Greg paused in the sheltering doorway of the University of Wisconsin bookstore as, amazed, he peered out into a blizzard.
No, not really a blizzard, he quickly told himself, fruitlessly taking a step back away from the cold. This was normal weather in Madison for December 6, 2010, and he had darn well better get used to it. Just another snowstorm, that was all.
With determination, Greg wrapped his scarf around his neck, even if it wasn’t the kind of scarf he needed for this weather. When he’d packed for his big move north, it’d been hard to comprehend what sub-freezing temperatures would actually feel like. The past week had educated him thoroughly about numb fingers and blocks of ice for feet. With him counting every dollar ’til the end of the month, though, the inadequate clothing he’d brought with him in search of a graduate degree would have to do.
He made sure his jacket was zipped up as high as it would go and then out into the wind he went. The parking lot was blocks away, giving him plenty of time to be astonished at all the weather-immune people who were still taking advantage of State Street’s vibrant, open-air pedestrian mall. Tiny, twinkling lights glowed with holiday festivity, but after that first look around, Greg hunched down into his jacket and walked as fast as he could, mindful of the heavy backpack that wanted to overbalance him on the slippery sidewalk. Whether he ever managed to grow accustomed to a true winter or not, right now he really wanted to get in out of the cold.
“Excuse me,” a woman said as she dodged out of his determined path. A man followed her, and then another woman, and then another. He glanced up and with a pain-filled heart saw that they were all leaving the Catholic Community Center. Not once since he’d arrived in Madison in late August had he attended mass, there or anywhere else. They’d been the first Sundays in his entire life that he hadn’t been a loyal son of the church; the catechism said he was damned because of it.
Greg stopped right where he was on the sidewalk, took a deep breath that froze his lungs, and asked himself the big question for the thousandth time. Was he damned? He didn’t know. For weeks now he’d been telling himself that nobody knew, not really.
But according to the church, he was trembling on the brink of being damned twice over. From the time he’d stared at a men’s underwear ad in the Florida Times-Union when he was twelve, he’d known in his heart that women didn’t do it for him. Men did. Nothing had changed that, not his prayers, not the whispered, fervent confessions he’d made to Father Hummel in the dark of the confessional, not his determined dating of girls in high school, and not living a sexless life all through college.
The church said that homosexuality was an “intrinsic moral evil.” Enduring the celibacy the church wanted him and all homosexuals to embrace, Greg said he was horny beyond belief and awfully lonely. If he kept going on like this, he… he didn’t know what. He’d crack, that’s what.
But he wasn’t going to change anything standing there in front of St. Paul’s, so he got his feet moving again. The last of the group leaving the campus church walked in front of him, two guys wearing short jackets that showed off great asses. Greg’s heart jumped up into his throat, and for one wild moment he thought the slender fellow on the right might be….
But no. Corey, whom he’d met at an August orientation meeting, whom he’d spent a few hours talking with, who’d exchanged numbers with him, who’d given him hope and featured in his wistful thoughts about change and what might be, who made his heart a little sore to think of even now, had not miraculously re-appeared. And if he ever did, what difference would it make? Corey was undoubtedly straight. He hadn’t called, and Greg hadn’t been sure enough of himself to dial his number either. Corey might be someone Greg had gotten along with one hopeful afternoon and who starred in his fantasies when he couldn’t control himself, but he wasn’t the solution to his problem. Corey probably didn’t even remember him.
Greg blinked snowflakes from his eyes. He’d come to Wisconsin with the intention of changing his life, but it hadn’t worked out that way. Yet, he told himself sternly. He hadn’t changed yet. He lived his celibate life—that was driving him crazy—dreamed his dreams of kissing a man, and endured his blue balls. It was just so hard to change. So hard to find the time or the energy or the courage to….
“Excuses,” Greg muttered to himself as he trudged along in the fading light. “I’ve got to stop making excuses.” And he needed to finish a paper that night too. He hitched his backpack higher onto his shoulders and kept going, although he felt colder.
His 1995 Honda Civic, with 199,879 miles on it, didn’t want to start, another worry when he couldn’t afford repairs. He persisted, and the fourth try was a charm. Traffic was a mess, of course. He chugged forward along with everybody else stubborn enough to take their cars and not the reliable bus system, rubbed his hand on the windshield to get rid of the obscuring fog, and wondered why he was so eager to retreat to his cheerless apartment.
His cell phone rang then; his mother was calling. He was tempted to ignore her, but he picked up.
His mother could read his mood with only those two words. “Greg, so sorry to be calling at a bad time.”
“No, it’s all right.”
“What’s wrong, honey?”
She didn’t even know he’d stopped going to church, which for sure would horrify her, and he didn’t think it was a good idea to tell her about his raging desire to lose his virginity to a man. “Nothing. I’m a little tired. What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering when you’d be coming home for the holidays. I’m trying to—”
“I’m not coming home.”
“What? I don’t think this is a good connection. What did you say?”
“I’m sorry, Mom, but I’m not coming home for Christmas.” He couldn’t help it if he sounded a little glum. Anybody would. The light turned green, he pressed on the accelerator, and the Honda coughed before grudgingly agreeing to move forward. “I can’t afford it.”
“Greg! Are you sure?”
“The bank statements don’t lie. I can’t afford to take a plane, and there’s no way the car would make the trip. I’ll try to make it home over spring break, but I can’t do it now.”
“Oh, dear. We’ll miss you so much.”
“I know. I’ll miss you too.”
“Maybe we can lend you—”
His parents weren’t exactly flush with cash. “No, don’t even think it. I’ll be fine.”
“I hate to think of you alone over the holidays. What will you do?”
“Work at the grocery store and do a lot of reading, I guess.”
“That sounds so lonely, Greg. You stuck up in an attic apartment, it reminds me of Jo March in Little Women.”
“Mom, this is Greg you’re talking to, remember? Not Jennifer.”
“Speaking of Jennifer, she’s bringing her boyfriend home for a full week in December. I was going to ask if he could bunk with you, but now…. So would it be okay if he stayed in your room? I don’t feel comfortable letting them… I mean, together. You know what I mean.”
He loved his family, but nobody would call them social liberals. If they ever found out his big secret…. That was dumb. He was barely telling himself; they’d never know.
“Greg? If you don’t want him to, then—”
“No, it’s all right. What’s his name again?”
His mother started talking about whether Danny was serious about his relationship with Jennifer and would pop the question. He listened with only half an ear and wished he had a headset. And a relationship. Didn’t he deserve a relationship? The VW in front of him almost slid into the next lane, straightening itself just in time. It would be full dark in another half an hour. Nobody had warned him about how short the winter days were here.
“Look, Mom,” he interrupted her. “I’m driving in a snowstorm, so I’d better get off. I’ll talk with you later.”
“All right. Take care, honey. I’m so sorry we won’t be seeing you this Christmas, but….” She paused and then unbelievably came out with, “Maybe Santa Claus will bring you something to cheer you up. Bye.”
He stared at the phone in his open palm. Santa Claus? Santa Claus? Did his mother think he was some kind of kid instead of a grown, twenty-two-year-old man who—
Thump! Thump! Thump!
The steering wheel jerked out of his hand, and the car veered sharply right. Greg dropped the phone and struggled to regain control, but with an obvious flat tire and the ice on the road he had no—
Thump! The Honda banged against the curb and tried to jump it. He quickly jammed on the brakes.
For a few seconds he sat there, stunned, while more fortunate cars and trucks found their way around him and his small personal disaster. Then he came to life and pounded his fist on the seat. “Damn! Damn it! Great, just great!”
Out into the frigid air he went, slamming the ancient door behind him as hard as he could. Night was closer now. The Honda’s front end nuzzled up against the curb like a baby wanting the comfort of its mother, with its back end not quite stuck out into the flow of traffic. Slowly, Greg walked around to the back right tire that was totally, incontrovertibly flat, with no air left in it at all. A total failure of a tire.
He squatted down next to it, but his eyes didn’t go to the ruined rubber. His eyes wandered disconsolately down to the driven-in snow instead, and everything caved in on him.
The weather. His haughty, non-communicative adviser. His tiny apartment with the music-lover living joyfully, loudly next door. How the graduate department of philosophy was requiring him to take two courses that he’d aced in undergrad over again. And what the hell was he going to do with a PhD in philosophy anyway? Nobody was hiring. He was adrift in so many ways. He had no trip home for Christmas to look forward to and no church community—no church home—to sustain him.
He wished God, or the universe, or one of Tolkien’s elves, or the Santa Claus his mother apparently believed in would give him some sign that… that… that he should stay in this winter hellhole where his virgin balls were freezing, instead of running as fast as he could straight south into a fake, married, heterosexual life where at least he’d have somebody to talk to at night and he could go to mass on Sunday with a clear conscience.
Or…. He closed his eyes. God, he wished he could figure out how to be a gay man.
Greg twisted around and jerked upright, searching for whoever had just thrown a snowball dead center against his back. There! He took two steps toward a figure fleeing down the sidewalk. In the growing gloom and the storm all he could make out was that he had on a red stocking cap.
“Greg? Is that you? Greg?”
Behind him on the sidewalk was a man, all bundled up, but…. Greg took a step closer, squinting to see better. The scruff of a beard he didn’t recognize, but the slight frame, the dancing eyes and pointed chin, the wisps of dark hair emerging from under the black stocking cap, the black eyebrows, and now the smile that wouldn’t quit… he did.
“Corey?” It looked like him, and the voice had sounded the way it had been reverberating in his memory. “Is that Corey?”
“You remember me?” Corey asked. “We met at—”
“At the orientation, right. You were working the table for the Eighteenth-Century Club. We talked about—”
“And the cafeteria food,” Greg added, stunned. “Early American novels and… and—”
“How you were thinking of writing about some German philosopher for your master’s thesis.”
“Right. Johann von Herder.”
Corey took a step closer, earnest now. “I kept wanting to find you, but my cell phone was stolen, and I didn’t know your last name. It’s really good to see you.”
Greg took off his glove, thinking that they’d shake hands, but instead Corey stepped down into the street where he stood and engulfed him in a genuine hug, such as Greg hadn’t experienced since he’d broken up with his girlfriend right after the senior prom. Their jackets rubbed against each other, making a rustling sound, and their faces were breathtakingly close. Greg wasn’t touching any skin at all, only the impression of flesh and bone under his fingers through the heavy fabric, but even so, a thrill prickled the length of his arms, so intensely that he was shocked a little. This was definitely his most wonderful moment since he’d come to Wisconsin.
They pulled apart, and Greg was embarrassed that he let out an awkward laugh. To cover up, he said, “It’s Jenkins. My last name. Greg Jenkins. And I’m philosophy, first year.”
“Philosophy!” Corey clapped a hand to his forehead. “I kept thinking you must be German Studies or something.”
“English lit, in my second year.”
The swish-swish of traffic passing, everybody trying to get to somebody, filled the silence between them that followed. A truck drove by too closely, forced out of its lane, and splashed up snow that landed on Greg’s boots, but neither he nor Corey moved. Greg kept blinking as if to clear his vision so that reality would reappear, but all he saw was this long-wished-for man in front of him. Then Corey said, “Wow, this is quite a coincidence, meeting like this at last. I never would have known that was you if you hadn’t jumped up right then.”
“That was because some idiot threw a snowball at me. Did you see who it was?”
Corey shook his head. “Snowball? Nope, I didn’t see anything like that. I can’t believe I’ve finally met you again, Greg-Jenkins-from-the-philosophy-department. I’ve been hoping I’d run into you around campus, so I could ask you out for a coffee or something.”
Ask him out? If he hadn’t already been looking Corey in the face he would have executed a classic double-take, one for the movies. Ask him out?
“But first we’ve got to take care of your car. Do you have a spare? Want some help?”
As he spoke, Corey let his backpack slide down to the ground. On its bright orange canvas was a blue-and-yellow sticker, the equality symbol of the Human Rights Campaign. Either Corey was gay or he was an outspoken straight ally who liked to hug other men.
God? Are you listening? Let him be gay.
“Sure,” Greg said, trying not to swallow his tongue. “Help would be good.”
Lug bolts never seemed to come off easily, that was a statement of fact, and so they struggled there in the street as the overhead lights came on and going-home traffic thickened. Corey cursed when the tire iron slipped and cut his finger, and Greg hollered and barely managed to jerk his hand away when the jack shifted. A police car stopped to see how they were doing, and they both assured the officer they’d be fine soon. By the time the spare tire was on, Greg was disheveled, actually a little sweaty, and frantically wondering what came next.
“Well, that’s that,” Corey said, and he rubbed his hands together before he pulled his gloves back on.
“Uh.” He wasn’t good at this. Corey had mentioned coffee, but he couldn’t…. How did he…. “Thanks for the help,” he managed to say.
“Can… can I drive you home?”
“Nah, I live right around the corner. I’d just gotten off the bus when I saw you. But it’s dinnertime, and a man’s got to eat. How about some pizza?”
Corey wanted to go to an Italian joint a few miles up the road. During the short trip to Angelo’s, Greg felt like it must be somebody else driving, somebody else sitting next to an attractive gay man who seemed to like being with him. Could this be happening to him?
“Take a left on Thresher Road,” Corey directed. “It’s another few blocks.”
The headlights of the Honda cut through the night, but glare bouncing off the falling snow still made it hard to see, especially once they turned off into a less-well-lit neighborhood. Corey sent him right, left, and right again until they drove into what seemed like a crowded parking lot for a Monday.
“Ready to go?” Corey asked.
And that was the question, wasn’t it, Greg thought as he followed him into the warmth, good smells, and buzz of conversation. Was he ready to… go? To proceed with this night, which he desperately wanted as the start to a new life, when it would also mean final alienation from the faith he’d grown up in? Truly, he’d loved being a Catholic, and more than a little of how he’d felt so adrift in Madison had to do with not being part of a faith community for the first time in his life.
“Booth for two,” Corey told the hostess. “Maybe in the back room where it’s not so loud?”
“Follow me,” she said.
Corey shrugged out of his jacket, hat, and gloves as they walked through one low-lit, wood-paneled room after another. When they stopped at an empty, clean booth at last, he put his outerwear on a hook and slid into one side, but Greg stood there stupidly, feeling and probably looking like an immobile snowman.
“Greg? Going to sit and stay for a while?” Corey asked, glancing up at him from under short black eyelashes.
The man had incredible lips. So kissable.
Greg tried to cover up what must be a monster red flush by turning and fussing with getting out of his jacket. Yes, he wanted to have a pizza and some beer with Corey whatever-his-last-name-was and at least explore the possibilities. Just because he was having a meal with the man didn’t mean he was the devil who would pull him straight down to hell with unnatural sexual acts. Greg determined he was not going to act like a teenager.
And he didn’t. As they started with cheese curds and beer and graduated to pepperoni and mushroom pizza, they talked. After the first fifteen minutes or so, they talked about anything and everything, including that Greg worked stocking shelves, all the hours he could get when he wasn’t studying, at the Copps grocery store off University Avenue. He asked Corey what he did.
“I wish I was one of those lucky geniuses who got fellowships,” Corey said with a sigh. “But it’s grunt work for me. Mainly, I’m a teaching assistant, thank goodness, because I’d be starving without that. I’m working with Professor Kaplan on a survey course.” Corey rolled his eyes. “It’s a ton of work because he won’t grade anything himself, dumps it all on me. Especially now, at the end of the year.”
“I’m trying to get as many hours as I can at Copps,” Greg offered. “I got gifts for my family, and it about destroyed my budget.”
A shadow seemed to cross Corey’s face. Greg was watching so closely that he caught it, there and then gone in an instant.
“Well, I don’t have that problem,” Corey said. “Though I did pick up another job a few weeks ago. You’ll never guess what it is.”
“It must be seasonal. Uh… retail at the mall?”
“Not much closer.”
Corey was regarding him with a small, almost shy smile, showing off a killer dimple. Greg could hardly take his eyes off him. If he’d put in an express order for the kind of man he’d be attracted to most, Corey would have rolled off the production line.
“Last guess,” Corey said.
Greg took a wild stab at it. “You’re working valet parking at the mall.”
“I’m Santa Claus at Nico’s, that sporting goods store off Twenty-First Street. Would you believe it?”
Greg laughed out loud, startling himself. “You’re kidding.” Corey was pretty much the opposite of a stereotypical Santa Claus.
Corey straightened and patted his stomach, which was as flat as Greg’s kitchen table. “It’s amazing what padding and makeup can do.”
“Do you like it?”
“Love it,” he said almost defiantly, and Greg had a feeling he understood why. Would the store have willingly hired a gay Santa Claus? Probably not.
Assuming Corey really was gay.
“Doesn’t it get hot in the suit?”
“A little. But it’s no big deal. So, what do you think of Madison’s winter weather so far?”
Greg finished his first beer, and he relaxed a little. Sure, he was aware that he was sitting across from a dream-come-true gay man, but he knew something else as the first hour ticked by: he hadn’t had this much fun talking to someone in months. In years.
“Are you still thinking of von Herder for the master’s thesis?” Corey asked when the pitcher of beer they’d ordered was down to its dregs.
“I don’t know. I’ve got to learn German a lot better than I know it now. What about you? What are you researching?”
That got them started on a wide-ranging discussion of literature from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which Corey was intensely interested in. Eventually The Scarlet Letter came up.
“I wish my old boyfriend had read that,” Corey said ruefully. He picked up the last wedge of pizza and took a bite from it.
Greg tried not to make it obvious that he was fist-pumping inside because his big question had finally been answered. He nodded as if people talked to him about their boyfriends every day, when as a matter of fact he’d never heard any man use that word in conversation with him.
Corey swallowed and continued. “He should have been wearing Hester’s big, red A for the last semester we were together.”
“He, uh, he cheated on you? During undergrad?”
“Yep,” Corey said. “We were together from when we were freshmen. I finally called him on it the last day of junior year. It took me a while to recover from that.” He talked down to the pizza in his hand. “Everything changed then. I’m still recovering, I think.”
“That’s rough. Two years.”
“Two and a half, but who’s counting? So, tell me.” Abruptly Corey’s tone changed. He dropped the pizza, planted his elbows on the table, and leaned forward. His brown eyes were intense as he asked, “Are you seeing anybody right now?”
“Uh. Uh… no. I’m not…. I mean, I haven’t….” Greg silently cursed what he was sure was his total awkwardness. He didn’t want to reveal his inexperience or the isolation he’d endured this last semester. In flailing about for something else to say, he came out with “How about you?” And then he froze, because he couldn’t believe he’d actually asked that. Even though he really wanted to know.
“I am free as a bird,” Corey said softly. “I’ve been way too busy to even think about being with somebody. Second year is tough.”
“Oh,” Greg got out. “Me too.” He gripped the edge of the wooden table and then let it go.
“Want to catch a movie this weekend?”
Things might have been moving awfully fast for Greg, when hours ago he’d been pining for the church and the mass outside St. Paul’s, but he wasn’t fool enough to say no when everything in him was screaming yes. “Sure,” he said.
The waitress put the check on their table then, and Corey scooped it up. “This was my idea, so I’ll get this. You can pick up next time.”
Greg didn’t object. The fact that there was going to be a next time was still blowing his mind, and his mind was thinking about blowing something else. Somebody else. Corey, who had Greg’s favorite kind of body, a body selected from hours of not-so-innocently watching the summer Olympic Games from the time he was a kid. Corey might have been a gymnast, maybe a little taller than the best of them, but with the same compact, controlled body, and the same exciting flow of muscle and movement. As he followed Corey through the twists and turns of the restaurant, back to the parking lot, Greg felt like a redwood tree next to an aspen. His own height and the broadness of his shoulders felt clunky compared to Corey. Corey moved with a sure stride, with a certain grace, the way athletes who’d competed in the original Olympic Games must have moved. Corey might be Greek in ancestry with his dark, handsome looks. The Greeks had run their races and thrown their javelins in the nude, and Greg didn’t have the self-control not to think of what Corey might be like nude, standing next to a bed, or walking toward him, maybe even with a sinuous roll of his hips….
Greg swallowed hard against the tide of shame that hit him. He didn’t want that shame. Go away!
He focused on the back of Corey’s neck, just under his hairline, and that was attractive to him too. If he could touch….
Snow was only lightly falling when they emerged into the freezing cold. In the two hours they’d spent inside, Madison had been transformed into a covered-in-white picture postcard. Soon traffic would turn the streets to slush, and jagged pathways would cut into sidewalks. But for now, the streetlights sparkled on a heavenly, pristine landscape. It was all still new enough to Greg that he stopped in the doorway at the sight, to take it in.
Corey must have realized he wasn’t being followed and came back to stand next to him. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Greg, not wanting to appear too foolish, shrugged his shoulders. “Just a little snow in a parking lot.”
“Not when you’re not used to it. Where are you from?”
“Florida, outside Jacksonville. How about you?”
“Oklahoma. I bet you’re looking forward to the warmer weather over the holidays when you go home.”
Greg shook his head. “Nope. I’m staying here.”
“Really?” Corey gave him a sidelong glance. “Me too.”
“Nope.” Corey lightly punched his shoulder, their first contact since that hug Greg wasn’t likely to forget. “We can hang out together, don’t you think?”
Oh, yes, he really did think. “Okay.”
They stared at each other, and Greg’s heart pounded. Corey’s smile came out, and Greg couldn’t help but smile in return. The last two hours seemed to grow larger and larger inside him, growing too big for the space that contained them, as if they would pop inside him. Corey’s eyes got darker and closer, whether in truth or only in his mind he hardly knew, but Greg was so happy that he’d been hit by that snowball and turned around, allowing himself to be seen.
Someone behind them said “excuse me,” and that broke their focus on each other. Greg cleared his throat. “Let’s go,” he said. “Got to get you home.”
The route back to Corey’s apartment, just two blocks from where they’d met, seemed a lot more straightforward than it had going the other way; he’d be able to find his way back to Angelo’s with ease. The Honda had even started the first time, to his surprise, and he and Corey talked about where there was a good mechanic in town when the inevitable day arrived that he’d have to take the Civic into the shop.
That conversation lasted long enough to get them to Harper Street, where Corey had an apartment in a big corner house with a porch, and engaged enough of Greg’s attention so that his worries about what came next didn’t overcome him.
He pulled up the long driveway next to the house, because there never were any parking spaces available on the street unless a person was lucky, and he put the car into park. The peculiar lighting that came from the lights of a city bouncing off snow reflected into the front seat, imparting a soft glow to everything, including his ungloved hand on the steering wheel. Corey’s face would be bathed in that light. Greg turned because he wanted to see. He said, “Thanks for dinner” at the same time that Corey turned to him with “Thanks for the company.”
They each laughed, and Greg, emboldened by a kind of giddiness, said, “You’ve grown a beard since we met at orientation. I almost didn’t recognize you.” He wanted to reach out and tug at it, but he didn’t have the nerve or nearly enough beers in him for that.
“Oh, yeah, this,” Corey said, and he stroked it lovingly. “What do you think of my Mountain Man style?”
“I’m not sure. It’s not really mountain. It makes me think of some classical statue in a museum. But you….” He looked out the side window at a Christmas manger display down the street, then turned back and daringly said, “You looked good without it.”
“I’ve been thinking of getting rid of it, but I haven’t decided yet.” Against the low rumble of the engine, Corey lifted one shoulder and said, “I’d ask you up, but I’ve got a meeting with my advisor over Skype in half an hour. Not to mention a roommate who’s probably home by now.”
That was both a disappointment and a relief. “That’s okay. I’ve got a paper to finish anyway.”
Greg was prepared for him to open the car door, walk up the rest of the drive, and disappear into the house. Instead, Corey brought up a knee to rest on the seat, coming closer. “A goodnight kiss?” he asked. “I am right, aren’t I? You’re gay, I’m gay and old-fashioned, and we’ve just had our first date?”
If Corey was waiting for a response, he was going to wait for a long time, because there were two Gregs clamoring for two different things that tugged him in opposite directions. But Corey didn’t wait; he followed up almost immediately by reaching for him, wrapping his left hand around the back of his neck, and steadily drawing Greg forward until their lips met.
Greg’s eyes fluttered and closed as he took in the unmistakable masculinity that he’d been craving for what seemed like forever. This was what it felt like. He hadn’t been kissed in four long years, but when he had, it had been nothing like this. Surety. Strength. And yet, so warm and soft.
Slowly, Corey pulled away. Greg felt like he never would have. Seeing the man sitting in the front seat of his car, he felt dizzy, or as if he’d had way too much to drink.
“Again,” Corey whispered
This time there was tongue. Greg started it, because it would have been obscene not to open his mouth and give his tongue to Corey. He drew in air through his nose, knew a moment of panic—what must Corey think of him, too eager—and then lost himself. His cock throbbed in the presence of a real, live person, a man, a gay man with a cock himself, and the whole world had to know how right it was.
It was when he thought, triumphantly, “Father Hummel, this isn’t wrong!” that he pulled back with a jerk. Corey didn’t seem to notice his confusion. He caressed Greg’s cheek with open fingers.
“’Night,” he said quietly, and then he opened the car door and got out.
Greg watched him go up the drive and the steps of the wooden porch, but then he suddenly pressed the button that rolled down the passenger side window.
“Corey!” he yelled.
Corey turned and retraced half his steps. “What?”
“What’s your last name?”
That brought out a laugh. “Papadopoulos. What’s your cell number?”
Greg hollered it boldly, knowing he could be heard down half the block and not caring. Corey keyed it in, waved, and then disappeared with the house door banging shut behind him.
For a few seconds, Greg sat there, stunned, while less fortunate cars and trucks found their way down the street behind him and the small miracle that had just happened. Then he came to life and pounded his fist on the seat. “Yes! Great, just great!”
He put the car in gear, backed out into the flow of traffic, and set off toward his apartment. The night was magic.