The one thing Aidan hated most in the world was someone disturbing him while he worked. When he painted in his art studio, he was a totally different person in a totally different world. He was Adonis—the famous painter who did not belong in this world because being cut off from everything, his creativity and imagination could fly free. He’d even soundproofed his art studio for that very reason.
So, when Rick knocked on the door and came in, he grew extremely irritated. He was trying to figure out a shade for the portrait he was working on and he’d almost gotten it. “What the hell, Rick!” he yelled, without thinking twice. “Can’t you let me be for a few hours while I work?” Rick’s jaw dropped open and looking at his shocked expression, Aidan was pulled back to reality. “I’m so sorry. I was just working on…”
“No, I’m sorry,” Rick interrupted, looking obviously annoyed by Aidan’s sudden outburst. “I just came to tell you that you’ve got visitors and they’re waiting for you on the patio.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Who the fuck are they? I wasn’t expecting anyone.”
“One of them told me his name is Corey and there are two more guys and a girl accompanying him. They didn’t introduce themselves.”
Aidan threw the color palette on the table and rubbed his face. “Fuck, fuck! What are they doing here?” he whined and then looked at Rick. “They’re my friends. Will you please let them in and have them sit in the living room? Meanwhile, I’ll go clean up.”
Rick nodded. “Of course. I’ll do that. And, um…if you need anything else after that, I’ll be in my room. You can feel free to disturb me anytime. You see, I’m jobless, homeless and also in a wheelchair, so I’m fucking useless.” He shrugged. “Totally dependent on you. So I’ll take your shit for no good reason. Okay?” He gave him a fake smile, before slamming the door behind him.
Aidan wanted to slap himself for being so stupid. He palmed his face and exhaled. He’d talk to him later. For now, he had to deal with three assholes and an annoyingly sweet lady who happened to be his friends.
Within minutes, he washed off all the paint from his hands and changed into a cleaner set of clothes. When he came out, he found the living room over-crowded, and four heads turned to look at him in unison. “Hey, hey. Look who’s here!” His friend Corey was the first one to greet him. He got to his feet and rushed to give him a half hug. He was the tallest in the group and a redhead. He was also Aidan’s best buddy in the whole world, from college. “How are you doing, man?”
“I was definitely doing better before you fuckers got here,” he teased. “Don’t you have any decency to call?”
“What did I tell you?” Corey looked back at the other three and smirked. “This dickhead must have forgotten all about our plan today.”
“What plan?” As soon as he asked that question, it struck him like a light bulb going on. “Oh my, God, Naomi!” The girl nodded, and he went up to her to give a tight hug. “It’s your birthday! Fuck, how could I have forgotten?” He slapped his forehead and grinned as he stepped back. “Happy birthday, babe.”
“Thank you, Aidan! And I forgive you. I know how busy you’ve gotten in your life.” He opened his mouth to defend himself, but she waved her hand dismissing it. “And I understand. You still take out some time to meet us all.”
Naomi was a sweetheart. She was a petite brunette who could melt anyone’s heart with her sweet smile. Aidan could see why Corey had fallen for her.
“Save us the emotional drama, bitches,” Brandon said, knocking her on her head and came forward to give Aidan a full hug. “Great to see you, man,” he said, patting his back.
“You, too, man.” Aidan grinned. He looked at his other buddy who simply waved at him. “What’s up, Phil?” he asked. The man had never been the hugging type. He’d always been the shy one, but whenever needed, he’d come up with the best advice one could ever give. Phil loved to tag along with the group, always and more so, with Brandon. The two did almost everything together.
He held up a huge pack of beers in his hand. “The plan’s to get drunk tonight,” Phil said, and everyone laughed.
“By the fucking way, have you lost your phone or something?” Corey asked. “We’ve been calling you since forever.”
Aidan pointed behind him, exhausted. “I was actually working all day, and I think I left my phone back in my room. I still haven’t checked it yet.”
“Blah, blah, blah.” Corey rolled his eyes. “Fame’s definitely gotten into Adonis, I guess.” For that comment, he received a well-deserved punch. Aidan laughed. These guys could anytime perk him up.
“Hey, Aidan.” Naomi plopped herself back on the couch and asked, “Who was that cute guy earlier who let us in?”
He had to talk to him and apologize for his mean behavior. “Um…that was Rick. He moved in a few days back.”
“Oh. Is he like a visiting friend or…?”
Aidan didn’t know what she was getting at. “Or what?”
She smiled sheepishly. “Or are you guys in a relationship?” she asked.
Corey snickered and said to his girlfriend, “Don’t be ridiculous, love. Didn’t you see? He’s a crip. Why would Aidan be with him of all people?”
“Actually, asshole,” Aidan said. “I am seeing Rick, and we are together. So show some respect, okay?” The name calling had ticked him off. An awkward silence fell in the living room. He shook his head, not wanting to ruin anyone’s mood. “Why don’t you guys get comfortable and call up for pizza? I’m gonna go see if Rick will come to join us.”
“Don’t shit me. You’re inviting him? To our party?” Corey made a face.
“You’ve got a problem with that?” asked Aidan, definitely more than a little angry now.
Before the guy could say anything though, Naomi held his hand to stop him and said instead, “It’s my birthday we’re celebrating here, and I’d love to get to know the new guy in your life. So, go bring him out. Tell him your friends want to meet him.”
Aidan knocked on the door and heard nothing. When he didn’t get a response, he quietly opened the door and looked in. Rick, who sat on his bed, looked up from the novel he’d been reading. His face remained blank, completely emotionless. If he was still mad at Aidan, he didn’t show it.
“Hey-uh…” He stepped in and closed the door. Cautiously approaching the bed, he said, “I want you to meet my friends. Can you please come out with me?” Rick simply stared. “We’re celebrating Naomi’s birthday tonight, and she said she’d like to meet you.” No reaction. He’s mad. Aidan sighed. “Look, I’m sorry okay? I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that.”
Rick tilted his head and smiled. “It’s all good, Aidan. I’m not upset.”
Hesitant, he smiled back. “You aren’t?” he asked, surprised.
“No, no,” he replied shaking his head. “And yea, I’d love to meet your friends too.” He placed the bookmark on the page he was reading and set it aside. As he crawled to the edge of the bed to get to his wheelchair, Aidan stepped up to help him as usual. But as soon as he touched Rick’s hand, the man immediately shook it off. “I can do it myself,” he snapped.
Oh yeah, he’s still mad. Aidan quietly watched as Rick slowly managed to get into his wheelchair. He had never turned down an offer of help before. This time, though, he seemed furious.
Aidan had to recall the exact words he’d uttered back in his art studio and was appalled by the way it’d come out. No wonder it’d affected Rick so much. It was as if Aidan had accused him of being too dependent on him to leave him alone even for a short time.
He hadn’t meant it that way, but he couldn’t blame Rick for being hurt. He’d be too if the roles were reversed.
Both of them arrived back in the living room with Rick pushing his chair beside Aidan. Naomi jumped from her seat and animatedly came around the coffee table for a hug. Whenever she hugged someone, it was never a quick one, ever. Her small arms were even capable of squeezing a big man like Corey. It usually annoyed Aidan and the other guys because, at times, they couldn’t even breathe. Rick, however, seemed happy to be greeted like that.
“Happy birthday,” he said as she stepped back from the hug.
“Aw, thank you.” She pinched his nose and looked up at Aidan. “He’s like a Ken doll, so cute.” Although Aidan believed Rick was one of the cutest guys he’d ever met, he found Naomi’s comparison amusing.
Corey’s laugh, however, sounded too sarcastic to everyone and Naomi gave him a killing glare. Aidan decided to ignore it and cleared his throat. “Rick, you’ve already met Naomi. That’s Corey, Brandon, and Phil. We were in college together. I’ll spare you the guessing part—Corey and Naomi have been fucking for the past five years. Brandon and Phil, though it seems they are, actually aren’t.”
Naomi slapped his bicep. “You’re such a douchebag. Rick, don’t listen to him. Corey and I are in a relationship. Fucking sounds so…animalistic.”
“But you can’t deny babe, when we fuck, we fuck like animals.” Corey winked.
She rolled her eyes, but a smile still played on her blood red lips. “Too much information?”
“And Rick,” Brandon butted in, resting his arm on Phil’s shoulder. “Just to get the facts right, although we haven’t done any fucking recently. We’ve definitely done things in the past.”
“Oh! So you guys dated back then?”
“No!” They both said in unison. And Brandon looked at Phil with a grin. The brunet, though, looked away. So Brandon took it upon himself to elaborate. “I don’t do dates, and we weren’t really compatible in bed if you know what I mean.” He leaned forward making a face and whispered loud enough for everyone to hear. “Phil here is kind of an amateur when it comes to sex.”
His laughter echoed in the living room. Only Corey joined in as the rest found it demeaning. Phil, obviously, was mortified. He pushed his buddy away pretty hard and stood up. “Fuck you, Brandon. Fuck you!”
The group watched as he went out the front door. Aidan frowned at Brandon. “Real smooth, man.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll handle it,” he said getting up too. As he followed Phil out, Aidan heard him mumble, “The guy reallyneeds to get over his sensitive behavior.”
Surprisingly, Brandon did manage to bring Phil back to the party, and it seemed they both were back to normal again.
Aidan was envious. He looked at Rick, who still refused to talk to him like he usually did. For the rest of the evening, Aidan tried to initiate conversation with him, but all he’d come up with was monosyllabic replies.
“The pizza’s good, right?”
“We…um…always order it from this place which serves great custom-made pizzas. I’ll take you there someday.”
“Hmm…oh, do you want another slice?”
Rick shook his head and turned to Naomi asking her about the work she did. Aidan was pulled into a different conversation going on between the guys. But he couldn’t concentrate. His gaze would travel back to Rick and sadness engulfed him. How can I enjoy myself when I know Rick’s hurt because of me?
They sat around chatting on random topics. Bratty made her presence known and found her place on Aidan’s lap. “Hey there. Where have you been all day?” He caressed under her neck because he knew she liked it a lot. “Guys, this is Bratty.”
“What a funny name!” Brandon laughed. “Is she yours?”
“More like she owns me,” Aidan replied, rolling his eyes.
“Wow, Aidan, I’m impressed.” Naomi stared at the cat with her big, green eyes. “I could never have imagined you owning a pet of any sort. Let alone a cat!” She turned to Corey. “Do you remember how mean he was around my cat? He wouldn’t even let her stay in the same room.”
Corey snorted. “Your cat was weird and scary. Aidan was actually doing me a favor so I wouldn’t be the one to complain.” Brandon and Phil nodded in agreement.
She slapped his chest with the back of her hand and gave him a look. “Anyway…my point is—Aidan, you’ve changed a lot.” Her beaming face suggested she thought it was a good change.
“I agree, Nay.” Corey nodded. “He’s definitely gotten into the habit of picking up strays. Doing a bit of charity, are we now, Aidan?”
The room fell silent. Aidan could feel the eyes on him, and he didn’t dare look at Rick.
He plastered a fake smile on his face. “Corey,” he said in his sweetest voice, “can I see you outside in the backyard for a minute? I think we need to talk.” Corey shrugged, and they both stood up. Bratty leaped on the floor and sprinted toward the kitchen. “Rick, I’ll be back in a minute, okay?” He signaled Naomi to hold the fort for a while in his absence, and she nodded.
Aidan fumed as they stepped out of the back door and was all set to blast his anger at his best friend. Throughout their interaction that day, Corey had behaved like a jerk to Rick and Aidan couldn’t take it anymore. He had completely played out in his mind what he had to say.
Instead, Corey was the first to yell. “What the hell is wrong with you?” His voice echoed through the empty backyard, and Aidan was left stunned.
“That guy in a fucking wheelchair? You’re dating him now?”
Aidan clenched his teeth. “His name’s Rick. And yes, I’m dating him. Why can’t you just be happy for me?”
He shook his head. “I’d be happier if you were seeing someone… someone normal.”
“Don’t be such a fucking asshole, Corey.”
Corey exhaled and held Aidan by his shoulder. “You’re my friend, Aidan. And I can’t see you getting involved with someone like Rick. Do you know what I mean?”
He shrugged him off and crossed his arms defensively. “No, Corey. I do not understand what you mean.”
“Ugh. Aidan!” He watched his friend turning from him. “You’re signing up for a hell of a lot more than you can imagine. It’s a lot of work being in a relationship with someone who’s disabled. He’ll be your responsibility all the time. You cannot live your life the normal way again.”
“Will you stop it with the normal shit? I’ve been living with him for a week now, and things have been moving pretty smoothly around here.”
“Exactly my point, Aidan. It’s all new for you at the moment. And you’ve gotten way too involved with him.” He pointed to his side. “Back in there, I could see how you behaved around him—like…like a lovesick puppy. You’re infatuated with him right now, man! Once it fades away and you come back to reality, it’ll be too late… that’s why I want to warn you now.”
Aidan closed his eyes and smiled. “You’ll never understand,” he whispered and slowly opened his eyes. “I know you think this is wrong for me. But it feels so damn right, Corey. It feels amazing to be with Rick in here.” He patted on the left side of his chest. “In my heart.”
Corey laughed sardonically. “That’s the lovesick puppy talking. Right there.”
“You’re wrong, buddy. I hate to say this, but you are wrong.” Aidan wasn’t angry at him anymore. He knew Corey had his best interests in mind. But he was doing this all wrong. Corey didn’t know Rick the same way as Aidan.
The guy shrugged. “You could do way better than him.”
“And I tell you, no one in this world is better for me than Rick.” He slowly stepped toward the door and stared at his friend for a while. There was concern and sadness in Corey’s grey eyes. “I think we should call it a night. I’m tired.”