By Sunday afternoon Seth could take it no longer. Cole had been acting weird ever since he had come back from putting Toby in rehab. At first Seth tried to ignore it, figuring if Cole wanted to talk about things he would. But by Sunday afternoon it was wearing thin.
“Are you upset that I went to San Francisco?” he finally asked.
“What? No. Why would I be upset over that?”
“I don’t know, but you seem to be upset over something.”
Cole shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not you.”
“Then what is it? Something is going on.”
“I’d rather not say. You have enough to worry about right now.”
Seth shook his head. “That’s sweet and all, but I’m already worrying about whatever it is, so you might as well just tell me.”
Cole took in a deep breath and let it out. “I’m not sure how to say this.”
“Just say it. Whatever’s on your mind, it can’t be as bad as all this.” At this point Seth was sick of the drama.
“I slept with someone while you were gone. I told you I went out and had a couple of drinks? Well while I was there I picked up twink and had him in the back room.”
Seth blinked. “And?”
“And what? I screwed around on you.”
Seth laughed. “That’s what all this is about? Really?”
Cole’s expression went from remorse to anger in a flash. “That’s not exactly the reaction I expected.”
“Cole, we never promised each other monogamy.”
“So what are you saying? Have you been screwing around on me?” he was incensed.
“Actually I haven’t.”
“But you don’t care I did? Don’t you consider what we have a relationship?”
“Yes I consider this a relationship and if you knew me better you would realize just how major that is. I haven’t been in a relationship since high school.”
“But you laughed when I told you I was with someone else. Don’t you care about that?”
“Yeah I care, but I’m not threatened by it.”
Cole was quiet as he took that in. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, what you had with the other guy was just sex. It doesn’t change what we have here. Does it?”
“You want monogamy?”
“Yeah. You don’t?”
“It’s not important to me, but if it’s important to you for us to be monogamous, than we will be. Okay?”
“I know you thought I was this heartbreaker type guy. One that just loves them and leaves them. But that’s not me. I’ve fallen for you Seth and I’d hate to think you didn’t feel the same for me.”
Seth smiled. “Cole, the fact that I am practically living here, the fact that I haven’t even considered fucking another guy is more than anyone else has gotten from me in years. You have me. Really.”
Wednesday Samantha was leaving to grab a bite when she ran into Jason in the elevator.
“Hello,” Jason said warmly. “You on your way to lunch?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact.”
“Care to join me?”
Samantha smiled. “That would be lovely.”
She and Jason walked down to the deli where they shared their first meal together so many months ago.
“I’ve missed you,” Jason admitted.
“Yeah? I’ve missed you too.”
“Are you still seeing….?”
“No.” She was silent for a moment. “Jason…”
“Let’s not go over it again,” he interrupted.
“So… How about dinner with me Saturday night?”
“Really? I’d love that.”
“We’ll have to take it slow. I mean, well, I’m not sure…”
She hated that things were so stilted between them, but at least he was seeing her again. Maybe some day they could put this all behind them.
Seth made it until Friday before calling to check on Toby. He was hoping Toby would call him but then Toby hadn’t been much for communication the last few months.
Seth dialed the number of the rehab facility and waited as it began to ring through.
“Yes, this is Seth Williams and I’m calling to see if I could speak one of your patients there.”
“What is the patient’s name?”
“Just a minute.”
Seth waited on hold for a few minutes.
“Mr. Williams? I’m afraid Mr. Anderson is no longer a patient here.”
“What? Are you sure? How could that be?”
“We are an ‘at will’ facility, sir. We can’t make anyone stay. I show Mr. Anderson checked himself out on Monday.”
Monday? He barely made it through the weekend. “Did he leave any messages for me? Where he was going? Anything?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Okay, thank you.” Seth hung up the phone and immediately dialed Toby’s cell. It went straight to voice mail. “Toby, call me as soon as you get this.”
Next he tried Toby’s parents. When he had spoken to them Sunday night they had been concerned and asked him for the name and the number of the facility. Maybe they had gone out there and took him home with them. Doubtful, but Seth could hope.
“Hello, Mrs. Anderson. This is Seth, Toby’s friend. I was wondering if you had heard from him.”
“No. I called out to that place you said and they said he had gone home. I thought that must be a good sign. I tried to call his cell phone but I wasn’t able to reach him.”
Wow. Were people really that naive? “Okay, thanks. If you do hear from him will you call me?”
“Sure. But I think he will probably call you before he calls here. We haven’t been all that close lately.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Seth didn’t know what else to say.
After ending the call with Toby’s mother Seth was at a loss for what to do next. He phoned Cole and explained what happened. “Will you go out there with me?”
“To San Francisco?”
“I have to go find out what is going on.”
“Okay, when do you want to go?”
“As soon as I can get a flight.”
Cole could hear the panic in Seth’s voice. “Call the airport and see what you can book then call me back.”
It was late evening when the plane touched down in San Francisco. Seth and Cole gathered their carry-on luggage and made their way from the airport to catch a cab.
“I’ve never been to Toby’s neighborhood after dark. I hope the cabs will go there,” Seth said as they made their way over to the line of taxi’s waiting for passengers.
“Is it that bad of a neighborhood?”
“I wouldn’t live there,” Seth answered. They climbed into a car and Seth gave the driver Toby’s address.
They were silent on the ride over. Cole could feel Seth’s fear and dread as to what they would find; he could only hope for a happy ending to the drama.
“Wow, this is a dump,” Cole commented when the cab pulled up in front of Toby’s building. Seth handed the driver a wad of money and hurried up the walk.
“Nice security,” Cole noted as Seth swung the door to the building open.
They climbed the two flights of stairs and at last Seth stood in front of Toby’s apartment door. He rapped on the worn wood. “Toby? Are you in there?”
No answer. Seth knocked a little louder. “Toby.”
Cole reached out and tried the door. He found it unlocked and pushed it open.
Seth stepped in and flipped on the light. The horror of what he saw would stay with him the rest of his life. Toby’s bloated body lay on the bed, a needle still hanging from his arm. The stench of decay filled the room. Seth turned and bolted to the hallway, emptying the contents of his stomach over the rail of the stairway.
“Fuck,” Cole said, pulling out his phone to call 911.