Opening some windows to let in some fresh air, Allan cleared away the empty pizza carton, the newspaper with Carl's name scrawled all over it and other traces of the previous evening. Stripping his bed, he bundled the sheets into the washing machine and, as he passed his computer, by force of habit, he switched it on. He hadn't bothered to dress. There was no point. It was Saturday and he wasn't planning on leaving his apartment.
The screen of his computer flickered into life and, as it did so, Allan clicked the connection to his IM service and as it connected he saw that Carl was online. His first reaction was to instantly send a message, but he held back. Something inside him made him falter, most probably the returning thought that Carl hadn't been in touch for a while and that he was still convinced that his homosexuality had offended the English boy.
Allan walked to the kitchen and for a second time that morning he switched on the kettle. He felt like he needed something stronger, but decided that a coffee, at this time of the day, was probably a safer option. It was 8:30 am in the United States and as he waited for the kettle to boil he stood staring at his computer screen. 8:30 am in the US meant that it was 1:30 pm in the United Kingdom and he debated again over making that first contract.
"Oh, this is stupid," he said out loud and hit the key to send his message.
Carl received the message instantly. He was always amazed at how quickly this service worked. Better than any normal postal system. What did they call it - snail mail? He smiled and responded.
Carl: Hi yourself. Where've you been?
Allan received the answer and was pleased to see that he was being asked a question, which gave him the opportunity to continue with his conversation.
Allan: Around. I haven't seen you online for a while.
Carl: Been busy at this end.
Carl: Well, just running and swimming and stuff. There's a fun run organised by the Council I thought I'd get in shape for.
Allan: Cool. Sounds like you've been working hard, then.
Carl: LOL! It's pretty exhausting, I must say, but it's for charity, so I don't mind.
Allan: Yeah? You have to get sponsorship, or something?
Carl: Yeah, we have sponsor forms. I got some people to sponsor me and also I got my parents to sponsor me for a pound a mile. Each!
Allan: How many miles is the fun run?
Carl: 13. Kinda like half a marathon.
Allan: So how much will you make from your sponsorship?
Carl: So far, around £50.
Allan: That's fantastic. Can I sponsor you?
Carl: That would be good, but not possible.
Carl: You don't use English money and you couldn't give it to me. LOL!
Carl: But thanks for the thought.
Allan: There must be a way.
Carl: Can't think of one but don't worry about it.
Allan: Okay. So, when is this run?
Carl: Next Sunday. Week tomorrow.
Allan: Is Tom taking part?
Carl: Yes, he is. We'll run together until I start holding him back.
Allan: Why would you do that?
Carl: Not intentionally, but I think he runs quicker than I do.
Allan: He does?
Carl: Well, we did some training together and he did.
Carl: LOL! It's okay. So long as I finish, I'll be happy.
Allan: I guess.
Carl: So, what about you? What you been up to?
Allan: Nothing much, just work and stuff, you know.
Carl: I hadn't seen you online, so I wondered.
Allan: I've not seen you, either, so I guess we missed each other.
Carl: Must have.
Allan: I've missed chatting to you.
Carl: You have?
Allan: Dunno. I just have.
Carl: LOL! I guess I've missed chatting to you, too.
Carl: Yeah. Who else can sort out my computer problems?
Carl: Just kidding.
Carl: Guess what!
Carl: What kind of guess is that?
Allan: Okay, let me think.
Allan: I dunno.
Carl: You're not trying.
Carl: You'll never guess.
Allan: Oh, so why ask me too?
Allan: You got a job?
Carl: I wish. No, that isn't it. Tom asked me to move in with him.
Carl: Tom asked me to move in with him.
Allan: I read that.
Carl: I declined.
Allan: What? Why?
Carl: I can't afford to.
Allan: What do you mean?
Carl: I'd have to share rent, bills and stuff and I'm not in work, so I can't afford to.
Allan: Maybe you'd get to share something else.
Carl: What do you mean?
Allan: A bed. Hehehe.
Carl: not funny.
Allan: Just a joke.
Carl: Not funny. I told you before that Tom isn't gay.
Allan: Are you sure?
Carl: Of course, I am.
Allan: So why did he ask you to move in?
Carl: He's fed up of living on his own and wondered if I'd like to share.
Allan: That's it?
Allan: Okay, if you say so.
Carl: Honestly, Tom isn't gay.
Allan: Fair enough.
Carl: Besides, even if he was, I'm not.
Carl: Why do I always get the impression you don't believe me?
Carl: I hate that people think that I can't just be friendly with Tom without there being some kind of sexual relationship going on.
Allan: I never said there was.
Carl: You implied it.
Carl: Just now, with that comment about sharing a bed.
Allan: I was joking.
Carl: And a while back when I told you about the shirt.
Allan: The shirt?
Carl: The one he threw away.
Allan: Oh, that.
Carl: It makes me mad that people think we're gay and a couple.
Allan: So by people you mean me?
Carl: You and others.
Carl: What's "Hmm" mean?
Carl: Must mean something.
Allan: I dunno. It's just that I don't know why anyone else would think that.
Carl: Neither do I. Isn't like we hold hands or kiss in public, or anything.
Carl: We don't in private, either.
Carl: I know we spend a lot of time together, but he does have other friends, too.
Carl: And I'm not the first person he asked to share the flat.
Carl: He asked other people to share with him, but they already have places. He only asked me 'cause he thought I'd maybe like to have some independence from my parents.
Carl: Which I would. I mean, who wouldn't. But I can't afford to do it.
Carl: It doesn't mean I'm gay.
Carl: And it doesn't mean that Tom's gay, either.
Carl: He just can't afford to live there on his own and needs someone to share the costs.
Carl: I'd go in a flash, if I had a job, but I can't get one, is so annoying and so I'm stuck here, probably for the rest of my fucking life and I hate it. I know I'm lucky that I have a place to live and being with my parents means I get a lot of stuff done for me, but I still wish I had the independence that Tom has.
Allan: I can understand that.
Carl: It gets frustrating and then people like you come along and make it sound like something it isn't. Well, fuck you!
Before Allan could reply the screen changed and Allan watched as Carl logged off.
"Damn that boy is hot-headed," thought Allan.
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