Thanks in advance. Wondering if this version is more attention-grabbing/page-turning.
Abby was coming back. His Abby.
Sighing, Sam looked out onto the street, Manhattan’s ever busy sounds and scents drifting through the open window. He often wondered when the city would reach its tipping point, imagined the island imploding into the bay under that final burden of a single, miniscule person.
But there was room for Abby. Had to be. It had contained her before, right? Once upon a time?
He’d been so busy thinking about Abby’s eyes – and god, those curls – that he hadn’t noticed his friend slip back into the apartment. With some regret, Sam shelved the memories – sort, file, forget – and turned to see Davey leaning against the doorjamb. He looked so goddamn happy, the afternoon sun slanting through the window, lighting up his pale eyes.
“Did you hear me?” Davey dangled his keys, the jingle making Scout yip and spin on the spot, his beagle blood suddenly too chipper and excitable for Sam’s liking. Swinging the set back and forth, Davey spoke with that annoying pause between each word, like he always did when he caught Sam daydreaming. “Do – you – want – them – back?”
“Nah.” Clearing his throat, Sam crossed his arms over his chest, hoping that might contain the pressure crowding out his lungs. “Keep them. I’ve already told the doormen to let you come and go as you please.”
Davey crossed the room and reached up to squeeze Sam’s shoulder. “You okay?”
“I’m great. Just dandy.”
“I don’t need unrestricted access to your place.”
“Maybe not.” Sam grabbed the dishrag and polished the counters, scrubbing at a tea stain he knew full well would never come off. “But I need to know somebody could walk through my door any minute, else I might turn into some creepy dude who walks around naked and drinks right out of the milk jug.”
Davey lifted an eyebrow. “You already do both of those things.”
“True.” Hating himself, Sam swallowed the lump in his throat. “Just keep them, okay, man?” He forced a grin. “I give it six months.”
As though maturing on the spot, Davey’s playful, boyish features grew steady and serious. “He matters. I want this. Okay?”
“It was a joke, bro.” Shifting away, Sam tossed the rag into the sink. “Chill out.”
With a sigh and a nod, Davey slipped the keys into his pocket.“Thanks for helping us load up.”
Because he’d tried to get out of it, had considered feigning sudden illness or gross injury, Sam just shrugged. “Sure you don’t need my help on the other end?” He wasn’t sure he’d be able to stand it – carting boxes and memories into some other dude’s apartment while his best friend ran around playing house – so he was relieved when Davey shook his head.
“Kev and I can handle it.” Davey glanced at him, ran a hand through his loose, blond curls. “Ten years, pal. We’ve been roomies for ten years.”
“Yep. Long time.” Since they’d graduated from the ballet academy. Ten years. Jesus.
Awkward? Since when were things awkward between him and Davey?
“C’mere.” Davey pulled him into a hug. “It doesn’t change anything, Sam.”
“Sure.” Sam squeezed his friend, patted him on the back. Extricated himself before either of them got all sappy.
“You’ll be okay.”
“I am okay.”
“Yeah.” Davey nodded, but he looked thoroughly unconvinced. “Good. Okay. Kev’s making a coffee run, so I’ve got time for one last walk through.”
As Davey disappeared into the bedroom, Sam sat down on the couch, refusing to trail him like some pathetic puppy dog.
“I’m A-****ing okay.” He twiddled his thumbs and watched as the dog ripped around the room, certain he’d be getting at least a walk out of the excitement. “Don’t be stupid. He’s not taking you with him.”
“Huh?” Davey re-emerged from the hallway, shooting Sam a quizzical look.
“Nothing. Just talking to Scout.”
“Good idea.” Crouching down, Davey took the dog’s face in his hands, laughing at the wet kiss he received. “You take care of him, Scout. He’s your responsibility now.” Ignoring Sam’s middle finger, he kept going. “Tell him to mind his mouth and make sure he stays on top of his laundry. And remember, he cooks like shit so best to stick to your Kibbles N Bits. Oh, that reminds me.” Standing, Davey gave up the act and addressed Sam directly. “My mom’s made about a dozen casseroles for you. She’s bringing them round later this weekend.”
For the first time all day – wait, second (Abby counted for something, didn’t she?) – Sam’s stomach took a positive leap. He jumped up to clear out the
freezer, making sure he had enough room for a dozen of Betty Pearson’s casseroles.
“I’m gonna marry her one day.” Scowling at the assortment of junk he found in the freezer, he grabbed a garbage bag and started tossing.
“Too bad. She’s taken.” Giving the dog a distracted pat, Davey studied the apartment. He walked over and grabbed something from the bookshelf. “Mind if I take this?”
Holding up a snow globe, he shook the flakes over the miniature nutcracker and sugar-plum fairy tucked inside.
Sam just shrugged and turned back to the freezer, throwing a suspicious-looking container into the bag just a fraction harder than was necessary.
“Yeah.” Davey put it back on the shelf. “You mind.”
“I don’t,” Sam argued. “It’s just a stupid trinket. And it’s your stupid trinket.”
“Keep it. A memento.” Tilting his head, he studied Sam. “Don’t just mope in here and feel sorry for yourself. Call that girl you’ve been seeing.”
“I ended that.”
“About three days after it started. She was getting clingy.”
“Let me guess, she expected coffee in the morning.”
“It was more the fact that she was still here, in the morning.” Wrinkling his nose at a bag of leftover turkey that, judging by the date, was long expired, Sam
shook his head in disgust and dropped it into the discard pile. “And that she wanted to stay. Until the following morning.”
Davey sighed. “You know, if you weren’t such an asshole, you’d make a great catch.”
“I’d rather not be caught.” Satisfied he’d both made enough room for Betty’s casseroles and cleared out any potential poisons, Sam shut the freezer door. “So, Abby.”
He’d have to learn to control that in the future, the way she popped up and bypassed the filter between his brain and his mouth.
There it was again. Damn.
“Next month. She’s taking over a practice not far from the studio – wait, uh-uh. No way. Hands off.” Davey drove a finger into Sam’s ribs. “I shouldn’t have told you. Why the hell did I tell you?”
Doing his best to look insulted, Sam widened his eyes and brought a hand up to his chest. “My dear David, I, am a gentleman.”
“Gentleman, my ass. You have some serious flaws when it comes to women.”
Sam grinned. “They’re so warm and tasty. I will never, for the life of me, understand why you prefer men.”
“This isn’t funny. She’s off limits.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Sam waved him off. “Jack would have my balls, and as it happens, I like them where they are.”
“Why would Jack have your balls?”
And there he was, coffees in hand (and only two at that – would it kill him to buy Sam a cup of coffee?) – handsome-as-**** Kevin Dean, here to collect his bitch.
With a sappy grin that didn’t fit the words spilling out of his mouth, Davey snuggled into Kevin’s armpit. “If he screws Abby.”
Kevin’s knuckles whitened where they gripped Davey’s shoulder, and Davey must have noticed too, because he winced and pried the fingers away, bringing them up to his lips and kissing the tension out of them.
“Which he won’t,” Davey murmured in that soothing, contented tone he used to placate people. Davey did a lot of placating.
“Better not, or I’ll have ‘em first.”
Kevin was a good two inches shorter, but the challenge in his dark brown eyes still managed to trip Sam’s I’ll-do-whatever-the-****-I-want reflex.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Pulling Davey out of Kevin’s reach, Sam snaked an arm around his friend’s neck and kissed his cheek. “We could tag team the little guy.”
“I don’t wanna be tag-teamed.” Davey always claimed that he was stronger than he looked, and he was right. He twisted out of the hold and stood between the two taller men, bracing a hand on each of their chests. “Okay, maybe in one of my really inappropriate, never-gonna-happen fantasies, but seriously guys. I know I’m spectacular, but could you please, please try to get along?”
Kevin backed down first, probably because he had more to lose. Unlike him, Sam wasn’t getting sex from Davey. Never had. And yet, when it came down to it, he always got picked over the jealous boyfriend. Then again, Davey had never moved in with a boyfriend, jealous or otherwise.
“Van’s double parked,” Kevin said. He jerked his head towards the door, sighing when Davey motioned for him to wait outside in the hall.
“I love you, buddy, you know that.” Rising to his toes, Davey grabbed Sam by the back of the neck and pulled him down, planting a kiss on his forehead. “Aw, you’re so pretty when your eyes get all misty.”
“Screw off.” Sam pushed him out the door, into the hallway.” Go.”
Deciding he’d rather not watch Davey walk away – strike that, ****ing dance into Kevin’s arms – Sam shut the door and leaned back against it. The dog was staring at him.
“What? I’m not crying.” Approaching the bookshelf, Sam took the trinket in his hand. He shook the globe and sat on the floor, watching the snow coat the
miniature figures inside. When it settled, he shook it again.
Scout sauntered up to him and licked his hand. Burying his face in fur, Sam kept a firm grip on that glass ball.
“Abby’s coming back,” he murmured. “My Abby.”
It was delusional to think that she was his, that she’d ever been his. He closed his eyes and lay back, wondering what the hell she would think of him now.
He was woken up by a high-pitched whine, the kind that stabs you right in the gut and twists until you’re forced to do something. Assuming the sound was coming from his own throat, he willed control back into his muscles and tried to shut it off. When that didn’t work, he sat up and realized he’d soaked right through his shirt, front and back, despite the fact that it was October.
“Goddamn it.” He stood up and almost keeled over, his legs shaking with the effort to keep him upright. “Scout? Scout, where the hell are you?”
He found the dog cowering in the bedroom, pawing at the floor, his eyes darting back and forth. The howling stopped when he saw Sam, but that scared-as-shit look didn’t leave his eyes.
“S’okay, boy. It’s okay.” Dropping to his knees, Sam pulled the dog into his lap. “I didn’t hurt you, did I? I had a bad dream, that’s all. Just a bad dream.”
Except it wasn’t. It was real. So, ****ing real.