I stood outside Guy's house, feeling like a total stranger.
It was a house that I had been inside a thousand times over recent months. It was a house that I already knew almost as well as my own. But this time it was different.
This time, for the first time in months, I didn't know if I would be welcome.
I had left Ben and Jonathon at McDonald's, with my head spinning from what had happened earlier, and worried sick that Guy would actually refuse to believe that what he had seen was all totally innocent and just one big misunderstanding.
Surely he knew that I loved him. Surely he trusted me enough not to stray the minute his back was turned.
But how could I be certain of that myself? Unless, of course, I talked to him.
Don't ask me how long I was standing at his front gate for, because there's no way I would be able to answer that for you.
I remember arriving there, having walked up the hill from downtown, and I remember placing my hand on the latch of the gate. But after that? Not a bloody thing! Except of course listening to this little voice saying, 'Get in there. Go on. What sort of a man are you?'
I didn't answer him, whoever he was. I just stood there, paralysed by a fear that was like nothing else that I had ever felt before in my entire life. Even singing that song on stage was a walk in the park, compared to how I was feeling right now.
After a while I sensed, more than saw, some kids walk past me. They were talking happily amongst themselves, but as they passed me I noticed them go silent.
It was just after that when I heard someone say, ‘What do you think he's doing?’
I thought that they had actually gone. But when I turned and saw the three curious faces staring at me from a short distance away, I finally snapped back to attention and realised why it was that I was standing here in front of this house in the middle of the afternoon.
I looked back at the house, with its manicured lawns and fresh paint, and its large comfortable cane chairs on the front verandah, and finally decided that I had to know. I had to go in and talk to Guy. I had to make him understand.
The gate hinge squeaked as I opened it. That was one job that Guy never seemed to get around to doing for his mother. I didn't think that now would be a good time to remind him for her, though.
I closed the gate and faced the house once more. All that stood between Guy and me now was about twenty feet of paved path, and a solid wooden door, painted in a rich dark green.
‘One foot after the other. That's all you have to do,’ I said to myself. Then I heard the giggle of one of the three kids.
I took a step.
'Okay,' I thought. 'Now it's only seventeen feet.'
Ain't it funny what the mind thinks of at moments like these?
‘Eleven feet . . . eight feet . . . five feet . . . two feet . . . fuck, I haven't even reached the steps yet! So much for my measurements!'
Good thing I didn't want to be an architect, huh?
I walked the final few steps to the stairs, then started climbing them (and . . . just in case you were wondering . . . it was twenty-seven feet from the gate to the first step). The longest distance to me, though, was the few steps from the edge of the verandah to the front door, which I soon found myself knocking on, after which I turned away and looked back at where the three kids had been standing. Apparently they had seen enough. Thank Christ for that!
It seemed like forever between when I knocked and when I heard the door open, and much to my surprise it wasn't Guy that I saw standing there when I turned around, but some other boy, with red hair and freckles, about a couple of years younger than I was.
‘Yeah?’ he asked, with more than a note of annoyance in his voice.
‘Errr . . . who are you?’ I asked.
‘I'm Kevin,’ he answered. ‘And I could ask the same. And not to mention, what do you want?’
‘I . . . err . . . was looking for Guy. I'm Tim, a friend of his,’ I answered.
‘He's not here.’
‘Oh. Do you know when he'll be back?’
Kevin just shrugged.
‘Will you tell him I called by then?’
‘Thanks,’ I replied, then turning on my heels to leave.
‘What were you doing at the gate for so long?’ he asked me, causing me to stop in mid-stride.
‘N-n-nothing,’ I answered.
‘Huh! Fuckin' long time to spend standing there doing nothing then,’ he said as he closed the door between us.
* * *
‘So, who do you think it was?’ Ben asked me when I called him that night and told him about the red-haired boy at Guy's house.
‘I have absolutely no idea,’ I answered.
‘Did you actually have the right house?’
‘New boyfriend, maybe?’
‘Not likely, I wouldn't think.’
I answered that question automatically, without giving it a split second of thought, but afterwards the cogs certainly started turning in my mind. Ben had sown a seed of doubt that I didn't particularly like.
When I disconnected I tried to call Guy again, for about the one-hundredth time, but all I got was a busy signal, for about the one-hundredth time.
I put the phone down and was about to give up when it rang, with my hand still resting on top of it.
I picked it up and said, ‘Hello.’
‘I've been trying to call you,’ a familiar voice said to me.
‘I've been trying to call you, too,’ I answered.
‘We need to talk.’
‘That's probably a good idea, but isn't that what we're doing now?’
‘I'm not in the mood for wisecracks at the moment.’
‘So, just when will you be in the mood then?’
There was a lengthy silence between us.
‘Are you okay?’ I eventually asked.
‘What would you reckon?’
‘I wouldn't be asking if I already knew the answer to that now, would I?’
‘Do you want me to hang up?’
‘No. Sorry. I guess this whole day has just spun me out.’
‘You and me both.’
‘When can we talk? Now?’
‘Nah. That's no good.’
‘Well, I have to work tomorrow. How about you meet me in the mall at lunch time?’
‘All right then. And just us, OK?’
‘Yeah. Of course.’
As I put the telephone down I was suddenly filled with this sense of foreboding, as if I already knew what it was that Guy was going to tell me.
He was going to tell me it was over, I was sure of it. He was going to tell me that he had found someone else. He had found Kevin.
Suddenly, all I wanted to do was cry!
* * *
I didn't sleep at all that night. I lay awake for hours, watching shadows dance across the ceiling of my room. I tossed and turned and fretted like you wouldn't believe.
After having a shower and getting dressed for work the next morning, I looked in the mirror and decided that I didn't like what I saw. The bags under my bloodshot eyes told all of the story, I thought.
I considered calling in sick, but for starters Mum wouldn't have bought that, and then there was the fact that I had to meet Guy anyway!
Eventually I headed out the door and down the street, choosing to walk to work instead of get a lift with one of my parents, and only just making it on time.
Ben met me in the staff locker room and propped himself up against the door while I washed my hands.
‘You okay?’ he asked.
I just shrugged.
‘You look fucking terrible.’
‘Thanks,’ I said rather dryly, only just managing to resist not breaking out in tears.
‘Fucking hell, Tim, why didn't you call in sick or something?’
‘I was tempted, but . . .’
‘I guess I thought if I kept myself busy it'd take my mind off things.’
‘Hmmm . . .’
‘Just what the fuck is that supposed to mean?’
‘Nothing, mate. Nothing at all. It's just that . . .’
‘It's just that I'm really feeling for you now, that's all.’
For the first time I looked directly at him. I could see the worry and the concern and the love that was etched into his features. He really was a good friend to me. The very best actually, and all I wanted to do was hug him, and cry on his shoulder, and have him tell me that everything would be all right.
I couldn't do that though. Things were fucked up enough as it were.
‘Have you spoken to him yet?’ he asked.
I simply nodded.
‘He rang just after I hung up from talking to you last night. He just said that we need to talk.’
‘Nothing, mate. I guess it could be about anything, really.’
‘Yeah, I suppose.’
‘Did you ask him who this Kevin guy is?’
I shook my head. ‘Didn't get the chance to. I suppose he'll tell me at lunch time though.’
‘Yeah, I suppose so.’
Someone came into the room just after that, and so we headed out into the stockroom where our work awaited us. Nothing much else was said between us that morning, but judging by the mistakes we were both making, it was easy enough to see that our minds were elsewhere.
When we had both finished at lunch time, I said good bye to Ben, wanting to leave the store as quickly as I could.
‘Good luck, mate,’ he called out to me.
‘Thanks,’ I replied, and then left.
* * *
Guy was so engrossed in the handle of his coffee cup when I spotted him sitting alone at a table in the mall, that he didn't even notice me approach. It wasn't until I had actually sat down opposite him that he even looked up.
‘Hi,’ I said to him as I sat down.
An uncomfortable silence stretched out between us, but I was saved from too much embarrassment when a waiter approached our table and asked if I wanted to order anything.
‘A cappuccino, thanks,’ I answered, without taking my eyes off Guy.
‘Sure thing,’ he replied and then was gone.
‘How was the city?’ I finally asked Guy, not wanting this agony to go on for any longer than it had to.
‘Okay I suppose. No need to ask you what it was like up here though, is there?’
‘That was uncalled for, Guy.’
All this time, I don't think he even looked at me once, preferring instead to continue gazing at, and fidgeting with, the handle of his cup.
‘If you'd have cared to stay for about another thirty seconds yesterday,’ I snapped, ‘you would have seen Ben, and you could have asked him what was going on!’
This finally got his attention and he looked up at me, although somewhat warily.
Fuck it, I thought! If I was going to get shot down in flames here, then I was going to go down with all guns blazing! I'd been thinking all morning about what I wanted to say to him, and here was my opportunity!
‘Yeah, that's right,’ I said to him. ‘And if you'd done that, then maybe I wouldn't have had to run outside after you yesterday, stub my toe on a fucking garbage can when I kicked it, and then walk all the way up to your fucking house to try and talk to you about it, only to find your new boyfriend there!’
I noticed his eyes widen, which was quickly followed by the corners of his mouth slowly curving up into the beginning of a grin, which I didn't particularly like the look of.
He looked at me for what seemed like a long time, still with that grin on his face, which only served to make me more nervous!
‘What's so fucking funny?’ I asked him.
‘Is that what you actually thought?’
‘What else was I to think?’
He sat back in his chair and rubbed his tired looking face with both hands, then crossed his arms, put his elbows on the edge of the table and leant forward.
‘I'm sorry, Tim. I really am. It seems we've both jumped to the wrong conclusions here, without bothering to get hold of the facts first.’
‘What do you mean?’ I asked cautiously.
‘When I saw you there with Jonathon, and no Ben around anywhere, I just automatically assumed that you and he were . . . well, you know!’
‘And if you'd bothered to ask about Kevin when we spoke last night, I could have told you that he's my new brother.’
‘HE'S YOUR WHAT?’ I almost yelled at him.
‘Well, step-brother really. I did tell you about Mum and her new boyfriend, didn't I? Well, Kevin is one of two new additions to the family. And he's a sixteen year old, obnoxious, homophobic slob!’
It was my turn to grin now.
‘So, you didn't spend all your time in the city playing up and forgetting about me then?’
‘No, mate, I couldn't do that. I could never do that. But after having that jabbering idiot chew my ear all the way home yesterday, all I wanted was to see a familiar face, and hold close to me someone I loved. What I saw though, well, it sort of gutted me.’
‘Oh God,’ I replied. ‘I'm so sorry.’
Just then the waiter came and placed my coffee in front of me.
‘No, Tim, you don't have anything to be sorry for. I was the idiot who started it all,’ Guy said once the waiter had left us.
‘So, what now?’ I asked.
‘How about we finish our coffees and then go for a walk?’ he said.
I wanted so badly to kiss him right now. But I knew that that would have to wait until later.
* * *
We walked and talked for hours that afternoon, without really knowing what we were doing or where it was that we were going.
He told me all about the Christmas that he had spent with his father, then about meeting Kevin for the first time, and about the trip home with Kevin and his mother.
Apparently Kevin's father was still tidying up loose ends back where they had been living and would be arriving here soon. Guy, it seemed, had been nominated as chief babysitter, but had ditched Kevin the first chance that he'd had this morning.
Somehow we ended up at Guy's place once again, which, after a quick check, we thankfully found to be deserted. No sign of Kevin. No sign of Guy's mother.
‘Do you feel like a drink?’ Guy asked me when we got back into the kitchen after our quick scout of the building.
‘Sure. Why not?’ I replied.
He walked across to the refrigerator and opened the door. I noticed him frowning.
‘What's wrong?’ I asked.
‘We don't have any Coke or anything,’ he said, then reached down and picked up a carton of milk from off the door, holding it up for me to see. ‘How about a milkshake?’
‘Sure. Anything,’ I answered.
I watched him as he got the machine out of the cupboard for mixing up the milk shake, complete with those silver metal canisters, just like they use in the real milk bars down town. Then came the ice cream from the freezer, and the flavouring from the cupboard.
It looked like he was an expert at this and I was enjoying watching him work.
‘What are you looking at?’ he asked, when he glanced at me and noticed me grinning at him.
‘I'm not sure,’ I replied cheekily. ‘Guess I'm just not used to seeing you all domesticated like this!’
‘Very fucking funny,’ he commented, then held up the bottles of flavouring so that I could see them. ‘Chocolate or Strawberry?’
He nodded, then poured the flavouring into the container, added the milk and some ice cream, then stuck the container onto the machine and pressed the on button.
When he had finished he found a packet of straws in one of the drawers near the sink and fished a couple out, putting both of them in the same cup.
‘Here you go,’ he said. ‘Come get it.’
‘Oh, it's like this then, is it?’ I said to him, as I got up and walked toward him, grinning.
‘Yeah, why not?’
I just shrugged and walked up to him, standing directly in front of him. He was holding the container between us and I placed one hand over his, with some fingers touching the cold hard anodised metal of the milk shake container, while others were touching his warm soft hands.
Looking into his eyes I could see something that had been missing for the past few days. There was a mischievous glint in there, but there was also love. My Guy was back.
‘What are you grinning at?’ he asked me, while somehow still managing to suck on his straw, with our faces barely inches from each other.
‘Only you,’ I answered, with the straw still hanging from the corner of my mouth.
All of a sudden, he gave a little snort, then started coughing and spluttering and laughing all at the same time. Amongst all this he must have managed to get some milkshake up his nose and he burst out laughing, spitting the milkshake right into my face.
I coughed and spluttered myself, and between us we managed to drop the milkshake container onto the floor. It was almost in slow motion as we both watched in horror at the container falling. It hit the tile floor with a clang, splashing us both with chocolate milk, and with the remaining contents spilling out over the floor tiles.
Guy looked at me, and I looked at him, then we both burst out laughing.
At exactly the same time we both leant down to pick up the container, but managed only to bump our heads together in the process, which was followed by more laughter, but then, as we stepped back and started to straighten up, Guy slipped on the wet floor.
Instinctively I reached out for him, but I was too late. He overbalanced, grabbed my arm, and sent the pair of us to the floor.
Luckily, I landed face down on top of him, looking into his beautiful eyes. We were both giggling like a couple of primary school kids. He started to struggle and try to get up, but I had him pinned.
There we were, on the floor of his kitchen, drenched in milkshake, and gazing into each other's eyes.
The giggling and the laughter quickly subsided though. This whole scene felt so surreal. God, this felt crazy!
What else could I do? I leant down and kissed him. And he kissed me back.
It wasn't our first kiss. But all of a sudden it felt like it was. It felt like we were two young lovers discovering each other for the very first time.
Slowly, he rolled me over onto my back and kissed me some more, then with his nimble fingers he started to undo the buttons of my shirt.
This was perhaps becoming one of the best, most amazing moments of my life.
Yeah. My Guy was definitely back!