Malcolm was nervous when he drove to Mrs. Yarmouth's house after work that night. He wasn't sure what she was going to have to say about Denise and he wasn't sure what he was supposed to ask about Bernie.
He glanced at his old house across the street as he climbed out of his car. Sometimes it felt like he had never lived there before. The new owners had put new siding on the exterior and replaced the windows. Malcolm had no interest in seeing the inside of the home again.
He walked in the back door of Mrs. Yarmouth's house and he found her sitting at the kitchen table with a glass of wine in front of her.
"How long have you been having lunch with Bernie?" Malcolm asked.
"Long enough that keeping him away from here is becoming difficult," Mrs. Yarmouth revealed.
"You could sleep with him at his place," Malcolm volunteered.
"I already have," Mrs. Yarmouth informed him. "Last week, when I told you I was working late."
"Oh," Malcolm said with hurt resignation as he slumped against the refrigerator.
"Have you slept with Denise at her place yet?" Mrs. Yarmouth asked.
"No," Malcolm said with a sigh.
A long period of silence hung in the air.
"Maybe you should move back downstairs until you decide what you want to do next," Mrs. Yarmouth suggested.
Malcolm's eyes watered up. "If that's what you want," he said weakly.
"Yes," Mrs. Yarmouth said quietly. "It's probably for the best for all four of us."
"I don't know if Denise even wants me," Malcolm sighed.
"She wants you," Mrs. Yarmouth said knowingly. "I can see it in her eyes."
"You won't tell Bernie about us?" Malcolm worried.
"You won't tell Denise about us?" Mrs. Yarmouth requested.
"Never," Malcolm promised.
She nodded with appreciation.
"Thank you," Malcolm said to her. "You probably saved my life."
"You helped me too," Mrs. Yarmouth told him truthfully as she stood and gave him a hug, kissing him on the cheek.
Malcolm rubbed the back of his hand against the side of her face. She closed her eyes and let out a sigh. He dropped his hand and headed for the door leading to the cellar.
Malcolm was seated with Denise at the Burger King for lunch.
"I live in a shithole in Mrs. Yarmouth's cellar," he announced. "I was too embarrassed to have you over."
"Do you want to move in with me?" Denise asked.
It never occurred to Malcolm that it could be that easy.
Denise lived in a studio and a half apartment at College Park Condos, not all that far from the community college.
"You could walk to your night class," Denise beamed.
"Shouldn't we have sex before I move in?" Malcolm asked.
"To make sure we're compatible, you mean?" Denise smirked. "Probably," she agreed.
She had him over for dinner on a Friday night. There was a small kitchenette with a living room, a small bathroom, and a bedroom.
"It's kind of small," Denise admitted. "But it's homey."
The apartment was well decorated and well maintained, clean and bright with attractive art work. The lasagna dinner was tasty but they both knew what they were really there for and when the meal was over Denise led Malcolm into her bedroom. She had worn a maxi dress and blouse to look formal for the dinner and now they were sitting on her bed together and Denise leaned to and gave him a kiss.
"Are you over Skylar?" Denise whispered into Malcolm's mouth.
He was glad he didn't have to tell her he was over Mrs. Yarmouth too.
"Where did you learn to make love the way you do?" a breathless Denise asked later when they lay naked under the covers in her darkened room.
Malcolm knew he had another reason to be grateful for Mrs. Yarmouth.
Denise helped Malcolm pack up the shithole. There wasn't much room for anything but his clothes but Mrs. Yarmouth told him that he could leave his furniture and other belongings there in storage as long as need be.
Malcolm split the rent, utilities, internet, phone, cable and groceries with Denise. She was the better cook and she handled that part of the arrangement. He paid when they went out to eat.
It took some adjustment on both their parts living together in such a tight space and Malcolm hoped he wasn't a nuisance for Denise. He adored her and he was happy to be exploring the first normal and healthy relationship of his life.
Mrs. Yarmouth stopped by the dealership on occasion to talk with Bernie and she was always personable and friendly to Malcolm, and Denise too.
"How do you think things are going?" Denise asked a few months into the live-in arrangement as they lay together naked in bed having just made love.
"You won't kick me out, will you?" He worried.
"Of course not!" She vowed.
"I guess I have a fear of abandonment," Malcolm confessed. "My parents. Skylar." He left out Roxanne and Mrs. Yarmouth from the equation.
"I would never do that to you," Denise promised.
"I have a hard time letting myself be vulnerable," he explained. "I've been hurt too often. It's hard taking risks when that happens to you."
"Take a risk with me," she pleaded, rolling on top of him and positioning herself so that he could enter her easily. "Walk the path with me."
"Okay," he agreed with relief, tossing the cover sheet aside and grabbing her bare backside with both hands.
"My Malcolm," Denise said happily as she leaned over and kissed him. "My Porter."