When Ken and Mollie invite Shelby over for dinner again, Shelby's heart starts fluctuating. All he can think of is heat, like a burning engine: tongue and lip and the narrow graze of teeth. How the kiss had lasted and lasted while the stars fell around them. And how he's never felt that way, not ever.
He's been wondering why Ken is unique. He's wondering when he steps in Mollie and Ken's house, suffused with the smell of motor oil and clean sheets. He wanders.
"Where's Ken?" he asks Mollie in the kitchen.
He sets the six-pack on the counter.
"Ta," Mollie says over hamburger patties. "I sent him to the store for fizzy pop."
"Oh. And Peter?"
"At a friend's."
Mollie molds hamburger patties and Shelby goes for a beer.
"Open me one?" Mollie inquires.
She washes and dries her hands before picking up the bottle and taking an enormous swig.
"This is good," she says, before drinking again.
"Thanks," Shelby says.
"You know what I've been thinking?"
"About how my husband fell in love with you."
She's drained the bottle and all Shelby feels is distant, black. He thinks of his job and his company, and reputation -- all he can lose if she says he is queer.
"Oi, I'm not angry," she says and she's looking at him with bright beautiful eyes.
"I just want to know."
She moves around the kitchen counter, skirts swaying. Her hands are cool and firm on Shelby's shoulders, and her lips are tentative, soft against his. They're not like Ken's, which are thin and set at half scowl. She smells of sweet soap, not engine oil and sweat, and she is yielding, while Ken is all wiry muscle.
Maybe Ken is unique, he thinks, just because he is.
The front door opens and they separate. Shelby is somewhere between aroused and guilty.
Ken, holding a grocery bag, looks at them, one to the other. Shelby can't read his expression.
"Your man's not a bad kisser," Mollie comes forward and kisses Ken.
"You kissed?" Ken says after a moment.
"I just wanted to know what kind of man my husband would fancy."
There's an awkward pause while Mollie resumes making patties.
Ken puts the groceries away and then leans against Shelby, warm side to warm side.
"It's okay, Shel," Ken says with uncharacteristic calm. "Mollie and I thought -- you and me can be together and me and Mollie can be together."
Shelby snorts because he doesn't know what else to think. It's dizzying. But then Ken's hands are cradling his face and he's kissing him, open mouthed, and only when Shelby tastes tears does he understand he's crying.
Ken wraps him in his arms.
"You really want that?" Shelby asks both Mollie and Ken.
Shelby laughs, heart stuttering. He can't believe this.
The rest of the evening is real, so so real: grilling hamburgers and shooting shit with Ken, sitting down in the back yard and eating while stars poke out.
Ken's palm on his thigh.
While they clean up, and the moon rises in a sapphire sky, all Shelby can see is Ken. A future with him, maybe, unfurling like the road.