“You don’t know who you are,” he laughs, as though I’m the one who’s fucking crazy here. “Ever since you holed up with Molly you’ve been going through the motions of some cardboard cut-out ideal of normality. You think being nice has to make you a fucking saint, man. And it doesn’t.”
“Just as well, isn’t it? Because I wasn’t exactly on my best behaviour when I was balls deep inside a girl I’m supposed to be taking care of.”
“You are taking care of her. She’s more loved than she’s ever been.” He sighs and I realise he’s as churned up as I am. “You have to tell me what you want to do here, Mike, because I’m drawing a fucking blank.”
And so am I.
I stare into the coffee like it holds the answer to this whole fucked-up scenario.
“I love her,” I tell him.
“I know,” he says. “So do I. And you’re my best friend, so I love you too. Not in a gay way, before you think this is a come on. It’s not a fucking come on. I’ve no intention of putting my face any closer to your dick than it’s already been, regardless of what that dirty little minx upstairs has to say about it.”
His stupid smile makes me smile back, and I remember again that this is Jack. My Jack. The Jack who’s always been on my team, no matter what.
“My balls were on your chin,” I tell him, and he laughs.
“Yeah, well, I’m pretty sure mine were on yours too. Who’s fucking counting?” His expression turns serious. “Tell me honestly that you don’t want to do it again, and we’ll draw a line under it. We’ll never do it again. She can choose one of us, or live with both of us entirely platonically. Whatever. If you’re really serious about this not being for you, then it’s not viable for any of us.”
I stare at him.
I think about it.
Contemplate the reality of calling time on all this.
And I don’t say another word.CarrieThey aren’t there when I wake, and it cripples me. My heart races as I pull my knees to my chest, all alone in way too much bed.
I scared them away. This whole crazy thing scared them away.
I have to take a breath before I force myself out of bed. My hands are trembling as I grab a spare t-shirt from Jack’s open drawer. I tug it on and prepare myself to face the news.
Prepare myself for the crushing blow of having them both change their minds and throw me away.
It wouldn’t be the first time.
I head downstairs slowly, being so quiet on the stairs. I peek around the corner at the bottom, listening out for any sign of them.
The kitchen door is open at the far end. I hear low voices and wonder what they’re saying about me.
If they’re working out how best to let me go.
I could cry as I head closer, teeth gritted tight so they don’t see me break, but when I reach the open doorway it’s not a load of thanks but no thanks excuses waiting for me, but smiles and open arms and a fresh pot of coffee.
“Hey, sleepyhead,” Jack greets. He pulls me in tight and I take a deep breath against his chest. “We thought we’d let you rest.”
“I thought you’d left me,” I admit, and he grabs my shoulders.
His eyes are fierce. “Never,” he says. “You’re too under our skin to get away from us that easily.”
It’s all I can do to smile, anything more and the relief would come out in stupid tears.
Michael kisses my cheek on his way past to pour me a coffee. “You look cute in your sleep,” he says, and my words come back.
“I look cute all the time, even when I’m being a bratty little cow.”
“Keep on telling yourself that,” Jack says and pinches my nose.
I hitch myself up onto the stool between them and take my coffee gratefully. I don’t know what to talk about so I don’t say anything, for once in my life trusting my fate to other people.
I’m tired of guarding myself so hard all the time.
“What do you want to do today?” Michael asks.
I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question before.
My answer is surprisingly easy to find. “I want to show you my fences,” I tell them. “I want you to see how great it is out there.”
Jack raises an eyebrow. “The great outdoors. It’s been a while since I went out trekking.”
“It’s hardly a trek,” Michael says. “You have a few fields, not a national park.”
“It’s quite a few fields,” I tell him. “Plenty enough for a load of sheep and some goats, and maybe some ponies too.”
“Or plenty enough to let the grass grow just fine without them,” Jack says. “I’m hardly much of a farmer.”