Notes: This is my first original short story. It's also the first time I've written in the first person. I would really appreciate any comments.

The Other Man

I'd been the other man for 20 years. Always alone at Christmas and New Year, although that wasn't quite the truth; I wasn't really alone, I just wasn't with him. Sometimes, if there wasn't a family crisis, I got a birthday treat and we spent it together. Occasionally, we'd even gone out together, to a restaurant, if he was in Leeds and didn't need to worry who might see him. We'd make love all night in an anonymous hotel room, lying between Egyptian cotton sheets, and I'd allow myself to pretend that we were together for real. I'd scream out his name just because I could, for he was mine for now, not theirs.

People knew that I was gay. My family knew, my friends knew and my work colleagues knew. I didn't hide it; I just hid him because that's what he wanted. Today though, everything was different: I hoped that it was the start of something new and that I'd made the right decision. I starred at the only photograph we'd had taken together and thought back to that moment we'd met.

It was Fresher's Week at a red brick university in the north of England, 1992. I'd been sent to the bar by the lads from my house. There were five of them, definitely a mixed bunch, and we'd decided to come out to the university bar to see what it was like. It felt strange being away from home for the first time. I was 18 and gay, facing a whole new world of possibilities. As I tried to balance five lagers on a tray, my elbow was knocked from the side and I nearly dropped them all.

'For fuck's sake watch what you're doing,' I'd said. Then I turned and found that I was looking into pale green eyes. I wasn't even sure that eyes could be that colour. The face was freckled and the hair the brightest red I'd ever seen.

'Sorry,' the redhead replied in a broad Scottish accent. He said something else as well but I hadn't managed to understand any of it.

'That's alright,' I shouted. 'No harm done. I'd better get these back to the others before they send out a search party. Is it always this crowded in here?'

'No idea, this is the first time I've been in. My girlfriend said that we needed to mingle and it's cheaper in here than the pub.'

I remember that I'd sighed to myself. He was straight, obviously. But I couldn't work out why I was disappointed, because there was no way that this bloke could be considered my type. I preferred them to be tall, dark and handsome but I'd been known to settle for short, blonde and presentable, but ginger, no, I'd never been there. So why was I wondering if this boy's cock was surrounded by hair the same colour as that upon his head?

'My name's Jamie,' I said. 'I'm sharing a house with those four over there, just off campus. I'm doing English and Drama. What are you doing?' This all came out in a rush.

'Mechanical Engineering, and I'm Hamish by the way.' He was shouting over the noise in the bar. 'We'd better get away from here. I think we're blocking access. I'll make a path for you to follow.'

I grabbed the tray and followed. Hamish was about my height but stockier. I tried to get a look at his arse but we were so close that I couldn't. We reached a clearing and parted company. I went back to the others. Every so often I saw him again through the crowds. The girl he was with was short and dainty, with blonde hair cut into a fashionable, and probably very expensive, style. She looked as if she'd never eaten anything that contained more than a few calories in her life and as if she should have a designer dog tucked into her oversized handbag. Once or twice our eyes met across the room and I realised that Hamish must have been staring at me first. I smiled at him and he turned away.

It was a big campus and there was no reason that we should meet again. The Arts building was at the opposite end of the campus from engineering and yet there I was, sitting on a bench outside the union building, eating a pasty, when I saw him again a few days later.

'Hi! Getting some lunch then?' Hamish said . He was on his own.

'Sorry, I didn't get all of that. Your accent; it's a bit broad. Where are you from?' I replied.

'Small town called Buckie, on the Moray coast. I'll try and speak slowly. Mind you, you've got a bit of an accent yourself.'

I suppose I was a bit ooh ar. 'I'm from a small town too, small town Somerset, in south west England, a place called Cannington.' I explained.

We sat and talked until Hamish had to get to a lecture. I watched him leave and decided that he did indeed have a nice arse.

Somehow we began to meet regularly from then onwards. If Hamish was alone, we'd get a coffee and something to eat before either of us had to go to a tutorial or lecture. If Hamish had Chloe with him, he'd just smile and walk past and I would watch him go and wonder why he never introduced me. Only a few weeks later I found out why.

'Chloe's gone home for the weekend,' Hamish said a month into the term. We were in the Refectory, as was usual for a Friday. 'D'you fancy seeing Reservoir Dogs?' he'd asked. It wasn't the type of film I usually bothered to watch but this way I could kill two birds with one stone, do a review for my course and get to spend time alone in the dark with Hamish.

'Yeah, why not?' I replied casually.

We met outside the cinema. I enjoyed the film despite the fact that I'd never really been a fan of violence. Afterwards we went back to the flat Hamish shared with Chloe, buying fish and chips on the way. Somehow I knew what would happen, so when Hamish kissed me I kissed him back. Clothes were removed at record speed and I discovered pretty quickly that the red hair extended everywhere. He pushed face me down on to the bed and I let him. I wanted this as much as he appeared to do.

'God, you're gorgeous,' he'd said into my ear. 'I want to fuck you.' I managed to turn my head and say, 'Please, just get on with it'. I felt Hamish kiss down my spine and then into my crack. My cheeks were parted and I felt his tongue heading towards my hole. I know I shivered in anticipation. Hamish delved further. I remember that I tried to regain a level of calm, but failed miserably as he continued to probe. Instead I whimpered, actually whimpered, which was something I rarely did.

'Like that do you?' Hamish had asked.

'Uh-huh,' I managed to say. I heard a drawer open and then a cap. Suddenly a finger was pushing inside me. I pushed back to meet it, desperate to feel more. Another finger followed and then a third. It burned a bit but, as Hamish found that bundle of nerves inside me, I cried out. All at once the fingers were replaced by a cock. It was glorious, feeling so full, feeling the weight of someone on top of me. Hamish spoke constantly telling me how good this was, how tight my arse was and how he was going to make me come. I raised myself up so I could pump my own cock. We quickly developed a rhythm until I found myself spilling all over my hand and the bed. Hamish made a whooping noise as he came inside me. He stayed there for a little while as we both tried to regain our composure and then I heard him cross the room and turned to look where he'd gone. When he returned with the wet wipes he began to clean up immediately, without really saying anything. I wondered what to say; what was going on here? Was Chloe really his girlfriend? Did she know that Hamish was bisexual? Was I going to have to put this down to experience? And the biggest question of all I found myself thinking was, what were these feelings my brain was shouting at me, because I remember that it seemed to be telling me that this wasn't just about the sex, good though it was. There was more to this; I knew then and there that I wanted more, much more. I wondered if we were going to sleep together after this, or if he'd expect me to go. In the end we stayed in all the next day and I discovered that Hamish had some imagination. He was obviously a binge eater when it came to sex, which is why I was completely flummoxed, when at 10 the following night, Hamish asked me to leave.

'It's dark now so you can get out without anyone seeing. Chloe will be back tomorrow and I need time to clear up,' he said, matter of factly.

'Remove the evidence, you mean?' I replied harshly.

'Look, I didn't promise anything,' Hamish retorted.

'No, you didn't, that's true.' I turned round to face him. 'What the hell is going on here, Hamish? You and Chloe? Does she know that you fancy men? Or is this some deep dark secret?'

'I'm not gay, if that's what you think! I love Chloe and we're going to get married. This is just something that I have to do every so often when I've an itch to scratch.'

So that's all I was and it's who I became. I let it happen. We'd meet and have incredible sex whenever we could. Occasionally, this was at their flat or, more accurately, Chloe's flat. Her parents had bought it so their daughter didn't have to slum it. Sometimes I'd get a text and we'd have a frantic fumble in some pub toilet. We also used the bathrooms at the union building. We'd hire one each and then share, checking that no one saw us. He'd take me over the bath and then we'd get in the tub together. I suppose I knew that it killed two birds, because he wouldn't go back to her smelling of me. For a while I suppose it was rather exciting. I know I should have found someone else, but I was an addict, I needed him. In between the sex I told myself that I could live without him; I managed to put him off for six months when I hit 30. I told myself that I needed a life without him. I even had sex with other people occasionally, but when he called, I came running. Any name anyone could call me I'd called myself, believe me.

After university I got a job teaching in the same area. Hamish married Chloe and they had two beautiful children, Alexander and Eleanor, twins. He worked all over the country, taking over his father-in-law's firm and so I saw him every so often and I became the other man. If I'd been female I'd have been the 'mistress', I suppose, but there's no name for me. I was hardly 'the master', like something out of Doctor Who.

And that brings me to today, when he knocked my door unexpectedly and informed me that Chloe had been killed in an accident three weeks before. He cried himself to sleep in my arms. Today was my 40th birthday. When I hadn't heard from him for over a month I'd come to yet another decision. There was a new man at work. He was there on long term supply. He was tall, dark and handsome and he'd invited me out to dinner. He'd been good company and I was interested, so I'd decided that 20 years was enough, but now, as he lay in my arms in the early morning light, I knew that any resolution to leave him was never going to stick. I couldn't abandon him, not when he needed me. I watched him until he woke up. He smiled and my heart skipped a beat. Even after 20 years his smile could still do that to me. I stroked his forehead. His hair wasn't as red anymore, but his eyes were still that strange pale green colour. Over the years his accent had softened but I still loved the burr at the back of those words, the way he rolled the letter R every time he spoke.

'I told them about you,' he said quietly. My reaction was so sudden that I nearly fell out of bed.

'What! Everything?' I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing. 'Why? Why the hell would you do that to them, while they're grieving for their mother?'

'Because they asked. It seems that Chloe knew; that she'd always known about you. She didn't die right away and she told them to tell me that it was alright to see you. She told them not to hate me, that I'd never betrayed them or her, really. She'd had a great life and they were wonderful children. I think Ellie will be alright, Alex might take a bit longer. So what d'you think? I'm going to sell the house. The kids are off to university when they've done their Highers. They're off to At Andrew's and I've bought them a house already. I don't want to rattle around there. And I love you, Jamie; I've always loved you, from the first moment I saw you when I knew that my carefully constructed life was never going to be the same.'

I'd waited 20 years for this moment. It was the first time that he'd said that he loved me. He was giving me a choice, and a chance to change my whole life. Could we do it? Could we be together? I had no idea but when I looked at him I knew with all my heart that I wanted to try.