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1993

Sol stood much too close to him again, standing so close he could smell his aftershave. Robert was sat at his desk and Sol was standing behind him, crouched over so he could also read the file Robert held in his hands. Robert could barely focus when he was so close to him like that.

"Robert?" Robert looked over at him. Sol seemed concerned about something. Robert realised he would just have to lean over a few inches and he'd be kissing him. "You didn't answer me. Is everything all right? You seem distracted."

Robert stood up. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said, loosening his tie.

"It's been a long week. Why don't we head out early and get a drink? If we leave now, I can still be on time for services."

So Robert found himself sat next to Sol at the bar closest to their office, the both of them drinking an old fashioned.

"Have you been all right lately?" Sol asked.

"Yeah, why?" Robert asked.

"You just seem like something's bothering you lately. You can talk to me, you know."

Sol knew him so well, but not well enough to have figured out what was bothering him. Robert could feel Sol watching him, and he looked over at him. Sol had the softest look on his face; he really cared about him. Robert realised he didn't want to do anything that could damage his friendship with Sol, but it was getting harder and harder to trust himself around Sol even though he knew how stupid it would be to act on his feelings. Sol truly loved Frankie while Robert and Grace just put up with each other. They’d had their own bedrooms for a couple years now, and they were more like roommates than lovers; they were only partners in life in that they’d had children together and lived under the same roof.

Robert had everything to lose and nothing to gain by acting on his feelings for Sol, but sometimes Sol looked at him like he was looking at him now, and he knew there would come a time when the Devil would find him at his weakest and make him do something stupid. But for now, he’d glance at Sol’s lips, wonder what they’d feel like against his own, and hope Sol didn’t see that.

No one had ever made Robert feel like Sol made him feel, not even Grace. Sol made him feel safe and like he could be himself around him. The few times Robert needed a listening ear, he’d turned to Sol, but he gave him butterflies like no one else ever had before. Sometimes he’d watch Sol from the other side of the room at parties, and felt what he could only describe as jealousy for Frankie’s place. He couldn't accept what that meant. He knew what some of his colleagues said about him behind his back and it was the same things the bullies on the playground who grew up to be the jocks in high school had told him to his face almost thirty-five years ago. They called him a faggot and queer, and it bothered him that they saw this in himself before he did.

"You wouldn't tell me what's bothering you anyways," Sol said, as he lifted his glass to his lips, still watching him.

"You wouldn't understand."

“Maybe I’ll surprise you.”

Robert thought about how well Sol and Frankie got on, how much they truly loved each other or seemed to, and how they were around each other, especially last month on the day of their twenty-first wedding anniversary. They were both so proud to hit that milestone, as they should be. To reach twenty-one years of marriage and still be as madly in love as they were on the wedding day is a feat few couples achieve. So Robert knew Sol couldn’t even begin to understand his situation. How could Sol understand being stuck in a loveless marriage but having these feelings for a man he’s considered his best friend for almost twenty years?

“Maybe I’ll surprise you by opening up one day,” Robert said, trying to lift the mood. He didn't talk about his feelings. Sol knew that.

Sol laughed. “I wouldn’t bet my life on it.”