Endings Ch. 05byingarlm©
There's one more chapter to get this back to the beginning!
* * * * * *
The knock on my door was unexpected. I was cooking dinner for Paul and I, waiting for him to get back with some clean clothes from his flat. I was surprised to see Cam on my doorstep alone. It was rare to see him without Emily these days, but I couldn't begrudge him that, I knew how happy she made him, and now I finally felt like I was over him it was good to see that he was in love.
"Hi. This is a surprise," I said, welcoming him inside.
Probably not the best move, I already knew that, but perhaps if Paul saw me and Cam together just being friends he would start to get over his issue with us having a history. It wasn't as if they could avoid each other forever, they were family.
"I know. I've not been over in a while, sorry."
He didn't look as confident as usual, and seemed contrite, and I did wonder what that was about. I was mostly impressed with myself that his presence wasn't doing anything to me. I had thought it wouldn't, but I hadn't been around him to be sure. Of course when he smiled, it was now a reminder of Paul. That was going to seem odd for a while, but it was my own fault for getting involved with two men who looked so similar.
"Do you want a beer?" I asked, heading to the kitchen anyway.
"That would be good, thanks," he called after me.
Even he seemed to see the funny side when he pulled an envelope from his pocket as I handed over the bottle. I must have looked surprised, but I was smiling, knowing this letter wasn't anything like the one he'd given me before.
"I know this may be a little odd, and I will understand if you don't want to, but this is your invite to the wedding," he told me.
That pretty much floored me. I was not expecting one, and I hadn't thought about going until that moment, but it didn't seem the best of ideas even if I was able to move on without him.
"I'm not sure Cam. Do you really want me there?"
"Yes, I do. We want all our friends and family to come, but like I said, I will understand if you think it will be too weird, although it could look strange if you don't."
"It isn't about appearances Cam, you know that. I think it would be a little awkward to sit through your wedding knowing I've had sex with the groom. Perhaps I'll just invent a prior engagement."
"Will your sister let you get away with that?"
"She won't know if I make it work related. Paul will cover for me if necessary."
He looked at me kind of strangely, as if confused by what I was saying. Surely he knew I was seeing Paul? I thought Paul's issue was just with me mentioning Cam, not that he wasn't even in contact with his cousin.
"That's if Paul is even there. I've got to deliver his invite next, I was going with the easy one first."
"Why wouldn't he go? You're family."
"You really don't know?" he asked, clearly confused now.
"I'm not exactly Paul's favourite person right now. We had an argument and he hasn't spoken to me for weeks. I thought he would have told you."
I was concerned that he hadn't. I would have expected to be told something so major, especially when he knew I was at least in occasional contact with Cam. In fact, I could only think of one reason why he wouldn't, and Cam's apologetic demeanour suddenly made some sense.
"You argued about me?" I asked slowly, not entirely sure I wanted confirmation.
He nodded. "I'm sorry, I really am. I know that it might not mean much, but you really are special to me, I just couldn't be with you long term and I thought you understood that. Paul kept on about how I used you, and hurt you, and I feel awful about it. I knew how much you cared, and I took advantage of that."
I felt myself getting angry, and it wasn't at Cam.
"Paul had no right to speak for me. Those things he said, that's not what I think Cam. I knew what you offered and I took it anyway, knowing the consequences. He doesn't get that and because I was hurt by what happened he thinks it is your fault. Don't blame yourself for anything, you didn't take advantage of me, I went into it with my eyes wide open."
"Thanks, but I still feel guilty. I did anyway, before Paul even knew you, that's why I arranged for you to meet him."
"Yeah, I kind of figured that out for myself, and he thought so too. A bit too convenient otherwise."
He grinned at me. "You mean convenient like when Sara set up for me to meet you?"
"Shit," I breathed out, barely audible, but at least he was still smiling.
"She told me, not long ago. I had to stop myself from laughing at her disappointment that her grand plan to bring out my bi side didn't work!"
We both started laughing, and it was good to have Cam relaxed around me again. It was also good to be able to laugh like that about us and not be regretting that it was over.
"Yep, that is a shame. It was such a good plan as well, get you drunk and put temptation in your way!"
"It was a rubbish plan. It only worked because it was you. How could I resist someone so gorgeous?"
We were both still laughing, but I blushed as well at those words. It helped to know that he did care and think that of me, and I was still smiling and pink when the door opened on the two of us, but the change in the atmosphere was almost instant.
I looked up to see Paul there, key still in his hand, and looking seriously unhappy. I wanted to say something mild to break the tension, but he got in there first, and his voice was almost worse than the glare he was already giving Cam.
"What are you doing here? I thought we understood one another."
Okay, that sounded a lot like Paul had told Cam to stay away from me, and after what I already knew he had said I was not going to be happy if it was even worse. I stood and moved across to Paul, trying to keep calm.
"I'm pleased to see him, it's been a while."
Paul's attention diverted to me then, but he didn't look much better.
"Why would you even let him in after what he's done to you?"
"He hasn't done anything, and I'm getting tired of having this argument with you. Why did you tell him all that shit? You know what I feel about things, but you go and tell him what you think and have a row over it, plus on top of that you kept it from me. You don't have to protect me."
He seemed surprised that I knew, and a little embarrassed about it, but he was still glaring at Cam. I was glad to see that his expression softened when he looked back at me.
"I want to protect you, it's my job."
He tried to pull me close for a kiss, but I stiffened, really not wanting to right then. I'd rather have this out, and not in front of Cam, but Paul seemed to want to make some show of me being his possession, his hands were all over me and I found it hard to get away from him.
"Looking after me is my job. Right now what you have to do is explain this crap, because I am not happy. You might be my boyfriend, that does not give you the right to speak on my behalf or tell my friends to stay away from me."
"Please Max, don't be angry with me, I just want to stop you from getting hurt."
That sounded more pathetic than anything else, and I wondered what had happened to the man I cared so much about. Right now he was being an arse, and he wasn't letting go of me either. I wasn't one for public displays of affection, well, it was more like being molested and seemed designed to make a point. The more he pawed at me the angrier I got.
"Right now the only person hurting me is you, behaving like a possessive idiot. I think I've put up with your Cam issues for long enough, and I'm telling you for the last time, I knew what I was doing and I chose it. You need to grow up and get over this. The only problem it's caused you is not getting laid for a month and it's pretty sad if that's enough reason to drive your family away."
It probably wasn't the best idea to bring up him having to wait for sex with me, but I was mad now and I had only just managed to get away from his wandering hands. As I moved away and he took in what I said I could see his expression and his eyes change, and now he was looking just as pissed off at me as he already was with Cam.
"Yes, because it's only ever been about the sex for me, it's not like I care or anything...no, wait a moment, that's the guy you want to be best friends with. It was torture waiting for you, not for the sex, but for you to get over that dumb fuck so we could be together, and somehow I'm the bad guy now?"
"Right now, yeah you are. I'm over it, Cam's over it, you didn't even know me then so why the fuck does it matter?"
"It matters that you were cheap enough to let some guy who can't even admit he likes men screw you for a year. Why didn't you grow a pair and tell him to get lost?"
I was stunned into silence for a moment, not believing he could say that to me, especially when it was said with such venom. Cam filled the break in the argument, but he sure didn't make things better.
"You think he's cheap? After all that shit you fed me about caring for him and me having fucked up his life? I'm guessing you didn't tell him how you never had a problem with who I screwed first before now."
"They were not the same," Paul growled back.
Cam and Paul both ignored my quiet question, and right then I wasn't sure I could deal with more information but as they were now arguing between themselves in my front room I didn't really have a choice.
"Why? Because he's been more important than them, to both of us, or because it's been long enough for you to lose your sense of humour about it? You know we've always had similar tastes, this is no different."
"No different? Like when it was the other way around and you fucked Steve in my house? While you're making out I'm the one who no longer finds it funny, perhaps you should tell Max why I don't trust you around my boyfriends. You wanted a taste of someone you hadn't had, even though he was with me."
"Maybe, but that would mean you can trust me with Max."
I'd never seen Cam's grin look so nasty, and he was really goading Paul now. I was seeing a different side to both of them and I didn't like it. I felt like a mouse trapped between two cats, both playing with me, and I wanted them out. That was made more difficult when Paul threw a punch and I watched in disbelief as the two of them started to grapple on my carpet.
This was surreal, and it took me a moment to know what to do. I rushed to the struggling men, kicking the nearest one to get their attention. I was so angry I didn't even know which of them I got, but it did stop them.
"Out," I growled. "Both of you, get out. I'm done with this."
I didn't know how I wasn't shouting, or how my voice sounded so firm when I was freaking out inside, but they seemed to notice and they both got up. Cam was the only one that moved towards the door though.
"I do mean both of you. Leave your key," I told Paul.
He just stood there staring at me in disbelief, neither of us paying any attention to the door opening and closing behind me.
"Max, please. I'm sorry, he winds me up."
"You know what? That isn't my problem. I want you out, go find some other guy you can play games with. I'm done with your family."
"You're not breaking up with me? Please Max, I love you. Don't do this."
"It's done. Guess what Paul, I grew a pair, and I'm not going to let either of you screw with me again. Now get out."
It took all the strength I had not to fall apart in front of him, especially when he looked so devastated, but I held it together for long enough to watch him walk out the door and lock it behind him. It was only once I was on my own that I sank to my knees, shaking and letting the tears fall.
A few minutes after that I started to realise that I needed to get out, right now. I was too close to Paul and I was pretty sure he would come and find me when he thought I had time to calm down. I rang Alison and grabbed a bag of clothes and essentials for a few days, sure I would forget something in my haste but I had to go before I fell apart again.
* * * * * *
I really loved my sister. She picked up a sobbing wreck, drove me back to hers and tucked me into bed in her spare room without asking a thing. She knew I needed her and that something was seriously wrong but she left me alone until morning. I slept only fitfully, but I did at least get a few hours in between going back over what happened and trying to make some sense of it.
Right now the only thing that did make sense was my decision to take myself out of that whole situation. I needed to clear my head and work out what the hell I was going to do. I had Paul living next door and working in the same office, and getting away from him was not going to be that easy, but no matter why he had said it, the accusations he threw at me stung.
I dragged myself up in the morning, phoned work and managed to get a holiday at short notice (although I did lie about the reason I needed it), and decided I had to explain myself to Alison. Bless her, she'd even cooked me breakfast and made fresh coffee, but her looking after me meant she was really worried.
"So sweetie, are you going to tell me what's up? You look awful."
I managed a half smile. "Thanks sis, I really needed to hear that."
"Sorry, but you do look rough and I want to go slap whoever caused it. Have you split with Paul? What did he do?"
Could I tell her this story? I'd promised both Cam and myself that I wouldn't, but right now I didn't care so much, I wanted her help and support and she deserved to know why I was now in her spare room.
"Sister secret, okay," I told her, using the silly phrase from our childhood that meant no-one else could ever find out.
"Absolutely," she replied.
"The guy I was seeing, the one you never met and was a big secret, it was Cam."
If I'd been feeling better the look of shock on her face would have made me laugh. Sometimes I wondered if she had suspected, but obviously not.
"Fuck. You're serious?"
"Hell yes. We were sneaking around for a year without anyone knowing, it only ended when he met Emily."
"So what happened last night? Did Paul find out and not like it?"
"Well, he doesn't like it, but he knew all along. He told me the day I met him, and that meeting was set up by Cam because he was feeling guilty. I thought he was feeling guilty about leaving me, even though I always knew that was going to happen."
"It turns out I'm not the first guy they've both had. Usually it was Paul picking up Cam's cast-offs, but then Cam fucked Paul's boyfriend. They had a row about that in my front room, after Paul pretty much threatened Cam for just talking to me. He got all possessive because Cam was in my flat, made me really uncomfortable, and I found out he'd already laid into Cam for taking advantage of me. Plus, the things he said about me were horrible. He was so desperate to have his hands on me, show Cam that he had what he couldn't or some stupid macho shit like that."
"Oh sweetie," she muttered, gathering me into her arms for a much-needed hug. "They are both bastards for not treating you right."
"I'm an idiot for getting involved with either one of them sis. But I thought Paul was different, I really thought this was it."
I let a few tears leak out then, still angry but mostly upset with both of them and myself. I really did think Paul was special and different and for the first time I could really see a future with someone in it, something I really wanted, but now it seemed he was just playing games with me.
"I'm not trying to defend him, but are you sure you aren't over-reacting to this, maybe misinterpreting what he said? It's just he really does seem to love you, you've been so happy."
"I know he does, and I know Cam was deliberately winding him up, but he called me cheap for what I did. He hates that I was ever with Cam, he has done all along. I'm just not sure I can cope with that. The way he was last night, that's not the loving man I know, he was just points scoring with Cam and I don't appreciate being on the score sheet."
I saw her bite back her chuckle at my choice of words, but it wasn't intentional.
"So, what did you do, and what are you going to do?"
I shot her a dirty look.
"Thanks for the easy question, that's been driving me nuts half the night. I don't know right now. The stupid thing is, despite the fact he really hurt me yesterday, I still missed being in his arms last night. But I dumped him, told him to leave his key and threw him out, told both of them never to contact me again."
"You've decided then."
I sighed loudly. It sounded really easy when she said it, but it wasn't.
"No, I haven't. I was really angry last night, but I do love him and he's going to be really hard to avoid. I don't know if I can stick by that decision, but right now I'm not ready to deal with him."
"You can stay here as long as you need, you know that."
"Thanks sis. What I need right now is some peace and quiet, and no men to give me hassle, at least until I work out what's best for me. I also need to stop thinking with my dick, because he got me into this mess. No, actually, you and Sara did, with your wonderful idea for an experiment with Cam's sexuality. Thank you so much," I finished, with sarcasm.
"I'm sorry. It wasn't supposed to end up that way. I didn't even think he'd go for it once."
"Yeah, well it turns out he can't resist someone offering sex with no strings, but then what guy would? I probably shouldn't have done that, but it seemed like a good idea at the time and it was fun. I'm paying for it now though."
"You shouldn't be. I can kind of understand Paul finding it strange, but it is his problem, not yours. It's not like you were cheating on him."
"That's the stupid part of all this, that he knew before he even met me and he's still judging me for it. If he really loved me and trusted me he shouldn't care. It was nothing compared to us, he knows that."
Alison smiled at me and gave me another hug, probably because I sounded so dejected right now. It would all be simple if I could just switch off the feelings I had, and be shot of him like I probably should.
"They do say love makes fools of us all."
"That explains why I feel like a prize idiot right now then."
* * * * * *
I wasn't quite sure who I was punishing the most, but I stuck to my decision not to see Paul for the next few days. Well, I saw him at work a couple of times, in the corridors at at the other end of the office, but when I went back there I sent him a mail making it very clear he was not to come and talk to me. When I did catch sight of him I felt a physical ache at not going to him, but I was still angry and I didn't know what to say to him when I wasn't sure what I wanted either.
It was pretty clear he wasn't handling things all that well, and the one time I bumped in to him outside the blocks of flats he was pale and drawn. The look on his face as he realised it was me nearly broke my heart, but I just glared at him until he turned away.
Staying at Alison's felt like running away after only two nights, but after I went home I was on edge all the time, half expecting him to turn up on my doorstep and part of me wanting that. He sent me flowers and notes apologising for everything, as well as calling and texting, and Cam tried that avenue as well. I didn't listen to the messages, wanting to try and keep my head clear and make my own decision about everything, and I never answered the phone to either of them.
This time around the heartbreak and loneliness was worse, but at least I didn't have to hide it. I also knew it was my choice this time, not that I had created it, but that I might be able to end it if I just spoke to Paul. The problem was that I thought if I let him get close to me the physical feelings would take over and I wouldn't resolve the issues we had. The only way we could ever be together is if he would accept and get over what happened with Cam and I didn't think that he could.