My Jacob,



I knew that you would not understand my decision so I never confided in you. You would have tried to stop this and you’d probably have succeeded, but it would only be preventing the inevitable and this is just something that I have to do. Sometimes it feels as if even breathing is a chore to me and now that I have made my decision, I can only feel a sense of relief that I have finally found a path towards peace.



I know you thought that I was stronger than this and for that I am truly sorry. You did your best to help me — please don’t ever doubt that. I don’t think I ever told you how important you were to me but I hope you knew anyway. Sometimes I acted as if our friendship didn’t mean the world to me, when it was in fact one of the greatest things in my life. You were the only person I felt I could talk to over the last few months. You kept me holding on just that little bit longer. Please don’t hate me for this.



I love you, Jake.



Sandy xxx



I folded the letter and gently placed it back into my wallet. I didn’t need to read the thing to remember what it said. The words were ingrained in my mind so that I could never forget them, even if I had wanted to. The tragic suicide of my best friend Sandy at the tender age of 22 still crippled me with grief, even 12 months later. As I sat at her graveside on the first year anniversary of that fateful day in which I found her unconscious at her desk, I kept thinking about what might have happened if I had left college early that particular day. But I had been too late. Would Sandy still be alive if I hadn’t stopped by at Starbucks on the way home from a full day of lectures?



Sandy had been everything to me; I’d met her when we were both 14 years old and we’d become best friends instantly. She spent most of her time with me rather than going home to her abusive step-father and an absent alcoholic mother, and then we had left for college together. Sandy had been my roommate, my best friend, and perhaps the most important person in my life with the exception of my mother. Sandy’s life had been difficult but she had projected the image of being such a strong and independent young lady to the rest of the world. She could be herself with me, and I knew better than anyone how sad and alone she felt sometimes. I’d spent many hours comforting her or sleeping beside her when she didn’t want to be alone.



I leaned forward to rearrange the flowers against her headstone. I tried to shake off the memories of her downward spiral towards suicide and instead replayed the good times, memories that I had spent the past year trying to bury because it was too painful to know that those good memories were now all I had left. I recalled my 18th birthday when I came out to her. She had rolled her eyes and told me that she already knew, saying that she’d be more than willing to go to the local gay bar with me to help me find a guy who would take my cherry. I had blushed profusely and slapped the back of her head playfully before bursting into laughter.



I remembered the day when I introduced Sandy to my first boyfriend Jon. She’d not liked him very much but she’d been nice for my sake. She was the first person I called when he dumped me for some college football player. Sandy and I spent the evening eating ice-cream and watching bad horror movies until the early hours of the morning when I passed out in front of the TV.



I laughed out loud as I remembered when the two of us had started hunting for an apartment together in our second year of college and our current landlady had assumed we were partners. Sandy decided to go along with it, slapping my backside and calling me ‘baby’ and ‘honey’ at the end of every sentence. I had been so embarrassed but she had found it hilarious. She had also enjoyed embarrassing me.



Sandy would have been disappointed with the way my life had turned out since she had left me. I had been almost as dependent on our relationship as she had been. Without her I fell into the dull and repetitive pattern of college, eat, sleep, college, eat, sleep until graduation and then into a similar pattern of work, eat, sleep. My social life was now non-existent and I’d fallen out of touch with my college buddies. I rarely spoke to my mother — a brief phone call every couple of weeks simply to let her know that I was okay — and I never visited her. I still lived in the apartment that Sandy and I had rented together, paying the rent on my own with an empty room that I was too afraid to enter. Her step-dad Dirk had taken her stuff — probably binned it all too or sold it for drug money — and all I had left of her was a photo album that I had taken before Dirk had turned up, plus her sketchbooks. I should probably have advertised for a new roommate but it just didn’t seem right.



What really bugged me was my lack of tears. My life had fallen to shit in the last year but I hadn’t cried once. Maybe a tear or two at the funeral but nothing more. Surely that couldn’t be normal. What kind of person couldn’t even cry over the death of their best friend?



It was starting to get dark and the sound of the church bells woke me from my thoughts. I stood and brushed the grass off of my trousers before heading out through the rusty gates, turning left to head back to my apartment. I passed a bar on the way. I don’t know what compelled me to stop but I paused outside. I hadn’t been in there often but Sandy and I had been there a couple of times and she had always quite liked it. I peered through the window for a moment and then headed inside. A couple of drinks might do me some good, I thought.



I took a look around as I entered. The place wasn’t too busy, but there was still a steady crowd. I pulled my wallet out from my pocket to check how much cash I had on me. It was enough for a couple of drinks, at least. I ordered a double vodka and coke and sat down at the bar. I felt overdressed; I’d headed to the graveyard straight after work and so I was still in my black slacks, white shirt and navy tie. I took a look at myself in the mirror behind the bar. I looked tired too. My black hair was sticking up all over the place and I had slight bags under my eyes. I used to pride myself on my looks but I had definitely let myself go in the last several months.



“Cheer up, Sunshine.”



I looked up as a guy sat down on the stall next to me and shot me a grin. I took a second to appreciate how stunning he was before looking away and taking a swig of my drink.



“Scott.” He held his hand out towards me. I hesitated before putting down my drink and shaking it. Gosh, he was beautiful. For a brief moment I thought that I recognised him. His smile, those eyes, that gorgeous chocolate brown hair. He seemed so familiar. Had we met before?



“Jake.” I offered, before releasing his hand and looking back down at my drink.



“Yeah, I know who you are.” He laughed at my incredulous expression. “American history with Professor Lewis?” There was an awkward pause where I tried to place him, then nodded. “Don’t worry, I don’t think we ever really spoke to each other. You were always glued to that blonde chick’s hip. It’s been a while though, I wasn’t sure if it was you at first.”



I reeled at the casual mention of Sandy and simply nodded. I did remember him, although not too well. He’d not been part of my crowd and I hadn’t gone out of my way to talk to many of my classmates.



“So, how’s life treating you?”



I wondered why Scott was sitting here trying to make conversation with me. Now that I could place him, I couldn’t remember a single time when he’d spoken to me in class with anything more than a brief “hey” or a quick nod of the head. In fact, I was surprised he knew who I was at all. I’m not rude, though, so I put on my best smile and responded with a shrug.



“Oh, you know. Same old, same old. Work’s keeping me pretty busy.” He looked like he expected me to say more, so I continued. “I work over at the big law firm Smith & Sons around the corner from campus. It’s not really as good as it sounds though, mainly just proofreading documents and stuff. How about you?”



“Cool, man. I don’t work too far from there, actually — I’m working over at the museum.” I nodded. The only museum in this town was less than a ten minute walk from the offices of Smiths & Sons. “It’s not the best job I guess, but I’m hopefully up for a promotion soon.” He paused. “Still playing football?”



I was shocked by how much this guy remembered about me. I hadn’t played football on the college team, but I’d played at weekends with a bunch of friends. I’d never been any good but it had been a lot of fun. I felt slightly guilty that I remembered very little about Scott other than that he had always sat a few rows behind me in our American history lectures. How had I failed to notice him before? How had I been so oblivious to his striking good looks and those beautiful dark eyes, the kind that you could lose yourself in?



Scott ordered himself a beer, buying one for me, and I thanked him. We began to engage in small talk. I’d have called it ‘catching-up,’ but we hadn’t known each other well enough beforehand for that. It was nice to have the company, and I quickly learned that Scott was extremely funny and very smart. Good looks and intelligence? Some people got all the luck.



“So, are you still seeing that blonde girl from college? Sally, was it?”



I tensed at the question. A lot of people had assumed that Sandy and I had been an item, although it wasn’t deliberate on our part. I had never hidden my sexuality from anyone, but to passers-by and people who didn’t know us, I suppose we must have looked like a couple. It sounded like Scott had not heard the news of Sandy’s suicide, either.



“No, I’m not with Sandy. We were just friends, anyway.” I tried to keep my voice neutral.



“Oh. Okay. Sorry, dude.” He must have sensed that it was a sore topic, although I assumed for the wrong reasons. I had loved Sandy, but I hadn’t been in love with her. She had been like a sister to me.



“Don’t worry, it’s fine. Actually, I’m gay.” I had no idea why I told him this, it just came out (no pun intended). I guess I had been so keen to change the subject that I had said the first thing that popped into my head. Unfortunately the first thing to pop into my head had clearly been the subject of my sexuality. My insides clenched as I waited for Scott’s reaction.



Scott was quiet. I wondered if he was trying to plan his escape, perhaps debating the best way to leave without being too rude. Or perhaps he didn’t care about appearing rude and just wanted to get away from me as quickly as possible. The wide grin he sent my way threw me off a little and made me lose my train of thought.



“In that case, do you fancy going out for dinner some time?”



Well, that was unexpected.



“Um, sure.” As was that.



Scott smiled again. God, his smile was breathtaking. I started to feel aroused and shuffled in my seat nervously.



“Cool, man.” He downed the last of his beer and slammed the bottle down onto the bar before speaking again. “Well I have to get going, but can I get your number?”



I nodded and leaned across the bar to ask the barmaid for a pen. I jotted my number down on a beer mat and handed it over. Scott grabbed the pen from my hand and scrawled his own number onto another beer mat before leaned towards me to slide it into my shirt pocket, where his hand lingered gently for a moment. I gasped at the contact then blushed furiously. He was so close that I could feel his warm breath against my face. I was embarrassingly turned on.



“I’ll call you.” He pulled away from me and winked. He was gone before I even had a chance to react.



I finished my drink and then headed home. Scott was on my mind the entire time. I couldn’t stop picturing that astounding smile of his, those gorgeous full lips and that tall, muscled body. I’d always had a thing for taller, more muscular men. I stood at an average 5″10 and Scott had to be at least 6″3. I wouldn’t have said that I was skinny and I certainly had muscles — I used to work out on a daily basis — but it was clear that Scott was way more defined than I was. I shuddered as I remembered how good it had felt to have him lean in so close to me.



It wasn’t until I got back to my tiny third floor apartment before I remembered the reason I had been out late in the first place. My feelings of lust were suddenly replaced with guilt.



*******



I didn’t hear from Scott the next day. I spent my Saturday tidying the apartment and then going for a run. I ordered pizza and ate alone, drinking cheap beer and watching Star Trek reruns on the television. I briefly considered heading out to a bar or club, but what was the point when I would be on my own? I could call one of my college buddies and invite them out but I suspected that they’d given up on me by now. I could phone Bill, one of my work colleagues, but I suspected that he’d be spending the evening with his pregnant fiancé and wouldn’t be particularly keen on the idea of going out drinking with me. I looked across my small living room at the beer mat which was sitting next to the phone. I could always call Scott but I was sure he’d be busy on a Saturday night. Besides, he’d said he would call me and I didn’t want to seem desperate. I headed to bed early.



I was lying in bed on Sunday morning, debating whether it was worth getting up and trying to decide what I needed to do. I thought I should probably head over to the gym since I was still paying for a membership that I barely used. I desperately needed to head over to the laundromat before I ran out of clean work clothes. My fridge needed cleaning out too, and I’d have to head to the store at some point. I sighed and looking over at the alarm clock. 8am. Perhaps another few hours of sleep….



I was woken up by the sound of my phone vibrating along the nightstand. I turned to take a quick look at the alarm clock. 11:15 am. Shit. I reached out for my phone and flipped it open, bringing it to my ear.



“What?” I answered groggily.



“Hey, Jake. It’s Scott.” He sounded amused. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”



“Oh, err, I mean, hi, Scott…” I could barely construct a sentence. Smooth. “No, I was awake. Well, I was earlier. I… fell back to sleep.” I felt like slapping myself. Just stop talking Jake, I thought.



Scott let out a small chuckle. “Well I was just calling to ask if you fancied going out to dinner tomorrow night?”



I sat up in bed and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. “Yeah, sure. Where did you have in mind?” Phew, my power of speech had returned.



“Well there’s this great little place a few blocks over from my apartment. I could pick you up at your place at 6? That’s if you’ll be up then?” He joked.



“Ha ha,” I mocked, “but yeah, that sounds good.” I gave him the address to my apartment and then we said our goodbyes. I instantly felt nervous about our date, but hopeful too.



I dragged myself out of bed and headed over to the bathroom. I glanced towards the closed door that led to Sandy’s room. I paused outside it, tentatively reaching for the handle and opening the door a crack. I didn’t go in there often and the room was empty. I supposed I could use the space as a guest room or for storage, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Sometimes I considered moving somewhere else, somewhere where I wasn’t haunted by the loss of Sandy, but I didn’t think that I could do that either. Besides, I knew that the loss of Sandy would stay with me no matter where I lived.



I briefly let myself remember the day we had moved into this place and how excited we had been. Sandy had dashed into this room to claim it as hers despite it being the smaller of the two bedrooms. She claimed she wanted it for the view but all you could see from the window was a dodgy looking alley, a bus stop and the apartment buildings across the street that mirrored our own. I found out pretty quickly that the real reason was because she didn’t have that much stuff — her step-dad Dirk hadn’t allowed her to take much from home when she’d left for college so all she’d had was her clothes, her art supplies and a few CDs — and she’d felt that this would have been more obvious in a bigger room. Naturally, I’d never been over to her place when she’d lived with her step-dad, and her roommate during the first year of college was so messy that it had been hard to decipher what belonged to whom. I was offended that Sandy had thought it would matter to me though and we had even argued about it. In the end I’d given her the ‘what’s mine is yours now’ speech and we’d made up.



I remembered the times that I had slept in here, just holding Sandy in my arms. Sometimes she’d have bad dreams and I’d stay with her because she said that she needed to know that someone was there to keep her safe. Sandy had been so petite that at first I was scared I’d break her but we got into something of a routine when I stayed with her, and I’d pull her against my chest and she’d sleep with her head resting on my shoulder and my arms wrapped around her. Sandy never really told me what she dreamt about those nights but I still knew that the nightmares were about Dirk. I also suspected that they were about her mother who was never around and who hadn’t thought twice about leaving her only daughter alone with a man like Dirk Winters.



I pulled the bedroom door shut and headed to the bathroom to take care of business, trying to concentrate on my upcoming date rather than wallowing in the loss that still felt so fresh. Jesus, what would I wear? I glanced in the bathroom mirror. I’d definitely need to shave and I’d have to make an attempt at taming my untidy hair. I was pretty sure that Scott wouldn’t go for the homeless look. But he’d already asked me out, so surely he must have liked something he saw. I stared at my reflection for a few more seconds, trying to figure out what had attracted him to me. I came up blank. I might have had something going for me during my college years but I’d graduated almost a year ago — just 6 weeks after Sandy’s suicide — and these days I was something of a mess.



I could think of nothing else but my date with Scott at work the next day. I kept making mistakes, which was completely unlike me. I was a pretty efficient worker, always keeping my head down and getting on with the tasks I had been set. I got very little done and kept swearing under my breath every time I noticed yet another mistake in the documents I was typing up. Bill kept quiet at first but eventually asked me what was wrong.



“It’s nothing, really. I’m just a little preoccupied. I’ve got a date tonight.”



“Way to go, man,” Bill exclaimed. “About time! What’s his name?”



“Scott. He’s… wait –” I paused. I’d never told Bill that I was gay. I hadn’t deliberately kept my sexuality from him but since I didn’t date, there had never been a suitable time to drop it into a conversation. “How did you know I was gay?”



“I know everything, dude,” Bill joked. “But seriously, tell me about him.” And just like that, my friendship with Bill seemed to solidify into something more real. We’d always got on well but I wouldn’t have considered us good friends until that point when he showed a genuine interest in my life outside of work and he seemed to really care about seeing me happy.



“You’ll have to let me know how it goes. Just, please, no sex details.” I laughed at the face that Bill pulled before he continued. “If it goes well, perhaps the two of you could come out to dinner with Scarlett and I some time. She’s always complaining that I don’t take her out enough, plus she’d love to meet one of my work colleagues.”



“Yeah, maybe.” I smiled and nodded, but I didn’t want to think that far ahead. It was only a first date, after all.

I ended up leaving work half an hour early and heading home to decide what to wear and to calm my nerves. Bill wished me luck and promised to cover for me if our boss noticed my absence. Bill was a good guy, and I suddenly felt very grateful to be working with him. I made a mental note to go out and buy him and his fiancé something nice for the baby shower I knew was coming up but had yet to RSVP for.



The walk home was lethal. I could have taken a taxi but it wasn’t a long walk and it would have felt like a waste of money. I dodged through traffic in an attempt to get home quicker but ended up having a couple of near-death experiences instead. It had been a while since I had gone out on a date or even hooked up with anyone so I was incredibly nervous. It was very strange; although Scott had asked me out and not the other way around, I feared that he wouldn’t find anything he liked about me and then lose interest. I was definitely attracted to Scott and prayed to God that I would make a good impression tonight but I was anxious and also worried about letting him — or anyone else for that matter — into my life. Since losing Sandy, letting anyone get that close again seemed wrong.



*******



Scott arrived five minutes early but thankfully I had been ready in plenty of time, although that had only led to me pacing the apartment and wearing holes in the already shabby carpet. I’d shaved and combed my hair and even I had to admit that I looked a lot better than I had in months. The knock at the door startled me a little and I took a deep breath and tried to squash my nerves as I walked over to answer it.



Scott looked amazing. He was wearing a tight fitting pair of black jeans and a grey shirt that hung nicely and really showed off the definition of his chest and biceps. His brown hair was in a messy, jelled style that really suited him and he had fresh stubble on his cheeks since I’d last seen him. I loved a guy with a bit of facial hair. Scott’s dark eyes shined as he smiled and looked me over, nodding his approval.



“You look great, Jake.”



“Um, thanks. So do you.”



“I was thinking we could walk. I don’t live far from here and the restaurant is only a short walk away from there. It’ll only take us about fifteen minutes. If you want to call a taxi instead, that’s cool.” He grinned but looked slightly unsure of himself, which actually made me feel better. At least I wasn’t the only one feeling nervous.



“That’s cool, I don’t mind walking. I’ll just grab my jacket and then I’m set to go.” I didn’t invite Scott in to see the apartment even though I could sense that he wanted to. I just wasn’t comfortable with inviting anyone in to the place that he been mine and Sandy’s sanctuary, not after losing her here too. I grabbed my jacket then headed out.



The walk to the restaurant was nice. Scott walked by my side, his hand occasionally brushing against mine while we made small talk about our day at work. It wasn’t as awkward as I had feared and I found it pretty easy to talk and to ask questions. Scott made a few jokes about things that had happened at the museum. He was so animated when he talked and he really made me feel at ease.



When we arrived at the restaurant I was surprised to find that it was the same little place I had passed many times but never entered, called The Alcove. I’d always wondered if the food was any good but just hadn’t found the time to eat there and more recently I had not been too keen on the idea of eating out alone. The place was cosy and had a homey feel, with candles on all the tables and old black and white photos on the walls.



We went straight through and were seated at a table for two towards the back, where we would have a little privacy. After ordering drinks, the waitress left so that we could decide on our food order.



“You come here often, then?” I almost slapped myself. That was the lamest line ever, and I felt myself blush.



Scott just smiled and nodded. “I’ve been here a few times. I used to work here when I was at college so I know the owner pretty well.”



The waitress came back with our drinks and we both ordered the steak. Once we were alone again, Scott leaned forward in his seat and rested his arms against the sides of the table. “I’m glad I ran into you on Friday. What a coincidence, huh?”



“Yeah. Especially when you consider that I go to that bar about once a year,” I laughed.



“Really? I guess I was pretty lucky then.”



I blushed and laughed a little.



“You seemed a little down though.” Scott pointed out. I didn’t know how to respond and I really did not want to get into a discussion about Sandy and the past year I had spent without her, so I simply nodded and made my excuses.



“Oh yeah it was nothing really. It had just been one of those days at work.”



Scott nodded. “Ah, I feel you’re pain — we all have days like that. In fact, that about sums up most of my working life so far.”



We both laughed at that and then continued to make casual conversation. We chatted a little about college, our jobs and whatever else crossed our minds until the food arrived.



The food was delicious and we continued to make small talk throughout the meal. I was really enjoying my time with Scott and it felt great to be out at a restaurant rather than sitting in my apartment on my own. I was becoming increasingly attracted to him and I would often catch him admiring me and giving me heated glances that sent tingles down my spine. God, I wanted him.



We were just finishing up our food when Scott starting talking about how he had admired me from a distance around campus. I flushed a little at this but was very flattered to know that he been attracted to me even back then.



“I’m not sure why we never spoke but I suppose that doesn’t matter too much now, huh?” He smiled and took a sip of his wine. “So what about the girl you were always with? Sandy? Do you see much of her these days?”



I nearly chocked on my drink. I tried to regain my composure and act casual. “No, I don’t.”



“Oh.” Scott frowned a little. “That’s a shame. You two seemed really close. In fact, I don’t think I saw the two of you apart more than a handful of times.”



It was obvious that Scott was only trying to be nice and that he didn’t know the reality of the situation but I really didn’t want to talk about this. I didn’t talk about Sandy any more. I didn’t even discuss her during my bi-weekly telephone calls to my mother. I was reluctant to speak but Scott was looking at me expectantly. I knew that he had meant no harm with his question and was just trying to get to know me.



“Yeah, Sandy and I were very close. She was my best friend. We actually lived together during college.”



“She was your best friend? What happened? Do you want to talk about it?”



“No, not really.”



“Sometimes friends just grow apart, you know? I’m sure if –”



“I don’t want to talk about it, Scott,” I said, cutting him off mid-sentence. It came out harsher than I had planned and I sighed, rubbing my eyes with the heel of my palm. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s just that it’s really not something I want to talk about. Please, just leave it.”



Scott nodded and took another sip of his wine, then changed the subject to movies. After that, the rest of the date went well and the conversation flowed nicely. It was easy to chat and joke with him — it seemed to be so natural, as if we had known each other for years. I suppose, technically, we had. Scott seemed to have an unlimited supply of funny stories and had me almost in tears with his stories about some of the customers he had encountered both working part-time at the restaurant and at the museum.



As we waited for our dessert, Scott moved his hand across the table to gentle stroke the back of mine. It felt so good.



“I like you, Jake.”



“I get that,” I laughed, “and I like you too.”



I felt kind of sad as we left the restaurant and started walking in the direction of my place. I didn’t want the night to end since I was having such a good time. Should I invite him back to my place, or would that make it seem like all I was after was a quick lay? I wasn’t sure if I wanted to invite him up. Not because I wasn’t interested — I definitely was — but because my apartment was a very private place for me these days and I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of letting anyone in. So what did I do now? Was there something I should say? I wondered briefly when the dating game had gotten so difficult. I was sure it hadn’t always been this confusing. I know it had been a while since I’d been on a date, but I couldn’t remember being this nervous before. Perhaps it was because I was genuinely attracted to Scott and I was so scared I would fuck it up.



We’d only been walking for about 5 minutes when Scott stopped. “This is me.” He pointed towards the entrance of an apartment building very similar to my own, except with a few more floors.



“Oh, umm –” I stuttered.



Scott gave a shy smile. “Do you want to come up?”



“Yes,” I answered too quickly and blushed, trying to recover with a more casual response. “I mean, sure, why not.”



Scott let out a small chuckle and reached for my hand. He laced his fingers through mine and gently tugged at my arm to lead the way. My hand was tingling from his touch and my heart started to beat a little faster. It felt wonderful holding his hand. I followed him as he led me to an elevator and pressed for the 5th floor.



Scott’s apartment was a bit bigger than mine and much better decorated. The front door led straight into an open living space, everything in very earthy shades. It seemed very minimalistic but still felt warm and cosy. The walls were lined with black and white photographs. Scott was in most of them, surrounded by what I could only assume was a very large family. I nervously jammed my hands into my pockets and continued to look around. Scott gave me a quick tour of the nice sized modern kitchen off to the left of the living space and the two bedrooms and small bathroom down a small corridor off to the right.



“Take a seat, I’ll grab us a couple of beers,” Scott said, nodding towards the couch.



When Scott returned he dropped down next to me on the couch, passing me a bottle and then taking a swig of his. The drinks from the meal had definitely affected me and I found myself openly checking him out as he drank. He’d stretched his long legs and his head was tilted back, his eyes closed a little. I felt the arousal in my jeans and reluctantly looked away as he lowered his bottle and turned to give me a cheeky smile. I blushed. He’d been fully aware that I was checking him out and I wasn’t used to getting caught. I fumbled for something to say.



“This is a great place, Scott.” I took a swig of my beer.



“Thanks. I can’t really take much credit for it though; my sister did all the decorating. She’s an interior designer and this became her first major project. I think she wanted to show off.”



“Well she did an amazing job. It puts my apartment to shame, which looks like it’s about ready to fall apart.”



“Just don’t say that to her, her ego is big enough as it is.” I laughed at that and Scott shifted a little closer in his seat, turning towards me.



“God, you’re beautiful,” he breathed.



The statement had seemingly come out of nowhere and I blushed, ducking my head a little. “Scott –” I started. I had no idea what I was going to say, but I was cut off anyway by his lips brushing lightly against mine. He pulled away all too quickly and I tried not to look disappointed. He took my beer and put it alongside his on the coffee table and then made to lean towards me again. This time I was prepared when Scott’s lips met mine.



Scott kissed me deeply and cupped my face in his hands as he leaned into me. His tongue slid in and brushed against the roof of my mouth. I kissed him back and intertwined by tongue with his. I was gasping for breath when we finally pulled away from each other. I stared into his eyes and I let my fingers gently caress the stubble across his jaw line. I was painfully hard in my jeans and Scott pulled himself into my lap to straddle me before reaching down to unbuckle my belt. I felt myself hesitate and pull away ever so slightly. Scott noticed.



“Hey,” Scott said softly, “what’s wrong, babe?”



“It’s been a while, and I don’t want to rush anything,” I mumbled. My body was betraying my words, however, with my hard on practically about to burst out of my jeans.



“I won’t push you into something you’re not comfortable with, Jake. All I want is to make you feel good, I promise.”



Scott slid down between my legs to the floor and I gasped as he made quick work of my jeans and then reached into my boxers to pull out my hard dick. Scott simply stared at it for a moment and I started to feel self-conscious. I wasn’t particularly huge or thick, but I was a good 7 inches when hard. I’d never been ashamed of it before but I found myself hoping that Scott liked what he saw.



“Beautiful,” he murmured.



Scott took my dick into his mouth and I gasped. My hesitation was forgotten and all I felt was intense pleasure as I arched my back and groaned. Scott was a master; he knew exactly what to do to bring me close to the edge and then pull me back from it. He began humming as he bobbed his head, the vibrations driving me crazy. I gasped in ecstasy as he began deep-throating me.



Scott made sure to taste every bit of my manhood and I was almost blind with pleasure as I teetered over the edge of my orgasm. I began to thrust forward, crying out incoherently. My balls drew up and I knew I was going to come. I tried to warn Scott and grabbed at his head to pull him off, but he gently pushed my hands away and continued to suck. He didn’t move away and I cried out his name as I came into his mouth. He looked up and into my eyes as he swallowed my load. The sight was too much and I groaned, closing my eyes as he swallowed the last of my come.



“Holy shit,” I gasped once I had caught my breath.



Scott chuckled and pulled himself up off of the floor, sitting back down next to me.



“Wow.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I turned to see Scott’s dick tenting his jeans. I reached over and palmed the bulge, causing him to hiss. My whole body felt exhausted, but I hauled myself over to straddle Scott’s lap and rested my face in the crook of his neck. I unbuckled his belt and Scott lifted us both up slightly so that he could pull down his jeans. I reached into his boxers to cup his balls in my hand. Scott groaned.



It didn’t take long to send Scott over the edge. The blowjob must have really turned him on because he was so close. I fondled his balls for a while before slowly jacking him off as I kissing along his jaw and his neck, and within a few minutes he was coming into my palm. He arched his back and groaned, before collapsing back into his seat and panting.



I slid out of his lap and into the seat next to him. My hand was covered in his come and I took my time licking it off as he watched. He let out another small groan and pulled me towards him so I could rest my head against his chest.



“You’re amazing,” Scott breathed before kissing the top of my head.



“You’re not so bad yourself,” I joked to cover my blush.



“So I suppose this is a good time to ask…” Scott said, before pausing. I tilted my head up to look at him. He seemed hesitant rather than his usual assured and confident self.



“Ask what?” I rested my hand on his thigh, squeezing it gently in what I hoped was a comforting gesture.



“Well, I was hoping you might want to, you know, give this a go and be my boyfriend?” Scott met my eyes and I could see the uncertainty in them. I moved my hand from his thigh to lace my fingers with his.



“Does it mean that I’ll get blowjobs as good as that one on a regular basis?” I joked.



“You’re such a dick,” he laughed.



“I’d like that Scott. To be your boyfriend, I mean.”



Scott squeezed my hand a little and leaned in for a kiss that started off slow but ended with tongues and both of us pawing at the other’s clothes. I reluctantly pulled away and sighed. I didn’t want to move too fast. I didn’t want to screw this up and I was afraid of what could happen if I let this go too far. I think, mostly, I was scared of getting hurt.



“I really ought to go.”



“Okay.” Scott didn’t seem ready to let me go just yet, still firmly grasping me in his arms. “Can I see you tomorrow?”



“Sure. I finish work at 5 so just give me a call.”



I extracted myself from Scott’s arms and stood. I tucked myself away and re-buckled my belt. Scott stood and pulled me towards him to give me a goodbye kiss. He nibbled along my jaw and then at my ear lobe. “See you tomorrow, gorgeous.”



*******



After that first date, I began to see Scott on a regular basis. I learnt a lot about him and found that we had many things in common. We liked the same movies and music, and we’d talk for hours about gigs we’d been to or telling stories about our college experiences or funny things that had happened at work.



I spent the night at his place on the Saturday the weekend after our first date. He’d invited me over for pizza and a movie and we’d decided on X-Men: Origins before settling down on the couch. He pulled me into his arms so that I was leaning against him with my head on his shoulder and his arm around me, and he rested his feet up on the coffee table. In just a few days, I was feeling almost completely at ease around Scott. Sitting with him like this felt natural, as if it was the way things should be. After the movie we cuddled for a little before grabbing a few beers and getting to know each other better.



As we lay there on the couch, our legs tangled together, we asked each other questions about our past. I learnt a lot about his family. Scott had grown up in the countryside with his mother and father and 5 siblings; 3 older brothers, an older sister and a younger brother.



“I’m closest to my sister Emma, she’s only a year older than me and we did practically everything together when we were kids. She had the shitty end of the stick most of the time, being the only girl and all. She’s super smart though and she definitely knew how to run rings around us all. She still does, actually,” Scott laughed. “I actually came out to her first and she was truly amazing. She stood by me when I told the rest of my family and she defended me to anyone who said a word against it. My eldest brother Chris kinda reacted badly at first but it was Emma who talked some sense into him. He was full on prepared to beat the homosexuality out of me when I came out, but these days he’s cool with it.”



As Scott told me this, I kept thinking about Sandy. She had been close enough to be a sister and she’d been there for me in all the same ways that Emma had been there for Scott.



“What about you? Do you have any siblings?”



I answered with a shake of my head. Scott seemed to sense that this might be something that I didn’t want to talk about and a topic that he shouldn’t push. I told him a little about my mother and explained that it had just been me and her after my dad left. He held me and listened.



Scott and I went out to dinner several times over the next few weeks and most nights I ended up at his place where we would kiss and make out but nothing progressed further than oral, which I was eager to reciprocate after the amazing blowjob he had given me that first night. It felt amazing to be close to someone again, but not just anyone. I was with Scott, and I could already see how special he was. I stayed at Scott’s place a lot and he never seemed to mind that I wasn’t ready for sex yet. In fact, he didn’t even mention it.



One night, after the best blowjob of my life, I decided to say something. I was worried that he’d get fed up of waiting for me. I didn’t even know why I was so hesitant to go all the way. We were in bed and I was lying against his chest so I lifted my head to look at him. He was falling off to sleep, so I propped my head up on my arm and I reached my hand out to trail my fingers across his chest and took a moment to admire his beautiful face.

“What?” He mumbled, opening one eye to look at me.



“Are you annoyed that we haven’t gone all the way yet?”



Scott seemed to immediately wake up then. He turned onto his side so that he was looking straight at me and reached out to run his fingers through my hair and then hold my cheek in the palm of his hand. “Of course not, Jake. Why would you even think that? I can see that you don’t feel ready yet and I’m not going to push you into something you aren’t comfortable with. You’re taking this at your own pace, and I’m fine with that. I respect that.”



“Okay.” I leaned forward to plant a kiss on his forehead then pulled myself against his chest. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed my temple. I felt so good in his arms. I didn’t want him to ever let me go.



“Tell me a secret,” I whispered.



“Huh?” Scott rubbed his hands along my back in soothing motions and pulled me closer.



“Tell me something. Anything. Something that no one else knows.”



Scott was silent for a moment. “This one time, during college, I got off thinking about you.”



I laughed. “Just the once? I’m insulted.”



Scott laughed too. “Okay, maybe more than once. You didn’t seem to realise how hot you were and you were completely oblivious to the attention you got from others. In fact, I think that made me even more attracted to you. That’s why I never spoke to you — I was insanely attracted to you and I thought you’d be able to tell straight away. Although if I’d have known then that you were gay, maybe I would have.”



I was silent at that. I briefly wondered whether the loss of Sandy would have been easier if Scott had been around then to help me through. I quickly shook away that train of thought and lifted my head to kiss Scott passionately on the lips. Scott broke away, only to begin covering my face with lots of little kisses.



“Now you have to tell me something,” Scott muttered between kisses.



“This one time, during college, I got off thinking about Professor Lewis up there at the front of the class wearing that bow tie and those sexy suspenders.”



Scott’s laugh shook my whole body. I fell asleep to him whispering sweet words in my ear and soothingly running his fingers across my back.



*******



After almost four weeks of dating, I felt ready to take things all the way with Scott. We were meeting for dinner at his place that night and I was impatient to get home from work. Bill gave me a knowing look and shooed me out of the office early with a “go get him, stud.”



My phone went off just as I walked through the front door of my apartment, and I dashed over to check the caller ID. Shit, it was my mother. I hadn’t called her in a while and she was bound to be worried. I glanced at the clock. I knew I would have to answer just to assure her that I was okay, but she had a habit of keeping me on the phone for ages.



“Hey, momma. How are things?”



“Jacob!” She started down the phone. “I have been worried sick about you! Why haven’t you called? It’s been weeks!”



“I’m really sorry momma, I’ve just been busy. I didn’t mean to worry you.” I felt guilty because I knew that she worried about me a lot as it was, even when I did manage to call her when I said I would. She seemed to worry enough for two people, but I guess that was because she had taken on the role of my dad once he had left us.



“Busy? That’s your excuse? Too damn busy to pick up a phone and give me peace of mind?! I didn’t know what had happened to you! I’ve been calling and calling but you haven’t been picking up. I wouldn’t have to worry if you would come and visit me once in a while, just to let me know that you’re taking care of yourself.” I couldn’t remember the last time she had been this angry. Her voice was high pitched and she sounded close to tears. I sighed deeply.



“I really am sorry; I wasn’t deliberately avoiding your calls. I’ve been out most evenings. I’m… well, I’m seeing someone.”



The anger was gone instantly. “Oh! Really?! Oh baby, I’m so pleased. Is he nice? Is he treating you right? What’s his name?”



I laughed. “He’s called Scott. And yes, he is treating me right. We’ve only been dating for about a month.”



“Oh, I’m so glad for you honey. I really am. After you lost Sandy, I was so scared you’d never let anyone in again.”



There was silence for a moment and I heard a quiet sniffle from the other end of the phone. “Yeah me too, momma.”



After assuring her that I would try and make time for a visit and telling her that I needed to get ready to go out, I managed to hang up the phone. I was surprised by how good I felt. I dashed to the bathroom to have a quick shower, then pulled on a comfy pair of jeans and a blue button up shirt, grabbed my wallet and keys from the counter and hurried out to Scott’s place.



Scott answered the door with his phone to his ear, talking hurriedly. “I have to go now, Emma. Yeah, I’ll call you. Yes. Okay. Yes. Love you too. Bye.” He hung up then pulled me into the apartment before I’d even had a chance to utter a greeting. Pressing me up against the door, Scott kissed me so passionately that my knees felt weak and my mind was in a jumble by the time he finally pulled away to rest his forehead against mine.



“I missed you,” he murmured before leaning down to kiss along my jaw.



“You saw me last night,” I laughed.



Scott pulled away and smiled at me. “How was work?”



“Thrilling,” I replied sarcastically.



“Emma wants to meet you.”



“She does?”



“Of course she does. She’s dying to meet the gorgeous man I can’t stop talking about.”



I blushed as he pulled back and grabbed my hand to pull me into the kitchen. His kitchen had a small dining table in the corner which he had set out with a candle in the middle and a single red rose across my plate.



“Wow, you’ve really pulled out the big guns,” I joked.



Scott rolled his eyes and turned away from me to check on the food. “Grab a beer and sit down. Dinner will be ready in a minute.”



Dinner was delicious. Scott was an amazing cook whereas I struggled to make toast without screwing it up. I told him so and he laughed. This wasn’t the first time he’d cooked for me, but he’d definitely gone to a lot of trouble tonight. I was just finishing up when I remembered the conversation with my mother. Scott must have noticed that something was on my mind because he reached across the table for my hand and asked if everything was alright. I told him that I had spoken to her.



“Oh?” Scott didn’t push for any more information but I could tell that he wanted me to go on.



“Yeah. She tore me a new one for not calling her in so long. I thought she was gonna jump down the phone and strangle me.”



Scott laughed, “Well it’s only because she loves you.”



“Yeah. I haven’t seen her in a while and I guess she worries about me.”



“You should definitely go see her,” Scott said.



I nodded. I hadn’t seen her since Sandy’s funeral. I felt horrible for leaving her to worry about me all this time. “Yeah, that’d probably be a good idea. Why don’t you come with me? I’m sure she’d love to meet you.”



“Really?” Scott’s grin spread across his whole face and I couldn’t help but laugh.



“Sure.”



Scott nodded but said no more, finishing the last of his food before standing. I stood too, following him into the living room and sitting down on the couch with him. I leaned in for a kiss.



“Thanks for dinner, Scott.”



“No problem, babe.”



We began to make out on the couch. It started off gentle and slow, but rapidly became more heated and passionate. I was rock hard almost instantly and gasping for breath when Scott relocated to straddle my lap. He ducked his head to plant another kiss on my lips, pushing his tongue inside and swirling it erotically against mine. The intensity of our kiss shook me to my core. It was becoming more and more apparent that I was falling in love with Scott, but I wasn’t ready to say the words out loud yet. I didn’t want to ruin this.



Scott rubbed our denim clad erections together which caused us both to groan in pleasure. He reached for the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it up over his head. I reached over to tweak a nipple and he moaned before pulling my hand away so that he could reach down and undo the buttons on my shirt. As Scott undid each button, he kissed and nipped at the skin that he exposed. When my shirt had been removed, Scott clamped down on my left nipple and bit it slightly before sucking it into his mouth. I hissed in pleasure and arched my back a little, then grabbed hold of his hips.



“Scott…” I moaned.



Scott pulled off and looked down at me. “Shit, you look hot. Let’s take this into the bedroom, baby.”



Scott stood and held his hand out to help me up. We stumbled across to his bedroom and he pushed me down onto his bed where we lay on our sides facing each other. I stroked the stumble along his jaw line before he pulled me into his arms to lay kisses down my neck and across my collarbone. I met his lips before pulling away to speak.



“I need you, Scott,” I panted, “I need you inside me.”



Scott pulled away to look into my eyes. “Are you sure, Jake? I’m happy to wait, don’t feel like you have to –”



I cut him off. “I’m ready Scott, so don’t you dare deny me this.”



“Never,” he smiled, leaning in to kiss me. Our tongues battled it out for a moment until he pulled away and rolled us over till I was on my back and he was kneeling between my legs. He unbuckled my belt and unzipped my jeans, pulling them down with my boxers as I lifted my hips to make it easier. He pulled off my socks and then removed what was left of his own clothes.



“God, I love your body, it’s perfect,” Scott said as his fingers travelled down my chest then went further until he was cupping me in his hand. He reached across to his nightstand and pulled out a bottle of lube. He spread my legs further apart before positioning himself between them and raised my hips up by placing a pillow under my lower back. I pulled my legs up as far as I could to give him better access.



Scott coated his fingers with lube and teased at my hole before inserted the first finger into me. It had been so long and I was tight, but I quickly adjusted and started pushing myself onto his finger to get him further into me. Scott chuckled lightly and leaned up to pepper kisses across my chest. Without wasting any time he added a second finger and I moaned in pleasure as I felt him hit my prostate.



I was desperate to feel him inside me. This was good but I needed more. I needed to feel him filling me.



“More. I need more,” I could barely speak.



Scott didn’t reply but simply added a third finger and began scissoring them inside my tight hole. I wanted to say something, to tell him that I needed him now and not his fingers, but I was so lost in the sensations of his fingers rubbing against my prostate. He pulled his fingers out and I groaned.



“Hang on, baby,” Scott said as he leaned over to the nightstand and searched through the draw. “Shit, my condoms must be in the bathroom.” Scott pulled away to get up but I pulled him back down to me and nipped at his earlobe.



“I’ve got one,” I panted, “in my wallet.”



“Okay.” He kissed along my jaw before getting up and scooted to the end of the bed to rummage through my jeans for my wallet.



I lay there and gazed up at the ceiling, my heart beating so fast that I thought it might explode. I was in love with Scott, there was no denying it. I wanted him so much and it felt so great to be this close to someone after so long. I wasn’t alone anymore and I finally felt like me again. I smiled.



Scott seemed to be taking a while to get the condom but just as I was about to sit up and see what the problem was he crawled back up the bed and laid himself on top of me, looking straight into my eyes. His eyes seemed to sparkle and he held my gaze for what felt like an eternity. It was as if he could see right into my soul. He leaned down for a passionate kiss that made me moan with the anticipation of what was about to come.



“I want you so much, Jake.” It was barely more than a whisper and I shuddered with desire.



“Take me.”



I attempted to roll over onto my stomach but Scott stopped me and leaned down to brush his lips tenderly against mine. “I want to be able to see your face when I make love to you.”



That one sentence was enough to turn me into an emotional wreck. Pull yourself together Jake and don’t you dare cry, I thought. I nodded and spread my legs for Scott as he rolled on the condom and lubed up. He never broke eye contact as he lined himself up with my hole and started pushing forward.



It hurt at first but no more than I had expected. It had been over a year since I’d been with anyone and it took time to adjust to a cock as big as Scott’s. He held completely still but I could see that he was desperate to move. After a minute I nodded and he pushed forward again, slowly and slowly, inch by inch, until he had his whole length inside my tight passage. I moaned as intense pleasure replaced the pain.



“I’m in, baby. I’m in,” Scott moaned as he leaned down to kiss me deeply. The change of position meant that he brushed across my prostate and I moaned in ecstasy.



“You like that?” Scott asked as he nipped at my earlobe and began to pick up the pace, pulling his hips back to pull himself almost completely out and then slamming back in.



“God yes… harder, Scott… ahh,” I couldn’t speak after that and Scott began pounding into my ass harder and harder as I arched my back and lifted myself to meet each of his thrusts. He hit my prostate with every stroke and I was close to coming within minutes. I gripped his back and pulled him against me. His stomach rubbed against my erection and the friction sent me over the edge.



“That’s it baby, come for me,” Scott panted into my ear as his pace became even more frantic.



I couldn’t hold back and screamed out his name as I shot streams of come between us, coating my chest and hitting my chin. My ass muscles clenched around his cock as it pumped into me and Scott cried out as he joined me in release. Once we had both come down from our orgasms Scott kissed me, licking the come from my chin, and then slipped out of me. I groaned at the feeling and felt oddly empty. He rolled off of me.



“Don’t move, babe,” Scott whispered before swinging his legs over the side of the bed and standing. He removed the condom then headed in the direction of the bathroom, coming back moments later with a wet cloth. He gently washed the come from my chest before throwing the cloth to the floor and lying back down to spoon up behind me.



“That was fantastic. I mean… wow,” Scott gasped.



“Yeah… amazing,” I could barely speak.



“Jake. I –” Scott stopped mid-sentence and paused. “Babe, are you awake?”



“Mm?” I was too exhausted to speak and it felt so good to be wrapped up in Scott’s arms with his sweaty chest pressed against my back.



Scott chuckled and kissed the back on my neck. “Never mind. Go to sleep, babe.”



I didn’t think twice about what he had wanted to say. I was out like a light and had the best night’s sleep I’d had in well over a year.



*******



“Can we go to your place tonight? I’ve never actually been inside and I’d really like to stay there with you.”



I looked up from my food. I hadn’t expected the question and it surprised me that he wanted to see my place so much. “Sure, I guess.”



I wasn’t sure why I had been so hesitant to let Scott into my apartment. I suspected that it was to do with Sandy. It had been her home too, and I’d rarely brought guys back because I’d always felt that it wouldn’t be fair on her. Plus my apartment had been my sanctuary for so long — it was where I had lost my best friend and where I grieved. It seemed too personal to let someone in, and yet I wanted to let Scott in. We had already had sex (and lots of it in the past few weeks), he was coming with me to visit my mother in a fortnight, and I was meeting his sister the coming weekend. Surely letting him see my apartment was only a tiny step in comparison?



After dinner I insisted on paying the bill, and then Scott held my hand as we headed back to his apartment so that he could pick up a change of clothes. Scott had only been to my place twice since picking me up on our first date and he hadn’t been inside either time. My palms started to sweat as we entered the building. I was nervous. Scott wrapped his arm around my waist as we walked up to my apartment.



Once we arrived at my door, I gave him a quick tour and then headed into the kitchen to fetch some drinks. I hadn’t shown him Sandy’s room and he hadn’t inquired. When I returned, Scott was holding a picture from the mantle. It was of me and Sandy the day we moved into the apartment — we were laughing and had our heads pressed together, there were stacks of boxes behind us and the photo was at a funny angle with the top of my head out of the shot because Sandy had taken it herself. Sandy had her tongue sticking out and she looked so beautiful.



“This is a lovely picture.” He put it down before turning back to me. I put the drinks down as he approached and melted into him as he wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me in for a kiss. It was brief, and when he pulled away he rested his forehead against mine.



“Why don’t you talk about Sandy, Jake?” He was whispering, as if he was scared to speak too loudly in case it scared me away. My hands suddenly felt clammy and I closed my eyes.



“Because I don’t want to. Scott, please, let’s not go there.” My heart was pounding in my chest and I tried to push him away. He tightened his hold and wouldn’t let me leave.



“Jake –”



“Let go of me, Scott! Leave me alone! I said I didn’t want to go there. Please, don’t make me say it… please.” I pushed against him in an attempt to get free but his grip was too tight. I wiggled around until I finally gave up and collapsed against him, burying my face in the crook of his neck and trying to hold back the tears that I knew were coming.



“Talk to me, Jake. You can tell me anything, you know that right?”



I looked up at Scott. The look he gave me was so intense that I had to close my eyes.



“Scott…”



His arms moved from my waist. One hand reached up to stroke my cheek while the other gently caressed my lower back.



“She’s gone, Scott.” I felt a tear fall.



“I know, baby. I know.”



*******



Scott held me as I cried for Sandy and for the fact that I hadn’t been able to help her, not in the end. It was the first time that I’d had someone there to comfort me. At the funeral I had rejected the efforts of my mother and my friends but it felt okay to let Scott comfort me. It was also the first time that I had really cried. I cried so much that my ribs hurt and I felt exhausted. After a while I finally calmed down enough to talk, although my voice sounded gravelly and weak.



“You knew?”



“Not at first, no. But after the way you reacted when I mentioned her on our first date, I realised that something was up. I didn’t want to push it, assuming that you’d tell me when you were ready. Then I spoke to a mutual friend from college that first week and he told me what happened. He said it was common knowledge and I felt like a complete dick for not knowing…” Scott paused. “There’s something else too. Babe, when I was looking through your wallet for a condom the other week, I found the note you keep in there.”



I was silent for a moment. I briefly wondered whether I should be angry that Scott had seen the letter, but I wasn’t. I pulled myself closer to Scott, wrapping myself in his arms.



“In a way, it’s partly due to Sandy that we found each other.”



Scott kissed my temple and started running his fingers through my hair. “What do you mean, babe?”



“That night in the pub, I had been on the way back home from visiting her grave. It was the first year anniversary of her suicide, a whole year since that night when I found her….” I trailed off. My voice was barely above a whisper. I shuddered and buried my head in Scott’s chest.

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