When Mikasa got home she walked directly into the bathroom to shower. She didn’t even drop her purse on the kitchen table, or take off her shoes like she normally would. It was almost eight. I hated when she worked late shifts like this. She came home with scrubs splattered in blood and her normally silky, black hair tangled on top of her head in a messy bun she probably redid like ten times throughout her shift.
I called to her from the other side of the door, “I made dinner.”
I waited against the wall in the hallway for her to say something else.
“Are you…going to eat any of it?” I asked. I hadn’t made any food for myself, but she wouldn’t notice. She never did.
“Yeah sure,” she said, “I’ll pick at it later.”
I already knew, without having to ask, that later meant after I went to bed. That way, she wouldn’t have to talk to me or hang out with me while she ate. I considered going to bed now. I had a history exam in the morning. Undoubtedly, it would be an hour long struggle of me rereading each question over and over again. The more I tried to read them, the more the letters would end up scattering across the page and rearranging themselves…
“Alright…” I said, and walked back into the living room where I’d been studying.
When she came out, I held in my gasp. She had walked out in nothing but her sweatshirt and panties. She was five foot seven, just two inches shorter than me. She was one of those nurses that practiced what they preached in the sense that she was immaculately fit. Her long legs were wiry and strong. I pictured them wrapping around my waist as her steely, gray eyes rolled back and I just –
I leapt off the couch, dropping my text book on the floor as I did, so that I could wrap my arms around her.
“God damn,” I breathed. She hadn’t done this in weeks it seemed. She always changed in the bathroom now after getting out of the shower. But she looked damn good in that sweatshirt, and I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity.
She tensed in my arms.
“Thought you were going to bed,” she said.
My grip on her loosened. “When did I say that?"
She cocked her head at me. “Didn’t you?”
“No, I told you dinner was ready.” I gestured to the stir fry I’d cooked up for her on the stove. It was cold by now. I hoped it would taste alright heated up.
She glanced at it. “Oh…I’m sorry. I just…”
She was just used to me going to bed early now, is what she just. But I didn’t say that.
Instead, I placed my lips against her ear and whispered, “Ya’ know, I think I could eat again…”
My hand slid down her stomach slowly trailing over her abdomen. Her stomach was as defined and muscular as her legs and I shivered as my fingers reached the hem of her panties.
Before my fingers could slide under, her hand wrapped around my wrist.
“What?” I asked.
“Bullshit,” I said. “What’d I do?”
“Nothing. I’m just not in the mood, okay? I was pumping someone’s stomach a half hour ago.” She gently, but firmly, guided my hands away from her stomach and headed toward the kitchen stove. I leaned against the dining room chair.
“So let me take your mind off it,” I suggested. She turned the burner on and the food sizzled in the pan. She kept her eyes on the food.
“It doesn’t work that way, Jean.”
“It used to.”
She sighed now. I’d pushed it too far, but I didn’t care. I’d been holding this in for weeks – no, months. She’d been like this for months. That wasn’t all that had changed, either. She kept coming home later and later. Kept taking whatever shifts her co-workers didn’t want. Kept staying over at Eren and Armin’s place. This was a long time coming, and I only now realized that I wasn’t going to put it off any longer.
I momentarily considered all the times in my life I decided to make a life-changing decision that simultaneously wasn’t my decision at all. It felt like my whole damn life was like that.
“What’s your point?”
“My point is, what the fuck happened? Did I let myself go, or what?” I glanced downward at myself while I spoke, to emphasize what I’d meant. She had only gotten hotter over the years, as unfair as that was. But me? What had I done? I hadn’t even changed my hairstyle since ninth grade. It was still a floppy mess of blond undercut, and it was still immature and impossible to wear professionally. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t noticed I’d gained weight, either.
But I was working on that, I reminded myself. I was working on that, and I was succeeding. She had to have noticed.
She squinted at me, and shook her head like she had misplaced her spot in a book. “What? Let yourself – what are you even talking about?”
“You know damn well what I’m talking about,” I spit, “If it’s not that, what is it? Are you just bored? Cause there are a million things we could do to change that if you’d fucking try.”
“It has nothing to deal with how you look.” She rolled her eyes. “For Christ’s sake, you look exactly the same as you did in high school.”
I snorted. I contemplated giving up the argument altogether if she was going to feign ignorance.
“And I’m not bored, I’m busy,” she said. “I’m not in college anymore. I have a job – a job that for your information, saves lives. Or in some cases, doesn’t save lives depending on whether or not I fuck up, and I’m sorry if it fucking preoccupies my mind a bit.”
I shook my head. I knew she was going to throw that in my fucking face. She was a year older than me, and had taken college courses in high school. Not to mention, my degree was going slower than it should have because my head could only handle so much reading a week.
But of course, it wasn’t enough that I took care of everything else. I was the one that made sure the bills got paid on time. I was the one to clean the fucking house. I was the one to cook the meals every night that she no longer ate with me. I was the one that ran any errands we had.
But it wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t enough when I’d been bartending either. She was always doing more than me.
I swallowed the scream in my throat and clenched my fists. “You don’t have to constantly throw that in my face. I already know I don’t have a job. I already fucking know that your job is difficult, that it will always be more impressive than whatever I end up doing. I fucking know that, Mikasa.”
Her eyes narrowed, and she waved one hand dismissively at me. “I don’t even know where you get this shit. I don’t even – God I don’t even know what you’re talking about sometimes.”
I didn’t say anything as she scooped some of the stir fry onto the plate and headed toward our bedroom.
“I’m heading to Armin’s after this,” she said, referring to finishing her meal.
“I should’ve guessed,” I muttered. Then, deciding not to settle, I called down the hall, “Don’t expect me to fucking be here when you get back!”
She swung around in the hallway. Some of the food flew onto the floor. “What?” Her lip trembled in the way that I loved. She wouldn’t cry, she never did. Her voice didn’t even raise when she got angry. It was almost as if she didn’t care at all. But her lip trembling was one of her few quirks that ever revealed how she truly felt underneath her impenetrable composure.
I smiled at her, although I didn’t know why. I supposed it was because for once she was showing weakness and that made me feel strong. “I’m going out. Don’t wait up for me. Not that you would.”
She scoffed. “Where? Jean…Jean! Where are you going?”
I was already grabbing my Jacket, keys, and wallet, heading out the door.
I didn’t get far. I was at Shamrock’s twenty minutes later. I walked there, despite the October chill. I used to work there, a small gay bar that had never expected me to wear anything leathery or glittery while I served drinks. Luckily, a lot of the people I used to work with had quit. I didn’t really feel like bumping into them tonight and pretending I wasn’t pissed off.
If I was honest with myself – which, as a rule, I generally was honest with myself – I left the house unsure what my plan was, but by the time I got there, I knew.
I hadn’t fucked a man in years.
I’d been with Mikasa for so long. Since high school, it had been Mikasa and no one else. Which was fine with me. I didn’t really care who I was fucking, or what they had going on under their clothes, as long as I was fucking someone.
I had never cheated on her, so it was strange to find myself opening up the door to the bar and heading right to the bathroom to check out how awful I looked. It was strange for me to comb my fingers through my hair, and use my fingernails to pick at my teeth, and pop a mint. It was strange for me to check my hazel eyes for redness, because I’d almost cried on the way here and that post-break-up-desperate-rebound-fuck look wasn’t what I was going for.
But I was most certainly, going for a fuck. And some part of my head was screaming at myself, telling myself that I loved Mikasa and I’d been with her too damn long, and she’d been too damn good to me, for me to fucking consciously and purposefully choose to cheat on her.
Then there was the other part of me.
The part of me that had me glancing at my reflection every time I passed a window or a mirror. The part that forced me to analyze every single shadow I casted on the cement or wall nearby. The part that made me right now, run my hand over the front of my gray V-neck and try to rearrange the loose fabric to rest on my body in a way that didn’t show my protruding stomach.
No matter how much I did this, it didn’t work. My stomach was always visible. It was always hanging over the hem of my jeans, reminding me of all the reasons Mikasa had probably lost interest.
For a second, I debated just sitting in the stalls for a few hours, because I’d rather do that than face sitting at the bar all night and not get noticed by a room full of gay men.
But I remembered a time when I could hardly go an entire shift without one of the guys asking me for my number, and all the times I had to turn them down because “my girlfriend wouldn’t like it,” and I was suddenly angrier than I was insecure. I combed my fingers through my hair one last time, gave my reflection my cockiest, lop-sided grin, and headed out the door to the bar.
I didn’t order a drink because God knew how many calories were in them. Instead I got a water, and I waited. Two guys offered to buy me a drink, but I turned them down and said I was already planning on meeting someone here. They were older, much too old to stir anything in me. I thought I could do better.
As it turns out, I was right.
Around nine thirty, two people walked in that could have been twins if it weren’t for their eye colors. One, was a tall, lanky woman with bronze skin and millions of freckles. Her hazel eyes scrutinized the room with a less than impressed expression. Since she was the only woman in the room, I imagined she was here so that the man she was with wouldn’t have to come alone.
And he was…Oh my god.
He was uh.
I had to let my thoughts buffer for a moment as I stared at him. He was taller than me, although he couldn’t have been by much. He had bronze skin too, and a smattering of freckles. His black hair was cut like mine, buzzed at the sides and longer on top, except his was parted down the middle and mine wasn’t parted at all. His had the professionalism that I could never get mine to achieve.
He strolled to the bar like he was walking down the sidewalk, like every guy in the room wasn’t noticing him at that moment and wondering why he’d brought a woman with him. His eyes were brown, and warm and comforting the same way black tea was. But outside of his undoubtedly attractive appearance, there was something else that had drawn me to him.
And I thought it was that he had no fucking clue what he was doing. A guy like that should have sauntered in here and taken his pick of the litter. Honestly, he should have been bragging about something by now. But he wasn’t. He had seated himself at the bar, talking quietly with the woman he’d brought, and had ordered a beer for the both of them. He wasn’t even dressed like he was worried about anyone finding him attractive. He was wearing a navy blue hoodie that appeared to have no brand, jeans, and tennis shoes. He hadn’t even noticed anyone staring.
But oh man, he’d sure as hell noticed me.
I let him look me up and down a few times, pretending I wasn’t checking him out too. He did it once, turned to the woman to talk about me, and then looked at me again with her looking too. He continued to look at me for over an hour. He never left his chair, and politely declined – well actually, he obliviously declined – men who came on to him. I doubted he even realized they were trying to make a move.
But he kept staring at me, and each time he did his expression was more and more flustered. He blushed. He ruffled his hair. He tugged at his hoodie like it was too hot in here. He was asked three times something by the bartender before he jumped and realized he’d been spoken to.
And something just lit inside of me. A blaze ran through my limbs for the first time since losing my fucking virginity. He looked at me the way no one had in years. And I didn’t mean he just found me attractive.
I was a good-looking man, and most of the time I was aware of this. Good-looking aesthetically, at the very least.
But he looked at me like I was a wet dream. Like I was a twink he wanted to bend over on a desk. He looked at me like he might fuck me in an elevator or demand that I swallow, and by default felt guilty for the nasty thoughts in his head and that made me hard in my seat. Not necessarily the idea of him being dominating in any way, but the idea of him feeling guilty about wanting me.
I wasn’t just attractive. Only now, was I realizing that I didn’t want to just be attractive.
I wanted to be his vice, his guilty pleasure. I wanted to be the sick fantasy running through this obviously innocent, respectful, and polite man’s head.
I pretended to only just now notice him staring, and then I grinned at him devilishly. He blushed and his eyelids fluttered for a second like he’d shaken a thought from his head. I gestured for him to come my way, and he honestly fucking looked around to see who I meant. I laughed, and kept eye contact with him.
He came over to sit by me.