I felt a bit guilty after about twenty minutes talking with Douglas, as I realized Hal was still coming back. I quickly sent him a text, letting him know that everything was all right now, and also saying that if he still wanted to talk we could hang out the next day.
“Who’re you texting?” Douglas asked as he snuggled up against me.
Since we had just gone on for so long about the need for honesty and trust, I said, “Hal. I talked to him earlier and he helped me realize how much I’d regret it if we broke up.” I set my phone down, turning the sound off so it wouldn’t bother us if he texted back.
“You… told Hal…?” Douglas stuck his lower lip out, looking hurt.
“No. Not any details,” I promised as my phone vibrated. I would check Hal’s reply later. “I just said you had hurt me. I didn’t tell him what you did.”
Doug nodded, tracing designs on my arm. The feeling was causing me to shiver happily. “I’m grateful for that. I love you, Sebastian.”
“I love you too…”
Christmas turned out to be pretty nice. We spent the morning with Mom’s family and the afternoon with Dad’s parents who had come in from Riverview. They were the grandparents I never really knew that well, and probably for a good reason. When they saw me and Doug holding hands, Grandma Wright went on some tirade about the degeneracy of society. Viola and Zari got reeeaally angry about that so Zari started going on that he got some chick knocked up with yet another kid, while Viola talked animatedly about shaving her head and getting both piercings and tattoos. I was trying not to laugh while Grandma Wright’s eyes bugged out. She didn’t bother me for the rest of the afternoon.
In the evening we were with Mom’s family again and stupid Claude decided it was a good time to propose.
Viola screeched with joy, practically leaping on Claude. “Yesyesyes!” she squealed, hugging him tightly. “AHH!” The ring was put on her finger and she began running around, showing everyone. “Look! I’m engaged! Oh, Claude!” She sidled up to him and was lovey-dovey for the rest of the evening.
At the New Years party that Vi threw I discovered that Hal and Derek had broken up. When Vi told me, I was very surprised and slid through the small crowd to find Hal. I tugged at his sleeve since he wasn’t engaged in any conversation.
“Yo Hal,” I said in greeting. “How come you didn’t tell me?”
“Tell you what?” he asked, looking studiously into his drink.
“You and Derek…” I waited for a reaction but there was none. “You two broke up? When was this?”
“It was… around the time you and Douglas were having problems,” Hal said with a shrug. I gulped, feeling awful though slightly glad. If I had known Hal was free that day, when I was so angry with Doug, then I might have done something–well, rash. Like Hal advised against. “That’s why I didn’t tell you. You were going through your own problems, I didn’t want to burden you with mine. And afterwards you seemed happy so I didn’t see any reason to mention it. It wasn’t the biggest ordeal I’ve ever been th–“
“Hey!” Doug came up next to me, kissing my cheek and then smiling brightly at Hal. “Oh!” he exclaimed, giving my shoulder a squeeze. “Sorry to interrupt. Go on.”
Hal stiffened then took a swig of his drink. “I was pretty much done. You know what… I need some more punch. I’ll–“
“No, no!” Doug exclaimed. “I’ll get you some. I can tell I interrupted something. I’m sorry, Hal. I’ll be right back, baby,” he added to me. “You need anything?” I asked for some more punch and he took my glass, kissing my cheek again before whisking off.
“What was that about?”
“What was what about?” Hal asked. “What?” he added when I gave him a look.
“Your tone of voice towards Doug. You seemed angry with him…”
“Well I am!” he grumbled, taking my arm and pulling me into the other room where we couldn’t be overheard. “He hurt you, Sebastian. Then you go and forgive him? You were so distressed by… by whatever it was he did to you.”
I stared at him in disbelief. “You told me…”
“I told you what?” Hal frowned. “I never said to forgive him. Just the opposite.”
“No! You told me not to make any rash decisions!” I exclaimed, trying to wrap my head around all this. “I thought you meant…”
Hal blinked then groaned very quietly. “No… I meant that you shouldn’t make the rash decision of just taking him back. I guess I was wrong, though.” He rubbed his temples, closing his eyes. I misunderstood him, I thought, trying to realize this fact. “But I guess it worked out for the best.” He dropped his hand and gave me another look. “You’re happy again. Right?”
“Y-yes,” I stammered, still confused.
“I hope t–” He was cut off as Doug reappeared with our drinks. Hal took his and then stepped back. “Happy New Years,” he said then took off.
Doug turned to me, raising an eyebrow. “What was that all about? Seriously, I think he hates me or something.”
“He doesn’t hate you,” I promised, though I wished I knew what it was all about. Hal was really acting weird lately. I was a bit worried but I wasn’t sure if he’d actually tell me what was wrong. Maybe it is just the break-up with Derek, I thought, hoping my friend felt better soon.
After the party, things started getting very weird. It wasn’t just Hal, even though he was the most weird. Douglas was also acting a bit strange. It kinda made me nervous and I wondered if there was something else he was hiding. Then he’d do something totally sweet and I felt like a jerk for thinking such things.
After a few more weeks I noticed he was going through some mood swings. Sometimes he would want to be all romantic, sometimes he couldn’t get out of bed, sometimes this, sometimes that. But every time I was able to help draw him into a better mood by giving him some love and attention. He started joking that he felt like a puppy.
“Then you’re my puppy,” I joked back and he smiled, reaching up to stroke my cheek.
“You are so good to me,” he sighed happily. “Without you I dunno what I would do.” He turned away, flopping onto the bed.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you either,” I murmured, stretching out next to him and closing my eyes. “It would depend…”
“On what?” Doug asked.
I opened my eyes again. “Why I’m without you. If you just left me, or disappeared or died or something then I would be completely miserable. But if I was without you because we never met then I wouldn’t know what I was missing.”
“If we never met… I don’t want to think of that!” He shook his head, looking upset. “Thank goodness we did meet. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He stroked my hair, looking into my eyes which he promptly commented on, stating how amazingly beautiful they were. Then he kissed my forehead and said, “I was thinking that instead of getting a house we should go on vacation somewhere.”
“I thought you really wanted a house?” I asked, pulling back a bit so I could see him better.
“We have plenty of room here,” he pointed out, waving his hand at the neat bedroom. “How about in May? To celebrate our anniversary of getting together. We could go to France or something.”
I chewed my bottom lip, rather liking the idea but knowing how much a house meant to us. To me, at least. I had hopes that after a house maybe–maybe more would follow. “How about just a weekend in a cabin or something? Or camping?” I offered.
Doug began pouting. “But France would be so nice! Or maybe China.” He seized my hands, kissing the back of one of them. “Come on, baby! It’d be so fun. And it wouldn’t put us back too much. We’ve both been working so hard this past year, we need a vacation. Please? Please? It would be so romantic!”
I began laughing. “Okay, okay. We’ll go on vacation in May, somewhere overseas.”
We decided on France and stayed there about a week. It was romantic. Very romantic. The only problem we had was was when we got to our hotel and Doug realized he had forgotten his credit cards and checkbook.
“Maybe we should have just gone to a cabin in the mountains or something,” he sighed when we got settled into our hotel room. “Geez, I’m so stupid! How could I have forgotten them? They were in my bag… I took them out to put my passport in and just… ugh!”
“It’s okay, sweetie,” I promised, putting my arms around him. “I have my stuff, and we already paid for the hotel and have round-trip tickets. So it’s not like it’ll break my bank.”
He still felt pretty bad for the first day but calmed down once we started going sightseeing. The art was beautiful, the scenery amazing, and the food exquisite. I found a really nice camera to give as a wedding gift to Vi and Claude, since their wedding was coming up. We also bought several nice bottles of nectar that… well, it did worry me about the price of everything but I didn’t say anything to Doug. I didn’t want him to worry and it wasn’t like it was making me broke. I didn’t have a ton of money but I had enough that I still had some in the bank by the time we headed back home.