IF THERE was an award for enduring the worst week of your life, Devon figured he should be collecting it.

It had started on Tuesday, when the big boss had called him, ten minutes before lunch, and asked him to go up to his office. Devon hadn’t thought too much about it. Kelvin Brookes might have been the CEO of Brookes Associates, but that didn’t mean he knew a damn thing about computers. At least once a week, Devon or one of the other tech support guys was required to sort out a problem on Brookes’s machine.

But when Devon stepped into Brookes’s office, he didn’t get a request to recover some accidentally deleted files or sort out a failed software update. Instead he was informed the company’s profits were down 30 percent this quarter and that meant making layoffs. The tech support team was being reduced by one, and as they operated a policy of last in, first out, Brookes was very sorry, but he was having to let Devon go.

Five minutes later, still in shock, Devon found himself being escorted out of the building by a security guard. He was given long enough to collect his personal possessions with the guard watching over his shoulder the whole time to ensure he didn’t try anything by way of revenge on the company, like changing all the logins or releasing a virus onto the main server.

At least Brandon would be able to offer him a shoulder to cry on when he got home. Brandon always knew just what to say to console Devon. It was one of the things he loved about him.

He spent the afternoon on the couch, too dazed to do anything but watch TV. Tomorrow he’d polish his resume and start sending it out. Times might be tight, but people always needed computer guys.

When Brandon walked through the door, he’d known at once that something was wrong. He’d coaxed the details from Devon and been as sympathetic as Devon had hoped, telling him everything would feel better once they’d had something to eat, and ordering in pizza from their favorite place.

Brandon had gone to take a shower, telling Devon that if the delivery arrived before he was dried and dressed, there was money to pay for the pizza in his wallet. Sure enough, the doorbell had rung while Brandon was still under the spray, singing show tunes off-key. Devon had pulled a twenty out of the wallet, along with a folded piece of paper that smelled faintly of some expensive cologne. Curiosity had gotten the better of him, and once the delivery boy had left, Devon opened the paper.

It was a handwritten note.

 

Brandon,

God, I miss you so much and you’ve only just left. I’m lying in bed and the sheets still smell of you….

 

Sick to his stomach, he hadn’t bothered to read any further. He knew a love letter when he saw one. He’d thought about stuffing the note back into Brandon’s wallet and pretending he’d never seen it, but that wasn’t possible. They’d always promised they would never lie to each other, never keep any secrets, and this was evidence that Brandon had been doing both those things.

Brandon had walked into the room wearing a T-shirt and sweatpants, hair still damp from the shower. “Mm, that smells good. You get the plates, and I’ll open a bottle of wine.”

“Who is he?” Devon couldn’t hold back the words.

“What are you talking about, lover?”

“He sent you this….” He thrust the note at Brandon. For an instant, Brandon’s smile had faltered, then he’d recovered. If Devon hadn’t known him so well, he might almost have missed it, but that expression had told him everything. Brandon knew he’d been caught out.

“You don’t know him.”

“Brandon, you’ve always been a terrible liar. Tell me the truth.”

“Okay.” Brandon rubbed his freshly shaved cheeks with his hands. “It’s from Michael Winters.”

“Michael Winters…. As in your boss, Michael?” When there was no denial, Devon went on. “You’re fucking your boss? Oh, how clichéd.” He tried to fight his rising anger. “How long has this been going on?”

“Devon, we didn’t…. He doesn’t mean anything to me, I swear.”

“Really, because what’s in this note sounds pretty much like meaning something to me.” He’d glanced at the letter again, despite his better judgment. This time, he noticed it was signed with a flowing M. “Oh, he wishes the two of you could be together always. That’s nice. Well, there’s an easy way to make that happen. I’m leaving you.”

“Don’t be stupid. Where would you go?”

“I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll find somewhere. This is your apartment, after all, and you won’t want me hanging around, getting in the way of your happiness with Michael.”

“Listen, lover, you’re not thinking straight. Sleep on this, and you’ll feel different in the morning, I know you will….”

Brandon’s wheedling tone had been the last straw. Whatever they’d had together, it was over. Devon might have forgiven Brandon for many things, but not for sleeping with another man behind his back.

That night, he slept on the couch. He thought about crashing with a friend, but realized he wasn’t close enough to anyone to impose on them like that. Somehow, in five years of being with Brandon, he’d managed to shed all his close friends from college, and he didn’t know any of his former coworkers well enough to consider them anything more than drinking buddies.

How did I let things end up like this? Something has to change, and soon. Maybe breaking up with Brandon is for the best. It’ll help me get things back on track.

If he kept repeating that, he told himself, maybe he might even start to believe it.