Coming Out with the Truth Ch. 05byzolia_lily©
*Sorry for the delay in posting this next chapter -- I had actually intended to skip straight past this in-between part of the story to the excitement ahead, but I had so many comments and messages from readers with ideas I liked so much that I that I decided to write in this extra chapter. I hope this adds to the story rather than taking anything away- even though it is a bit slow I got the impression that I needed to fill in more of their relationship. Massive thank yous to everyone who helped along the way!* Chapter 5:
"I think I forgot to tell you last week." I said as John and I ate a late supper of peanut butter on toast. I was in pyjamas but John was going to be heading home so he'd put his clothes back on. It made me realise I had no idea what he even wore to bed at home. Which in turn made me very, very curious... "I'm going back to the city for a week for my sister's birthday."
"Yeah, I know." John said placidly. "Saw on your calendar."
"Oh, right." I said. "Well. If you wanted..." I began slowly. He didn't look up. I chickened out. "You probably can't get the time off." I finished instead.
"Not at the moment, no." He answered, still looking at his food and not at me.
Shouldn't have even hinted at it.
I nodded. "Anyway." I decided to keep talking as if I'd never said anything about it, as if that moment had never happened. "I'll probably head up on Monday and stay the week. Em's birthday's Wednesday and then she's been bugging me to meet this friend of hers who's in publishing, so I think she's arranged that too. And my mum will probably grill me for not having been home for so long and tie me to a chair to keep me home for a while... but anyway."
"When did you last see them?" John asked, finally glancing at me.
"Um. I saw them in late March at a family friend's party. I know. It's remiss of me, right? I mean, they only live a few hours' drive away, at the most, and I still haven't even gone to visit even once since I left the city..."
"Keith." John interrupted me and shot me a smile. "My parents live fifteen minutes drive away and I see them probably once a year."
"Oh." I said meekly. "Oh, I'm..." I forced myself to stop talking.
A smile quirked the edge of John's mouth. "I don't see my brothers much either." He said with a shrug. "Me and Sarah... we still speak to our brothers, and I think she'd like everyone to get along, but I can't see that happening."
"Why?" I found myself asking before I could stop myself. This was the first time he'd brought his family up at all.
John raised his eyebrows and leant back in his chair. "Because I find them offensive."
Wow. I didn't know what to say to that. Did I dare ask what he meant? Since he wasn't out, then I had a fair idea...
John was looking away.
"Gordon's going to run training while I'm away." I went on, just for something to say.
"Yeah." John said, suddenly giving me a suspicious look. "About that."
"What?" I asked. Did he want me to have asked him to run it? I'd just assumed he was more of an Aussie Rules or rugby sort of guy.
"You know Joel's underage, right?"
I stopped breathing for a moment. "Excuse me?" I stared at him, about to get up and maybe leave the room so I didn't hit him or yell...
Joel and I had started running in the mornings. I wasn't much of a runner anymore, but the town pool shut over winter and there was no gym so it had been my only choice. And I'd bumped into Joel down at the oval, and we'd been training together ever since his dad had given him permission to rejoin the team.
I had been there for that boy when his dad had freaked, I was happy to help him and not because I wanted him back on the team. I liked that boy. He was shy and self-effacing, but he had potential. And now John was going to question me over my intentions?
Then I noticed the smile he was trying to hide.
"You shit!" I told him.
John just laughed.
My house was empty.
Strange that I'd never noticed before. I guess it had never mattered. Not when I always got home from work, cleaned up, changed, and headed over to Keith's. Not when I spent most of my free time over at his place.
Not that it mattered now, either... but I couldn't help comparing it to Keith's house. Keith's home.
There, there was life and activity and colour, always something cooking and Keith playing music or sitting writing or repainting the hallway.
It hit me hard, but it wasn't entirely unexpected.
It wasn't Keith's home I liked. It was him.
No wonder my house felt so empty.
I wandered into the kitchen and looked at my phone on the wall. I could call him.
No. I turned away and went back to the lounge room. I couldn't call him. Not when he hadn't even been gone overnight yet. I was not that needy person. I did not need to tell him anything or to speak to him and I certainly didn't need to hear his voice. This was all just rubbish.
My mobile beeped somewhere and I ran to find it and check... not Keith. And had I just run to check a text message on the chance it was him?
He was probably in the middle of a family dinner. He wasn't even thinking about me. He wasn't going to have a problem being away for a week and neither was I.
I glared at my phone. There was no reason to call him.
I did not need to call him.
I was not going to call him.
My phone started ringing while we were having coffee. I snuck a look at the screen, quite prepared to ignore it.
John's name flashed up on the screen.
I stood up quickly. "I have to take this," I apologised to Em and mum and dad. "I'll be quick! Sorry..." I answered the phone but I didn't speak until I'd shut the door behind me.
"Hey, you." I said. I was grinning like an idiot.
"Hey." John replied, his voice soft.
"How was your day?"
"Pretty normal." He was smiling now, I could hear it. "No weepy drunks to contend with, anyway."
"Shut up." I told him with a laugh and flopped onto the couch. My knees were hooked over the arm and I lay looking at the ceiling.
"How was the drive? No trouble."
"It was fine. There are some freaking enormous trucks out there, though. I was afraid for my life at one point."
John laughed softly. "You take down their number plates? I'll check them out."
"I didn't even think of that!" I teased back.
"I'm not interrupting, am I?" John asked after a moment of silence. There was a hint of uncertainty in his tone.
"No!" I said quickly. "We were just having coffee. Babe, you can call me anytime." I drew a breath, threw caution to the wind. "I was really glad you called."
"Yeah." I smiled to myself. I hadn't expected a call tonight. Maybe in a couple of days time, but not tonight.
"You've had a good day?"
"Yeah, just hanging out. I've been stealing recipes from mum and Em's pleased as punch to see me. We finished eating and were having coffees."
"So... do they know..." John stopped. He didn't need to finish. I knew what he was going to say.
"No. I can tell them it was someone in town who promised to read my draft."
There was a silence and I sighed. I hoped he didn't hear. What was the big deal, though? My family didn't know anyone in town, and I had an excuse ready for him. I bit my tongue and said nothing.
"Promise?" John finally asked.
"What?" Hadn't I just said I'd tell them that?
"Well, you wouldn't let me read it before."
"Oh." Oh. That was... unexpected... Not about my family knowing after all. Although he had asked the question... I didn't know what to think. I pushed my concern aside and tried to formulate an answer. "No, you can read it. You want to? Really? I mean, it's second rate, it really is. It still needs a lot of work."
"You've spent months on it. I'd love to." John sounded so serious, so warm. I smiled and shut my eyes.
"I miss you." I whispered.
A soft breath against the phone. I thought he was on the verge of his slow sexy laugh. "I miss you too." He answered, very softly. "When will you be home?"
"I don't know." I groaned and covered my eyes. "I mean..." I wanted to invite him up but I knew he wouldn't say yes, so I didn't ask at all. "Maybe Friday."
"Let me know when you're leaving, yeah?"
"Yeah. But I'll speak to you again before then."
"So... I probably better go back in the kitchen." I murmured. I didn't want to hang up.
"Right. No, I realised when I called that you'd probably be busy."
"I can call you back later." I suggested.
John sighed. "Look. I'm probably just going to go to bed."
"Ok. Well, I'll speak to you tomorrow then?"
"Yeah, you will." John sounded like he was smiling again.
I didn't know what to say next. "So I'll speak to you tomorrow." I ended up saying, inwardly kicking myself.
"You're repeating yourself now." John said lightly.
"Yeah, I know." I said gloomily and he laughed.
"Well. Enjoy your time with your family. Don't- don't hurry home too soon just because I called or whatever. Just..."
"I will." I promised quietly. "But call me whenever you want."
"Yeah." John agreed. He couldn't know how happy I was he'd called me, could he?
There was another short silence.
"What do you wear to bed?" I blurted out.
John laughed, sounding surprised. "Seriously?" He asked, then cleared his throat. "Mostly just what I wear in your bed. Nothing."
"Oh." I chewed on the tip of my finger.
"It's not like I'm going to stumble out to the kitchen in the morning and shock anyone." John added. I grinned. "Why do you ask?" He added, his tone more puzzled.
"Um. Just wondered." John laughed again. I think he sounded pleased.
I smiled for a minute. I really wanted to be home with him. I was only here for a few days, I reminded myself. And then I could go home and see John. And spend all weekend with him.
"Talk to you tomorrow then." John said.
I laughed. "Now you're repeating me."
"Ha ha." He said, but we both laughed and fell into another silence.
"Ok." I said. This was stupid. We were both grown men and we were sitting in a stalemate on the phone. I refused to do this. "Bye John."
"Bye Keith." He answered softly.
There was a moment of silence, then I hung up. And pressed the phone to my forehead. And smiled at the ceiling.
The lounge room door burst open.
"Was that him?" Emma asked, bouncing into the room. My little sister was a tall, athletic brunette with a big smile. We had the same eyes and same colour hair, and we got along really well too, given our similar personalities.
"What? Who?" I asked quickly, sitting up and wiping the smile off my face.
"Him. The one who isn't out yet. The one you were having dinner with. The one you never told me anything about after that like one email!"
"Oh." Right. I had emailed her about that, hadn't I... "Uh, yeah, that's him. He's going to read my manuscript. You know. Give me an objective opinion."
"Yeah, objective." She laughed, poking me. "Say you while you shag him every which way, you hypocrite."
"I'm not- it's not like that!" I objected quickly. My cheeks were already getting red. This conversation had not gone the way I'd expected. I really had not expected her to ambush me.
"You're having sex with him, aren't you? Mind blowing, toe curling, neighbourhood disturbing sex?"
"No!" I lied. Shit. I hadn't even thought about the neighbours...
"Yes, you are! You said so in your email!"
Not good. I had basically said that... I'd forgotten...
"Uh..." I blinked at her. I must have looked stupid.
Emma laughed. "You either totally lied and have just got a massive man crush on him, or you're gettin' some!" She finished with an obscene gesture and a voice mimicking some terrible accent she probably saw in a really bad movie. I sighed.
"Em," I said, rolling my eyes. Hopefully, if I could just avoid giving a direct answer...
She laughed and gave me a friendly punch. Which still hurt. It kind of sucked having a little sister who was just as tall and more muscular than I was.
"Tell me about him!" She demanded.
"Oh, who?" Mum said, coming into the lounge room. Dad turned around behind her and headed away from the lounge room. He was not interested in hearing about my 'man crush'. I didn't mind. He wouldn't have been interested in hearing about Em's either.
"This guy Keith likes."
"Guys..." I tried object, but then I stopped.
Had I really reached the point of lying for him? Ok. So even if we hadn't been together for that long I could tell them a bit, couldn't I? Who were they going to tell?
"Ok." I said. I suddenly grinned and pulled a cushion into my lap.
Mum and Em sat down opposite me, smiling, leaning forward.
I cleared my throat. I was suddenly not sure where to begin.
Emma solved that problem for me right away.
"So what's he like in bed?" She demanded gleefully. Mum looked slightly shocked and I couldn't help but wince.
Maybe I should have insisted he was just a crush, after all.
I threw open the door before John had even rung the bell. "Look, it's here!" I told him and dragged him into the smallish room off the lounge.
I'd finally had my desk repaired. It was beautiful, dark wood with the green leather patch in the middle... There was probably an actual term for it, but whatever it was I had no idea. All I knew was that I liked it.
"Huh." John said slowly, looking at the bookshelves around the room. I hadn't really been using this room as anything more than storage, but I was in the middle of doing it up and he probably hadn't even seen it yet.
"It's going to be my office." I told him, perching on the edge of the desk. "I've decided that if I work from home that I should at least have a work space and try and separate work from home a bit more. I think I'll get more done."
"Huh." John said again, looking out the window. The view was a slightly different angle from the kitchen, and there was a massive wisteria growing outside. I couldn't wait for it to flower in spring.
John turned and leant against the window sill, his thumbs hooked into his pockets. "You know, you just need a fireplace with a dinky clock on the mantel and a typewriter now."
I laughed. "I somehow can't see myself installing a fireplace. But a typewriter would be cool! I'd really feel like a writer, then..."
"And a pipe." John added, nodding seriously.
I looked at him and he finally cracked a smile. "I thought you were serious for a moment!" I exclaimed, and he laughed.
"C'mere." He said, but he was the one who came forward and wrapped his arms around me. He looked at me, smiling, his eyes warm and full of something I desperately wanted to call love and didn't dare.
I was pretty sure I was in love with him. And there was absolutely nothing I wanted more than for him to love me too. And the look on his face... I was sure. He felt something. He had to.
"I wouldn't know how to use a typewriter." I said softly, sliding my hands up his chest to reach around his neck.
The moment ended abruptly.
John cleared his throat and let go of me, started examining the desk as if he was more interested in it than he had been a few moments ago.
I felt a cold shiver down my spine.
I had no idea what had just happened, but something had changed and I didn't know what or why.
"I'm going to start dinner." I told him, and left the room without waiting to see if he looked up.
It felt like he'd pushed me away. He hadn't, but it was as if he'd taken a huge step back, a huge step away from me.
I swallowed hard and began pulling things out of my cupboard. God, what was I doing? How could I be with him when I didn't even know what this was? How could I go on without ever knowing what exactly this was to him?
I heard him behind me but I didn't turn around. I didn't know what to say or how to say it.
"Can I help?" He asked quietly.
"No." My voice sounded brittle, even to me. I tried again. "No, it's fine. Nothing fancy."
"Uh huh." I still hadn't looked at him and I didn't plan to until I'd got a grip on myself.
I fixed a pasta and sauce and although I was more than slightly tense at the thought of a meal with him right after that, it was actually ok. We stuck to small talk, which felt weird after so long, and neither of us mentioned what had happened at all.
John left after dinner.
I don't think either of us had expected he would stay.
Walking into Jim's the next day, all I felt was relief that Keith was keeping his ritual of coffee and cake.
"Hey." I said, walking over to him. He looked up at me, his expression guarded and it was like a kick to the stomach.
"Hi." He answered carefully.
"You done?" I asked him. "Something I want to show you."
Keith looked slightly surprised, then nodded and shrugged and got up. I waited for him to pay, watched him chat with Jim for a moment, then he turned to follow me, a whipped dog sort of look in his eyes.
I hated that.
It hurt, and yet I felt like I kind of deserved it.
"You know the antique shop pretty well by now, I guess." I told him.
"Yeah." He agreed. It was only a few doors down and he followed me in.
"Hello, gentlemen." Rose greeted us with a smile that displayed as much gum as teeth.
"Rose." I said, smiling, and leant against the counter. "Now. Can I ask you to show Keith here that thing I asked you to put aside for me?"
Keith was looking interested, at least. That was a big step up.
"That makes so much more sense now, John. I couldn't figure out why you wanted me to hold it when your grandmother's is in much better condition!"
"My grandma's?" That was a surprise. I'd forgotten about that entirely. "I haven't seen that since I was a kid." How did Rose know about that anyway?
"Haven't you? Oh, Al's wife had it only a few years ago. Wanted me to value it. Wasn't happy with what I'd give her so took it home again."
"She tried to sell it to you?" I wondered if Al knew about that. He probably did. My eldest brother wouldn't know what a family treasure was if it jumped up and bit him on the nose.
"Yes. I dare say she'd let you have it. It's probably gathering dust somewhere. Such a pity. This one's not bad, not bad at all... but no one's cared for it like your grandmother cared for hers... But as I say, it makes much more sense, now I know it's not for you."
She offered us another large smile and vanished into the backroom. Keith looked at me with a mix of confusion and hesitation.
I couldn't help but grin. Rose reappeared with a large box which she set down on the counter.
"Here we are." She said, and opened it up.
The typewriter inside gleamed in the light.
Keith's mouth opened and he laughed, suddenly smiling at me. My heart got lighter by about ten pounds.
"Oh, wow." He said, reaching out to touch it. "Oh... Wow. It's... I don't even know what to do with one. I ..." I watched him hovering over it. He wanted it, I could tell. He just hadn't worked it out yet.
Rose smiled at him. "I dare say someone around here would be able to show you."
"Yeah. But I do have a laptop and I really... I really don't need it..."
I grinned at Rose and she smiled back.
"I'll leave you to have a look." She said kindly and retreated off to the back of the shop with her duster.
Keith was vacillating, still.
"Think about it." I told him. "Rose will hold it for you. It's been here a while now. You don't have to buy it. I just thought..."
He looked up at me with a sudden grin, a look shot through his lashes that carried heat, pleasure.