The Anniversary

THE ANNIVERSARY

© Clare London

 

They say that eavesdroppers never hear well of themselves, don’t they?  Guess it’s the same for any bad news.

I’ve been away for a while – can’t actually remember how long, this time.  Tyler knows to expect me, though I can’t remember telling him exactly when – shows you how tired I am!  I’m often away, of course; damned job requires it.  But he always knows how much I miss him.  I tell him so, don’t I? I show him so, wrapped in the sheets at night, in our bed, caressing him, claiming him as mine.  Making him cry out loudly with his pleasure; making him hold me so tightly that I know I’ll never find another lover as responsive.

Always says he misses me, too.

Tonight, I feel dog tired – like the journey’s been longer, and more exhausting than usual.  It’s dark outside, already.  I just want to take a piss, sink into a hot bath, eat some half-decent food – then hold Tyler close; smell his sweet sweat; feel his quickening heartbeat.  Maybe we’ll have sex, right away – I’ll bury myself deep in that delicious, boy-smooth body of his.  Hell, I’ve dreamt about it, enough.  But perhaps I’d rather sleep first.  I just feel damned tired all the time, it seems.  I need my bed; our bed.

Don’t know why I don’t call out, as I enter – why I don’t slam the front door to the apartment, behind me.  I suppose because it’s ajar, I just slip in; I grin, at the thought of surprising him.

And then I hear the voices.  Just a soft murmur in the background, from the direction of the lounge.  It’s not that big a apartment, y’know?  I can hear the lilt of Tyler’s voice – don’t know the sound of the other man.

I stand outside the door to the lounge, looking through the gap of the hinges.  Why don’t I just go straight in?  I have just as much right in that place as Tyler – and more than his guest.  But I don’t go in.

I know the guy, sitting beside him on the couch – Tyler works with him.  We met him at an office party, last Christmas.  Tyler’s too easygoing; makes friends with everyone.  I told him this guy was likely to be trouble.

Tyler had just laughed.

Tonight, he’s not laughing.  He looks fucking tired, actually.  I mean, he’s naturally pale, anyway. Good looking, and well-built, but very fair, and with a long, thin face.  When he’s tired, he looks exhausted, and that’s how he looks now.  He looks like he slept on the couch, because there’s a blanket folded up by his feet.  He does that when he can’t settle at night, so he doesn’t disturb me as well.  Guess I ought to go over and comfort him – but, again, I choose not to go in.  Not sure about my motives – let’s worry about ‘em some other time, OK?

Bet his worry is something to do with work.  He’s a sensitive guy; easily upset – has a sleepless night at the drop of a hat.  He’s always panicking about his appraisal, though I hear he’s one of the best lawyers in the practice; but he’s always worrying about what the boss thinks of him.  Whether there’ll be a problem if they find out he’s gay – that we’re living together.

Get into the 21st century, I tell him, far too regularly.  That’s their problem.  Screw the lot of ‘em.

Not literally, of course, I laugh.

*

The guy sitting on my couch works for him, I remember.  Richard Wright, his name is.  OK, so he’s fairly fit, with well-cut blond hair, and he’s attractive, I guess – if you like that barely-pubescent, undergraduate look.  Looks too scared to piss in his own pot, my mate Nick would say.  But I know he’s one of the smartest and brightest office students.  Shit, I knew I’d seen him catch Tyler’s eye, at that party!  I’m sure the boy’s had plenty of chances since, to follow that up.

And we argued about it, that night, Tyler and me – another of our many, gut-churning arguments.  We left the party early, I was so fucking incensed.  Ty just sighed softly, when I insisted the guy was hitting on him; challenged me to find any evidence.  Like I was going to find anything, just off the top of my head like that!  Tyler’s good at that – confronting my thoughts and suspicions.  He brings that clear, open expression to bear; uses those calm, rational words – come to think of it, he’s suspiciously like one of those mindfucking doctors, then.

But he reassures me.  Usually.

“Sal…” he’d said that time, very gently, though his hand had been firm on my shoulder.  “You’re the only one for me.  I don’t know how often I have to say it.  You don’t seem to want to believe it.”  He’d been smiling, but underneath it all, he looked distressed – I seem to inspire that in him, a lot.  His hand had run slowly down my arm; smoothed across the tightened muscles of my belly.  He was tense, himself – but he was seeking to relax me.  Like he always does.

It had been one hell of a night in bed, after that argument.

*

But anyway, there’s still the strange guy on my couch.  He’s sitting next to Tyler, and he’s way too close for any of those personal space issues that Ty’s usually so particular about.  They’re talking in low voices, so I can’t hear all the words.  Tyler sounds tired, as well as looking it – his whole attitude looks beaten down.  Looks damned sad.  What’s this about?  There’s a sharp tug of emotion inside me; something catching in my throat.  Guess I didn’t realise he felt this strongly, just because I’m away from him…

Wright’s voice jars on me, although it’s soft, like he’s soothing Tyler.

“How long will this go on, Tyler?”  A few words reach me, like a volume dial has been turned up.  “How much longer?  You deserve so much better.”

Deserve what?  Damned kid should get out of my house, and away from what’s mine –

I don’t move, though.  Just watch.

Then he leans over Tyler, as they sit there, close together on the couch, and now I want to call out.  He puts a hand to Tyler’s face – I don’t know why Ty isn’t beating him off.  Stupid kid; needs to keep his hands to himself.

“I want to care for you, Tyler.  You know I always have.  I’ve understood your feelings; I’ve hung back for so long –“

The words are fading away again – I can’t hear him anymore.  But my whole body feels the sudden chill of watching those soft, boyish fingers stroking at Tyler’s mouth.

And then he’s kissing Tyler – a soft, gentle touch at first, but none the less sexual for that.  His hand is on Tyler’s neck, and he’s tugging him nearer.  His other hand is on Tyler’s waist, drawing him in.

Get back, I hiss to myself.  Don’t fucking touch him!

Who am I talking to?  Richard Wright – or Tyler himself?

For Tyler’s hand is on his neck, in return; Tyler’s mouth is opening with a show of eagerness.  My Tyler is kissing him back.

*

I feel hideously cold – bloody nauseous.  I hope to God I’m not going to throw up.  Is this shock?

I’m still watching – I’m still silent.  Am I scared to go in – to confront them?  I’ve never had a problem knowing what’s mine, and being prepared to protect it.  You ask Nick – he’s been my best friend since childhood.  We’ve stood together, up against it, plenty of times.

Say, you could ask the doctors, as well.  They said a similar thing about me, though in plenty of Latin.  And they made it sound like it was something bad.

Tyler doesn’t like my friends, Nick particularly.  Oh, he’s polite enough, but they’ve never got on.  He says Nick’s a bad influence on me – a remnant of my previous life.  He met us both when I had that trouble with the police – when both of us only got off jail because of Tyler’s intervention.

That’s in the past, anyway.  But Nick’s told me to leave Tyler, lots of times – says that Tyler is a white collar loser; that he’s a flake; that he’ll leave me, if I don’t dump him first.

Nick’s the best kind of mate.  Ty’s my lover.  It confuses me, sometimes, the conflict between ‘em.

When we first met, Tyler and I – well, the attraction was obvious, wasn’t it?  He held off for a while, until my case was won, but then we became lovers, pretty damned quick.  Everything was hunky-dory – I got a fair enough job; he got the apartment.

Then there was another time of trouble for me – when we split for a month or so.

Can’t help it, can I? – I’ve always been the jealous type.  Tyler had started this new job, and he seemed to be in an office full of smarmy Richard Wrights, and rich-looking Tom, Dick and Harrys.  I don’t know what was up – I wasn’t thinking straight; I wasn’t very stable for a while.  However much he reassured me, I had trouble listening.  He cancelled much of his casework, then – dropped a few friends; left a few clubs.

I don’t like him going out, y’know?  Why does he need anyone else?  We have a good enough time, together.

So I saw the doctors, then, at his request.  Mind doctors.  Got fuck all time for ‘em, but I’d have done anything to keep Tyler; to be back with him!  And I still saw Nick, albeit behind Tyler’s back.  Nick insisted I kept in with my roots – remembered where I came from.  He was a refreshing change from the mindfuckers – and the sad, pained expression on Tyler’s face.

Paranoia, the doctors called it.  But soon I was well again.

Of course I damned well was.

Then Tyler took me back, and he seemed so pleased that I was thinking more rationally, and things were great again for a while.

Yeah… for a while.

*

They’ve been kissing far too long for it to be a farewell gesture.  I’m fascinated – horribly so – to see how far they’ll go.  I’m not sure how I’m still standing up – my legs feel weak, and my gut is churning.

He’s on his knees – Wright’s slipped off the couch, and he’s on his knees between Tyler’s legs, and it’s not like I don’t know that position so very well

Tyler’s head goes back, hard against the back of the couch, his eyes closing.  There’s no conversation between them now, so I can hear the sound of his zip opening; hear his gasp, as plain as fucking day.

I know all of those sounds that Tyler makes.  I know the feel of his fingers, tight in my hair; the catch of breath in his chest.  I know how much he likes this being done to him.

The top of the blond head is bobbing away, and I’m just petrified here, somehow.  I’m seeing it all, in my mind, if not with my eyes.

I suppose the kid’s got to grab whatever chance he can, soon as my back’s turned.  Is this sexual-fucking-harassment or something?  Seems kind of risky, though, when I could be back any day.  Everyone seems to know that I’m not the most tolerant of men, at the best of times.

But Tyler…he’s really enjoying it.

Tyler…

What’s your excuse?

*

I feel disorientated – I don’t feel as if I’m really here.

Nick thinks I’m stupid to think a guy would go months without a fuck, if it’s offered – that if I’m out of the apartment on anything like a long contract, Tyler’s bound to take other lovers.

I always said he wouldn’t.  And believe me, I’ve been watching out for it, ever since we moved in together – but never a hint of anything suspicious.

Guess I was fooled in the end.  Guess I was wrong.  It’s just like Nick said.

I can’t understand why Tyler would do this!  We have everything we need, just by ourselves. The sex is the best on the planet, right?  Ty looks like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth – like he’s Mr Model Citizen.  But he’s a fucking revelation in bed.  He says I brought that out in him; he can be himself with me.  Can’t keep the guy’s hands off me, and his mouth, and that breathy voice, groaning when I push inside him…

And it’s me that he wants.  Only me.  That’s what he tells me, time and again – like I ask him to.  He has to say it aloud; he has to say it so’s I believe it.  And he has to cry it out, in the dark of the night, when our bodies are hot, and slick with sweat, and I bring him time and again to a gasping, shuddering climax.

Only I can do that for him.

He’d been afraid of his sexuality, as he grew up – he knew he was attracted to men, but he’d been ashamed of it.  Confused by it.  When he met me, he had little enough sexual experience, and nothing had been very rewarding.  I changed that for him – I’ve shown him it can be something magnificent.

We don’t need anyone else, Tyler.  Do we?

*

It’s not erotic, y’know – the watching.  I’m still surrounded by this horrible chill – I feel like there’s a fucking great gaping hole inside of me.  The nausea’s getting worse.  I’m sure I’ll be sick, though I can’t remember where or when I last ate; can’t recognise the sour taste in my mouth.

Wright’s back up on the couch with Tyler now, touching him, stroking him.  His baby-blue eyes are very bright, and he’s got a hopeful look on his oh-so-smooth face.  I think I can probably see the threads of Tyler’s seed, still on his lips – he should be more decent about that; swallow it all down.  Their shirts are off; Wright’s slim hand runs over Ty’s chest, teasing at the small, hard nubs of his nipples.  Tyler moans, like this is something new to him.  Christ, how short is his memory? There’s a crumpled pile of clothing on the floor that I think may include trousers, as well.

Tyler’s.  I know the colour.

I see Tyler’s hand slide over the back of the couch, anchoring himself.  His head turns slightly – he’s looking at the side table.  There’s a lamp there, a couple new books I haven’t seen before – the framed picture of us on the river last summer.  What happens next isn’t an accident, oh no -it’s totally deliberate.  He reaches over another inch or so, and lays the picture face down.  Why?  Well, I guess it’s so he can’t see it anymore, as the blond head dips over his naked chest, licking and nipping wherever it chooses.

His eyes look dark, and there’s pain there.

So there fucking should be.

When Wright rises up over Tyler’s prone body, I know what’s happening.  Of course I do!  That couch has seen plenty of our own, hot action.  For those few moments, I seem to be somewhere else – I seem to have switched off.  I can hear Wright groaning – I can hear Tyler’s own voice, low and broken, and he’s keening out the kid’s name.

Every syllable hurts me, deep inside.

My senses return, just as Tyler comes.  It’s damned fast.  I stare at his face – it’s suddenly turned towards me again, and I recognise the look there.  It’s the same look as he had when we first had sex; a mixture of shock, and thrill, and embarrassment for coming too soon.  He’d had no-one for months, before me; he’d got excited, way too easily.

We’d laughed about it, later.

I can hear laughs, now.  Self-conscious – uncertain; but slowly relaxing.  Full of pleasure; of satisfaction.  For both of ‘em.

Can’t hear my laughter, though.

*

I must’ve left the apartment – don’t remember.  Was I sick, after all?  There’s still that sour taste in my mouth.

I’m standing outside, on the stairwell; stunned.

Wright appears at the door to our apartment – guess he can’t see me; I must be hidden somehow, in the shadows.  But he’s not leaving, or anything.  Rather, he stands for a moment, looking out, like he’s thinking about something.  Making a decision.  Hasn’t even had the decency to put his fucking designer shirt back on – just stands there, with trousers barely done up.  I stare at that smooth, handsome face, and I’ve never known such fury – never known such hatred.  For that moment, I think of running back up the stairs, right at him – but I don’t.

There’s a faint flush to his face.  A sparkle of joy in his eyes.  Damned kid, should have the balls to look ashamed… As I watch, he hears something back inside – Ty’s voice, perhaps – and he steps back into the apartment, pulling the door closed behind him.

He’s staying the night.

Tyler obviously asked him to.

In our apartment.  In our bed.

What the fuck’s going on?

*

I’m wondering what the hell else has been happening while I’m away.  I wish I could call Nick up – talk it through with him.

So the kid’s sleeping with Tyler.   At Tyler’s invitation.

Where am I in all this?  Out of sight, out of mind?

The night I left for this contract, I was kind of upset myself – it was going to be a longer trip than usual, they needed staff for a month or more.  Tyler saw the trouble rising up in me again – he spent hours persuading me he was OK on his own; that I had to take this job to get myself straight; that he didn’t like me going away, but it was necessary.   He told me I could stay another night – he’d run me to the airport in the morning, I could get a later flight – all that sort of stuff.

Then Nick drew up in his old jeep, and he’d had a few drinks, and he was laughing at Tyler’s concern.  I saw Tyler’s anger flaring; at Nick’s hostility – at the empty cans in the back of the rattling, pimped-up vehicle.  What the hell -? I thought.  I tossed my stuff in the back of the jeep, and told Tyler I already had my ride.

I laughed at him, too.  I meant to call him later, to apologise, but I can’t remember if I did.

He knows he’s everything to me, doesn’t he?

I need him.

*

I’m inside the apartment again, God knows how.  Perhaps the kid didn’t lock it properly, because I don’t remember using my key.  Somehow, I know it’s much later; this miserable night has bled away around me, and the dawn’s approaching fast.  I don’t know where I’ve been in the meantime – what I’ve been doing.  Christ, I’m still in shock, aren’t I?

I’m cold all the bloody time, now.

I’m at the table beside the couch; that notorious couch.  My fingers trail along the back of our picture, remembering our smiles; the time it commemorates.  Just after my treatment – just after I was OK again.  I stand the picture back upright – move it around, so that he’ll see it again, when he next sits on the couch.

“We’ll be together forever,” I used to say.

He’d smile.  There’d be a flash of that old distress in his eyes, though he always hid it well.  “I don’t need that, Sal.  Don’t need to say it all the time.  I love you – you must trust me.  Why don’t you believe me, Sal?”

Trust me… he said.  The bastard.

I’m so cold.  And I’ve never been so angry in all my life.

*

The bedroom looks different – the morning light seems brighter.  There’s a different blind at the window, I think; the bed covers are new, too.

Tyler’s still in bed, alone, sleeping deeply.  An edge of the sheet is draped carelessly over his lower legs, exposing the long, muscled expanse of thigh that I can feel against my own skin, even now.  He’s something else, eh?  Soft and smooth in bed – it’s always been a treat to watch him.  To lie beside him.  Mine.

He looks at peace.  Lips twisted in a soft smile of satiation.

I look across at the door out to the roof, and see it’s ajar.  Tyler chose this apartment for the roof area – for the space to put some plants; for the privacy to sit out in summer and watch the city below.

Does Richard fucking Wright know that I’ve been in to look at Tyler?  That I’ve seen the sheets underneath him, creased with dried sweat; crumpled with the ecstatic clutches of athletic limbs?  That I’ve seen the used condom wrappers on the carpet?  Seen Ty’s deep, calm, exhausted breathing, that I know better than mine; that I’ve listened to, possessively, after many a long, lusty session?

The anger is making me breathless.  I move to the outside door, trying to gulp in some more air.

I still can’t believe my Tyler can do this.  Fuck around – then sleep like an innocent child.  He’s made a fool of me.

That’s the worst sin of all, in my book.

Nick would agree with me.

Anyone would, wouldn’t they?

*

I’ve found the kid – he’s out on the roof.  Doing some kind of exercise like tai chi – arms akimbo, legs bent.  Centering himself, or some such shit.  He’s wearing just his CK boxers and a vest – oh, and did I mention the half smile of self-satisfaction on his lips?

Tyler must have used him well; must have got his money’s worth.  In his precious little world, that’s what loyal employees are for, eh?

Ty’s betrayal hurts beyond fucking belief.  He’s turned out the same as all the others in my life; no commitment; no faithfulness.  But I can hurt him back so much more, because that’s my world, isn’t it?  That’s what I grew up with – eye for an eye.

I smile gently at the strange, slow turns of the blond kid, stretching out his tired limbs in the morning sun.  This guy’s beyond help.  He’s beyond protection.

Tyler has touched him.

And Tyler has destroyed me.

He’ll pay.

*

Wright doesn’t see me approaching him.

I mean, I’m not exactly at my most careful at the moment!  I can’t understand why it’s so fucking easy to creep up on him.

As I reach out to him, it’s Tyler’s face I see in my mind – it’s Tyler’s sleepy smile that wrenches at me.  My heart is throbbing with such anger that I can’t hear the sounds of the morning in the city below.  I’m full of such hurt that I can’t feel my own body.

I watch my hand touch the boy’s arm.

Tyler.  I can hurt you back, so much more…

Perhaps Wright sees me at the last minute – hears my steps behind him.  As he whirls round, his gaze flashes to my hand on him.  There’s puzzlement on his face – then there’s sudden fear.

Did I touch him?  Did I push?  Hey… my mind seems a bit confused about it all, you know.  But, whatever – he stumbles backwards, startled.  Stumbles; and tips over the low railing.

There’s only a long, low cry.  A whistling silence.  Then a splattering crunch on the pavement below.

Funny, really.  I can hear the sounds of life down there, now.  It’s like everything else comes back into focus.  Things have calmed inside me.

That sense of peace; it’s creeping into me.

I certainly feel a hell of a lot warmer.

*

Tyler Greene sat on his couch, head in his hands.  A woman police officer knelt at his feet, pale-faced, clutching a cup of cold, too-sweet tea.

The two other officers stood to one side of the lounge, keeping their voices low.

“So – foul play suspected?” asked Black, the younger one.

“Nah,” said the older one, Matthews.  His face looked a little grey.  “Something must have distracted the boy, up on the roof.  He just fell.  Damned stupid place to exercise anyway, the stones are crumbling up there, the surface is pitted all over.  Kids just stick out a coupla plant pots and think they’ve got a landscape garden.”

He glanced over at Tyler, and he grimaced.  “Hasn’t had much luck in his life, has he?”

Black snapped his notebook shut and stared at the other man.  “What do you mean?  You know him?”

“Yeah.  He works with my son, Harry, at the solicitor’s; the city practice.  He’s a very smart man, my boy says.  And fair to work for.”

“He’s a fruit –“ Black’s face twisted in scorn.

“And you’re full o’ shit!” snapped Matthews.  “Makes neither of you God or the devil, right?  Harry knew he was gay.  Didn’t bother him.  It’s a new generation, y’know?”  He sighed, as if he’d had this argument plenty of times before.

“So what’s his problem?  Greene’s?”

“He lost a lover last year, as well –  Jordan, his name was.  Sal Jordan.”

“Another accident?”

“Sort of.  Jordan was mad, y’know – or so Harry reckoned.  Insanely jealous.  Caused trouble at Harry’s work plenty of times – wrecked a whole room at the last Christmas party.  Been under shrink after shrink.  It’s been touch and go whether Greene kept his job at all.  Jordan used to call for him daily, turning on the students, accusing them of fucking around with his lover.  We got called out on domestics, too, time and again, out to this very apartment.  Neighbours upset by the arguments – Jordan smashing up furniture ‘n all.”

“Greene should’ve dumped him,” shrugged Black.

His partner privately agreed.  “Sure – but Greene never made a complaint.  Pretty devoted, he was.  Put up with it all; made excuses for Jordan; never played away.”

“So what happened to Jordan?”

“There was a road accident – Jordan was on his way to the airport.  Greene had got him a good job, on an engineering contract, pulled all sorts of strings to do it.  Meant that Jordan had to be away for weeks at a time, though, which just seemed to cause even more friction for Greene.  Anyway, there was another guy driving.  They’d both been drinking – the other guy had a record, too; local stuff – car thief; muggings.  They ran the car off the road – it killed both of ‘em.  Open and shut case.”

Matthews looked thoughtful.  “What’s the date today?  Y’know, it’s exactly a year since then – since the road accident.  Hell of an anniversary, eh?”

He looked back over at Tyler Greene again; the guy looked like he’d been crying, and he didn’t blame him, to be honest.  He wasn’t a man who thought boys shouldn’t cry.  And particularly not when this guy had such shit heaped on him.  He remembered his son’s stories, after Jordan was killed.  It was the talk of the practice for months; they all had sympathy for Greene, who was well liked.  He’d been devastated – obviously really cared about the dead man.  Took leave of absence; spent time in bereavement therapy.  He’d only just dragged himself back to a full caseload of work, a couple of months back.

Harry Matthews was as straight as they come – but when he talked to his father about Tyler Greene, his expression had been full of compassion. The man had never been seen with anyone else, ever since Jordan died.  Whatever the guy’s faults, Jordan was the only one he cared for.  But just recently, he’d told Harry that he might be interested in someone again; that he might come back on the social scene.  It had been a long and lonely year for him.

“Can’t say he’s much of a date, eh?” grinned Black.  “Wouldn’t fancy my chances with his track record, even if I played for the other team.”  Matthews looked at him with open distaste.  Guy was a good enough officer, but a shocking human being sometimes.

Then they both looked back over at the couch, more than a little curious.

Tyler Greene sat back on his seat, face pale and haggard, a hand running through his sweat-soaked hair.   He glanced over at the side table; Matthews’ eyes followed.  There was a framed picture standing there, of Greene with another, laughing, handsome guy.  Must be Jordan, Matthews supposed.  Simple little snapshot, really; nice display…

Tyler Greene’s face had gone such a shocking shade of white that he looked as if he’d pass out on the spot.

“Poor sod,” Matthews murmured.  “Guess that’s just the way of some guys’ luck.”

 

 

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