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16. Tattle-tale

Isaac had gone to bed quite late, but still far earlier than whatever time Beau and Adelaide had gotten in. He figured he’d be the first one awake, even if he enjoyed a little sleep-in, and would enjoy having the bathroom to himself for a morning shower before he made them all coffee.

But when he rose the next morning, Beau’s bed was empty. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, then patted a hand blindly around the side table for his glasses. He looked to his right, frowned at the unmade bed, then unplugged his phone from the charger.

Beau🍥(8:32am)

gone for a jog. spare room key is on top of the microwave.

Isaac squinted at the message, then looked at the time. It was 8:55. How Beau was up and jogging so early, after what he assumed was only four or five hours of sleep, was beyond him.

When he emerged from his shower, Adelaide was awake as well, standing in the kitchen to make herself tea.

“What’s wrong with you people?” he muttered as he dumped his old clothes on top of his bag. Adelaide looked up when she heard him, then pulled up a second mug.

“I tried to sleep in, but I couldn’t when I remembered we have the con’ today,” she explained, her voice thick with sleep and dehydration.

“I guess I’m on coffee runs today,” he sighed, only feigning annoyance. Their shenanigans were more amusing than anything, and he was more than happy to play nanny to their hangovers. He was sure it wouldn’t be long before he’d have a night just like that, and he hoped they’d return the favour when the time came.

Isaac sat in the room’s single armchair with his coffee and his laptop while Adelaide showered. He checked his emails and messages from Mark, but nothing important had come through, so he studied their schedule instead. When Adelaide stepped out of the bathroom, half dressed with her wet hair sticking to her back, he immediately felt her eyes lock onto him.

He waited for a beat, but when she didn’t speak, he looked up to meet her eye. She was sitting on the edge of their bed, watching him nervously.

“What is it?” he asked, then dropped his gaze back to his laptop.

“I’ve gotta talk to you,” she replied. Isaac’s hands paused over his keyboard and he slowly looked back up at her.

“Am I in trouble?”

She laughed humourlessly, then dropped her head. “No. Just… gotta talk to you. About last night.”

Isaac had no idea where this was going, but he felt the weight of her words. He gently closed the lid of his laptop and set it aside to give her his full attention. What made him nervous was the way she glanced at the door, like she was checking they were alone.

“Last night, Beau got… Pretty maggot.”

Isaac quirked his eyebrow, then followed her gaze to the door. He knew Beau liked to drink, but he also knew it took a lot to get him stumbling. “Everything okay? I assume he’s not too beaten up if he was able to go running this morning.”

Adelaide pulled her mouth into a flat line. “He likes you.”

Isaac blinked. He laughed incredulously, then his face fell. “Huh?”

She looked to the door again, just to be safe, then turned and nodded at him. Isaac frowned, looking for the joke, but she looked deadly serious.

“I don’t understand.”

“Try to keep up,” Adelaide quipped. “Beau told me he likes you.”

A flurry of images and feelings swept past him. Isaac remembered the warmth under his hand as he held Beau’s head, touched his face, as he cut his hair. The small touches he gave Isaac in return, the way his eyes sparkled when he stood by Isaac’s side. The last twenty years of friendship bundled up into one bright smile.

But also, every girlfriend Beau had ever had. Every ditched party, every cancelled plan. Every fight or quabble over something stupid that neither of them would remember anymore. The thought of Beau drinking, of how much alcohol he would have needed to rock that giant frame of his.

More than anything, how much Isaac just couldn’t believe it.

He closed his eyes and shook his head. “He was probably just drunk.”

Adelaide sucked in a deep breath, her eye never leaving him. “He was pretty shook by it. He thinks you’re straight and that you’d throw him to the street if he ever told you.”

“Then, he just…” Isaac started to respond, but he’d run out of excuses. Beau was a straight man, in all caps, and always had been. There was no way he was giving credence to a drunken fumble, a momentary curiosity.

“Do you reckon we should tell him?” She asked quietly.

That caught Isaac off guard, and a glimmer of fear passed through him. “Tell him?”

Adelaide tilted her head forward and started to comb her wet hair from over her shoulder with her fingers. “About you and me. Being gay.”

Isaac whipped his head around to the door again, heart already pounding. When he turned back to her, she had remained calm as she nonchalantly untangled her hair between her digits.

“Of course not,” he muttered through gritted teeth, not realising how his fingernails had dug into the arms of the chair.

His answer had Adelaide pursing her lips and lifting her head again. “Do you think you’re ever going to tell him? What about when you get married; is he not invited to your wedding?”

“Shut up,” Isaac snapped, eyes falling shut to try and escape the confrontation in front of him.

He wouldn’t – he couldn’t. He couldn’t ever imagine that for himself, that picket fence fantasy where no one blinked at his life or his choices. It was useless to consider that a hypothetical.

When he opened his eyes, Adelaide was looking at him with a raised brow and folded arms. He felt small under her gaze.

“What about you, then?” he asked weakly.

She pursed her lips again, finally looking away as she thought. “I don’t know. I’d rather do it together. I trust him, but… I feel like it would be easier to tell him with you.”

Even though all Isaac wanted was to be comfortable in his own skin, to be proud of who he was, he couldn’t imagine a world where he was out to anyone but Adelaide. It was the one thing that truly terrified him.

“I can’t think about this right now,” he simply replied, trying to hide the way his voice threatened to shake. “I’m not coming out. You can do what you want. I guarantee he’s not in love with me either – he’s just feeling whimsy from the journey and he’ll be over it soon.”

Adelaide raised her hands in a defeated shrug as Isaac lifted himself from his seat. He set his tongue piercing between his teeth and pulled at it anxiously.

“Alright. You’re not going to come out – what are you going to do, then?”

Her question caught Isaac off guard again, and he stilled where his hands had reached for his bag. He turned to look at her, finding her gaze distracted by her phone, and he thought.

Before he could answer, the door handle began to jiggle and click as it was unlocked. Beau swung it open and stood in the doorway, his breathing slightly ragged from his run.

He paused before entering, glancing between his two friends inside the room. His workout tank stuck to him, and sweat sheened across his face and bare arms. But he hardly looked hungover.

“Is the shower free?” he asked as he finally stepped into the room. Isaac watched with a swollen tongue as Adelaide gestured theatrically at the bathroom door, inviting Beau to go ahead. He kept watching as Beau gave Isaac a curt nod, then crossed the room to go and shower.

What was he going to do, she asked?

He was going to let this run its course.

He was going to keep his distance until Beau came to his senses and realised what he truly wanted – which was no doubt not Isaac. He was not prepared to be toyed with by straight men who simply wanted to scratch an itch. Especially not when that man was a dear friend who he liked very much and wanted to keep around.

He would lean away, as slowly and precisely as possible, so Beau wouldn’t even notice it. He would give Beau the room to breathe and enjoy their working holiday, to let him embrace the million other distractions that the states had to offer. To forget this whole thing ever happened.


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