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Neville sat alone on the front steps, well mostly alone. Bruiser, the alpha of the pack lounged beside him, his massive head in Neville’s lap. In the two weeks since he’d moved in the big bull mastiff/Rottweiler mix had become his near constant companion around the house. Tyler said they were kindred spirits. “Misunderstood and too big for your own good the both of you.” He took to sleeping in his room almost immediately, which lead very quickly to Neville’s bed. Tyler apologized profusely at first but Neville assured him he didn’t mind. In truth he was elated. He’d never been allowed a pet in his childhood and once he was on his own, Neville’s lifestyle didn’t permit him time to properly care for an animal. Now he sat with his new best bud, slowly sipping a beer and watching the sun move slowly beneath the horizon.
It had been a near perfect day. The guys and Paris had thrown him a sort of welcome home barbeque, invited all the friends he didn’t know he still had and some new ones from work. Not many of his family came, mostly because Neville begged Paris to invite none but the cherished few and even some of them didn’t show. He got a few calls beforehand but that didn’t matter, those who showed filled him with enough love for the rest. All in all about 30 people came to help celebrate his release, and coming out as Gianni kept reminding him. The most surprising guest was his great-aunt who told him of an uncle he never knew he had, her brother, who killed himself in his twenties for being “the same kind of different,” as she put it. “Ain’t nothing wrong with loving who you want to love as long as they can say they love you back.” Wise words from a woman who’d lived almost a hundred years, Neville figured if she could get over it then so should everyone else in his old life.
He sipped his beer and contemplated what might have perfected the almost impeccable day. Paris had offered to call him up until she left her house that morning but Neville wouldn’t have it. It had been years since they’d spoken, even before his incarceration. Before Neville lost his scholarship and made his brief venture into a life of crime. It had been about a girl, or so Neville tried to convince himself at the time. Over the years of separation he’d given up that notion but it wasn’t until he sat down to write the letter to Paris that he admitted the truth. Neville had been in love with his oldest friend.
Neville Sinclair met Brion MacIntosh before either boy could remember. Their fathers were buddies and wanted their sons to share the bond so before they could even walk the boys played together. They shared everything from the start. There was video of Brion trying to give a crying Neville the pacifier from his own mouth when they were a little less than a year old. Neville gave him the nickname that had stuck with them until adulthood, “Breeze” because he couldn’t quite say Brion. They were on every team together organized or otherwise. All the kids at school knew they were a package deal, if you picked Neville you picked Brion by default which wasn’t a bad deal since they were both athletically adept at an early age. It just so happened that Neville had always been the bigger of the two but what he lacked in stature Brion made up for with speed and heart. By the time they made it to high school the boys bond was almost brotherly. Almost because by then, Neville had begun to have some very different feelings about Breeze. Feelings that only intensified when they left for college but by then Neville had already recognized them for what they were and did a pretty good job of hiding the possessiveness that came with them. Even when Breeze began to question why Neville always found fault in the girls he dated, he kept up the act.
It was their sophomore year when Breeze introduced Neville to Soleil Dallier, a filthy little southern belle so charming that Neville almost believed her when she told him that they’d be the best of friends too. Hedging her bets was what she was doing, figuring that if she strung them both along then she could cash in with whomever landed in the better station. Neville’s biggest mistake was not telling Brion immediately after she tried to kiss him. Well, she did kiss him but nothing happened, absolutely nothing. She was a beautiful girl, 5’10 with an ass that belonged on a women with twice her waist circumference and full supple breast only a twenty year old with no responsibilities could have. Her skin was honey toned as were her eyes and hair, she looked like her name and she knew it. So when there was Halkalı travesti not even the hint of a stir in Neville’s package she put two and two together. She tried to use it as leverage to keep him from selling her out but when he couldn’t promise not to say anything Soleil threw him under the bus. Well partially, she didn’t say that he might be in love with Brion only that he’d made a pass at her. That could have been forgiven if Neville didn’t so adamantly deny it but was unwilling to risk his world with the truth. He gambled on his friendship instead and lost.
“Big as you is you still a fucking coward,” was the last thing Brion MacIntosh said to his once best friend Neville Sinclair. He never heard Neville agree.
That was the beginning of his end. Stopped going to class and started partying. It wasn’t long before he found that his steady hand and quick reflexes translated behind the wheel of a car. He raced and won most of that summer, then the weekend before he was to report to preseason a sore loser flipped his ’99 Accord. Despite a broken leg, the loss of his scholarship and subsequent withdrawal from school the worse part of the whole ordeal was the knowledge that he would probably never see Brion again. They had already stop speaking but Neville could steal glances at him around campus, unfortunately he was usually with her but all good drugs have side effects.
“Hey man,” came from behind him and Neville turned to see Gianni smiling down at him. His cheeks rosy and skin glistening from the heat, he came to lean on the railing beside Neville. “Some of the guys want to go boozing. Interested?”
“Naw bud, I’m all partied out,” was Neville’s response, trying unsuccessfully to hide the loneliness in tone. Gianni heard it and frowned but he didn’t press, instead patted his shoulder.
That made Neville smile. “Of course.” It had become a routine of theirs, a quick game of horse before Gianni went to man his truck at night. They’d talk about everything and nothing. Neville was certain he wasn’t the only one in the house who needed a friend.
The house empty Neville set about keeping himself busy to keep his mind off the hole in his heart. Bruiser followed him around as he picked up the remnants of his own party. He didn’t mind, he would have done anything to occupy himself at the moment. Something mindless so he didn’t have to think about the number Paris texted him before she left.
She said he was divorced now and without children as if that might have meant something. Neville laughed thinking of it as he had when she said it. He ran an athletic training facility for underprivileged children whose families couldn’t afford the dues of travel teams. It seemed to Neville that Brion had done well enough in his life without him so what were the chances he’d want to reconnect with him. “If for nothing more than a tentative friendship, you should call him bruh,” Artemis, Paris’ husband, told him. “I mean, what’s the worse he can do…hang up.” He shrugged his shoulders to that as he changed into his basketball shorts and tank top. After grabbing another beer and letting the dogs out, Neville flopped down on the sofa in the loft to watch some sports news.
He must have fallen asleep, the dogs barking outside woke him with a start. How long it had been he didn’t know but judging by the intensity of the howls, the pack was ready to settle for the night. Neville thought it odd they be at the front door but didn’t think much of it until he opened it and saw them standing guard. There was a bat by the door and he grabbed the handle before he unlatched the deadbolt, ready for whatever the dogs might be holding back.
“Wassup fellas,” he said to them as he came out onto the porch. Bruiser came up the stairs and sat at his feet. Neville followed his line of sight to a suv parked just outside the gate. It was too dark for him to recognize make or model but when he turned to go back inside, the driver tooted the horn and flipped the headlights. A bark from Bruiser sent his adopted brother and sister inside, though Venus and Mars stayed at the door. “Shall we investigate?” A short yelp and a nudge was his answer. Neville laughed and made his way down to the ground with Bruiser right beside him. He got halfway to the gate when the driver got out of the car.
A man, about six feet and pretty well built was all Neville could make out with the headlights blinding him. He adjusted his grip on the bat as he slowed his pace. “Easy,” he said in answer Levent travesti to Bruiser’s low growl.
“All that there muscle you still need a weapon and whatever the hell that is with you on four legs,” the driver said and Neville stopped dead in his tracks. It couldn’t have been, he had to have been dreaming because it couldn’t have been him, not so nonchalant. Neville looked at the watch he wasn’t wearing he was so thrown. It took him a moment but he decided to take it for what it was, dream or not.
“You mean this guy right here,” he said with as much casualness as the driver said as he finished his journey to the gate to open it. “He ain’t nothing but a teddy bear, don’t let the growls fool you Breeze.” And there he was, Neville had to fight to keep himself from snatching him up in his arms. Instead he stuck out his fist and Brion tapped it with his. He wanted desperately to see him, to see just how the years had treated him but he didn’t want to assume anything. “This here’s my new buddy Bruiser. Bruiser this my old buddy Breeze.” Brion stuck out his hand for the dog to sniff, then lick. When Bruiser turned back to the house he looked to Neville and yelped again before he trotted off to the house. “So you want to come in or…”
“Naw boss I came all this way in the middle of the night to look at the gate.” He was nervous, Neville knew and somehow that made him feel better about his owm sweaty palms. He hadn’t changed much. “I should have came but…I didn’t want…”
“You here,” Neville said as he opened the gate. They rode back to the house in silence, not looking at each other. Neville couldn’t stop his fingers from drumming against his thigh as Brion parked at the bottom of the driveway.
They went inside and Neville offered him a drink but Breeze declined, still tense standing at the kitchen door. Neville smirked and grabbed two shot glass from the cabinet and put them on the island between them. Out came the cheap coffee flavored brandy the two shared as their first adult beverage at 16. He pour two shots and smiled at Brion. “Remember how sick we got when we thought we was too big for the milk.” He slid the filled glass across the counter and left it to take his own. Neville didn’t much care for the sweet liquor anymore but he always kept a bottle around just in case he felt nostalgic. Whenever missed Brion, he admitted to himself.
“Got milk,” was his smirking response and Neville laughed.
“Really?” Brion looked at him with furrowed
brows as he down the shot. He closed his eyes and sucked in a long hard breath after he swallowed. Neville took the opportunity to look him over under the crisp white LED glow in the kitchen. He still looked the same, though his face might have rounded out a little and his goatee was bit fuller, Breeze was still just as much the pretty boy he’d been in their teens. He resented that moniker but it was true. He even sported a few tattoos now on his caramel colored skin to further his point on his chest and upper arms, but there was too much color for them to harden his clean cut image.
They moved to the living room and Neville turned on the television to fill the silence. The shot only softened the tension to apprehension. Perhaps it had been so long they had lost the ease with which their near constant banter seemed to come. Maybe their separation had grown them too far in the opposite direction. Neville was afraid of just that fact, the true source of his reluctance to reach out. Just as he was beginning to accept this visit as a sort of closure Brion cleared his throat.
“I wanted to come see you,” He said but he didn’t look at Neville as he spoke, his eyes remain on the overlarge screen. Open but not watching. Neither of them were. “Paris came to the gym when you…she thought I might…that you might…”He did look at him then, his dark brown eyes wet. “But, Soleil she flipped out about it. When I couldn’t get on the list right away she figured I’d give up. I didn’t and she just got nastier. Shit was already fucked, then she got pregnant and she figured I’d forget all about you. We found out it was a he and I wanted to name him Neville…”
“Paris said you guys didn’t have any kids.”
“Soleil has a son and he’s named after his father,” he said and laughed. “That’s what you ask. The fact I wanted to name my first born son after you meant nothing.”
“Well I mean I would have been honored had he been yours,” Neville said quickly and hoped that Brion took it with the humor it was meant. Şirinevler travesti “Really after all this time you’d still do that.”
“What you mean? Just because we stopped speaking didn’t mean you stopped being my best friend…”
“You stopped speaking to me…”
“Naw nigga you stopped speaking to me,” He said a little louder than he meant to, after a deep breath he continued. “Yo, you moved out while I was in class. You think I ain’t notice you avoiding me around campus. We went to the gym everyday together at the same time you think I ain’t notice you switched times so we wouldn’t cross paths.”
“I figured it would be easier that way…”
“For who? Her or you cause wasn’t nan one of y’all thinking bout my Black ass?” He was yelling again, sitting on the edge of the couch. His elbows on his knees, hands clasped together tight between them. He looked to Neville, his eyes hard and focused. Neville couldn’t hold his gaze. “All these years and you still can’t tell me what’s real? That’s what little you think of me, of us. And you know I felt bad about calling you a coward. I carry that around with me everyday, thinking that if something happened to you in there that that’s the last memory you have of us…of me. Why can’t you just tell me the truth?”
Neville was speechless and when he chanced a glance in his friend’s direction he nearly broke from the tears he saw on his face. He wanted to to wipe them away, to kiss the trail that ran down his cheeks, but he held himself to his corner of the sofa. His mouth opened twice but he couldn’t work the words out. Then Brion was standing up and Neville went with him. Before he could think about it, his hands were up. One grabbed the front of Brion’s thin cotton v-neck, the other grabbed the back of his neck to pull their heads together. He watched their lips meet from outside his body, too much in shock to feel the electricity that passed between them in that moment. He collected himself just in time to feel Brion’s mouth open to his and his tongue did not ignore the invitation. Nor did he ignore the lump that rubbed against his thigh or the hands that grasped his forearms, not pushing but holding.
He didn’t have long to explore any further. The door flung open and in stumbled a thoroughly inebriated Gianni and mostly sober Tyler. “Hopefully that hammer is getting some…Oh shit!”
It was like Neville was on fire Brion pushed away from him so fast. Without a word he pushed pass the guys and was out the door. Neville was too busy smirking to follow until Tyler reminded him about the gate that they locked behind them. That got Neville moving with a bit of haste but he slowed his pace when he saw Brion’s truck stopped just before it. As he walked Neville prepared himself to be spat on, cursed out, and/or punched but he couldn’t stop smiling.
“Still think I’m a coward,” he said as he came up beside him, then stars danced in his vision but he wasn’t knocked off his feet.
“What the fuck was that Neville,” Brion barked at him, shaking the sting out of his hand. He stepped back a pace when Neville stood and spat blood. Braced himself for reciprocation. Instead he got laughter.
“I figured that might make a better memory…”
“I’m not gay Neville.”
“But I am Brion,” Neville said, choosing to ignore the lack of conviction that those words held. “And I’ve been wanting to do that since freshman year. I understand if knowing that is too much but I couldn’t keep it to myself anymore. And before you say it I’m not looking for that but you asked for the truth. Do with it what you will and I’ll be good with whatever you decide.” With that he opened the gate. Even as Brion got back behind the wheel, Neville hoped he wouldn’t drive away. No such luck.
That didn’t stop him grinning as he came back into the house to be greeted by catcalls from both men. It was Tyler that asked all the questions though.
“Was that him?” All Neville could do was nod. “And he let you kiss him?”
“Let might be a stretch but he damn sure wasn’t opposed to it,” Gianni said, wearing his shirt like a scarf around his neck as he chugged a glass of water. Both men shook their heads. “I’m just saying I noticed a little chub before he sprinted out of here that’s all.”
“You saw that too huh,” Neville asked with a chuckle and Gianni moaned into his glass.
“Judging by that fat lip he wasn’t that accepting either,” Tyler said as he handed Neville a cloth full of ice. He took it but didn’t immediately put it to his mouth.
“Ehhh, I think it was a knee jerk reaction. I know Breeze, I’ve seen him do worse for less.” Before anybody could say anything else, Neville went upstairs. As he walked past the pack Bruiser got up and followed him to his room. After two weeks, he still slept with his door open.
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