By Author Marcus Lopes
By Author Marcus Lopes
When it comes to one-night stands, Malachi Bishop has “rules”. No pillow talk. No sleeping over. No planning a future hook-up. First names only. It’s just sex, not a prelude to love. But when Cole Malcolm, a smooth-talking management consultant, woos Malachi into bed, the rulebook is tossed out the window.
The one-time fling leaves Cole reeling: Malachi is his first real shot at happiness, his “forever” man, and he’s determined to show Malachi just how good they could be together. But Malachi doesn’t believe in happily-ever-after, and dodges Cole’s play for his heart. After all, Malachi is still mourning the loss of Taylor Blanchard, whom he hoped to love forever. Then there’s Zach Brennan, a handsome twenty-five-year-old and student at the college where Malachi teaches. Falling for Zach could destroy everything he’s worked for, but Malachi can’t help himself.
Caught by love and in its betrayal, it’s a later affair with a beautiful stranger that changes Malachi’s life most dramatically. Now Malachi must confront his present and his past that bring into question the larger fantasies of home and his place in the world.
Malachi, hunched forward over the dining room table reading the Globe and Mail, let out a sigh as he yawned, his mouth open wide revealing his uneven teeth. As he reached for his half-empty and lukewarm cup of coffee, he caught a glimpse of the hairy bronze cyclist’s legs in the archway of the dining room and sat back in his chair. He looked intently at the tall, lean figure standing before him, naked, with his arms folded across his chest. Of course, Malachi knew that they would have to confront each other at some point, but he was still nervous and, after a moment, glanced away.
The man stood with his legs spread slightly apart, like a model posing for a photo shoot. His eyes narrowed. “Do you mind…” His voice cracked and he bit down on his lower lip. “Do you mind if I take a shower?”
Malachi said, “Oh, of course,” and stood, watching his guest unfold his arms and then run his hands through his dark bed hair that darted in a thousand directions, pushed back from his low brow.
They smiled thinly at each other, as if suddenly able to read the other’s thoughts, and uncertain about how to proceed. Malachi dropped his gaze and left the room to retrieve a towel and facecloth from the disorganized hall closet. He returned to the dining room and gawked at the handsome figure’s firm yet pale backside that he remembered, with a mixed sense of pleasure and dread, having had his face between for most of the night. Malachi cleared his throat.
The man spun around and took the linens from Malachi, and held them in front of his crotch, concealing his growing hard-on. He sidled his narrow blue eyes at Malachi and said, “It’s Cole… my name, that is, in case you’ve forgotten.” He took in Malachi’s blank stare, fully aware of its significance, and when there was no response shrugged and disappeared down the hallway towards the bedroom.
Malachi picked up the newspaper from off the dining room table and carried it into the living room, tossing it onto the coffee table and then pacing the room that was filled with the bright morning sun. He stopped in front of the fireplace and leaned against the mantelpiece, staring abstractly at his collection of soapstone cat carvings that he had purchased during his trip to
the previous summer. There was a heaviness in his
heart, an utter repulsion that lingered the morning after, as if there was
something absolutely criminal about sex. What was “criminal” was that he had
let himself give in to desire, which he came to designate as lust — that murky,
disgruntled and disheartening world of one-night stands that, when he felt
alone in the world, held the promise of love. He wasn’t opposed to one-night
stands. When he longed for the closeness of being with someone, of feeling loved
when he thought he was not, he found, and this was what disturbed him, comfort
in what was supposed to be meaningless, anonymous, uncomplicated, sex. Was it
really meaningless? He worried that love was becoming impossible, completely
out of reach, just like the happiness that he believed depended on it. His love
life had been nothing more than a string of one-night stands and now, with his
thirtieth birthday looming, he was in search of something more, something real,
permanent, true. Quebec
The contradictory aspect of his current situation pained Malachi deeply. He was thoroughly displeased with himself because he had been weak. Worst of all, he was still revelling in the afterglow of the night of passionate lovemaking, yet unwilling to conceive of something more permanent, true, possibly evolving from it. The crudeness of one-night stands made their currency short-term, depreciated.
Malachi moved to the worn brown leather sofa and sat down, leaning forward, his gaze held to the hardwood floor. He suddenly found himself smiling sheepishly as he thought about Cole, whose name he had not forgotten — a name that carried a certain presence and authority that was both attractive and intimidating. His smile broadened and his cheeks heated with embarrassment as he thought about Cole, just moments before, standing in front of him naked, insouciant. Malachi carried the image of Cole’s narrow blue eyes expressing unremitting desire, hopeful friendship. And Cole’s short, pointed nose that drew attention to the runnel above his thin red lips and the dimple in his chin. There was something genuine in those penetrating eyes, something comforting that prevented Malachi from negating the warmth, and the ensuing joy, that had swelled within him as he and Cole lay in bed together.
It seemed strange, surprising even, when Malachi woke up to Cole beside him and did not feel alarmed, which he was convinced he would since he had ignored his own rules. He had set “rules” for himself when it came to one-night stands, like a covenant that he had signed his name to, secured by the whole of his being. When Cole had approached him at Groove, the lone gay bar in Claredon that Malachi did not frequent often, he had broken his cardinal rule of first names only by introducing himself as Malachi Bishop. That was hardly significant at the time, since he was not planning on hooking up with anyone. He had ended up at Groove because of Shane Martin, his best friend, who had wanted to go out for a night on the town. Malachi had reluctantly agreed more so to silence Shane’s insistent nagging than any real desire to go. He did not consider himself into that scene, drinking and dancing to the early morning hours and suffering through the next day hung-over and tired.
Cole had pleasantly surprised Malachi, dragging Malachi onto the dance floor and making him laugh. And when they ended up at Malachi’s, locked in a crushing embrace, it wasn’t that they had had sex that distressed Malachi but that he had allowed Cole to sleep over. That was the most criminal of all. He had always been diligent about shepherding his “guests” out of his home quickly once orgasm was achieved, especially when the sex was mechanical, routine, boring. Of course he would give them time to catch their breath, clean up a bit — perhaps even shower — but once they were dressed, he guided them to the door in an awkward silence. No pillow talk. No revealing of unnecessary details about himself. No planning a future hook-up. And at the door, “Do you have everything? Wallet? Keys?” That somehow made it easier for him to accept having given himself over to desire, and the unprecedented role desire played in his life.
Malachi lifted himself off the sofa and made his way to the bedroom, his body trembling, and silently hoping for a final glimpse of Cole’s naked butt that had excited him earlier. Cole came into the bedroom from the en suite bathroom as Malachi was pulling the sheets off the bed. Cole, wearing a blue ringed T-shirt and blue jeans, patted at his dark brown hair that looked black as it was still wet and fell flat against his head. They looked probingly at each other until Malachi gestured Cole out of the bedroom and followed him down the hall, stopping just outside the entryway to the kitchen, Cole staring intently at Malachi and Malachi, with his hands shoved in his pockets, looking at the floor.
“This is awkward,” Cole said ruefully.
“I suppose.” Malachi raised his head. In a darker, more pressing tone, he added, “Do you have everything?”
Cole, in a trance-like state, nodded. “Yes, I think so.” Cole was thinking about his past, and how he had somehow managed to always lose control. He wasn’t sure if he believed in fate, but for once in his life he wanted to act as though he was in control, that his present and his future were in his hands. Smiling, he touched his hand to the side of Malachi’s face. “Well, no, actually… I mean, I’d like to see you again.”
Malachi took a step backwards as he slipped his hands out of his pockets and folded his arms, scrunching his eyebrows and pursing his lips all at once, and then shaking his head. Here they were, two grown men who were alone in the world and trying to romance the notion of love into perfect firsts — first glances exchanged, first hellos, that first touch. “How pathetic we must seem,” Malachi thought. Was it childish, foolish even, of him to conceive of one-night stands as the hopeful vehicle through which he may fall in love — and not necessarily with Cole but with anyone? Didn’t that make one-night stands utterly corrupt, deceptive, immoral? Even as they stared at each other with wild lusting eyes Malachi, who let logic and reason guide him more than his heart, foresaw that the scene had only one ending.
Cole cupped his hand to Malachi’s shoulder. “Let me buy you breakfast.”
Malachi lifted Cole’s strong hand off his shoulder and said, “Cole…” hoping that the edge in his voice would make his point.
Cole said, “Surely you can see beyond the moment —”
“It’s all a bit muddled,” Malachi said with a bluntness that surprised even him and then moved into the living room. He stood with his back to Cole, a way of taking refuge, and clasped his hands to the back of his head. He glanced about the sparsely furnished room that he loved for its airiness but now, with Cole there, felt constricting.
Cole scrunched his eyebrows. “Muddled?” Was Malachi too jaded to even try to see beyond the moment? Maybe. And Cole was too nervous to ask: Who had broken Malachi’s heart?
Malachi spun around, his arms dropping to his side. “Look, Cole, last night was fun…” He shifted his eyes uneasily between Cole and the door.
Cole made his way over to Malachi, and when he was close to him, said, “That’s why I want to see you again.”
Malachi gave a wary laugh. “That’s just not possible.”
Cole let out a low, exasperated sigh. “Maybe you’re right,” he said and walked heavy-footed towards the door. Cole suddenly imagined that Malachi might be difficult to handle, the type of guy who makes the rest of the world uneasy around him — not a diva, just a man used to having everything his way. In the foyer, Cole slipped on his shoes and retrieved his black leather jacket from the closet. Before putting on his jacket, he reached into an inside pocket and pulled out a taupe-coloured business card and set it on the narrow rectangular console table next to the closet door. “If you change your mind,” he said, and gave a languid shrug of indifference. He slid his left arm into the sleeve of his jacket and then his right arm into the other sleeve. “I’m in town a few more days. You can reach me at the number on…”
Malachi shook his head. “Oh, I see.” He frowned, and then came the disparaging chuckle, and it seemed only natural for him to follow with, in a testier, sharper tone. “Seeing me again is less work for you.”
“Yes, it is —”
“Just another quick…?”
Cole folded his arms and then unfolded them, only to shove his hands in his pockets and immediately pull them out. “You know what?” he said, as if finally coming into the truth of the matter, “just forget it,” and grunted as he pulled open the door. Cole had been daring, put himself on the line to implant himself in the present, as though it really belonged to him, and he was still dangling, searching for something he knew to be completely abstract. He knew he must have looked pathetic, desperate, like he was clinging to a fairytale. He was about to step into the hall when he turned and looked at Malachi, with quiet admiration, and then, piously, “How long can you wait on happiness before it completely escapes you?” and disappeared into the corridor.
Malachi looked on as the door swung closed on its own, and at the sound of the soft thud of the door hitting the metal doorframe, he collapsed onto the sofa. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, feeling both relief and disappointment, unable to see the paradox of his own world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marcus Lopés is originally from Lower Sackville,
. His writing has appeared in
Canadian and international literary magazines. Freestyle Love is his first
novel. A novelist, essayist, poet, painter and singer-songwriter, Lopés lives
in Nova Scotia ,
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