I’m working on the second round of edits for When the Planets Align—due out in December!—so, hey, want a preview? Sorry that you have to wait 3 months to read this. (Not that sorry. I’m building up anticipation here!) Here’s a tease:
There was a spring in the sofa bed that must have come uncoiled or something, because it stabbed Michael in the back every time he moved. He wondered if perhaps this was his penance for persuading Simon to come home even though Simon hadn’t seemed ready.
Simon had spent most of the afternoon lamenting how much the city had changed, not only in the six years he’d been away, but since they’d been in college. Michael had tried to argue that the changes were for the better; sure, everything was more expensive now, but the city was so much cleaner and safer, and it wasn’t like Simon couldn’t afford to live here with his fancy finance job.
Simon himself had hardly changed at all. His bright blond hair looked a little dustier, maybe, but he was still in good shape, he still had the same perpetually flushed pale skin, he still wore glasses with dark frames. Not that it had even been that long since they’d seen each other, only eight months, maybe, but having Simon back in New York for the long term made it feel like Simon had never left.
Michael reflected, as he squirmed across the mattress to get away from the spring, that a lot had changed since Simon had left. Joan was currently enjoying the quiet, open air of the Catskills with Trevor, for one thing.
And with that thought, Michael was awake and knew he would not be sleeping for the rest of the night.
His stomach churned as he got out of bed and walked into the kitchen, where he poured a glass of water and fished through the cabinets for crackers or some other bland snack food.
What was it that he wanted here? He wanted Simon back. He’d take Simon’s presence in his life again, though he wanted his friendship and craved his love. But there was damage to repair.
Michael had hurt Simon and he knew that, even though he had often pretended he didn’t understand why his taking up with Joan had cut Simon so badly. But Simon and he had been at odds back in those days, and Simon could never understand about Joan. Michael didn’t understand what had happened with Joan either most of the time.
She was one in a million, no doubt about that.
She and Trevor had a nice spread up there in the Catskills, which Michael could say with authority since he’d seen it, both on occasions he’d been invited and ones he hadn’t. The last time he’d said, “I could sue,” without really meaning it, which probably hadn’t been the way to go and had only served to piss Joan off more.
Regrets. Michael had a lot of them.
He couldn’t seem to undo the damage to his relationship with Joan without digging himself in further, but Simon’s presence in his apartment told him maybe he could repair his relationship with Simon, which was what he intended to do. And maybe that wouldn’t solve anything, and maybe it would make them both as miserable as they’d been when Simon moved to Dubai, but Michael wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t give it a shot.
And by “it” he meant the whole thing.
Aren’t you gay?
That was what Simon had said when Michael had come to him with the news that he’d hooked up with Joan, and for whatever reason, those words still rung through Michael’s head. Simon had been stunned. Michael knew that. He knew, also, that Simon probably would not have felt as thrilled about Joan as Michael had felt at the time. He’d hurt Simon deeply. He knew all of that.
So, fine. Michael had been a lousy friend, but all that had been years ago and he’d changed a lot since.
He supposed the problem was proving that.
The bedroom door opened and a tousled Simon emerged. “I thought I heard you get up.”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Michael said.
“Sorry to hear that. I just wanted a glass of water. Do you mind if I…?” He gestured toward the cabinets.
Michael got a glass down and handed it to Simon. “I want you to know, for whatever it’s worth, that things… everything is different now.”
Simon shot him a sidelong glance. “How so?”
“A lot of shit went down while you were gone.”
“I know, but—”
“There’s a lot you don’t know. A lot I didn’t tell you.”
Michael spared a thought for Trevor and then said, “Like I don’t want to get into it at three o’clock in the morning, but just… I didn’t want you to think that you would be moving back here and putting up with me and my old bullshit. It’s not like it was.”
Michael smirked. “I have all new bullshit now.”
Simon laughed. “Yeah. I’ll bet you do. You still can’t read a clock to save your life, though. It’s actually almost six.”
Michael looked at the microwave clock. “I’ll be damned.”
“Look, I’m sure a lot has changed. I told you when I agreed to stay here that I was willing to see how things played out, didn’t I? I do genuinely value your friendship, regardless of what else happened.”
Simon looked at the floor. “We did love each other once for good reasons.”
“But we don’t anymore?”
Simon looked up and met Michael’s eyes. “Well, first, you couldn’t keep your dick in your pants if someone paid you. I don’t know how I was supposed to react to that. And then there was the problem of us never quite being in the same place at the same time. But, eh, none of it matters now.”
“But it does matter,” Michael said. “All of it matters. You were the most important part of my life once.”
“So what the hell happened?”
What had happened? New York had happened.
“If I had it to do over—”
“Forget it,” said Simon. “I don’t want your apologies. I want to start fresh. All right?”
“Yeah. All right. But you should know—”
“No. Don’t tell me. Keep some secrets for now. We’ll sort all this out later. I’m going to go back to bed.”