Paul hasn’t had the best of luck. His boyfriend Rick has something on his mind that he wants to talk about with Paul after work in person. Paul worries about it all day long on his job as a veterinarian assistant. It’s probably something bad, or maybe his luck has changed.
Having spent much of his childhood in the foster care system, and homeless for a while as a young adult, Paul struggles with looking at the bright side, though he knows he should. So much has gone wrong. That’s what he expects. If only he had better luck.
“Then you’d better get going. Someone’s waiting for you with good news, I’m sure.”
He appreciated Cindy’s positive attitude, but he wasn’t buying it. “We’ll see.”
Gladys looked puzzled at the two of them but didn’t say anything. She took Bingo’s leash from his hand and led the dog toward the kennel.
Cindy patted him on the back. “Don’t worry.”
He said goodbye and checked his phone on the way to the car. Finding nothing from Rick, he sent him a text. I’m going home to shower. Where are we meeting?
On the drive home, a computer voice from the dashboard recited Rick’s response. Chez Mon Ami at eight.
Too bad it had to be there. His favorite restaurant, he didn’t want it ruined. Maybe Rick was feeling some nostalgia, or else he picked a nice place too awkward for making a scene. Not that this was going to happen, surely, Rick knew him better than that. Maybe he just wanted the crème brûlée. You never know with men.
Paul pulled into his parking spot, went inside directly to the shower, and undressed. He ran the water until it warmed, and he climbed in. It got too hot. He adjusted the faucet until a perfect warmth caressed him like Rick had done the week before when they’d last made love. He would miss that.
Taking his time washing, sometimes just standing under the warm water, he didn’t want to get out, anticipating the inevitable chill. He turned the water warmer for just a little bit longer and then shut it off.
The cold air rushed in, and strangely shivering, he wrapped himself in a towel. He’d been through worse things than this. It would be okay, no matter what happened. He dried himself.
On the way to the closet, he combed his fingers through his hair. Sorting through the hangers, he picked a favorite outfit, choosing to look nice despite the occasion. He dressed.
Back to the car, he drove to the meeting place just a little early. Rick was waiting by the entrance. The smile struck Paul as out of place, considering the circumstances. Maybe Rick was nervous. He’d seen that tense grin before. Trying to smile, himself, he waved from the parking lot.
On the way to the entrance, he tried acting normal. “Hi.”
“Hi, Pauly. Glad you made it.” Rick opened the door for him.
They walked into the foyer filled with people. Rick spoke to the maître d’. He led them across the crowded restaurant to a table for two by a window. They sat.
From the look of the busy servers, they would be here for a while. There was no escaping now. Time to talk. He fiddled with his fork.
“How was your day?” Rick asked.
“I’m glad you made it.”
“Me, too.” He lied. “How was yours?”
“Busy, but I’ve been needing to talk.”
“So, I hear.” He slipped and allowed the slightest hint of sarcasm.
Rick’s smile dropped, and his eyes widened. “Oh, I should have known better.”
“Not to keep you in the dark. I’m sorry. You worry.”
Rick did know him well. There was nothing Paul could say to that, so he kept quiet.
“I’m sorry. I was only thinking of myself. I’ve been preoccupied with something lately.”