It’s been a week, so when Preston calls, asking to come get his barbecue grill for when he finds a new apartment, I decided to let him. I had blown off my steam, talked to Lance and Peggy, whined to my parents (my mother tried to convince me that things could be fixed, she had always liked Preston), and have come to the conclusion that despite current feelings, I’ll get over him eventually. I just have to face the fact that he and I are never going to happen.
Nevertheless, I fret as I wait for him, wondering if he’ll bring Julius with him, or some new boy, mentally rehearsing what I should say and how I should act. I'm still angry, I have to remind myself. He's the worst and I'm better off without him. My stomach is in knots when he finally rings the doorbell. It feels strange because he still has his key, and I know he brought it just in case I wasn’t there.
I open the door and turn to the back of the house. “Come on in,” I offer casually, leading him to the patio.
Preston doesn’t say anything until we get into the kitchen, but before I open the back door he stops me. “You know, maybe we should just leave it here for now. I mean, I don’t know if I’ll have room, and if I keep the key until I find space I can just come and get it whenever,” he suggests.
Preston is a relatively uncomplicated guy, so it’s glaringly obvious when he tries to play games. He just has no clue how to be subtle. For his sake I get to the point.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to live together anymore,” I say, finally turning to face him. “Things have gotten too complicated.”
My ex-roommate is clearly at a loss; I’m gratified and heartbroken to see his shoulders slump and his eyes drop. “Well,” he says in the direction of the floor, “you made a pretty hasty decision, and I know this is the first time that we’ve ever really fought about anything…” he shrugged, still looking at his feet. “I’m just saying that you were upset, and I’d really appreciate it if you reconsidered.”
I exhale noisily. “Did you leave anything else that you want?”
“Sammie, please, I’m having a rough time finding a new place.”
“Check the classifieds,” I say curtly. “Plus, you told me you got a new apartment.”
Preston tentatively puts his hand on my arm, and I can’t look at him anymore. I can’t. I’m going to break down, give in, do anything to banish this doleful air surrounding him. He’s like a sad pound puppy that I can’t take home. “I don’t want to find another apartment, Samuel,” he confesses. “I want to move back in with you. You have to admit, we make a great team.”
We would have, but now I don’t think I could handle having another of his boyfriends around. Ever. “Move on, Preston. I will. This won’t work.”
“Hey,” he admonishes, and I hear him stepping close to me, then he wraps his arms around my stomach and pulls me against him. His voice is low and smooth. “What would it take for me to convince you otherwise?”
My first urge is to melt into him, to turn around and kiss him like I’ve wanted to for years, then just see what lovely things could happen next. He smells good, like a little aftershave and musk. His chest is firm, his arms are strong, and his—What the fuck? Does Preston really think I’m that desperate, that rowdy sex on the kitchen floor is going to solve this whole problem? Is this how he ends arguments with all his other boyfriends? I don’t want his leftovers.
My knuckles sting before I realize I’ve swung, and I shake my hand and hiss through my teeth. Preston is staring at me, blood welling in the split in his lower lip, his eyes full of hurt and astonishment.
“You fucking asshole,” Preston says almost wonderingly.
I say it aloud. “I don’t want your leftovers.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” He rummages in the freezer for an ice cube and holds it to his lip. “My leftovers?”
I fold my arms so that he can’t see my hands are shaking. I can’t believe I hit him. “What are you expecting, Preston? That I’ll be so grateful you’ve finally decided to pay attention to me that I’ll, I’ll—“ I couldn’t think of what I wanted to say, I was so disconcerted, and frustrated, and so tempted to take it all back and kiss him. “Just tell me what you want, so that I know with what I’m disagreeing.”
“I want to move back in.”
“Because someone has to take care of you!” Preston says angrily, throwing the ice cube so hard it bounces out of the sink.
I nod. “Ah, right. I can’t take care of myself. Unsuspecting victim to gay lechers and all that.”
“Not completely!” He begins pacing in front of the refrigerator. “You never cook, and you’re nutrition would go to shit if I left—“
“That’s not true,” I interrupt. “I know what’s good for me.”
Preston gives me a stony look. “But you’ve been eating Chinese takeout and pizza the whole week, haven’t you.”
Dammit, I knew I should have taken out the trash before he got here.
“Plus,” he continues, “you’re absentminded, and would never remember your appointments if I didn’t remind you, and you constantly sell yourself short; for some reason you never go for what you deserve without someone telling you to.”
Because he’s telling the truth, I become defensive. “So that’s why I should let you move in again, because you think that I finally deserve you? Because you just like feeling needed?”
“No,” Preston says sadly, looking at his toes again, “I’ve always thought you deserved much better, and I was afraid of being hurt.”