I’d never really been courted before. When I was a boy, sometimes a girl would invite me to dinner with her family in the hope I’d ask her to a social or the pictures, but I’ve never had a boy or man show his interest by baking me cookies or writing me poetry or sitting in my parlor to drink a cup of tea with my parents. Of course, courtship is about marriage, and marriage was never my priority; after Daniel, even living with someone felt like more than I could hope for.
It was different with Noel. Of course it was; everything about Noel was different than the men who had come before — this includes Oliver, the closest I had come to loving someone in over a decade.
One might think it was easier to be together when we already lived in the same house; but there was Emmanuel and his suspicions, there was Noel’s work that took him away for three or four days every week through November as his clients scrambled to prepare projects before year’s end; and there was looking after Caleb, which took up most of my time and energy daily.
Noel and I took our moments when we found them. We worked together in the library on the nights Noel was home, or Noel read out out to me, his accent and rich voice making every word sound like a song. We played with Caleb and took him with us into the city to see a picture or eat at a cafe. Sometimes we even risked stealing kisses in the garden or in the passages after dark. When our eyes met across the dinner table or over Caleb’s head, it was like saying, I’m with you. I’m here, too.
At the end of the month, Noel was due home after five days in the midwest. He wouldn’t be traveling any more for the rest of the year, much to Caleb’s delight as well as mine, and it was with great ceremony that I had written ZERO under “Days Until Uncle Noel Is Home” on our countdown chalkboard that morning. His train wasn’t due until well after midnight, so we put Caleb to bed and told him Noel would be there when he woke up in the morning.
I had the duty of meeting Noel’s train. I usually did now, as it freed up Willie to look after Emmanuel and I could bring Caleb with me, if it was early enough in the day, and we would eat or shop in the city before taking Noel home.
But since this train would be so late I went by myself, and I was grateful for the increasingly rare chance to be alone with Noel. It was strange to want and be wanted, and yet do so little about it; and Noel was right, it wasn’t easy.
To my surprise, and it would probably surprise many of the men who’d known me in the past, I didn’t mind waiting. For the first time in my life, I could be patient.
Still, if the opportunity to touch a little presented itself, I wanted to take it. I hoped Noel wasn’t so tired from traveling that he would agree.