I had met him at his house as he had asked. I got there on time, worried about what was troubling him. Opening his door with a key I knew was hidden under a pot plant nearby, I was affronted with the smell of him; a musky sandalwood-like smell. I walked down the dimly lit hall way following the magnificent paintings aligning the walls, all Lockie's. I followed the hall way to the open plan living area and kitchen to find him with his back toward me, hunched over the kitchen bench and taking a swig of what looked like some cheap bourbon.
I took a moment to try and find anything physically different about him. Nope, I see the same Lockie with his 5ft 9 stature, his lean body and shoulder length dark hair. Then what could this be about? I made a small coughing noise so he knew I was there. He turned around in surprise. "And still the same green eyes," I acknowledged in my head. He put the bourdon down and I noted the bottle was still mostly full, I was glad.
"Hey" he said quite meekly. The tone of his voice was weak and immeasurably sad. He had never been the overly confident type but the weakness of his voice scared me. He would talk like this in school when I would find him in the library at lunch, bruised and battered as the result of some ego tripping jack ass. He was an easy target for bullies, a lover not a fighter. He was and still the most creative person I know. He didn't play sports and combined with his good looks, his apparent artist's sensitivity made him a hit with the popular guys' girls. Eventually though, by the end of high school, everyone learnt to leave him alone. This is because I always made them regret touching him. As a result I got into a lot of trouble in the early years of high school. Now, one year on from graduation, I still feel the need to protect him.
"What's wrong" I said as I quickly walked toward him and wrapped him in a bear hug. He let me hold him for just a second before he was pushing me away from him and moving to the other side of the kitchen. "What's wrong" I repeated, more worried now. Normally if any one of us was in trouble, we would comfort each other and look after each other. He stared at me for a while with a scared sad look on his face. Was he scared of me? Why? We have known each other since we were ten years old and been inseparable since then, going to the same high school and then University.
"I need to tell you something William." William? Why was he calling me by my full name? He looked at the ground and sighed. "Lea broke up with me." What? Lea? This is all about Lea? He should have dumped that spoilt and snide little cow as soon as we finished school like he wanted to but for reasons unknown to me, he kept her around.
"I thought that you didn't like Lea anymore. I thought that you were going to break up with her anyway?"
"Yeah I was going to but that's not the problem. She... she told me why she was breaking up with me..." I was waiting for more from that but he just stood quietly staring absently at the ground. I noticed his hands were shaking. I know he did that when he got really nervous but what would he be nervous about?
"And Lockie? Is that the problem? Did she say you're bad in bed or something?" My small feeble attempt at humour was lost on him as I saw a single tear slip from his eye, so delicately.
"No, no, no. It was more along the lines of 'I can't date a guy... a guy..." He sighed trying to push the words out.
"A guy that what Lockie? You are worrying me, please just spit it out!" I walked towards him again and tried to wrap my arms around him but he pushed them away again. Now I was standing only centimetres away from him. I looked into his eyes but he turned his face away from me, looking out the kitchen window to the back yard. I grab his face in my hands and forced him to look at me. He looks up at me with wonder, like he's seeing something in me that he's never seen before. A moment goes by as a try to think what, if anything looks different about me. Still the same strawberry blonde hair in a faux hawk style, still the same strong jaw line and still the same pale skin. Mental check list complete.
"Lockie, tell me what's troubling you. I'm here to help. I'm your best friend. Tell me what the problem is." I was getting exasperated now, shaking him, screaming for him to tell me. Suddenly his lips were against mine. Soft. I didn't even realise what was happening until he moved back from me a second later. My hands were still on his face. I stared down as him for only a second before I removed my hands and walked over to the other side of the kitchen. I turned my back to him. I couldn't look at him. Why had he done it? And then he spoke.
"She told me that she couldn't date a guy that was in love with his best friend" he said sounding defeated and I still couldn't look at him, I was too shocked. I left the kitchen and walked down the hall back towards the door way. My hand was on the door knob and opening the door when he came up behind me and pushed the door shut. I turned around but wouldn't look at him, I couldn't. Despite my effort to avoid him, he grabbed my face in his hands as I had done to his, and forced me to look at him. His eyes were glassy and he was silently crying.
"Tell me that you don't hate me," he begged me. His eyes kept flickering towards my lips and I felt a longing to take him in my arms, to hold him. But that would mean a lot more to him then it would to me.
"I could never hate you Lockie..." His eyes lit up for only a second..."But I'm not in love with you either" and his hands and eyes fell. He looked like he was going to collapse. I don't know what he thought would happen. That I would say that I loved him too and we could sail off into the sunset? With one last lingering look, I turned and walked out the door.