Here to Stay Ch. 01bytml_writer©
"Hey, Matt? I can't tell which one of these shirts is the black one," Emmett Clark shouted frustratedly across the apartment while trying to feel the difference in the fabrics over and over again. He heard Matt's footsteps start down the hall.
"Whoa, man, put some jeans on. You know you're not my type," Matt joked, walking through the doorway seeing Emmett stand in his underwear near his closet.
"Yes, and wouldn't Suzanne be glad to hear it," Emmett poked back.
Matt and Emmett had shared an apartment ever since they were dorm mates their first three years of college. They had become close friends, and Emmett was grateful for it. Matt assisted him whenever he could, whether it was walking somewhere new, crossing a street, or picking out clothes. In short, Matt was Emmett's vision.
"Here you go, Matt said, taking the shirt out of the closet and handing it to Emmett.
"Thanks," Emmett responded as Matt left the room.
Emmett wondered yet again where he would live, and with whom, once Matt and Suzanne were married. He had been looking for months, but none of the places or people seemed right. In two weeks, though, it was happening whether he was ready or not.
For the second time that day, Emmett cursed his blindness. He wanted so badly to just be able to live by himself after Matt moved out. He knew, though, that it really wasn't realistic, and since he had no family to speak of, he didn't have a place to fall back on. He was relying on his friends at this point, as he had been incapable of finding somewhere outside of an assisted living facility, which was a nice environment. The problem was that Emmett thought his age of 29 was fifty years too young to be living there.
After dressing, Emmett walked into the kitchen.
"You ready?" he heard Matt ask.
"Yup," Emmett responded, putting his bag over his shoulder and grabbing his cane, placing it in the bag. Matt drove him to the university and helped him to the main doors of the musical arts building.
"Thanks," Emmett said, walking through the doors. He got his cane out and started down the hall, counting his footsteps. A familiar voice interrupted the silence that echoed through the halls.
"Dr. Clark, may I help you to your studio?"
"Thank you, Clara, that would be greatly appreciated," Emmett agreed, folding his cane and putting it back in his bag.
Once in the office, Emmett sat his bag down and leaned against his desk as he heard Clara, one of his students, sit at one of the pianos.
"Thank you again, Clara. Now, shall we get started?"
"Listen, would you just meet him? In person? Emmett's a great guy, and even though he can afford the rent on his own, it's just . . . easier for him to have someone around." Cassidy Andrews looked into the skeptically smiling eyes in front of her, pausing only for a moment. "Besides, you need some company. You live alone on the other side of town, all you do is work, and you could use someone to bond with. The apartment is really big, and Emmett has been my best friend for almost a decade, although that fact alone might scare you away. Seriously, though, it would be great."
"Cassidy, I don't know?" an inquisitive Gavin Adams started.
"Just take the time to meet him, in person. You've got two weeks to make up your mind before his current roommate gets married and leaves."
"Just meet him," Cassidy demanded.
"Alright, alright, I'll meet him. When?" Gavin asked.
"Are you free tonight?"
"I'll see you Monday, Will," Emmett said, closing the door behind his last student of the day. All seven of them had asked the same question that day: when would Emmett perform a solo faculty recital?
"It has been a while," he said to no one in particular. His thoughts were interrupted by his ringing cell phone.
"This is Emmett," he answered, flipping the phone open.
"Hey, Em!" Cassidy greeted excitedly through the speaker.
"Hey Cass. How are you today?"
"Great." She paused. "I'll get right to the point. Do you have any plans tonight?"
"What? How a guy like you has any night of the week open is beyond me. Well, anyways, great. There's someone I want you to meet," Cassidy informed Emmett.
"Cass, you know me. I don't?"
"Relax," she interrupted. "I'm not trying to set you up. He might be willing to share your acre of apartment with you," she teased.
"Okay, what time?"
"Meet me at the main doors of the music building in two minutes."
Emmett chuckled at his friend's eccentricity as he hung up the phone, picked up his bag, and locked his door.
Cassidy greeted him the moment he opened the door to exit the building.
"Where are we going? And does this stranger that I'm meeting have a name?" Emmett asked as he took her arm.
"Do you remember that chef I've told you about? Gavin Adams? He's a really good friend of mine. It's actually hard to believe that you haven't met yet," she commented as they got in the car. "We're going to Kelly's coffee shop. She won't be home for a few more days, though, so it will just be him and us."
"Mmhmm. Gavin. Got it. So, how do I know that Gavin isn't an ax murderer or some creeper?"
"Well, he might be, because I've told him almost everything there is to know about you and he's still willing to meet you," Cassidy jested. Emmett laughed.
"Wow. That's promising." A comfortable silence passed for a few minutes.
"He doesn't know you're blind yet," Cassidy blurted out quietly and spontaneously. Emmett turned to face her as much as his seatbelt would allow, aghast.
"I can't go, then, Cassidy! You failed to mention the most important thing about me!"
"It's not like he's not open-minded."
"Cassidy Andrews, living with a non-handicapped gay man is probably bad enough for someone like him. Living with a blind one is completely different and even worse," Emmett practically shouted.
"Hey, Em?" Cassidy asked quietly.
"What?" Emmett asked, trying to be angry.
"I've never, in the ten years that I've known you, heard you raise your voice like that."
"I'm sorry," he apologized.
"Don't apologize," Cassidy said. "It's great."
They pulled up to the café, parked, and walked in the door, smiles on their faces.
Gavin was reading the restaurant reviews in the newspaper when Cassidy walked in with Emmett holding her shoulder with one hand and arm with the other. Gavin knew it was rude, but he stared at the sight. He didn't know how to respond. He'd had absolutely no idea that Emmett was blind, but the part that struck him the most was that Emmett was the most gorgeous man he had ever seen. He stood maybe an inch shy of six feet tall, had rather pale skin, dark brown hair cut somewhat short and pushed back stylishly with some falling over his face, and a body with a muscular swimmer's build to die for. Emmett's most stunning feature, however, were his eyes. They were so dark brown they were almost black, and were deeply expressive. Gavin gaped open-mouthed as they approached the table.
"Hey, Gavin, this is the famous Emmett Clark," Cassidy informed him.
"She flatters me; don't listen to her," Emmett responded to Cassidy's remark. Gavin blinked a few times and tried to speak, but stuttered instead.
"Uh . . . um . . . hello," he finally managed, grabbing the hand outstretched in front of him and shaking it. Emmett noticed a firm handshake, even if Gavin wasn't the most eloquent person at the moment.
"Em, what do you want to drink?" Cassidy asked as Emmett took his seat.
"The usual, please."
"Gav, come with me to the bar," Cassidy ordered, grabbing his arm as she walked by his chair.
Once they were at the counter and had ordered their drinks, Gavin found his voice before Cassidy.
"You failed to mention two very important things, Cassidy Andrews."
"Yes, two. Number one: he's blind. More importantly, number two: he's extremely good-looking. I haven't seen someone I've been this attracted to in a long time."
"You checked the mirror lately, sugah?" Cassidy asked jokingly in a mock Southern accent.
"Enough with the sarcastic shit, Cass. Seriously, I don't know if I could live with him. I don't know what to do, or how I would help him, and being around a man that attractive would be a little difficult. I mean, those eyes . . ." Gavin trailed off.
"Yeah, they are blacker than black and show every emotion he feels. If you ever want to know what he's thinking when he's not speaking, that's the place to look."
"Yeah, I know. They don't look like a typical blind person's eyes. Medically speaking, his eyes can see. See, Gavin, Emmett wasn't born blind. When he was 14, he and his parents were in a car accident. Both of his parents died on impact, because they weren't wearing seatbelts. Anyways, both of them died and Emmett was left blind. According to every doctor he's seen, there's nothing wrong with him. His brain just doesn't interpret what he sees, and no one knows why. He's a medical mystery."
"Wow. Both parents and his sight. That would send me over the edge," Gavin breathed.
"He's a strong one," Cassidy said, picking up two coffees and walking back to the table. Gavin grabbed his cup and followed. As he sat down, Emmett faced him.
"So, I presume she told you the whole story about how I lost my vision and how no one can figure out why," he stated matter-of-factly, taking a sip of his coffee.
"Yes, I told him. But he's still here, obviously," Cassidy butted in.
"So, um, I've heard that you're a phenomenal pianist," Gavin said, attempting to make conversation.
"Again, Cassidy flatters me," Emmett argued. "I'm okay. I really enjoy teaching some very, very talented students, though."
"Well, that's a plus in being an esteemed professor at one of the best conservatories in the nation," Cassidy retorted.
"You know what, Cass? I don't really appreciate your sarcasm," Emmett joked. "What do you do, Gavin?" There was a pause, and Emmett could feel and hear Gavin and Cassidy looking at each other and arguing silently.
"I . . . uh . . . I'm a chef at a couple of restaurants," Gavin finally responded. Emmett could tell there was something he was missing.
"Chef, yeah, that's what it's called now," Cassidy said.
"If you really don't want to tell me, it's not a problem, at all. I didn't mean to be nosy," Emmett said, trying to ease the awkwardness of the situation.
"It's no problem, not at all," Gavin said. "So, how much is the rent?" Emmett was grateful for the change in topic.
"Total, it's about 3000 dollars per month," Emmett informed him somewhat sheepishly. He could tell by Gavin's coughing that he had choked on his coffee from the surprise.
"Oh, my god," he sputtered.
"I can pay it," Emmett tried to respond. "Really, I just need someone to live with so I don't have to live in a retirement community because of the assisted living thing. I'm sure you figured that out as soon as I walked in and you saw that I'm blind." Gavin stared, at a loss for words. He had no idea what to say to the bluntness of Emmett's statement.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," Cassidy apologized to Gavin.
"It's okay. I guess I'm just a little taken aback at the suddenness of this whole thing. I really need to think it over and try to get to know you a little more, Emmett. And no, by the way, I won't let you pay the whole rent. I have more than enough resources to cover my half if I take you up on this." He paused to look at the time. "I'm really sorry, but I have to get going. I have to be at work by 9, so I'll have to hustle. Cass, I'll call you, but I'm pretty sure I'm free for tomorrow night. Emmett, I'll talk to you later. Sorry I have to run." With that, he walked briskly out the door and down the sidewalk.
"Cassidy, shame on you. I feel bad, and he probably does now, too. He couldn't just come out and say, 'You know, I'm really not into the whole taking-care-of-the-blind thing since I'm not even 30, I'm single, and a successful chef.' or whatever it is that he does. Thank you so much for the awkward moments and discomfort. God, could you really be this incapable of some forethought?" Emmett stood up, and Cassidy did the same, returning their cups to the bar.
"I'm sorry, Em," she said as they walked out the door. "If I may, though?"
"You may not," Emmett interrupted. Cassidy snarled back once she walked around the car and sat in her seat.
"You know what? I'm going to anyways. To be quite frank, I haven't seen you this uncomfortable about your blindness before. Ever. Not even after a bad performance, or tripping on an uneven floor, or even running into someone or something unintentionally."
"He's a really nice guy, isn't he?" Emmett asked rhetorically. "Never mind, I'm sure he is. It wasn't fair to him?not in the least, Cass?to put him in this situation. Does he even know I'm gay?" Emmett paused and awaited an answer. When one wasn't presented, he continued. "He doesn't. Great. Yet another thing to scare him off. I might as well cross this one off the list of prospective roommates, too."
"He won't care," Cassidy informed him. "He's a very open-minded person, like I said before," she said with a hint of annoyance. Emmett exploded.
"Open-mindedness has barely anything to do with living with a blind person, Cassidy. Patience? Yes. Determination? Yes. The ability to cope with frustration? Yes. Open-mindedness? Only initially."
"We're here," Cassidy intervened once they had arrived at the apartment.
"I'll walk myself in," Emmett said.
"Cassidy, I can do it. I'm a big boy now," he said sarcastically.
"You are so bitter tonight."
"I just had the shit embarrassed out of me by one of my best friends who thought that she could arrange a living partner for me without telling them straightaway that I'm fucking blind. That's just not something you leave out, Cassidy. You fucked up. Just admit it and move on. It's not the first time, and it certainly won't be the last. I wish you'd stop blaming my insecurities for that, though." Emmett shut the car door and walked up to the building.
"Dr. Clark, may I help you to your apartment?" Cecelia, the doorwoman asked.
"Cecelia, first of all, my name is Emmett. I don't know how many times I've told you to call me by my name, even when we're outside a personal setting. Secondly, no, I'll walk myself up tonight. I'll be fine, but thank you anyways," he responded, probably a little too curtly. He had no trouble counting his steps to the stairs, ascending three floors, then walking to his door. Once there, he took out his key and opened the door.
"Yeah, I'm here."
"Wow. It's awfully early for you to be home."
"I, uh, I'm feeling a little under the weather," Matt answered. In the eleven years that Emmett had known Matt, Matt had never gotten sick, aside from the slough of hangovers during his undergraduate years.
"What's wrong? Are you sick? Can I get something for you?"
"Yes, I'm sick. No, you can't get anything for me. I'm comfortable here on the couch watching movies and attempting to eat ice chips without throwing them up."
"Okay. If you need anything, just let me know. I'll do what I can." Emmett walked down the hall and into his room as the phone rang.
"Get that," Matt asked more than demanded.
"Emmett speaking," he answered.
"Hey, Em, I'm sorry and you were right," Cassidy said.
"It's okay. I overreacted, too," Emmett assured her.
"No, you were completely justified in everything you said."
"Hey, Cassidy? Matt's sick. Would it be possible for you to give me a ride to work tomorrow?"
"You know I would if I could, Em, but I can't. I'm going into the design studio at five in the morning tomorrow."
"Crap. Kelly and Joe are still on vacation, aren't they?" Emmett asked.
"I swear, it's like their second honeymoon," Cassidy answered. "No one can reach them or anything."
"It sounds like I'm taking a cab tomorrow, then."
"Well, you could give Gavin a call?"
"I'm not calling someone that I met personally for the first time today to have them take me to work at six in the morning. No freaking way. I'd rather walk the entire way."
"Wow. Okay, whatever suits you," Cassidy relented. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay. Have a good night."
Emmett hung up the phone and sat on the bed with a large sigh. He took off his shoes, and then lay back on the bed, wishing he could stare at the ceiling. After ten minutes, he sat up, undressed, and went to sleep.
"Gavin, where's your head?" one of his coworkers shouted at him from across the kitchen. "Take this to 32!"
"Sorry, I guess I'm just not feeling like myself tonight," Gavin said distantly. He picked up the desserts and took them out.
"I hope everything was great tonight, folks," he said as he set the plates on the table in front of the man and woman. The woman spoke up.
"Everything is gre?" She paused as she looked up. "Gavin Adams?" He immediately looked at her questioningly.
"I'm sorry, do I know you?" he asked, studying her face.
"Laura Dotton . . . we graduated together."
"Oh, wow. Hi! You look great. What brings you here?"
"Well, I live here now. What about you? This restaurant is great. Are you the manager?" she asked.
"Uh, yeah, kind of. This is one of my restaurants, actually."
"Oh, my god! That's amazing." She paused. "Well, I have to get back to my date," she said, looking at the man sitting across from her at the table. "This is Mark, by the way, my fiancé."
"Nice to meet you," Gavin said, nodding in a jealous Mark's direction. "Don't worry, I'm not going to steal her from you any longer. Have a great night, you two."
Gavin walked away, thankful for the interruption in thought. Ever since earlier that night in the coffee shop, he hadn't been able to get Emmett and the situation at hand out of his mind. Could he handle living with a blind person, and a stunningly attractive one at that? He figured there was only one way to find out. At the same time, though, it wasn't fair to Emmett to just give it a month's trial, and then say, 'You know, I really don't like living with you, so try to find someone else to share the apartment.' Gavin realized he couldn't do that.
He glanced up and checked the clock. Midnight. Not bad for a Thursday night. As he walked out the door, his phone rang.
"Hello?" he answered.
"Hey, Gavin, it's Cassidy. Will you do me a huge favor?"
"Sure. Consider it done. What is it?"
Emmett woke up, got a shower, and ate breakfast. He picked up his bag and extended his cane.
"See ya," he heard from the couch.
"Bye. Rest up. You're going to need to be well for your wedding," Emmett replied. "Is there anything you need?"
"Nope. Have a good day. I'll be out with Suzanne and the wedding planner all night. Well, the wedding planner will leave eventually," Matt chuckled.
"Okay, just don't give Suzanne this rot. It's not exactly every girl's dream to throw up on her veil while walking down the aisle."
Emmett walked out the door and down the three flights of stairs. As he entered the lobby, he heard his name.
"Hey, Emmett." Emmett immediately recognized the voice as Gavin's.
"I'm going to kill Cassidy," Emmett snarled. Gavin chuckled at his remark.
"Don't worry; it's really not an imposition. I have to be at one of the restaurants by 6:30 anyways."
"Well, thank you, I really appreciate it," Emmett said, folding up his cane. Gavin walked over, but stood awkwardly in front of Emmett.
"You'll have to forgive me, but I have no idea what to do," Gavin said sheepishly. Emmett placed his right hand on Gavin's left shoulder, and his left hand on Gavin's arm. He couldn't help but notice how muscular Gavin was, but pushed the thought from his head. At that moment, Emmett was glad that he couldn't be visually attracted to him.