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by Jaime Samms
Description: Mike Paloso has lost count of the number of times he's helped childhood friend Jay Charles move. Jay's never had much of a home to call his own, content to follow his boyfriends around, but each break-up means a new pad, until the next guy comes along. This time, it's different. There's been no break-up, and no new pad. Instead, there's one hell of a fixer-upper, and not just the house Jay's inherited from his latest, late, beau. This time, Mike has to find a way to repair Jay's broken dreams and mangled heart. With every reno, there comes some demo, but Mike's not sure he's ready to dismantle his life to rebuild Jay's.
eBook Publisher: Freya's Bower/Freya's Bower, 2008 2009
eBookwise Release Date: March 2009
40 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [137 KB]
Reading time: 84-118 min.
The room at the top of the stairs on the right was the largest of three bedrooms. The light fixture was missing, though, so I had taken up the trouble light and found a few candles. I had our sleeping bags spread out and pillows on the floor facing the television. There was no cable, so only three channels. Jay stood in the doorway with the plate of burgers in his hand.
I took the food from him and pointed down the hall to the bathroom. "Go get into dry clothes. I'll get these ready." I set the plate on top of some boxes and started dressing them as he went to change. I didn't realize he had come back until he spoke.
"You can stay."
I couldn't quite hide my start. "I liked Darren you know, Jay."
"Funny." Jay came in and sat down beside me. "He didn't much like you."
Jay shrugged. "You were almost the only thing we ever fought about." He took the plate I handed him and lifted the bun to see what I'd put on his burger, but he didn't pick it up. "Then, at the end, he told me to keep you close. To be patient."
I looked at him. Damp hair clung to the back of his neck and flopped down over his eyes. He had on a tank top and loose pyjama bottoms, and the warmth of the room after the cool rain flushed his cheeks. There had to be a mourning period my libido was completely ignoring. I took my plate and shuffled back to lean against the wall.
"Patient?" Close to him was something I definitely should not be when he looked like that and I had Brian's voice in my head telling me I was full of shit. He was wrong. I could admit when I wanted something this badly. I wasn't full of shit. I was just a shitty friend because me with my mind in his pants was definitely not what he needed right now.
"You alright, Mike?"
"Yeah. I'm ... hungry." I tore into my burger and concentrated on it, hoping it would help.
Later, with both of us licking condiments off our fingers and guzzling the last dregs of cold coffee, the silence grew thick. The TV was quiet, and wind whistled outside the window. A low rumble of thunder in the distance startled Jay. He jumped and set his plate down with an over-loud clatter.
"You okay?" I studied him through the wavering candlelight. He'd turned out the too-bright trouble light in favour of the softer glow.
"Yeah." Adjusting his pile of pillows gave him an excuse not to have to look directly at me. "Just the thunder." He'd never been comfortable during storms, and he'd moved the entire mess of pillows closer to mine. He settled in, laying on his back with his hands clasped over his stomach. "Why'd you sell the condo?"
"Told you." I cleaned the last bit of ketchup off my fingers and set my own plate aside. "Got a good offer."
"So what was your plan, then?"
"What do you mean?"
"You sold your condo. Where were you going to live? Did you have another one lined up? Is there a closing date? What do you plan to do with all your shit? You haven't said a word to me. And don't tell me it's because of the 'thing with Darren'. That never stopped you before."
"It was pretty sudden; a now or never kind of deal. I mentioned it to Brian but I hadn't worked anything out yet. I suppose he and Pat would have let me crash."
He peered over at me. "So this is pretty convenient for you, then." He waved a hand into the dim corners. "No screaming kids or smelly pets."
"Look, Jay, I'm not going to pressure you. If you don't want me to stay here, I won't."
"I do." He rolled a little bit toward me. The way he looked at me didn't help my struggle with self-restraint. "Do you know the last time we had sex was here? In this house. In this room, in fact."
"Darren and I. Right after we took possession. We drove out here. He toured the kitchen, touched every knob, every surface, like he was falling in love with the place. We spent the afternoon making love on this floor in the sunlight. He brought me up here and we...."
"He knew he was dying. He knew and he still made plans, had dreams. He was going to go out living. He made me want a future with him. What do I do now?"
He scooted over the floor and propped himself against me. Thunder rumbled closer from the west, and a flash of lightning illuminated the room for an instant. His face was stark in the bright light, then plunged completely into shadow behind the fading glow. "The worst part," he whispered, "is that I don't even know if it's him I miss, or the dream."