an Almost But Not Quite flash
“You have a visitor.”
“Is it my brother?” Matthew asked without looking up from the puzzle that lay mostly in pieces on the table in front of him. He had managed to connect the outside, creating the frame, and had just started sorting the other pieces in earnest.
He wasn’t particularly interested in a finished Venus de Milo—he had asked for Michaelangelo’s David, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. Besides, he had a marker somewhere, and he would draw on a penis as soon as he was finished.
He always drew on a penis.
“No, it’s that pretty blond again.” The nurse’s voice held a tone obviously meant to make him feel guilty. “You know, the one you refused to see on Christmas. It looks like he brought you a present.”
That got Matthew’s attention, and he looked up for the first time since the Nurse had walked in the room. He loved presents. He especially loved them tied up in string or adorn with bows or bells; anything flashy really.
He loved flashy. It reminded him of Max.
Matthew made his way down the hall, the sound of his slippers moving from linoleum to carpet and back again giving him something to focus on other than what he would say when faced with someone from his past. In the visitor area, a large room tastefully decorated in creams and honey colored wood, he found Timothy sitting on an oversized loveseat and looking nervous.
He was as handsome as Matthew remembered.
Pulling his robe tighter around him, Matthew wished he had bothered with a comb. A quick brush of his teeth had probably been in order too, but he hadn’t wanted to give Nurse Ratchet the satisfaction.
He cleared his throat and Timothy’s eyes lit up at his approach. It made him look even more handsome.
Damn. Why had he gone and fucked it all up?
“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” Timothy’s voice was cheery, and he stood, smiling and held out a brightly wrapped box.
Matthew knew the staff would have searched any packages brought in from the outside before letting it into the patient’s area, and the fact that Timothy had gone through the trouble of lugging a roll of paper, ribbon, tape and scissors with him? It warmed Matthew’s heart.
“Thank you.” He took the box and leaned in to kiss Timothy on the cheek. He let the kiss linger a little longer than needed, enjoying the warmth and the contact. It had been so long.
And the man smelled so good.
When he felt Timothy shiver, he pulled away and tried not to look at his mouth.
“Do you want to open it now?”
“I’ll wait.” Matthew watched Timothy’s smile dim, and he searched his socially rusty brain for something he could say to fix it. “I’d like to visit first if that’s okay?”
“Of course.” Timothy sat and patted the cushion next to him in invitation. “How is it here?”
It was an unexpected question, and Matthew debated what to say. He thought about telling Timothy how people didn’t touch you here. Not sexually, though they didn’t do that either, but not even casually. A touch on the arm, a tap on the shoulder, the accidental brush of a body as someone passed you in the hall.
Strange how the absence of something so simple could make you feel so alone.
“It’s okay. I like my therapist.” It was true. Dr. Taylor was the only person here that Matthew didn’t loath. “I’m getting better.”
That was true too. At least Dr. Taylor seemed to think so.
“That’s wonderful.” Timothy smiled, and regret at how things played out at the end was an ache in Matthew's stomach.
The whole break-in and attempted murder thing had fucked it all up. It could have all been so different. Matthew could have been sharing a small house with Timothy somewhere, could easily imagine them making dinner in a tiny kitchen, snuggling on the couch and tumbling into bed together.
While it had lasted, what they’d had, it had been good, but he had made a choice. It had been the wrong choice, because now, with a clear head, Matthew knew he shouldn’t have tried to kill Daniel. His brother’s boyfriend had never deserved to die at all. His brother Max had. He still did, but Matthew had learned not to say.
Maybe that was the progress Dr. Taylor was talking about. Maybe if he could keep not saying it, he’d finally get to go home.
He wanted to ask if Timothy still worked for Max, if he was still his brother’s unappreciated assistant working ghastly hours but thought better of it. The question probably fell into the category of things he shouldn’t say.
“I’ve missed you,” Matthew said instead, enjoying the feeling of freedom that letting at least some of his words out left in their wake. He held so much inside.
“I’ve missed you too.”
They spent the rest of the visit in silence, thighs touching from knee to hip and looking out the window at the falling snow.
When the hour was over, and a man in blue scrubs Matthew didn’t recognize escorted Timothy away, he clutched the box to his chest and walked back to his room.
He sat at his table, carefully pushing the puzzle pieces aside, and opened his gift.
He slipped the ribbon off and unwrapped the box, careful not to tear the paper, planning to fold the shiny metallic red sheet and tuck it into a drawer where he kept little things he wanted to be able to pull out and look at again, and again. Inside the package was a diary, and before he could lament his utter lack of privacy he noticed a key nestled in the tissue.
He placed the book down on the table, carefully inserted the key and turned it.
The cover was a soft brown leather, plain and simple, but the pages were a creamy ivory, their edges gold leafed and their corners decorated in winding vines that tangled in and out of each other, sprouting long thorns and fat blossoms.
Matthew flipped through the sheets, enjoying the smell of the paper and stopped to run his fingers over their smooth texture, imagining all the penises he would be able to draw.
Turning back to the first page he smiled at the entry he found there, written in violet ink and unmistakably in Timothy’s precise hand.
My boyfriend forgives me.