#31 Sleeping with Dylan
“Pizza!” Elijah shouts when he walks in, holding the ten boxes he just picked up.
Everyone cheers, and I walk in from the open kitchen to hand everyone a new beer. James follows suit, finishing making the fried chicken the two of us were in the mood for, and he stuffs a piece straight into my mouth, smiling when I moan from how good it tastes.
“You’re a great cook,” I tell him with my mouth full, snatching another piece.
“That means a lot coming from someone who lives with a professional chef,” James says with a small smile. “It’s just a hobby for me.”
“And a great one at that,” his girlfriend Dara comments, looking up at us with a smile. “Now gimme some chicken, boy.”
He laughs and settles into the loveseat, pulling her into his lap. She gets comfortable, her legs thrown over the armrest, her ass firmly on his legs, one hand playing with his hair while he feeds her pieces of chicken. They’re really cute together, and I love how she doesn’t mind that James hangs out with me at the gym all the time without her there, nor that we spent the past twenty minutes in the kitchen together, laughing and talking. She is the least jealous person I’ve ever met.
I sit down on the floor, my back against Elijah’s legs. He’s on the couch and he ruffles my hair affectionately before getting back to his pizza. There is a shitty reality TV show playing in the background, but no one is paying attention to it. William is on the couch next to Elijah with his girlfriend Ginny right next to him, and James and Dara are in the loveseat, meaning that I can either sit down in a chair on my own or sit with Elijah. He already jokes that we’re a couple by default, and we get along like a house of fire, so I’m good with that, although it’s obvious there is absolutely nothing between us. Which is a good thing – I’m still with Michel after all.
To be honest though… I almost feel single tonight. I feel like myself again. Independent, dark, twisted, sarcastic and strong Tracy Packard. I’ve got a group of friends to hang out with in a way I’ve never had, not even in high school. I had two good friends back then, a guy and a girl, but we lost touch after my dad died, because I shut them out, just like I’ve shut every single person out. It’s hard to have real friends when you refuse to see them when you’re hurting and cancel on them all the time.
Tonight is different. I’ve been hurting the past weeks, going through hell with Michel. I haven’t exactly opened up to anyone, but the mere fact that I talked to James about it a few times, without giving him details, and that I’m allowing my friends to come over tonight instead of lying in the dark in my bedroom with Snoopy and Pumpkin… Yeah, that’s progress. It doesn’t even scare me as much as I thought it would.
Dara gets up from James’ lap after finishing her food, and she gets up, kissing him goodbye. “I’ve got a shift right now,” she explains, gulping down some water and fixing her hair. She works in a restaurant as a waitress while she’s putting herself through nursing school. “Thanks for having me, Tracy.” James walks her to the door, taking a long time to kiss her goodbye, and when he gets back, he laughs when he sees that I’m in his seat.
“Get out,” he orders, his blue eyes sparkling. “Or I’ll make you.”
“I’d like to see you try, pretty boy,” I shoot at him, winking.
“Oh now you’ve done it!” He prances on me like a tiger, grabbing my ankles and yanking me off the seat.
I scream and claw at him, kicking him in the stomach. When he doubles over, I get back on the seat and try to keep him from pulling me to the floor again. The doorbell sounds in the middle of our wrestling match, and Elijah gets up to open the door. I refuse to give up my seat, so I keep my ass firmly planted on it, giving James a defying look.
“Think you can take me?” he asks, already scooping me up into his arms so he can throw me off. “Think again!”
I lick his face to take him off guard, and it works, resulting in him dropping me half on the floor, half on the seat. I scramble to climb back on, ending up on top of him, while he tries to shove me off. We’re both laughing so hard tears are streaming down our faces, and this crazy, care-free wrestling match reminds me of me and Thomas so much it hurts. We did this kind of thing all the time, for no other reason that the fact that it’s fun to act like little kids.
“Hey,” a male voice says from behind me. “Got any pizza left for me?”
I don’t recognize the voice right away, but I hear Elijah tell him that there are still boxes in the kitchen. I lick James’ face one more time, and he gives me a hard push so I tumble onto the floor, where I lie down, catching my breath, looking up at the newest arrival to our little party.
“Hey Dylan,” I say, surprised to see he came. He never let me know if he was going to make it.
“Hi,” he says, his white skin almost glowing in the dim lighting. His dark brown eyes take me in, and he smiles and my tousled here and flushed cheeks. Then his gaze moves to James, and he frowns, recognition flashing in his eyes. “James Tyson,” he says with an edge to his voice. “Didn’t think you’d be here.”
“You know each other?” I ask, sitting up and pulling my shirt back down from where I rode up, exposing my belly button ring and midriff.
James is frowning, looking a little unsure. “You look familiar, but I can’t quite place you…”
“Thomas says hi,” Dylan tells me, still looking straight at James.
“Thomas?” James asks, his eyes going wide. “Thomas Riley? Oh shit – you’re Dylan! I remember you know, we met once or twice, I think?” He looks at me with a shocked expression. “You’re friends with Thomas Riley?”
“How do you know Thom?” I ask. “And Dylan?” Then something clicks in my mind, and I feel stupid for not realizing it before. “Oh fuck, you’re that James,” I breathe, standing up and brushing off my clothes. “Francesca’s James.”
“You know Francesca?” Elijah pipes in, holding out a beer for Dylan.
“You know Francesca?” I shoot back.
“We all do,” William says, his arm still around Ginny. “Well, not Ginny, since I wasn’t dating her back in the day, but we all met Franny when she and James were still together.”
“Oh shit,” I mutter, feeling sick to my stomach. “She’s the girl you dated when you decided to start seeing a therapist, isn’t she?” I curse when he nods, all the puzzle pieces fitting together. “So she’s the girl who was into two other guys while you were with her? The one who slept with another guy right before going on a date with you?” The story Thomas told me about him and Francesca comes back to me then, and I put the last piece of the puzzle down, finally seeing the whole picture. “Oh. My. God. Thomas is the guy you were up against, wasn’t he? The one who slept with Francesca?”
“How do you know Thomas?” James asks, looking confused.
“He’s…” I don’t even know where to begin explaining Thom to him. “He’s someone I used to…” I want to say fuck, but I know that wouldn’t be fair. He was more than that to me. He still is. “Someone I used to date before I got back together with Michel. He’s my… friend. Sort of.”
“He’s why Michel is so possessive, isn’t he?” James realizes, and I can see that he’s piecing it all together as well. “Thomas is the guy you used to box with before you switched to our gym, isn’t he?”
I nod, and I open my mouth to say something, but there are no words. We’re al quiet for a moment, and then I start laughing. This whole thing is just so weird. How in the world did this happen? I make new friends, and turns out the guy who’s been helping me get my shit together is the same guy who used to fuck the girl my rebound ex-fuckbuddy was pining for three long years.
“Oh God, you’re cop with the pierced dick,” I manage to get out between fits of laughter. “Thomas told me he got his piercing because Francesca loves piercings and she was seeing this guy who had his dick pierced. That’s you!”
James turns bright red, all the way to his hairline.
“You have a cock piercing?” Elijah asks, grinning like a madman. “Really?”
“Doesn’t that hurt like a motherfucker?” William asks, his eyes wide. “Why have we never seen it?”
James grunts. “I don’t wear it at the gym, and it’s not like you ever see me naked outside of the locker room.”
“Do you have the same one as Thom used to have?” Dylan asks curiously, sinking down onto a chair and sipping his beer, looking amused.
“You’ve seen your friends dick piercing?” Elijah asks, frowning at Dylan now.
Dylan shrugs. “Of course. He doesn’t wear it anymore, though, because… well, I think because Tracy didn’t like it.”
Now all eyes are back on me. My turn to blush, I guess. “Erm… yeah… it was a little… not my thing, I guess. I like Thomas better all natural.”
Dylan grins. “I’ll make sure to tell him you said that. He’ll be glad to hear you didn’t forget about his dick. Now back to James… do you have the same one?”
“I don’t even know what kind Thomas has, or had, or whatever,” James says, looking like he wants to bolt. “Jesus Christ, all Franny’s friends are so goddamn open about sex, aren’t they? Why does every single one of her friends and acquaintances know about my piercing?”
“Because we like to share, big boy,” Dylan says, winking at him. “And just so you know, I swing both ways, so should you ever want to try out your piercing on another guy instead of a girl… I’d be up for that. Especially since I know you’re hung like a horse.” Dylan is only joking, trying to rile up James, and it’s working. Poor James.
“I-I d-don’t…” James stammers. “I’m straight.”
“That’s what I used to think too,” Dylan goes on, keeping a poker face. “Don’t knock it till you tried it, James. You’d be surprised how satisfying it is to be balls-deep inside of a man’s ass while he jerks himself off. Or to 69 someone who can fuck your mouth while you fuck his. Although I do like a nice wet pussy every now and then, you know, for variety.”
James doesn’t even know what to say anymore, looking at his friends for support. Elijah and William look completely dumbfounded as well, and Ginny is hiding her smile behind her hand, looking at me with amusement.
“Relax, I’m just messing with you,” Dylan tells James, grinning now. “Thomas was right, you’re easy to fuck with.”
James grunts and grabs his beer bottle, taking a sip just so he can have a moment to gather his thoughts. “Yeah, okay, I have no idea what to say,” he admits, shrugging. “This is fucking weird.”
“Yeah, it is,” I agree, laughing. “The world is a small, strange place sometimes.”
The doorbell rings, and I walk to the hallway to open the door, smiling when Delilah greets me by holding up a bottle of tequila. “Let’s celebrate your week of freedom,” she says, stepping inside and kicking off her shoes. “And please tell me you have some hot, single guys in there for me to hit on, because I am the mood to feel pretty and desirable. I had a date earlier, and he was the biggest fucking asshole on the planet, so I need someone to assure me that I’m pretty.”
“You’re pretty,” I assure her, hugging her. “I’m glad you’re here, because shit just got weird.” I explain to her who are in the living room right now, and she laughs at the whole situation. “Damn, leave it up to you to make your life even more complicated. You didn’t answer my question though… are any of the hot cops in your living room looking for a semi-young, semi-smart, semi-pretty receptionist to flirt with?”
“Elijah is single,” I tell her. “So is Dylan. Eli is a cop, and Dylan is Thomas’ best friend – he’s the creative tech guy, you know?”
“Ooh, the bisexual one?” Her eyes light up. “Sounds interesting. You’re not interested in either of them, right?”
“I’m in a committed relationship with Michel,” I remind her, rolling my eyes.
“Yeah, I know, but for how long?” she asks, smiling knowingly. “You look better tonight than you have in months, Trace. We both know why that is. I’ve been worried about you.”
“No need,” I bite out, feeling a little annoyed now. I don’t like that I seemed so fucking weak. Did everyone see right through me? Can I never put on a proper poker face? “Come on, let’s go find you someone to flirt with.”
We walk in, and I introduce her to everyone. Elijah gets up from the couch and shakes her hand, his eyes moving over her body like he’s undressing her in his mind. “Well hello,” he says in a deep, seductive voice. “Don’t you look lovely.”
Delilah giggles and pulls me into the kitchen, pretending it’s just to pour herself a drink. “Damn, he’s cute,” she whispers. “He’s the cop, right? Too bad he’s obviously a total player.”
“Actually, he told me the other day that he hasn’t had sex in four months.”
“Hmm…” She looks over at him, and he’s still staring at her, smirking when he sees she’s interested as well. “Four months… It’s been five for me, so maybe we could break each other’s dry spell. Damn, the way he looks at me… Yeah, he’ll do just fine for tonight. I can have him, right?”
I grin and nudge her back to the guys and Ginny. “Yeah, you can have him.”
While Delilah starts chatting up Elijah, who looks like he just died and went to heaven, I sit down beside Dylan, putting a hand on his arm. “I’m glad you came.”
“Me too,” he says, pulling me in for a side-hug. “I miss, you Tracy. So does Thomas.”
Dylan laughs. “Of course he does. Where’s Michel, by the way?” He looks around like Michel will suddenly appear from behind the curtains. Not that Dylan has ever even met him, so how would he recognize him at all?
“Actually…” I take a deep breath. “Michel moved out for a few days while I take a break from… you know, all the drama. This is my first night of freedom.”
“One of many, I hope,” Dylan replies, holding up his beer and clinking it to my glass of wine. “Please tell me this means you’re coming back to the gym. I’ve been working out like a madman, and I can totally kick your ass now.”
“Doubt that,” James chimes in, more at ease now that the conversation isn’t centered about his ex and his dick anymore. “Tracy is a real talent.”
“I don’t know,” I tell Dylan, feeling my heart sink. It’s nice to see him again, and I have to admit it feels extremely good to know Thomas misses me, but I know that I can’t go back to hanging out with him and Thomas, because Michel would have a fit. “Michel and I are still a little… I mean, you know what happened.”
“Okay,” Dylan sighs. “Fine. I’m glad to have you back, though. You’re coming to Aston’s wedding, right? Next month?”
I nod. “Wanna be my date?”
“What about Michel?” he asks, surprised.
“I don’t think it would be wise to take Michel to a wedding of one of Thomas’ best friends, since Thom will be there too. Aston is chill, but I think his fiancée would flip out if Thom and Michel had a throwdown at the wedding.”
Dylan laughs. “I’d like to see that. But sure, I’ll be your date.”
The rest of the night goes by fast, and we all end up drunk and stuffed from all the food. Dylan ends up crashing on the couch, and Delilah and Elijah take up taking an uber to his place together, looking like their night is far from over. James, William and Ginny all head home as well, and I get in bed with Snoopy and Pumpkin, snuggling up to them with a smile on my face.
This is what life should be like. I thought life was good before, but maybe I was wrong. This was one of the best nights I’ve had in weeks, and Michel isn’t even here. Which might be why I’m in such high spirits, if I’m being honest. Maybe I should talk to Michel about that when he gets back on Sunday.
I drift off, and the first few hours of the night I’m out, sleeping like the dead, but I wake up around 5 am gasping for air, still reeling from my nightmare, where my father was with my mother in a cloudy, bright place that must heaven, talking to her about what a huge disappointment I am.
“Tracy?” A knock sounds on my bedroom door, and a moment later Dylan’s sleepy bedhead disappears around the corner. “Are you okay? I heard screaming?”
I take a deep breath to steady myself and sit up, putting and arm around Pumpkin, who is licking my face the way he always does when I wake up like this, all messed up over another nightmare.
“Yeah, just… just a bad dream.”
Dylan walks in and sits down at the foot of the bed, patting Snoopy, who is purring softly. “Wanna talk about it?” he asks with a yawn.
I shake my head. “Go back to sleep, Dylan.”
He grunts and cracks his back. “Your couch is really uncomfortable. I’ve had better nights on the goddamn floor.”
“Feel free to lie down on the floor,” I say with a small smile, the terror from the nightmare slowly subsiding.
“You sure you don’t want to talk about the nightmare?” Dylan asks again, looking a little worried about me. “It always helps me to talk about mine.”
“You have nightmares?” I ask, surprised to hear that. He’s such a happy, laid-back guy, just like Thomas. I can’t imagine either of them waking up in terror the way I do multiple nights a week these days.
“They started when my Mom died a few years back,” he says, scooting further onto the bed and crossing his legs underneath his body, scratching being Snoopy’s ears. “Around the time she got sick, I started to realize I might be attracted to men, but I didn’t get around to talking to get about it, and then she passed away sooner than we thought she would, and my chance was gone. I used to dream that I told her on her deathbed, and that she told me that she hated me and didn’t want me as her son anymore. That’s ridiculous, though, since I know that she had friends who were gay, so I don’t think she would have minded at all. Still, I hate that I never told her, and I buried my feelings for a long time, until I met this guy in a coffeeshop who asked me out, and I thought… well, why the fuck not? Mom’s gone, and me not dating men won’t bring her back, so why deny myself what I want?”
“Do you still get nightmares?” I ask softly, not able to look at him while I talk to him. I feel so exposed right now.
“Sometimes. Not often, though. I usually talk them through with Thomas in the mornings over breakfast, and even though he’s not really a touchy-feely guy and he only listens and gives me more coffee, it helps.”
“Thom is a great listener,” I agree. Even though I didn’t share much with him, I did always feel like he heard me and didn’t judge. Like he… like he saw me, however sappy that sounds.
“My nightmares came back around Christmas’ time,” Dylan goes on. “But I can’t really talk to Thom about it.”
“Why not?” I ask, finally looking up into Dylan’s brown eyes. Thomas and Dylan are ridiculously close, and I can’t imagine that there could ever be something they can’t share with each other. There is no judgement between those two. It’s the kind of friendship I’ve never had with anyone, ever.
“We always celebrate Christmas’ Eve with a big dinner. My dad, my stepmom, my 3-year-old half-brother, Thomas’ mom and dad, his younger brother Charlie and his wife Jolene all gather at either my place or Thomas’ crib, and we talk and eat and drink beer. It’s always tense, because neither of us gets along with our parents all that much,” he explains, wincing. “I came out to everyone halfway through dinner, and while my family was surprisingly okay with it, but Thomas’ mother… well, she wasn’t.”
“Thomas mother reacted badly to you being bisexual?” I scoot over to touch Dylan’s hand, and he takes it in his, squeezing hard. In the dark of the night, where we can barely see each other’s expressions, it’s easier to talk about feelings and shit, and I’m happy to be here for him in a small way.
“Yeah, but that’s not what I’m upset about,” he says, sounding a little emotional now. “I don’t give a shit what she thinks, actually, since she doesn’t seem to approve of anything Thomas or I do, but I hate that Thomas isn’t on speaking terms with his parents anymore.”
“Oh, he cut them off for being mean to you,” I realize, not surprised at all. That’s Thom for you. Fiercely loyal, whether you want him to be or not.
“He threw his own mother out for me,” Dylan whispers. “And he doesn’t want to talk to her until she apologizes to me for calling me an abomination.”
“Oh, Dylan…” I pull him in for a hug, and we hold each other for a long time. “You’re not. You know that, right?”
He sighs and strokes my hair. “Yeah, I know. And I know that my nightmares about my own mother calling me an unnatural disgrace are just dreams and not reality, but it does hurt, and I wake up feeling like a tractor ran over me whenever I have that particular nightmare. They will go away, I know they will, and it’s just my mind’s way of dealing with my guilt over Thom not having his parents in his life anymore, and me being the cause of it. Still sucks, though.”
“It does,” I agree. “And I get it. Mine… they’re…” No, I can’t. I can’t talk about them or I will break. It’s too much. I shove the emotions back down and plaster on a fake smile. “Mine aren’t that bad, actually. And I don’t get them often.”
“Hmm,” Dylan murmurs, pulling back and looking into my eyes up close. “I don’t believe you for even a second, Tracy. Whatever they are, I promise you that they’re not reality. If you ever want to talk about them, you know where to find me.” He pushes himself up and cracks his back again. “On your torturous couch, feeling old as fuck.”
“You can…” I take a deep breath. “You can sleep in my bed with me, if you don’t mind Pumpkin and Snoopy in here with us.”
“I thought you’d never ask!” Dylan throws himself down on the bed, stretching out with a moan. “Oh fuck, this so much better.” He rolls onto his side, his back to me, and Pumping immediately snuggles up to him, putting his paw on Dylan’s back. “Night, Tracy.”
I smile and grab my phone to take a picture of this tall, lean guy in my bed in his jeans and T-shirt, with my dog spooning him. It’s so goddamn cute. Then I settle in as well, with Snoopy purring at my feet, and my fingers buried in Pumpkin’s fur. My nightmare doesn’t return, and I sleep until my alarm starts blaring, reminding me that I’ve got work.
I leave Dylan in my bed, because he needs to sleep off his hangover and he looks too peaceful to wake him up. I leave him a note telling him to feel free to have breakfast in my apartment, and thanking him for last night. Even though I didn’t actually share anything personal with him, I do feel better about the nightmares knowing that I’m not the only one who has dreams like that. I feel less alone, I guess.
Delilah looks just as worn and hungover as I feel, but she’s in a good mood as well, because she broke her dry spell by riding Elijah all night long. She’s smiling and sighing all damn day, texting him whenever she gets a break, a goofy smile on her face. I’m happy for her, although I’m not sure how serious Elijah is about her. The guy isn’t a total player or anything, but he was obviously looking for someone to help him get out of his dry spell, and as much as Delilah likes to act like she’s the queen of casual sex, she isn’t. She’s a one-man kind of girl, and she deserves a one-woman kind of guy.
I’ve got one of those. Michel. Although honestly… I don’t miss him. At all.
That can’t be good, right?