“We may have crossed a line here,” Chris concludes as he and Eugene watch Erick sitting in a corner, his back toward them and head bowed.
“We? I was just playing along,” Eugene replies.
“You may have just been playing along, but now you’re in it just as deep as I am.”
“How do you figure?”
“Because he’ll blame you, too.”
“Maybe so, but I have an out.”
“I’m one who might could still be. He’ll want to keep me in his back pocket -- just in case.”
“Good point,” Chris concedes. “I really didn’t think he’d react like this.”
“Did you really think this was going to end well?”
“I don’t know what I was thinking. I didn’t actually think all that far ahead. I just thought it would be funny.”
“How did you expect him to react?”
“I thought he’d freak out and then we’d all have a laugh, but he seems to be internalizing this. It’s very unsettling.”
“Why don’t we just tell him what really happened?”
Chris and Eugene hear Erick start to whimper in the corner.
“I don’t think so,” Chris decides.
Eugene backs away from Chris and heads toward the door. “Well, I’m going to leave and let you and Erick figure this out.”
He opens the door to leave but Hunter, Mitch and Cole rush into the apartment and through the living room to comfort Erick.
“Erick, it’s okay,” Hunter says comfortingly as she gives him a hug from behind.
Mitch steps in front of Erick and sits down in front of him, his legs stretched out on either side. He takes Erick by the hands. “We all make mistakes, bud.” he says.
“This is more than a mistake,” Erick laments. “I have turned the foundation of our entire relationship into swiss cheese…and it’s going to collapse under the weight of what I’ve done.”
Cole kneels down and observes Chris’s face. “Chris doesn’t look all that upset,” he says to Erick.
“Chris is just being a good sport,” Erick responds. “Good ol’ sweet, wonderful, good guy Chris. Nice guys always finish last. And I tripped him on the way to the finish line.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Erick.” Hunter replies. “You’re just a human being.”
“I’m not human. I’m less than human. I’m pet dander – insignificant. And a triggerer of asthma.”
“What’s he talking about?” Eugene asks.
“He’s allergic to pet dander,” Chris explains. “If he’s exposed to it long enough, it will trigger his largely dormant asthma.”
“I see. So right now he’s kinda allergic to himself?”
Chris elbows Eugene. “Stop it. This is really bad.”
There’s a knock on the door. Chris goes to answer it. As he opens the door, April storms in with Grayson right behind her.
“Erick, I’m here for you!” she exclaims as she squeezes her way into the cluster of support surrounding Erick.
Grayson stands behind with Chris and Eugene. “It sounds like he really fucked up this time,” he says.
Chris pulls Grayson aside. “Actually, he didn’t,” Chris whispers.
TWO HOURS EARLIER
“Good morning, Erick,” Chris says as he stands over Erick’s bed.
Erick cuddles up to the body lying next to him and digs his face into the back of the body’s neck. His eyes still closed. “Good morning, sweets. How’d you sleep?”
“I slept alright. I missed you though.”
“I missed you too.”
“Did you really? It doesn’t seem like it to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if I slept at my place last night, who are you cuddled up with this morning?”
Erick’s eyes pop open into a sea of darkness. He lifts his head toward the morning light and sees Chris standing on the side of his bed. “Is it possible you’re standing there and lying next to me at the same time?” he asks.
Chris shakes his head. “Care to explain?”
“I would love to, but I’m just as confused as you are.”
Eugene shifts his body around and faces Erick. “I can explain,” he says with a wide smile. “After you and Chris parted ways last night, you came home and I brought over a bottle of wine. We drank. We went to bed. And I’m still a little spent – and sore -- from it all.”
Erick’s face falls. He looks up at Chris, who silently walks out of Erick’s bedroom and out the door of the apartment. Erick hears the door close. “Damn,” he says to himself. He looks down at Eugene, who wears a strangely satisfied look on his face. “I think you’d better go.”
“…we came back here about an hour-and-a-half later to let him in on the joke and then we saw him like that,” Chris explains.
“Don’t you think someone should tell him?”
“We haven’t figured out how.”
Grayson walks over to the cluster in the corner. He reaches in, grabs Erick by the arm, pulls him up and drags him across the living room toward Chris. “Erick, there’s something you should know. Chris, there’s something he should know.”
“I have to tell you something about last night,” Chris begins.
“What about last night?” Erick asks, still looking at the ground.
“It didn’t happen.”
“Night didn’t happen?”
“Night happened,” Chris continues. “But what happened last night didn’t actually happen.”
“So what happened?”
“It was all a silly joke. I planned it and Eugene just played along. You two didn’t actually sleep together.”
Erick folds his arms. With a stern look on his face, he looks up and says, “I know. I may have had a couple of glasses of wine and fallen asleep, but I’d sure as hell remember tickling his ivory.”
Hunter, April, Mitch and Cole get up and head toward the door. “Our work here is done,” Hunter says.
April reaches into Chris’s back pocket, pulls out his wallet and hands it to Erick. “Enjoy lunch,” Erick says as he pulls out Chris’s credit card and hands it to April.
April puts the credit card in her purse. “Alright everyone, we’re off to The Corner for brunch!” she says enthusiastically as she walks out the door.
Grayson pats Chris on the shoulder. “That’s a pretty expensive joke, dude,” he says on his way out the door.
“I’m still paying off the last joke I played on Erick,” Mitch tells Chris as he walks by. “And he and I haven’t been together in eight years.”
“I’ve been helping him with the last couple of payments, but trust me – he’s been paying for it,” Cole adds with a wink as he and Mitch walk out the door, hand in hand.
Erick walks into the kitchen to brew a cup of tea. “You put that together pretty quickly,” Chris says.
“It’s easy when you promise people free food. Fortunately, April and Grayson were already headed up this way to run some errands. What were you thinking?”
“I don’t know. We’ve had this flirty/sexual tension dance with Eugene for so long; I just wanted to play with it a little – no pun intended.”
Erick thinks about this for a moment. “Well...,” Erick suggests with a telepathic eyebrow.
Chris smiles. “Again?”
“He does live down the hall, it’s pretty convenient.”
“It’s even more convenient than that,” Eugene yells from Erick’s bedroom.
Erick and Chris giggle. “Good,” Erick yells back. “Now stay convenient until after I’ve had my morning tea.”
Brought to you by Hunter Photography.
Original Fiction from a Sitcom Mind > The Halls of Shambala > I Am Erick Davidson - An Original Short Story Series >