Cheers for the reviews. Ugh, I know I have fifty bazillion errors that need fixing:(


'Carmine? The bank won't let me get my money out. Can you help?'

'How much are you trying to get out?' I asked suspiciously.

Shay can be a little too generous for my liking. If anyone asks or intimates that they need financial assistance, he'll give it to them in a flash. It's a nice gesture, but he's been ripped off more than once.

'Thirteen hundred.'

I laid the newspaper down and stared at him. His lip was swollen and cut and his cheek was slightly bruised. It was the result of a Tuesday night boxing class. He'd boxed as a teenager – his career plan at the time was to go professional – and had recently decided to take it up again. I was far from impressed, both with the boxing classes and his request to withdraw so much money.

'Why do you need thirteen hundred dollars?'

'The cat,' Shay replied simply.

'The cat you hit this morning?' I asked in disbelief. Shay had hit a cat this morning, when the animal ran out onto the busy road directly in front of him. It hadn't died, but it had been seriously injured. 'Why should you pay for it to be fixed? It's not your cat, and it's not your fault it ran out in front of you.'

'The vet said I had to.'

'Tell him where to shove it. If he wants his money, he can chase down the owner. Trust me, when someone else lets their animal run loose, it's their fault if it gets hit by a car. Not yours.'

Shay sighed. 'Carmine, just tell me what to do.'

'No. I'm not telling you how to get your money out.'

'Please?'

'No.'

He frowned. 'The vet said I had to go back tonight and pay him or he'd call the police on me.'

'I'm not surprised. With those bruises, he probably figured you were a criminal with something to hide.' I laid the newspaper down and got up. Truth be told, I was a little scared that the vet might call the cops on Shay and I'd rather he lose his cash than his freedom. 'I'll help you, but you have to let me come to the vet with you. I'll have a talk to him.'

The problem with the bank wasn't dire. Shay's account simply had a limit on it, a maximum amount he could withdraw in a day, and the simple way around it was just to call the bank and ask them to temporarily increase the limit he could withdraw. I'd done it a few times before without problem – I just rang and pretended that I was Shay – and today I picked up the phone and did the same thing.

'You really need to tell me how to do that,' Shay requested.

'Yeah, next time,' I replied vaguely.

It was mean not to teach him, but I felt justified. For heaven's sake, even a bloody vet was trying to rip him off. He needed my help.

'I really appreciate this,' Shay told me sincerely, as we drove to the vets, his cash in his wallet.

I patted his leg. 'You're very sweet. Much sweeter than me. I wouldn't have even stopped. I wouldn't have cared if I'd hit something, so long as it didn't leave a mark on my car.'

'You'd have stopped.'

'No.' I replied truthfully. 'Now, listen, when we arrive there, let me do the talking. I'm going to try and get you out of paying this bill.'

'I don't mind paying it.'

'I would. Look, you give me the thirteen hundred dollars, and I'll negotiate the bill. If I save any money, I get to keep it.'

It was a stupid thing to offer, because even though I'd only been joking about keeping the money I potentially saved, Shay handed me the money. I mentally groaned and tucked it into my pocket. I figured I'd come clean later on.

We arrived at the veterinarian, and went inside to negotiate the bill. Let me just say that when it comes to negotiating, I'm pretty damn good. I get a lot of practice in at work, where the deals we cut have a direct impact on how much commission we earn, and you can bet your bottom dollar I now use my skills in my personal life. Today, it resulted in us in receiving a fifty percent discount on our bill.

'That still leaves us of the problem of what to do with the cat when it's healed,' the vet remarked. 'It's microchipped, so we ran a search, but the council found that the owner died six months ago. Unless someone comes forth to claim it, we'll probably have to adopt it out.'

'I'll adopt it,' Shay offered.

'In which case, you can pick it up on Saturday morning, though please note that we normally charge a two hundred dollar homing fee for our services,' the vet advised.

'That's okay,' my boyfriend agreed, before I had a chance to stop him.

I sighed, and reached into my wallet. I handed over the extra two hundred dollars to the vet. 'Here it is,' I told him. 'Can you write us a receipt, please?'

'I'll also need to register the animal,' the vet added, taking the cash.

'I'm sure you can include that in the price,' I answered firmly. 'We appreciate what you've done, but the financial burden shouldn't rest solely on us. I'm sure you can understand.'

The vet understood. He understood perfectly that while he could make a buck or a hundred off Shay, I wasn't nearly so malleable.


'You're really bossy,' Shay remarked admiringly.

'Thanks. I'm like that at work, too. Rob gets cranky if he doesn't get a lot of commission.'

Shay shrugged. 'Me, I don't care about commission. I just make sure I earn it because I don't want to piss anyone off. I like my job.'

'I hope you like cats, too.'

Shay glanced over to the backseat, where his new pet was crouched inside a cage. 'I kinda got it for you. I thought you might want a pet.'

'Really?'

'Yeah. I thought maybe we could keep it at my house, and you could move in.' Shay glanced over at me guiltily. 'You're gonna say 'no', aren't you?'

'What an amazing guess,' I confirmed sarcastically. Who wouldn't want to be forced into pet ownership with a partner?

He looked away. 'Never mind. I'll keep the cat.'

'Shay…'

'What?' he grouched. 'I love you. Fuck, Carmine, I say it all the fucking time, and it's like it goes in one of your ears and out the other. All I'm asking for is a chance.'

'You're asking me to forget about what I want, and do what you want. How is that fair? You're like my grandfather; you both have to keep pushing and pushing and pushing. Quit it. I'm sick of doing things I don't want to.'

'We do it because you don't try anything new unless you're forced,' he exclaimed, frustrated. 'You're so fucking stubborn.'

'Yes, and I like it that way.' I turned on the radio. 'Christ. Don't argue with me. It's Saturday; I want to enjoy my weekend with you.'

We were both slightly less cranky when we arrived home, and when Shay lifted the cat carrier out of the car, there was no roughness to his movements. He was disappointed; not angry.

'It's a nice-looking cat,' I offered.

Shay shrugged. 'Yeah. It'd be better if you were his owner, but you're determined to be stubborn, so I reckon I have to give up on that idea.'

'You're going to stop pleading with me to move in?' I asked.

'No,' he sulked. 'I didn't meant to say that.'

I laughed and ruffled his short, tufted hair. 'Shay, Shay, Shay. Keep your kitty. You'll have on-tap pussy for the first time in your life.'

He shook his head. 'It'd be easier if you were a chick. I could get you pregnant and then you'd have to move in with me.'

'How ethical. Would you poke holes in condoms?'

'If that's what it took.'

He'd probably gleaned this brilliant plan from one of our colleagues. There's really nothing like impregnating someone against their will, and forcing them into hard decisions, that screams love, respect and romance.

I wanted to tell him that if I were a girl who'd been tricked into pregnancy, I'd be making a quick trip down to the local clinic, before dumping his pathetic arse. I didn't, though. Shay might say he'd go to those lengths, but I doubted he actually would.

We took the cat – an admittedly rather cute cat, despite it's stitches and patches of shaved fur – upstairs to it's new home, where it rewarded us by diving under Shay's bed and crouching there in apparent terror. Fabulous. An eight year old cat which had cost Shay eight hundred and fifty dollars in surgery and adoption fees, was too terrified to even let us pet him.

'Maybe we should let him settle in,' I suggested.

'Good idea. I'm going for a swim. You want to come?'

'Hell no. I'll make lunch.' It was winter for Christsakes, and even though one of the complex pools was heated, and today was unusually warm, I wasn't prepared to freeze.

Shay shrugged and changed into his boardies, a change that involved brief, yet tantalizing, nudity, before grabbing a towel and heading down to the pool. I made my way into the kitchen and rummaged through his cupboards, looking for ingredients.

I was defrosting chicken and chopping up vegetables when someone knocked on the front door. I quickly washed my hands and grabbed a tea towel to dry them off, as I made my way to the front door.

Standing at the door was a short, chubby woman with immaculately dyed hair, tasteful make-up, and an outfit that probably cost more than my entire wardrobe did. She stared at me for a few seconds, as though trying to reconcile my actual image with how she might have imagined I'd look.

'Hi Mum,' I greeted weakly.

She burst into tears. 'Carmine. You're all grown up.'

I'm terrible with crying women. I never know what to say or do, and mince around uselessly offering tissues and wishing they'd shut the hell up. That's not very sensitive, but it's the truth.

'Um, you can come in if you want,' I offered, holding the door open. 'Um…'

Mum came inside and immediately latched onto me. I stood there awkwardly, resting one hand on her back, while she told me she missed me, that I was too skinny, and that I'd backed down on my promise to visit Nonno today. Today was the first Saturday of the month; I'd promised him, and now he was upset.

'I was going to see him tonight,' I pointed out. 'I didn't forget. I didn't realize he expected me in the morning.'

Instead of responding verbally, she reached into her handbag for a tissue and wiped her eyes.

'You're so skinny. Far too thin. You need to come home for a proper dinner.'

'I'm not too skinny, I'm perfectly healthy,' I sighed. I wasn't even slightly skinny. I wore average male sizes, and though I didn't have Shay's bulk, I wasn't puny. 'Mum, don't worry. Go home. You know I'm alive, and you know where I live, and Nonno has conned me into visiting him every month, so just, just wash your face in the bathroom and go home.'

'Carmine, you can't ignore us forever.' Her eyes welled up. 'We love you.'

'Mum…'

I was planning to say more, but my voice came out funny. Oh Goddamnit, I was upset. As much as I wanted to believe this wasn't affecting me, it was. I was honestly going to cry if she kept going on about how she missed me.

'Mum, you have to go,' I re-started, composing myself. 'I'll see you at Nonno's tonight, okay? Is that good enough?'

She looked away. 'You won't come.'

'I will. I swear.' I smiled bravely. 'Honestly.'

Mum was a mixture of upset and (I guess) happy to see me, but doubtful of how trustworthy I was. I wasn't really sure I could blame her. Her last memory of me was when I was fifteen, and God knows I'd been a hell of a shit back then.

'Carmine, I've missed you so much,' she said brokenly. 'I'm so sorry.'

I bit back tears and pushed her towards the door. 'There's nothing to be sorry about. Just go. I'll be there tonight. Shay will be with me. Don't freak out when you see him, okay? He looks dodgy, but he's really nice.'

The one thing I could be grateful for is that I didn't have to explain why I was taking a guy with me. Thankfully, she already knew all about that.

Mum let me lead her outside. 'I love you,' she added.

'Yeah, yeah,' I agreed. 'I love you, too. I'll see you tonight.'

With that, I shut the door. Fuck, fuck, fuck, the encounter made me hurt. It was so much easier when I could pretend I didn't care, but Mum's presence had really screwed up the lies I told myself.