“Do you like your job?” Trevor realised he’d never bothered to ask Jack about his day—or night—when he arrived home from a shift at the Quik-Shoppe.
“I don’t mind it. Decent enough pay for what it is.”
“Is working as a cashier enough for you?” Trevor didn’t mean any insult by the question, but he was honestly curious and the beer lubricated his tongue.
Jack made a small sound in his throat that could’ve meant either disapproval or amusement. “I pretty much manage the shop now, and I plan to buy out Mr Patel when he’s ready to retire. I know it don’t sound as excitin’ as your career, but not ev’ryone’s job can be a thrill. I’m good at managin’ the staff an’ orderin’ stock, an’ customers like me.”
Trevor nodded, trying to picture Jack’s face as Mum had described it to him the day they’d met. She hadn’t offered much: brown hair, light brown eyes, medium build, a nice smile. The smile was what had convinced her Jack would do as Trevor’s flatmate.
Trevor could hardly ask her if the man was attractive, and at the time, he hadn’t cared. Now he wondered.
“What about you?” Jack asked. “What d’you plan to do now?”
“I don’t know.”
“Couldn’t you go back to actin’? King Lear’s blind, eh? That’s a role you could dig into.”
Trevor snorted at such idiocy. “Don’t be a wanker. I’d still need to see to move around the stage.”
“Voice-over work, then, or audiobook narratin’. Jus’ sit in a studio an’ read fings.”
“I can’t read! I don’t know Braille.”
“Time you learned, then, eh?”
“Even if I did, how many jobs would have the text translated into Braille? Any work like that would be impossible for me.”
“If you say so,” Jack replied mildly. “Only tryin’ to ’elp.”
“Well, you can’t. My acting days are over.”
Just saying it aloud was like a blade to the chest. Trevor stopped himself from pressing his hand to his heart.
“All I’m sayin’ is you ain’t that old. There’s years ahead of you yet. You just need to get your legs back under you. A good-lookin’ bloke like you can surely find somefin’. Don’t need to see to be a model, yeah? Or maybe teach actin’, like at university or bein’ a private coach. People’d pay to learn from Trevor Rowland, I s’pose.”
“I’m hardly a Hollywood celebrity. I doubt anyone will recall my name in another year’s time.”
Good God, he sounded like a bitter, pathetic whiner, even to himself. He wiped his fingers, coated with grease from the chips, on his jeans. “I’d like to go home now. Are you ready?”
Trevor rose and the bar spun. He grabbed the corner of the table till he got his balance.
“Sure you can walk?” Jack nudged Trevor’s arm with an elbow, offering himself for support.
“Shut up,” Trevor growled, but he rested a hand on Burrows’s solid forearm, letting his cane dangle uselessly. He could’ve let go of Jack once they got outdoors—he wasn’t that unsteady. Yet he clung to that muscular arm. The life and strength coursing through it reassured him… and aroused his desire again. He really mustn’t drink if it was going to spur fantasies about sliding his hands over Jack Burrows’s naked body.
What made it harder was Trevor guessed such behaviour might not be rejected. At their first introduction, Burrows had mentioned he was gay.
After inhaling fresh air to clear his head, Trevor removed his hand from Jack’s arm and walked on his own.
“If you don’t mind me askin’,” Jack said. “Not my business, but since I first moved inI’ve been tryin’ to puzzle out why you’d ’ave to share digs in a crap neighbourhood. You were top of the bill at the Lyceum. Even people who don’t go to the theatre ’ave seen you on talk shows an’ such. You must’ve done pretty well for yourself.”
Trevor was suddenly too exhausted to tell Jack to shove off and keep his questions to himself, so he blurted the truth. “The money’s gone. I didn’t find out until later I had no fluid cash. My financial advisor told me everything was tied up in investments and projects, but in actuality he’d cleaned me out.”
The humiliation Trevor had felt upon learning he’d been so negligent and stupid about his own money washed over him again. He took another breath and let out the rest of it. “My finance guy was also my boyfriend, so, obviously, he cleared out too.”
“Shite,” Jack muttered.
“Indeed. A hailstorm of shite,” Trevor said dryly.
The past year and a half would’ve tried Job. Severe illness followed by blindness was enough for anyone to deal with, but to lose his career, financial security, and lover in one fell swoop was beyond what Trevor had thought he could bear.
Yet, here he was.
Jack added eloquently, “That sucks the devil’s own ’airy balls, as me dad used to say.”
A whoop of laughter seized Trevor. He tried to suppress more, but it gushed out of him like water from a broken pipe. He laughed until he couldn’t breathe, until tears ran down his cheeks. He laughed as if the expression was far funnier than it actually was. He laughed so he couldn’t howl from anger and pain.
“Huge hairy balls,” he wheezed when he could speak again.
“Fuckin’ ’ell, you deserve anuvver round after getting that off yer chest. Let me take you round to a different sort of watering ’ole. I fink you’ll like this place.”
“Sure. Why the hell not?”
Trevor would rather have climbed into bed and curled into a whimpering ball, but since he was out of the flat, why not embrace the evening?
Besides, he wasn’t quite ready for his little jaunt with Jack Burrows to end.