Leya Harrison glanced at the man on her computer screen.
“What can I do?”
“You have been dealing with this for years. What do you normally do, Ley?”
“This time it is serious. I want to tell him...I need to tell him.”
“What’s so serious? The boy has a commitment phobia. He’s not found someone he wants to move on with...has he?”
“Sit down and drink your coffee. It’s probably getting cold.”
“He was talking about her the other day. You know what he is like. Talks all day about his latest, but it’s normally over with in a fortnight. He burns hot and fast. This time it feels different.”
“You could just tell him next time he spills his news to you.”
“He’d laugh at me, and think I was joking.”
“Well, are you serious or not?”
“Don’t pressure me, Tim.”
“Who’s pressuring you? You and he have been like this for almost a decade. You have had years to make up your mind to tell him.”
“I don’t know how to say it. How to tell him. How would you tell him?”
“Besides the fact I am not gay, I would not even begin to imagine. You could ask my brother, he has a male partner, but it probably doesn’t work the same way.”
“Not funny,” Leya said.
“Wasn’t trying to be. He sees you as a friend, a good friend. Maybe that is all you will ever be?”
“I want to tell him, so he knows.”
“What if he can’t handle it, some guys can’t. You’ll lose a good friend.”
“I have to know if we have a chance.”
“I know, ask in writing, like an email or a sms.”
“You communicate a lot clearer with writing, and with COVID being so annoying, it’s safer too.”
“If you were here, I would punch you in the arm.”
He shrugged. “Good thing there are social video platforms now then, hey?”
Leya sipped at her coffee. “Err, this is cold.”
“Told you so.” He glanced down at work on his desk. “My laptop is going flat, I’ll have to go charge it up. Hope your day goes better, Ley.”
“Have a great day Tim. Talk later.”
Leya paced up and down her living room. It was tiny like her flat. Lockdown made some things so much harder, and some things so much easier.
“Hey Ley,” the voice said, as the video call connected. “How’s lockdown in the burbs?”
“Hey Ben, how’s your day been?”
“Ley I can’t see you, do you have a problem with your camera?”
“That sucks. I got some news for you.”
“I have some too, but you go first.”
“Meg and I have decided to get married. As soon as the lockdown ends. Isn’t that amazing?”
“Yeah, amazing,” she repeated, a little stunned but actually not surprised. Meg was perfect for her friend. Kind, generous, smart, even beautiful. She made friends with everyone easily, and never said anything unkind. Meg wouldn’t even repeat gossip.
“You ok? You sound a little flat. Hope you’re not getting the Virus?”
“No chance of that. You know me, social distancing expert. Just a bit tired. Tired of being cooped up all day with no real fresh air.”
“If I could, I’d come down there and get you jogging, like the old days. It would make you feel better. You going out when you can?”
“Yeah, don’t worry about me, I’m ok.”
“Well, get some rest, and eat your veggies,” he said with a smile. She stared into those kind eyes and knew it was too late. He’d always see her as the little sister he never had, even though she was a year older than him.
“Maybe Meg will go jogging in your outdoor hour,” Leya suggested. He laughed.
“No chance, Meg is a sweatphobe. Pilates is her thing, and a bit of gym work.”
At last something Meg wasn’t perfect at, Leya thought with a strange feeling of satisfaction.
“Congrats, about the wedding. Sounds great,” she said, a little late. She hoped he hadn’t noticed the reluctant attitude in the words. Her heart was already aching and her head hurt. Maybe she really was getting sick? Not COVID, with all the distancing she had done, it would have to be something else.
“Well, take care of yourself.” He said, with at least a little concern in his voice. She knew all his emotions, all his body language, all his facial expressions. She was an expert on him, after so many years dreaming and hoping and watching and listening to him.
“What’s your news? Hope it’s good?”
“We’re doing ok, my family and friends. None of yours sick?”
“No, we’ve been really lucky. Ok, I’ll let you get to bed, Ley. Bye.”
“Bye.” She closed the app first, and stared at the empty screen for a while. She’d waited too long, and all her hopes were for nothing. She felt sick, and went to bed without dinner.
She woke to her mobile ringing. She watched it as it rang out, and then it rang again. The caller id was familiar.
“Tim?” She said, sniffing a little as she answered.
“Don’t tell me you’ve got the plague?”
“Go away,” she said, grumpily, her finger reaching for the cancel call button.
“No no, don’t hang up.”
“What is it? What do you want?” She growled.
“I heard about Ben and Meg. About the wedding. I’m so sorry, Leya.”
“You were right. I waited too long.”
“You are too good for him, you know that? And if you stopped staring at the man with your rose coloured glasses, you might actually realise that there is more than one eligible man in your community.”
“What do you mean?” She said. “My head hurts, and all I can do is cry. Asking me to make sense of riddles is asking too much, Tim.”
“I’m coming over. I’ll talk through the window. You can keep as much distance as you want. I’ll wear a mask, but I am coming over.”
“Do whatever you want. I can do that,” Leya said, suddenly catching some meaning in his serious tone. “Though I have no idea what you mean.”
“I’ll be there soon Ley.”