After losing my job at the comic shop, I had to figure out a way to tell Tom. The truth would have led him to start trouble, but I didn’t want to lie.
“You quit?” Tom asked.
“I quit,” I answered.
He had only just made it home from work. His clothes stunk of grilled beef, but I let him kiss and hug me on his way through our apartment.
“I know how much you hate Lance,” I said, deciding to go with a half-truth half-lie.
“But he was going to sell your comic,” Tom argued on his way to the bathroom.
Along the way, he took off his clothes and passed them my way to be washed.
“Not the way I wanted,” I said.
He got to the bathroom and sighed before turning back to say, “I told you if taking me out is what it takes, then do what you have to. You didn’t need to quit for me.”
“Well, I did,” I said hesitantly.
Before I could leave him to shower, I felt his hand tug the neck of my shirt.
“What?” I asked, surprised by the pull.
“Your shoes,” he said.
“What about them?”
“You still have them on. You never wear your shoes inside. You almost don’t wear them outside,” he evaluated.
We didn’t wear a lot of clothes in general, not when it was just us. After all, we did live alone.
“Why are you always so obsessed with my feet?” I laughed, and he let me go.
“Because I know what makes you comfortable, and right now, you’re tense,” he added as he shut the bathroom door.
I heard the shower start, and I took a breath to calm myself. I had never outright lied to Tom before, but at least the lie was over.
While Tom showered, I got dinner going. He knew how to cook better than me, but even I could manage hotdogs. The food was almost ready when he came walking into the kitchen with only a towel around his waist. His body was still wet, and he left water on the floor from the bathroom to the fridge.
“I’ll find another job tomorrow,” I said, turning off the stove.
“What if you don’t,” he asked, leaning against a counter watching me.
“I will,” I promised, but Tom corrected himself, “I mean, what if you didn’t have to?”
Making our plates, I could tell what kind of night Tom wanted. If it took him that long to put on pants, chances were they weren’t coming.
“I know I wasn’t making a lot, but,” I started while walking our food over to the living room.
We spent two hundred dollars on a table but never used it because the living room couch was too comfortable.
“My brother wants to move out here,” Tom stopped me from saying anything else.
“We got to talking after my dad’s birthday. He knows I’m not going back to Oklahoma, but he misses me and,” Meat Head tried to explain.
“He wants to live here?” I asked.
Tom was still wet, so it’s a good thing our couch wasn’t made of anything like fur or cloth.
“Those weren’t his exact words, but if River lived with us, he could cover part of our rent. It would give you time to work on more of your comics and everything,” he suggested while we ate.
I couldn’t think clearly enough to flip on the TV, so Tom eventually sat his food down to do it.
“Where would he even stay? We don’t have another room,” I argued.
“He can sleep on the couch.”
“Tom, no,” I said with little thought.
“What?” Tom laughed, but I was serious.
“That’s...this is... it’s all nice, but you already take care of me enough. I can’t let your brother start doing it too,” I said, fighting to be louder than the TV.
“How many times do I have to tell you. I want to take care of you. It makes me feel useful,” Meat Head debated.
I thought to myself, “I want to be useful too.”
Was it written on my face? Tom turned down the volume of the TV.
“It was just a thought. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but if you’re already unemployed,” he tried to persuade me, or maybe he was only being honest.
Either way, I said, “I’ll get another job.”
“Just think about it,” he finished before laughing and adding, “and lose the shoes already.”