In the end, Michael didn’t dare to tell Jean that he was going to have dinner with another man. He knew that Jean wouldn’t allow it, possibly he would show up at his workplace and Michael didn’t want that. He would take a risk, promised to be home by eight, and hoped that he’d know by then how to tell the truth to Jean without upsetting him.
The whole day Michael felt excitement tingling in the bottom of his stomach. He kept checking the time that slowly but surely traveled towards six pm. What did the man even want? Was he gay as well? Did Sam know that he was? What if…if it was some kind of a cruel joke? If it was a trick that Patrick had arranged? Why had he agreed? It was crazy to go out and dine with a stranger! What if… Michael took a deep breath and tried to calm down. He had to take a risk; he couldn’t get friends if he didn’t take chances to get to know strangers. It could be that Sam wouldn’t even show up? Michael pondered and knew he’d be disappointed if he didn’t.
Quarter to six Sam walked inside the restaurant and smiled when he saw him. Michael returned the smile excitedly and was overwhelmed by the burning he felt in his chest. Sam neared the bar where Michael worked, lowering drinks from the tab to customers that had ordered them. ”Hi,” the blond greeted and Michael nodded to him serving the drinks before giving his full attention to Sam.
”Would you like a beer while you wait?” Michael asked and Sam nodded, sitting down in front of the bar. He observed Michael when he served him and Michael did his best not to blush or spill the drink when his hands trembled slightly. The man looked at him with interest but his gaze was gentle. Michael didn’t sense a potential threat from him, which he had learned to read from certain people. Sometimes one could be mistaken and those people that hid their true color so well were the most dangerous.
”I’ll go and change and I’ll be right with you. The beer is on me.” Michael said.
”I’ll wait.” Sam grinned and made Michael smile.
”Does your boyfriend know that you’re going on a date with another man?” Olivia teased when Michael walked past her.
”It’s not a date,” Michael denied. ”We’ll just go out to have dinner, as possible friends.”
”Yes, yes, I think your date has a different idea.” The woman couldn’t help but tease him. ”And Michael, sometimes the grass is in fact greener on the other side of the fence.” She added with a grin that made Michael blush.
”Don’t be silly…” He muttered before hurrying into the men’s changing room where she couldn’t follow him.
Sam waited full of excitement. He drank his beer slowly while praying that Michael would indeed be gay. Certain reactions had brought him hope, how cute he was when he blushed and it hadn’t gone unnoticed by him how Michael’s hand had trembled slightly when handing him the beer. Perhaps there could be a chance?
”Okay, I’m ready. Shall we go?” The voice asked and Sam turned to look at the object of his attraction. In his everyday clothes, the young man was possibly even more stunning and for a moment Sam felt speechless. His mind had already allowed him to imagine how it would feel to undress those clothes from Michael’s body, piece by piece until… Sam cleared his throat, smiled, and got up.
”Yes, let’s go.” He said and together they walked towards the front entrance while Michael’s curious co-workers followed them with their eyes.
Michael felt Sam’s gaze on his skin, smiled shyly, and overwhelmed the way the blond man’s attention made him feel. ”So… What would you like to eat?” He asked to break the silence that had lasted for some time. Sam smiled, still looking at him as they walked.
”You can decide, it’s my treat but you decide where we’ll go.” He replied and Michael felt another excited pinch in the bottom of his stomach. He was almost certain now that Sam was also gay and interested in him, that look told him a lot, and… He was nervous about his interest that had woken; he didn’t even know the man! –Yet, his mind was reminded and made Michael more confused.
”There’s one great Indian place nearby, we could go there?”
”I’m completely at your guidance,” Sam grinned and felt pleased when he noticed small blush creeping on Michael’s cheeks. ”How long have you lived here?” He asked then as they walked in the direction that the other had chosen.
”Little over a year,” Michael replied and glanced at the other insecurely, knowing he would have to lie about many things.
”Which part of Britain do you come from?”
”London,” Michael lied and suddenly wondered if his parents had ever reported his disappearance to the police and if so, would they still be looking for him?
”Really? I’m from London as well!” Sam smiled excitedly. ”It’s a shame we never met there, it’s a big city for sure, but…” He shrugged. ”Perhaps we visited the same nightclubs… or what do you think?” Sam gave him a suggestive look and a smile and assumed that Michael knew his meaning because the younger man gave him a shy smile.
”I lived in New York for a couple of years before I got here…”
”And you must be quite young, twenty-two or – three perhaps?” Sam guessed and Michael smiled at him.
”I’m twenty-one,” he replied. ”How old are you?”
”Twenty-five, so not too old, right?” Sam grinned, enjoying too much making the other blush.
”Quite young I’d say,” Michael replied and chuckled softly seeing the look on Sam’s face. He wondered if this was the right time to tell him about Jean? How would he tell without sounding stupid? Did Sam consider this a date or something else?
”Do you like older?” Sam decided to tease, feeling more confident. Michael bit his lip, looked away for a moment, and smiled, hoping that his smile wouldn’t appear too gloomy.
”I, um… I have a boyfriend… We live together… He’s thirty-three… and…” Michael felt his heart beating fast, nervous, he glanced at Sam scared that maybe he’d be mad, either of the facts that he was gay or for thinking he’d get something else from him and now…
Sam couldn’t deny that he wouldn’t have felt disappointed, however, he forced himself to smile. A boyfriend was an obstacle that he could at least overcome. If Michael had told that he was in a heterosexual relationship it would be a completely different situation. Now he still had hope. ”Are you happy with him?” He asked with a gentle voice that seemed to calm the other. The lingering answer and the look in Michael’s eyes spoke a different truth than Michael finally gave out loud.
”Yes,” he said and nodded. ”Jean has… done so much for me.” Sam nodded and knew he had to take it slow with Michael, with patience and without intruding. Michael was a challenge and Sam had always loved challenges. ”And you? Are you seeing anyone?” Michael asked to avoid the possible uncomfortable silence.
”I’m single and I’m going to be completely honest with you, Michael,” Sam started smiling. ”Perhaps you already guessed, but I asked you out to dinner because I find you darn …cute,” he had almost said sexy, but cute seemed a more appropriate word choice for this situation. ”I had hoped that you’d be gay as well and… at least one of my wishes came through. I hope that you won’t be offended or scared of my honesty. I accept that you are in a relationship and I would still like to get to know you better, to form a friendship without ulterior motives, if that’s alright?”
Michael couldn’t help but smile, honesty was something he valued and friends were something he missed having. ”I’d like to get to know you and make new friends.” He answered.
”Good. Kitty, that redhead who was having dinner with me, she’s my best friend and would also like to get to know you. I must warn you though, she had her eyes on you as well, if you know what I mean.” Sam chuckled.
”Women don’t scare me.” Michael smiled and Sam gave him a curious look.
”And men do?” Sam asked and Michael gave an embarrassed chuckle looking away for a moment.
”Sometimes, some…” he shrugged. ”If they are too…”
”Pushy and coming on too strong?” Sam guessed and Michael nodded.
”Although, I guess some women can do that too…” Michael took a small pause, nervous that he sounded silly. ”Your friend seemed nice, I’d be happy to get to know her.”
”Come and have drinks with us some evening?” Sam suggested.
”Maybe I could,” Michael nodded and decided to stop worrying about what Jean might say. He didn’t want to be accountable to him about everything.
They entered a small, cozy Indian restaurant that Michael had visited once before with Eric. It would have felt somewhat awkward to take Sam somewhere where he had visited with Jean. They sat down at a free table and browsed through the menus that the waiter had brought them.
”What did you do in New York?” Sam asked, glancing at him.
”I was a waiter like here,” Michael lied and smiled softly at him. ”I was young, impatient, and went after something big, but like many, before me, I was disappointed by the reality.” Sam tilted his head and studied Michael’s face with curiosity.
”What were you after?” He asked and Michael shrugged.
”Better life I guess, fame, fortune…” He listed and smiled sadly. ”I don’t know, I was young and foolish.”
”I think it’s allowed to be foolish when you’re young and make mistakes … Well, everyone makes mistakes and we learn from them.” Sam reasoned and was silently pleased that he had given Michael his mother’s maiden name. If Michael was from London, he might know his family and one thing Sam had always hated were gold diggers, people who took interest only because of his wealth. Since he didn’t really know the younger man yet, it was better to pretend to be a normal middle class person.
”I guess it depends on the mistake. Is the lesson worth it I mean.” Michael replied and saw it best to change the subject. ”And what do you do for a living?”
”I’m a personal trainer. I work at a health club. One day I’d love to open up my own gym, but… we’ll see….” Sam smiled. ”You look like you workout, perhaps you’d like to come over to see where I work some day? I could guide you, not that I would think that you need help, but…Well, it’s another excuse to get to know you better.
”Perhaps I will.” Michael smiled. He then moved his gaze to the waiter who was approaching their table. He ordered chicken tandoori and a beer. Sam chose more mild serving; chicken korma and a beer as well.
”What is your family like?” Sam asked when the waiter served them their beers and a water can. Michael was quiet for a moment.
”I’m not in contact with them. They did not accept what I am and….” He shrugged, sliding his finger on the cold surface of the beer glass, following the movement with his eyes. ”I had no reason to stay, Jean really is all I have.” He brought his gaze back to Sam and tried to smile.
”Have you tried to talk with them? Do they know where you are? Sometimes people just need time to adjust. You are their child…” Michael gritted his teeth, Sam couldn’t know how painful it was for him to talk about his family, how close to tears it brought him.
”Different child than they thought to raise… It’s too complicated and I would rather not talk about it. They don’t want to hear from me and that is that…” He sighed. ”And you? What’s your family like?”
”Well…” Sam started, it would feel stupid to praise how close and loving relationship he had with his own parents after what Michael had just told. ”They accept me and I accept them,” he chuckled softly. ”I also have an older sister who is married.”
”What made you move to Paris?” Michael asked with curiosity.
”New experiences, change of scenery, Kitty, annoying ex,” Sam said and grinned. ”There are always more than enough reasons. I’ve always wanted to live abroad, travel and see the world. So many talk about it, but often it will only stay as something that people talk about. I wanted to do this before I grow old and get stuck with my ways. Honestly, studying as a personal trainer was just a random whim, one that I haven’t regretted one moment though. Sometimes one just has to take chances and be bold and jump into opportunities. Just like you have done.” Sam noticed the lingering melancholy in the others eyes that even his smile couldn’t vanish.
”Life is a game of lottery… Sometimes taking chances fails… If I am honest, if I could now go back and choose differently… New York was a mistake, but what is done is done and can’t be changed.”
”What happened there, if I may ask?” Sam was curious and Michael shrugged his shoulders not meeting with his gaze.
”Sometimes the past is good to leave behind. It’s another thing that I would rather not talk about. I can only say that I never want to return there. Here is… this is a good place to be.” Michael smiled. ”How long have you planned to stay in Paris?” Michael asked to change the subject.
Michael’s secrecy fascinated Sam even more; he wanted to solve the mystery of what the other was hiding, why was he hiding it? Why the sadness in his gaze?
”I’m not certain,” Sam replied. ”Everything is open. I think it’s fun not to plan too far ahead and just see where life takes me.” Michael nodded and smiled, he was even more interested in the man. The waiter brought them their dinner, interrupting their conversation for a moment.
”Do you have some special dreams for the future? Like what you would like to do for a living? Or are you content as a waiter?”
”I would like to become a chef one day, cooking has always been one of my passions.” At this Sam couldn’t help but to smile excitedly; Michael had to be the perfect man for him! ”Of course, when I was a child I also wanted to be Indiana Jones, but that’s not very realistic, right?” He chuckled and Sam grinned.
”Well, you never know and sometimes it’s fun to dream about something completely absurd. So you are interested in cooking and …archeology? Or just adventuring in the jungle, with an old, worn out hat in your head and a whip in your hand?” Sam teased and Michael let out another burst of laughter.
”I find history interesting, adventures too, different from the one I ended up on…. Real life, I think, is not as uncomplicated as in movies…” He shrugged and tasted his food.
”Well, I don’t know… Indiana Jones and uncomplicated life, somehow I don’t find the logic behind that.” Sam chuckled looking in Michael’s eyes. The younger man smiled softly.
”I didn’t mean it like that … I mean…” Michael stopped to think for a moment how to put it. ”In real life the adventures rarely work out like in scripts. In movies the good always finally wins, things happen and go wrong too, but in the end, most times, we can trust that in the end everything will work out. The hero will get the one he loves; the evil will get what the evil deserves and so forth. Real life doesn’t work like that. … And besides… it’s unlikely that we’d find such interesting things from the jungle like Mr. Jones. We would find plenty of poisonous things with sharp teeth perhaps, but a treasure? – I doubt that.” Michael grinned and Sam smiled back looking at him thoughtfully. He felt that Michael wasn’t really happy with his partner. There were many things he would have liked to ask, but he knew that certain question would be too personal for now.
”It depends on what you perceive as a treasure… Isn’t there a saying?” Sam wondered. ”Another man’s treasure is another man’s trash?…” He chuckled. ”I’ve never been good at remembering the right sayings.”
”I believe it goes something like that.” Michael smiled and brought another forkful in his mouth.
”Is your food very spicy?” Sam asked with curiosity. Michael looked at him and grinned.
”I think it depends on who is tasting,” he replied. ”Would you like to taste?” He offered. Sam hesitated for a moment, took a deep breath and brought his fork to pick a sample from Michael’s plate. The brown-eyed man observed him expectantly as he brought the fork in his mouth.
”My good God!” Sam breathed and reached for his water glass. ”You really like spices, huh?”
”My grandmother was Spanish and I’ve eaten spicy food since I was a child, one gets used to it.” Michael smiled. ”I love spices.” He added.
”Future chef.” Sam smiled.
”Home chef… I haven’t even finished high school, so…”
”You’re still very young and it’s never too late. If you have the skills and you have the will, you won’t necessarily even need fancy schools…”
”In this day and age, Sam? Perhaps before…”
”Look, if you dream of becoming a chef then believe in your dream! Never settle for something that is, if it doesn’t completely satisfy you. Fight and decide that you will make it.” Sam nodded and drank more water, still feeling the burn on his tongue. Michael smiled and offered the basket with bread closer.
”This will work better.” He added and grinned when the man gave him an embarrassed look before taking a piece of the naan bread.
”Thank you,” he smiled.
”Thank you Sam. Thank you for inviting me to have dinner with you… This has been… Nice.” Michael nodded. For a moment he almost felt normal and he liked feeling that way.
”The pleasure is all mine,” Sam grinned. ”So when will you come and have drinks with us?”
”I’m not sure…” Michael hesitated.
”You can take that man of yours with, if you like?” Sam suggested. He thought it might be good to see what kind of man he was up against. Michael thought for a moment, he kind of knew what Jean would say. Jean wouldn’t want him to go anymore than he would want to go with. Still… He wanted to have friends of his own, feel how it would be like to sit down and have conversation with normal people of his own age, people that knew nothing of his past. Michael just wanted so badly to be like everyone else.
”When are you going?” Michael asked, looking in Sam’s gentle blue-eyes.
”This Friday, will you come? We’ll meet at eight and have dinner first.” Sam gave him a hopeful look. Michael took a sip of his beer and wondered. On Friday Patrick was coming over at their place, they would drink wine and watch sports with Jean. Why shouldn’t he have a life of his own? He could always turn to Eric if Jean would give him a hard time.
”I won’t make it till half past nine from work, but I can join you then. My partner has other plans on Friday.” Michael replied and Sam smiled.
”We can all meet up a little later when you get home from work,” Sam assured and to be honest, he felt relieved that Michael would come alone. It could be depressing to watch if Michael and his partner were close after all. ”We can come and meet you at your workplace.”
”That would be great, thank you Sam.” Michael smiled.
”You’re welcome,” Sam chuckled. He couldn’t take his eyes away from Michael. He really hadn’t seen anyone more handsome before and it was as if Michael didn’t realize his looks himself because there wasn’t even an ounce of arrogance in him. That and the certain secrecy only made Sam want him more; he wanted to win Michael’s affection and learn all his secrets.