Heather stared hard at Bryan for a long moment after he told her about his affair with Renee but instead of the expected outburst, her lips curled up into a sneer.
"You think this is news to me? You think I didn't know about your dirty little secret?" She barked out a laugh but no humor touched her eyes.
"I was wondering if either of you would have the guts to come clean before Renee left for Vancouver. Wondering if you planned to leave with her." Her eyes hardened. "I guess she didn't want you after all. Well, that makes two of us."
"What are you saying?"
"That you're not the only one who can pretend to be at the gym. Our membership lapsed months ago, Bryan. When I realized the pair of you were fucking behind my back, I went out too...and I met someone. It's over between us, Bryan."
"You're having an affair?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare stand there and act like the betrayed party. I wasn't fucking my best friend's husband. She was fucking mine, and don't ask me how many times I had to bite my tongue when I met Renee for lunch and she acted as if nothing was going on between you." Her smile grew nasty. "And don't think you're getting away Scot-free either. I left a little note for Vaughn to find on his return. A little note explaining what his best friend was doing with his wife."
For a moment Bryan was tempted to tell her that she'd wasted her time because Vaughn already knew but he felt guilty enough already. She deserved her moment of triumph at his cost. After all, he and Renee had done a shitty thing to her...and to Vaughn.
"So what happens now?"
"Now? Now you pack up the rest of your stuff and you go." She laughed without humor again. "At least I know who to get as my divorce lawyer."
Bryan couldn't see the point in arguing, and maybe he should have expected this but he had foolishly believed that she'd scream and shout at him, that he'd spend a few weeks sleeping on the couch, and then they would eventually sit down to talk it through. He never expected her to admit to having an affair too, and end their marriage.
"What about Willis?"
"Don't even start," she snarled.
They had paid a lot of money for him, but she was the one who had wanted the dog, and she was the one who took him with her on her power-walks for exercise. Plus Bryan was the one who no longer had a home so perhaps it was better if she held onto Willis. Defeated at every turn, Bryan climbed the stairs to the master bedroom and pulled out his suitcase. It was a little battered but it would have to do. He took a selection of clothes and other items, aware that he already had his wash kit in the car from his weekend away at Vaughn's cabin. There was a lot more to his life than what could be held in one battered suitcase--books, movies, music--but he knew he would have to come back for the rest another day. She stood in the front room looking out through the window and he felt her eyes on him as he placed what he could carry into the truck. She turned away when he looked towards her, and sighing in despair, Bryan climbed into the car and gunned the engine.
Something in her eyes told him there would be no reconciliation, and he could hardly blame her. He drove for several blocks before pulling over to the kerb and pillowing his head on his forearms upon the steering wheel.
Where was he supposed to go now? His credit card was maxed out and he wouldn't get paid for another two weeks. He had enough money to cover a week's rent on a hotel room, if he was lucky and didn't plan on eating. His thoughts turned to Vaughn but he'd burned that bridge when Vaughn caught him fucking Renee, no matter Vaughn's semi-forgiveness and words about striving to be a better man. Stevie had Jennifer, and all the baggage of sleeping with Jon during the weekend.
Originally he had felt uncomfortable after learning Jon was gay but not because of the guy thing but because he wasn't sure how to relate to his friend anymore. Last weekend had proved that nothing had really changed. Jon was still the same Jon he had known from when they were seven years old. Perhaps a better Jon because he no longer had anything to hide from them. After last weekend, none of them had much left to hide. Not even Trev.
He pulled his cellphone out of the glove compartment, where it had stayed all last weekend, glad that it still had enough of a charge to make a call, and flinched when the ring tone sounded.
For a moment he considered not answering but his day was shitty enough already so he doubted it get that much worse, and even if it did, at least he'd get more of the shittiness out of the way quickly.
"Bryan. I had a letter waiting for me when I got back."
"I know. Heather told me."
"Where are you?"
"Come over to my place."
"Yeah. You can."
Desperation won out over discomfort. "Okay."
It took half an hour to drive across the city to Vaughn's home, which was in one of the better suburbs with high cost housing. The electronic gate opened automatically on his approach, which meant Vaughn had been looking out for him as usually he had to stop and press the intercom. The drive curved across the front of the expensive property and by the time Bryan switched off the engine, Vaughn was waiting at the open door for him. Hunching in on himself, Bryan climbed out and went towards him, unable to look Vaughn in the eye even though they had parted on surprising good terms, all things considered. Vaughn stepped back and let Bryan pass, closing the door behind him.
Vaughn led the way in to the main room but he stopped halfway across and turned to Bryan.
"I need to know one thing. Did you ever fuck here? Did you ever fuck in my bed?"
Bryan had been to this house at least five times while he was having the affair with Renee but at least Bryan had always balked about having sex in the bed Renee shared with Vaughn. That had suited Renee perfectly well as it would have been hard to explain the pungent scent of sex in the air should Vaughn have returned earlier on any one of those days. Mostly, he and Renee had met up in a cheap motel midway between their homes but he regretted the few times when he had come here on her insistence.
He could have lied but the time for holding back on secrets was long past. "Yes...and no. Never in your bed."
Vaughn stared hard for a moment but then he nodded, accepting the truth of Bryan's words. He sank down onto the luxurious cream leather couch and after a moment's hesitation, Bryan sank into the chair opposite, sitting rigid because he knew Vaughn too well. He knew he had questions and as Vaughn's profession was all to do with questioning and getting answers, Bryan knew what to expect.
"I know why she had an affair. And I know why you had an affair. But why with her? What were you thinking? Was it me? Was it to get back at me for something I did to you?"
Bryan shook his head. He wanted to be honest but he wasn't certain how to go about it and not hurt Vaughn in the process. Part of him wanted to take the blame because even though Renee had made the first move, he could have turned her down and walked away. Just as easily, he could blame Heather for being sick that day, or Vaughn for calling up yet again and saying he was unable to get away from work because of a case. Instead, Bryan had let Renee kiss him, had let her touch him, and before he knew it, he was kissing and caressing her too. Everything had spiraled out of control from that point onwards and she had become like a drug to him; an addiction. Both of them had been so starved for simple human touch that neither of them could stop.
"It was nothing you... It was me. It was all me. My fault."
Vaughn snorted softly. "Bry. You didn't even have the guts to ask out Heather. She had to ask you. What I want to know is why you let it happen."
Bryan looked away. "My marriage was never perfect. Pussy whipped, spineless puppy." He looked up. "Isn't that what you called me?" Bryan looked away again. "I don't think either of us meant it to happen. It just...did. And every time was always going to be the last time." Bryan brushed at his eyes, hating himself even more for being so weak and for breaking down in front of Vaughn. "I just wanted someone to... Just wanted someone."
"You can have the guest room until you figure out what you're going to do next."
Bryan looked up in surprise, searching Vaughn's face for any reluctance or repugnance but finding only sad acceptance in his eyes. This was the friend that Bryan had known since childhood, the one who had always accepted him for all his faults, and Bryan felt even worse for his betrayal of that long friendship. He considered turning down the offer but they both knew that Bryan had no money and no place else to go.
"Thanks. I... Thanks."
Vaughn stood up. "I'll help you get your stuff in."
Bryan thought he would miss Heather and Renee but life was easier and simpler without either of them around. He and Vaughn saw far more of Steve and Jon now Renee was not dictating who could come over and when. She had always disliked Jon and Steve for some reason. Bryan was not surprised when Steve called off his wedding to Jennifer and moved in with Jon. Steve and Jon had always been close, even as boys, so it was a weird but natural progression from the startling revelation at the cabin all those months earlier. Bryan couldn't deny that their two friends seemed happier now; more content with life in general. Jon was no longer so tense and Stevie no longer so desperate to prove his prowess.
"You cut your hair!" Jon exclaimed.
Bryan ran a hand through the shorter strands, self-consciously aware that he was still only thirty and yet he had a receding hair line. The longer hair had covered it up to an extent but he had kept it long because Heather had liked it that way--and it had been his little streak of rebellion against the system. He didn't need to please her anymore, and he had already been paid a few compliments at work today over the change.
Vaughn smiled. "Looks good."
"Yeah, Bry. Looks good," Steve echoed before changing the subject to the sport on Vaughn's massive television screen.
It felt good too.
Bryan still worked at the bank but the hair cut seemed to mark a change in his attitude to work and he settled down for the first time. His recent pay rise reflected the improvement--according to his boss--and Bryan knew it was because he was more content in his life. He no longer felt as if he was anchored down in a dead end job.
His divorce from Heather came through faster than Vaughn's divorce from Renee, probably because he and Heather had no kids and they had not owned a whole lot so neither had contested a straight split down the center. She and her new partner bought him out of his share of their home, giving Bryan just enough to set down a deposit on an apartment if he wanted. During that time, the tension between him and Vaughn increased and Bryan put it down to the reminder of his betrayal with Renee. Eventually, Vaughn broached the subject of moving out.
"You don't have to go."
"I thought you'd want me gone as soon--"
"No. I said you could stay as long as you wanted...and you shouldn't rush into buying anything anyway."
So Bryan didn't, and the tension between them faded as they moved back into their established routine around Vaughn's home. Vaughn settled with Renee as soon as the courts ruled in his favor over the prenuptial that Renee had contested. She still walked away with a percentage of Vaughn's wealth but only a fraction of what she would have taken had she won her case. It seemed only fair as Renee had been a part of Vaughn's life for less than four years, spending only two years married to him before they separated seven months ago--and for six of those married months she had been carrying on the affair with Bryan.
Life was surprisingly good and Bryan knew it had all to do with Vaughn. The cost of his adultery should taken everything from him but Bryan realized that the only thing he had ever held of value was his friendship with Vaughn, and Vaughn had let him keep that. Yet, seeing Jon and Steve together, he began to wish he could have more.
Sometimes, when he and Vaughn were moving around each other in the kitchen fixing meals together, or watching the hockey sprawled out on the couch almost touching, Bryan wondered what it would be like to take his relationship with Vaughn just that one step further. He wondered what it would feel like to reach out and touch Vaughn the way Jon had reached for Stevie.
It took several more months but Bryan finally found the courage to reach out...and Vaughn reached back.