Notes: This story is a coda of sorts to my story, The Edge of Something Deep, which you don’t have to read unless you want to. All needed background information is contained in this story.
Jim stood in the restaurant’s vestibule and glanced around. Andy said he’d be there.
A tall blond guy stood by the bar, but he was wearing glasses. Another blond man was sitting at a table, but he was with a woman. Andy had said he’d be alone.
The restroom door opened, and a slim guy with an athlete’s build emerged. He wore a red jacket, like Andy had said. Jim caught his eye as he neared the front of the restaurant.
“Jim!” He grabbed Jim’s hand and shook it vigorously. “It’s great to finally meet you. It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since we started chatting.”
“Yeah.” Jim nodded. “I think Blair and I would still be wandering out there without clue if you hadn’t helped me see how much I wanted to be with him.”
Andy laughed. “I have a table.”
Jim nodded and followed Andy.
“So, how’s Blair?’’ Andy asked when they were finally settled and had ordered drinks.
“Oh. He’s fine. He persuaded me to come.”
“I’m glad someone convinced you. Do you have a picture of him?”
“Actually, I do.” Jim wondered if that was weird. He took the photo from his wallet. “This is the day he graduated from the academy.”
“He’s a good-looking guy,” Andy said and handed the photo back to Jim.
“Yeah,” Jim agreed. He didn’t know what else to say. The waitress returned with their beer.
“So, how are things going with you two?”
Jim took a sip of his beer and shrugged. “Pretty good, I guess.”
“Is there something wrong?”
“No. I’m just not used to talking about this…relationship stuff,” Jim said. “At least not face-to-face with anyone. It’s still kind of new to me.”
Andy laughed. “I guess it would be after 30-odd years of dating women exclusively.”
Jim smiled for the first time since he arrived. Jim was relaxing in Andy’s easy company. “So, you still date women and men?”
“Yeah, when I’m dating at all,’’ Andy said, grinning.
“Good-looking guy like you? I can’t imagine you go too long between dates,” Jim said and took a quick swig of beer. God, was he really flirting with Andy?
“It’s okay, Jim. I know it’s not a come-on. Relax. We’re just two guys having a beer, okay?’’ Andy took a drink and Jim noticed his hands were wide with short, thick fingers. One nearly covered width of the entire mug.
Jim sighed in relief. “I feel kind of stupid.”
“Don’t. If there’s anyone who knows what you’ve been going through for the last few months, it’s me, right? There probably isn’t much you haven’t already told me.”
“I know, but it’s different in person,” he said, looking down into his mug, his shoulders hunched.
Andy leaned forward. “It doesn’t have to be, though.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry if I’m being rude.”
“Don’t worry about that. Just be yourself. We already get along pretty well.” Andy ran his hand through his curly hair and relaxed against the back of the cushioned booth.
Jim nodded and looked at Andy.
Andy’s eyes were drawn up and behind Jim. “Shit. The Jags are down by 6 points.”
Jim turned to look at the T.V. screen. “They suck this season,” he added, which started them arguing over who should be traded and what the team lacked. Jim suspected he changed the subject to make Jim more comfortable, but Jim never tired of talking about the Jags. As much as he enjoyed the conversation, it was time to get back to the reason for this meeting.
“Have you ever gone out with someone older than you?’’
“A few times, yeah. Why?”
“Well, I’m…I’m several years older than Blair and sometimes I feel, I don’t know, worn out. Too much life experience…or something.’’
Andy chuckled but Jim knew the laughter was not at his expense. “Listen, Jim, if I’m half as fit and handsome as you are when I’m 36…”
“Even more impressive. If I am, I’ll count myself a very lucky man.”
Jim was surprised to feel his face heat up.
“I’m not trying to embarrass you, Jim. I just don’t think that it’s something you should worry about. I don’t know Blair, but from what you’ve told me, he’s committed to you. Neither one of you entered into this lightly and you shouldn’t expect that he’ll just give up on you if the going gets rough or you’re feeling your age,” he said, leaning forward and looking intently at Jim. “There are no guarantees, but I think you’re going to have to trust Blair.”
Jim knew it made sense and just talking about it made him feel better. “I know. You’re right.”
“Of course I’m right. And you have enough things to worry about – what with being in an openly gay relationship – that you don’t have to start looking for things.”
Openly gay relationship? Hearing the words out loud surprised him. Despite what he and Blair had been doing the last two months, he had never really thought of it in those terms. But he knew that’s what it was. He didn’t want to hide his relationship with Blair; especially when he knew it was for the long haul. That’s what he wanted, didn’t he? Shouldn’t he start acting like he did?
Jim nodded. “I, uh, I’m glad we got together tonight. I think I needed to meet you.” Andy smiled at that. “You gave me some things to think about.”
“My pleasure, Jim. You can always talk to me when we’re online. Or you can call me at home.” He took out his business card and wrote his home phone number on the back. He handed it to Jim.
“Thanks,” Jim said, putting a tip on the table.
“You ready to head out?”
“Yeah.” They got up, walking toward the front door.
“We’re doing this again, you know that? Right?” Andy said in a teasing tone.
Jim groaned. “Now you’re starting to sound like Sandburg.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“Not always,’’ Jim said and they both laughed.
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