*Please note this content contains adult language and themes. It is intended for a mature audience.*
A New Year
By AJ Jarrett
“So how’s the no-dating thing going?”
Kent looked up from his lunch to see his best friend making air quotes. He loved Eli, he really did, but the guy was way too interested in Kent’s love life or lack of.
“Can we please talk about something else?” Kent picked his napkin up from his lap and wiped off his mouth.
“Uh, no!” Eli rolled his eyes.
“What’s it to you if I’m going out on dates or not?” he asked. Kent knew his friend was just worried about him, but Kent was happily enjoying the single life. At least that’s what he told himself.
“Kent, my dear friend.” Eli leaned across the table and covered Kent’s hand with his own. “How long are you going to sit and mope over that prick?” Eli didn’t give him a chance to respond. “What’s it been? Ten, eleven months?”
“Eight,” Kent answered as he sat back in his chair, tilting his head up to look up at the ceiling of the restaurant. Just the thought of his ex made his stomach sour. It hurt to know that his boyfriend of the past year cheated on him with a guy barely out of high school. At twenty-eight, Kent was beginning to feel like an old man.
“It’s only been eight months?” Eli blew out a breath. “Fuck, man, I thought it’d been longer than that. It sure as shit felt like it.”
Kent could always count on Eli and his aloofness to the world around him. If it didn’t affect Eli directly, it didn’t rank high on the man’s list of priorities.
Eli and Kent had become fast friends when Kent moved to Kansas City and took a job at the local paper writing a column. Kent’s talents were in sports, and he had a pretty good following. His love of baseball and his interest in the city quickly gained him a following. He’d even been a guest on one of the radio stations and discussed the quality of baseball and the players of today compared to twenty years ago. Kent loved his job.
Now Eli was his complete opposite. Them both being gay men was where their similarities ended. Kent was the boy next door with his bright blue eyes, golden complexion, light-brown hair, and tall, mildly athletic build. He wasn’t fat, but he wasn’t sporting six-pack abs either. He was just an ordinary guy, but Eli was what Kent would describe as a flashy gay. Cute as button with his short, spiky blond hair, amber-colored eyes, and thin, lithe body. There was no mistaking him for anything other than being gay. To drive the point home even further, Eli wrote a daily column totally dedicated to fashion. It wasn’t what Kent considered newsworthy, but people loved it. Eli got hundreds of e-mails daily asking for his advice on what was in style and what wasn’t. As Kent looked over at Eli as he rambled on Kent couldn’t fathom why people cared what Eli thought. For god’s sake, the man was wearing tan-colored skinny jeans paired with a bright, neon-pink V-neck sweater.
“Are you even listening to me?” Eli waved a hand in front of Kent’s face.
“I’m sorry, I was distracted by the brightness of your sweater.” Kent narrowed his eyes as he stared at the article of clothing in question. “Seriously? Did you even buy that in the men’s department?”
“What?” Eli looked down at his sweater. “This is adorable and I wear it quite well, thank you very much.” Eli crossed his thin arms over his chest. “If you keep being a dick, I won’t set you up with this guy I know.”
“Yeah, not interested.” Kent signaled for the waitress to bring over their check. The last thing he wanted was to get Eli started on wanting to set him up. He could only imagine the kind of guy Eli thought would be a good match for him. He shuddered at the thought.
“For one, I don’t want any of your leftovers, and second, we have completely different taste when it comes to men. So thanks but no thanks.” He loved Eli, but he could never picture himself dating a man like him.
“Trust me, PJ is totally not my type. He’s too…” Eli’s pretty face scrunched up as he searched for the word he was looking for. “Too much like you.” He pointed at Kent. “Only way I knew he was gay was because I saw him checking out some guy’s ass.”
“Do you even know him?” Kent was getting nervous. He’d hate to think Eli would want to set him up with a complete stranger he himself didn’t even know.
“Of course I know him!” Eli had the gall to sound offended. “He owns the gym I go to. Jeez, Kent, like I’d set you up with a complete stranger. Have a little faith.”
“I appreciate the offer, Eli, I do but I’m going to have to pass.” Kent had never been good at meeting people. He was a little on the shy side plus blind dates weren’t his thing. It would be too awkward.
“Come on, Kent!” Eli whined. “You have to at least be getting horny. It’s been eight months, man. What are you trying to do? Become a born-again virgin?”
Kent had just taken a sip of his water then started to choke. “Eli!”
“What? It’s true.” Eli tossed him a napkin.
“Like I said, I appreciate the offer but I’m not interested.”
“Fine, whatever.” Eli pouted.
Kent picked up the check and headed toward the lady working the cash register. He paid their tab while Eli left the tip. As soon as they exited the café, Eli spun around on his heels.
“Okay, so I won’t set you up with PJ, but how about you meet me at Boulevard for drinks?” Eli bounced from foot to foot. “You totally bailed on me for New Year’s, so you owe me.”
“Eli, man, come on.” Kent rolled his eyes.
“It was fucking New Year’s, Kent!” Eli shoved Kent in the shoulder. “Who doesn’t celebrate that holiday?”
“Me.” Kent pushed passed Eli and started toward the parking lot. “Besides,” he called out over his shoulder. “You know how I feel about going out to bars.”
“I don’t give a shit.” Eli started walking away in the other direction. “See ya at eight!” He shouted over his shoulder.
“Eli!” Kent called after him, but Eli ignored him as he climbed into his little red Volkswagen Beetle and drove away.
Kent stood staring at his closet. He couldn’t decide what to wear or why he even cared. He pushed back on his hangers, shoving them to the other side looking for something different then his usual button down shirts.
“Fuck,” Kent mumbled as his eyes landed on a light-gray dress shirt at the far end. It was Derek’s.
Kent pulled it off the hanger and brought the material up to his nose and took a deep breath. The strong scent of Derek’s cologne still clung to the fabric, taking Kent to another place and time. A time when just the smell of Derek aroused him and made him feel safe all at once. But now all it did was make him feel regret. Regret for time wasted.
All the time he spent thinking him and Derek were in love, only to be told it was all a lie. Kent wasn’t sure he’d ever get over that betrayal, and it made him wanting to get into another relationship all that more amusing. Why would he want to give someone else that kind of power over him again?
Because you want to be in love. That annoying little voice in his head reminded him.
Damn it! Kent clenched his eyes tight and flopped down on his bed. It had been eight months. Why couldn’t he just move on all ready?
Kent sat up and tossed the expensive shirt into the corner. It was time for him to get over Derek. Even though Derek didn’t want him, somebody else out there might. Even if it were just for the night. A night of mindless, no-attachment sex might just be what Kent needed. It was a New Year and time for a change.
“I can do this!” Kent jumped off his bed and walked back to his closet and pulled out a snug-fitting, black, long-sleeve button-down shirt. He thrust his arms through the arm holes. “I’m done caring.”
Snatching up his keys, Kent headed for the door. “Tons of people have meaningless sex every day. Why not me?” Kent shrugged. He locked his front door and got into his car. A night out cutting loose was just what the doctor ordered.
Boulevard was jam-packed. Kent weeded his way through he mass of dancing bodies. His eyes lingered on one man who had his back to Kent. The guy’s shirt was off, and he was grinding up close to another man. The man in front had his arms twined back around him, holding his partner close. If it weren’t for the pants they wore, it would look like they were fucking right out there on the dance floor.
“Yep.” Kent huffed out a breath. “I need some of that.”
He waved down the bartender and ordered a Jack and Coke. The bartender made his drink and gave him a sexy little grin that held a lot of promise. Kent nodded his thanks and laid some cash down on the counter.
Kent turned around to look back at the dance floor. Dancing wasn’t his thing, but after a few more drinks he’d have enough liquid courage to get out there and shake his ass.
The vibration of his phone going off in his back pocket had Kent setting his drink down and fishing it out. The screen flashed showing he had a text message from Eli.
I got held up. Be there soon. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Shit, who am I kidding? I do it all. A smiley face followed the message.
“Figures.” Kent shook his head and put his phone back in his pocket. Eli wouldn’t be on time to his own funeral, but Kent was use to his friend’s tardiness.
Kent held up a hand and signaled the bartender that he was ready for round two.