He was leaving.
Well, not really leaving, so much as moving downstairs. With her. But he was leaving him. Leaving Mark. And Mark couldn’t stand it.
How could this happen?
Mark remembered Christmas morning and the note she had left on the window. He’d been able to cover up his initial surprise and subsequent relief when he’d said he wasn’t going to meet her, but inside, he was rejoicing.
He couldn’t put his finger on exactly when it had started. It had been just the two of them at the loft. Benny was gone, married and living the high life; Collins was off in Massachussetts teaching, and Maureen had left him.
Just him and Roger.
He loved it. Just the two of them. Talking, drinking, doing whatever the hell they felt like. Roger never went out, and that didn’t bother Mark in the slightest. He loved spending his time with him; the more the better.
And Mark had told him.
They were sitting and talking in the dark, having been too lazy to go turn on the lights after the sun had set. Reminiscing about the good times they’d had when it had been the six of them – Mark, Roger, April, Maureen, Collins and Benny. Roger had been able to speak of April more lately and Mark felt like maybe… maybe it would be okay to tell him how he felt.
Roger had frozen. The smile had faded from his face and he’d stared. Stared for a long time. Mark was beginning to grow uncomfortable under the intensity of the look and was about to get up, when Roger had finally spoken.
The word was so soft, but the meaning behind it tore at his heart. Mark had stood up, nervously, mumbling an apology for saying anything. Should never have brought it up… wasn’t serious… What had he been thinking anyway? Roger wasn’t interested in any guy. And certainly not Mark.
But Roger had grabbed his arm, keeping him from moving away. Mark couldn’t look at him, had gazed at the floor, wishing it would swallow him up. He’d tensed as Roger leaned in close to him, the feel of his breath on his neck causing him to shiver. He’d tried to hide it. Couldn’t let Roger see that. Not now. Not after what he had said.
“I’m just not ready yet,” he’d said, and Mark understood. He needed more time. More time to accept what had happened to April. To accept what had happened to him.
“I’ll wait,” Mark had promised.
And just like that, they’d slipped back into their normal, casual relationship, picking up their conversation from where it had been interrupted, continuing as though nothing had changed. Just two friends talking.
And he had waited.
Mark had waited. He would have waited forever for Roger. He was willing to wait as long as he needed, give him as much time as it took to feel ready for a new relationship.
And yet, Roger was gone. Downstairs. With her. And here he was, still waiting.
Mark was alone.