Don’t be surprised they were wrong. Instead, adjust your plans and your actions to handle the new reality.
— Employee Handbook: Mentoring
Upstairs, Jonah was quieter than he’d been all day. We washed up—I found an unused toothbrush in a drawer for him—and then he stripped and climbed into bed.
I turned off the overhead light, and walked over and climbed into bed next to him.
Jonah sat there looking pensive, as I climbed into bed.
“Everything okay?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” he said, but it was clear that everything was not okay, and I wasn’t sure what to do.
I lay down, facing him, hoping he’d say something, or that he would at least lay down beside me, but Jonah just sat there for a long minute, and then he turned to face me.
“Do you like me?” he asked.
The question floored me.
“Like you?” I repeated, puzzled that he could think I didn’t.
“You like having sex with me,” Jonah said.
“Well, yes, but I like you too,” I said.
“Do you?” he asked me challengingly, and I got the feeling this was going to turn into some kind of argument, and I wasn’t sure why.
I motioned to him.
“Come down here,” I said softly, “and I’ll tell you what I like about you,” and I helped adjust the covers as Jonah—a little reluctantly—slid down and turned to stare at me, his eyes bright.
I put my left hand on his right shoulder and gently ran it down the top half of his arm.
“I like your enthusiasm, and your smile,” I said. “I like that you’re smart and fun to talk to, I like that you like to cuddle,” and I pulled Jonah to me and hugged him.
Jonah laughed, and then he stopped laughing and frowned.
“You like that I like to cuddle?” he asked skeptically.
“Yeah. Have you ever been with someone who’s not into cuddling? They’re always; ‘it’s too hot,’ or ‘I’m sticky’ or ‘you’re sticky’ or ‘I’m not comfortable, or ‘I have to go floss.’”
Jonah laughed, and I pulled him towards me and hugged him again.
“You’re a wonderful cuddler,” I whispered into his ear, and Jonah laughed again, and I laughed with him.
“But you don’t want to be with me?” Jonah asked, and the laughter seemed to evaporate.
“What makes you say that?” I asked. I wanted him from the moment I first saw him.
“You keep saying it, and you never invite me over,” he said.
“It’s not that I don’t want to be with you…I just…this whole…the work thing makes it difficult, and you are younger than me, so I worry…”
“Why?” he interrupted.
I shrugged. “I dunno. That you’ll get bored with me?”
Jonah pursed his lips. “What if you get tired of me?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t think that would ever happen,” I said softly. “You know I think you’re fantastic, that I enjoy being with you. You know that, right?”
Jonah gave me a small, hesitant nod.
“I really do, I love it when you’re here,” I said. “I’ve missed you so much the last couple of weeks,” and I didn’t tickle Jonah, but I moved my arms and hugged him tightly to me, and he laughed like I was tickling him.
“I want you to stay. I want to spend more time with you. Will you come over tomorrow night?” I asked him. As I said it, I wasn’t sure why I had said it. It wasn’t something that I’d thought about; it just came to me, and I blurted it out.
“Well, I don’t know,” Jonah said, pretending not to be sure, though I could tell it was an act.
“I’d like you to come over tomorrow night,” I asked again.
“Why?” he asked.
“For lots of reasons. All those reasons, and a few more. But mainly because I miss you when you aren’t here, and I love talking to you and having you snuggled up to me,” and I hugged Jonah and kissed him on the side of the head, and then on the lips, and we lay there, holding each other.
I stared at Jonah, and he was blinking, and I realized that his eyes were watering, but he seemed okay. And we didn’t talk anymore, and we didn’t have sex, but just holding him was more than enough.
The next morning, Monday, we shared a rushed breakfast around the kitchen island, and then Jonah was standing at the door, ready to go, and I realized he was waiting for me to say something.
“You coming over tonight?” I asked him, trying to make it sound casual.
“Maybe,” said Jonah, grinning, but I could tell the answer was yes.
“What would you like for dinner?” I asked.
“Pizza?” he offered.
If we kept eating fast food, I’d be in danger of putting on weight, but I decided to spoil him.
“Okay,” I said, “but Tuesday night we’re eating healthy. We can’t live on fast food!”
Jonah grinned, and the look he gave me said he’d registered the fact that I was inviting him for the next night as well.
“I have to pick up some clothes,” he said.
“From your apartment?” I asked. I don’t know why I asked. I guess I was playing for time while I thought about how to respond. This was advancing faster than I had intended, and yet I was excited rather than scared.
“Okay,” I said, still trying to buy time.
“What should I get?” he asked me, a clear suggestion from him to define the terms of the invitation. Was this a few days of sex, or was it something else?
I walked over and put my arms around him.
“I’d get everything you normally wear,” I said. That seemed pretty clear an invitation.
Jonah stared at me for a moment, and then he nodded and smiled, and he leaned in and kissed me.
“Okay,” he said.
I kissed him back.
“You better get going,” I said. “Another five minutes, and you’ll be late for work. Another ten, and I’ll be dragging you upstairs and ripping those clothes off you.”
“Then you’ll be late for work,” he pointed out.
“Yeah,” I agreed, “but I’ll have a good excuse.”
We kissed quickly once more, and then Jonah left, leaving me standing in the kitchen. It took me a moment to figure out what I’d just done. I realized that I might have invited him to move in with me permanently. Is that what I did? Is that what I wanted? I mean, my dick wanted it, sure, but did I want it?
The best I could come up with was that my dick and my heart wanted him to move in. My brain wasn’t so sure it was a good idea.
Two to one, I decided.
Majority rules. I was happy Jonah was moving in.
I needed to buy more lube.
And more food.
Jonah may have moved into a new apartment, but his roommates wouldn’t have noticed. After that weekend, Jonah stayed with me nearly every night.
On Tuesday, I gave him a key and showed him the security code for the house.
On Wednesday, I gave him the opener for the second bay in the garage, and we spent a couple of hours moving bikes and other things so that he could get his car in.
It wasn’t like Jonah couldn’t have continued to leave his car in the driveway, but as I pointed out, when the snow came, he’d be glad to keep it in the garage.
Snow was still months away.
“Who’s bike?” Jonah asked as he moved the second bike that had been standing next to mine.
“Oh, that’s John’s, but he left it. He didn’t really like riding anyway,” I explained. “Would it fit you?” I asked.
Jonah looked at the bike and frowned.
“Maybe?” he replied hesitantly.
It took us about twenty minutes to adjust the seat, mainly because for half that time, I couldn’t find a wrench that would loosen it. When we finally had it set up, Jonah took the bike for a short spin in the driveway.
“It’s fine,” he said, riding up and stopping in front of me, a broad smile on his face.
“We can go for a ride on the bike path this weekend,” I suggested.
“Where’s that?” Jonah asked.
“Over that way, a few blocks. Other side of Mass Ave,” I said, pointing in the general direction. It wasn’t like you could see the bike path from the house, but it was close. “We can ride down to Somerville, or ride in the other direction. Whichever.”
Jonah nodded enthusiastically.
Was he living with me, or was he just staying over? Was this a long term thing, or a short term infatuation? I had no idea, but I wasn’t stopping to think things through. I was too happy.
We still drove to work separately, and we avoided each other at work. Not that I had run into Jonah at work much before this. He spent most of his time in another building.
On Tuesday of that week, I had seen Jonah in the cafeteria. We ignored each other. I guess I was sort of expecting him to say something, but he walked past me without acknowledging me. I wondered if he thought I didn’t want him to talk to me.
I decided not to ask him.
On Thursday morning of that week, I had to travel out of town. I would be back the next day, but though I had suggested he stay at the house, Jonah decided to go back to his apartment for the evening.
“You seem happy,” said Karen. It was Friday lunchtime, and she and I were having a business lunch in the cafeteria. We’d just finished discussing an issue with a new job position. Compensation had balked at what we wanted to pay a recruit, and we were having to figure out whether to reclassify the job or rewrite the whole job description.
“Yeah, it’s a Friday,” I agreed with her, not really thinking about her question. I chewed my sandwich slowly, and decided that while edible, it certainly wasn’t the best thing to come out of our cafeteria.
Karen and I didn’t have any contact outside of work, but she was a close work friend, and we often spent time chatting about family and other things.
I had only arrived back in town an hour earlier, and I was already looking forward to seeing Jonah that evening. And spending all weekend with him.
I was tired from the trip, distracted by thoughts of Jonah, and I might not have been at my brightest. That’s why Karen’s next comment blindsided me.
“I take it things are going well in the database department,” Karen said, her tone casual. I looked up from my sandwich, and she was staring at me thoughtfully, and then she grinned.
For about ten seconds, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about.
“Uh…” I mumbled.
Karen glanced around, perhaps checking that no one was close enough to hear what she was saying. “He came down yesterday,” she answered obliquely. I immediately knew who ‘he’ was.
“He did?” I said, pointedly not using his name. I was trying to act casual, but my voice sounded a little higher than normal.
“Yeah,” continued Karen. “He wanted to talk to someone about interpersonal relationships, so we talked for a bit.”
“Oh,” I said. It hadn’t even occurred to me that Jonah might do that. I also realized that I’d never told him I’d already told Karen about our relationship.
“I can’t tell you everything he said, but he wanted to report that he was,” Karen glanced around again, “in a relationship with a colleague.”
“He seemed to think the relationship started a week ago,” she said, smiling.
I was surprised at that, but before I could say anything, she continued.
“I once had a supervisor who had been sleeping with one of their direct reports tell me it wasn’t a relationship because they only had sex.”
“Huh,” I said, wondering how to respond to that. I decided to ignore the indirect suggestion. “Did you tell him anything different from what we talked about the other day?” I asked.
Karen shook her head. “I told him we weren’t saying you two couldn’t …but that it could be a problem if…well if it became a problem. We talked a bit about that, and I told him that if anyone found out, and was making things difficult for him, that would be harassment and he should let us know. Or tell you.”
I nodded. I sat there, considering my sandwich and wondering what else I should say. Frankly, I didn’t want to talk about Jonah at all.
“He seems nice,” Karen said suddenly, surprising me, and I couldn’t help but smile at that. Yeah, Jonah was nice.
“I can see why you like him,” she added, which puzzled me.
“How so?” I asked, curious that Karen thought she knew what I liked in a person. We were friendly, but did she know me that well? Even my mother was unable to figure out who I liked.
“Oh, I didn’t mean…” she paused. “Honestly, when you first told me, I had a bit of trouble figuring out why you’d be interested in a…” there was a long pause.
“Twenty-four year old?” I supplied.
Karen grinned nervously, as if she’d said something she shouldn’t have, and then she nodded and quickly took a bite of her sandwich.
I decided not to answer. Often it’s best not to respond to difficult statements.
Karen swallowed her mouthful. “But he’s not your average twenty-four year old,” she continued. “He seems much older, more mature than most.”
That was interesting. Through the ups and downs of the last few weeks I had seen many sides of Jonah. When we’d first met, he’d seemed so confident and mature. But then I’d seen him at his most vulnerable, and I’d almost felt like I was taking care of him. It was only in the last couple of weeks that the old Jonah had started to reappear, and the relationship had changed again.
“He uh, his mother died when he was young, and he’s pretty much been on his own since he was 18,” I said.
Karen nodded, her mouth frowning for a moment. “He’s still young,” she added softly, which seemed almost like the opposite of what she’d just said.
“You think I shouldn’t date him?” I asked, puzzled.
“Not my business,” Karen said cryptically, and then she added. “You’re just dating him?” and I realized that maybe she knew more than I had expected. That we were practically living together.
I felt myself blush.
“We’re in a relationship,” I said, and I raised my eyebrows sort of in jest, and Karen smiled. I didn’t want to go into whether Jonah had moved in, or was just on an extended visit. It was a question even I wasn’t sure of the answer to.
Saturday was a beautiful day, and Jonah wanted to go riding, and I regretted suggesting it.
But Jonah wanted to go.
I’d screwed up so much with John, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes with Jonah. I was going to be bright and enthusiastic, even if it killed me.
It had been a good year or two since I’d ridden on a bicycle, and I had forgotten how uncomfortable they can be to ride long distances.
Why do people even think these are a good idea?
But Jonah was excited, and a little after 10 a.m., we were riding down the bike trail. With no destination in mind, we ended up heading south towards Cambridge. Just before Cambridge, we pulled over and sat under some trees.
“Works okay?” I asked Jonah, indicating the bike.
“Yeah,” Jonah nodded tentatively.
I wasn’t sure if the bike was troubling him, or something else.
“What are you working on at the moment?” I asked. I wasn’t really fishing for information about his department, I was just interested in what he was doing.
“Going through some of the older databases. They are looking to upgrade some of them, and we have to figure out if it’s going to be easy or not.”
“You’re enjoying your job?”
“It’s okay,” he said, smiling nervously.
“Hardly a strong endorsement,” I pointed out.
Jonah shrugged and then looked at me challengingly. “Do you like everything about your job?” he asked.
“You got me on that,” I grinned.
“What are you working on then?” Jonah asked, and I spent the next few minutes telling him about the many meetings I had to spend most of my workday in.
“Sounds boring,” Jonah said, though I detected a note of sarcasm.
“Sometimes,” I agreed. “So…uhh, I asked you before about your parents,” I said, deciding to change the subject.
“You did?” he asked, puzzled.
“A while back,” I said evasively. I didn’t want to bring up the adventure we had when Jonah’s car had broken down. “You said you had foster parents. What happened?”
“Oh,” Jonah said, and he frowned. I suddenly realized it might not be a happy story, and now might not be the best time to discuss it.
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” I said hastily.
“No, it’s okay,” Jonah said, but then he took a deep breath, and didn’t say anything.
I took a drink from my bottle of water and held it out to him, but he shook his head.
“You want to…” I began, trying to change the subject by suggesting we start riding again.
“I didn’t know my father,” Jonah interrupted me, staring off into the distance as he talked. “My mom had me, and I’m not sure if she knew who my father was,” and then he turned and gave me an embarrassed shrug. “Or maybe he was married or something. She never told me or my grandmother. Well, she told me he was dead when I was young, but I figured out later that wasn’t true because I asked where he was buried one time and she just…” he trailed off.
I nodded, not sure what to say.
“And then,” he continued. “She was killed in a car accident when I was 14.”
“Oh… I’m sorry,” I said, which sounded as hollow and pathetic as it was, but what do you say to someone when they tell you that?
Jonah shrugged again.
“I stayed with my grandmother after that, but she died when I was 16, and then I was in a couple of foster homes.” He shrugged once more. “The first one was awful, but I had this friend in school, and his brother went away to college, and I used to stay over there, and then I asked them if I could stay with them and they…” he paused and wiped his eyes with his hand. “They let me stay with them…until I went off to college. They were nice, but I was always worried they’d change their minds….” He stopped and collected himself before continuing. “And then I got into college, and I’ve been taking care of myself ever since.”
I nodded as Jonah sat there, wiping his eyes and staring off into the distance.
“You had no other family?” I asked softly.
Jonah shook his head. “There was an aunt, but she couldn’t take me. I don’t know why, but I think she didn’t talk to my mother or grandmother…and she’s never been in touch since, so I don’t know anything about her or what her story is. Don’t care,” he said dismissively.
“I’m sorry,” I said again, the two words still sounding wholly inadequate, but what else could I say?
Jonah sat there, still staring off into the distance. Part of me wanted to go over and hug him, but we were sitting beside the bike path, and he seemed so closed off that it was just awkward.
For a second, I thought about changing the subject but decided instead to give him a minute. And then Jonah turned to look at me and gave me a sheepish expression. “You want to start riding again?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, nodding.
We stood up, and as he was close to me, and he still looked so pained, I finally couldn’t stop myself. I put my arms around him, and then he was hugging me close, and we stood there for several minutes, holding each other.
And then Jonah was pulling away, and acting like it was nothing, and I was pretending like I didn’t feel wretched inside. We got on our bikes and startled peddling.
That night, lying in bed, I held Jonah close to me as he told me what he remembered about his mother, and he cried, and it tore my heart out.
Three weeks after Jonah started sleeping over, I was scheduled to go on a business trip for four days. I’d been away for a day or two over the previous weeks, and each time Jonah had gone back to his apartment. Still, I couldn’t help feeling this was becoming an imposition for him. Nearly all his stuff was now at my place.
“I told you I’m going on a trip on Tuesday, right?” I asked him Monday morning as we ate a hasty breakfast.
“Yeah,” Jonah said. “About five times,” and he smirked at me.
“I just wanted to be sure,” I said. “I’m going to be away until Friday.”
“Yeah,” Jonah nodded, looking a little downcast. “Where are you going?”
“California. Meeting with researchers,” I explained.
“Why?” he asked.
I paused for a minute, thinking.
“Okay, there are some things I might tell you that you can’t tell anyone. Okay?”
“Yeah,” he nodded casually.
“I’m serious. You can’t tell anyone.”
“Okay,” Jonah said, his tone frustrated.
“And no buying and selling stock either,” I said, trying to make it a joke. Jonah gave me a half-smile.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “It’s just, some of this stuff, I’d like to tell you, but I shouldn’t…”
“I won’t tell anyone,” he said, and I knew I trusted him.
“Okay, well, it’s a company we’re in talks to buy,” I said. “Can’t tell you more than that.”
“Oh,” he said. “Where in California?”
“A business park, in Palo Alto, or near there,” I said. “It’s not that exciting, trust me.”
“You could go into San Francisco,” Jonah suggested.
I’d done that on some previous trips, but now, rushing in to spend an evening in San Francisco didn’t appeal to me.
Maybe I was getting old.
“Or stay over the weekend,” Jonah added. Clearly, he was much more excited by the possibilities than I was.
“Hmm, that’s a good idea. Next time you could come,” I said thoughtfully.
“For the meeting?” he asked, clearly puzzled.
“No. You could come out on Friday, and we could spend the weekend.”
“Yeah?” Jonah replied, looking brighter.
“Yeah. Next time. I’ll keep that in mind if I’m going somewhere interesting, and I have enough notice. Sometimes these things pop up, and there’s not enough time to really organize anything.”
“Sure,” Jonah said, looking disappointed again.
“You going to be okay?” I asked him.
“What? Yeah. Sure,” he said dismissively.
“You should stay here while I’m away,” I offered hesitantly. Not because I was worried about Jonah staying, but more because of what it meant about the relationship.
Jonah looked up, the surprise evident on his face.
“Sure. If you want. No holding wild parties while I’m gone,” I joked.
Jonah rolled his eyes.
“If you’re gonna have a wild party,” I continued, “at least have the decency to do it while I’m here.”
There was a long pause as Jonah sat thinking, and then he said, “You sure it’s okay?”
“Yeah. You’ve got keys, you’re living here now. Though you know, if you find it lonely and want to stay at your apartment, that’s okay. Just let me know, so I know what’s going on, okay?”
“I’ll stay here,” Jonah said quickly.
“Great,” I said and meant it.
Tuesday morning, waiting for the limo, I hugged and kissed Jonah goodbye, and looked forward to having him here when I got back on Friday.
Wednesday night, we’d exchanged text messages during the day, but around 10 p.m., my phone rang, and Jonah was FaceTiming me.
“Hey,” I said, happy to see his smiling face. It was clear that, like me, he was in bed.
“How’s the trip going?” Jonah asked.
“Pretty boring,” I said.
“You haven’t gone into San Fran?”
“No. I’ll wait for you to come next time,” I said, and he smiled.
I glanced at the clock on the phone.
“What time is it there?” I asked, even though I knew what time it was.
“Almost one,” he said.
“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” I teased him.
“Nah, I’m horny,” and then he moved the camera lower to reveal his bare chest, and the top of the sheet.
He brought the camera up to his smiling face, and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes.
“You know you shouldn’t be doing that,” I said to him.
“Why? You don’t like?” he asked, obviously puzzled.
“Do you know how many hours I spend in meetings with IS Security telling me not to trust open networks and Wifi?” I asked.
Jonah shrugged his bare shoulders, and the next thing I saw was the tip of his erection, his fingers sliding over the skin that covered the tip, a small bubble of pre-cum forming at the piss-slit.
I lay back in the bed.
“Jonah,” I admonished him, even though at the same time I reached down to stroke my own erection.
His face appeared again.
“Show me your cock,” he whispered.
“Jonah! No, come on, we can’t do this.”
“Why not? I’m horny.”
“Jonah, we can’t go flashing our junk on FaceTime. Or anything.”
I switched to audio.
“What are you doing?” Jonah asked, obviously frustrated.
“I wanted to talk to you,” I said.
“I thought that’s what we were doing,” he grumbled.
“Because I can’t wait to get back there and hold you,” I said, because it was true.
“Yeah? What are you going to do to me when you get back?” he asked, and it almost sounded like a challenge. Clearly, he wasn’t going to be easily deterred.
I wanted to tell him that we should hang up and I’d call him back using…what? I didn’t know what the safe choice was. Where was IS Security when you really needed them? Which left the option of ending the phone call, or carrying on.
But Jonah was horny, and I was horny, and I missed him.
“Well,” I said, taking a moment to think.
I’d never been into aural sex. That was the advantage of reaching puberty when the internet was around; you could get a lot of visual stimulation. You didn’t have to survive on phone sex. Males are—from what I’ve read, and from my own personal experience—visually stimulated. I can’t talk for females, but it’s what you see in porn that turns you on. Listening can get you off, but it takes more…work.
I took a breath, lay back into the pillows, closed my eyes, and thought for a minute.
“You still there?” Jonah asked, his voice raspy.
“Yeah,” I said.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Getting comfortable, and thinking about you…”
“Thinking about me?”
“I always think about you,” I said truthfully.
“Yeah?” Jonah asked, and I could hear the smile in his voice.
“Yeah,” I confirmed. “I think about you a lot. What you’re doing, when I’m going to see you again…what you’re wearing…what we’re going to do together…”
“Kay,” said Jonah, obviously encouraging me to say more.
“Well…” I began, and then took a heavy breath. Were we really going to do this?
“And what are you going to do when you get home?” Jonah prompted me.
“Well…” I said, thinking. Trying to get into the moment. I imagined him standing in the bedroom, smiling at me, holding out his arms to me. Wanting me.
“I just want you so much…” I said softly. “I want to hold you tightly to me and smell your hair. I want to run my fingers over your bare chest, and down to your nipple…slowly rolling my finger tip around the nipple, feeling it get firmer.”
“Yeah?” mumbled Jonah.
“That’s not the only thing getting firmer,” Jonah said, his voice oozing passion.
“Yeah…I want you,” I whispered.
I arrived back late Friday night, and Jonah kept me awake for a couple of hours exploring new ways of showing me how much he was attracted to me. I ended up sleeping until noon the next day.
There was no sign of Jonah when I woke up, but I went downstairs to find him working on the deck.
“You’re finishing the deck?” I said, surprised, as I walked out onto the part of the deck that was already dry.
Jonah stood up and smiled.
“Yeah,” he said. “Gotta get this finished.”
“Okay,” I nodded.
Jonah put the brush down and padded over to me, and we embraced.
“I missed you so much,” I told him, and he grinned.
“Me too,” he said softly, and he kissed me, a quick, perfunctory kiss, and then he turned and went back to the painting.
“Are you hungry?” I asked him.
“Not yet,” he said over his shoulder. “Maybe in an hour?”
“Sure,” I said, and I went into the kitchen and tried to figure out what I could make him for lunch.
In the end, I used the cold cuts and some fresh bread to make sandwiches, and when he took a break we sat at the kitchen table while I told him about the trip. Jonah filled me in on what was happening at work, and he told me about the night out he’d had with his friend Noah and a couple of others. They’d gone to a drag show.
“You’ll have to come next time,” Jonah said happily, and I said, “Sure,” though I wasn’t certain I wanted to go.
“Oh, I saw Harry,” Jonah added casually, and it took me a minute to remember that Harry was his ex.
“Yeah?” I said, not sure how I should react.
“He was at the club. He didn’t say hi.”
“Oh. You ever hear from him after you split?” I asked. It was something that had bothered me, but I hadn’t asked before because I didn’t feel like it was right for me to be bothered.
“Not really,” said Jonah evasively.
“What happened with you two? You were going to get married…and?” I asked tentatively.
“It’s okay if…” I began, but Jonah interrupted me.
“Nah. It’s …well, it was never going to be a big wedding or anything. I don’t have any family, and his family hates him, so…yeah”
Harry’s own family hated him? That had me curious, but I decided not to ask why.
“When did the wedding get canceled?” I asked instead.
“Oh,” said Jonah. “Three months before. I mean, practically a week after I made the booking for the trip.”
Jonah paused, clearly waiting for me to ask him to continue.
“I slept with someone,” he said matter-of-factly.
That was the last thing I had expected. “You cheated on your boyfriend?” I said, slightly louder than I intended.
“No,” he replied adamantly.
“But you just said you did!” I said, puzzled.
Jonah grinned mischievously, and then he sighed.
“He wanted to have an open relationship,” Jonah began reluctantly. “I don’t know. Things hadn’t been great, and I think we kept trying to fix it. That’s why we were getting married. Things would be okay for a couple of months, and then it would start to fall apart, and we’d try something else to fix it. We moved in together….then we decided to get married…then he wanted to have an open relationship, which really sucks to hear a month after you’re talking about getting married.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. I didn’t like open relationships, even though I know some people think they are a good thing. Sure, maybe I couldn’t live with someone for an eternity, but I was definitely a serial monogamist. I was way too possessive to share.
“And having an open relationship was his idea?” I asked.
“Well, that was another thing he wanted to try. Like it was okay if he slept with someone else. But then he got jealous that I was sleeping with other people. Which was stupid, because it was his fucking idea. And then I hooked up with his ex-boyfriend, and he felt that was going too far.”
“Really? You slept with his ex?”
“I thought it would piss him off,” Jonah grinned, and it clearly had.
“Then why did you do it?” I asked.
“Because Harry was being a fucking asshole,” Jonah almost exploded. He took a moment and then continued. “We were at a party, and he was flirting with this guy, and…I was right there.”
“I mean, I wasn’t really into the open relationship thing anyway,” Jonah continued, “but flirting with someone right in front of you is…”
“Not cool,” I suggested.
“No,” Jonah agreed. “So this other guy was also there, and he had dated Harry before we got together, and he had been trying to get in my pants. I knew it would piss Harry off. I guess I didn’t think it would piss him off that much. But we had a big fight, and we both realized we didn’t want to keep doing that.”
I leaned over, and for a moment, Jonah seemed puzzled, and then he smiled and leaned forward, and I kissed him.
“He’s an idiot,” I said.
“I can’t imagine why he’d have been interested in sleeping with anyone else. Or even being with anyone else.”
Jonah's grin grew wider.
“You know what the sick part is?” asked Jonah.
“We didn’t even sleep together,” Jonah said sheepishly.
“What?” I exclaimed.
Jonah let out a sort of snicker. “I left the party with the guy, but it was just to get Harry jealous. When we got outside, I told him I changed my mind.”
“So you didn’t sleep with him?”
“Nope, but Harry didn’t know that. He thought I slept with him.”
“He can’t have been happy,” I observed.
“Who?” asked Jonah, puzzled.
“The guy you left the party with.”
“Oh. I guess. He actually said to me, ‘are you trying to get Harry jealous?’ I said no, I was just trying to show him I wasn’t going to sit around at home while he was out banging whoever he wanted. But when I got home, we got into this big fight, and I didn’t even bother telling Harry I didn’t sleep with the guy.”
“Though he found out a couple of months later.”
Jonah nodded. “Yeah. And he called, this was like a week after I started at the company, and at first, I thought he wanted to get back together, which I didn’t want. But he was just pissed off and accused me of tricking him into acting like an asshole. Like that makes sense.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t make sense,” I agreed. If his ex’s behavior hadn’t obviously hurt Jonah so much, I probably would have laughed. Maybe in a couple of years Jonah would think the whole thing was funny. I hoped so.
Jonah looked wistful, and it occurred to me that Harry had called Jonah about the time Jonah was trying to get together with me. If Harry had been more diplomatic, scratch that, hadn’t been such a jerk, I might have missed out entirely.
“Is it okay,” I asked Jonah, “that I’m glad things didn’t work out with him, so I was lucky enough to get you?”
“Maybe,” he said, and he smirked, and I kissed him quickly on the lips as he laughed.
“You want to go somewhere for lunch?” I asked Jonah.
It was Sunday afternoon. The deck was finally finished, and we were driving to the supermarket. We had intended to go food shopping and then make lunch when we got back home, but now, as we drove towards town, I realized how hungry I was.
“Yeah,” Jonah agreed.
“There’s the Thai place, or do you want a sandwich?”
Jonah mulled the two options.
“A sandwich is okay,” he said, not sounding particularly excited. We were both tired.
The sandwich store was empty, and it was only as we walked in that I remembered that this might be the store where John’s boyfriend worked. Or used to work. I didn’t even know what the boyfriend looked like. I wondered if I could guess who it might be, and if I did, what my reaction would be to seeing him.
It turned out I didn’t have to worry. There was no sign of the boyfriend.
But my ex was standing behind the counter.
“Oh, hi, John,” I said, shocked to see him there.
“Hi Brian,” said John a little stiffly, and then he glanced over at Jonah, and Jonah reached out and put his arm through mine.
I wasn’t sure what to say, but then it occurred to me that I didn’t have to say anything. We were there to get sandwiches. I was a customer, and John was behind the counter. His job was to offer service, and nothing more.
I turned to Jonah.
“Know what you want?” I asked him.
Jonah was staring at the menu apprehensively, and he shook his head.
I turned back to John, who was staring at me, his expression blank.
“You’re …working here now?” I asked. I was really just making small talk. I didn’t want to get into a discussion with John, but I didn’t know what else to say.
“Yeah,” John said. “I’m the store manager.”
“Oh,” I nodded, wondering if I should congratulate him. Did that mean he was now his boyfriend’s manager?
“I’ve changed my mind,” whispered Jonah.
“What?” I turned back to him.
“Let’s get Thai,” Jonah said, and I could see the nervousness and worry on his face.
I stared at him for a moment, thinking it was silly for us to be chased from the store by me ex-boyfriend.
“Please?” Jonah begged quietly before I could say anything.
“Sure,” I said. I could understand why Jonah felt awkward. I felt awkward, though I realized something else that surprised me.
I didn’t care about John anymore.
And I didn’t care if we left without ordering; the important thing was that Jonah was happy.
I turned back to John and smiled at him. “Change of plan,” I said, and I turned around, and we walked out of the store, Jonah practically dragging me along.
We had walked about a hundred yards before either of us said anything.
“That was your ex,” said Jonah quietly.
“Yeah. I had no idea he worked there. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have gone in there if I thought he was going to be there.”
“That’s where his boyfriend works?” Jonah asked.
“Uhh…yeah. I guess.”
“You didn’t say anything,” he said, his voice more upset than accusatory.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I never met him, the boyfriend. I just knew he worked somewhere downtown. I honestly didn’t think about it until we were in the store, and then, I was just thinking maybe the boyfriend would be there. I didn’t think John would be there. I am sorry. I wasn’t trying to show you off to him or anything stupid like that.”
“You weren’t?” Jonah asked, and though he sounded hurt, I suspected it was an act.
I smiled, playing along with him. “No. I don’t want him to know how happy I am,” I said, and Jonah gave me a small smile.
“I’m sorry,” I repeated, and he nodded.
Neither of us was in the mood for Thai, so we drove to the Burger King drive-through.