The restaurant Andrés had chosen for their dinner that night didn’t exactly match Martín standers of a good meal. The tiny portions he could see being carried from the kitchen into the tables making him wish they could stop for a burger on their way home afterwards. There was no way in hell he was going to be satisfied with that type of food. He was about to express his distaste for the place when a hand grabbed his arm, pulling him to the secluded hall that led to the restrooms.
“Did you see who is here?” Andrés asked while looking past him into the dining zone with a look on his face Martín could only describe as trouble.
“No, I didn’t see and I doubt I will if we keep hiding here” he tried to turn his head to see what or rather who had left his friend like that. He didn’t quite make it because Andrés grabbed him again, effectively stopping him from turning around.
“Don’t look, I don’t want her to see us yet”
“Who?” Martín was getting more confused by the second and Andrés’ hand still holding onto him wasn’t helping him think any clear.
“Esmeralda” his voice dripped with venom when pronouncing the name of his latest ex-wife. Out of the four, so far, she had been the one Martín hated the most, with her blond hair and disgustingly and obviously forced sweet voice. They had been married for almost two years and the divorce came without much surprise, Andrés didn’t like to talk about what had happened but Martín knew had something to do with the dirty looks the woman sent their way whenever they were together or the whispers that sounded too much like faggot or pervert , raising its volume throughout the marriage up until the day she actually voiced those thoughts in front of Martín. Unfortunately for her, Andrés was also there and so in the next morning when she woke up her packed bags were waiting for here at the front door, accompanied by the divorce papers. It had been almost 5 months ago and his friend didn’t seem particularly sad about it during any of them so it came as a bit surprising that the mere presence of the woman had provoked such a reaction.
“And she’s here on a date” Well that explained it. To Andrés, she should still be moping around, regretting her actions and blaming herself for the end of the relationship. To see her out with someone so soon was like a punch to the man’s pride. The explanation also eased the familiar tingle of jealousy Martín was starting to feel.
Martín didn’t have any desire to spend dinner with Andrés’ sour mood so he tried to defuse the situation. “Maybe it’s a business meeting.”
A sarcastic smile appeared right away on his face. “Tell me Martín,” he kept looking to where presumedly his ex-wife has, “do you always kiss your business associates?”
“I wish I did” he mumbled under his breath, low enough so the other man couldn’t make out the words.
“You said something?” Andrés finally shifted his focus away from the table and looked at Martín, who could feel his cheeks getting warmer at the perspective of having been heard y Andrés.
“I...I was saying that maybe we should just go to another restaurant. You know, one with fewer ex-wives and more food.” It was a great idea and Martín congratulated himself for quick thinking. If they went somewhere else than Andrés would stop thinking about insignificant things like women and their dinner would consist of proper and fulfilling food. A win-win. But of course, it was in Andrés’ DNA to ruin his plans.
“Don’t be ridiculous. We are not leaving. Do you know how long the waiting list for this place is?”
“Than what is your plan? Hide here until she leaves?” He was getting tired of standing there, with the people coming to use the restroom giving them weird and pointed looks. Andrés, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care. He could almost see the engines in his head twisting and turning, coming up with something that would most likely keep Martín from getting his dinner.
“We are not hiding, we are thinking about our approach strategy”
Martín was about to ask when he was thinking of sharing said strategy with him when Andrés pulled the ring he always carried around out of his finger and handed it to him.
“Here put this on your left hand, in the fourth finger,”
“What, why?” he asked as he did what the other said.
“Por Dios Martín, don’t you know how engagement rings work?”
If the ring wasn’t already secured in his finger Martín would have dropped it to the floor. Instead, he just gaped at Andrés, his mouth opening and closing without any sound coming out. The other man waited for him to catch up, his eyes turning softer with the sight of his best friend’s confusion. When it became obvious that Martín was not going to reach the conclusion Andrés wanted him to, he decided to explain his plan.
“Esmeralda is here on a date but there’s no ring on her finger so unless that gentleman in planning on proposing tonight he’s at best a rebound boyfriend. Do you know what that means?” His eyes were shining with glee, and Martín couldn’t help but smile at the joyful expression in Andrés’ face. Even if he still didn’t understand what was happening.
“I’ll tell you what it means. It means that I can show her that I’m doing better than her. That I’m engaged to a handsome, clever, successful engineer and I’m very much in love” If Martín’s brain wasn’t already short-circuiting from the compliments and words he wanted to hear for lord knows how long it certainly would have when Andrés moved to fix Martín’s tie before bringing his lips into his ear whispering “You just have to pretend you’re in love with me cariño ”
Right, he could do that.
As they walked to the dining area, pretending they hadn’t spent the last ten minutes hiding a few meters away Martín tried to calm the rapid beating of his heart. It was sounding so loud in his head he was sure the whole building could hear it. Every time he tried to take a deep breath, the pressure of Andrés’ hand on his waist, guiding him through the room, would remind him again of what was happening. Soon they were standing next to the table where their target was sitting.
“Esmeralda, is that really you?” he gasped in surprise, sounding false only to Martín “What a surprise to find you here.”
When the woman turned to faced him a smiling Andrés, who pulled him closer to him side, his hand still resting possessively at his waist. No matter how many times he repeated to himself that this was just an act, his body kept on disagreeing with him, reacting to every touch, always craving more.
“Andrés, my dear, how are you?” She pointedly ignored Martín, turning to her date instead of greeting him, “Mateo I present you, my ex-husband.”
The man eyes widen in such way that Martín almost lets out a laugh, barely managing to suppress it. The poor guy looks as if he’s about to run through the front door and never come back. No one has introduced Martín yet and he’s more than happy to just play as an arm candy to Andrés. No need for him to get dragged into what will certainly be a very interesting conversation.
But his fiance seems to think differently. “Nice to meet you. Esmeralda, you remember Martín right?”
The look he receives is nothing short of pure disgust, which only intensifies once she spots the hand still resting at Martín’s waist. Her eyes then travel to his hands, more specifically his left one and the stages her expression goes through when she sees the ring Andrés gave him a few minutes earlier on his finger leaves Martín feeling almost giddy. First, there’s confusion, then realization and last but not least, Martín’s favourite and surely Andrés too, anger.
She tries not to let it show too much, he gives her credit for that, but the way she purses her lips and narrows her eyes can’t be missed. One would have thought that the last thing she wanted was to spend more time in this uncomfortable situation, so it surprises Martín when she calls the waiter and asks him to attach another table to the one already occupied. Andrés just smiles as if was expecting this turn of events and sits in the chair next to Mateo, while the poor man scoots to the other side of the table trying to put as much distance as possible between them. Martín sits too, on the only still vacant spot. Next to Esmeralda.
This should be fun he thinks as Andrés takes the hand he had a top of the table, interlocking their fingers. The smile Esmeralda gives them is cold and force, never reaching her eyes and Martín starts to wonder if maybe he should hide the cutlery and everything else that could work as a weapon. Thankfully the tense silence is interrupted by the arrival of the menus.
“How long have you two been seeing each other?” Andrés asked in between bites of the weird-looking plate of seafood he had ordered. Much to Martín’s distaste he had untangled their hands, but Andrés kept looking for excuses to touch him and it was driving him insane almost as much as it was upsetting Esmeralda. Mateo just had the same uncomfortable expression throughout the whole time, so he jumped at the chance of conversation.
“Oh not long, just a few weeks, we met at the bookshop I work at,” his gaze kept shifting between the other occupants of the table as if waiting to see if he had given the right answer or if he would be chastised for saying something wrong, “What about you two, I mean are you, friends or?”
“We just got engaged, right mi amor ?” The smile Andrés gives him sends shivers down his spine and all Martín can do is nod in agreement. He turns his head to the side, facing Esmeralda with his best I won expressions, desperately wishing it was true. “We’ve been friends for a long time but only recently I’ve figured out that what I really want him to be is my husband. Once I came to that conclusion I just couldn’t wait to ask him to marry me. You know, when you find the love of your life you can’t let it go.”
Martín prayed his intake of breath hadn’t been audible enough to reach the ears of anyone else. Even if he felt like the sound of his heartbeat overpowered the whole symphony happening in the restaurant.
Surprisingly the meal advances without many incidents, that was, until the near-death experience Martín had when Andrés decided to run his foot along his leg while he was taking a sip of wine, resulting in a coughing fit which prompted Martín to knock down Esmeralda’s wine glass into the woman’s lap.
Martín really thought his dear life had come to an end but she simply stood up and with an “Excuse me” walked to the restroom. When he looked at Andrés, the man was gesturing with his head to the door Esmeralda has just disappeared behind.
“You should go help her” The objection was at the tip of his tongue but the look on his friend’s face made him pause. He was observing Mateo from the corner of his eye, his expression leaving no room discussion. And so with a sigh, Martín got up and prayed that no other ladies were occupying the facilities for he didn’t feel like answering any uncomfortable questions.
When he opened the door, Esmeralda was the only person he saw inside so he deemed it safe and got it. She was trying to clean the red stain in her white blouse without much success. The paper towel in her hand was soaked so Martín offered another one, not sure about how exactly he was supposed to help the woman. If Andrés wanted, for some reason, to have a one-on-one with his ex-wife new boyfriend then he needed to keep the woman busy for some time. He was about to apologize for the damage he made, although he didn’t really felt that sorry when Esmeralda turned to him with a cynical smile adorning her lips.
“Congratulations, you finally did it,” she was slowly walking up to him “You turned Andrés gay”
“I know you’re not super smart but the concept of bisexuality is not that hard to understand” his remark was punctuated by an eye-roll. Apparently the woman was as bitter and cruel as ever. It would certainly be an interesting conversation.
She ignored Martín’s insult and continued, saying what had probably been on her mind the whole night. “Or maybe you are trying to fool me. Andrés wants to make me believe that he got over me and that he’s doing better than me”
If Martín wasn’t so used to lie his way out of situations his face might have betrayed him when he heard those words. But he was better than that so he just gave her his best confident smirk.
“Let me get this straight. In your mind, your ex-husband somehow figured out where you were going to have a date, then proceed to go to the said restaurant with me pretending to be his fiance just so you could see he was doing better than you in getting over the divorce. Darling, do you honestly think you’re that important?” The reality of the situation wasn’t that far off from what Martín had just said but Esmeralda could never know that. Martín just felt like screaming to her face that the man still sitting at the dining table didn’t give a damn about her, just wanted to make her miserable. And right now so did Martín.
“He’s with me because we’re in love. I love him and he loves me, more than he ever loved you for the matter. You’re nothing but a mistake to him, he got over you in a second. And you know why? Cause he had me. All those times you got jealous over how close we were, guess what? You were right in being jealous. Every time he was with you, I was the one thing on his mind. So to answer your question, no, this isn’t some kinda plot, we’re just wanted to have dinner to celebrate our engagement up until you ruined our night.” He didn’t know where all that had come from. Or maybe he did, it was all his deepest desires coming together to be thrown at Esmeralda’s face. It was the things he wished were true. At least they could be his truth for those minutes inside the women’s restroom.
When he finished speaking, he was out of breath, looking like a madman and feeling freer than he could ever remember. The smile plastered on the face in front of him had crumbled to the ground throughout his speech, the last remnants of it disappearing at the same time Martín felt a hand grabbing him waist and pulling him closer, a familiar scent filling his nose and calming his head. Andrés
“Correct me if I’m wrong but from what I heard, you were doubting of our relationship?”
Shit. Shit. Shit
Andrés had heard the whole thing. He hadn’t said anything too bad, just enough to get Esmeralda to stop being suspicious. And Andrés knew one of Martín’s talents was to come up with all sorts of stories right on the spot. But still, he could feel his chest constricting at the thought of the man he loved more than anything seeing the true nature of his affections behind his words.
His spiralling came to a stop when Andrés moved the hand that wasn’t holding onto Martín to his cheek. He was still facing his ex-wife so Martín couldn’t see his eyes but it didn’t matter because he was already halfway to dying of a heart attack.
“Not that we need to prove you anything but I’m in a good mood so I’ll just give you a taste of how wrong you are.”
There was no time to wonder about what Andrés meant by that because in the next second the one getting a taste of something was Martín. The hand on his cheek had moved to his neck without notice, pulling him closer until their lips crashed in the middle. It wasn’t the perfect first kiss in a romantic movie. It was messy, both men trying to take control. Martín’s hands flew to Andrés’ hair, tugging it a little. The sound that evoked from Andrés was the most beautiful thing Martín ever heard. He could hear his own moans but they were drowned by the voice in his head screaming more, more, more
He was gladly answering that command, moving the hand that wasn’t occupied by a fistful of Andrés’ hair down the man’s back when he heard a coughing sound coming from the side. Right. The ex-wife was still here. He separated their mouths reluctantly, trying to catch his breath but refusing to put any space between their bodies.
“I got it, you can stop trying to swallow each other lunges” and with a scoff, she left them alone, still in a tight embrace which was over as soon as she stepped out. Martín felt shivers all over his body from the sudden cold he felt.
“There was a really outstanding performance you did. Should I contact the academy?” Andrés was fixing the knot on his tie that had somehow come a bit loose. Martín knew he should just shrug it off, maybe laugh a little or make a joke, but his brain was completely frozen, still trying to understand what had just happened. He knew Andrés had only kissed him to make Esmeralda mad but it was everything he had wanted for so long that he didn’t know how to react.
And so, without thinking about the consequences or what it could mean for their friendship, Martín grabbed Andrés’ neck and connected their lips for the second time in the evening. Unlike before now, they weren’t trying to fool anyone, so the kiss was slower, more gentle. Martín was trying to convey all bis feelings through it, hoping Andrés would understand. When the other man didn’t push away, opening his mouth to let Martín’s tongue wander further instead he stopped the kiss once again, in desperate need of an explanation.
They kept staring into each other’s eyes and when Andrés leaned in to kiss him again Martín finally spoke.
“Wait, I need to know what’s going on”
“You kissed me” Andrés had the audacity of looking confused.
“You kissed me first”
“It was part of our cover. Yours, on the other hand, was something else. Unless you also want to fool the sinks and toilets into thinking we’re a couple,” Andrés was now smiling and stealing glances at his lips which was making it really hard for Martín to focus what he was saying.
“If I were to say that what I told Esmeralda wasn’t just for the cover? What would you say then?”
“I would say,” he took one step forward “that you should’ve told me sooner.”
“So I knew it was okay to do this” And with that Andrés kiss him again, and again and again until a high pitched scream reminded them they were still in the women’s restroom.
Afterwards, when they were both lying in bed, their bodies sweaty and melted against each other Andrés looked at the sleeping mass of brown locks on his chest and whispered the words he had wanted to say all night.
“I love you”
As it turns out, Martín wasn’t exactly sleeping, as Andrés realized when he mumbled a response against his skin.
“I should hope so. We’re engaged after all.”