“Hold on, wait for me” – Leroy shouts from across the supermarket car park.
Jamal turns around for a second. Sprinting; hands full with the shopping bags.
“I told you – the last one in the car is cooking dinner tonight!” Jamal yells back.
‘That’s the last time I bring him along with me to get groceries’, Leroy thinks to himself.
After he finally catches up to the car, he sees Jamal in the driver’s seat. Lights on, music blasting through the speakers. Jamal rolls down the windows seductively, takes his sunglasses off and whispers to Leroy, while he’s busy using his t-shirt to wipe off the sweat caused by the sudden exercise.
“Hey sexy, d’ya wanna lift?” Jamal says in an exaggerated Northern drawl.
Leroy scoffs at his usual idiocy, and after putting the shopping away in the car boot, he runs over and sits in the passenger seat.
Before he can finish putting his seatbelt on, Jamal plants a kiss on his cheek, and he whispers -
“You know I can’t cook, meu Leão,”
And before Leroy has a chance to blush, Jamal sends a wink his way, and they speed out of the car park.
When they finally get home, Jamal helps Leroy bring bags in. Jamal saunters through the living room into the kitchen, arms struggling under the weight of all the bags, but it doesn’t show on his face, a giant smile plastered across his face. Leroy turns on the kitchen lights and starts making dinner.
Jamal stands at the kitchen island, arms resting behind his back. He watches in awe, as he’s always done, as Leroy assembles random ingredients, hands moving swiftly to chop them.
“I’m just going to head for a quick shower,” Jamal begins, as he starts to make his way up the stairs.
“So you’re not even going to wait for me?” Leroy whispers, quiet enough for no one to hear but himself.
To get his mind off of it, Leroy turns on the speaker that’s seemingly hidden in the corner behind the toaster. He finds a playlist he doesn’t remember ever making, but decides to not waste the brain space on trying to figure it out, and instead gets back to cooking.
After a quick 15 minutes, the food is done. As Leroy starts plating the dishes, and pouring drinks, Jamal seemingly teleports downstairs, ready to eat. He rounds the corner of the staircase, feet almost floating across the floor, sneaks up behind Leroy, and wraps his arms around his waist, making Leroy feel small. Leroy loved that about him - his unrivalled ability to make every worry in the world disappear when he was in the same room. But there was a line between making someone feel comfortable and making someone feel small and childish, and to Leroy, it felt that Jamal waltzed effortlessly over the line - back and forth.
In between kisses on Leroy’s neck, Jamal whispers in an innocent tone -
“Wow, what did you make today?”
“Do you even care – I don’t think you’ve ever refused to eat anything I’ve ever made, so why does it matter?” Leroy says back, uncharacteristically louder than normal. He removes Jamal’s arms from around his waist.
“Dude, just go and put the cutlery out.”
Jamal cocks his head to the left, with a quizzical expression on his face. Deciding to let it go for the sake of peace, he skulks over to the table, picks up the forks, and takes them over to the table. He returns to pick up the plates, but seems to pause. He picks up one, and takes it to the table, leaving the other one behind.
Leroy doesn’t question it, his appetite mostly gone from the stress of the incoming fight he has a second sense for. Jamal has his headphones in, watching a video of some sort.
‘Probably scrolling through Instagram’ Leroy thinks to himself.
Without meaning to, Leroy spends the next several minutes with his elbows on the island, burning a hole into the wall directly opposite. However, his gaze happens to fall directly on Jamal.
In between bites, Jamal looks up at him and says with a mouthful of food -
“Are you not hungry?”
Leroy slightly shakes his head, wanting him to finish his food before making a fuss.
Leaving his food exactly where he left it, Leroy thinks that he should at least wash up before mentioning anything. Because washing dishes is never fun after an argument. And this would definitely become an argument. And if he was going to argue, he needed to eat.
Leroy lifts himself up off of his elbows, and walks across the room with his plate. He sets it down, and goes back to get himself a glass of water. An inadvertent sigh escapes his lips, and for once, he’s glad that Jamal is too wrapped up in his phone to care.
After what seems like the fastest meal he has ever eaten, Leroy stands up to take the dishes to the sink. Leroy turns the speaker back on and starts playing the playlist from earlier. Before he can even finish washing the second plate, Leroy feels a hand on his back, creeping upwards underneath his shirt. It feels cool to the touch, so Leroy has to fight the urge to pull away immediately, because . Jamal’s hand travels around to Leroy’s waist, and Leroy feels him drop his head to rest on his left shoulder.
“I know I should do more around the house – I’m sorry habibi. I’ll cook dinner next time” Jamal whispers softly into Leroy’s ear.
Leroy starts blushing again.
‘Fuck, how am I meant to fight him now?’
Leroy takes a second to think to himself. But Jamal can’t stop himself. Before Leroy can even finish his thoughts, Jamal’s hand travels further south down Leroy’s back. Leroy’s back feels warm under his cold fingertips.
“Wait, stop – let me finish cleaning up first,” Leroy says softly.
“How about…….” Jamal begins -
He winks. And before Leroy can protest, their tongues are intertwined. Leroy tries to stop him, placing both his palms on Jamal’s chest to push him away reluctantly, but Jamal just pulls him in closer. Jamal’s hands travel up to Leroy’s neck, his soft lips breaking any resolve he has to fight back. He lifts Leroy onto the counter with a grunt, taking his shirt off in the process. He sweeps the remaining plate aside as a precaution. It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve broken a plate together.
“Wait -” Leroy finally manages to push him off.
“You do this every time I try to speak to you – and I don’t appreciate that,” he says firmly.
“Can we actually just talk for once; I don’t think we’ve had a decent conversation in weeks?” Leroy quickly follows up with.
“Why do we need to? We’re speaking right now, aren’t we?” Jamal says much louder than necessary, in what ends up becoming a sad attempt to conceal his anger.
“You know that’s not what I mean…” Leroy says quietly, in a naive attempt to defuse the argument.
“Oh, come on! This is the first time we’ve been even remotely intimate in weeks!” he says even louder than before, almost shouting.
“But what’s so wrong with letting me say what I need to say?”
“Because, Leroy, you always have something to say”
Before Leroy can say another word, he says
“You know what? Fuck you – I’m going for a smoke” and Jamal storms past so fast, Leroy’s hair ruffles slightly in the resulting gust of wind.
He picks up my shirt from the floor on his way out of the kitchen door into the garden, and tosses it in my direction. The shirt is actually his, a light blue shirt. Actually, most of his shirts come in varying shades of blue. It is probably fair to say that it’s his favourite colour. Leroy starts putting it back on. It smells like warm milk and honey – homely. It smells like him.
“I just miss my boyfriend,” he whispers to himself.
Between Leroy starting his final year at university, and Jamal starting his graduate internship, they haven’t had much time to themselves. And the resulting strain on the relationship is a constant point of stress for Leroy. It doesn’t help that Jamal never talks about how he feels.
Leroy jumps down from the counter with a heavy sigh and grabs his headphones. He starts to finish up with the dishes, and while doing so, he sees a plume of smoke from the garden.
Once he’s done, he dries his hands and sees that Jamal’s still outside. He’s normally impossible when he’s upset, so Leroy decides to head to bed alone. Just like every other night this week – Jamal often doesn’t make it to the bedroom, often sleeping on the sofa accidentally after work, and sneaking into bed in the very early hours of the morning instead. Except that the reason he ends up sleeping on it today probably won’t be because he’s tired.
After leaving the bathroom, Leroy jumps into bed. He has to fight to hold back tears, feeling bad for what happened earlier that evening. But once the flurry of thoughts calm down, sleep seems to rush over him.
Except that just before he closes his eyes, the door unexpectedly creaks open. Jamal’s shadow in the doorframe.
He silently walks over and buries himself underneath the duvet. He hugs Leroy from behind, head resting on his shoulder like earlier. Except a rogue tear drips down onto Leroy’s back.
‘Is he – crying?!’
Leroy turns around and can faintly see that Jamal’s eyes are red. Cheeks glistening with tears in the few rays of moonlight shining through the window. Leroy reaches to turn the bedside lamp on.
‘Fuck, I’m a shit boyfriend’ Leroy thinks to himself.
He tries to lift Jamal’s head, but it stays tucked into his chest, so I just hold him. He crawls closer to me until I feel his curls on my bare chest. He tries to speak, but starts sobbing instead. Leroy’s heart shatters so hard he’s convinced it was audible.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to be so hard-headed earlier” Leroy whispers.
But it won't get through to him. It sounds like he’s trying to say something, but it’s unintelligible, words being muffled through sobs. Leroy grabs his head and gives him a kiss on his cheek. The salt from his tears sting slightly.
“It’ll be okay”
Leroy’s heart breaks with every sob, but he tries to hold it together. For Jamal. After 15 soul-crushing minutes, the sobs begin to slow down. And before long, they’re both fast asleep.
The sunlight streams slightly through the curtains, causing Leroy to wake up before his alarm. However, waking up a bit earlier than normal was the least of his concerns, because for the first time in months, Leroy wakes up in an empty bed.