The following Saturday Sammie pulled up in front of Tyler’s apartment building to see Tyler pacing back and forth on the sidewalk.
“Hey, what’s up?” Sammie asked noticing that Tyler seemed agitated.
“Should I change clothes? Is this okay to wear?” Tyler asked. He was dressed in a pair of dark slacks and a light blue dress shirt.
“Um, yeah, but you can just wear jeans if you want.” Sammie wore a pair of low cut jeans and a sweater that fit tightly enough to make out his well-defined chest.
“Yeah, I should have asked you. I’ll go change,” he turned and headed back up the walkway. “Be right back,” he called over his shoulder.
Sammie strode back to his car and got behind the wheel. Tyler appeared about five minutes later wearing jeans and a polo shirt. “This better?”
“You look great.” Sammie smiled as he leaned over to give Tyler a kiss.
“Are you sure? I could wear something else if you want. I should’ve gone shopping today and bought something new.” Tyler rattled on. He was obviously uneasy about meeting Sammie’s friends.
“Hey, it’s just dinner at a friend’s house, calm down. You look great.” He leaned in for another kiss. “It’ll be okay.”
Tyler sighed and nodded, relaxing a little as Sammie kissed the tip of his nose. “I just don’t want to embarrass you,” Tyler tried to explain.
“Enough with that already, you won’t embarrass me.” Sammie really liked the kid and truly felt for what he must have gone through. But, he had to admit, sometimes all the insecurity got on his nerves.
They weren’t even half way to Joel’s house in the suburb, when Tyler asked Sammie to pull over.
“Please, just pull over for a sec,” Tyler asked again, urgency rising in his voice.
As soon as Sammie pulled to the curb Tyler opened his door, leaned out and emptied his stomach. Sammie watched him in surprise, then sighed, shaking his head. “You all right?” he asked handing Tyler some tissue.
“Yeah, sorry. I’m just nervous. I told you, I don’t do this well.” Tyler sat back up, he face pale and his eyes watering.
“You want to skip it? I can call and make an excuse.” Hell, there was no point in making the kid suffer.
“No, I need to get over this, to get past all this shit. I can’t keep letting my own shadow scare me. Really, let’s go.”
Sammie wondered just exactly what shit Tyler was trying to get past as they drove on to dinner. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie pulled his car into Joel’s driveway. “Nice house,” Tyler remarked.
“Yeah, they moved out here two years ago.”
“How long have they been together?” Tyler asked.
“Yeah, you ready?” Sammie asked.
Tyler took in a deep breath. “Uh-huh, I think.”
They exited the car.
Joel pulled the door open just as Sammie was reaching for the doorbell. “Hello!” Joel beamed as he pulled Sammie into an embrace. “Oh, you this must be the new beau.”
Tyler blushed and stuck out his hand. Joel would have none of that, he brushed Tyler’s hand aside and pulled a surprised Tyler into a hug.
“Joel, this is Tyler, Tyler meet Joel.” Sammie deadpanned, chuckling at Tyler’s stunned expression.
“Come on in and meet everyone else,” Joel said, as he pulled Tyler by the arm into the den. Tyler glanced back over his shoulder with a pleading look for Sammie.
“Everyone, this is Tyler,” Joel announced to the crowd as they entered the room. “Tyler, this is Lisa, and Terri, and over there is my partner, Troy, and in the chair over there is Steve.”
“Hi,” Tyler managed to get out.
“Hi, Tyler,” Lisa said. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
A series of ‘hi’s’ and ‘hello’s’ came from around the room. Sammie slipped his arm around Tyler’s waist from behind and felt the man relax slightly back against him. “They won’t bite, I promise,” he whispered in Tyler’s ear.
“Come on in and sit down,” Joel insisted. “We are drinking Moet.” He handed Sammie and Tyler each a glass as they sat on the sofa next to Lisa.
“Moet? Damn, Troy, you really did hit it big.” Sammie chided.
Sammie stole a glance at Steve, who was watching him with a blank expression. Sammie noticed again how thin and pale Steve had become. “Hello, Steve. How are you doing?”
Steve nodded his head. “Good, thanks Sammie. It’s good to see you.”
“So, Tyler, are you from St. Louis?” Terri asked, trying to diffuse any awkwardness before it had a chance to take hold.
“Um, no, I’m not.” Tyler licked his lips nervously, then took a sip of his champagne.
“Where did you live before?” Terri continued.
“Jefferson City.” Tyler’s answer caused Sammie to do a double take. He furrowed his brow and started to comment, but decided to hold his tongue until they were alone. He would have sworn Tyler had told him he moved from Kansas City.
The conversation continued around the room, most of it directed to Troy and questions about the book deal. Sammie leaned over and whispered into Tyler’s ear. “I’ll be right back.” Tyler looked at him and nodded, but his eyes gave away his fear.
“I’m just going to the bathroom. You’ll be fine.” Sammie patted Tyler’s leg as he stood to leave the room. He saw Tyler look at his glass of champagne, studying it for a moment before finishing it off.
“Ready for more?” Joel grabbed Tyler’s glass before he could answer.
When Sammie came back into the den he saw Steve had moved over next to Tyler, talking to him quietly while the others were seemingly ignoring the new kid, talking among themselves. Sammie rolled his eyes and moved in to rescue his boyfriend from his ex.
“Hey, Steve. How’s work going?” Sammie asked as he sat down on the other side of Tyler.
Steve smiled at him. “Good. Really busy. One of the counselors quit so my workload has doubled. But really, it’s good.”
Tyler cleared his throat slightly. “What, um, do you do?”
“I work as a youth counselor,” Steve answered.
Tyler nodded, “That must be rewarding.”
“Try frustrating. Most of the kids are there because their parents make them, or the courts order it. It’s hard to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. But every once in awhile I get to make a difference, and yeah, then it is rewarding, for sure.”
“Dinner’s ready,” Joel shouted from the dinning room.
As the friends all stood to adjourn to the dinning room Sammie leaned over to Tyler, “Was Steve, giving you a hard time?”
Tyler shook his head. “No, he was telling me that you were a great guy. He was really nice to me actually.”
“See, isn’t that what I told you?”
Tyler nodded. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
After a dinner of grilled salmon and steamed vegetables, the group settled back into the den to finish off the Moet.
“Ready for a refill?” Joel asked noticing Sammie’s empty glass.
“No, I think I’ll switch to water.” Joel started to get up. “Sit back down,” Sammie said. “I can get it.”
He was pulling a bottle of water out of the fridge when he heard familiar footsteps behind him. “Steve,” he said.
“It’s good seeing you again,” Steve said, leaning up against the counter, just slightly too close.
Sammie nodded. “You’ve lost more weight.”
Steve shrugged. “I’m fine. So, what’s the kid’s story?”
“I wish I knew. He doesn’t like to talk about his past.”
Steve nodded. “He seems pretty nervous.”
“Yeah, he was worried about meeting you.”
Steve smirked, then grew serious. “I miss you.”
Sammie shook his head. “Steve,” he warned.
“I think I fucked up, Frog.” Steve tried again.
“We are so not having this conversation,” Sammie said.
“Hear me out. Please.”
“No, Steve… No,” Sammie turned and left the kitchen. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie and Tyler left the party shortly, Sammie claiming he had a headache from the champagne. The drive home was filled with silence. Sammie was so lost in his own thoughts that he didn’t notice Tyler’s sour mood.
Tyler pulled Sammie from his thoughts. “So was Steve jealous?”
“Steve? Did it work bringing me?”
“What are you talking about?”
“That’s why you wanted me to come. I’m not stupid. So I think I should at least have a right to know; did it work? Was he jealous? Did he ask you to let him move back in?”
Sammie slowed the car down, pulling over to the side of the road. He remained quiet until the car came to a complete stop. Then turned to give Tyler his full attention, “You think I asked you to come to dinner to make my ex jealous?”
“No, Tyler. I did not,” Sammie was shocked. It never even occurred to him that Tyler would think this. “I invited you because I wanted you to meet my friends. Steve had nothing to do with it.”
“But you still love him.” Tyler’s voice was softer now, almost a whisper. “I could see it in the way you looked at him.”
Sammie sighed, closing his eyes for a minute. “Tyler, Steve and I have a lot of history, and yeah, I still care for him deeply. But what he and I had is over.”
“What did he say to you tonight?” Tyler asked.
“He said something to you that upset you.”
Sammie frowned. “Nothing. He didn’t say anything.”
“He wants you back.”
“He left me. He doesn’t get to decide,” Sammie’s voice grew louder.
“It’s okay if you want to take him back. I’ll understand.” Tyler reached out and took Sammie’s hand in his.
“Tyler, right now, what I want is you. Not Steve. You.”
Tyler chewed on his bottom lip as Sammie’s words washed over him. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, lets go home, okay?”
Later that night, they were lying in Sammie’s bed watching the city lights dance across the ceiling. Both were feeling relaxed and sated after making love, slowly and passionately.
“Tyler?” Sammie began; his hesitance rang in his voice.
“Yeah?” Tyler replied sleepily.
“I thought you moved here from Kansas City.”
“No, from Jeff City,” the answer came through a yawn.
“But you said you graduated from Penn Valley, isn’t it in Kansas City?”
“Hmm, I think so, yeah.”
‘He thinks so?’ Sammie thought frowning as he listened to Tyler’s breathing, wondering if he had drifted off to sleep. Suddenly Tyler rolled over to face him.
“I never said I lived in Kansas City.” He was more than a bit defensive.
“But, you did go to school at Penn Valley?” Sammie was trying his best to not sound accusing.
“Through the Internet and correspondence. I never lived there.”
“Oh.” They were both silent again.
“I’ve never lied to you. Maybe I don’t tell you everything, but everything I have told you is the truth.”
Sammie turned, caressing Tyler’s face. “I believe you. I just feel like there’s this huge hole in your past that’s missing.”
“Hhrf, you can say that again,” Tyler snarked. “Not tonight, Sammie, okay? I know I said I would tell you, but you promised not to push me.”
“I’m not. Really, it’s okay.” But this was starting to get old. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
The next day Sammie drove Tyler home after a leisurely afternoon spent lying around making love and playing video games.
“See you tomorrow,” Sammie said as he leaned over to kiss Tyler goodbye.
Tyler looked out the window up to his apartment. “Ugh, looks like we have company.”
“How can you tell?”
“The blinds are pulled. That’s his signal for me.”
“Telling you to not come home?”
Tyler shook his head. “No, not like that. I don’t know, my roommate, he’s kinda weird. He doesn’t have people over very often.”
“Do you want me to take you back to my place or some where else?”
“No,” Tyler’s voice suddenly light again. “It’s okay. See you tomorrow.” He kissed Sammie once more, and exited the car. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket as he pulled away from the curb.
“Hello?” He hadn’t looked at the display to see who was calling, figuring it had to be Lisa, wanting to gossip about last night’s events.
“Sammie?” Steve’s voice sounded tentative.
“Yeah?” Sammie wondered if Steve could tell he was rolling his eyes.
“Have diner with me?”
“Because I miss you, and I want to see you. Please?”
Sammie felt his resolve leaving him. “When?”
“I’ll pick you up.”
“We need to clear the air.”
“No, Steve, we don’t.”
“I do. C’mon, Sammie… we’ll put it to rest, bury the ghosts once and for all. I promise.”
“No funny stuff? I know you.”
“I said I promise.”
“All right. Fine… shit… Give me an hour.”
“See you then.” Steve rang off
“Fuck,” Sammie muttered as he tossed his phone into the passenger seat. He couldn’t see any good coming from this, but somehow he was powerless to resist. He always gave into Steve; it had been that way forever. Steve need only say ‘Please’ and Sammie folded. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie stood in the shower, enjoying the spray of warm water cascading over his body. Images of Steve ran through his mind. The two shared so much history, and now Steve was admitting he was wrong to leave. Sammie had wanted, waited for Steve to say that, for so long that was all Sammie wanted to hear. And now, just as he was putting his life back together, suddenly, now Steve wanted to come back. Sammie wasn’t sure he could trust Steve’s intentions. Did Steve really want to get back together, or was he simply jealous over Tyler?
Sammie shut off the spray and reached for a towel. As he stood drying his body off he heard the knock at the door. “Fuck,” he muttered, knowing full well who was on the other side. Wrapping the towel around his waist he headed for the front door. “Coming.”
He opened the door. “You’re early.”
Steve walked in, “You’re naked.”
Sammie rolled his eyes and turned, walking back to his bedroom to dress, leaving Steve to close the door behind him.
“You’ve been hitting the gym,” Sammie heard Steve’s voice behind him as he pulled a pair of jeans from the drawer. He turned to see Steve standing in the doorway of his bedroom, what used to be their bedroom.
“Steve, do you mind? I’m getting dressed.”
Steve chuckled, “No, I don’t mind, and you didn’t use to.” Steve walked over slipping his arms around Sammie’s waist.
Sammie closed his eyes, enjoying having Steve’s arms around him again and the feeling confused him. “Steve, what are you doing?” His resolve had now exited the building completely. Shit, he wanted Tyler… didn’t he? “Just offering you a little desert before supper.”
Sammie snorted. “That’s cheesy, even for you.”
“Yeah, I suppose so.” He leaned in and began kissing Sammie’s neck.
“Steve,” Sammie whispered.
“Shut up, Frog,” Steve whispered back.
The only sounds after that were soft grunts and groans. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“Yeah,” Sammie sighed, enjoying lying next to Steve in a post coital haze.
“I’m really sorry if I hurt you,” Steve began.
When Sammie opened his eyes again it was dark. A glance at the clock told him it was ten-thirty. He reached out to the other side of the bed; the sheets were cold. “Steve?”
No answer. Sammie pulled himself from the bed, stumbling into the kitchen. “Steve?”
The apartment was empty. Letting out a deep breath, Sammie walked back into his bedroom. Falling back on to the bed, he lay staring at the ceiling, wondering how his life got so complicated.
© Melina Catts 2005