Tobias silently opened the door of his house, carrying four grocery bags. As he closed the door, the house was still silent. He walked into the kitchen and put the bags on the counter.
"Gen? Honey...you home?" He called out. He could hear her steps down the staircase.
"Where did you go?" She asked, coming into the kitchen and casually rummaging through the grocery bags.
"Please. Do I look that gullible today? You were gone for hours."
"Last time I talked to her, my mom was still living in Connecticut." Tobias shot back. Genevieve looked away from the bags and put a hand on her hip.
"Where were you?"
"I went out. Alright? Not a big deal. Now, if I can go upstairs...*mom*, I'm going to take a shower. Is that alright?"
"You already took a shower this morning." Genevieve replied, walking closer to him, and smelling the air around him. "There isn't a possible *scent* you'd like to get off of you, is there?"
"What are you trying to say?" Tobias asked. Even though he knew the scent she was thinking of, wasn't the same one he needed the shower for.
"I'm not blind Tobias, and I'm not stupid either. I know there is something going on with you lately that you'd rather not tell me about."
"After being gone so long today with no explanation...and now with this *attitude* you've been giving me. It reminds me of a time when you weren't so steady."
"Just get it out already!" Tobias shouted at her. She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Are you drinking again?"
"No," he growled. More than anger, he felt saddened that Genevieve could even think that about him. He'd been off the bottle so many years, for her to assume that he had been drinking again...it hurt him more then he knew it could. But then his guilty conscience started beating him up. You're sleeping with a *man*, Tobias. Cheating on your wife with a man. You don't have the *right* to feel disappointed in her.
"Then just tell me where you were..."
"I was at Chris's place, okay?!"
Genevieve looked decidedly embarrassed. "Oh."
"Yeah, oh." Tobias replied, funnily enough feeling superior, even though what he was doing there is just as hurtful to Genevieve as drinking would be.
"Why didn't you just say that?"
"I don't know." Tobias looked at Genevieve. She looked back at him, and smiled a bit.
"I'm sorry - I..."
"I'm sorry too, for yelling." Tobias interrupted. She nodded then approached him, but he backed away. "I really have to take that shower now..."
"It can wait," she alluringly smiled at him.
"No. I don't think so."
She looked at him, "What's going on with you, Tobias? Why can't you tell me? What's happening? Is it something with work, or what?"
"I'm just tired, sweetie. Really."
"That's not it, don't play dumb with me, please."
"Gen. It's not a problem. It's not something you can help. It's something I have to work out on my own." Tobias replied quietly. "You understand?"
Genevieve said nothing, turned from him and walked back to the bags of groceries, as Tobias left the kitchen and walked upstairs.
It was 2am, and Tobias could not fall asleep. He lied on his side, his back to Genevieve, staring off into space. He suddenly rolled out of bed silently, and walked down the stairs. As he passed the kitchen he heard the phone ring. He picked it up before it rang again.
"Chris?" Tobias said in hushed horror. He walked into the living room, and sat in the dark looking around nervously as if Genevieve would pop up out of the shadows even though he left her in the bedroom. "It's 2 am."
"Yeah...I couldn't sleep," Chris replied, and Tobias noticed he was slurring his words.
"Where are you?"
"Uhm...I'm not sure.." Chris said drunkenly. He began to laugh "What're you wearing?"
Tobias sighed. "I'm hanging up."
"No! Don't -"
"You're all fucked up," Tobias whispered.
"I wanna see you again. I wanna see you."
"I wanna see you *now*, Toby."
"What's going on, Chris. Are you in trouble or something?"
"No, I'm leaving town."
"No...I'm just kidding," Chris laughed again. Tobias began to grow wary.
"In that case, can I hang up now?"
"Well, I'm going to hang up anyway. I'll talk to your some other time."
"Don't...you mother fucker. You fucking mother fucker..." Chris replied with a strange mix of hurt and hostility in his voice.
"No. I'm tired of this shit, listen to me for once." Chris yelled into the receiver. Tobias sat down on the couch in the dark. "You still there?"
"Good." Chris replied sternly. He was silent for a few moments. "What was I saying?"
Tobias took a deep breath. "I don't know! I don't know why you're calling me at 2 in the morning for - you're obviously too drunk to think straight, you don't know where you are, and you're yelling at me for no reason!" He shouted in a whisper.
"I should be able to call you anytime I want."
"No you shouldn't! We shouldn't even be doing this," Tobias hissed. He wished his phone wasn't wireless so he could slam it down.
"Fuck you, I love you."
"What?" Tobias stood up on the couch involuntarily. "What did you just say?"
"After that - Chris..." Tobias felt dizzy. His heart was beating hard, so hard he felt like it was going to explode out of his chest. Am I having a heart attack? There was a click on the other line and then a dial tone.
Damn him, Tobias thought as he turned off his phone. He can't just tell me he loves me and hang up on me. He loves me? How is that possible? He barely even *knows* me. He was just drunk, just too drunk to think straight. You never say true things when you drink. I should know.
Tobias slumped down on the couch again, he felt like hurling the phone across the room. His life was spinning out of control, and he had no idea how to stop it. Jesus, had it been just a month or so that he was simply taking out the trash when he first laid eyes on Chris Keller? His life was completely normal then, mundane and simple. His wife, his children, his job, he needed nothing more, wanted nothing more. Or so he thought.
He knew he'd have to make a decision sooner or later. Preferably later, because he knew there was only two choices.
Leave Genevieve, or leave Chris.
And he didn't want to make that decision. He loved his wife, but if he loved her so much how could he look her in the eyes and tell her he was going out somewhere and then be in someone else's bed? How could he do this to his family?
What was wrong with him?
The longer this went on the easier it had become to lie to Genevieve, the less guilty he felt. And that was the scariest of all. When Chris had first kissed him, Tobias wasn't even a willing participant, well, not really. But still, he couldn't even look at his wife without feeling nauseous. Now he could lie, and still kiss her and get in the same bed with her. He still felt guilty, but it was lessening.
How could he go from a responsible, loving husband to a deceitful adulterer? Worthless scumbag is what he was all along.
He heard the light switch on before he realized anyone was in the room with him. He didn't turn around though, he knew who it was, so he waited for her to say something.
"What're you doing out here?" Genevieve's voice asked from behind him. Tobias smiled bitterly to himself, realizing the question was harder to answer then she could even possibly imagine.
"I'm not sure really..."
Soon, Genevieve was in front of him, smiling down on him, her face shadowed by the darkness, her cheekbones outlined by the soft glow of the lamp.
"I can't help, if you don't tell me." She replied, taking a seat beside him. She weaved her arm through his, delicately stroking his forearm. "Don't shut me out, it's not like you.
He didn't respond, he couldn't respond.
She rested her head on his shoulder, only slightly tilting it to whisper. "I love you."
"I love you too, Gen. I really do."
"I know you do honey." Genevieve replied, looking up at him. "Come on, let's go back to bed." She stood up and took his hand, he got up and followed her upstairs.
The next day, Tobias rolled on his side, his legs smacked into Genevieve's causing him to open his eyes, and look into hers.
"I drove the kids to school already," she replied, answering his questioning look. "Decided instead of getting up for the day, crawl back into bed with you."
"Guess I'm not used to waking up, and seeing you gaze at me." Tobias said softly, only half awake. She moved closer to him, and wrapped her arms around him with a smile.
"It's nice isn't it?" She responded, sliding her hand down the curve of his neck.
"Yeah," Tobias breathed, holding her closer to him, relishing in the way her body fit with his. She was warm, soft and so fragile, yet she had an underlining strength he could see in her eyes. But the fact that she had that quality was one of the reasons he was first attracted to her.
As they layed together silently, he heard his wife's breathing slow, until he was sure she had fallen back asleep. He stayed like that awhile, lamenting how comfortable and right it felt before he himself, fell back asleep.
In the late afternoon, Genevieve brought two yogurt cups full of water to the kitchen table where Tobias, Gary and Holly sat. Holly immediately dipped her paint brush in the water and then dragged the wet bristles across the red watercolor paint. She slapped the plain white paper with her red stained paint brush, leaving a squiggly crimson line across the paper, and then squealed with delight. Gary dipped his paintbrush in the water then with blue watercolor paint, then carefully painted a big circle.
"How was school, Gary?" Tobias asked his son, looking at him.
"Fun," Gary replied simply, his eyes glued to the paper in front of him.
"Mine was fun too, daddy!" Holly shouted, now sporting red splattered dots on her forehead. "We made paper birds."
"That does sound like a lot of fun, sweetheart," Genevieve replied in her motherly tone with a smile and glanced at Tobias.
"I made a blue one..." Holly said seriously, looking up from her watercolors. She then continued to paint "We get to take 'em home later."
"And I'll put it on the refrigerator." Genevieve told her daughter.
Tobias sat silently observing his family. His small family, whom he was deceiving. His devoted, beautiful wife, whom he lied to day after day. His young innocent children, who deserve a father who puts their needs before his own. And he wasn't, he wasn't being a father to those children, not the one he swore he would be.
Everything suddenly became clear to Tobias. Like it had been this way always - but he just couldn't see it before, he just didn't *want* to see it. It wasn't fair to his family to go on like this. It wasn't fair to himself. It wasn't fair to anyone involved.
It had to end.
The next evening Tobias agreed to meet with Chris at his home. As he thought about it on the drive there, it might have been more appropriate to meet somewhere more public. Being alone with Chris didn't sound like good idea. He told Genevieve he was going out, do some shopping, be back in an hour or so, and left.
As he parked his car in Chris's driveway, he caught a glimpse of the tall silhouette of a man leaning against the door frame. The light from behind him made it unable for Tobias to make out his features. As Tobias got out of his car and approached the door, the front porch light switched on, and the silhouette's face was revealed.
Chris: wearing nothing but a pair of blue jeans, waiting for Tobias, reaching out, holding the screen door open for him.
"In. Now," was all Chris said when Tobias walked up to his front door. Tobias didn't have a chance to reply, Chris had yanked him inside and feverishly began kissing him. Tobias responded by running his hands over his body, and kissed him back, the open mouth kisses getting more intense.
Lost in the moment, Tobias nearly had forgotten why he was there. Only when Chris pulled away to whisper in his ears how much he missed him, did he remember. As Chris leaned in to kiss him again, Tobias mustered up the strength to push him away.
"This again," Chris replied with a grin. "Playing hard to get don't work no more once I already got you..."
"Chris, listen, I only came here for one thing..." Tobias replied, his voice growing shaky.
"Lemme guess...to 'talk'." Chris said still grinning. "I listen better in the bed...naked." Chris put his hand on Tobias's chin, his lips a centimeter away from his. "C'mon."
Tobias backed away, taking Chris's hand away from his face..."No, Chris," Tobias replied, taking a deep breath but not able to bring his eyes up to meet his. "I really don't wanna drag this out any longer then it oughta be..."
Chris looked at him as his grin slowly faded. "Just say what ya gotta say, so we can get it outta the way." Tobias shook his head, and sighed. "It's about me callin' you that night, isn't it?"
"Not really. But now that you mention that...what the hell were you thinking, Chris?! What if Gen had answered? Don't you think she would have thought it a bit peculiar - you calling at 2 am?!"
"I didn't think anyone would be awake."
"So...what...were you going to leave a message on my machine?! I wouldn't doubt it, you were completely wasted!"
"Toby..." Chris said, his tone low in a menacing way. "What the fuck is this? You got somethin' worthwhile to say? Say it. Cuz I don't need this shit."
"This relationship, our relationship...it's over." Tobias replied, his gaze steady on Chris. But Chris had no reaction, his features didn't change.
"What?" Chris laughed out.
"I can't see you anymore." Tobias swallowed hard and searched Chris's eyes for some sort of reaction, but there was none. "So, I should go now.."
Suddenly as Tobias was about to move, Chris lunged forward and grabbed him by the arm and pulled him close.
"You don't fucking do that." Chris replied angrily. His grip tightened on his arm. "You can't fucking walk out of my life...like this means nothing."
"Chris, let go." The grip on his arm was painful, but Tobias wasn't afraid, he could hear the hurt in Chris's voice.
Chris didn't let go, he pushed into Tobias, overpowering him easily. Chris grabbed him by the back of the neck and kissed him roughly. Tobias let him, not able to push him away or kiss him back. The kisses were almost too hard to take, and Tobias was grateful when Chris pulled away. But he only did so he could undo Tobias's pants, then he pulled them down, and Chris sank to his knees in front of him. Tobias looked down as Chris rubbed the side of his face against his thighs. Chris then put his head down, and hugged his own knees to his chest, almost shaking. Tobias sank down next to him.
"You keep saying that." Tobias said softly.
"What?" Chris replied, not meeting his glance, staring down at his hands.
"The meaning...of this relationship...you said yourself, I'm just a fuck to you."
Chris smiled bitterly. "If you believed that, would you have come back?" Chris put his hand on Tobias's face, rubbing his thumb over his mouth, separating his lips. "Tobias...you know what this means..."
"You know I love you."
Tobias shook his head, and gently took Chris's hand away from his face.
"Is that so hard for you to believe?" Chris replied, looking up at Tobias as he pulled his pants up. Tobias walked across the room.
"You don't know me - how could you love me?!"
"I knew I loved you from the moment I saw you."
"That's ridiculous..." Tobias scoffed, stopping at the front door, when he heard Chris behind him. He hung his head, but didn't turn to look at him. Chris ran his hand down the back of his neck.
"I have to."
"No you don't," Chris replied, turning him around. He leaned into him, but Tobias turned his head. "You can pretend this isn't killing you, but I know that it is."
"I have a family. I have people who depend on me. You think I'm gonna give that up for this?"
"I'm not askin' you to."
"Well, it's not fair to them to keep doing this." Tobias replied, and his eyes met Chris's "It's not fair to you either."
Chris responded by kissing Tobias, Tobias kissed him back softly. When they broke it, Tobias turned back to the door.
"Don't walk out that door. 'Cause if you do, I'm not going to go after you."
"I don't want you to," Tobias replied, but he didn't mean it. He turned the doorknob slowly, feeling his heart pound fiercely in his chest, hearing it in his ears, time slowed down. Every move he made turned into slow motion.
His affair with Chris as fleeting as it was made him guilty, it made him deceive his family. Part of himself hated doing it. But for the most part Tobias knew that when he was doing it, he couldn't stop it even if he wanted to. He knew at that moment, that he loved Chris Keller, but he wasn't even sure why.
He stepped out of the door, letting the screen door fly back into the doorway. Chris said nothing, Tobias said nothing. He didn't even turn to look at him. He got in his car, and drove away.
-End Part Nine-
Chris finished his 5th beer and stood up, slightly wobbly. He went to his bedroom and opened his bottom drawer in his dresser and took out a gun and thought about putting it to his head. As he stared at the barrel, he sighed and laid it in his lap.
Fuck that, the only thing he needs is a change of pace. Get out on the road, say goodbye to this fucking dead end city, say goodbye to everything he ever was here. Walk out that door, just as Tobias did, get on the motorcycle and just go, anywhere, everywhere.
There was nothing holding him back, not a wife, a lover, or a friend. The only thing stopping him was the lack of cash flow. But he knew he could easily solve this. Chris took the gun and slid into his leather jacket. He took one look at his house, turned off the lights and left.
He stopped in front of the little market on the street corner and walked in, still wearing his helmet. He walked up to the guy at the counter nonchalantly and pulled out his gun, showing it to him and telling him to empty the cash register. The man did so, fear on his face, but took a little too long doing it, and Chris panicked. He yelled at him - and grabbed the bag out of the old man's hands, and stuffed it into his jacket pocket. He could hear a woman scream - and quickly grabbed her, putting his hand over her mouth. She trembled up against his body and as the old man came from behind his counter he raised an old wooden shotgun. Chris didn't think, he just shot, and the man fell. He threw the woman away from him and got on his motorcycle.
He wasn't even a block away when the cops came after him, and he realized there was no way out, as he maneuvered his bike to avoid them, he could feel his head and his body fly out of control and he was thrown from his motorcycle. Laying flat on his stomach, they rolled him over and pointed a gun in his face...
* * *
Tobias sped down the street, he forgot where he was going, and somehow ended up in the dimly lit parking lot of a liquor store. He sat in the car staring at the entrance. He should put his foot down on that gas pedal and speed out of there, back to the safety of his home, his children, his wife.
And yet, he couldn't. He unlocked the door, and got out. He walked into the warm liquor store, the door beeping as he stepped inside. The liquor store clerk showed little interest in him, and returned to looking at a porn magazine.
Tobias walked aimlessly down the aisles of liquor bottles. The brown fluid called out to him, it's welcoming copper tint seemed to glow. He stopped in front of a clear bottle of vodka, he picked it up. He remembered all those times he had to skip going to bars with his colleagues for a martini or two.
He paid for the vodka and took it to the car. He looked at it, as he put it in the passenger seat next to him. He wanted to forget everything that happened today. He wanted to forget the way Chris looked at him when he told him it had to end. The way he desperately clung to him, his eyes full of hurt and disbelief and a tragic realization. And no matter how many hugs and kisses from his children and Genevieve would ever make him forget that.
But this could, this could make him forget, at least for the time being. And there is no time, like the present.
Tobias grabbed the bottle, unscrewed the top quickly, and let the alcohol slide down his throat. He almost gagged on it, he had forgotten how it tasted. But it eventually made its way down his throat more easily. He reveled in its burning twinge, it could wipe out everything that was in his mind...it could make him feel numb, so as he downed the bottle...he felt a calm wash over him.
Tobias turned on the car, and bleary eyed he screeched out of the lot, making fast curves home. He then turned a corner on a suburban neighborhood near his house.
He didn't even see her, until she was on his windshield...