It was cold and, as he walked, Carl shivered and pulled the collar up on his jacket. In his head he had never known it so cold, but he had forgotten about that camping trip he'd taken with his parents when he was just 8-years old. That had been a disaster. It had rained non-stop and the wind had howled every night. That was the worst Carl could have remembered, but he didn't. No, to him tonight was the coldest he ever remembered and he was looking forward to arriving home where he knew his mother would have the central heating on and his room would be nice and warm. There he could sit at his computer in comfort and forget about the winds that blew outside.
Allan had been as good as his word. Carl had received a photograph of the American the following day when they had chatted and their respective lives continued very much as they had been for the next two-months. Unbeknown to Carl, Allan had printed off his photograph, bought a frame and placed it next to his computer so he could look at the English boy when they chatted. Unbeknown to Allan, Carl had done the same with his photograph.
In the past two-months Allan had seen Richard only once more. He had called into The Hot Spot and seen him flirting with some other guy. Part of him wanted to be angry, but another part of him was pleased. He had left the bar and headed down the street to take in a movie that evening and had sat through the entire feature without really seeing anything on the big screen as he thought about Carl. That was his priority now. Somehow, someway, he was going to meet this English boy in person and nothing was going to stop him.
Carl, meanwhile, had seen Tom on a regular basis. Their friendship had grown and he had even found the courage to confide in him that he was gay. That had been a big step for Carl. He had never told anyone that before. He had never seen the need. But his newly found feelings for Allan had necessitated telling someone and Tom seemed to be the obvious person.
Tom had taken the news of Carl's homosexuality in his stride. After all, these days it wasn't a big thing and besides, Tom told Carl that he figured that one out a long time ago.
"Shit, am I that obvious?"
"Not at all," Tom had said, "but I've seen the way you look at the guys in the pool."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"None of my business. But tell me, is that why you wouldn't share the flat with me, because you're gay? Do you fancy me, or something?"
"No, I told the truth about that. I don't have a job and can't afford to share and, yes, I did fancy you. Hell, you're quite a fanciable bloke."
Tom had laughed at that.
"Besides," Carl continued. "I don't anymore. I think maybe I'm in love with Allan.
"That's crazy!" Tom had said.
"Why is it?"
"Come on, mate, he lives in America. What's that, like million miles away?"
"Hardly, but I know what you mean. I've been through it all in my head so many times and I know it doesn't make sense."
"Damn right it doesn't. Christ, Carl, you'd have more chance with me."
"What I mean is, why don't you find some guy closer to home."
"Yeah, like anyone ever showed an interest. You're the only friend I have and you're straight. What chance have I of meeting a gay guy round here."
"Yeah, but even so, mate, this bloke's in America. What chance do you have of ever meeting him? I mean, you can't afford to share the flat, how in God's name do you think you'd ever meet the American?"
"None, I guess. Anyway, it doesn't matter. He doesn't know I'm gay."
"What! What do you mean?"
"I haven't told him."
"What! Why? I mean, you said he told you he loves you."
"I don't know. Seemed easier to deny than be honest."
"I don't understand where your head's at, I really don't."
"Well, guess it makes no difference. Like you say, the chances of us ever meting are so bloody remote, he may as well live on the moon."
"Tell him you're gay and that you're in love with him, or whatever it is. I dunno, just tell him; get the whole mess sorted. At least if he knows you're gay, too then the two of you may even be able to work something out. I mean, how long have you known him now?"
"I don't know, about five-months, I guess, since he fixed the bug on my computer."
"Well, there you go, five-months of chatting to him online and he's been honest with you, I think it's about time you were honest with him."
"I'll have to think about it."
"What's to think about?"
"Look," continued Tom, "what's the worst that can happen?"
"I don't know."
"Well stop being a prat and tell the poor bastard that you're in love with him."
"It's not that easy."
"Of course it is."
"It isn't, it's complicated."
"Why is it?"
"Because I'm scared."
"Of what? Of what he might say?"
"Not just that."
"Getting involved with someone on the Internet, you mean?"
"Well, there is that, but that's not what I mean."
"Then explain it to me. I don't understand what the problem is."
"I can't, it's so bloody stupid."
"I've never been in a relationship, okay? Satisfied!"
"Whoa! Don't get mad, it's not the end of the world. I mean, neither have I. Not one that's lasted any time, anyway."
"Yeah, but you have at least been in one."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm gay, but I've never had a boyfriend."
"So? It's probably just like having a girlfriend but with balls instead of tits."
"You don't get it."
"No, I don't, so tell me what you're scared of."
"Everything. I mean I never had a girlfriend, either."
"So you never kissed anyone?"
"I never anything with anyone."
"You mean you're a virgin?" Tom's voice was louder than expected.
"Fucking hell, tell the whole pub why don't you?"
"Sorry, I was just surprised."
"Well, now you know. Guess you'll get a great laugh over that with your mates."
"Hey, that's not fair, we're mates, right? What makes you think I'd shoot off at the mouth about something like that? Do you think that little of me?"
"No, of course not. I'm sorry, just that it's the biggest thing I ever told anyone and I guess I'm being paranoid. I trust you, that's why I told you."
"I should hope you do. I admit, I'm surprised, but I won't breathe a word, I promise."
"Hey, come on, cheer up. Something will work out."
"Yeah, right and pigs might fly."
"Listen to me. There's nothing wrong with being a virgin, okay. But you have to be honest with this Allan bloke."
"I guess so."
"So fuck off home and get online and tell him and then let me know what he says, okay?"
"Yeah, I guess."
Carl had finished his pint, left the pub and walked home quickly, not in any eager anticipation of finding Allan online, but because it was turning cold and, as the wind blew and the evening chill filled the air it helped him quicken his step.
He had been right, his mother did have the central heating turned on and his room was warm and comfortable, more comfortable than he himself felt when he saw Allan was online. He paused for just a moment before sending his instant message and a shiver ran down his spine in anticipation of the conversation that would follow.
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