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“And then he texted me. Again.” Beth finished her tirade about what my former lover was doing to her. It wasn’t that she was angry that Elo had tracked down her number, or that he’d emailed her, found her on Facebook, and then texted her all in the space of ten minutes.
“I’m sorry,” I began, but she was on a tear and I sat back in my seat and watched her pace.
“He wants to know why we are getting married, and what am I supposed to tell him? Huh? That we’re being blackmailed into it by scheming parents and that despite the fact it is 2018 we’re giving in?”
I closed my eyes briefly. “Do you want your dad to out Lisa, to share those photos of her that he has?” I asked softly. Beth’s girlfriend was an investment manager, high up in Swindall’s Bank, home of the oldest boy’s club of managers, and the only woman. One wrong move and there were photos that could ruin her career, photos that Beth’s father held close to him. She wasn’t ready to be part of a scandal, ready to be outed in the worst kind of way, and Beth knew that. Beth was as strictly controlled by her secrets as I was. I agreed to this marriage to stop my father from suing the Rush for every single cent he could, outing Goog, and destroying Taz’s career. She was protecting her girlfriend, but at least they were still together. What happened with her relationship after we were married was up to her. Our marriage would be in name only.
“Two thousand and eighteen,” she said, and sunk to the sofa opposite me. “It’s a stupid farce and I can’t believe we let it go this far.”
Now it was my turn to get serious. “I said I would do this to protect a lot of people. It’s a year. We can do this.”
She shook her head. “I don’t think I can.”
My heart sunk, “Beth.”
“What’s the worst that can happen Sam?”
“That one of my best friends ends up with a prison sentence and no career, and my former lover loses his job.”
She sighed, and I knew everything wasn’t entirely lost. She would do this for me, and for her girlfriend, and a year after, we’d be done, and maybe if I was lucky Elo would want to try again.
Yeah, and look out the window at the flying pig.
“You’re the closest thing I have to a brother,” Beth said, and smiled at me, although the smile was wobbly. “One year, and we can protect everyone.”
I returned her smile. “We’re god damned heroes.”
“What do I say to Goog when he next texts me?”
“He won’t,” I said, and stood up, smoothing my shirt. “I’ll talk to him, make him stop.”
“You know I’m still with Lisa, right? There’s no reason why you couldn’t be with him in secret.”
If I gave in to Elo, what we would have could never be secret, he was all noise, and passion and lust.
“If only it was that easy.”
She followed me to the door of her place and hugged me. “Nothing is impossible.”
I just wish I believed her
I arrived at Elo’s place a little after five. The Rush didn’t have a game tonight, and I hoped that after practice and conditioning he would have headed home. Otherwise I’d be sitting on my ass in the hallway outside his tiny apartment for a very long time.
I knocked and waited, saw the change in light with a person looking through the spyhole. Was it Elo? No one opened the door, and I imagined whoever was behind there was considering why the hell I was even at the door.
I knocked again. “Elo?” I said, as strongly as I dared in the hallway for fear of getting all his neighbors out investigating the idiot shouting loudly.
The door opened, and it was Elo standing there, his expression weird, like he couldn’t believe I was here.
“Sam?” he asked, and looked past me, checking out if there was anyone else with me. Who was he expecting? Beth?
I pushed my shoulders back. “You have to leave Beth alone. Please.”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “I want to know what the hell is going on and you won’t talk to me. You don’t love Beth, you don’t want to marry her, you want to be with me, and I am damn well coming out for real so that we can be together.” He was shouting at me, or at least talking so damned loud I knew people would hear, so I shoved him back in his apartment and shut the door.
“That is not what this is about.”
He manhandled me then, literally picked me up and set me on the sofa, standing over me like some kind of avenging angel.
“Then tell me. Start from the beginning and tell me what this is about so we can work through it and get back to thinking about us.”
“You don’t know how much I want us.”
Elo paced then, from one end of his apartment to the other, and only stopped when he’d walked enough to ease the tension in his balled fists. Then carefully he sat on the chair opposite me, folded his hands in his lap and inhaled and exhaled noisily before finally sitting still.
He was everything that was dear to me, the other half of me, the only man I’d ever trusted and loved. I had to tell him why he needed to leave Beth alone, why I wasn’t the right person for him, and make him promise not to make things worse.
Even maybe ask him to wait for me. I didn’t know where to start and I waited for him to say something, but he didn’t. Instead he simply stared at me, and I realized this time there would be no kissing, or impassioned pleas, there was just me, and Elo, in an empty place. I had nowhere to hide. He was giving me nothing to get angry about, no reason to defend anything.
This was all me.
So I cleared my throat.
“I don’t know where to start.”
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