Andrew sat in his chair for a good half hour without so much as moving a muscle. After closing Jiro’s door, he had walked to his office like a freaking zombie and had been oblivious to the ‘good-morning’ greetings that had been called out to him by co-workers. He had simply opened the door to his office, told his Personal Assistant (PA) over the intercom that he was not to be disturbed even if the building was on fire, and slumped in his chair. He had expressly ordered his PA to make up any excuse if Jiro called asking about him. Why he felt the need to do that had everything to do with what Abbey had said to him.
“Quick, without thinking, who is the person you love the most? Who is the person you want to be with for the rest of your life? Don’t say anything. Just think it,” She had said.
That was easy. Jiro. But then he did think about it. He thought about how she’d worded her questions. The person he loved the most? There was nothing wrong with admitting that he loved his best friend. Hell, they were like brothers. Brothers love each other right? It’s not a big deal, he figured. But then her second question hit him between the eyes, and he’d known he was blushing different colours of the freaking rainbow on the phone. The person he wanted to be with for the rest of his life!
The second answer had also been Jiro. He also knew that he hadn’t answered the question with the same mindset that Abbey or any other person would have used to answer the same question. But that was just it…as cliché as it sounded, his manner of thinking wasn’t ‘normal’…literally! He didn’t see life in black and white. He saw life in various shades of Grey. Hell, he could wear Grey from Monday to Friday and everyone would still think he wore different colours for each day of the damn week! The amount of shades of Grey that existed where he was concerned were mind-blowing. What am I thinking? If anyone could hear my thoughts right now, they’d think I was thinking about the book ‘fifty shades of Grey.’, he thought. But that was exactly his point. His way of thinking and reasoning was very different from the way other people reasoned. Why did everything have to mean something sexual to everybody except him? He grunted and focused his mind on Abbey’s second question again.
Ok, I need to think this through rationally, he decided. She had asked him who he wanted to be with for the rest of his life. He figured that to answer that question, other questions had to be duly considered. So, he began to think… Who did he go to whenever he had a problem? Jiro. Who knew him better than anyone else? Jiro. Who did he spend most of his time with and who did he make sure he visited first thing every day in his office? Jiro!
All of that felt perfectly normal and anyone in his position would have thought exactly the same thing; but then Abbey had expounded on her claims. She’d asked him who he thought of in the morning when he woke up, and who was the last person on his mind at night. Even when he had been dating Shade, Tola, Oyinda, and Kimorah in the three years since his return from the UK, and Jiro had still been dating Abbey for four years in a row; it had remained customary that Andrew and Jiro ended their days — every single night — talking to each other. In truth, it was Andrew who always initiated each of those calls to his best friend. If anything, it only proved the reason why he felt he needed Jiro in his life forever. He was a brother, friend, and confidant. One time when he was going for lunch outside the company premises and his car wasn’t where he had parked it in the company parking lot, he hadn’t been worried. Even when he had found his car parked in another spot a short distance away and he got in, he had instantaneously known what had happened: Jiro had borrowed his car. Andrew had easily picked up on Jiro’s scent. Besides, Jiro was the only one who had a spare key to his car!
He gritted his teeth as he wiped the beads of sweat forming on his forehead despite the well air-conditioned office. The swapping of keys had been a necessity because Andrew knew he was famous for misplacing his keys. Andrew had given Jiro a set of keys to his car and his apartment in the unlikely event that he lost any of them. Jiro had done the same after he had been served with a query at work for not bringing along an important file to a vital meeting with a client who had very deep pockets and very little patience…a file he had gone home to work on, and had left on the dressing table beside the land line after he had fallen asleep talking to Andrew. Looking back, Andrew was surprised that he knew Jiro so well. As the full impact of his knowledge of Jiro hit him alongside Abbey’s questions, he could understand why she had over-reacted.
She’s wrong though. She’s just being a woman! She’s looking at the picture all wrong because she’s angry. Her over-dramatic nature is what is confusing her! Damn it! Even happily married couples often kept secrets from each other. Granted, Andrew had a few dark secrets hidden from Jiro but that was normal. His secrets were irrelevant in this case. After all, everyone has secrets, even Abbey! “But this” — he couldn’t find the right word — “this ‘thing’ that Abbey is insinuating is absurd.” he said out loud.
Andrew put his head in his hands and knew he was in big trouble. He had thought nothing could ever disrupt his friendship with Jiro; but after seeing the look on Jiro’s face and hearing the disappointment in his voice when he had asked if guy’s night was still on, Andrew knew within himself that Abbey had opened Pandora’s box.
“This is not happening! This is not happening! This is not happening!” Andrew kept repeating to himself.
The sound of the office phone shocked Andrew back to the here and now. After two rings, he picked it up and yelled into the receiver “What?”
“Is there something wrong with you? What’s with the yelling?” the man said.
The voice on the other end of the line sounded angry and out to draw blood. Andrew recoiled immediately. Today was just not his day.
“I’m sorry sir.” Andrew stuttered.
“You had better be. Now, back to my reason for calling you. I am still waiting to get a copy of the creative brief you were meant to have sent to Mr Durojaiye first thing this morning” the voice on the other end said.
“I sent it to him via email on Friday after it was approved sir. I also blind-copied you in the email.” Andrew said.
“I am yet to receive it and I just got a call from a very angry Mr Durojaiye asking me how I have managed not to run the damn company into the ground. Seeing as you are in charge of Mr Durojaiye’s accounts, surely you can explain to me why I am getting calls from him at this time of the morning with nothing but complaints. I might be lenient with people but I am no fool. Explain yourself Andrew” The man barked.
“But I sent it to hi –” Andrew swallowed twice. His throat suddenly felt parched.
“He says he didn’t get it. Who do I believe? Him or you?” the other man continued, his voice and countenance still on a dangerously explosive edge.
“Sir –,” Andrew started
“How do I back your claims up in front of the client when I am yet to see the blind-copy of the email you claim to have sent to the client?” the man on the other line asked angrily
“But s–” Andrew said yet again.
Cutting him short, the man on the other line continued. “A client, mind you, that insists he hasn’t gotten any email from you! Andrew, do you take me to be a fool?”
Andrew cleared his throat. Just because company policy allowed staff of his pay grade to address upper management staff by their first names didn’t mean that the Master-Servant mentality didn’t still exist in most Nigerian companies. The company he worked for was no exception. At the moment, the CEO sounded like he was ready to tear him apart. Andrew could only wonder what the client had said to make Daniel so worked up. “I am sorry Daniel. I will resend it immediately sir.”
“See that you do.” Daniel said curtly. “Oh and Andrew, when you are done with that, report to my office.”
“Yes sir.” Andrew sighed heavily as he dropped the phone receiver. Being summoned into the CEO’s office was never a good thing. Daniel was a stiffler for time but he had an uncanny ability to waste the time of others whenever they were summoned into his office.
The office landline rang again and Andrew answered it with caution this time. “Hello, Andrew speaking.”
“Mr Andrew,” his P.A. started “I know you said not to disturb you but Mr Jiro is calling for you. He says it’s extremely urgent and he insists on speaking with you.”
“Rachel, what did I tell you about phone calls from Jiro? Andrew asked irritably. “Why can’t you just do as you are told?” Andrew snapped over the intercom.
“But sir, I told him you were in a meeting and he said I should let you know he was on the phone or else I’d regret the day I became your PA. He said you’d want to hear what he has to say. With all due respect sir, I thought maybe you’d want to at least want to hear him out.”
“Are you mad Rachel? Who should you be more worried about getting into trouble with: him or me?” Andrew barked out
“But sir –” Rachel stuttered
“And where on God’s green earth do you go off telling me what to do?” Andrew asked with a clipped tone
“I’m sorry sir. I was only trying to help.” Rachel said meekly.
Andrew angrily slammed his hand hard on his desk and yelled “I don’t care…” Clearing his throat, Andrew reined in his anger and schooled his voice into a lethal shrapnel. “I don’t care what your intentions were or what you tell him Rachel. Find another excuse and tell him I promised you I’d call him back as soon as possible. Better yet, tell him I was just called into the CEO’s office.” At least that part was true, he thought cynically.
“Okay sir.” Rachel said in a small mouse-like voice.
Andrew dropped the receiver and closed his eyes. The sound of tears in Rachel’s voice before he had dropped the receiver was not lost on him. He had never spoken to Rachel like that before. He knew she was the best at what she did because he, unlike other superiors, never yelled at his subordinates. Until now. He’d have to find a way to apologise and make it up to her.
He glanced at his watch. He still hadn’t sent that blasted email. The day was just getting worse by the millisecond and it wasn’t even 10am yet. Andrew groaned as he put his head in his hands. All he really wanted to do was find the largest hole leading straight to hell and crawl into the fiery pit happily without looking back.
After that phone call, Andrew had managed to steer clear of having any one-on-one time with his best friend; keeping his head down and feigning five different kinds of busy every time Jiro called. After lashing out at Rachel and apologising to her later on by buying her lunch, she had become rather creative with the excuses she gave Jiro as to why Andrew wasn’t available to pick his calls.
So far, Andrew had survived Monday and was breezing through the rest of the week. As a proactive measure, he had made damn sure he didn’t visit Jiro’s office or call Jiro at nights throughout that week. Instead of calls, he sent Jiro a text every night making sure Jiro was okay, apologising for not being able to see him, and insist that he had to go to bed early. “Swamped with work” the text had said all week. Better to lie than to keep quiet, Andrew had decided. He knew Jiro would see straight through the lie but he wasn’t sure what Abbey had said to Jiro after he had spoken to her over the phone on Monday morning; and he was too much of a mess to consider facing Jiro. All conversations would eventually lead right back to Abbey and the last thing Andrew wanted to talk about was Abbey and her misconstrued notions about himself and Jiro.
He had never been so miserable in his whole life! Andrew hated lying to Jiro but he wasn’t quite ready to talk to him either.
After working hours on Friday, Andrew knew there was nowhere else he could run to or hide. Guy’s marathon weekend was going to start around 9pm and he was going to have to face his best friend. I really should call Jiro and cancel. Surely I can come up with another lie, Andrew debated within himself. Even as he considered making up another excuse, he knew within himself that he wouldn’t. Loyalty and reverence for the friendship he shared with Jiro made it impossible for him to opt out at the last minute again. Besides, just because he had successfully avoided Jiro all week didn’t mean that he could avoid Jiro forever. He quickly cleared his desk, rounded off all loose ends in the office and made his way to his car. He loved Fridays because it meant he could dress casually. Checking to make sure the duffel bag in his boot had everything he was going to need for the weekend at Jiro’s, Andrew got into his car, put Waje’s new album into the CD player, and pulled out of the company premises.
All through the drive to Jiro’s place, Andrew had contemplated his options. Maybe I should just brave the odds and face Jiro. Maybe I should just hear him out. Maybe I should just turn back and drive home. Maybe I should just not show up. Maybe he’d just die before I get there. He sighed. The only way he’d ever be able to avoid Jiro completely was if he cut his best friend out of his life permanently: zero communication, zero hangouts, zero friendship! Period!
As he parked his car outside Jiro’s apartment, Andrew knew he was drawing at straws. Jiro had been there for him through the best and worst of times. Andrew knew deep down that there was no way in hell he was going to walk away from Jiro now. He’d rather eat a dozen shards of broken glass and walk through hot coals bare feet than turn his back on Jiro just because he was caught in the middle of a tiff between his best friend and his best friend’s girlfriend. He checked his wristwatch to see what time it was. It was a little after 9pm
Andrew decided he’d get the duffel bag from the boot after a few hours of drinking. If anyone needed alcohol this very minute, it was him. As he walked up the stairs of Jiro’s apartment, he told himself ‘I need to face this head on. I need to step up and help Jiro and Abbey through this. That’s what best friends are for!’
Out of habit, Andrew pulled out the spare key to Jiro’s house from his pocket and unlocked the door. Shifting the collection of movies he had purchased — all war and manly movies– into one hand so they don’t fall, Andrew pressed his full weight into the door in an effort to open it. The instant he did so, the door gave way easily from the inside without any help from his body mass. Knowing he had devoted too much of his weight to opening the door, Andrew knew he was going to fall to the floor inside the flat but he was helpless to break his fall. He hadn’t rang the doorbell so he hadn’t expected anyone to open the door from the inside.
“Hey Abbey!” the pleasant voice on the other line was melodious.
The sound of loud music playing in the background on the other line deafened Abbey temporarily. She moved the phone away from her ear and shouted into the receiver “Edirin for the love of God, turn the music down.” As her friend complied, Abbey placed the receiver back to her ear and said “What are you trying to do Edirin – make me deaf?”
“Oh please, If that was my intention, Abbey, you’d be deaf already.” Edirin said
Abbey laughed. “How far na?”
“I dey o. What are you doing this evening?” Edirin inquired.
“Staying at home as usual.” Abbey replied
“No way!” Edirin said immediately. “You are going out with myself and B.K. tonight. No more moping around waiting for Jiro to call.”
“He’s been calling” Abbey said grimly.
“And?” Edirin asked.
“And I have been ignoring his calls.” Abbey said.
“Why? I thought you’ve been pinning for him to call you all week long.” Edirin questioned.
“I’m still mad at him Edirin.” Abbey explained. “He’s left a lot of voice and text messages apologising and he says he wants to meet to talk, but I don’t know. I find it hard to let myself pick his calls or reply his messages. I get the feeling that if I do, I would be selling myself short and letting him off the hook too easy. I just feel like I should make him suffer one more day before I see him. ”
“Way to go girl.” Edirin said while laughing. “I feel you jare. Let him pine over you a little more. There’s no hurry. After all, what can possibly happen between now and tomorrow? ”
“Well…” Abbey hesitated as she pondered on the question.
“Absolutely nothing, that’s what.” Edirin said firmly.
“I guess you are right Edirin.” Abbey said.
“Of course I am right. The world wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t right.” Edirin’s playful gestures made it impossible for Abbey to keep herself from laughing out loud.
“Good. You are finally laughing.” Abbey said. “I haven’t heard you laugh all week. Now, back to my earlier question: What are you doing tonight?”
“Like I answered before, I’m staying indoors. I’ll probably watch a movie or something.” Abbey said.
“And like I said before young lady, you are not allowed to be gloomy no matter the situation. Consider this an intervention.” Edirin said in her as-a-matter-of-fact voice.
“But –” Abbey started.
“No buts Abbey. You deserve a fun night out.” Edirin said. “Now, I want you to walk over to your closet, pick out that freakum black dress I bought for you last Christmas, and get dressed. You are going out with me and B.K. tonight even if I have to drag you to the club in your underwear.”
“No Edirin. I really don’t feel like partying tonight” Abbey insisted.
“Why? You need to stop hiding out in your room just because your fiancé — sorry, ex fiancé — messed up. You are a strong independent woman and you need to let him know that you can live without him. Trust me, he’ll come back begging. They always do”
“Edirin, I hear you loud and clear but I’m just not up for the party scene tonight. You guys can have fun without me.” Abbey said yet again.
“Oh Common Abbey. Please!” Edirin whined. “You need to do this for all the ladies out there whose men keep treating them like they are options and not priorities. Please Abbey…Pleeeease”
Abbey groaned. She had never been able to say no to Edirin when she got like this. Maybe I should just say yes. Maybe it would help to get out of the house and let my hair down for one night. After all, its just one night, she thought. She might have told Edirin that she’d take Jiro’s calls tomorrow but maybe it was wiser to take his calls after the weekend was over. Knowing Jiro, he’d be with Andrew this weekend having fun with video games or talking about her; and what was she doing? Moping around like an old woman. She had watched enough movies to know that any guy in Jiro’s position would be seeking advice from his friends at this stage. She needed to do the same. Edirin was right: what was the worst that could happen? Besides, if she insisted on not going, she knew Edirin would be in front of her house within the hour pounding at the front door until she got Abbey to say yes. She sighed “Okay. I’ll come out. But I’m only going to come out because of the girl-power crap you pulled on me” she teased.
Edirin shrieked in excitement. “Awesome. Girl-power rocks! I’ll be there to pick you up by 11pm It’s a little after 9pm now so you have less than two hours to get ready. Make sure you wear the black dress, Abbey. Its absolutely breath-taking and that’s exactly what you need to be tonight…breath-taking!”
Abbey laughed and said bye to her best friend. She walked over to her wardrobe and got out the black dress. All I need now are the shoes to match. After contemplating for five minutes on whether to wear the black, red, or brown shoes she had bought recently, she opted for the red ones.
Excited for the first time since her fight with Jiro, she ran to the bathroom to shower. Edirin would be here soon. A night out with the girls would be fun. Time to paint the proverbial town red! Everything else can wait. Edirin was right…what’s the worst that could happen?
Hearing the jiggling of keys, Jiro had walked over to his front door and opened it from inside his apartment. Andrew stumbled in, his free hand losing its grip on the door handle, his face was a mask of surprise. Jiro fell backward as Andrew stumbled forward, sending the DVDs spiralling to the floor and Andrew’s body mass completely leaning into Jiro frame. In an effort to regain composure and break his fall, Andrew reflexively wrapped his arms around the closest thing his hands could grab: Jiro. Desperate to break his own fall, Jiro reached out behind him and tried to grab the nearest table to balance himself. He missed it by an inch and had the air sucked right out of him as Andrew’s body mass pushed both of them to the wall. Their bodies pressed together against the wall as they both sought to regain a balanced footing.
“Jiro, what the hell?” Andrew bellowed, pushing Jiro’s back deeper into the wall as he pushing himself off his friend and stood on his own two feet.
You’ve got to be kidding me, Jiro thought. It felt like the universe kept pushing Andrew into his personal space at every damn turn. “Hey, Now hold on,” Jiro moved his weight off the wall and stood a couple of feet away from Andrew. “What exactly is wrong with you? Why didn’t you use the doorbell? When I heard someone fiddling with the door, I thought Abbey had seen all my missed calls and text messages and was finally taking me up on my offer to sit down and talk with me. I figured maybe she’s thinking she’d catch me cheating on her if she sneaks up on me, so I wanted to get the jump on the element of surprise by catching her sneaking into the house.” Jiro trailed off, his gaze shifting away from Andrew as he stepped back, breaking all eye contact “…Not that you deserve to know any of this. After you ignored all my calls throughout the week, I was so sure you weren’t going to show up tonight. Looks like I’m the one who got the surprise!” he managed to say with a smile that he was sure looked as cynical as it felt. He walked into the room, leaving his friend by the front door. Andrew shut the door, picked up the DVDs from the floor, slipped out of his Louis Vuitton shoes, and followed Jiro into the living room.
They settled on opposite ends of the couch. Andrew tossed the movies on the table, opened a beer for himself and another for Jiro; and grabbed a piece of chicken wing from the large plate of chicken wings on the table.
Neither of them moved to start the DVD player.
Neither of them spoke.
When Andrew had stuffed down four pieces of chicken wings, he decided he couldn’t put off talking to his friend. If he didn’t break the silence now, he was going to go mad. The quiet was deafening. Jiro was grumpy and he hadn’t eaten anything since Andrew had arrived. It was obvious Jiro was still reeling over Abbey. I need to step up and help Jiro and Abbey through this. That’s what best friends are for, he reminded himself. Andrew had known Jiro would have figured it out that he had avoided him all week. Andrew decided that the first had to do was make things right by clearing the air about that.
“Look, I’m sorry about not getting back to you all week. Its just –” he began.
“Forget it,” Jiro interrupted.
From the corner of his eye, Jiro noticed that one of Andrew’s buttons had come undone, slightly revealing his friend’s lightly hairy chest. His self-disgust grew as he stole a glance at Andrew’s face and noticed how brown Andrew’s eyes were. They were always a richer, darker colour when he was upset. Jiro’s frown turned into a full blown scowl. He looked away and stared at the blank screen of this 32” inch Samsung flat-screen TV.
Andrew groaned and dropped his head in his hands. “You don’t understand. I don’t think we are on the same page here. I need to explain why I acted the way I did.” A look of horrified disgust masked Andrew’s face as he spoke “It’s just that Abbey said some things that — that” He shivered in visible disgust at the memory of what Abbey had said.
And Jiro had noticed it.
Still scowling, Jiro turned to face Andrew again. “The same page? Andrew, we are not even in the same book! Look, about what Abbey said, its not what you think,” Jiro shouted, jumping to his feet. “She’s wrong!”
Guilt-ridden for avoiding Jiro all week, Andrew looked up at Jiro from where he sat and expressly feeling the need to explain himself. “No, its not what you think.” Andrew countered.
They fell into arguing, each party trying to raise his voice over the other in an effort to be heard out. Andrew didn’t have a clue as to what his friend was trying to saying. He didn’t really care just yet. He was determined to get his point across. Years ago, they’d each learned that they had an affinity for debate and had been awesome at it in school. Andrew knew his friend wasn’t going to give an inch until he got his message across, but damn it, neither was he! He stood up.
“Stop being so damn stubborn and listen to me, Jiro,” he shouted
“Who’d listen to you yelling?” Jiro barked, raising his voice yet again. Andrew didn’t know who pushed who first, but they were suddenly in a shoving match. In the last nine years, everything between them had been a competition. They had always fought before like two teenage boys, wrestling each other to the floor and knocking over furniture. A man wasn’t a man until he’d proven himself in a fight with his friend. They were both athletic and muscular, having spent a number of hours at the gym together lifting weights and dripping buckets of sweat side-by side when running on the treadmill.
Jiro thumped Andrew in the chest, and Andrew pushed right back. They got into each other’s faces, shouting. Someone knocked against the table and the plate of chicken wings went flying, landing upside down — contents first — on the butter-coloured carpet.
“You’re going to pay for that,” Jiro ground out.
Andrew sneered, “Why should I? You knocked it over.”
Jiro grabbed Andrew’s arms in a bruising hold. Andrew twisted and knocked Jiro’s hand away. Jiro charged at Andrew with brute force for a chest-thumping match the same time as Andrew did. Their chests met, lips less than an inch apart. All the wind left Jiro’s sails in an instant. He stopped pushing, but so did Andrew.
Jiro told himself to back off, to get some space between them, but he didn’t move…he couldn’t move his body. Then again, Andrew didn’t move back either.
They were too close, chests heaving, breath warming each other’s faces. Seeing as words had failed him, Jiro tried to glare at Andrew in disgust in order to motivate himself to move back, but all his did was look down at Andrew’s strong thick lips. Beyond them, Andrew’s jaw was chiselled and coated with bristly black hair. He hasn’t shaved his beard. He looks so…so good! Jiro mused.
Jiro knew he shouldn’t have been caught dead thinking about that. He should be the first to get over his anger and tease Andrew by saying that he’s won the argument and the fight. Andrew would most likely sulk and switch into his overly superior attitude, like Jiro was beneath his royal notice. That was how their fights always went.
Instead, all Jiro could think about was just how much he wanted to see what it was like to kiss his best friend. This was all Abbey’s fault, Jiro thought angrily. If he touched Andrew in the wrong way, nine years of friendship would be lost in nine seconds. Jiro knew that if he did something stupid to piss Andrew off to the point of losing their friendship, he would never forgive himself. He knew deep in his gut that losing Andrew’s friendship would hurt a lot more than all his serious relationships combined.
Don’t do anything, Jiro. Think about the friendship. Move back, sit down, and watch the damn movie.
Words of Advice on deaf ears…
His mind was ready to move back but his body refused to obey.
Jiro leaned closer and let his lips touch Andrew’s lower lip ever so slightly. The lip was warm, softer than Jiro had expected. What shocked him was the pleasure he felt, the excitement that raced through his body and settled firmly in his boxers. If he moved now, Andrew would see that he’d gotten a hard-on simply from the brush of their lips. Not wanting to test fate but desperately needing a lot of space between them, Jiro’s disobedient legs finally took a few steps back. Looking away from Andrew, Jiro retreated further from his friend. Andrew looked shocked, but no one was more shocked than Jiro. What had possessed him to press his lips to that of another man? He had been so close to kissing Andrew! The thought of two men kissing was disgusting and utterly revolting…or at least he had thought it would be. What he had just experienced seemed far from revolting. Fuck! I’m done for! What the hell was that? What was I thinking? How could I have let Abbey’s words make me go too far? That was all kinds of gay! Damn it! I’m not gay! This has never happened to me before in all my life. What sort of thing is this? I am NOT gay, damn it!
He finally found the strength to look back at his friend. Andrew stood there in front of the couch, staring straight ahead. Andrew hadn’t said a word. He hadn’t moved from the spot where he stood. He looked like he had seen a ghost…or had been kissed by one. Jiro closed his eyes, angry and disgusted. He had just experimented his life-long friendship away, and for what? To prove to himself that Abbey was wrong? Damn it! He hadn’t been thinking about his best friend in this way before, had he? Hell no!
A silhouette from outside the window behind them caught their attention. They both looked and Andrew recognized the stranger waving at them to be Jiro’s neighbour. Jiro waved right back and walked over to the window to shut the window blinds. Andrew bent to pick up the spilled chicken wings from the barbeque-sauce-stained carpet while Jiro watched him clear the mess they had made on the floor. Andrew stood up, dumped the mess on the centre table, and walked away from Jiro to the other end of the room.
“Why did you do that? Andrew asked after some time.
Was that Irritation or anger in Andrew’s voice? Jiro wasn’t sure. “It was an accident.” he said. Breathing heavily, Jiro straightened up, walked over to the couch and sat back down.
Andrew walked towards the couch but didn’t sit down. He moved the mess from the centre table and sat down there, looking directly at Jiro but staying away from him. I cant blame him, Jiro thought bitterly. How do I explain my actions to him when I can’t even explain them to myself?
“I cannot begin to explain how sorry I am Andrew. It’s just that Abbey said. –” Jiro began.
Without warning, Andrew grabbed Jiro around the throat with one large hand and shoved him back. Before Jiro could react, his friend’s lips were on his, tongue teasing to gain entry. Shocked, Jiro couldn’t think straight, let alone resist. He gasped and Andrew’s tongue darted into his mouth, his kiss rough and wild. Jiro felt like he was being choked by Andrew’s hold on his throat but he tasted so damn good, Jiro couldn’t find the strength to brush Andrew’s hands off or pull away. He tilted his head, and their noses bumped. The hair on Andrew’s face scraped the ones on his, but Jiro pressed in closer.
Which of them moaned, Andrew wondered as he drew Jiro’s lower lip between his. He licked at the moist softness. When Jiro raised his hand in an effort to get air in his throat, Andrew’s hand let go of Jiro’s throat only to brace Jiro’s shoulders against the chair and crush his chest into Jiro’s.
The tenant in Jiro’s boxers was on fire and begged to be let out to play. His mind swam in all directions. Maybe this was a test. Maybe Andrew was just getting back at him for initiating the initial brush of their lips. Panting, Jiro shoved his friend away and finally wedged some space between them. It was Jiro’s turn to look like he had seen a ghost…and he damn near felt like he had been kissed by one, literally! “What the hell was that Andrew?” Jiro asked in rage.
Struggling to fix his pants before Jiro noticed, Andrew got up and was the other side of the room near the windows in seconds. “Fuck my life. I don’t know.” Jiro didn’t say a word so Andrew went on. “Abbey said some things to me. I’d like to think she brainwashed me with her suggestions that…”
“That I want you?” Jiro asked. “That I would crave your touch and welcome your kisses?” His tone was angry and cold. Andrew faced the window and rested his forehead on the cool glass. If Jiro hadn’t pulled the blinds and closed the curtains, anyone could have passed by and the world would have seen what they had done…what he had done. Shame washed over him.
Andrew took in a deep breath before he spoke again. “What? What are you talking about?” He turned to look at his friend as he continued speaking. “No, she didn’t say that you wanted me. She practically insisted that I wanted you.” The air felt tight in the room. Letting out a defeated sigh, he said “I’m sorry, Jiro. I should probably go.” He turned and started to walk to the door.
Jiro’s voice came from directly behind him, and he jumped but didn’t turn around. Andrew’s entire being was all too aware of Jiro right now, and he wished he could take it all back.
“You’re saying she told you that you- — want me?” Jiro asked.
Jiro cursed. “She told me I want you, that she’d known it for a while, and she was waiting for me to figure it out. She said, knowing me, I’d never make a move, so she had to get it going.”
Andrew whirled to face him. He was close enough to step into Jiro’s arms again, but Andrew resisted. “She’s wrong about you. You are straight, Jiro. I know you better than anyone else. I can bet on my life that you are straight. You are in no way attracted to men. Believe me, if you were, I’d know.”
“I know right?” Jiro agreed with Andrew. Jiro looked down at the floor as if he was puzzling over what Andrew just said, and then he met Andrew’s gaze. “Drew,” he said very carefully, “I need to know. Was Abbey wrong when she told me you want me?”
“That isn’t the point.” Andrew insisted.
Jiro could feel his blood pressure rising. He knew he wasn’t attracted to men. He had only been experimenting on what Abbey had planted in his mind. And because he had had all week to wonder, his curiosity about it had grown exponentially. No matter how his body reacted a while ago, he knew he wasn’t gay. It must have been something in the beer; maybe it was a bad batch or something, he decided internally. Looking at Andrew now, he wasn’t so sure he could beat his chest and say his friend was as straight as he had always believed him to be. “On the contrary, that’s exactly the point.” Jiro shouted as he stared Andrew down. “Tell me the truth, damn it.” Jiro insisted.
“Bloody hell.” Andrew felt like kicking himself for letting his testosterone run the damn show. Granted, all week long, the thought of kissing Andrew had nearly drove him insane! That didn’t give him the liberty to stick his tongue down his best friend’s throat just to sate his own damn desires. He hadn’t even looked at Jiro this way until Abbey had opened her stupid mouth and led him straight into the belly of temptation! His plan tonight had been to be standoffish and play things cool despite the dilemma Abbey’s words had activated in his head. The second Jiro had taken the first step and brushed those killer pink lips on his, Andrew had known he was done for. He hadn’t been able to stop himself. Now, staring at his best friend, Andrew couldn’t stop thinking of how Jiro felt and tasted under the scrutiny of his arms and mouth.
Jiro growled, his voice turned spastic ice. “Answer me Drew.”
“Fine! You really want to know? The answer is yes,” he took a breath and continued carefully. “Like you know, I have had relationships with a lot of women and I have slept with more women than I can possibly count in my lifetime, but I am also” he swallowed spit and finished his sentence “I am also attracted to men.”
For several seconds, Jiro shook his head in confusion and hovered on the edge of denial and disgust. Righteous indignation prickled skin in the form of humiliated heat. His voice shook as he cursed. “You bastard!” at Andrew, who backed away, taking his cruel and wicked lips with him. “you fucking gay bastard!”
“I’m sorry. I was going to tell you eventually. I swear I never meant to ki….” Andrew didn’t get the chance to complete his sentence as Jiro’s fist punched him square in the eye, instantly drawing blood from his nose. From the agonizing pain he felt from his left eye, Andrew knew that he was going to have bruises and possibly a scar before the night was over.
Andrew’s voice sounded shaky as he continued “Okay, I deserved that.” he swiped the blood from his nose with the back of his hand and looked at Jiro with eyes filled with regret. “Now that that’s out of the way, let me just make one thing clear: I’m not gay. I’m bisexual. Yes, I’m attracted to men but I’m also insanely attracted to women. I’m still the same Andrew you have known all these years. Nothing has changed. Its still me.”
Rage turned everything into shades of red in Jiro’s eyes. He stared accusingly at Andrew. “What do you mean nothing has changed? Are you daft? Everything has changed! All these years, I’ve been naked in front of you several times without a care in the world. I told myself that it didn’t matter because you are a guy…my best friend!!! ‘Boys will be boys,’ I had thought. How do I know that you haven’t been scheming to get me into bed or something all these years. Have you ever touched me when I was sleeping and I didn’t know? I cannot trust you ever again. Every time I have ever hung out with you has been put into question now because of your sexual ‘perversion’.” He said the word with so much disdain in his voice, Andrew visibly flinched. Jiro didn’t care. He was livid! At least he had a good reason for almost kissing Andrew…he had been experimenting because of Abbey’s words. Andrew, on the other hand, was probably the king of gay activities.
Jiro sneered at Andrew. “Have we ever even been friends? My God, I cant even stand to look at you right now.” Jiro looked at his wrist watch…anything to avoid looking at his life-long friend in the eye. He had to leave the room before he punched him again or else he would kill him on the damn spot. “Look, it’s late and I’m tired.” I couldn’t sleep now even if I tried. “Let’s just go to bed and forget this ever fucking happened. Guy’s what-ever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it night is officially over! You know where the guest room is. Make sure you are out of this house before I wake up.” Walking briskly, Jiro practically sprinted to his room and went straight for the sachet of aspirin on his bedside table. The doors creaked open and Andrew cautiously walked in with a pack of ice on his left throbbing eye “Jiro, please lets talk about this. I know you are angry right now and you have every right to be but I need to explain things to you. You don’t understand. I’ve never looked at you like that before tonight. You need to hear me out.”
“I don’t need to do shit where you are concerned, Andrew. Get out!” Jiro yelled.
For once, Andrew didn’t argue, didn’t fight him. He turned away, paused at the door, and said, “Hate me all you want but I just need you to know I am sorry. It will never happen again.”
“You can bet your life it wont! Bastard” he yelled again, but the door was already closing behind Andrew’s departing back.
Humiliation and anger scalded Jiro’s face and neck. This was all Abbey’s fault. She had done this on purpose. She had taken her revenge out on him for constantly neglecting her on weekends. That’s why she had goaded his closeness with Andrew at his face the way she had. He knew she had every right to be angry at him for never really having time for her; mainly because he spent time with Andrew every weekend. Initially, when Andrew got back, she hadn’t minded the arrangement. If anything, it was bliss for her because she could go get her hair and nails done, attend various weddings, and meet up with friends. But after the first couple of months, her irritation had begun to show. He had told her that she could join them anytime but she had always refused, saying she wouldn’t share her time with him with anyone else. Three years down the line, her understanding nature had transformed into an insidious tsunami; and his once loving Abbey had slowly turned into vengeful Medusa.
But she had gone too far when she had said all she had said about him and Andrew secretly wanting to be lovers just because they were closer than most siblings would be. He had thought she was crazy. Boy was I wrong! I’m not even sure she knows what she’d stumbled upon! My best friend is gay…or bisexual…. or whatever, and I never knew! He likes men and he tried that fucking crap on me!
Jiro just couldn’t bring himself to accept Andrew’s revelation. Worst part of it was that somewhere in his bent and twisted mind, Jiro had enjoyed the kiss. He had even gotten hard shortly after he had brushed his lips against Andrew’s. Why the hell did I even do that? I wish I never knew about all of this. Andrew never should have told me. Now that he had tasted Andrew’s kisses, he knew he wanted to experiment more with Andrew. Damn it, Andrew had no right to do this to me! He had no right to make me hard, to make me feel this way…to make me want to…to reciprocate…to do more with him.
Furious, exhausted, and overwhelmed, Jiro flung himself down on his once longed-for-bed and yanked the covers over his head praying silently that it would shield him from his vile thoughts.
I trusted you Andrew. I fought for you. I stood up for you when Abbey said all that bullshit about you. She practically walked out of my life because of you! I should have listened to her.
Drew…Your bastard! Why couldn’t you have just lied to me and kept me in the dark about all this? I might have talked a big game about wanting the truth but nobody in their right mind would ever choose to know this kind of truth. You should have lied to me, damn it!
I’ve got to get Abbey back, Jiro decided.
The million dollar question now was how he was going to find a way to win Abbey back!
To be Continued!
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SOUNDTRACK FOR EPISODE 2::: Roulette of The Damned: PERFECT IMPERFECTIONS: LOVE THE WAY YOU LIE (PART 2) by RIHANNA FEATURING EMINEM