I flipped open my phone for about the hundredth time today. I had been paying such close attention to it that I knew there were no new text messages or emails and no missed calls, but a heart can hope. Today was my birthday. I had received the requisate cake during lunch hour at work, the regular phone call from my parents, the expected 50 bajillion facebook birthday wall posts. But the one thing I wanted, the one present I yearned for, I had not gotten yet.
Kevin always called on my birthday.
We had been best friends in high school and I had been half in love with him since about 5 minutes after meeting him. Over the years, that teenage crush had grown into full on unrequited love. Kevin was some sort of jet setting high finance paragon. His company sent him all over the world to do things that I generally didn’t understand. But that meant he spent more time out of the country than in. So I made due with his regular phone calls and nursed my bruised heart.
But in the ten years since we graduated, he had never missed calling me on my birthday.
I opened the phone one last time as the clock ticked over to 12:01am. I sighed and curled in a ball on my bed, refusing to acknowledge that the wetness on my cheeks was tears. My mind flitted to a thousand different places as I tried to fall asleep. Why hadn’t he called? Was he someplace he couldn’t get phone reception? Or worse, Had he just forgetten? My heart skipped a beat and considered an even worse possibility, Had there been some sort of accident?
I had almost worked myself into a worried panic and decided to call and make sure he was alive when I was startled by an insistent banging on my front door.
I looked at the clock. 2:30am. Who in the hell would be banging on my door at 2:30 in the morning? I contemplated ignoring it but whoever was out there was not giving up. I half flopped, half rolled out of bed, glanced down to make sure I was decent and went to see who was at the front door.
Now I don’t have a death wish so I was not going to open the door to some stranger in the middle of the night. If the peephole did not reveal someone I knew or someone in uniform then I would be calling the cops before I opened the door.
But I needn’t have worried, when I put my eye up to the little glass hole in my door, my heart almost stopped in my chest.
Kevin was standing outside my door.
I quickly slid open the chain and unbolted the door. When I threw the door open, he almost knocked me in the face with his fist as he prepared to continue his onslaught of my front door. I ducked and he weaved and disaster was avoided.
I just stared for a moment. Kevin was here, in my hallway. He looked deliciously rumpled in a suit that probably cost more than my entire wardrobe. His hair was dishelveled and his tie was barely hanging in there around his neck. His piercing gray eyes looked tired and there were lines at their edges that had never been there before. But his smile, god his smile, it lit up the dark hallway outside my apartment and warmed me to the core.
I realized I had been staring for a little longer than necessary when he shrugged his shoulders a bit and said, “Happy Belated Birthday, Sammy. Can I come in?”
I sputtered a bit as I back up and waved him in. “Yeah, yeah. Of course.” Then my curiosity got the better of me. “What are you doing here?”
He dropped his bags by the door, and nervously ran his hands through his hair, messing it up even further. “That’s a bit of a story. Can I use the bathroom and then maybe we can sit and talk?”
“Sure, its through there.” I said and pointed towards the bathroom. He was quick enough I barely had time to start pacing before he got back. He walked over to the kitchen table and sat down, leaning his head forward onto his hands. His shoulders slumped and it looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his back.
Without thinking, I walked over behind and started to rub his neck and shoulders. “Hey, its okay. What’s up?” After a minute he leaned back into me and just rested his head on my stomach with his eyes closed. Then he took a deep breath and leaned forward again.
“Sit. It’s a bit of a long story.” I sat.
And then he stood up and began pacing as he talked.
“So, I decided I wanted to transfer back here to the local office. I’m tired and traveling and … other reasons.” He seemed to pause there as if unsure what to say next. “I had been noticing weird discrepencies in a lot of my accounts. I asked my boss about it and he sort of blew me off so, before the transfer went through, I did an audit of my accounts. It turns out I was right. They had been using some of my accounts to launder money. I went to the feds. It turns out my boss was involved in some international child prostitution ring.” He paused again, trying to get control of himself.
“I haven’t been able to call because I have been sequestered for debriefing for the past month trying to chase down money trails with the feds.” He looked me in the eyes, weariness beyond anything I had ever seen leaking out of his whole being. “These people are scary shit, Sammy.” His voice faltered. I couldn’t bear staying seated anymore. I stood up and wrapped my arms around him, pulling him close to me, trying to take all his pain, all his exhaustion and just protect him.
I felt tears streaming down his face as he kept talking, whispering into my ear. “They don’t let people who betray them live.” This shot a spike of fear down my spine. I pulled back and looked him in the eyes again. “They told me I had to go into witness protection.”
My heart froze in my chest as he kept talking. I missed a bit of what he said but my attention focused back in on his words when I heard him saying, “And, damn it Sammy, all I could think of was that I would never be able to see you again. Never talk to you.” His face looked haunted now. He continued in a sort of manic whisper that cut straight to my heart, “I can’t loose you. I can’t. You’re my best friend. You’re everything…” His voice hitched.
He stopped talking when I reached up and started to wipe his tears away with my thumb. I didn’t know what to think, but I pulled his head into my should and just mummered words of comfort in his ear until he had calmed a bit and stopped crying.
I moved so that our foreheads were leaning against each other, and looked him in the eyes. “It’ll be okay. We’ll figure it out.”
In that moment, with our eyes locked, something seemed to shift. The grief, and fear and weariness were replaced with a fire I had never seen there before. Slowly, he reached up and grabbed my head with both hands. Then, without saying a word he started walking me back towards the wall with a preditory gleam in his eyes.
Before my brain had a chance to process anything really, Kevin pushed me back into the wall. The only parts of us that were touching was our foreheads and his hands on my face. We stood there for an eternal moment, me crowded into the wall, heart in my throat, every molecule in my body reaching out to him.
Finally, he closed the last inch of distance between our bodies and pinned me to the wall with his torso and hips. In the next moment, he took my mouth with a desperation beyond anything I could imagine. I tried to wrap my arms around him, touch him, but he grabbed my arms and held them above my head. He took control of the kiss and I let him, sinking into him and surrendering myself to the man I had loved for more than a decade.
He kissed me so hard my lips bruised and my breath came short and it was all I could do not to rip my arms out of his grip and drag him into bed. But I sensed he needed this, needed to be in control, at least for this moment, when everything else was beyond his power to influence.
After a few glorious minutes he slowed and gentled his kiss. He pulled me away from the wall and wrapped himself around me. It felt like he was holding on for dear life as he shakily said, his voice rough with emotion, “Come with me, Sammy. Please.”
“Okay,” I said and watched as relief and elation flooded his features. I smiled and pulled him close for another kiss.