Matt and Jared are havin’ a New Year’s party. Started out with Matt sayin’ how they need to stay active in the community and maintain a positive image. What the fuck ever. Jared wasn’t really into it, but then Lizzy heard ’bout it, and you can pretty much guess what happened after that. And ’course if Matt and Jared are havin’ a party, Zach and I gotta be there too.
There’s a few cops and their wives, a whole buncha teachers, some of Lizzy’s friends, and Brian’s too. As soon as we walk in the door, Zach groans.
“What’s wrong?” I ask him.
“I hate parties,” he says. “I don’t know anybody here.”
I can’t help but laugh. “What are you talkin’ ’bout, Zach? We know everybody here!”
“They all rent from us.”
“Who’s that?” He points to a lady across the room.
“Susan Dahlinger. She works at the bakery in the grocery store. Likes action flicks.”
“Ann Farraday. Teaches at the high school with Jared. Likes foreign films. Only one in this town who rents ’em too.”
“Frank Jacobsen. He’s a mechanic at that shop over on Fifth Street. He likes action flicks, too, but his wife likes dramas. Half the time, they compromise by rentin’ romantic comedies. Guess they figure, that way, nobody’s happy.”
I look back at Zach, and the look he’s givin’ me actually makes me blush. Like I’m somethin’ from another planet, or—I don’t know—like I really am an angel just like he says, and he’s just amazed.
“How do you do that?” he asks me. I don’t have an answer for him. I just pay attention, and I know he doesn’t.
Jared comes over then and drags me away. He’s got it in his head now that I’m readin’ more that I should join a book group. He introduces me to a couple of people: the chick who teaches English at the high school, and another lady who’s a nurse. I’m not so sure ’bout a fuckin’ book group to begin with, and he’s found me one that’s all chicks? Sometimes I think Jared doesn’t get me at all. Then there’s times like this when he proves it.
So I’m standin’ there while those two ladies talk to me, and that’s when he walks in.
I know right away this guy’s not from Coda. First, just ’cause I never seen him ’round. And second, ’cause he’s queer. And I don’t just mean queer like me or Matt or Jared or even Zach. I mean queer with a pink flamin’ capital Q. He’s shorter than Jared, but taller than me. He’s thin and has brown hair. His clothes aren’t what you see ’round Coda much either. He’s dressed sorta like a ’80s punk rocker, ’cept with way more class. Like a rich kid’s version of Sid Vicious. He’s definitely got money. He’s a little bit fem. Oh, and one more thing: he’s fuckin’ hot. I see him, and the first thing I think ’bout is how it would feel to take those rich-boy clothes off of him.
He comes in and talks to Jared—and he’s flirtin’ with Jared like crazy, and Jared’s just brushin’ him off. Not like he’s bein’ rude. It’s more like he’s used to bein’ hit on by the guy, and he’s not takin’ it seriously at all, and I’m wonderin’ what Matt’s gonna think ’bout this. And then the guy turns around and looks at me.
Now, I sure as hell don’t believe in love at first sight. But I do believe in lust at first sight. And that’s exactly what this is. For a second, he just looks me up and down, and then he smiles. It’s not just any smile either—it’s the kinda smile that’s an invitation, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that we’re both thinkin’ the exact same thing.
But I’m with Zach.
This whole “relationship” thing is still so new to me.
First guy I ever fooled ’round with was just before I turned sixteen. He and I had a few weeks together, gettin’ each other off ’bout every night before his mom caught us. Never saw him again after that. Eleven years later, I met Zach, and we been together a few months now. But in those eleven years between Bobby and Zach, I never had any kinda relationship at all. Every sexual encounter I had—and I ain’t gonna lie; there were lots of ’em—was quick and impersonal. Mostly just guys I met at clubs. Twice when I was younger, not even twenty yet, I went with the same guy three times. But there’s somethin’ ’bout the third time that makes people think you gotta start talkin’. Both times, it was that third encounter that made ’em start wantin’ to know my name, where I was from. All that bullshit that I had no desire to share. So after that, I had a rule: twice max, with any one guy. Few years later, I decided even that was too much.
Up until Zach, that is.
I know there’s sex, and I know there’s love, and I know if you get lucky, there’s sex and love. That’s what I have with Zach. And I learned over the last few months how much better it is. So up ’til now, I haven’t looked back. But all of a sudden, I’m wishin’ I could do the quick and impersonal thing again, just one more time.
The new guy’s talkin’ to Lizzy now, but he never takes his eyes off me for long. I can feel him watchin’ me. And right or wrong, knowin’ he’s watchin’ me is turnin’ me on. The more I try to tell myself not to think ’bout him, the more I find myself lookin’ his way.
I finally look ’round and find Zach. He’s in the kitchen talkin’ to Matt, and he’s lookin’ right at me. I make my way over to him through the crowded living room. Matt leaves before I get there. I lean against the counter next to Zach, with my back to the guy I’m tryin’ to ignore.
“Having fun?” Zach asks me, and there’s somethin’ funny in the way he says it. Not accusing. More like he’s laughin’ at me. When I look at him, he’s just smilin’.
“Sure,” I say.
“Who is he?” he asks.
“Who?” I ask, even though I think I know.
He gives me a pointed look, still sorta smilin’, and says, “The guy you’re flirting with.”
I feel my cheeks turn red, and I look at the floor. “Don’t know.”
“He’s still watching you.” He doesn’t sound upset, or jealous. He still sounds like he thinks the whole thing is kinda funny. “He’s cute,” he says.
“If you say so,” I say, but I can’t look at him.
“Angelo,” he says in that voice that means he thinks I’m bein’ an idiot, “you think I don’t know by now when you’re turned on?”
Now I really can’t look at him. I feel ’bout two inches tall. I’m embarrassed, and I’m ashamed. I feel guilty. I love Zach so much. The last thing in the world I want to do is hurt him.
I’m just ’bout to open my mouth and tell Zach that I’m sorry, when suddenly he says, “Go ahead, Ang.”
I look up to find his eyes on me. “What?” I ask stupidly. Not usually me who can’t keep up when Zach and I are talkin’, but I definitely feel behind right now.
“Go ahead,” he says again, smilin’ at me. “Have fun. Just come back to me when you’re done.”
For a second I just stand there, totally speechless. Is he sayin’ what I think he’s sayin’? Is he serious? Or is this some kinda test? Not like Zach to do that, but I still wonder. “I can’t,” I finally manage to say.
He looks surprised at that. He’s lookin’ at me, doin’ that thing he does, like he’s searchin’ for an answer and if he looks hard enough, it’ll appear there on my forehead or somethin’. And I guess maybe this time it does, ’cause he suddenly gets this look of comprehension on his face.
“We can’t talk in here,” he says quietly. “Come on.” He takes my hand and leads me through the house and then out into the backyard. It’s cold, and the only people outside are a couple of ladies smokin’ on the patio. Zach leads me past them into the yard, where Matt and Jared have a picnic table. He sits down on it so he’s my height. I’m havin’ a hard time lookin’ him in the eyes.
“Angelo?” He waits until I finally meet his gaze, and then he says, “I know you want him. I know he wants you. So, what’s the problem?”
Now I really feel like this is some kind of trap. “I’m with you, Zach.”
He reaches out and grabs one of my belt loops. He pulls me over to him. “I don’t mind.”
I think ’bout that for a minute. We never really talked before ’bout whether we were gonna be exclusive or not. Guess I just assumed we were. “You tellin’ me it’s okay if I sleep with other guys?”
“No.” His gaze on mine is intense, and I know what he’s gonna say next is important. “I’m telling you that here, tonight, it’s okay if you sleep with him.”
“Okay.” I’m kinda relieved actually he’s not sayin’ we’re gonna have a totally open relationship. But it’s not gonna be one hundred percent monogamous either. Some gray area in between. And then I realize what that might mean. “I couldn’t do that for you,” I tell him. “Might not be fair, Zach, but I’m not sharin’ you.”
He smiles at me. “I doubt you’ll ever need to.”
“You won’t be jealous?”
I see him thinkin’ ’bout that for a second. Then, instead of answerin’ me, he asks me a question. “Is there anything that can happen with him that would make you leave me?”
I don’t even have to think ’bout that one. “No!” I grab him and kiss him hard. Wrap my arms ’round his neck, and feel his arms go ’round my waist. “Not ever leavin’ you.”
He smiles, but asks me another question. “Do you think there’s any chance that what you’ll have with him will be better than what we have?”
“But you still want it?” I don’t have to answer him. He sees the answer in my eyes, and the way I start to blush again. “It’s okay, Ang. I can’t stop you from wanting other people. I certainly can’t stop other people from wanting you. I guess I could take you home and try to make you turn all that energy my way. But really,” he shrugs, “I think you know how to separate sex from your emotions.” ’Course I do. It’s what I did for eleven years. He pulls me close again and kisses me. “Let him have a little piece of you, Ang. As long as the rest belongs to me.”
“All of me belongs to you,” I say, and it’s the truth. ’Cause even if I do fuck the guy, I’m not plannin’ on sharin’ any shred of my real self with him at all. “Are you sure?” I ask Zach.
He smiles. “I’m sure, Ang.” And then he gets sort of businesslike. “Will you take him to our place?”
“No way.” Never took guys home with me before. Sure as hell not gonna start now. “We’ll stay here.”
“Good,” he says. He kisses my forehead and stands up. “Have fun.”
I stay in the backyard for a few more minutes, freezin’ my ass off and thinkin’ ’bout Zach. I’m hopin’ like hell neither one of us ends up regrettin’ this.
I go back inside, and I spot the guy right away. Pretty clear, too, he’s been watchin’ for me. He gives me that smile again—the one that I know is an invitation—and nods his head toward the hallway. Toward the bedroom.
And this time, I smile back.
He waits for me where the hallway starts, and when I get there, he takes my hand and leads me down the hall. Jared’s comin’ out of his bedroom just as we get there, and he practically runs right into us.
“Where’re you going?” he asks, looking back and forth between us.
“To the bedroom,” the guy I’m with says. “You don’t mind, do you, sugar?” It’s the first time I heard him talk, and his voice is light and melodious and a little bit feminine. His tone is teasing, almost laughing. Like the whole world’s a joke, and he’s the only who gets it.
“What are you planning on doing once you get there?” Jared asks.
The guy laughs. “Sugar, you are so cute when you play dumb.” He’s still holdin’ my hand, but he puts his free arm ’round Jared’s waists and pushes up against him. “Why don’t you come too?”
Jared brushes him off, like he’s done it a million times. His cheeks start to turn red, and he looks right at me. “What about Zach?” he asks.
“What ’bout him?” I ask. Not ’cause I don’t know what he’s gettin’ at, but ’cause it annoys me that Jared thinks he’s gotta get involved.
“Have you thought about what will happen if he finds out?”
“He already knows.”
“Yeah, man. He’s in the kitchen. Go ask him yourself if you don’t believe me.”
“I don’t think you should—”
But the guy cuts him off. “Sugar, you know how much I love it when you go all small-town on me, but really. We’re all consenting adults here.” He pushes his way past Jared and into the bedroom, pullin’ me along behind him. I close the door and lean against it, and he steps up close to me.
“I thought you were going to make me wait all night,” he says, smilin’ at me, and I can’t help but smile back.
“I thought I was too,” I say.
“I don’t want to cause any trouble with your boyfriend. Were you telling Jared the truth?”
“I’m not lyin’. He said it’s okay.”
His smile gets a little bit sexier. “Good.” He leans against me and kisses my jaw. His tongue flicks over my ear. His touch makes my pulse race, and I’m already mostly hard. I’m not thinkin’ ’bout anything but what I want to do to him. But then he whispers in my ear, “Does he want to join us?”
Just a few words, but it’s like a slap in the face for me. Not sure why I didn’t think of that. Maybe it would be better. But then I think ’bout seein’ Zach touch some other man, and I know I couldn’t do it. Zach may not be the jealous type, but I am. I push him away just a little so I can see his face. “You can’t have Zach,” I say, and I sound angrier than I meant to.