“Reed.” He gave him a pained smile and his eyes fell on the small bouncy next to Reed, who immediately said he’ll be back later and walked away.
“What happened?” he asked and took a deep breath to calm himself.
Instead of an answer the teacher unfolded the magazine bundle in his hands, flipped through it until he reached to the middle and turned it around to show it to Reed. On it, on a half a page large photo stamped in-between stood side by side his brother and Valerie, both smiling to the camera under large linen tree near the beginning of the village that had just blossomed as he left the island.
“Socialite Wedding of the Year? What?” Reed gasped, frozen for a moment before he sprang into action. “No, this has to be a joke!” He grabbed the magazine from Roy’s hands and flipped it over, hoping to see that the dates didn’t match. They did, saying seventeenth of July on the cover next to another image of the happy couple pressing their noses together against bright sun flickering on wind chimes he remembered from Garret’s porch. He stared flipping through the entire magazine, hoping still that this was some kind of elaborated joke, but everything down to the mass printing color test on one page’s edge looked real. He opened the magazine again from the middle and counted to ten before reading the headline again and again until his mind wanted to go blank.
He shook his head. That was one thing he could not let happen. He had to keep his head leveled. He brushed his hand over his mouth and beckoned Roy to follow him in his office. He offered him to sit, but couldn’t get himself to sit and began to pace in front of him, trying to think. He’d forgotten to close the door, he realized, when his secretary quietly knocked on his door and he shot his eyes up, only to see another six pairs of eyes behind her, all worriedly looking towards them. Teri set the coffees on his table and whisked out, conveniently leaving the door open. Reed strove straight at them and closed the door himself. No way was he doing this in front of their entire office.
Except, he glanced at the magazine in his hand, this was one of those yellow periodicals that arrived regularly on their doorstep thanks to Teri’s keen interest in public affairs.
He pulled the door open again and went to Teri’s table. “Have you already set out the magazines?”
Teri shook her head, but from her eyes he could read that at least she had seen the title, but instead of happy news, she found it to be an odd one out too. “I kept it.” She whispered and gave him her copy of the magazine. “Congratulations?” she offered shyly, her shoulders hiding her neck, but there was no happiness in her voice.
Reed huffed, grabbing it from her, but oddly he was grateful she sided with him, even if she didn’t know all the facts.
He returned, closing the door behind him and slammed the magazine on his office table, his gaze stuck on the photo on the cover and his brother with Valerie staring back at him with shiny eyes and not a hint of mischief on their faces.
“I gather you didn’t know about this either?” Roy asked after they both tried to find anything to start the conversation with. Reed shook his head. He hadn’t got a clue. “But you know about us, right?”
The question forced him to look at his teacher one more time. He wasn’t sure how much of a discussion topic this would be, or how seriously Tomas had thought of his invitation to visit.
“I only found out a weeks ago.” He said honestly.
“Oh.” He sounded disappointed. “I thought he wouldn’t be able to hold the secret and just blurt it out.”
Reed frowned, but he didn’t want to correct him about Tomas and his promises. “Did you have a fight?” He asked instead, trying to get the image of Tomas kissing Valerie under the linden tree out of his head. He had to stay calm.
“No! He just…” Roy looked away, unable to keep his eyes on him for much longer. “He stopped answering my calls couple of days ago and he sounded so anxious about something, I thought his family found out and forced him to stop our relationship.”
And how would you think they react if their honored number one deceives them for ten years?
Reed wanted to slap him for doubting Tomas. Oh, yeah, the little problem of marital status his father had become obsessed with might have something to do with it. “I would never stop him from being happy!” He gritted through his teeth. He couldn’t say that about his family though. First time in his life he hoped his family hadn’t found out about Tomas’ secret just yet. This was so messed up! “However,” he wasn’t going to let him off that easy, “I hate that you’ve kept it in secret. My parents are less than happy about this and now…” his eyes fell back on the article, “it just got far more complicated than it has to be! Had you two come out to us long ago, this wouldn’t have happened! Maybe it’s for the best.” He said, watching Roy from the corner of his eyes to see how he’d react to that news.
Roy’s hands trembled as he sucked his lip between his teeth and fought back the shock sucking all the color from his face.
Reed bristled himself for believing Tomas would include him on his plans. The man was made of honesty, he was known for it far before he’d even met the man as his science teacher. Which meant Tomas had deceived him as well, his own husband.
“Damn him!” He gritted his teeth.
“You know, right? You know, why he would do this to me?” He asked, his voice cracking. “He wouldn’t do this without telling you first!”
“I’m honored you put so much trust in me, but I assure you – we’re no bosom buddies.”
“It’s one of your campaign tricks to gain publicity, right?” Roy wouldn’t let it go. “He wouldn’t do this to me! Please, tell me you planned this!”
Reed shook his head, unable to look him in the eyes.
“I’m just trying understand it! I can still feel we’re good, and it seemed fine until one of my students pushed the magazine to me, all so eager that her big dream is finally tying the knot! I don’t know what to do! When I saw the pictures, I…” His eyes fixed on him. “But you know where he is, right? He trusts you! He’d tell you everything!”
He groaned and thrust his hands through his hair out of frustration.
“I hate to say it, but your dear hubby is not an angel you believe him to be!”
His cellphone rang on the table and they jumped on the sudden loud interruption. He checked the caller id. “Excuse me, I have to take this.” He didn’t answer the phone before he was next to the door, far enough that whatever was said by the phone would not go through.
“Hi mom.” He winched by the sound of heavy breathing on the other end of the line.
“Tell me it’s true, Reed, tell me it’s true!” she demanded over the line.
“I don’t know mom.” He listened his own voice crack as she continued babbling through joyful huffs and puffs, probably half of them caused by sudden tears. She was definitely crying on the other end. “You mean he hasn’t contacted you? Well, have you at least received an invitation? He hasn’t invited us! And he is definitely not doing this without us! God, after all those years and he is doing it alone? Why? He was so good boy and now he just goes and elopes? But we so want to be there for him! Maybe he’d need…” Reed listened his mom’s happy chatter and for the first time since Roy had appeared on his office door, he felt like crying himself. “Is she even decent girl? We haven’t even done proper backup check on her!”
“She is, mom.” He inserted quickly before she could declare her the enemy of the state. “I know her, she’s really nice girl.”
The silent sob from his mom made him cringe in pain. There was no way his mom had missed the tone he’d said it with.
“I haven’t spoken to Tomas since I returned.” He heard the silence on the other end of the phone clear as day. “The connection there,” he quickly apologized realizing his parents wouldn’t understand if he said he was avoiding him, “it’s really bad. They only have one phone in the shop if everything else fails.”
Roy stood up, suddenly furious looking and Reed frowned back at him, using his most demanding tone and told him to sit back down.
“Oh, sorry, honey, I didn’t think you were with somebody.”
“No, it’s ok. His boyfriend is here, so I gotta go now. I’ll fix this, mom, I promise.”
“His what?” Mom shouted, but he hang up before she could get down to another shock.
“Well, at least she has a new focus.” He mumbled, silencing the next incoming call and hiding the phone in his pocket. His eyes fell on the man sitting on his guest chair, white as the printing paper next to him. “You should have done it on day one, and you know it!” he accused, not letting Roy to say whatever his babbling mouth was about to spit out. For a moment there was silence and he decided to finish the coffee Teri had provided them with.
“You sold us out! I knew we couldn’t trust you!”
Reed let Roy continue with his accusations for a couple of minutes until he became silent again, out of breath and fully consumed in tears.
“Now.” He set his mug back down, watching him heave for air. “I want to hear your part in this whole charade.”
“What?” He gasped. “I- I had no play in it!”
“Bullshit. I know you didn’t know about the wedding part, but there’s no way my dear brother could come up with this plan without help.”
“So he really found miss Austin?”
Suddenly it became clear to him where Tomas had gotten the information in the first place. They were still kids – there was no real information about her in the newspapers or traveling from mouth to mouth. But a teacher could get in the school archive.
Reed’s mouth dried up in an instant. “You know about Valerie?”
“Of course I know! I remember what you did to Tomas on his last year! God, the day you attacked him – I thought I lost him forever!” Then he frowned, confused. “Didn’t you feel the pull, when you came close to her again?”
“Yes. I know it’s old fashioned, but that’s how I knew Tomas was serious and Tomas was sure you’d feel it again if he found her!”
“You’re a science teacher and you’re telling me there’s some magical pull?” Just as he snarled the question, his heart clenched as he knew exactly what he meant, but what he felt had nothing to do with magic.
“Tomas told me you only attacked him after he joked about taking her to b-”
“Do not fucking dare!” He flew up from his seat, sending the chair flying. “He will not touch her!”
He let out a rapid breath, when he realized what he’d just said, but before Roy could comment on it, he made a call on Tomas phone. He was feeling the pull alright, a headache like pounding right behind his eyes and sudden impulses to hit something, anything that put that ache in there. Or someone, he glared over the table at the man with tiny pony tale in the back of his neck looking at him with his scared, rabbit-like eyes. He’d looked up to him for years and now, when he saw him in his current state, he couldn’t help the urge to protect him from that idiotic idealism of his.
“What were you thinking?” He demanded when he heard an off-beat hello from the other end of the line. “Tell me this is a sick joke, Tomas!”
“No, I am getting married, just as it says in the magazine.”
“You can’t do that!”
“Nobody can stop me! You should have done it yourself when you still had a chance! Too late now!”
“I had a chance? What about Roy, Tomas?” He yelled. “Tomas!” The phone went dead. He looked over at Roy’s paling stature.
“NO, no-no no, he can’t do this to me!” Roy let out a loud moan, grabbed the phone from him and dialed the number again. The text of cut off line was audible clearly all the way to where Reed was.
He sagged against the table. The man was devastated, crying without hiding and it tore his heart apart. Roy searched out his own phone and dialed again. Nothing. Again. Still nothing.
Teri looked in from the door, her expression apologetic. Even without explanation she could tell it was a big shock. She brought in a box of tissues she kept behind her counter together with glass of water and set them on the table in front of Roy.
“I’m sorry, Roy.” Was all he could get out.
“For what?” he demanded, focusing all his anger at him. “You were meant to marry her, not Tomas!”
“Says who? You? Tomas? Destiny? God?” He paused, watching him grumble. He pushed the box closer to him, urging him to use it.
Reed’ heart kept pounding louder the longer the silence lasted between them. His head was in shambles and no matter how he tried to figure this out in his mind, he couldn’t get anything to make sense. Why would she say yes? He doubted Tomas told her about Roy, but why in hell would she say yes?
He gave her up. It was the only thing keeping him from lashing out and destroying his office. He’d willingly gave her away. He’d given up the right to protect her from the scumbags like… Tomas. What would she do when she found out she really was the second woman, a mistress on an island? Or would that honor now fall upon Roy since they weren’t officially married?
“I don’t want to lose him, Reed.” Roy muttered, covering his mouth with his hand to muzzle his voice.
He sighed. Roy couldn’t afford to get there in time to stop him. He could though.
Reed let out another long sigh and reached for the phone to his secretary. “Teri!”