking." Saturday mornings weren't supposed to start like this.

Sean clasped my hands in his. "Nath…I've been doing a lot of thinking lately."

It's never a good thing when someone with an engineering degree does a lot of thinking. They aren't made to think. When you combine engineering and thinking, it tends to result in front-page national tragedy.

"Are you breaking up with me?" I blurted out.

"No! Just listen." He gave me one of his exasperated looks. "Do you ever…y'know, feel like something's missing? Or wish there was something else?"

"Where are you going with this?"

Sean's hands slid to my elbows in a weird sort of embrace. "I love Saber and Steel…but it's not enough. I'm getting bored with some of this."

My heart pounded in my chest. We'd had this conversation before. It had ended with a three day period of silence that ended in an unexpected session of living room sex.

"What the hell do you mean?"

"I went to the dealership today to trade in the cars."

The environmentalist in me said this was a good thing. The rest of me blurted out, "What?"

"They…they didn't make sense anymore."

"Right. We'll just walk everywhere we go," I snapped at him.

"Hear me out, Nath. I…I just…"

"What?"

"I bought a minivan." He held up the key. "I was going to surprise you."

I darted to the counter to look in the bowl for my keys. I fumbled through the keyring desperately…my car keys weren't on it. My life flashed before my eyes. This wasn't happening. "You…did…what?"

"Well…it's easier to get around in, there's more room for us and the dogs, and it'll be good for trips." Sean was starting to get enthusiastic. "We can…"

"When the fuck do we go anywhere? We live in Halifax! Our friends live in Halifax! Where the hell do you plan on going?" This wasn't making sense.

Sean's smile vanished. "Look. We're not twenty one anymore, Nathelmi. The cars were expensive, unpractical, and…"

"So the obvious solution is to become a soccer mom. What am I going to do now, Sean? Should I start cooking spaghetti every Wednesday night so we'll have energy for soccer practice?"

"Do we have to fight about this?"

"You sold my fucking car!"

"We were leasing them, Nath."

Oh, like that was a crucial difference. Though he did have a point. The car wasn't really mine. I did some mental math. If I was careful, I could probably still get a half decent lease for a car on my own.

Sean must have taken my quiet calculation for submission. He moved on to point number two. "The other thing I wanted to talk about was the house."

"The apartment. We have three rooms here. Four if you count that bathroom."

"No…this house." Sean opened the newspaper to the real estate section. "or maybe this one. With the money we save from not having two cars, we can…"

"Whoa, Sean…I'm still not over the car…"

"Nathelmi, we need to start planning for the future."

"Sure. I'll get life insurance tomorrow," I replied sarcastically. Then I got angry. "Why are we doing this? Like, what the fuck? We don't have kids, we have dogs. And now a minivan. Gays don't drive minivans, Sean! What did you drink last night?"

"Just pop," he replied, his voice even. He was trying to keep composure. "I could use the van to haul things to work sites and such."

This is why arts students and science students shouldn't mix in college. The real world just isn't the same for them. I was a teacher. He, currently an apprenticing architect, working onsite doing something or other.

"Okay. So you've got your fucking van. And how am I going to get to work? Or am I going to sit at home with the dogs all day and watch soap operas?"

"I'm going to drive you."

"Great! It'll be like junior high, when Mom would drop me off."

"Stop it, would you? This makes sense. Your work is on the way to mine. The money we'll save on gas we can use to help on the mortgage."

Mortgage. The word was as scary as AIDS. "What?" I asked, hollow.

"Nathelmi, I'm sick of living in the city, okay? I'm sick of following the dogs around with plastic bags, of avoiding the panhandlers and homeless, of the crowds of assholes and the pretentious fucks in our age group. Halifax is a hole and I want out."

I was thinking the same thing, but not about Halifax. "So you're just going to up and move. Like that. Did you ever think to ask what I thought on this? What our friends thought?"

"Your friends." He said crossly.

"They're your friends too!"

"No. They're your friends. Gay friends. They don't like those of us on the fence," he replied frostily.

"Oh, please. Bisexual my ass. When has that come up?"

"Every time we're at the bar? Or when we go over to Adrien's? Or whenever someone has their trendy 'fag hag' over, and I so much as say hello, they all screech?"

He had a point. Adrien was quite the flamer, and once, when the rest of us were talking about Sheldon's upcoming birthday, Sean had dared to speak a word to Hannah. The two of them were in the kitchen, chatting about Hannah's business. When Hannah had laughed, someone had instantly screeched "flirt!" and the rest of the visit was spent talking about bisexuals and how they couldn't be trusted and "they'd only break your heart, sweetie, best to just get out now." By that point, Sean and Hannah were back in the room, but none of the others had stopped.

I shifted my feet and bit my lip. "You haven't talked with any of them much since then. But you can't take that shit so seriously…"

There are looks that couples give each other that ignite passion. That go straight to the heart. This one chilled me straight to the bone. "Nathelmi…it's been passively happening for the past half year."

"You're making that up," I said weakly.

"Am I?"

"I'm going to go see them. This is all a big misunderstanding, Sean." I grabbed for a zip-up hoodie. "Like that minivan."

"Nathelmi, I know misunderstandings when I see them. This isn't one. Your friends have been trying to break us up for almost a year now. Haven't you noticed that out of our…your circle, we're the only couple that hasn't broken up or had an affair? We're a couple, Nathelmi. And just as gays don't do minivans, gays don't do couples, either. Adrien's not happy if he's not causing shit to someone or making unnecessary drama, Tyler's always looking for something to criticize, and Damon outright hates me for talking to Hannah that one day."

"You're off your rocker," I said. "I'm going to see Adrien and Tyler right now. They've been together awhile, too."

"Are you going out like that?" he asked as I reached the door.

"What's wrong with what I'm wearing? Do I have "proud owner of a minivan" branded on my clothes?"

"No, but you don't have any designer brands, either. Most of what you're wearing costs less than fifty dollars. And that's not apiece. That's total. What will Adrien say?"

I froze. He was right. But I wasn't about to admit that. "He won't care," I said. "I'll just…oh, fuck off, Sean."

He jingled the keys. "Want me to drive you?"

I crossed my arms. "I hate you."

"No. You love me."

"Can't I do both?"

"Not if I can't." He winked.

"I swear, you only call yourself bisexual. You haven't even thought of a woman in years, if ever."

"Do you want a drive or not?" he threatened.

The parking garage was well lit. "We'll save forty dollars a month on the parking, alone," he said.

"Wow. Maybe we can take up Oprah's book club while we're at it."

"That's a lesbian thing," he joked. "And besides, sipping lattes at Second Cup is…"

"Right, I forgot, too gay. Are you going to tell me you're straight? Have I been dating a heterosexual?" I glared at him. "Let me guess. This is all because you have a wife and three kids. In order to fit all of us in the same vehicle you need a minivan. I can see it now."

"Are you done ranting yet?"

"Not unless you promise me that I get the front seat. She can sit in the back with her three crotchdroppings and keep them in line. I deal with children enough as it is."

Sean ignored me and walked over to a blue minivan. "What do you think?"

"It's nice," I said, drawing out the nice. He knew I didn't mean it. It was like when you saw a painting in someone's home that was done by their kids. It wasn't nice. It was shit. You just said it to be nice. Or so Adrien said.

"I like to think my taste in minivans reflects my taste in men," he replied, unlocking the doors.

Ouch.

I got in and sat in the front. It felt like a Lincoln Towncar…which was my favourite kind of car. I squirmed around in the seat, and stopped when I realized he was looking at me. "What?"

He was smiling. "Nothing."

"I still hate it," I replied, mostly true. "I just like the chair. It's like being in a tank with leather seating."

Sean turned the key, and the beast roared to life. "Buckle up."

"Actually, the thought of going through the windshield was entertaining. I just hope Adrien's not watching out the window when I get there."

"Did I mention I bought it from the dealership Fred works at?"

"Who?"

Sean looked at me, as if astonished I didn't know. "Fred. Julian's ex. The one that Tyler slept with last night?"

"I don't remember last night. And what? Tyler wouldn't do that."

"Yes he would- you'll see." He guided the car out of the garage and into traffic.

I didn't understand enough of this. "What the hell happened last night?"

"I've had this planned out for awhile, Nathelmi."

"Planned?"

"I slipped something into your drink. So I could surprise you."

Thoughts of murder flashed in my head. "You…fucking…asshole," I seethed. "First, you drug me. Then you sell my car. Now you do this?" I reached for the handle.

"Childproof locks, babe," Sean smiled.

"I don't believe this! I'm a prisoner in…a minivan." I deflated. I wanted to cry.

"Oh come on now, Nathelmi," he kidded. "Who else among the gay gossip clique will be able to say they were slipped date-rape drugs and woke up with a minivan?"

I just put my head in my hands. I didn't speak a word to him for the rest of the trip.

I knocked on Adrien's door to find him in a state of tears. "That fucking asshole," he sniffled as he ushered me in. "I can't believe he slept with someone else. We were committed, too!"

My blood ran cold as I realized that Sean was telling the truth. "Sean told me," I said sympathetically.

Adrien's face pinched like a viper, poised to strike. "Go figure he'd know. He plays both sides of the field for conversation, wouldn't surprise me." His eyes gleamed. "Did you know he slept with Hannah? Oh no, you poor dear, no one told you! Well…at least now we both know the sting of betrayal!"

With the exception of last night, I knew exactly where Sean had spent his evenings for the past six months. At home. Occasionally he came home late from work, still smelling of construction, but he always slept next to me. As it was, I had to deal with Adrien and his histrionics before he turned his rage from his boyfriend to mine.

"Let's not worry about Sean. What are you going to do about Tyler?"

Adrien scowled, upset that I wasn't going to play his game. "Well, the same thing you're doing about Sean. Nothing." He looked out towards the window, crossing his arms. When he looked back at me, his eyes widened. "Did he dress you this morning? Girl, you look ridiculous!"

It's hard to believe this man was the same age I was and behaving like a fucking brat. "Last I checked, I was a man, Adrien. I think you are, too. So let's say we act as such." Sometimes, the teacher voice within came out.

Adrien's eyes glittered and he swept towards me. "I think that's a lovely idea. To hell with Sean and Tyler, we'll…"

"I meant grow up." The morning was sucking so badly. First, I lost my car. Now, this?

"Look who's talking, Mister Randy River," Adrien sneered. "Whatever. I'm going to break up with that asshole. You should too. We could do it together!"

The innuendo wasn't lost on me. I'm an English teacher, how could I miss it? "No," I said flatly.

The door opened behind me. Tyler. As ticked as I was at him, he had impeccable timing. And today, he also had roses.

"You son of a bitch!" Adrien screamed. "What did I do to deserve this?"

Ouch…my ears. I wish he wouldn't screech.

"The stock boy at Sobeys," Tyler said, rolling his eyes. "Or that guy at the bar last week? Come off of it, Adrien. It's too early to shriek."

"I'll make some coffee," I said, excusing myself and rushing to the kitchen. Tyler had either disarmed Adrien, or enraged him. I didn't want to be caught in the middle, just in case he went off.

Sean's words rang in my head as I went about setting up the coffee machine. Fuck. These two weren't going to last. Even if they had an open relationship, which they didn't, at best they'd be roommates who occasionally fucked. That's it. Adrien had notions of love and being in love in his head. Tyler thought of getting laid.

I sat in thought. With the exception of this "new life" nonsense- what else could I call it?- Sean always talked to me. And I to him. We had a relationship. Usually good, excepting today and last night. We'd been together…four years. Four years…holy fuck. That's enough time to get a degree. Or, in our case, twin puppies at graduation. That were now four year old, restless machines in the shape of dogs. That we kept cooped up for at least eight hours a day in a tiny apartment...

Fuck. My brain was turning against me. This wasn't how it was supposed to work.

As I brought the coffee out, there was eerie silence. I set the mugs down and looked at them, curious. "You're not too chatty."

"Nice hoodie," Tyler smirked.

"I'm glad to know clothing dominates the conversation, as usual," I snapped back. "Or at least someone's floor, in your case."

"Speaking of Fred, when I went back here…he texted me."

"That shameless bitch, I'll show her!" Adrien was in full pout mode, running his hands through an impeccably styled fauxhawk.

"He sold a minivan this morning," Tyler said.

Bastard…

"What's so big about that? So some breeder's up at the crack of dawn for a kidmobile. So what?"

Tyler looked at me. "Did someone buy a minivan this morning?"

By the time I got home, I was furious. No, embarrassed. No, angry. No…shut the fuck up, I don't know what I was. I was fucked off.

I threw open the door to find Sean ironing, watching Desperate Housewives. "You are so gay," I snapped, kicking off my shoes and storming into the bedroom.

To his credit, Sean kept his silence and didn't come questioning when I yanked open the closet doors. I reached for my skaterpunk crap…only to find it gone. In its place, meticulously hanging as if by miracle, were my nicer clothes, freshly ironed.

I stalked out to the living room. Sean rested the iron upright in it's niche at the end of the board and looked at me, expectantly.

"Where are my clothes?" I demanded.

"If you plan on throwing them away, I already donated them to goodwill. If you plan on wearing them, they're hanging on the curtain rod in the shower. Before you make up your mind, how was Adrien?"

"Fuck you, fuck Adrien, fuck the clothes!" I swept out of the room, grabbing the cordless.

"Who are you calling?"

"None of your business!"

"Tell your mom I said hi."

March nights are cold, and that night I found myself warming up inside the corner store. I'd told Sean I was going out to grab some pop, and he'd asked me to buy him a pack of cigarettes. I'd told him to go to hell.

I couldn't sleep at the corner store. The store owner was eyeing me curiously, and I knew that asking him would result in me being arrested or shot- you never can tell. I'd been there a half hour. I couldn't decide whether or not to sleep on the couch or in the same bed with Sean.

I refused to give up more territory to him. But I knew if I slept next to him I'd kill him in his sleep. Decisions, decisions.

"It's closing time," the cashier said. "Hurry up."

"Too many people are in a hurry these days," I joked as I brought the pop to the counter. Case of 12 cans. Easier that way.

"We're having a sale on two litre bottles," the cashier told me. "You should take those instead."

I looked at the price. I could get loads more pop for the same price. I'd have some heavy as hell bags to lug the block and a half home, but it would be worth it.

What the hell was I thinking? Worth it? It was four dollars. Being gay meant having disposable income. I could afford it. What the fuck. I don't need to be economical, I can afford to waste. I like having cans. It's like having a glass I can toss out when I'm done. Of course, I'd rinse and recycle them, but…

But what? I only ever drank them at home. If I went out I bought something at a corner store. Like the one I was at now. Facing a crisis of epic proportions over pop. My life, suddenly reflected in a convenience store sale. Fuck.

I bought the bottles and walked out, confused and with sixteen litres of pop.

Getting inside wasn't easy, but I managed.

Sean looked up from the couch. He was petting Saber and Steel lazily. "Where are my cig…what the hell did you do?"

I looked at him flatly as I set them down. "It was cheaper. In the long run, I mean."

Sean knew better than to pick a fight. Especially after today. "Alright. Did you get my cigarettes?"

"Nope."

"Why not?"

Geez, my students could take whining lessons from him. "Because you're quitting smoking." I paused and looked at him.

He looked at me funny. "Where are you going to put all of that?"

I guess he thought that he could judge my purchasing decision if I was going to not buy him cigarettes. "I was thinking I'd store them in the cellar. Which, hopefully, won't smell of cigarettes at all."

"We don't have a cellar. Nathelmi, I want a cigarette."

"I don't want our new house smelling like nicotine and tobacco. You're quitting, end of discussion."

Sean blinked. I looked at the newspaper, still open on the kitchen table from this morning, and took a moment to savor his stunned reaction.

"Now let's look at some of these places. And on Monday, we'll start calling."