Thursday, September 12, 2013


Two for the Rent

Matthew Winchester is about as good a best friend as anyone - Topher Stanton included - could ask for. He looked past the Stanton billions and simply saw Topher. So it's no big deal when Topher comes out as bi during their fall semester senior year.

Except it throws Matt's already muddy perspective on his own sexuality into a tailspin. Having a girlfriend doesn't seem right, and watching Topher attempt a fledgling relationship with another man doesn't sit well, either. Losing Topher's not an option, so Matt sucks it up and buries it all in the proverbial closet. 

While Topher might be emotionally conflicted on where his best friend stands in his life, he's not an idiot. He can see Matt's frayed edges and knows something's gotta give, but he's had too many important people walk out on him to lose Matt the same way. It'll be a miracle if they make it Christmas, let alone graduation in May.

Topher slammed open the door to the apartment and shut it just as viciously. The cats scrambled across the hardwood, disappearing of all places, into the bathroom, and Matt turned on his cushion, staring wide-eyed at his roommate.

He undid the top buttons on his double-breasted, calf-length dark gray peacoat with trembling fingers, allowing the two halves of the fabric part without actually removing it completely.

"What the hell is going on, Matt?" Topher said, his voice odd in the silence of the apartment.

Blindsided, Matt tried to buy himself some time. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"You. What the hell is going on with you, Matt, because last I knew when I first came out to you in September, you weren't a homophobic asshole!" Topher gripped the sides of his coat with white-knuckled fingers. "But I swear to God that you can't stand the idea of me dating anyone."

"Where in hell did you get that idea?" Matt demanded, rising up on his knees and keeping the back of the couch as a barrier between them. "And I'm not homophobic, you asshole." He wasn't. He wasn't sure what he was, but he knew he wasn't that.

"Then what is your goddamn problem?" Topher looked at his breaking point, and Matt hated himself for putting the two of them in this position.

"I don't have a problem with you," Matt said carefully, looking at Topher's nose instead of his eyes. He opened his mouth and had to glance away from Topher's face; the words wouldn't come.

Topher, however, could read between the lines well enough. "Why did you break up with Charlie?"

Matt rested his elbows on the back of the couch, scrubbing his face with his hands. "She wasn't...she wasn't what I wanted." No, that wasn't quite right. "She didn't feel right to me. When I held her." When he kissed her. When he put his arms around her and held her tight. She was curvy in all the places he wanted her to be flat.

He licked his lower lip, glad his coat was wool as a lesser fabric would have split from the tension or been marred beyond repair. Topher made Matt's gray eyes briefly, swallowed thickly, and whispered, "Why did you stop playing football?"

Either Topher was operating at a higher brain wave than the rest of the human race or he was damn good at connecting invisible dots Matt wasn't aware he'd left out in the open.

"Why did you stop playing football, Matt?" Topher repeated, louder. He took a step forward. "You love it. You absolutely love it and you've played for years and you were a freshman starter and you gave it up. So why did you do it?"

"Why is this important now?" Matt shot back, gripping the cushion like his life depended on it.

Closing his eyes, he swallowed again, like he was having to force it past a lump. "Why, Matt? You gave up dating Charlie, you gave up playing football - "

"Does it honestly matter? Does it seriously fuc - "

"Yes it matters, because it doesn't make any goddamn sense!" Topher's chest heaved. "What the hell are you hiding? From me?" 

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"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz