the Whole No. 2: The Ice Around My Neck
The Ice Around My Neck
Joey knew from a very early age that he wasn't the type of guy who fell in love. He liked a lot of people, liked to flirt and chat and kiss and, eventually, fuck, but he didn't fall in love very often. Justin had been the second. Kelly had not been the first.
Justin was waiting for him when he pulled up to the venue. Kelly turned in the driver's seat, one hand on the steering wheel. "How's he?" she asked. She'd hated Justin for a long time. Joey guessed she had reasons.
"He's fine," he said, kissing her on the cheek. She patted the side of his face and smooched him back. The best thing about Kelly was that she loved everybody. She had the biggest heart.
"All right." She squeezed his hand. "Kiss your kid. And her godfather."
Joey laughed. "Get out of my life, woman," he said.
"Don't I wish," she snapped back. He kissed Briana on her slightly sticky face, taking a second to smell her sweet baby smell. He'd thought it would get easier to say goodbye to her since he had to do it so often. It didn't. He wasn't sure why that was, if it was her, or if it was something in him. Lance would know.
He kissed Kelly on the cheek and gave her a one-armed hug. "I'll call you later," he said.
"Have a good show," she said, already looking over her shoulder to back out.
"Hey, man," he called to Justin, swinging the door shut. Justin smiled. Justin had a beautiful smile.
The first one had been a girl, a girl from high school who had given him three months of her perfect life and then left him standing in the dust while she went on to bigger and better things. Football players. Joey wondered what she thought about him now. In the first days after Justin, he'd considered calling her, telling her that he wished he'd never known her because then the empty and consuming ache in his chest wouldn't have felt so familiar. He hadn't. He was afraid she wouldn't remember him.
That was something, at least. Justin wouldn't forget him.
Justin had been the second one, and maybe the best one, the most beautiful thing that Joey had ever held or kissed or even just got to spend time with. Justin's laughter had been music, and his smile had been sunshine, and his touch had been cool silk on Joey's heated skin, and for a time Joey thought he couldn't possibly be as happy as he was and not have his chest burst open and expose his blossoming heart.
That stuff all sounded stupid after they broke up.
There hadn't been a reason, not really. Justin had come to his room and sat him down on the bed, and Joey remembered very distinctly that he had smiled, thinking that Justin was going to kiss him. He remembered so clearly because he'd felt the smile first freeze and then wither on his face as he made out what Justin was trying to say between all of his pauses and mumblings.
He hadn't even tried to stop Justin, he'd been so stunned. For awhile, that realization kept him up nights. Maybe, he'd think, staring up at the blank ceiling, if he'd said something, Justin would have realized that he was making a mistake and he would have stayed. He would have said "oh Joey, I'm so. I'm sorry!" and flung his arms around Joey's neck and hung on tight. He'd had a dream about that once, about a week after Justin dumped him, and woke up with his arms around a pillow in Lance's room, the yellow light of the lamp shining in his eyes. Sometimes after that, Joey would fall asleep clutching a pillow to his chest. It made him feel a little better.
He walked in to the arena with Justin, talking about some club they were going to go to that night, some horrible cheesy country place. Lance looked up from his seat in the fourth row and smiled. Joey smiled back.