The oil lamps in the cottage were lit. The soft light spilled out of the uncurtained windows onto the decking. The moon was reflected in silver ripples across the lagoon, and the air was warm and utterly still. Tom closed the door of the car, quietly. He knew that Adam had to be aware of his arrival. The stillness of the country night, the darkness of the forest, the loneliness of the cottage meant that it would have been hard to miss.
His relief that Adam was there and alive made him light-headed.
He had marshalled arguments and words, but when he opened the door and saw Adam sitting in the tatty comfy sofa, an open bottle next to him, the single glass black with wine, he found that none of them would do.
“You know where the glasses are, Tom.” Adam’s voice was calm but dark with sadness.
In silence, Tom went through to the kitchen, fetched a glass, poured himself some wine, and sat down cross-legged on the floorboards in front of Adam. He stared at Adam, drinking in the familiar sight of his face, his curly hair, his expressive hazel eyes. He knew without question what he felt now. He’d had a lot of time alone in the car, time in which he’d thought very hard about himself, about Adam, and about the two of them. He gave thanks to whomever was listening that Adam was still alive. He would take it on his own from here.
“I found out about your job,” he said at last.
“Yes, it’s a bugger, isn’t it?”
Tom waited for Adam to say something more.
“I’m sorry I shouted at you,” Tom said at last.
“You were within your rights,” Adam replied quietly. “I should have told you when you asked about girlfriends.”
“Fuck it, Adam, it was none of my business. Anyway, if I hadn’t been so thick, I would have connected the dots myself.” There was another long silence, both of them sipping from their glasses. Then they both spoke simultaneously.
They both gestured for the other one to speak. Adam gave Tom a small grin. “Go on, boofhead. Speak.” Tom was immensely comforted by the grin. He allowed himself to hope a little.
“You see, Adam, I think it was because of something I had to understand within me. Something I didn’t want to know about.” Adam started to interrupt him, and Tom reached over and put his hand on Adam’s leg, and left it there. “Hush, buddy. Just listen. I think that’s why I was so blind. I’ve done a lot of thinking in the last twenty-four hours. And I’ve connected some dots in my own picture. So there’s something I want to tell you, Ads, that I know now, which I didn’t before.”
“Go on,” said Adam, in a whisper, his body stiff with apprehension.
“I love you, Ads.”
Tom hadn’t expected Adam’s reaction. Adam burst out laughing. “Oh, Tom, you are such a lovable, wonderful man. You are my greatest and closest and dearest friend. But you’re straight, little Tom. As a plumber’s rule. I’ll give you a certificate if you like. Don’t tell me you love me because you pity me.”
Tom took another sip of his wine. He was calm. This was a battle he was going to win. It was no different to footy. You put your mind to it, and you gave it your best, and you won. Simple.
“I don’t know anything about this straight and gay stuff, Ads. But I do know that I love you. It’s pretty obvious, and it has nothing to do with my cock. When I’m with you I’m happy. Happier than I’ve ever been, with anybody. When I’m not, I think about you all the time. I understand you…” Adam snorted disbelievingly “ …and it’s as if I know what you’re thinking. I find being with you peaceful, no, better – right. It fulfils me. I haven’t thought of a woman since I met you. I like lying next to you at night, listening to you breathe, watching your chest go up and down. You’re my best friend. I can’t imagine living without you. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel when I love a man. But this seems like love to me. Adam, you fulfil me, somehow. You complete me. Those are the things I’ve been thinking, buddy. I wanted to tell you, to make sure you understood. And I’m not giving up. I want you to be mine.” He looked at Adam, his face unsmiling, intent, earnest.
Adam could see that Tom believed every word of what he said. Adam knew he had to stop this before it went too far. “Tom, I….OK. I’ll tell you what you know and maybe stuff you don’t know. Thomas Milton Siedentrop, I love you more than I’ve ever loved anybody, I think, more than I ever will love anybody. But I knew you were straight.” Tom made a dissenting grumble, but Adam ignored him. “I was prepared to accept you, as you are, a one hundred per cent hetero guy. Just to be your friend was enough for me. To have you in the same flat as me, to see you each day, to sleep in the bed next to you, Tom, these were enough. ’Course, I’d like to make love to you, every morning and every night. Who wouldn’t? You are so beautiful and sexy and fine. But that’s not essential. I thought I could even live with you getting remarried again, as long as I was still your best friend. I was looking forward to your children, to watching you be happy. It was enough. Don’t think you have to tell me you love me, now, Tom. I know you care for me as a friend. But as for any more than that… Tom, I don’t think you are wired right. I know it’s not easy to accept.”
“It’s not the idea of sex that bothers me,” said Tom embarrassed. “It’s the . . . well, the way two guys make love.”
Adam grinned at him, suddenly feeling as contented as he’d been when they’d come down for the long weekend. “You dill. So a kiss, a cuddle and a wank frightens you? No, don’t answer, I know what it is that scares you. You nong, you big fat dildo, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to when you’re making love to someone. You do what you like, what feels good. There’s no law about it.”
“I want to be a proper gay if I’m with you,” replied Tom, coloring deeply.
“You will never be a proper gay, Tom. Not even if I root you and you root me every night. You are just too… well, manly.” He paused for a few heartbeats. “You know what made me hope, when I first met you?”
“No.” Tom got up and sat on the sofa, closer to Adam. He judged that the time was right. The crisis was over.
“You were wearing one of Anita’s thongs in the changing room. And I looked at you, all that butch muscle and tough manliness, I looked at Thomas Milton Siedentrop, buff footy hero, and I thought, no other man, but no other man, could carry such a thing off. But you did. And when you were kind to me and thoughtful about me and cared for me more than any other guy I’ve known, I thought, it must be nice to be so straight that you can do these tender things towards other men and not worry about your sexuality.”
“Why not?” asked Tom reasonably. “What’s tenderness got to do with being straight?”
“See?” smiled Adam, ironically. “I couldn’t do it – any man I’m tender towards will think I’m after his body, even if I’m not. But you can do it.”
“Can we start again, only this time accepting that maybe we can be in love, that the barriers have gone? I don’t know whether I’m gay, Adam, because there’s only one guy I want. I’m not interested in other blokes. Just you. But I do know about love. And I love you, straight or gay, man or not.”
“Well,” said Adam, a little smile tickling his mouth, “if you woo me properly. Flowers, chocolates, dinner. I could respond to those. I’m a romantic, Tom.”
Tom got up and took one of the paraffin lanterns and went outside to the marguerites and geraniums growing in the flower-bed next to the water-tank overflow pipe. He picked some, brought them in, filled a jam-jar with water and arranged them in it.
“Flowers,” he said proudly, presenting them to Adam.
Adam started to laugh. “That gets you a kiss,” he said, when he’d stopped. “But as this is a first date, I won’t be going all the way.”
Tom knelt between Adam’s legs, and said with a wicked smile, before putting his arms round Adam and kissing him, “By the way, I’m wearing a thong now.”
Adam started to get hard, despite himself. Then he smiled. He’d forgotten. “So’m I,” he said. He pulled away after a minute or two, and said, “Stop it, Tom. I said that I won’t go all the way on a first date.” But his smile as he looked deep into Tom’s eyes was filled with promise.
Tom felt a rush of happiness mixing with his desire. And it felt exactly, completely, right and fitting. He had realized on the drive down to the cottage that he loved Adam, but wasn’t sure whether his mental, emotional love would translate into arousal and passion. He would do whatever Adam wanted, to make Adam happy, because that’s what mattered to him. But now he knew that he wanted to do this, that it was more than just his intellect – it was his emotions and his body too. His remaining doubts had evaporated. He wanted to make love to Adam. He wanted Adam to make love to him. How, he didn’t know. But he was pretty sure Adam would know. And he was glad.
Adam was amused to see the lust in Tom’s eyes. He was pretty stimulated himself. “Perhaps,” Adam said with light irony, “we could try a bit of heavy petting, on the second date.”
“Not before the chocolates,” said Tom, equally ironic. “And dinner. May I invite you to join me for dinner at a rather nice restaurant in the town?”
“No, I don’t think so,” answered Adam, shaking his head. “First off, you’ve had too much to drink, and so have I.”
“Only two glasses,” pointed out Tom.
“ …and secondly, we would never be able to eat in peace. You would have some people coming over to tell you they supported your choice and most of the others to tell you that you are a disgrace to footy, to the human race.”
“Take-aways, then. The Thai place does them too.” The calm way Tom accepted that he’d become a pariah made Adam proud of him. Yet he felt a bone-deep sorrow, that someone so good should be judged by his superficial characteristics, once that he could play football like a god, and now, that he loved a man.
In the end, they agreed that they would have to drive to a place where their mobiles had reception, to phone Fiona to tell her they were OK, and to buy some food. They drove to a nearby garage, but had to use the public call-box to contact Fiona, because their mobiles were still out of range of the transmitter.
Fiona had been waiting in increasing despair and worry, gradually becoming convinced that Adam was dead, and more or less certain that if Adam killed himself, Tom would not last much longer afterwards. She had heard enough in his voice to tell her what Tom felt about Adam, and that he had at last understood that about himself. Her relief when she took the call made her cry a little, and then sniffing, she said to Adam, “So now it’s true? Adam, I’m so glad!”
“Well, we’re starting again from the beginning. Tom has to woo me, with chockies and candlelit dinners. And maybe… ” He was looking at Tom while he said this. They kept on catching each other’s eyes and smiling involuntarily. After he rung off, Tom came up close behind him, so close Adam could feel the warmth from his body. He whispered in Adam’s ear, “I love you Adam,” and his eyes shone with happiness and tenderness.
Tom insisted on buying some chocolate bars, looking at Adam and trying not to laugh while he did it. Then they drove into Merimbula proper to buy their supper. Before they reached the edge of the town, Tom put up the hood of the car. Adam realized that they would probably have to do this for years, until they were anonymous. At the restaurant, without comment, Adam went in to order and collect their take-aways.
Back at the cottage, they ate their Thai food in a companionable silence. Neither felt the need to speak. When he had finished Tom burped loudly, and said, “’Scuse I,” but his eyes as he regarded Adam were solemn, as if what had happened was too deep for jubilation. They had drunk half the bottle of wine with the food, and after they had dumped the plastic containers in the rubbish bin, they settled down to enjoy the rest. There was no more wine, but half the bottle of the cream liqueur was still there, and they shared a glass each, before rinsing their mouths with water and rubbing vigorously with their fingers in lieu of toothbrushes. They made up the bed together, after Tom had asked whether Adam wanted him to sleep somewhere else.
Adam’s eyes glinted with mischief. “It’ll do you good to have to restrain yourself, like I’ve been doing all this time.”
So they made up the same bed they’d slept in before. As usual, they kept on their underwear, only this time, they weren’t wearing boxers, but thongs. Tom looked at Adam’s undies, with their shaped pouch in front.
“Nice,” he said laconically. “They give you room to move. Better than these.” He flicked the white lace of his own garment with his index finger.
“I kinda like you in those, Tom. But they don’t cover much. Maybe we needn’t bother to wear them.” Silently they took their undies off. As usual, Tom got in on the right side, and turned away to face out.
“G’night, Ads,” Tom said to the wall.
Adam scooted up against Tom’s back, and put his arms round him, one under Tom’s pillow and the other over his waist. “G’night, Tom,” he said, and he gently kissed Tom’s back.
Tom could feel Adam’s body against his, his chest against his back, his half-hard tool against his butt, his legs against Tom’s. It felt good, even though he did have a raging hard-on. He had meant what he said earlier, about loving Adam with his heart and mind. But the kiss, and now this proximity in bed, knowing what he now knew, changed everything. He suddenly found Adam intensely desirable.
Adam knew Tom had a hard-on, and was glad. That’s one thing that a man can’t fake. It means that at some primitive level of the brain, you are perceived as a sexual object, desirable, suitable, right. The little tendril of hope that had withered over the last day suddenly sprouted and grew anew, but this time Adam wasn’t afraid of it. He would ride the wind, and maybe it would dump him somewhere sad and lonely and maybe it would carry him off to paradise. Only time would tell. And they had enough of that.
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