There was something surreal
about sitting in this sunny kitchen with pale yellow walls and friends and a
dog –if you could call Galian that– that was seriously debating chewing on my
loafer. That the man I possessed a frankly overwhelming desire to touch was
living a picture book life in a pale-blue two-story house with –I shit you not–
a white picket fence, a dog, and a woman who could almost be his wife was irony
not lost on me. After all, I always wanted the most unattainable men.
The gentle way Shera touched my
mangled flesh, the astounded look on Cid’s face –all of it added to the bizarreness
of the situation.
Finally, the trance was broken
by Cid slamming his hand on the table, startling both Shera and myself. “Damn
it, Vince, what have I told about you saying stupid things?” he growled, his
I blinked up at him.
He touched my ruined hand,
turning it and looking at my palm. “Why is it that you cannot see the beauty of
things as they are?” he asked me, his voice softening as his calloused
fingertips traced the shadows of gun-worn callous and the tender areas where
tendons and ligaments bulged uselessly. “Why can’t you see that while a result
is not always beautiful to the eye, the journey can make it beautiful to the
Just as gently as he had taken
my hand, he released it and rose from the table. “Why don’t you come with me? I
think you could use that surprise now…”
I stared at Shera as he walked
away from the table. ‘Follow
she mouthed at me.
Shaken by his kindness, his
outburst, his touch, I rose to trembling legs and followed him to the
staircase. Careful to keep a respectful distance behind him, I counted the
steps slowly in my head. One.
Two. Three. Four…
Of course, when he paused at
the top of the stairs, I nearly ran into him. I saw the hint of a smile as he
led me along the railing and opened the room furthest in.
“Go on and take a look,” he
Puzzled, I walked over to the
room cautiously. Peering into the surprisingly large room, I saw a full-size
bed dressed in fresh linins, a dresser and the door to a closet. The rest of
the room was mostly full of cardboard boxes. They were a second wall against
the wall opposite of the closet, and the handwriting seemed strangely familiar.
I looked back at Cid.
He laughed aloud. “Take a
closer look, Vincent.” I shivered at the way he said
my first name and did as he bade, leaning over until the scrawl became legible
and I read the word he’d written in all caps: “VINCENT”. Underneath, in his
familiar handwriting, it was labeled “Clothes”. Looking back at him, I did my best
to keep from gaping in shock.
“I knew your old landlord, and
he gave me a call when he needed the apartment cleared out,” he admitted,
trying not to meet my gaze. “I thought it would be terrible for you to lose
absolutely everything all at once, so I kept what I could for you. This room used
to be my office, but I really didn’t use it much.” Those wandering blue eyes
finally met mine. “I thought you needed a place that would be all yours when
you got out.” His smile was brilliant. “You are welcome to stay with us as long
as you need –hell, as long as you would like!”
I would have sworn my bones
melted in place. He… he wanted me here?
Pain wrenched through my heart
as I corrected myself. No, with him and Shera.
After all these years, I hardly stood a chance with him. I was more of a mess
than ever, and I was pretty sure that he could never want me.
“I worry about you, Vince,” he
admitted, his voice low. “You’ve lost so much so quickly, and that’s a shock to
the system, definitely.” He sighed heavily. “I’m here if you need someone to
talk to or someone to yell at or someone to exist with. Just so you know.” He
reached out, as though he wanted to touch me, but then he sighed and his hand
dropped to his side. “I’ll let you settle in, then.”
He left me in silence with the multitude
of boxes, each one carefully labeled with my name. I shifted through until I
found a box labeled “Photos”. Opening it slowly, I found photo frames neatly
wrapped in newspaper and placed in the box in an orderly fashion. They were
each labeled in permanent marker: “Graduation Day”, “Opening of Seventh Heaven”,
“21st Birthday”, “Turks”, and “Family Portrait”. Gingerly, I unwrapped
the last one and stared at the framed photograph. It had been the last family
portrait before Mom’s diagnosis and we all three looked so happy in it that I
almost wanted to cry.
“He wouldn’t let me help pack
your things at all,” a voice from the doorway informed me.
I sat the photograph back in
the box and looked up at Shera.
“That’s our Cid, though: once
he makes up his mind, there’s no stopping him.” Shera laughed and sat down on the
edge of the bed, as close to me as she could get. “He’s also not really good
about saying the important things, so I will. Cid and I fought about whether
you should be in our home, though since you got here, I have to agree that Cid
was right. He wanted you here, he wanted you comfortable, and he wanted you
free. If I have to be honest, after ten years as his best friend and business
partner, you are the first thing he
has ever gone after with such single-mindedness.”
I blinked at her. “You two aren’t…?”
“Oh, Gaia, no!” she exclaimed,
horrified. “He is like my scruffy brother. He’s the best damn mechanic and
engineer I’ve ever met, but he is also a regular drama queen. I don’t think I’ve
ever met a gayer guy, honestly.” She shook her head. “And we’re not going to
talk about just how long he’s been hung up on you, love.”
I choked. “What?”
She arched a brow. “How on Gaia
did you not know? He’s not exactly
subtle. For one thing, he acts completely
different with you: he treats you as gently as he treats his machines.”
Reaching out, she tucked my hair behind my ear. “You’re hung up on him, too,
aren’t you?” she inquired, her voice as sweet as the cookies she’d baked.
Mother of Shiva.
Her laugh was light. “Oh, love,
he’s not even noticed it. You’re perfectly safe… but you might want to take him
before someone else does.” She winked at me.
Oh, Holy Mother Gaia. I
am so screwed,
I concluded, setting my head in my hands as she patted my leg and left me alone to my thoughts.