Cheers for the reviews.
'So, uh, that's why I think it would be best if I stayed away from you from now on,' Tom finishes.
Ever had one of those conversations where you don't quite believe what you're hearing, even when the same point has been reiterated maybe fifty times? Well, that is the kind of conversation I'm having with Tom. He keeps telling me over and over again that he's decided to 'fight his urges', and that this involves cutting all contact with me, but my ears utterly fail to accept what they're hearing.
'I still don't get it,' I argue. I'm beating a dead horse and I know it but damn it, I just can't stop myself. I'm hurt. Offended. Confused. 'There's no reason for you to do this.'
Tom unclips his seatbelt and leans across me and opens the passenger side door. 'Will, please go,' he requests tiredly. 'I don't want to keep discussing this.'
'Well, I do!' I exclaim. I swing my legs out of the car, but make no move to completely remove my body from his car. If he thinks that he can drop me off outside my townhouse at five-thirty am on a Thursday morning, and expect me to accept the deal he's trying to hand over, he has another think coming. 'You're making a stupid decision, and I'm not going to walk away and let you mess up your life. You're going to regret this, really you will. You can't just cut me out of your life and pretend that nothing ever happened, and that you're straight.'
'Will, get out.'
'Not unless you talk to me first. Please, Tom, please don't buy into their bullshit. You're going to regret it if you do.'
'I'm not talking to you about this any more. The conversation is over. Now please get out of my car.'
'No.' I repeat, outraged. 'This is fucking ridiculous.'
'Why can't you respect what I'm saying?' he demands, his voice cracking as he speaks. 'I respect you.
His eyes turn unnaturally glossy and red, and he wipes roughly at his face to avoid looking at me. 'Get out. Please. If you have any respect for me at all, then get out of the car and leave.'
Something about his words, and his nearness to tears, affects me.
'Sure,' I mutter, grabbing my bag. 'I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I was just….just thinking about what was going to happen to you.'
I reach over and touch him. 'I'm just sad at losing a good friend,' I explain. 'Good luck with the future.'
He snorts and shakes his head. I take this as my cue to leave, and climb out of the car. I'm just about to shut the door when he speaks.
'I never wanted to be your friend, Will,' he explains ruefully. 'I'd liked you for months before I saw you at the club. I… I love you.'
I literally gape at him. Tom just shrugs as if to say 'now you know the truth' and reaches across and pulls the door shut.
It's so hard to watch him drive out of the complex without running after him, and demanding another sort of explanation. How could this be happening? How could I have failed to notice something which was obviously so clear to everyone else?
After a morning spent aimlessly stalking around our townhouse, I find myself lying on my bed, studying. The door is closed and Queen's greatest hits album is playing.
It's not as though I'm actually studying or anything, but when someone knocks on the door, I feel rather irritated and put out.
'What is it?' I yell.
Seth opens the door. 'I love this song,' he announces.
'You're interrupting me so you can listen to a song that you could easily download from the net?' I require crabbily.
'Wow,' he remarks. 'Are you still cut about Tom breaking off the friendship?'
I put my textbook down and sigh resignedly. I pat the section of bed next to me, all the while shuffling over. 'Come in. Listen to the damn song.'
Seth shakes his head, reprimanding me, as he sits next to me on the bed. Oliver follows close behind him, in a non-intrusive, apologetic manner, and sits neatly on the edge of the bed. The two of them are well and truly 'together' now, and it seems that either Oliver is over at our house, or Seth is over at Oliver's apartment, every single day.
The stupid part is that until Tom broke off our friendship nine hours ago, I wasn't jealous of either Oliver and Seth, or Roman and Leisel. I didn't care that they have partners. I had Tom, and Tom was…well, Tom filled all the 'gaps' in my life. But now that Tom is gone, I have nothing. I want a partner. I want a friend. Fuck it, I just want Tom back.
I pick up my textbook and glare angrily at it. The words blur beneath my eyes as I mentally rage at the unfairness of the situation. I want to call Tom and demand a better explanation. I want to know why it is he's turning his back on me, when I didn't do anything wrong.
'…about it?' Seth asks.
'What?' I reply, realizing that he's trying to have a conversation with me. 'Hang on a second.'
I turn down the volume on the CD player and sit up. 'Now what did you want?'
'I said 'if you're so unhappy about the Tom situation, why aren't you going to do anything about it'?' Seth repeats.
'What on earth am I supposed to do? He's made his choice. I just…just don't understand.'
Seth narrows his eyes. 'He hasn't made his choice, Will. Boys who are thinking 'I don't know if this is right for me' don't go and buy KY and twelve packs of condoms. Boys who are unsure don't have sex with other boys, just hours after they've been talking to their religious leaders. Finally, boys who are unsure don't tell other boys they love them.'
The answer frustrates me.
'Then why did he tell me to go?' I demand.
'He's probably scared,' Seth replies confidently. 'You told me he's agreed not to compete in any events until he felt he had his 'urges under control', didn't you? Well, imagine losing everything you've spent your life working for and at the same time, having to change the way you view yourself. He doesn't want that, Will. He's given you all the signs he can, asking you to help him out, and instead of doing anything, you're sitting here and having a hissy fit instead of doing something productive.'
'What am I supposed to do?'
Seth doesn't reply verbally. He does, however, lean over and hit my shoulder.
'What?' I exclaim, rubbing my arm.
'Drag him up North to this competition he was supposed to be competing in. Go with him. Support him. Tell him your remarkably tall, skinny body is his forever, because you love him, too.'
I gape at him.
Slowly, understanding dawns.
Seth accurately interprets my expression. 'You know what you have to do, Will,' he adds, rather unnecessarily.
I spend the next four days thinking about Tom.
It's one thing to know what you have to do, it's entirely another to actually do it. I fully admit I'm scared. I'm not sure how I should go about contacting Tom, and what I should do and say when I work up the nerve to speak with him.
I end up using his birthday as an excuse. Monday is his nineteenth birthday, and I tell myself that whether we're friends or not, I can't let the event slip by, unnoticed. I send him a text message, to wish him a Happy Birthday.
There is no response to my message.
I spend the night sulking, and repeatedly checking my mobile phone for messages. I stay up for hours, watching television, not bothering to go to bed until the wee hours of morning, only to be woken by my alarm at seven o'clock. I have to be at the school where I'm doing my practical assessment by eight o'clock.
Needless to say, Tuesday drags. The kids in my class seem worse behaved than ever, and even speaking becomes a task through the heavy mask of fatigue. Words fumble, and slide awkwardly around my mouth, and I keep walking into desks, doorways, and cupboards, showcasing exactly how much of a klutz I can be.
My body is fatigued and sore, and my heart hurts. There really isn't much to look forward to in life, something I only sporadically seem to realize. I arrive home with little motive to do anything but sleep the evening away, and within half an hour of arriving home, I'm curled up in my bed.
By nine o'clock I'm well rested enough to stumble downstairs for dinner and some late night television. Everyone else is asleep, and I kind of enjoy having the television to myself. As I watch, I tell myself I need to accept that Tom won't necessarily want to contact me. He may have – after all – chosen to do as he said he was going to, and try to suppress his 'homosexual urges'.
As luck would have it, though, no sooner have I told myself this, than Tom arrives. He's wearing tracksuit pants and a t-shirt, and his hair is damp. He's been at the gym, training, and has stopped by to see me.
'Come in,' I offer, holding the door open.
Tom steps inside. The skin on his cheeks is rough and broken, from shaving over an outbreak of zits, and his hands fiddle restlessly.
'I came to say thank-you,' he explains.
I force myself to grin. My heart is racing and my palms are sweaty. 'You're welcome. You only turn nineteen once.'
I lean forward and kiss him.
He exhales deeply, as though ridding himself of a ton of stress and anxiety, and pulls me into an embrace. Our foreheads are touching, and his almost colourless blue eyes stare into mine. Under my hands, his shoulders are as hard and perfectly muscled as ever. He feels right for me, comfortable. A relationship with Tom would be so easy, so perfect, so natural, unlike my relationship with Jackie, where I mistook fear and dread for exhilaration, and nothing ever came easily.
'Why did you come back?' I ask, giving him a quick kiss.
Tom shrugs. 'I missed you.'
'I thought you were going to pretend…were going to…you know, pretend to be straight.'
He pulls away slightly. 'I missed you,' he mutters, his eyes cast downward.
'I missed you too.'
'Yes,' I nod. 'Um…I just didn't quite know how to go about getting you back. I didn't really think…well, once you were out of my life I realized…I realized what I felt for you.'
He laughs in a hard tone. 'I'm glad you realized.'
We spend a few minutes kissing and snuggling. Tom assures me that he is willing to have a relationship with me, and adds that he's going to work on finding a better church. It wasn't just his churches take on homosexual issues that bothered him, there were other interpretations of the bible that they made, that he didn't necessarily agree with. He knows he'll be hurting a lot of people, but he's decided that he really does have to make a stand now.
I'm so grateful he's found some degree of peace. Really, really, grateful, and not just because I'm a selfish person who wants to be with him.
'So are you going to go back to competing?' I ask. 'Are you going to go to the triathlon on Sunday?'
'Only if I can raise the cash to get there,' he replies ruefully. 'Which at this stage seems rather unlikely. My parents were going to pay, but now…well, now they're not.'
Life is frequently one problem after another. This problem, however, is relatively simple. I know quite a few people who would be willing to loan us the cash, and believe me, I am not too proud to beg.
'That shouldn't be a problem.'
Tom looks surprised. 'What do you mean?'
'It means I'm going to find someone who will give us a loan,' I reply firmly. 'Now hand me the phone that's behind you, and I'll find out who the lucky loan shark is going to be.'