As he crosses the threshold, it is as if he’s sent back into time. Certain artwork are still here after so many years, which is something he can understand. The two sculptures in question, that he is looking at, can be called hideous at best. Kevin plays with his keys. He really should get out of this art-gallery. What is he doing here anyway? Trying to find…..
“Kevin? Kevin Walker?” That voice behind him, is one he would recognize out of a thousand. He turns around.
“Hank.” He says. Hank is obviously not so much into sports anymore, the full, muscled body replaced by this tall, more slender body. His usually short hair is replaced by the curls that Kevin had loved to run his fingers though and that Hank always had cut away, because ‘it’s too long, Kevin ’. His hazel-brown eyes, the long nose, the soft mouth. Oh, Kevin remembers how he loved to kiss those lips.
They just stand there for a long moment, just looking at each other. It’s been 5 years and in those 5 years so much has happened….
“Why are you here?” Hank asks, a bit worried.
“I dunno.” Is the only reply Kevin can come up at first, then he stammers: “I was reminded of you this weekend and … I wondered, how you are doing? What happened to you? I was very angry way back then and I wondered if I still felt that same anger….”
“And? Do you?” Kevin shakes his head. Hank seems to be relieved.
“Can I offer you some coffee?” Kevin nods and he follows Hank to Hank’s office. Some things never change. The same shelves, the same books although some have been added, the same… picture of Hank and him at the beach? Kevin is shocked to see it there. He takes it and watches it closely. The 8-year old picture is still the same frame, it has faded a bit, but the boys on the pictures are still the colorful, laughing boys-in-love they were then.
“You still have this picture.” Kevin says and Hank nods.
“Still have good memories of that day, those years … and of you.” The tenderness and gentleness in Hank’s voice touches something in Kevin. Yes, he remembers now why it was so hard to get over Hank. Hank is a nice, caring and loving person. He would never hurt anyone on purpose. Which made everything even harder to understand for Kevin. How could Hank have deceived him like that?
He sits down on the couch and Hank sits down next to him. He turns a bit to face Kevin. His knee almost touching Kevin’s. Kevin’s smile is a nervous one and he finally brings up a question.
“So, how are you?”
“Fine. Happy. Busy.” Hank answers carefully. “The gallery is finally going as it should. Of course a lot is thanks to T…” he coughs and corrects himself: “… lot of hard work.”
Kevin bows his head to hide the smile, takes a deep breath and asks:
“How is Toby? Are you two still together?”
Hank relaxes visibly and suddenly more enthusiastic, he replies:
“He is doing great. We could not have been so successful, if it hadn’t been for him. He has such a good eye for art. And for the price that people are willing to pay for it. All I have to do is make sure that it is well put on display so that the right people see it…. And you? How are you doing?”
“Good. Still a lawyer. Still making good money… I got married two weeks ago.” Kevin says shyly.
“You? Married? Never!” Hank replies, shocked, Kevin grins.
“Anyone I know?”
“I doubt it. His name is Scotty Wandell. And he is a sous-chef at ‘San Estephe’.” Hank whistles in approval.
“Younger. He is 28 years old.” He knows that Hank immediately does the math. Seven years difference. Hank nods, but doesn’t react. Instead he lets his hand cover Kevin’s hand.
“There was a time when I sincerely hoped you would ask me…” he says.
“I almost did…” Kevin confesses.
“What? When? Why didn’t you?” Hank seems baffled.
“There was something about finding in you in bed with Toby that sorta killed the fun of proposing to you….” Kevin shrugs.
Hank takes his hand away, looking reprimanded. And a part of Kevin regrets it, because it felt good to feel Hank’s hand on his. Then he hears Hank reply:
“If you would have asked me then, I would have turned you down.” And that triggers something in Kevin. Much to Hank’s surprise Kevin first bites his lip in an attempt not to laugh, but his grin can’t be ignored and suddenly he snorts with laughter.
“So if I would have proposed to you while you were having sex with Toby, you would have turned me down? Geez, I’m heart-broken.” He giggles. Slowly a smile spreads across Hank’s face.
“That didn’t come out well, did it?” he laughs. Kevin shakes his head and squeaks:
“Sss..sorry this is so NOT funny.” But the tears are on his face. And, now, they are both laughing out loud.
It takes a while before they catch their breath again and then Hanks says:
“I have missed this…… I have missed you….” For the first time they really make eye-contact. Kevin nods and he lets his forehead rest against Hank’s shoulder. An old intimacy not forgotten between the two former lovers.
“I’ve missed you too.” Kevin’s voice is rough. “I didn’t just lose my lover, the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I… I lost my best friend.”
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry.” Hank apologizes softly.
“Why, Hank? Why did you betray me like this?” Kevin asks in a voice just as soft, almost as if he doesn’t dare to ask the question. “When did you stop loving me?”
“I never did. That was just the point. I loved you, I still do…. It’s just… It’s just that, what I felt for Toby ran even deeper. How do you tell someone that you really, really love that there is someone you love even more? How do you tell someone who rules your world, that there is someone who controls your universe? Did you think that when Toby came into my life, I just flicked a switch? That I stopped loving you? I didn’t.
Every day I promised myself that I would tell you the truth and I would come home and see you, happy, smiling at me and I knew I loved you and that you loved me and I ….. I didn’t know how to break your heart. I just couldn’t do it.” There are tears in Hank’s eyes. Kevin blinks. Suddenly he wonders how it would have been, if Jason had not been Malaysia. He had known that his heart belonged to Scotty, the moment Scotty walked back into his office. He loved Jason, but what he felt for Scotty surpassed that.
Could he have looked Jason straight in the eyes and tell him that there was someone he loved more? Could he, Kevin Walker, stand there and watch Jason getting hurt? See his pain? Would he have been brave enough to tell the truth? He sighs.
He looks at Hank, suddenly aware of his pain, his anxiety. With his thumb he wipes away a tear on Hank’s face. A gentle gesture. They smile at each other. An understanding is reached between them, without either of them saying a word about it. They know each other well enough to know how the other one feels.
Kevin’s forehead rests against Hank’s, his hands cupping Hank’s face.
“It’s alright. I think I finally get it. And it doesn’t matter anymore. I am very much in love with someone else and I no longer want to carry any grudges with me.”
“Does that mean, that you will forgive me?” Kevin nods. He plants a small kiss on Hank’s lips. He wants closure. He needs to get rid of all those negative things from the past so he can concentrate on the future. His future with Scotty.
There is a noise at the door and Hank and Kevin looks up. In the doorway stands Toby, white as sheet.
“Toby!” Hank looks guilty and Kevin realizes what it must look like to Toby. He gets up and walks up to Toby.
“Toby…” But Toby turns around and walks away. Kevin immediately follows him. He sees how Toby takes a door that brings them to the emergency stairs. He descends several steps, before collapsing on the stairs. His breathing is uneven and for a moment Kevin worries that he’s having heart-problems or something.
He sits down next to Toby and places his hand on Toby’s shoulder.
“Toby… It was not what you think.”
“No?” comes Toby’s sarcastic reply. “You didn’t wait all this time to destroy what Hank and I have built? … He still loves you, you know.” Kevin doesn’t know what to say. There is an anger and hatred in Toby’s voice that Kevin cannot understand.
“Why are you so angry at me?” Kevin asks. “You were the one that ‘won’ in the end. Toby chose you over me.”
“No. He didn’t. He couldn’t chose between us. YOU made a choice for us, not Hank.”
It only slowly registers with Kevin what Toby means.
“… and you feel second choice in this? That is ridiculous. He loves you.”
“Does he?” Toby obviously doesn’t believe Kevin.
“Sure. You were more important to him than me.”
“It was you he returned to every night.”
“He didn’t know how to break my heart! He didn’t know how to tell me that, as excellent a choice, I could have been, I always would came in second. Because there was one man he loved more, than me, and that was you!!” Toby still looks at him with disbelieve. ”And I am not here to break up anything. Quite the opposite, I came here to find closure. Toby, I got married two weeks ago to wonderful, younger man and I love him to death. I want to close this chapter of my life, so I can concentrate on my life with Scotty. Hank is right. I know what it feels like to love man, but love another even more. … Toby, please go back to him. He is so happy with you, so proud of what you and he have built up here and he loves you so much. Don’t let a meaningless kiss between two old boyfriends ruin what you have with him. He loves you, not me.”
Toby sits there for a few seconds, silently, as Kevin watches him. Then Toby lifts his head.
“Wow. You really know how to defend a case, don’t you?” Kevin grins.
“Go back to him?” he asks. Toby doesn’t have to answer, because at that moment Hank finds them. He stands there on the top of the stairs, looking desperate.
“Toby…. I’m sorry. I….”
“Shh, it’s alright.” Toby says, quickly walking up the stairs to wrap his arms around Hank.
From over Toby’s shoulder Hank gives Kevin a look of gratitude and with a smile on his face Kevin follows Toby and Hank back to the gallery, where Toby shows him the latest paintings and though Kevin listens and watches politely and with the right amount of interest, he is not very interested. The bright, messy paintings are not his style, nor are the bulky, shapeless sculptures and besides Scotty would be livid if he would put one of the atrocities in their living room.
And slowly but surely they end up at the door and Kevin has to say goodbye. He turns to Toby and Hank, but mainly to Toby:
“You know, Toby, I said this to Hank this morning: when he and I split up, I didn’t lose my lover, I also lost my best friend…..” Kevin searches for the right words. “I would like it if perhaps we could… re-establish the friendship? Slowly. I am not expecting everything to run smoothly, but it would be nice if we could stop the ‘being enemies’ part.”
“That would be nice.” Toby says in a neutral tone and Hank’s grin widens.
“I would love to see us become friends again, Kevin. Perhaps we can go out once? Just the four of us, Toby and me and you and…. Scotty?”
“I will ask if Scotty agrees, but I think he’ll be curious too.” Kevin smiles, wondering with what Scotty will go this time. After the lobster and the soft-shelled crabs... Shrimps maybe?
Hank gives Kevin a strong hug and Kevin feels a bit awkward under Toby’s watchful eye, but then he turns to Toby and, much to Toby’s surprise, Kevin hugs Toby and says softly, close to his ear:
“Take good care of Hank. He means a lot to me.”
“ Don’t worry, I will.” Toby smiles and Kevin leave the gallery.
Walking back to his car he notices how light he feels now, like a huge burden fell from his shoulders and he feels really happy.
Barely back in the car, his cell-phone rings, seeing the name on the display he smiles:
“Hi, sweetie, get up late…?”
“Hi, love, no not really, I missed you in bed. Are we still on for lunch?”
“Sure. Can we make it one o’clock? Usual place?”
“Good. I’ve got something to tell you. You won’t believe what I did this morning.”
“Surprise me! I’ve had a weird morning myself.”
“Alright, I’ll tell you later and, Kevin?... I love you.”
“I love you too.”