#32 Who’s that smile for?
Mila and Scarlett are unable to stop kissing for more than five seconds, and I can’t even blame them. Scarlett came back from Africa two weeks ago for New Year’s Eve. She moved back in with Mila, and she’s staying for six months this time before heading to Brazil. Mila is still contemplating whether she will go with her or not. She’s got time to figure it out, luckily. For now, they’re just enjoying being on the same continent again. In the same country, even. That’s rare for them.
“Don’t chew on the remote control!” Thomas calls out to 9-month-old Teagan.
I grab the little boy around the waist and distract him by pressing kisses all over his face, saving the dripping wet remote control out of his little fists. Ever since he learned how to crawl, nothing is safe anymore. He loves to put anything he finds into his mouth.
“Ew, he’s drooling all over you!” Mila stops kissing for a second to look at Teagan and me with a horrified expression.
I hold out Teagan to her, grinning. “Want to hold him?”
“I’ll wait until he’s old enough to not pee and poop all over himself and can use his mouth to talk instead of drool and suck on Tracy’s boobs.”
Scarlett laughs and nudges Mila. “Like you don’t love sucking on my nipples.”
Alex tugs on my sleeve. “Dylan, come play?”
“Only if your little brother can play too.”
Alex looks at Teagan, getting the gist of what I was saying. He’s a smart cookie, that little 2-year-old. “Teagan stinky.”
I lift up the baby to smell his butt. Alex isn’t wrong. He definitely pooped. I look over at Thomas and Tracy, but they’re both acting like they don’t see me.
“You’re horrible parents,” I tell them as I get up with Teagan and make my way to the corner of the room where they keep the diapers and a pillow to put the kid on. “Come on Alex, help your uncle, will you? Give me a diaper.”
Of course, Alex is too young to be much help, but I’ve changed enough diapers to be able to do it while keeping Alex busy. Thomas is way too comfortable on the couch, snuggling with Tracy, a hand on her stomach. She’s barely even showing, only the two of them can truly tell, but it’s so cute how happy they are to grow their family even more. They’re unconventional parents, but damn good ones. These boys are lucky. I know what it’s like to be raised by a crazy parent who doesn’t care about society’s rules, and it was amazing. It made me the man I am today. I still miss my mom every single day.
“Do you want a brother or a sister?” I ask Alex, pointing at Tracy. “Your mommy. She has a baby in her belly. Do you want a girl? Or a boy?”
I think I used too many words, but he seems to mull over my questions. He then points at Teagan. “Brother. Teagan.”
“Yes,” I agree, ruffling his hair. “That’s your little brother Teagan. There’s another one growing in your mommy’s belly.”
He frowns and rubs his own belly. “Cookie?”
Now that’s a smart kid. He knows I’m a sucker for that pouty lip. Five minutes later, I’ve convinced Tracy and Thom to let their kid have a cookie, and Alex happily eats it while sitting on my lap. God, I love these kids. Teagan is in Scarlett’s arms, who isn’t as weird around little kids as Mila is. Neither of them wants kids, but Scarlett is good with them, while Mila looks like she’s trying to diffuse a bomb whenever someone hands her a baby. She’s better with the animals, petting two cats at the same time. Thom and Tracy have a whole zoo in here.
“Isn’t Kian coming?” Tracy asks, trying to sound as non-judgmental as possible.
“No, he’s hanging with Silas today. They’re going to a car show or something. I don’t know, I stopped listening halfway through his description of the road trip that will take them there. There are three casinos on the way, yet all they’re stopping for are boring things like… I don’t know, food.”
Thom laughs. “You love food.”
“Yes, but I would never go on a road trip just for food.” I laugh when one of the dogs licks my hand and then attacks Alex, trying to get the last of his cookie. I save the kid and his snack, getting the dog upset with me. He barks, and then rushes off to lie in his dog bed.
“Good,” Mila says happily. “We don’t need Kian’s negative energy here. Especially not with Fleur coming over.”
“Fleur?” That prospect makes me excited. I’ve been wanting to meet Mila’s friend Fleur for a long time now. They met when both of them were in a therapy retreat in Bali to work through their issues. Mila had major problems to work on. She didn’t love herself at all, no longer felt like she even knew who she was, and she was struggling with feelings of guilt over her abortion. She got through all of that, came back home a better, happier person, and reconnected with Scarlett. I don’t know exactly why Fleur went to the retreat. I only know that she had bad experiences with men in the past, but Mila wouldn’t tell me more. I respect that. She doesn’t blab personal stuff to others. That’s why I know I can trust her with all my shit.
Lately though… I haven’t been confiding in her. The only person I’ve been confiding in over my issues with Kian is Andre, and ever since that weird moment when he taught me how to make foam art, we haven’t talked at all. I know I didn’t technically do anything wrong, but I sure as hell had feelings that aren’t appropriate when you’re in a relationship. I still have them whenever I imagine Andre’s hands on me again, his breath tingling against my skin, his body pressed up against mine.
Fuck. I really need to find a way to handle this. So far I’ve tried to handle it without talking to Andre, but that’s not working, so I think I finally need to face this goddamn situation. By talking to Andre, no matter how awkward that will be.
“Hello, earth to Dylan?” Mila waves a hand in front of my face. “Did you listen to anything I said?”
“No,” I confess sheepishly. “Sorry, what were you saying?”
“Fleur is coming over to hang out with us for a bit. She’s really excited to meet all of you guys. I’ll later go out with her one on one to catch up. She’s in town to see her cousin.”
“Sweet, I can’t wait to meet her.” I also can’t wait to text Andre now that I’ve decided to face this issue head-on. It’s not my style to stick my head in the sand, but that’s exactly what I did the past two weeks. I haven’t even been to the bakery. Liv texted me three times the first week, but then she stopped, so I bet Andre must have told her what happened. I don’t mind that – he’s allowed to talk to his friends about this, and I know Liv would never tell anyone. I trust her completely.
Hey, I send to Andre, turning out the conversation my friends are having.
Hi, he shoots back right away.
I’m sorry for avoiding you. I just didn’t know what the fuck to say. Best not to act like nothing happened, because we both know it totally did. I may have been a chicken these past weeks, but I do always own up to my shit when I need to.
Same here, Andre replies after what feels like forever.
I type out a few responses where I apologize for what I did, but I’m not even sure what I’m apologizing for. I leaned back against him, but that’s it. Hardly something that warrants a mea culpa. In the end, I opt for: I miss hanging out with you. Not the smartest move maybe, but it’s the truth.
I miss you too. His text comes quickly, followed by another one: I’m really sorry. I was totally out of line.
No need to apologize. Nothing happened, and I was just as much a part of that nothing as you were. I take a deep breath, deciding to take the plunge. Do you think we should talk about this? Face to face?
Sure, he says after a long pause. Tonight?
Fuck, that’s soon. Okay, I decide, but maybe not at your place.
To my complete and utter surprise, he sends me one of those emoticons that look like they’re thinking something dirty. Why? Afraid you won’t be able to keep your hands off me?
Despite everything, I laugh. Then I type out my reply, my hands trembling for whatever reason. More like I’m scared you’ll lure me into your bedroom and lock me in there until I fall for your charms. Is that too much? I mean, is that something you can say to a friend? I’d say way worse to Mila, Thomas, and Tracy, but then again I don’t get intense shivers when they touch my skin.
Fuck it. I’m sending it.
It takes a while for him to reply, and I break out in cold sweats. What if I crossed the line again? I used to joke with him like this all the time, but everything changed two weeks ago.
Please ignore that last text, Andre says at last. Ivan thinks he’s oh so funny stealing my phone. I’m gonna throw that asshole out of the coffee shop now.
That image makes me laugh again. I can come to the bakery after closing time?
Sounds good. I’ll have a cupcake waiting for you.
Now that is a very good prospect. Plus, eating cupcakes and drinking coffee will give us something to do while we have one of the most awkward talks in the history of conversations. The age-old talk where you tell the other person that while you had a very sexual vibe for a moment, you’re already taken, and you want to stay friends. I have no idea if Andre wants more or if this was just a fluke, but it sure was more than one brief moment for me. I haven’t been able to get that tingly feeling out of my system no matter how hard I tried.
“Who’s that smile for?” Thomas teases when I finally look up from my phone. “Is Kian joining us after all?”
“Erm, no, just…” Ugh, I hate lying. “Kian was checking in.”
I stuff my phone into my pocket and get up from the floor. “I’m gonna make some coffee. Anyone else want anything?”
Scarlett, Mila, and Thomas all shout their orders at me, but Tracy gets up and follows me to the kitchen. She makes some tea for herself while I busy myself with the coffee machine.
“That wasn’t Kian, was it?” she asks softly, her hand on my shoulder.
“No,” I admit. Lying is not my jam, and if she already suspects something is up, it’ll be easier to come clear.
“Andre?” She smiles when she sees she’s right. “I took one look at the two of you together at your birthday party, and I knew all I needed to know. You have this way of looking at each other that is hard to miss.”
“Nothing is going on,” I rush to say. “We just had a… moment. I don’t even know if it qualifies as a moment. He touched my arm, and I leaned against him, and there was this tension that totally fucked with my mind. But we didn’t do anything, and we haven’t talked to each other since.”
“Until just now.”
I groan. “Yeah. Was it wrong of me to text him? I don’t want to lose him as a friend, so I thought if I just talk to him…”
“Did you tell Kian that something happened?” Tracy softly touches my cheek when I shake my head. “And I bet you didn’t tell him either that you’re avoiding Andre, are you? So you know that even if you didn’t technically do anything wrong, it still meant something.”
“It doesn’t have to,” I insist. “It’s not like I’m not allowed to be attracted to other people anymore, and I’d never cheat on Kian. He’s insecure already, about me being so close to all of you guys. I don’t want to make it worse by telling him about something that meant nothing.”
“Nothing?” She’s not buying it. “You wouldn’t look so freaked out if it was nothing. I get it, though. After all, I slept with Thomas while I was still with Michel. And then both of them at the same time, which in hindsight was not the brightest idea ever. I’m the last person to judge anyone for not knowing what the fuck they’re doing. Just… be careful, okay?”
“I’d never cheat,” I repeat.
“I know that, Dylan.” Her hand moves to my chest, pressing against my racing heart. “Be careful with yourself, okay? No matter what or who you choose, I’ll have your back, you know that. Just do it the right way, whichever way you decide to go. Don’t do what I did.”
“I love Kian. I just need to make it clear to Andre we can’t be anything but friends. That’s all.”
“If you say so.” Tracy nods in the direction of the living room. “I won’t tell anyone, not even Thom. They’re not exactly very fond of Kian, and I don’t think you want Mila and Thomas to start a cheerleading squad for Andre.”
I laugh at that image. “They so would.”
“Just promise me that you’ll call me if you need someone to talk to, okay? I know what it’s like to be confused as hell, and it’s hard when you feel like no one’s in your corner.”
Fuck, she’s going to make me cry. I hug her hard and ruffle her long blonde hair. “Thanks. You’re getting really good at all this nurturing motherly crap.”
She puts a hand over her belly. “I sure hope so, with a third one on the way.”
We grab all the coffees and teas before going back into the living room. I spot the pretty young blonde right away, sitting in a chair across from Mila and Scarlett.
Fleur arrived. Time to put Andre out of my mind and focus on Mila’s friend.