Chapter 7-Closing Time
Thomas balanced a plate of food on his lap, and looked around the living room. Rob’s oldest sister Laurie had appeared a bit earlier, with her face and hands scrubbed clean, before she'd begun to serve the food onto paper plates. She sat next to her husband Jeff on the smaller couch now, occasionally casting the accountant a somewhat doubtful glance. He wondered why. Especially when her eyes would then slide to her brother’s face for some reason, and her expression became one of faint distaste and disapproval. That had started after the rocker had introduced him. Thomas was puzzled by this. What did she imagine was happening here, besides him coming over to help a neighbor clean up his yard? He wished that he could ask her, but that wouldn’t be polite.
His eyes turned to the long couch (he was sitting in the only chair in the room, a rather ratty armchair) where Anne and her husband Patrick were sitting with Rob. It was clear that Rob’s middle sister and her spouse were very happily married. The two of them touched each other often, small but loving caresses of some body part. He ran his fingers down her cheek, and she in turned smiled and patted his knee. Watching them, Thomas felt a curious emotion. It took him a moment to realize that it was jealousy, or maybe envy. He himself had never had such closeness with anyone in his entire life. His parents had been distant people, both scientists. He’d been a surprise to them, as they’d never intended to have children. They hadn’t exactly been loving or demonstrative people, although they’d tried their best. He’d gotten a quality education and nourishing meals, but never a hug. They’d barely touched each other, let alone their only child.
Anne was laughing at something that Patrick had whispered to her. Rob was shaking his head, having heard whatever it was. He grinned, showing off two rows of white teeth. Thomas’ stomach lurched inside of him. He tried to look away, to stop gaping at the musician, but he just couldn’t. He was fascinated by his neighbor. And attracted to him as well, very attracted. He sighed, finally letting his eyes drop to his plate. Why, oh why did he have to have his first crush on someone like Rob Carleton? The man was so irritating, and also so straight…although that didn’t matter. What chance would someone like him stand with a person like the rocker, anyway? His personality wasn’t one that attracted other people. He couldn’t change it even if he wanted to. Which he didn’t. He was what he was, for good or ill.
He took a bite of his food, not seeing that a pair of dark eyes was resting on his bent head. Rob was as fascinated by Thomas as the accountant was of him. That solemn face – Thomas had a nice profile. He liked to look at it. He was thinking bad thoughts again, this time about the pink mouth taking in each bite of food. Rob was imagining other things that he could slide into that orifice. A sudden image of those brown eyes lifting to his face as Thomas blew him made the rocker shudder slightly. He almost groaned at the sudden discomfort at the crotch of his jeans shorts. He had to stop thinking like this, especially when his sisters and their husbands were in his house. The sharp-eyed women were bound to notice his ‘problem’, and there would be nothing more embarrassing than having his sisters see him sporting wood. Anne would just laugh, which would be humiliating enough. But Laurie would freak out, which would be much worse. He SO did not want a lecture from his eldest sister about how perverted he was. Rob knew that she did not approve of his bisexuality at all. But then, she also hated the rest of his lifestyle as well. Music wasn’t a way to make a legitimate living, Laurie felt.
There wasn’t much conversation as everybody ate. Laurie didn’t like it when people talked while eating. Rob kept making faces at his sister and Patrick to make them start laughing. Anne nearly choked on a piece of food, and then glared at him as her husband patted her on the back. He shrugged his shoulders sheepishly. Once they’d all finished eating, the plates were collected by Laurie, and toted into the kitchen to add to the full trash bags already there. Rob sighed, patting his belly. “I’m full,” he said. “I could use a nap.”
Anne snorted. “Lazy man,” she remarked in amusement.
“You betcha,” he replied. “Why do you think I got into music? It’s a way for me to be lazy all the time.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” his sister said dryly.
Thomas glanced from one of them to the other, looking startled. “I thought that you were into music because of your talent for singing, Mr. Carleton,” he said to Rob.
The rocker’s brows shot up, and a wide smile slid over his face. “So you like my singing?” he asked Thomas, who turned red under four sets of eyes as he realized his inadvertent admission.
“Err….I used to hear you sing when you were in the backyard working on songs,” he explained stiffly. “I rather liked the new song that you wrote…”
Patrick’s eyes gleamed, Anne hid a smile, and Rob looked smug. “Thanks, I like it, too,” he said. “It’s good to know that you’re a fan.” He added to Thomas.
The accountant didn’t know quite what to say to this. But he was saved from coming up with any kind of reply by a streak of black-and-white. Aretha darted into the living room, and made straight for the one person who would object the most strenuously to her presence. Thomas gasped as he suddenly found himself with a lap full of cat. Green-and-gold eyes blinked up at him, as the beast’s long tail lashed. Then she hunkered down on his lap and dug her claws into his tan shorts, yowling loudly. Wide brown eyes lifted to the other people in the room, silently asking them what he should do. The desperation in them left Rob struggling not to howl in laughter.
“Hi Aretha, glad you didn’t run away,” the rocker said aloud. “Hey everybody, this is my cat Aretha. Don’t worry Thomas – if you don’t move, she won’t claw you. She just likes to sit on people’s laps; you don’t have to pet her. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend that. She tends to claw people when she gets mad.”
The accountant’s mouth opened and closed a bit as Rob hid a smirk. Anne’s eyes were twinkling at Thomas’s plight, and Patrick had closed his eyes to try to control his own amusement at the expression on Thomas’s face. The cat had settled in, hunkered down on the accountant’s lap. She looked like she was quite happy to be right where she was. Laurie remerged from the kitchen, frowning when she spotted the cat on Thomas’s lap. “What is that animal doing in here?” she demanded.
Rob frowned at her. “Aretha is my pet, Laurie. I put her in the basement so that you wouldn’t have to deal with her, can I help it you decided to go down there for some reason? She’ll be fine where she is. She really seems to like Thomas,” he went on with a glance at the poor accountant, who was sitting stiffly upright with his hands away from his body so that he wouldn’t end up inadvertently touching the beast crouched on his lap.
Laurie sniffed, but didn’t argue about it anymore. “We should get back to work soon,” she said instead, in her best drill sergeant tones.
Rob sighed, as Anne looked away and Patrick suddenly found the far wall interesting. “Okay,” the rocker said in exasperation. “But only if Thomas stays in here and keeps Aretha company. He shouldn’t do any more work right now.”
The accountant tried to protest, but Rob was having none of it. He jumped to his feet. “Come on, guys, the backyard calls. We should be done out there in an hour or two,” he assured Thomas, who began to look really alarmed. He was going to be stuck in here with this pestilent cat on his lap for over an hour?!
Anne chuckled. "Don’t worry, Thomas, I’ll save you,” she remarked after the other men had exited. She came around the coffee table and reached out to deftly pick up Aretha, who growled and struggled in her grip. Anne carried the beast quickly to the basement door and dumped her inside. She closed the door in the outraged cat’s face. “Sorry about that, kitty,” she said. “But poor Thomas doesn’t need you holding him hostage all day.”
Thomas gave her a grateful look as she returned. She winked at him. “You could come and help me in the kitchen,” she told him. “Since Rob doesn’t want you to do too much heavy work. You can sit at the kitchen table and rest when you feel tired or dizzy.”
Thomas was happy to take this suggestion. He liked Anne. She was good company. Plus, he really liked being tidy and doing housework. And he didn’t have to see Rob in here…bending down, toting things around in those powerful arms, sweat glistening on his skin…that was a pleasurable torture that he wouldn’t have to endure anymore, for which he was quite grateful. If there was a trace of disappointment in there, too, he chose to ignore it. Nothing could ever come of it, he reminded himself sternly as he followed Anne into the kitchen. Nothing at all.
The rest of the day passed quickly. Rob’s house was ship-shape and sparkling clean by the time the light failed. Both the front and the back yard were trimmed and weeded, the junk picked up and thrown away in a large garbage container that Patrick had thought to rent for the day. This included the floral cushion from the deck chair. The rocker intended to buy another one soon. It was a weary crew of people that met in the living room once more, both of the married couples getting ready to depart. “Hey, guys, thanks for everything,” Rob told them fervently. “I really appreciate it.”
“We were happy to help,” Anne told him, glancing sideways at Thomas. She’d had a good time talking to the accountant today, and had learned a lot about him. Information was vital in any battle – and in a romantic one most of all. “Just see to it that we don’t have to do it again anytime soon,” she added warningly.
“I promise,” he said. “Drive safely, and call me tomorrow, okay?”
“We will,” Anne replied. “Goodnight, Thomas, it was really nice to meet you,” she told the accountant sincerely.
“Thank you, it was nice to meet both of you as well,” Thomas said, looking at Patrick and Anne.
“I’ll send people over to repaint the outside of the house sometime this week,” Patrick remarked to his brother-in-law as he and his wife started out the door. "Decide on what color you want it to be before they come.”
“Will do,” Rob replied. “Although I don’t see what’s so wrong with lime green. I wonder if they’d do it in a tie-dye striped pattern?” he mused, then laughed at the expression on Patrick’s face. “Lighten up, I was just kidding,” he said.
“Yeah right. Good evening. Thomas. Don’t let Rob give you too much trouble,” he said to the accountant, before he and his wife departed after Laurie and Jeff.
Silence fell in the tiny foyer for a moment. Thomas was suddenly acutely aware of how close Rob was to him. His breathing faltered a little as the rocker said: “Well that’s that. Thanks for helping out, Thomas. Hey, now that we have this truce going, do you think we could try to be friends?” he asked hopefully.
Thomas shivered slightly, not wanting to say yes to this proposal. He didn’t want to be friends with Rob Carleton. That would mean being far too close to the other man too often. But he had no real reason to say no, and Rob was looking at him so hopefully…
“Very well,” he said aloud, reluctantly.
Rob beamed at him. “Great. Listen, I‘ve been thinking. I’d like to pay you back for all of your help today. There’s a place I’d like to take you soon as a ‘thank you’. Would you go with me?”
“Where is this?” Thomas asked, his brows drawing together a little.
Rob shook his head. “I’m not gonna tell you that,” he said firmly. “It’ll be a surprise. But I promise it’s not anything bad. So please, would you go with me?”
His face had a little-boy eager expression on it that Thomas found that he couldn’t resist at all. “All right,” he said, wondering if he had gone insane in the last few minutes. Go to some unknown destination with his horrible neighbor?! When who knew what Rob had in store for him? But he couldn’t seem to refuse Rob much, which was a bad thing.
“Great! I’ll walk you to your door now, and then I’ll let Aretha out before she goes completely psycho and tries to eat me,” Rob remarked ruefully as he followed after Thomas out his front door.
The accountant felt tongue-tied as they walked down the freeway together. He kept giving Rob little glances, admiring the other man’s face. Rob’s face was a little boney, but in an artistic sort of way. He had high cheekbones, a sensual mouth, and strong black eyebrows. His nose was bold, and listed a little to the side from having been broken badly at least once. His long dark hair had a bit of a natural wave to it, falling around his face to his shoulders. He looked like he might be deep in thought – Thomas wondered silently what he was thinking about.
It might have startled and maybe even frightened him to know that his neighbor was thinking about him. Rob was envisioning a naked Thomas lying on his bed, maybe on silk sheets (he’d definitely have to go out and buy some of those), giving him a sultry, ‘come-hither’ stare from those sweet brown eyes. Oh, man, bad thoughts! Bad thoughts! His cock was trying to drill a hole in his shorts. Thank Gods it was almost dark, so that Thomas couldn’t see the fact that he had a visible bulge at the front of his shorts. His libido was in overdrive right now. If Patrick hadn’t warned him about the fact that his neighbor was probably a virgin, he would have dragged the other man back into his house right here and now, and would have fucked his brains out in the newly-spotless bedroom.
As it was, he took Thomas right to his front door, meekly, like a good little chaperon. He paused there, turning to look at the accountant in the failing light. “Hey, thanks again for helping out,” he said. “I really appreciate it. Especially since you didn’t really have any reason to – you were pretty mad at me, which I can’t blame you for. I won’t forget this.”
“It was my pleasure,” Thomas replied quietly. “And I did have a good reason to. I was the one who turned you in to the city in the first place.”
“That is true,” Rob agreed with a lopsided smile. “Okay – I’ll see you next weekend. To take you to that place that I mentioned. We could do it tomorrow, but I don’t want you going anywhere with that lump on your head. Rest up tomorrow. Take good care of yourself,” he smiled at Thomas, and left him on his doorstep with a wave.
The accountant watched his neighbor walk away. What a strange day this had been! But not a bad one, not at all. He and Rob had a truce going, which might eventually blossom into a real friendship. Much as he wasn’t really looking forward to being friends with Rob Carleton, at the same time it would certainly be better than the relationship they’d had before this as feuding neighbors. And he’d take whatever he could get.
Go to Next Chapter