“You’re such a dick!”
I stared at Sarah as I slid into the booth opposite her. “What the hell have I done? I haven’t seen you in a year.”
“Exactly!” She bent over the table to shove me shoulder. “You were such an arse last year!”
Oh. She still held a grudge for that? “I was in a bad place,” I mumbled, glancing at the guy sitting next to her. He had long, blond dreads, but otherwise looked perfectly ordinary.
“This is Viktor,” Sarah grudgingly introduced him. “He’s a friend of Alex’s—and my new boyfriend. He’s staying with me for the summer.”
“Hey, man.” I held my hand out to shake like a perfectly nice guy—and Sarah scowled harder.
“Hey.” He had a string grip.
“What?” I stared at Sarah once I put my hand back on the table. Where the hell is Andreas, Alex, and Peter? They were all supposed to meet us here, yet I was here with Sarah’s glower and her hippie boyfriend.
“Nothing.” She shrugged. “Just trying to figure you out, is all. Congrats, anyway. About Nik.”
“Oh, thanks.” I could feel the embarrassment creep up. But this wasn’t me being embarrassed to be seen out in public with Nik—it was simply normal embarrassment of my friends knowing my personal business.
“I never in a million years could’ve pictured the two of you together.” Her scowl had eased up, finally. “In fact, I still can’t.”
“Still can’t what?” Andreas appeared in front of us, all smiles, and he slid into the booth next to me, crowding me up against the wall. Alex slid in at the end silently.
“Can’t picture him with Nik.” Sarah pointed at me. “Can you?”
Andreas glanced at me, then shrugged. “Not really.”
It was my turn to scowl.
Peter! Saving me from their mortifying conversation about me when I was sitting right there. Hallelujah.
There was only one space left—next to Viktor. Sarah’s ex-boyfriend sitting next to her current one. Now that had to be awkward.
“Hey, Peter.” Sarah leaned forward a little to smile at him.
Viktor shook hands with him. “Nice to see you again. Been a while.”
Two things went though my head. The first, Viktor was Swedish. The second, the two of them had spent time together before—back at Easter. When I’d lied and said I couldn’t go on holiday with him. That had been one of my better lies though, considering I’d ended up with Nik during that time. I couldn’t be happier about skipping out on a holiday with them, to be honest.
Alex and Andreas shook hands with Peter too—he was just home from the army, so none of us had seen him in a while. As for me, I hadn’t seen him in over a year.
He levelled a stare at me I couldn’t decipher. “You good, man?”
“Yeah, sure.” I drummed my fingers on the table nervously. “I’m fine.”
He nodded. “Congrats, by the way. I saw it on Facebook.”
“Thanks.” I’d taken notice of the fact he’d liked that particular status—that I was in a relationship with Nik. But he hadn’t commented or anything.
“So since when do you like blokes?” Peter asked then.
Alex cast a quick look at me, while Sarah reached over Viktor to pinch Peter’s arm. Andreas, on the other hand, glanced at Alex. So everyone’s known. Except Peter. And Viktor, obviously, considering I didn’t know him. I wasn’t sure if that was a relief or if it was mortifying.
Obviously Alex knew, I’d told him myself last summer, but Andreas? Alex must’ve told him. And Sarah? I had no idea. I didn’t even want to think about it to be honest.
“So are we ordering?” Sarah clapped her hands together to get all our attention. “I don’t think they’ll be happy with us if we don’t order.”
We were at BK, like usual when we gathered together. Now we all piled out of our booth to queue in front of the counter.
“You all right?” Alex had sidled up besides me and he asked this quietly so the others wouldn’t hear.
I nodded. “Yeah. I am.” For once it was true.
“You seem so.” He smiled a little. “I’m happy for you.”
I couldn’t quite meet his eyes. This was too mushy for me. “Thanks, man.”
We shuffled forwards, ordered one after the other, then piled back into the booth to wait for our food to finish.
“So whatever happened to the army?” Peter asked me. The dreaded question.
“Oh. That. Well… I didn’t go.” I wish I had my food in front of me. Or at least my milkshake so I had something to fiddle with. As it was I could only drum my fingers on the table and try to avoid looking at any of them.
“Why not?” Sarah frowned at me now.
“I just didn’t. I had some… stuff… I had to deal with.” I didn’t want to come right out and say I tried to kill myself. That was a mood killer for sure, not to mention they’d likely ask loads of questions. Questions I likely couldn’t answer.
Andreas knew. Alex probably too as I’d told Andreas he could tell him. That was good enough. I didn’t need anyone else to know about my lowest point in life so far. I wanted to keep those cards close to my chest.
“The army isn’t for everyone,” was all I said.
Sarah’s frown didn’t go away and Peter stared at me, but I didn’t know what else to say to make them drop it. I was starting to sweat, my palms already clammy.
“The army’s not for everyone,” Andreas shot in. “There were lots of times I was like fuck this shit. But I had to endure as it’s a good thing to have before the Police Academy. If it hadn’t been for that I’m not sure I would’ve bothered.”
That was taking it a bit too far. Andreas had been interested in the army for years. But it was nice of him to say it anyway.
Our food was called and we shuffled over to the counter to get it, and when we sat back down again the conversation had moved on. Away from me. Thank fuck.
When Andreas headed off to the restroom, there was nothing between Alex and me. I blinked at him. “Hey, Alex?”
“Yeah?” He scooted closer.
“I don’t have your number.” I pulled my phone up from my pocket and turned it around in my hand. “Mind giving it to me?” I held it out to him.
“Of course not.” He took the phone and started plugging his number into my contacts. “There you go.”
Our fingers brushed as he handed the phone back. Back year I would’ve liked the contact. Not that I didn’t like it now, but I didn’t like Alex in that way anymore. It wasn’t exciting to touch him, it didn’t bring forth warring feelings or any such shit. I only had feelings for one person now and that was Nik.
It was reassuring though to know that being around Andreas and Alex again didn’t bring back my doomed feelings of last year. That I wasn’t still hung-up on either of them anymore.
Andreas came back and playfully shoved Alex further in on the bench so that he was now sitting in-between us. “Want one of my burgers?” he asked, holding a wrapped one out to Alex.
“No thanks.” Alex grimaced. But he did steal some chips from Andreas’s tray.
My phone vibrated and I checked it immediately. As I was surrounded by all my friends, there were only two people it could be—and it was my very favourite person.
Nik: So in light of our recent domesticity, I’ve bought dinner for tonight and I’m going to make it from scratch. Well, mostly from scratch. I’m gonna feed you and you’re gonna love it.
Me: Looking forward to it! Be home soon.
It wasn’t quite right to call his brother’s flat home, but that’s what it was for three weeks. We were staying there, just the two of us. While we’d lived together for two months in Oslo, this felt different, as down there we’d had Nik’s flatmates around too. Now we were on our own—and it felt like a proper shift in our relationships.
Me: I guess this makes you the wife in this relationship then?
Nik: Oh shut up, Glenn!
I couldn’t help but tease him. And true to form, he took the bait. But he added a heart emoji after it, so he wasn’t all that pissed off.
“I don’t even have to guess who you’re texting with.” Sarah’s voice broke into my happy bubble.
“Hmm?” I looked up.
She chuckled. “Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile like that.”
“What do you mean like that? I wasn’t smiling. And certainly not in a special kind of way.” I did not have a smile that could be categorised like that. No way.
Andreas snorted from Alex’s other side. “You were so smiling, man.”
Peter nodded. Alex stuffed more chips in his mouth. Viktor didn’t seem to know quite what to do.
“Glenn’s in love,” Sarah said lightly. “Who would’ve ever thought we’d get to see the day, huh?”
“Oh, fuck off.” My love life was not going to be the topic of conversation.
She only laughed. “Now that’s more like you.” She reached over to briefly touch my hand. “But for real, Glenn, you’ve changed. I can see it. I reckon all of us can. And it’s a good kind of change.”
And now I got all kinds of embarrassed. “That good, I guess,” I murmured, ripping a salt packet into tiny little pieces so I wouldn’t have to look at her.
“I suggested a double date,” Andreas said, “but then we both realised we’re not the dating kind, so that was out of the question.”
Sarah laughed. “Well, I suppose we could go to the cinema all of us. Do you reckon that would count as a date? A triple date, huh?” She waggled her eyebrows.
Oh god. I wasn’t going to go on any sort of date with anyone. I could bring Nik to a movie with them, sure, but it wouldn’t be a date. Dates were romantic dinners out in a restaurant or holding hands while out on a romantic walk. Sitting in a dark room watching a film and stuffing popcorn in our faces was not a date. And so perfectly acceptable.
My phone vibrated again.
Nik: Just for that comment, your arse is mine tonight. Not that you’ll mind like at all, but it is. I’ll feed you and then fuck you.
Just the thought made me a little too hot, and a little bit uncomfortable in the crotch area. Maybe if I left our little group soon I could get home to a round in bed before the promised after-dinner fuck. Now that would be something.
I wolfed down the rest of my food, my two remaining burgers and the rest of my chips, washing it down with my chocolate milkshake. Then I wiped my hands with my napkin, clenched my hand around my phone, and sent off a quick text.
Me: I’m coming home now. Be ready.
“I’m off,” I announced, maybe sounding a little more excited about that than I’d been meaning to sound.
Andreas got out from the seat, then Alex scooted out as well to let me pass. “Don’t be a stranger, Glenn,” Andreas said, clapping my shoulder.
Of course I wouldn’t be. “See you later, guys.” I lifted my hand in a half-wave to the rest of them.
“Don’t go dropping off the face of the earth again,” Sarah admonished.
I gave a small, guilty smile. “I won’t.” They were my friends. The best friends I could’ve ever hoped for. I didn’t deserve them—hadn’t deserved them last year, anyway, but now I was in a better place I wasn’t about to shut them off. I loved my friends. I wanted them around.
My phone vibrated again and I grinned as I saw Nik’s reply. Good thing his brother’s flat was only five minutes away from BK—and if I made it back in three, who was supposed to catch me out, right?
Nik: You bet I’m ready. I’m ready like you wouldn’t believe.