What the hell? I thought staring at Dean’s photo, thousands of questions racing through my mind.
The photo showed that Tyler and Dean were clearly friends, but if office gossip was to be believed, Dean hated Tyler’s guts. Though looking at this photo, it was obvious that had not always been the case.
Then how? How did Dean come to hate Tyler so much?
What was even more surprising than Tyler and Dean’s friendship was Dean’s obviously not-so-good looking appearance. All this time I had to suffer Dean’s insidious remarks about the way I looked, when Dean himself had not always been such a looker himself.
How could he judge me on my appearance, when he himself had looked like that?
I wanted to march up to Tyler right now and ask him to explain everything. To tell me what had caused the rift in their friendship, but I couldn’t. Dave was not supposed to know who Dean was; he was a part of David’s life.
“The boys are almost ready to go,” Tyler said upon entering the room. Tyler stopped when he noticed my interest in the photos, so I decided to take the plunge.
“Who is this?” I asked, indicating Dean.
“Oh umm…we used to be friends. We met through our fathers who were both buddies from their college days.” Tyler seemed hesitant to go on. His voice clearly gave away that remembering his past with Dean was painful. It seemed as though whatever had occurred to cause the problems between the two had not been a pleasant experience, or at least on Tyler’s end.
I couldn’t deny that my curiosity had piqued even further due to Tyler’s reluctant response. I was still trying to figure out a way to extract more information from him, when the noise of tiny feet came pattering quickly down the stairs.
“Uncle Davey, Mr. Fritz is taking us to the park!” exclaimed Josh as he and Timmy entered the family room.
Tyler chuckled at the Josh’s enthusiasm. “Josh I’ve told you to call me Tyler instead of Mr. Fritz.”
Josh scrunched up his brows in confusion. “But Mommy says to always call old people Mister,” he said as though it was a written law.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the look on Tyler’s face when Josh called him old.
“Hey,” Tyler defended, “thirty-two is not that old!”
I snickered. “Actually since you’re the oldest one here, that makes you old in all of our eyes.”
“You’re pretty old, Daddy,” Timmy piped in innocently.
Tyler gave me a mock glare as if to say, “see what you started”, but then ruined its effect by laughing.
I could listen to that laugh every minute of the day and never get tired of it, I thought as I once again easily fell into my schoolgirl crush mode.
“Well this old man wants to go to the park so he can get young again, so hurry up and get your keisters in the car!”
“Keisters?” I snorted, “You are old! Who says that any more?”
That set the boys into a fit of giggles and Tyler pretended to growl at them, sending them running towards the front door while laughing loudly.
I didn’t fail to notice the irony that I was now at the same park and sitting on the same bench with the very man with whom Robert had tried to set me up on a blind date.
Josh and Timmy were once again having fun in the playground while Tyler and I made small talk. So far the topics had been pretty easy to deal with, such as family, favorite foods, movies, and hobbies. But it was only a matter of time before the talk turned towards more difficult topics.
“So where do you work?” Tyler asked.
Shit! How was I supposed to answer that? I already felt guilty enough that I hadn’t come clean to Tyler, but making up even more lies to protect one seemed even worse. So what were my options? Tell the truth and never ever see Tyler again, or lie without actually lying.
The first was something I never wanted to happen, and the second wasn’t something I was too keen about either. But if it came down to a choice between being a part of Tyler’s life or not, I would rather go with the second option.
“Oh I still have the same job that I’ve had for years. I’m a personal assistant at an office downtown.”
There I hadn’t actually lied, just omitted a few details. I was a personal assistant, and had been one for years. Tyler didn’t exactly have to know that it included working at two different law firms, with one of them being his. Even though I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t technically lying to him, my stomach still churned unpleasantly.
I still felt guilty.
“PA, huh? That’s cool. Do you like your job?”
“Yeah,” I said, “I love my job.” This time it was definitely the truth. I did love my job, even if I had to dress up due to Rick’s stupid bet and deal with the likes of Rachel and Dean. Just the fact that I had a boss like Tyler was more than enough to make up for it.
“Speaking of PAs,” Tyler said, “I recently hired a new one at the firm. He’s been great, really efficient in his work ethic. If you’re anything like him, I’m sure you’re boss probably loves you too.”
Tyler’s words made me tense up and quickly turn to look at him. I tried to decipher whether Tyler had said that for a certain reason.
Does he know? I wondered.
But judging by the look on Tyler’s face, he had just said it as a passing comment, so I forced myself to relax.
He doesn’t know, I decided, but as I pondered his words, something else struck me.
“Love?” I asked tentatively, my heart picking up speed. “You love your PA?”
Tyler’s face blushed red. “Oh umm…no, I’m just uhh…speaking figuratively.”
“Oh,” I replied. I tried to still my beating heart. False alarm buddy, calm down.
“So what do you do?” I asked Tyler to divert the attention from me towards him.
“I’m an attorney. I work at a firm owned by my father.”
“Do you like it?” I asked, even though I already knew the answer.
“It can be hectic at times and some days I think there are better things I can be doing than helping a couple decide who gets to keep the furniture. But every now and then a case comes a long that makes me glad to have chosen this path.”
I was again watching the boys play and that is why I was the first one to get up and run towards Timmy when he tripped and fell onto the gravel. I was by his side before he had even gotten the chance to process what had happened.
“Ow,” Timmy sniffled, as he looked down at his scraped hand.
I gently took a hold of his hurt hand and wiped it clean with then end of my T-shirt.
“It’s OK Timmy, everything’s going to be fine,” I tried to reassure him.
Slight tears were flowing down his cheeks and a whimper escaped him as he saw the bit of blood seeping out of a cut he had gotten on his palm. Josh was now holding Timmy, who was silently crying. I heard Josh whispering in his ear that everything would be all right.
“It’s just a little scratch Timmy, it’ll heal in no time,” I said, placing a little kiss on his hand.
I hadn’t even noticed that Tyler was kneeling right next to me, but as soon as I was done treating Timmy’s hand, he grabbed his son and pulled him onto his lap.
“You OK, buddy?” Tyler asked, wiping Timmy’s tears and rubbing his back.
“Uh huh.” Timmy sniffled again, but I took the fact that his tears had stopped as a good sign. “Davey made it better,” he said, showing his dad his hand.
“Yeah, he did,” replied Tyler, looking at me with eyes that were filled with so much softness. “You sure have a way with kids, Dave.”
“Uncle Davey is the best,” Josh suddenly piped in. “Even when my mommy and daddy go on trips, I’m not sad ‘cause I get to spend time with Uncle Davey.”
I ducked my head to hide my suddenly shimmering eyes. Was it stupid to get so emotional over the words of a four year old boy?
Josh got up and gave me a hug. “I love you Uncle Davey.”
“I love you too, Little Man,” I said ruffling his hair.
Tyler stood up with Timmy hanging on his back. “So what do you boys say we go get some ice cream?”
“Yay!” both of them cheered.
I followed Tyler’s lead and gave Josh a piggyback ride back to the car.
I don’t know how much longer I can take this, I thought as we were all gathered in Tyler’s family room.
We were currently watching Shrek because it was one of both Timmy and Josh’s favorite movies. Josh and Timmy were lying on their stomachs on top of cushions placed on the floor with a bowl of popcorn between them. I was sitting on one of the armchairs next to the couch on which Tyler was lounging.
The fact that Tyler had his long legs stretched out, as he lay sideways over the couch was what was driving me crazy. While everybody else laughed at the antics of Shrek and Donkey, I couldn’t help myself from ogling Tyler.
Oh how I wanted to crawl up his body and do things to him that was entirely inappropriate in our fellow company. It was all Tyler’s fault that I was feeling this way—he was to blame, even if he had done it unintentionally.
It had all started when we had gone to get ice cream. I had thought that I would spontaneously combust when while we were all eating, Tyler had suddenly reached over to wipe some ice cream I had gotten on my chin. Dazedly I had watched him swipe his thumb along my jaw, cleaning up the ice cream before wiping it off a napkin. I would have sworn that he had done it on purpose to get me riled up, had he not gone on to perform the same action on Timmy and Josh. In the end I had to chop it up as only a reflexive “dad” action.
But unintentional or not, Tyler had succeeded in getting me flustered and at that moment, I had badly wanted to make an escape to compose myself as Tyler had in the kitchen. But there was no way for me to do that since we had driven in only one car. So there I had sat—flustered and aroused—while Tyler obliviously chatted with the boys as though nothing had happened.
Things only got worse later as we got ready to watch TV. This time it was after Tyler put in the DVD for all of us to watch. On his way back to the couch, he had ended up stretching right in front of where I was sitting—giving me a clear view of the skin on his abdomen as his shirt rode up. Then instead of sitting on the couch, he had decided to lie down on it, tempting me with his long legs.
We were almost halfway through the movie now, but I had not even been able to pay an iota of attention to it. All of my senses were focused only on Tyler. The way he laughed, the way he brought his hand up to scratch his stomach, the way every now and then he would stretch his legs, almost brushing me with his foot.
On his part, Tyler was nothing but oblivious. He was too enthralled in the movie to pay me any attention. It was starting to make me wonder why he had even bothered to invite me to spend the day with him and the boys in the first place. So far he had made no move, or even showed the slightest intention of being anything more than friends.
When Tyler had greeted me this morning and the way in which he had looked at me, I could have sworn that he was at least a little bit interested in me. But we had now spent the whole day as nothing but friends getting to know one another. In fact it had been no different than how Rick and I usually spent a day with Josh.
I sighed inwardly. I wanted to believe that Tyler inviting me to spend the day with him and the kids had meant something. But what, I didn’t know. The only thing I could do now was perhaps to wait until the boys went to sleep. Maybe then Tyler would finally share what was in his head and how he felt about me. But until then, I was going to drive myself crazy by wondering.
“Finally, they’re asleep,” said Tyler as he carried the empty bowls of popcorn into the kitchen. “I thought they’d be up the whole night.”
I followed Tyler into the kitchen and leaned against the kitchen counter. “And whose idea was it to buy them two bowls of ice cream? You should have known you’d get your hands full of two hyper four-year olds.”
“I wasn’t exactly thinking that far ahead at that moment,” Tyler laughed. “I’ll make sure to keep it in mind next time.”
When Tyler finished loading up the dishes into the dishwasher, I moved to stand in front of it. “Now that they’re asleep,” I said, placing a hand on Tyler’s chest, “we can finally talk.”
“Talk about what?”
I swear I had only meant to talk, and talk only. But standing so close to Tyler and touching him had caused the usual short-circuiting of my brain. So instead of what I had meant to say, something entirely different came out of my mouth.
“This,” I said before pulling him into a gentle kiss.
I let out a happy sigh as our lips touched. Tyler’s warm lips were intoxicating and I forgot all about what had been on my mind. Just as I was about to deepen the kiss, Tyler suddenly pulled back.
“Wait, Dave,” he said, breaking apart and stepping back. His eyes were slightly glazed, but there was a serious expression on his face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, taking a step towards him only to have Tyler move another step back. That stopped me in my tracks.
“Look Dave,” Tyler began, his voice strained. “I won’t deny that I’m really very attracted to you, had been that Friday night as well. But…” Tyler stopped. I could clearly tell that he was having a hard time arranging his thoughts. I watched as he ran his hand through his hair, frustrated at not being able to tell me clearly what was on his mind.
Tyler took a deep breath before continuing. “Look, I’m sorry if my actions today led you on. Believe me, it wasn’t my intention.”
I stood rooted to my stop, waiting for Tyler to explain.
“I won’t lie to you Dave, the attraction I felt for you that night is still alive. That Friday night when we met, I realize that we both had only been thinking about sex. That had we gone through with it without being interrupted, we probably would have had some mind-blowing sex before we parted ways. And it would have been fine, you know? After all we hadn’t known each other, we were just strangers.”
Tyler paused again. My heart was starting to pound in my chest. I had no idea what Tyler was leading up to, but I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to like it.
“But now,” Tyler continued, “after spending a whole day with you, getting to know you and see how you are with Josh and heck even Timmy, I can see how great of a guy you really are. Not to mention that since I now know you’re part of Josh’s life, and that Josh is part of Timmy’s, it’s probably going to mean that we will be seeing a lot of each other.” Tyler stopped once again, gauging my reaction.
I tried my hardest for nothing to show on my face, but I wasn’t sure whether I succeeded in hiding my fears about what he was going to say next.
It was a moment before Tyler continued. “I’m also at a point in my life where one night hook-ups have lost their appeal, Dave. Yeah I know what happened at the club that night, and it may be hard to believe, but it’s not something I usually do—picking up strangers. But now that I’ve gotten to know you and the fact that you are no longer a stranger, I can no longer just jump into bed with you. You deserve much more than just a quick fuck, Dave.”
“That’s what I want too, Tyler,” I said softly. I looked into Tyler’s eyes, “I don’t want just a one night stand. I may sound stupid in saying this, but I’m looking for more too.”
Tyler’s eyes were now filled with sadness. “You have no idea how much I wish that I could accept your offer, Dave. Heck if we had met like this instead of the club last week, I would have asked you out on the spot.”
“Then what’s the problem now? Can’t you give me a chance?” I asked, dreading the answer.
Tyler looked away before again focusing his eyes on me. He slowly shook his head. His words when he spoke them were so soft, that had I not been paying attention, I surely would have missed them.