'Mahir, some guy called Kevin is on the phone,' Ben yelled out. 'He says he met you in Turkey.'

Mahir sprinted inside and grabbed the phone with a level of enthusiasm that I didn't know whether to attribute to the man on the other end of the phone or the fact that the phone call itself gave Mahir a brief reprieve from helping Will and Wafiq shift their belongings into the moving van.

I raised my eyebrows at Ben questioningly. He shrugged unconcernedly.

'Kevin is either really desperate or really optimistic,' Ben remarked humourously.

I laughed. 'How did he sound?'

'Like any other guy,' Ben shrugged again. 'We better get back to work. I don't want to be doing this all day.'

'We only have another two boxes to load into the truck,' I replied.

'We still have to unpack. We'll also have to help them put together all their new Ikea furniture.'

The moving truck was soon packed, and Ben and I took a seat at the kitchen table and waited for Mahir to finish his phone call. Will and Wafiq were already at their new apartment, putting together all of the flat packed furniture that we'd dropped off earlier this morning.

'Yes, so tonight, at six,' Mahir said into the phone. 'I will see you then.'

Ben rolled his eyes as our housemate hung up. 'Mahir, we are trying to move,' he said.

'I have a date to organise.' Mahir huffed.

'With the guy you met in Turkey?' I inquired, picking up the truck keys.

Mahir and Ben followed me out of the house and into the moving truck as Mahir confirmed that yes, this was the man he had met in Turkey. The man that had bought him six drinks just for the pleasure of his company. The man that had returned to Australia a week ago and now wanted to take Mahir out to tea. A picnic, because he had no money after his overseas holiday, but Mahir was a Turk and Turks, he assured us, knew how to picnic.

'Mahir, are you really going out with a broke guy?' I asked doubtfully. 'This doesn't sound much like you.'

'He'll get a job,' Mahir said breezily. 'It will be fine.'

I grinned and started the truck. I liked Mahir's honesty and optimism. 'Now you'll have to find something to wear.'

'I'm already thinking about it,' he assured me.

We drove by Roman's mum's house, to pick up Roman's belongings, before heading to the apartment. The three guys were in the process of drinking coffee when we arrived, looking totally non-plussed and calm. Around them, perfectly constructed furniture shone shiny and bright, and in the corner was a massive stack of cardboard and plastic wrapping. It was shaping up to be the easiest move ever.

'Woah, we can go soon,' Ben grinned.

'You can go as soon as the moving truck is unpacked,' Will offered. 'We can do the rest.'

Ben and Mahir were keen to unpack the truck and leave as soon as possible. I wasn't. I wanted to ask Will questions, check if he was okay. Deep down, I had issues with him moving out. I would never admit it, but I was scared of what he'd do. He wasn't as mentally balanced as he preferred to think. He needed his psychologist, his drugs, two things that he absolutely loathed, but who could help keep him functional.

Outsiders tend to see Will as a tall, skinny kid with a lot of nervous habits. Ben views him with a mixture of aggravation and admiration, although he would never admit the latter. Lee one of the other foster kids I've cared for, thinks he's peculiar but harmless. I, however, really like him. I love all of my foster kids, but liking is different to loving and I like Will. He's done a lot of things I still don't have the balls to do, and he's done them well. He's sweet too; he'll spend hours finding a birthday or Christmas present, and he'll always return with something completely unexpected, but he'll give it shyly and with embarrassment.

'You can go now,' Will said. 'I really appreciate your help.'

I hugged him. 'Tell me if you need anything.'

Will, who a few years ago would have squirmed awkwardly, hugged me back. 'I will.'

Mahir sighed impatiently, breaking the moment. 'Brett, we need to return this truck and go home. I need to find something to wear tonight.'

'What's happening tonight?' Will asked.

'I have a date.' Mahir said.

'He's going to a barbecue,' Ben corrected. 'With some guy he met in Turkey.'

'A picnic,' Mahir retorted.

'A barbecue,' Ben argued. 'Fifty bucks says it involves men and a hotplate.'

'A picnic can have a hotplate,' Mahir argued, heading towards the door.

'No, when you're cooking the food it's a barbecue. A picnic is about sandwiches and chips and warm soft drink,' Ben argued. 'Your English is shithouse.'

I waved good-bye to Will, Roman and Wafiq while herding Ben and Mahir toward the moving truck. The two of them continued arguing over the definitions of 'picnic' and 'barbecue' all the way back to the truck hire company, and then back home. Several times Ben and Mahir pleaded for my input, but I was too smart to fall for that. A barbecue and picnic could be whatever they damn wanted it to be.


'Brett, you must go. I bought your ticket,' Mahir pleaded. 'It's fancy dress.'

'Precisely why I wasn't planning on going,' I grizzled.

Mahir sighed dramatically. 'You owe me seventy dollars whether you going or not.'

'Whether or not I go,' I corrected.

His hazel eyes turned into evil slits. Mahir loved work socials. There was at least one a month, and he showed up to nearly every one; lunches, after work drinks, cocktail parties, even fancy dress parties that cost a ridiculous seventy dollars a ticket.

'Look, I didn't really want to spend seventy dollars on dinner,' I said. 'I'll buy the damn ticket, but don't do this again. Seventy dollars could feed Ben and I for a week.'

Mahir pooh-poohed this. 'Only if you eat rice and noodles. Besides, you're not poor. You always lend me money.'

'And you never pay it back.'

'Fine! Take your ticket for free.' He slammed it down on the table. 'Put a nice shirt on. We need to hire costumes.'

'There's nothing wrong with my shirt.'

'You look like a beggar.'

I went and changed my shirt. I know, I know. This is just Mahir, though; he likes to look good and he likes his companions to do the same. Then we went out, chose our bloody costumes – which, I must add, cost a total of a hundred and ten dollars to rent for one damn night – with Mahir giving me an indepth description of Kevin as we went.

Kevin this, Kevin that, Kevin the other. I was actually quite curious about Kevin, to tell the truth. Mahir was thoroughly taken with the man. So taken, he even admitted that last Saturday's date had been far more 'barbecue' than 'picnic'. Not only that, but as Kevin wasn't due to start his new job until Monday, and was thus broke, Mahir had paid for last night's date.

'Why didn't you invite Kevin with you tonight?' I asked curiously that night as Mahir and I caught a taxi into the city.

Mahir shrugged. 'Far too soon. Maybe next time.'

My housemate adjusted his jester's hat carefully, while I tugged uneasily at my plastic swords. I was supposed to be a knife thrower, but thought that in truth, Mahir and I looked like the dodgy component of a circus troupe. It turns out that it's helpful to book your costume a few weeks in advance rather than just fronting up at a costume shop and asking what's available in your size.

I regretted my costume just a little bit more when we arrived at the hotel where the function was being held. Mohammed, who is employed by the same company as Mahir and I, was there with Michael. They were dressed in skin-tight lycra superhero costumes complete with boots and belts, capes and masks. Michael's was blue and gold, Mohammed's red and black. They looked both ridiculous and gorgeous.

'Look at you,' Mahir exclaimed, grabbing Mohammed's arm and checking out his body. 'I'm amazed.'

Mohammed assumed a superhero pose. 'Captain Mo is here to shock you with the news that the cocksucking arseholes that employ him are sending him to Qatar in five weeks. He will be gone for two years.'

Mahir's jaw dropped. 'What?'

Mohammed nodded solemnly. 'Qatar. Just when I thought I'd escaped desert kingdoms and polyester thobes for good.'

'Do you really wear thobes?' I asked curiously. I'd never really thought about it, but Saudi's did wear the whole white get-up, and Mohammed was born and raised in the KSA.

Mohammed rolled his eyes impatiently. 'No, Brett, I wear this,' he snorted, gesturing to his superhero's costume. 'My four wives dress as catwoman and my camel is a ghost.'

'My boss in the Emirates had two wives,' I replied mildly. 'Speaking of Omar, I think I see him. Excuse me.'

'Yeah, why don't you just tell him your bloody kids stick bacon in people's gloveboxes while you're there,' Mohammed sniffed disdainfully. 'Great parenting Brett.'

I went red at the mention of the bacon. I should have known Ben was stealing my delicious crispy pork for a reason. I hightailed over to the table where my said previous boss was sitting, decked out like a medievil English king, an outfit that suited his beard and large stomach. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see him. Unlike a lot of other expats, I thoroughly enjoyed Dubai. I liked the heat and tiny apartment I shared with a colleague and the continuous supplies of coffee.

I didn't spend another minute of the evening thinking about Mike and Mo or Ben and the bacon. I talked to Omar and four new German employees and Niko, one of my favourite work colleagues to date. We all had kids, and that gave us plenty to discuss. It was also far, far less painful than watching your ex parade around with his gorgeous new boyfriend. God, I hated Mohammed. Hated, hated, hated him.

Mahir collected me at midnight. He had a headache and wanted to go home, did I mind? I didn't mind. I made my apologies and went outside with him, hailed a taxi and went home.

'I'm sorry,' Mahir apologised. 'I don't normally get ill.'

This was true.

'It's okay,' I said, touching his shoulder. Behind him, I could could see Mike and Mo prancing around and showing off. Michael seemed pretty happy to me and it occurred to me that maybe, back when he and I were still partners, I should have taken him to these kinds of functions. Maybe that was part of why I screwed up. 'I was ready to go, anyway.'


Mahir woke the next morning to ill to get out of bed. In fact, he spent the next few days in bed, running a fever and groaning. The doctor arrived, declared it a bug, and gave him a script. Ben and I, miraculously, were spared from illness and could only do our best to keep quiet and be sympathetic.

Mahir was fully recovered by the weekend, which was a good thing, considering it was one of his 'Turkey nights'. Turkey night is Mahir's explanation to Australia. Or, as some of our workmates refer to it, his 'excuse for acting the way he does'. There's always Turkish music and Turkish new releases and plenty of Turkish food and alcohol. In short, it was a total immersion into how a certain class of Turkish professionals lived out their lives.

I'd experienced several 'Turkey nights' before this one, and all had played out pretty much the same. Lots of people come, lots of people eat and drink, the non-Turks leave, the Turks hang around to argue over soccer teams and which district of Turkey is superior, until finally, dawn breaks and everyone pisses off home. This night, however, was different. This Saturday, I had invited my ex-girlfriend, Eleanor. She was having problems with her husband and had moved out into a flat with their son, and I got the feeling she needed some time out to relax and let her hair down.

'You look nice,' I said as she arrived, dressed in dark jeans and a silky, emerald green shirt.

'Thanks Brett, you too.' She kissed my cheek, handed me a bottle of wine. 'I didn't know what to bring.'

I glanced at the lable. 'That's far too good Ellie. I'll hide it for now.'

I took her around and introduced her to a few of the other guests. Several of Mahir's brothers eyed her chest interestedly. Mahir had a totally heterosexual family, with the exception of himself. His family dealt with his 'peculiarities' by utterly ignoring the obvious. New man living with their son? Fine, they would always be nice to him, but he wouldn't get a birthday present. Same bloke regularly hanging off their brother? Of course, he must just be a friend. I once asked Mahir if this bothered him, but he looked at me like I was crazy. No, he didn't mind. Why would he?

Several guys asked if Ellie was single. I thought this was a thoroughly stupid question. She had half her boobs hanging out and was wearing high heels, of course she was single. Happily married women don't dress like that, or flirt the way she flirted. Still, I lied and said she had a husband who she adored. I was as jealous as I was the eight or so years ago it was that we were together. Besides, she was attracting far too much attention. Even Ben – who I loathe to think of as being capable of 'those' thoughts – had run his gaze over her in a way that made me want to lock him away in his bedroom.

'You want another drink?' I asked her.

She shook her head. 'No. I have to drive home.'

'You can stay over if you want.'

'And where would I sleep?'

'Um, my room I guess,' I muttered, realising that the only other option was the couch. Wafiq and Will had taken their beds with them when they'd moved out and the couch had already been claimed by a bunch of guys watching a wrestling DVD. No way in hell would Eleanor want to go near them. 'I won't touch you.'

She hesitated before shrugging. 'Why not?'

I poured her another drink and we went outside together. It was nice, really nice. At maybe two in the morning people started bailing, and we went inside to join the last few stragglers. Mahir, Kevin and two of Mahir's brothers were laughing and playing backgammon at the kitchen table.

'Where is everyone?' I asked.

Mahir shrugged. 'Home. Some of them are playing golf tomorrow.'

I vaguely remembered a work golf day. I'd dismissed it the second I'd received the email notification. Playing golf with my workmates was not a good way to spend a Sunday, particularly when I'd attended the bloody fancy dress dinner the weekend before.

'Oh. Well, Ellie and I are going to bed.'

Mahir looked interested. 'In the same bed?'

'Yes. In the same bed. Get your mind out of the gutter,' I muttered.

Mahir and his cohorts laughed loudly. Embarrassed, I nudged Ellie's arm and gestured for her to go to the bedroom with me. Yes, I knew this was unorthodox, but I felt confident of myself. I am more than bloody aware of my faults, but sleazing onto people isn't one of them. Once they're my partner I can be a bit dirty-minded, but that's beside the point.

I closed the bedroom door behind us and locked it. I really wouldn't put it past Mahir to 'accidentally' wander in in the morning to see if either of us were naked.

'I'll get you some clothes,' I said, going to the drawers and rummaging through. I found a pair of trackie daks and an old shirt. 'Wear this. I'll tell Mahir to leave the air-con overnight so you don't get too hot.'

Eleanor took the clothes. 'I'll go to the bathoom and get dressed.'

I unlocked the door, let her out, then locked the door again. I removed my clothing and put on my pajama pants, before realising I'd better put on a shirt. The matching pajama shirt was hiding at the back of the cupboard and I'd only just started buttoning it up when Eleanor knocked on the door.

'Sorry,' I said, letting her in. 'Um, I'm going to pee and I'll be back.'

She made her way over to the bed. 'What side do you sleep on?'

'The left. Is that good?'

'Works for me.'

A couple of minutes later I was back. I switched off the light, went to my bed, and climbed in. God, it was so weird sleeping next to Ellie. Frankly, I couldn't help but wonder what her estranged husband would think and say if he knew what we were doing right now. He was a quiet guy, but I figured this would probably spur him into action.

Ellie moved around awkwardly, yanking on something. 'Brett,' she whispered. 'You're lying on my hair.'

I sat up so Eleanor could rearrange her hair. 'You should tie that back,' I suggested.

'Wait for me to run to the bathroom and get a hair tie.' She whispered sarcastically.

I grinned. She gave it as good as she got. We used to fight a lot, screaming and shouting and throwing things, back when we were dating. I never fought with a man the way I fought with Eleanor, but to be fair, neither Damon nor Michael ever threw my dinner off the balcony when I was home an hour later than I'd promised.

'Lie down,' she murmured, tugging on my arm. 'Are you tired?'

I lay down. She was still resting her hand on my arm, and I touched her hand cautiously. She was soft and small, tiny in comparison to the bulk of a man. I ran my thumb over her fingernails, marvelling at their length and shape and the feel of nail polish.

It sounds silly but until now, I'd never really missed women. My boyfriends had been enough. I'd loved them both deeply and had never had the urge to look elsewhere. Now, though, all sorts of desires were flooding back. I could barely remember what it was like to be intimate with a woman but I knew I wanted it, badly.

I waited for her to pull away, but instead she grabbed onto my hand and tugged at it. I rolled onto my side so that I was facing her, and stroked her arm. Her skin was velvety smooth and warm. Hesitantly, I touched her further up her arm, then, when she didn't stop me, her shoulder. Then, with my heart thudding, I kissed her.

She moaned, kissed me back, and then it was all on. I'll be honest; she was a really good root last time around and she'd only improved with practice. We tore at each others clothes and rolled around the bed kissing and stroking and groaning until I couldn't take it any more, and moved her legs further apart. A few false moves and suddenly I was in, encased in her.

'Are you on the pill?' I murmured.

'No, depo.'

'You won't get pregnant?'

'No, God, shut-up.'

I shut up. Yes, I , the person who has spent the last couple of years of my life yelling at my foster kids to wear a condom as back-up, shut up and kept going. And it felt fucking great.