Double or Nothing

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5 - Hear Me Out

‘Whatcha doing?’ Josh asked me, looking over my shoulder at the laptop which had been perched on my lap for the past half an hour.

‘Just re-reading this email. I want to make sure I have absolutely everything I need. I only get one shot at this, I’m going to make sure it’s the only one I need.’ I said, gesturing toward the screen before me. It was currently displaying an email from a lawyer detailing the evidence I needed in order to take out a restraining order, or at least try to. The decision would be made by the judge.

I had been told that my dad had been warned against coming to see me, as if he turned up again and the police were called, they would arrest him and keep him in custody until the court hearing, which was a week away. It had been 2 weeks since his initial arrest, and I hadn’t seen him at all. He seemed to be avoiding me like the plague, which I was more than happy about.

‘The hearing is like a week away, you have plenty of time, and you’re already immensely prepared. You need to relax a little bit.’ Josh suggested, sitting next to me on the sofa. ‘Why don’t we all go out? You, me and Caleb? We can go to a bar, I can find someone to have a sleezy one night stand with to get out of your hair for a night...’ He slowly trailed off, but when I elbowed him he laughed, proving that he was kidding around.

‘I do not approve of one night stands. Especially as it’s only 2 weeks since you and Liam broke up. You are not rebounding on anyone, mister.’ I told him.

‘I know, I know, I was kidding.’ He laughed. ‘Although, I do have to admit, there was some truth in what Liam was saying before. I mean, I didn’t really think about it until the past few days, but if it weren’t for Caleb, I’d be pretty much hitting on you majorly by now.’ He admitted.

‘Yeah, yeah whatever.’ I shrugged, turning my attention back to the laptop.

‘That time I was being serious.’ He told me, without a hint of laughter in his voice. ‘I mean, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t be interested. Your smart, funny, good looking-’ I made a snorting sound at that one, which lead him to glare at me. ‘Caring, and completely oblivious to it all which means you have very low standards which would allow me to swoop in and make you feel flattered.’ He said, smiling.

‘You make me sound perfect.’ I chuckled.

‘Ever thought that may be because you are?’ He asked me.

The silence that followed was oppressive. I could feel him staring at me as I tried to concentrate on the screen, on the laptop, on anything else. I felt my face heating up, I felt like I was on fire, I slammed the laptop lid down and stood up, walking into the kitchen.

Thankfully for me, Josh didn’t follow me. I took some deep breaths, stuck my face in the fridge briefly, pretending I was looking for food in case anyone came in, and tried to calm down. Really, at this point, I should be asking Josh to stop, or leave. This was inappropriate and wrong. But part of me liked it, a little too much, and didn’t care that I was with Caleb.

I knew I couldn’t let it continue, I knew I shouldn’t let him talk to me that way, I knew I shouldn’t have wanted to kiss him when he spoke to me like that. But some part of me was yearning for him, and it was only the thought of Caleb that kept that part of me reigned in.

Caleb wasn’t there at that point, he had gone shopping, I had stayed at home to further prepare my case against my father, and Josh had stayed to keep me company. Of course, I didn’t realise that he might have any ulterior motives behind that.

Luckily, just as I exited the kitchen, Caleb walked in through the front door with a couple of bags of groceries. ‘You might want to help. The taxi is outside, it’s paid for but it still has a few bags in the back.’ He told us, gesturing out the door.

I walked straight outside and Josh followed me. We reached for the same bag at one point and his hand brushed over the top of mine. I glared at him, pulled my hand away with the bag clutched inside of it, and stormed away from him carrying 3 of the 5 remaining bags.

I put the bags down on the kitchen counter and started putting things away, pointedly ignoring Josh’s presence as he tried to get as close to me as possible without doing anything too obvious.

When his hand brushed against my thigh I lost it.

‘Okay that’s enough. Josh, you have to leave.’ I said, in a tone that was commanding and dangerous.

‘What’s going on?’ Caleb asked, looking between us.

‘Earlier, while you were out, Josh was being a little too complimentary, and told me that if it weren’t for you, he would be hitting on me. Since then he has gotten far too close for comfort and just now his hand was very nearly touching something it shouldn’t be anywhere near.’ I explained, glaring at Josh.

‘Josh, what do you have to say for yourself?’ Caleb asked, calmly. Too calmly. It was then that I remembered just how jealous Caleb could get, and how dangerous he could be to anyone who caused that to happen.

‘Okay, maybe, yeah, I was trying it on a little bit, but I didn’t want to come between you guys. I mean I did, just not in the way you think.’ He winked at Caleb and I slapped him.

I didn’t intend to. I had no recollection of the thought ever entering my brain, but suddenly my hand was stinging and the side of his face was turning red, and he was clutching it like I had just cut it open.

‘Ryan! That’s not like you!’ Caleb exclaimed, looking at me like I had just done something both awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time.

‘Well, he was being vulgar and suggesting that what we do is some cheap thing that we can include other people in and it’s not.’ I huffed. ‘This isn’t some sort of game, Josh, and even if it were, it’s 2 player and you’re not invited.’ I walked away and headed into the bedroom, away from everyone.

I hid away in the bedroom for a couple of hours before Caleb came in to speak to me. He knew when I needed time to calm down, rather than to talk. It was just one more way he knew me better than anyone else.

‘You took your time.’ I muttered.

‘You seemed pretty riled up. You know I can’t help you when you’re angry like that.’ He explained.

‘True, but I cooled off around an hour ago. What were you doing? Talking to him?’ I spat the last word as if it were something disgusting that was in my mouth.

‘You obviously haven’t fully cooled off, but I’m gonna explain something to you, so I need you to listen and not get too heated.’ Caleb said, looking directly at me and waiting for a response.

‘I’m listening.’ I told him.

‘Josh has told me exactly what he’s suggesting, and though it’s a pretty crazy idea, it’s not quite as bad as you thought it was.’ Caleb began. ‘He wasn’t suggesting a quick fling. He was suggesting a three-way commitment. He wanted to join our relationship so we were a committed threesome. He feels too strongly about you to suggest anything less. It’s a weird idea, I grant you, but he’s not a complete pig.’

‘Well I guess that’s not quite as bad. It’s still a really weird suggestion though.’ I muttered.

‘Well he doesn’t seem to think so. In his words “Mormons manage it” and to be fair, he kinda has a point.’

‘Are you really considering this?’ I asked. I wasn’t exactly angry, more curious than anything else.

‘Well, sort of. I mean I’m not saying we should just go for it straight away and to hell with the consequences, but I’m not totally, completely against the idea either.’ He explained.

‘You’re leaving me to decide.’ I translated.

‘Kinda, yeah.’ He admitted. ’But it’s mainly because you’re so much better than me at making decisions like this. You can think about all the different aspects and how it would affect everyone involved. And I really can’t decide if this is a good idea, or a terrible one.

‘That’d be because it has the potential to go either way. It could go swimmingly, or it could end very badly.’ I sighed. ‘The question is not “is this a good idea?” but “is this worth the risk?“’

‘Well how major is the risk?’ Caleb asked me.

‘Well it can end badly in one of four ways, really. The most likely of which is that it doesn’t go well, we go back to our original relationship and remove Josh. Thereby it doesn’t end well for him, and there is the possibility for us to lose a friend. The second option is that it doesn’t go well and the three of us split up, going our separate ways. That one doesn’t end well for anyone. And the final 2 options consist of one of us going off with Josh and leaving the other behind.’ I explained. ‘On the other hand, there is really only one way for it to go well for everyone involved, but if it does go well, it could be pretty amazing.’

‘So what do you wanna do?’ Caleb asked.

‘I need to think about it.’ I said, sighing. ‘I need to way up the god and the bad and make a proper decision.’ I explained. ‘This isn’t a quick decision to make. This is a long thought process to go through. There’s so much I need to think about. I mean, there’s social aspects, I’m sure we’d get a few stares if we all went out together. Would we need to set any rules? How would they work? Would we all sleep in the same bed? Or would we swap around?’ I shook my head. ‘And I can’t really think about all of that right now, because I have this court hearing to focus on.’

‘Okay, but I do need to ask you one more question.’ Caleb said. ‘Is it okay for Josh to stay or do you still want him out?’ He asked.

‘He can stay.’ I conceded. ‘But he needs to chill out until a decision is made. I can’t be dealing with his hormones right now.’

‘Okay, I’ll let him know the conditions of him staying here.’ Caleb said, winking at me before heading back into the living room.

I sat for a while, in the silence of the bedroom, before heading back into the living room to join them. Despite my earlier claim, Josh’s proposition was all I could think about. I was thinking about how it would work, what conditions we would need to set, at least in the beginning, and how we would make each other feel included and circumvent any jealousy. It wouldn’t be easy, but a few house rules might keep things from getting messy.

‘Sorry about before.’ Josh said, before I got chance to say anything. ‘I got a little ahead of myself and did something I would never normally do. I’m so, very sorry.’ He continued. He sounded quite sincere, so I nodded to confirm that he was forgiven.

‘Caleb has explained your suggestion.’ I began. ‘And I want you to know that we are considering it. It’ll take time, but the condition of you staying here is that you give us the time to consider it without any behaviour similar to today. If you act the same way again, the answer will be no, and you will be leaving quite swiftly. Understand?’ I asked.

‘Perfectly.’ Josh nodded. ‘Consider my mouth zipped on the subject.’

‘Also. I may ask you questions, this does not mean I am accepting your proposition. It means I’m trying to make an informed decision. When we come to a conclusion, I’ll tell you outright.’ I told him. ‘And if Caleb and I do agree to this, and it doesn’t go very well, we may well return to our relationship. That’s not to say we can’t go back to being friends if that happens, I just want to make that completely clear.’ I warned him.

‘Of course, I wouldn’t expect anything less.’ Josh nodded.

‘Then we’re on the same page. Right now, this court hearing is my priority. I’d be grateful of your support, but I’ll understand if you’d rather not-’

‘Of course you’ll have my support!’ Josh cut me off. ‘No matter what happens, Ryan, I’m still your friend and I’m not just going to abandon you while you’re taking legal action against your dad.’

‘Thanks, I appreciate that.’ I smiled. ‘Now come here and give me a hug.’ I opened my arms and he walked over to me, wrapping his arms around me and squeezing me tightly. After I released him, he want back to sit on the sofa with Caleb

‘Okay, now what’s the plan for tonight?’ I asked, looking between Josh and Caleb, who both looked at me like I’d asked them to quote the square root of pi to a million decimal places. ‘Okay, seeing as neither of you have any clue as to what we can do tonight, how about we go to the cinema?’ I suggested.

‘What’s on?’ Caleb asked me.

‘I don’t know yet, that’s why I was going to use my laptop to check the listings and see what might be interesting to watch.’ I told him, as if explaining something to an infant.

‘And if there’s nothing we want to watch?’ Josh asked.

‘Then we’ll get some microwave popcorn and watch a movie at home.’ I shrugged. ‘Now come on guys, move over, I need to sit down to use my laptop. Unfortunately I haven’t mastered the art of standing with a laptop yet.’

Caleb and Josh both moved so the three of us could fit on the sofa and I loaded up my laptop, pulling up the website for the local cinema and flicking through what was on that day, and the times they were on.

‘Anything good?’ Josh asked.

‘The latest Hunger Games movie is on tonight.’ I suggested, looking hopeful. Caleb shrugged and Josh nodded.

‘Sure, why not?’ Josh said, smiling at me. He seemed to be willing to go with whatever I wanted and I wasn’t sure if it was because he understood I wanted to take my mind off of things, and that’s why I wanted to go to the cinema in the first place, or if he was just trying to get on my good side so I’d say yes, but judging by the way he was acting, I’d have guessed the former, if I had been forced to choose.

‘Okay, sure.’ Caleb nodded, but he didn’t seem that enthused. I’d dragged him to the first 2 movies already. This was the third of four. He admitted to me that he’d fallen asleep during the first one, and I had hit him because of it, and told him he didn’t know what a good story was. Of course, this was Caleb, and he wouldn’t disagree because he knew I wanted to see it, and I wasn’t having the best of times at that point and he’d want me to do what I wanted to do to cheer me up.

Sometimes I wondered if he just let me get my own way all the time, but then I remembered the rare times when he wanted to do something that I didn’t and I would go along anyway because I liked to see him happy. It seemed to work both ways a lot of the time. We both would rather see the other happy than refuse to do something we might not enjoy.

‘Okay, well it’s on in like 2 hours so we might want to start getting ready. With three of us and one bathroom it’s gonna take some time.’ I laughed. ‘I’m gonna jump in the shower first. You guys can wait.’ I said, running to the bathroom before either of them could say another word.

When I got out of the shower I called out that the bathroom was free before heading straight to the mine and Caleb’s bedroom to get dressed. I looked through the wardrobe and as I did I remembered what I had been wearing for the triple date that had been cancelled because of Josh and Liam’s breakup. I smiled to myself as I thought about Caleb’s reaction to it and my decision was made.

A little while later I was wearing a black shirt, my black skinny jeans, my canvas shoes and a silver watch, I had Caleb’s leather jacket prepared to take with me and I had coated myself in a thin layer of antiperspirant before spraying my most expensive aftershave over my chin and neck. While I was getting ready, Caleb had came in to get dressed as well. Once Josh had finished in the bathroom I headed in to style my hair.

Because my hair was long and thick, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do with it, so I used a bottle of salt spray and spritzed it over my hair, I then ruffled my hair so it looked messy and shook my head to fluff it out a little. I checked the mirror and smiled at myself. I didn’t look too bad at all. I was quite impressed with what I’d managed to do, which was rare for me. I never thought of myself as attractive in any form.

I headed out into the living room and Caleb smirked at me. He was stood, completely outshining me, as usual, and I realised he had gone all out because he felt self-conscious about not being the best looking in our relationship. I wasn’t sure if I should feel upset because he had outdone me on purpose, or flattered because he felt the need to do it because he felt self-conscious.

Josh walked out and let out a low whistle. ‘Well, don’t you two look amazing?’ He winked at me as I looked at him. ‘Do I need to change or…?’

I laughed. ‘Nah. You’re fine.’ I shrugged. ‘I say that. It depends on what you’re aiming for. If you want to impress, then yeah, you really do, but if you’re just looking for a regular cinema trip then you’re fine.’

‘Well then. I’ll be right back.’ He said, running back into his bedroom.

I turned to Caleb and looked at him properly. He had styled his hair properly, something I could never do, he was wearing a black, long sleeve shirt with a silver, Chinese pattern down the side. The top button was open, revealing a small portion of his chest. He was also wearing black jeans, but they had the washed out look at the knees. He was wearing black leather boots as well, so he was completely black clad, apart from a silver watch which gleamed from the his wrist.

‘I’ve never seen you looking so good.’ I commented.

‘I didn’t want to be outdone. Looks like I was though. It’s a shame really. This is my best look, and it still doesn’t compare to you.’ He said, looking at me with a hunger in his eyes.

I almost snorted. ‘Are you kidding me? I look like a potato compared to you!’ I sighed. ‘You always look better than me. I could have gone to a lot of effort and you could be wearing a bin bag and your hair could have bits of food in it and you’d still look better than me. Because you’re charismatic and slim and your eyes sparkle and you have high cheekbones whereas I’m average weight, I’m self-conscious, my eyes are dull and I have hamster cheeks.’ I sighed. ‘You’ll always be the hot one. The best I can ever hope for is cute-ish.’

‘Come off it. You look so much better than I do right now. If it weren’t for the fact that Josh will be back any moment, I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off you. Plus we’re going out, so it would be counter-productive.’ He laughed.

’Please, don’t let me stop you. I’d be happy to observe.’Josh said as he walked back in, sporting a more classy look, which actually looked great on him. He was wearing a white shirt, the collar was poking out of a beige jumper. He was also wearing grey trousers and dark grey brogues on his feet. His hair was done so that it was flat against his head and every strand was in place. The three of us all looked completely different, but no one could deny that we all looked fantastic.

‘Okay, are we ready?’ I asked, once I had managed to get over the annoyance and being the most average after putting so much effort in.

‘I still feel somewhat outdone, but yeah, sure.’ Josh said, shrugging.

‘Oh shut up. You look amazing.’ I snapped at him before we walked toward the door.

‘What’s wrong?’ He asked as we headed outside and I locked the door.

‘Nothing. It’s just the one time I try and put effort in, you guys put even more effort in, making me look like a potato in comparison and it’s like why did I even bother?’ I sighed, walking toward Josh’s car as he unlocked it.

‘You really don’t see yourself properly do you? It took me like 10 minutes to pick my jaw up off the floor when I saw you today. I felt like my eyes were going to explode. You look better than the pair of us put together. No offence.’ Josh told me, adding the last bit toward Caleb.

‘None taken. It’s true. Ryan, you look perfect. You’re stylish, attractive, your hair is amazing, you have a little bit of mystique surrounding you because you’re all in black. All you need now is to practice your brooding and people will be falling at your feet. You’ll have people swooning over you anyway because of how you look. I tell you what, when we’re getting to the cinema, see how many of the Hunger Games fangirls end up looking at you. I bet at least 3 of them flirt with you, and 10 look at you in a flirtatious way. And I bet you won’t notice a single one of them.’ Caleb said.

‘I’m gonna say 5 flirt and 15 look.’ Josh said.

‘How much?’ Caleb asked.

‘£5?’ Josh suggested.

‘You’re on.’ Caleb nodded, shaking his hand.

‘Guys, is this really the time?’ I asked, getting in the front passenger seat.

‘Yeah, it is. Because we’re gonna prove to you that you’re attractive, and you have no say in it whatsoever.’ Josh said, smiling at me as he got in the driver’s seat.

Caleb got in the back and gave me a reassuring smile as Josh started the car and drove off toward the city centre.

I had never felt more aware of eyes on me than when we got to the theatre and Caleb was counting the amount of people who looked at me.

‘One.’ He pointed out. ‘Two. Three. Four and five over there.’ The counting went on.

‘Excuse me, but do you know how to get to the nearest bar from here?’ A girl asked me, twirling her hair around her finger and looking at me from under her lashes. I gave her directions to the nearest bar, which happened to be the one that Caleb, Josh and I had gone to previously, and she thanked me and walked away.

‘One.’ Josh said, smirking at me.

‘She was asking for directions, how is that flirting?’ I asked him.

‘Did you not see the way she was looking at you? The way she was standing? What she was doing? She was all over you, and you paid her no attention. The poor girl is either going to feel really rejected and cry to her friends, or she is gonna obsess over you for several months until she finds someone new to do that with. Of course she was flirting. For a man who claims to know a lot about psychology you can’t read body language very well at all.’ Josh complained.

I shrugged. ‘I just don’t notice things like that. I never expect anyone to be flirting with me. It’s not exactly a regular occurrence.’ I explained.

‘You’d be surprised.’ Caleb said. ‘I’ve seen a number of people flirt with you. You just think so little of yourself that you don’t realise it’s a possibility and pass it off as people being friendly. I need to tell you, Ryan. People aren’t friendly in general. They’re only friendly if they want something, they feel guilty for some reason, or they find you attractive. That isn’t a hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, those are the three reasons.’

‘So that means you…?’ I began.

‘Oh I find you insanely attractive.’ Caleb nodded. ‘So much so that I’ve decided to devote my life to being more than friendly with you. I mean the difference is it’s not just your appearance I see when I look at you. I see all of you. Your quirks, your personality, how much you care about other people, and how little you see yourself. Your incredible selflessness, your attitude toward life, your inherent belief that all people have some element of good in them, and your willingness to try and find that goodness in people. You’re amazing, and that’s why I spend my time with you. Because I want something, that something is you, by the way, and I am attracted to you in more than one way. So yes, even I fall into those criteria.’

‘And you?’ I asked Josh.

‘Do I even have to justify that with an answer?’ He asked.

‘He did.’ I pointed to Caleb. ‘And he’s been my boyfriend for like 2 years.’

‘Okay, well I’m basically going to give you the same answer, just less eloquently put. I want to be with you both. You give me a sense of peace, and happiness. I’m most happy when I’m with one of you, you’re both amazing people, I find you both very attractive and I basically want to spend more time with you. So yes, I get something out of it.’ Josh explained.

‘Thank you. The thing is, I knew that theory anyway. It links in with the idea that there’s no such thing as altruism because every good deed that anyone does they get something out of it, even if it’s just a good feeling. Altruism is a nice concept but it doesn’t exist in real life, there’s no way someone can do something good for someone else and not get anything out of it at all.’ I explained. ‘So it links in quite nicely with the reasons people are nice.’

‘I hate the word nice. Can’t you think of a better adjective?’ Caleb asked.

‘Why?’ I said, looking shocked.

‘It’s just such an overused bland word. There are so many better descriptions. It’s not even that descriptive. It can mean anything from friendly to tasty, and if you get the meaning mixed up you can get some very creepy outcomes.’ He explained. ‘But I really think people should avoid using it. Same as bad. Bad is like the negative equivalent to nice, or good. Good is pretty boring as descriptions go as well. I mean, say it was fun, or I had a brilliant time. Don’t use good or nice.’

‘Okay Mr Essay, calm down.’ I laughed. ‘I only used it once, it’s not like I’m being totally flippant with it.’

‘Well just try and use more descriptive words.’ He said, shrugging.

‘Well, someone got out of the wrong side of bed.’ I chuckled. ‘What’s with the vocabulary speech?’

‘I don’t know. I just don’t like using boring words is all. I think we need to try and bring the English language back to using decent vocabulary. I think we owe it to society to try and use a wide range of words and try not to use text speak as well, that really bugs me.’ Caleb sighed. ‘Sorry, I just kinda got into it with someone over Facebook earlier and it’s still fresh in my mind.’

‘Okay well try and tone it down mister, we’re here to have fun, not rant at each other.’ I laughed.

‘Excuse me, you look like a really good friend of ours, could I take a picture with you so I can prove we met you?’ A girl asked me, smiling at me from behind her incredibly long fringe that covered one of her eyes. She fluttered her eyelashes at me and that time I realised.

‘Sure. Why not?’ I shrugged and she squealed. She stood next to me and I put an arm around her, which made her flinch slightly but then she settled into it and relaxed against my side as her friend took a photo of us.’ I looked at Josh and mouthed ‘two’ as they walked away.

‘Now you’re getting it.’ Josh announced once they were out of earshot. ‘She was totally after that photo so she could stalk you online by the way, I hope you realise that.’

‘Oh what harm can she do?’ I asked, shrugging. ‘So she looks at a few of my photos and sees a couple of my posts. My privacy settings are pretty high anyway and I’m not gonna add her as a friend, so there’s not much she can find out.’ I shrugged.

‘True, true.’ Josh shrugged. ‘Just wasn’t the smartest move.’

‘Yeah but it was the kindest.’ Caleb commented. ‘He didn’t want to disappoint her. His need to please people is actually stronger than his anxiety issues.’ Caleb told Josh, grinning at me.

‘That is not- actually it is kinda true.’ I realised, thinking about it.

‘That’s actually really sweet. Your selflessness beats your anxiety.’ Josh said, putting an arm around me. ‘Why are you so adorable?’ He asked.

‘That’s a good question.’ Caleb nodded. ‘But I don’t think he realises that he is.’ He said, putting his arm around me from the other side.

‘Guys, stop, please. People are staring.’ I said, beginning to get anxious.

‘Just breathe.’ Caleb said. ‘Chances are you’ll never see these people ever again. Just relax and let their judgement pass you by. They’ll forget about you in the time it takes them to get home.’

‘So you say.’ I said, trying to breathe evenly.

Josh moved so he was stood in front of me, locking his eyes with mine. ‘Ryan, close your eyes. Now focus directly on my voice. No one else is here. Just focus on my voice. Breathe. In. And out. In. And out. Now count to 5, slowly, focusing only on my voice. We’re the only people here, okay? It’s quiet. There’s no one else here. There’s no one else in this room beyond the three of us. Your perfectly safe from any judgement. You’re fine. Now take a step toward my voice. That’s it. And another one. That’s great, keep going, and remember to breathe. Now as you’re walking I want you to count backward from 10, breathing in on each even number, and out on each odd one. Okay? Attaboy.’ When I had finished counting, I opened my eyes and realised we were at the front of the queue and Caleb was buying tickets and snacks. I almost laughed out loud.

‘How did you know to do that?’ I asked Josh.

‘I spent a lot of time researching anxiety and how to counteract it after I met you. Once I started finding out about your triggers I could look more in depth. I’ve basically spent a lot of time working out how I can help you out, whether you need me to or not. Caleb may have the experience, but I have the research.’ He said, smirking.

‘Caleb did do some research as well, but he tends to take a different approach. He tries to get me more familiar with the situations to reduce the long term effects, rather than just solving the issue in the short term.’ I said, shrugging. ‘But his way wasn’t really working all that well just then, so I’m glad you were there to keep me from having a meltdown in the middle of the cinema.’ I said, smiling.

We joined Caleb at the counter and picked up our tickets, food and drinks. We headed toward the hallway which contained doors to the different screens and one of the attendants took our tickets, ripped them in half, and gave us the white halves back. ‘You’re in screen 5.’ She told us, pointing toward the door to the relevant screen.

We thanked her and headed off for the door, going through quickly. The lights that lined the walls were still on, meaning even the trailers hadn’t started yet, so we had arrived in plenty of time. I sat between Josh and Caleb and snuggled up to Caleb as the lights went down, putting us in the dark, before the screen flashed up with clips of upcoming movies.

Josh looked lonely, sat on his own, and I noticed he kept glancing toward me and Caleb. I felt kinda bad for him, and though I still hadn’t reached a decision on whether or not we were going to take up his offer, there was a part of me that yearned to make him feel included. I kissed Caleb on the cheek and moved away from him, resting my head on the shoulder of Josh. I watched as Caleb turned to look at us and smiled. He was fine with it. I breathed a sigh of relief.

‘Hello there.’ Josh whispered, resting his hand on top of mine.

‘This doesn’t mean I’ve come to an official decision yet, but it does count in your favour.’ I whispered back, moving slightly so I could get comfortable.

We stayed like that for half of the movie, and then I moved back to Caleb, but Josh kept his hand on mine, so to anyone who looked, I was cuddling up to my boyfriend and holding another guy’s hand. But I knew no one could see us, because it was too dark.

When the movie ended, I took my hand back, moved away from Caleb’s shoulder, and stretched out. I had coiled up and tightened what felt like every muscle in my entire body trying to keep them both happy, but I had managed it, and I felt great because of it. I knew that, somehow, we could make anything work, and so my decision was almost completely made.

We were making our way out of the cinema when a group of 3 girls came up to me and each one of them, in turn, outright asked for my number. There was no denying that they were flirting. Of course, I declined, and explained to them that Caleb was my boyfriend and they backed off, though they didn’t look very happy about it. We headed out and Josh smiled.

‘I believe you owe me some money.’ He said to Caleb.

‘I think you’ll find that, though 5 girls flirted with him, only 10 girls looked at him, and therefore we were both half-right.’ Caleb said.

‘Call it even?’ Josh asked.

‘I think that’s best.’ Caleb nodded.

I sighed. ‘Guys, can you stop betting on whether or not people are going to be attracted to me? It’s pretty degrading.’ I complained.

‘I guess we can stop. For now.’ Caleb laughed as we headed out of the cinema.

‘So, where to now?’ Josh asked.

‘If you guys don’t mind, I just kinda want to go home.’ I said, stretching. ‘I just want to chill out before bed.’

‘Okay, sure. We can do that.’ Josh nodded and looked at Caleb, who inclined his head to approve the idea.

‘Great.’ I smiled as I got in the car. We got in the same seats as on the way there and Josh drove us back home.

When we arrived back at the house, I stood in the living room and looked between Josh and Caleb.

‘Why are you staring at us?’ Caleb asked.

‘I have made my decision.’ I said, simply.

‘Oh.’ Josh said. ‘What have you decided?’

‘I think we can make it work.’ I announced, smiling. ‘I think that the three of us would be excellent together, and I really think we can pull this off. I mean, it’s not gonna help my anxiety at all, as we will get some attention from it, but I think we can manage it.’ I said, grinning as Josh came over and hugged me.

Caleb soon following, enveloping us both in his arms. I rested my head on Josh’s shoulder, which was level with Caleb’s chest. We fit together so well, it was crazy. I’d never imagined this, but somehow it made so much sense to me now.

‘I do need to say a few things first though.’ I said to them as we released each other.

‘Such as?’ Josh asked.

‘Well I have some… Rules.’ I said, gesturing for them both to sit down.

‘Okay, what are these rules?’ Caleb asked, sitting on the sofa with Josh.

‘Okay so the first rule is that we all need to be included as much as possible. Anything that we think should include the three of us, we need to make sure does. And we can’t leave anyone out of any big decisions. But, because there are now three of us, this is a democratic relationship. The most votes wins on any decision.’ I started. ‘However I will also say that there will be no… bedroom activity, without the three of us being present. I’m not gonna risk being left out.’ I smirked. ‘Also, I’m not sure what’s gonna happen with the sleeping situation, as I’m not even sure we can get a bed big enough for three of us.’ I began.

‘We could always put two beds together.’ Caleb suggested.

‘Yes, good point, however, moving on. Josh will now be living with us permanently, so you can give up searching for somewhere to live. You’re home now. We will all make sure to spend some quality time together at least once per week. I know that me and Josh work together so we’ll spend more time together than we will with you, Caleb, but that can’t really be helped. We’ll just have to make sure to make it up to you on evenings and weekends.’ I smirked. ‘Now, is there anything I might have missed?’

‘A few things. Storage, borrowing of clothes, shopping, what we tell people, and so on.’ Josh suggested.

‘In terms of storage, if we need to we can turn the spare room, which is currently your room until you move in with us, into extra storage. I don’t usually borrow Caleb’s clothes except for his jackets, but I’m not against it, shopping it kinda doesn’t really matter. We make a list every week of what we need and whoever has time goes and gets it.’ I explained. ‘In terms of what we tell people, I suggest that, if anyone asks, we tell them the truth. If they don’t ask, then we don’t tell.’

‘That sounds like a plan to me.’ Caleb nodded.

‘It’s not exhaustive, but we can add to the list of “rules” later if we need to. We can vote on what we think is and isn’t required.’ I said. ‘Just for now, those are the key points I want to make.’

Josh stood up and walked over to me. He rested his forehead against mine, Caleb stood and hugged Josh from behind, and Josh put his lips to mine, gently, as if hesitant. When I kissed him back, however, he eased and deepened the kiss.

When we pulled away, Josh turned around and kissed Caleb as well, and I grinned. Non-exclusion was working so far. When the pulled apart, I moved around Josh and pulled Caleb’s face down to mine, and kissed him as well. It was more familiar than Josh, easier to ease into. I was used to kissing Caleb, I would always recognise if it was Caleb kissing me. But somehow, at the same time, it was somewhat new. Like something had shifted. It wasn’t good or bad, just different…

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