Dean opened the door and staggered backwards. “What … are you … doing here?”
“May I come in?” Kevin asked and, when there was no response, ran his hand over his mouth. “Dean, I —”
“Go away, Kevin.” Dean went to close the door, but there was resistance. His gaze landed on Kevin’s large white hand holding the door open. He raised his head slowly until their eyes locked, his heart pounding. Don’t be the same fool twice.
“Please, Dean…” Kevin’s voice dropped low, like a petty thief who’d finally admitted his guilt. “I just … can we talk?”
Dean, staring into his ex-brother-in-law’s olive-green eyes, opened his mouth to speak but no words came. As much as he wanted to say, “No,” he couldn’t. He needed an ally, he needed to feel connected to someone. “Five minutes,” he got out and stepped aside.
Once Kevin was in the house, they went into the living room, immured in a stony yet necessary silence. Kevin sat down on the far end of the armless grey sectional sofa. Dean, meanwhile, stood by the fireplace and tried to discreetly study the man who’d upended his life. That medium-length sandy surfer hair that made him look like a badass. The thin red kissable lips. The straight, roman nose. The aristocratic eyebrows. The lean, toned body. He was hot! Suddenly, Dean was pushing down that ache quietly awakening within him. This wasn’t good. Not at all.
“You’re wasting time,” Dean said, breaking the silence.
Kevin looked up. “I’m sorry that —”
“You’re sorry?” Dean tried but couldn’t tamp down the rage in his voice. “My sister hates me. My parents won’t speak to me. And you’re sorry?” Calm down. Breathe. “I don’t care that you’re curious or bisexual, or going through some midlife crisis. I just don’t understand why you chose me to fuck around with. You had to have known what would happen.”
“Cynthia came home early.”
“You weren’t expecting to get caught?” Dean barked. “Do you think that really makes a difference?”
“You know what? This is a mistake. You should go.” Dean started to leave the room.
“I thought you knew…”
Dean stopped at the living room entryway and spun around. “You thought I knew what?”
“How I felt about you,” Kevin said, matter-of-fact.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Kevin, scratching his eyebrow, gave a nervous laugh. “Do you remember the night the three of us me?”
“Not really.” Dean glanced away.
That was a lie. Dean had never stopped thinking about that night, five years ago, when he and Cynthia had met up for drinks. They were at Temple, a wine bar popular with the downtown business crowd. It didn’t take him long to zero in on the tall blond with a mischievous smile seated at the far end of the bar. And every time he looked in the guy’s direction, their eyes met. Fate? Then he nudged Cynthia in her side and, pointing with his beer stein, said, “Look.” Then came the wave, and two minutes later the three of them were talking and laughing like old friends.
“I was sort of trying to come out that night,” Kevin said with defeat. “I was tired of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. By the way, I was waving at you, not your sister. But when I joined you, well, you didn’t seem as interested as Cynthia.”
“I don’t get it.” Dean crossed to the sofa and sat down on the opposite end. “You could have ‘come out’ and told Cynthia you were gay. You didn’t have to marry her.”
“I know. I just…” Kevin’s knee bounced up and down. “A week after we’d met, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was so concerned about me being alone, so —”
“Stop!” Dean shifted his body to look at Kevin. “You’re trying to blame everyone but yourself. This is all on you.”
“I know.” Kevin leaned forward and clasped his hands together. “And I’m trying to fix —”
“Fix?” Dean stiffened. “You can’t fix this, Kevin.”
“Maybe not fix,” Kevin growled. “Maybe just, well, you and I —”
“What? You think…” Dean, with an eyebrow raised, burst out laughing. “That’ll never happen. Not now. Not ever. You’re the reason I’m leaving the only place I’ve ever called home.”
“Leaving?” Kevin’s voice spiked with panic. “What do you mean?”
Dean sighed. “I’m transferring to my company’s Vancouver office. I need to put some distance between me and my family. Maybe that’ll help us heal. Maybe one day forgiveness will be on the table. Right now … I can’t be here.”
Kevin slid over to Dean and reached for his hand. “I’m sorry. You were the last person I ever wanted to hurt.”
Dean’s head fell forward. He wanted to pull his hand away, but he couldn’t. The handholding was the connection, however loose and inappropriate, he so desperately craved. He needed to hang on a little longer. When Kevin let go, he was surprised by the tear that streaked down his cheek. “I’m sorry.” He looked up. “I don’t me to blame you. This mess is my fault, too.”
“As crazy as it sounds,” Kevin said, placing his hand on Dean’s thigh. “I’d like us to be friends.”
“You know that’s not possible, either.”
“I guess.” After a long silence, Kevin stood and headed into the foyer.
Dean followed and, at the door when their gazes locked again, he was one more time fighting that ache. They waited, hoping the other would say something — open that pathway to forgiveness — but the silence reigned. Kevin, his lips pinched, forced a smile. Then he opened the door and rushed out of the house.
Dean staggered back to the sofa and collapsed. I’m doing the right thing, he thought of his decision to move across the country. Stockdale was too small and becoming smaller the longer he stayed. The scornful looks thrown at him when he stopped for his morning coffee at Starbucks. The conversations that stopped abruptly as he walked down the corridor to his office. The rapid dive in his number of Facebook friends. It seemed like everyone blamed him singly for destroying his sister’s marriage.
At least he didn’t know anyone in Vancouver where he couldn’t necessarily forget the past, but maybe he could outrun it.
“Don’t Be the Same Fool Twice is the conclusion to last week’s story, “Too Close for Comfort.”