Mitch lost track of how many times he yawned, but were he to hazard a guess, the count was somewhere in the upper 20s.
Taking a pan from off the pot rack, he placed it on a burner and twisted the knob below. After a few clicks came a whiff of gas, and then a flame came to life. He beat a few eggs, then poured them on top of a melted butter patty.
His appetite gradually returned, but it was still a long way off from being fully restored. As the egg firmed up, he added a scoop of last night’s hummus to the center of it, then folded it over with a spatula.
He was still aglow over Avi’s declaration that it was the best hummus he’d ever eaten, but the statement may have been hyperbolic since they were all buzzed. Flustered promises were stammered out about writing down the recipe when he was less high. When he went to bed, he reveled in the praise, and because he got to sleep by himself for the first time in over a month.
And because Avi liked his hummus. And because Avi shared secrets with him earlier.
It may have been a dumb crush, but he was on vacation. He was allowed to indulge in harmless fantasies.
Then reality came crashing down later, when he heard Charlie moan in the master bedroom, followed by shushing and giggles. It only went on for about an hour -not that he was counting- but it kept him up for the rest of the night. He hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep in how long? So what was one more?
But despite the burning envy, he still refused to harbor any ill-will towards Charlie; she was quick witted and charming, genuinely inquisitive, and heavy on the compliments. When they sat around the fire pit, she alternated between holding a deep conversation with Jodie about the questionable ethics of the beauty industry, and sitting on Avi’s lap, showering him with physical affection. Given the option, who wouldn’t?
So whatever happened in the master bedroom was predictable. But Mitch still took consolation in the fact that he secured a rare bit of solitude, even if his eyes currently burned. He yawned again, this one loud and croaking, and his spine popped as he stretched. The ugly cacophonous noises that his body made caused him to miss that someone else entered in the kitchen.
“Morning!” Avi chirped, reaching by Mitch’s head to grab one of the coffee mugs -Mitch’s favorite one, handmade with leaf imprints on the outside- that dangled from the bottom of a shelf. Mitch nodded, his attention on the eggs and not on Avi’s mussed up chestnut hair. Or to the fact that Avi only wore gray sweatpants, which rode low enough to expose the trail of hair past his naval and the v lines of his hips. At the very least, Mitch had the good sense to wait until Avi’s attention was on filling the coffee maker with water before he openly gawked. Though his food was definitely getting overcooked, but he simply did not care. “You gonna want some of this?” Avi asked as he leaned over the sink.
“Sure,” Mitch’s voice came out gruff, then he cleared his throat. “That’d be great, thank you.”
The coffee maker whirred to life, and Avi turned back around, leaning next to the counter with his arms folded across his chest. As far as Mitch could tell, he wasn’t wearing underwear; this revelation drove him to hastily return to cooking.
“Have I already thanked you yet for inviting me here?” asked Avi. “Because you really are a lifesaver.”
“No, don’t think so,” Mitch halfheartedly teased. The coffee maker gurgled loudly, saving Mitch from saying anything further, since he was yet again on the cusp of making some god awful comment that would get him in trouble. After dancing on the edge of that particular knife for the last 12 hours, it was only a matter of when. Slipping the spatula under the eggs, he plated it and debated whether or not he actually wanted to eat. As Avi putted around the kitchen, Mitch pointed to the fridge with one hand while his other rummaged in the silverware drawer for a fork and some spoons. “Uh, grabbed some oatmilk from the store for you, if you wanted to use that for creamer.”
“Oh my god, I could actually kiss you,” Avi proclaimed. Mitch dropped the utensils that he took out of the drawer, wincing at the loud clatter they made when they landed on the countertop. It was much too early for this shit. He took a seat at the table and shoveled a fork full of egg into his mouth; unsurprisingly, it was rubbery and burnt.
From the corner of his eye he watched Avi retrieve a second mug, then fill both. “You like yours black, right?” Avi asked before setting it down in front of him.
“Mhm hm,” Mitch responded, casting his glance upwards, expecting to meet Avi’s eyes, but Avi’s line of sight was fixed towards the three season porch in the back.
“Wow. You see that sunrise?”
“No.” Shaking his head, Mitch craned his neck to try to see what Avi was looking at. “What time is it?”
“Quarter to 7,” answered Avi. Pursing his lips, Mitch couldn’t remember the last time that he was willingly up at this hour. “I’m gonna drink my coffee out there. Wanna join me?”
“Alright.” He picked up the plate and mug from off of the table, then ambled through the living room and onto the porch. Avi already made himself comfortable on the wooden swing chair, a remnant left over from before it was a fully enclosed room. “Man, I used to love sitting there,” Mitch remarked while he went to take a seat on a wicker chair in one of the corners.
“Shit, sorry,” apologized Avi, and slid to one end.
“No, take it. You’re a guest.”
“Well there’s plenty of room.” Avi looked confused as he glanced down at the cushion and then back at Mitch. There was expectancy on his face, and Mitch did not have the heart to decline the offer. Placing the plate and mug on the closest side table, he sat on the far end of the swing. He settled in and fretted about the space he was taking up, but then scarlet of the breaking daylight began to bleed into the window and his discomfort was silenced.
“Oh,” Mitch whispered, enraptured by the shades of purple, tangerine, and amber, and the way that they reflected off of the lake. Mist rose off of the water, obscuring the surrounding forest that was nothing more than a pitch black mass in those early hours. Aside from the occasional sip of coffee, it was silent between them for a stretch.
“So I know that I’ve thanked you a few times…” Avi broke stillness.
“Oh, have you?” Mitch grinned.
“I’m sorry, I…” His neck ducked, head hanging low. “I don’t know, man. I haven’t gone out with friends for a weekend in, what, literal decades?” He huffed a laugh. “I’m rarely in one place for more than a day or two. And I’ve had so much on my mind for the longest time. This is really helping to clear it.”
Mitch swallowed hard and looked down at his hands. “Y’know, I’m really flattered that you consider us, uh…me, as a friend. That’s nice to hear.”
“Of course I do.” One of Avi’s arms draped across the back of the swing and grazed Mitch’s shoulder, and he failed to stop himself in time from leaning into the contact. “You guys took me in. You invited me to your family’s ideal Vermont cabin, fuck dude. This all means so, so much.”
Insides now vibrating, Mitch tried to settle himself before he said, “Well, if you ever needed to talk, I-I’m-” He was stuttering. Squeezing his eyes shut, he ruminated on the depth of the word ‘friend’, and how he needed to cherish that. He needed to avoid catastrophically fucking this up at all costs. “I’m here. I’m here to listen. Anytime.”
“I appreciate that,” Avi smiled demurely, hand traveling from Mitch’s shoulder to the base of his neck, then withdrawn altogether. Mitch, despite burning up, hoped that Avi would continue talking. But he said nothing further, only continuing to take sips of his coffee as he stared ahead out the window.