After the fight a few days ago, Cliff is confused on Nick's handling of their situation.
|“Cliff, could you get that pancake mix for me?”
Cliff looked down at Nick, who was stirring egg yolks in a plastic bowl. He was wearing a light pink apron with frills around the bottom. He was wearing a large white tanktop that was cut open on the sides. He was also wearing a black tube top underneath. His black legging shorts were a bit dirty from the egg yolk spilling.
“Uh...yeah, sure.” Cliff reached towards a higher shelf, grabbing the box of pancake mix and handing it to Nick. He smiled up at Cliff in response, adding a cup or two of the pancake mix into the bowl.
Cliff watched Nick cook the pancakes that morning. He too was wearing an apron, except it was a plain white one. His hair was slicked back, with a string or two of hair sticking out and laying across his forehead. The two men had lived together for about a week ever since Cliff first showed up at Nick’s door. Since that day, they had started to get to know each other a bit more. This process was pretty slow, however. Cliff didn’t really like to talk about his past or about himself. In fact, he found more enjoyment and interest in learning about Nick.
Nick worked as a fashion designer for a popular fashion brand in his city. He was relatively well known in this industry, but he described himself to Cliff as still a fledgeling. Because of this, a lot of clothes in his closet were pieces that Nick had made himself. At times, he had even offered to sew clothes for Cliff. Cliff denied these offers, however, claiming that he didn’t have to do that for him.
He was planning on buying new clothes himself when news of him died down. As of now, he had been wearing hand me downs from Nick’s older brother, Kris. In secret, Cliff didn’t want Nick to go through the trouble of making him new clothes and felt bad, even though he did think it would be nice to see what clothes Nick could make for him.
At this point in their morning, Nick was pouring the pancake batter into a heated frying pan sitting on the stovetop. As Nick was doing this, Cliff leaned back a bit on the island in the middle of the kitchen behind him as he continued to watch Nick cook. In a way, he enjoyed these mornings with him. Every movement that Nick made, whether he was stirring pancake mix together in a bowl or carefully designing his next big piece to present to his panel of fashion designers, it all seemed to have a certain flow to it. There was hardly a break in his rhythm whenever he moved, and this mesmerized Cliff.
So much in fact, that he knocked the box of pancake mix over while his arms were relaxed on the island counter behind him. The pancake mix was spilled across the counter and stained the backs of Cliff’s arms. Cliff looked back at the pancake mix that had spilled with a disheartened expression, grabbing some paper towels and cleaning up the mess. Nick was plating a few pancakes on a large white plate next to the stove before he looked back at Cliff.
Cliff was still cleaning up the pancake mix when he heard Nick’s giggling from behind him. Looking back at Nick, he blushed a bit at Nick’s smile and scrunched up nose. Nick walked over to help Cliff clean up the pancake mix. As Cliff was cleaning, a thought came to mind that bothered him a little bit. He seemed puzzled, miffed, even, while trying to figure out how to bring up this kind of conversation to Nick. Biting his lip a bit, Cliff turned to Nick.
“Hey, can I ask you something?”
Nick looks up at Cliff with a confused expression on his face. He then smiles and walks a bit closer to him, leaning sideways on the island counter and looking up at Cliff from underneath his bangs.
Cliff looked down at Nick, trying to find the right words to say to him.
“You know I appreciate you taking me in and all…” Nick nods in agreement. “And I don’t think I would be in a good place right now if you didn’t take me in that night.” Nick tilted his head to the side a little bit. “But what I’m trying to figure out is why.”
Nick frowned a little at this inquiry. He was a bit miffed, but tried to keep his cool a little bit. “What’re you getting at?”
“Why did you decide to let me stay here in the first place?”
Nick felt like he understood what Cliff was asking him a bit better and his expression changed from miffed to calm.
“Well, because I didn’t think that you deserved to stay out there in the rain the way you were. It didn’t matter what happened to you or where you came from, and it still doesn’t. I just knew that I needed to do something to help you.”
Cliff blushed a little at that statement. He hadn’t met anyone in his lifetime who was as forgiving and kind as Nick was. Regardless of how he felt, he kept going. “Wel, I mean, I could have been a criminal or something.”
“Wouldn’t have made any difference to me.”
This answer only angered Cliff a little bit. Not because of how he answered the question, but because of how dangerous that answer was.
“So it would have made no difference if I had done something absolutely horrible? You still would have let me into your home?”
Nick looked at him like he thought Cliff was joking. “Like I said, it doesn’t make any difference to me. It didn’t when I first met you and it doesn’t now either.”
Cliff only felt some type of rage over this statement. In a heat of anger, he gripped onto Nick’s shoulders a bit tightly.
“I could have been trying to trick you so that I could take advantage of you! Do you not understand why I’m so bothered by this? Do you really understand why I’m so upset at the way this has been picking at my brain for this long?”
Nick could feel Cliff’s grip on his shoulders get tighter. He tried to push his hands off, but to no avail. It started to feel painful. Cliff’s hands were completely enveloped over Nick’s shoulders. His nails were digging into Nick’s shoulders a bit.
“No, I don’t know why! Now get off, you’re hurting me!”
Cliff blinked his eyes for a moment before looking down at Nick. Tears were forming in the corners of his eyes and his brows were furrowed. His hands were still on the sides of Cliff’s hands, trying his hardest to pry them off of his shoulders. In that moment, a wave of guilt washed over him. He knew that he was bigger and stronger than Nick. Before he moved in with him, Cliff used to work out as often as he could. Feeling this sense of guilt, he released Nick’s shoulders from his grasp and watched Nick’s arms fall to his sides. Cliff stepped back a little to give Nick some space.
“I...I’m sorry.” Cliff spoke. “I didn’t mean to hold you that hard…”
Nick seemed unconvinced that Cliff was truly sorry or felt any kind of remorse for what he did. He crossed his arms across his chest and looked away from him. Cliff felt hurt by this as his eyebrows furrowed a little.
“I was just...really upset by what you said...and I just lashed out! You understand, right?” Cliff stared at the floor with his hands jammed in his pants pockets. He looked up at Nick who was only more upset. He bit his lip at this. Clearly this wasn’t the right thing to say. Cliff sighed softly, before doing something that he never thought he would do with anyone, much less the man who took him in while he was injured a couple of days prior. He opened up to Nick about his past.
“While I was growing up, I learned from a young age that I couldn’t trust anyone that I’d meet.” Nick seemed unfazed by this statement, but Cliff kept going. “I remember when I was still about 10 years old and living with my mom and one of her boyfriends. He was just like the rest of them. He promised her that he would keep her safe, that he would keep me safe, and that they would be happy together if they ‘just worked hard’. But he didn’t keep his promise. We were never safe when we were with him. He always took things from my mom. Money, her credit card, her car keys...he took everything from her. I think at some point she realized what was going on, and decided to go out on her own without his support. So she took me with her and we stayed at this motel."
"We were doing okay for a while, I mean, we had food and clothes and water, so that’s all that really mattered at that point. But one day, my mom got sick. We didn’t have enough money for traditional medicine, so I tried looking around the other motel rooms for help. I came across this one guy who promised to pay for my mom’s medicine if I did his laundry for a few days. I didn’t wanna trust him and go through with it, but my mom was really sick, and I didn’t really have a choice."
"So I did his laundry, waiting to receive the money that I was promised to help make my mom feel better. The money never came; there was no money. I wasted what was left of our savings to do this slob's laundry only to get nothing in return for it. He was just like all of mom’s boyfriends.”
Nick only looked at Cliff with more sympathy for him than ever. Cliff got more emotional at this point.
“So, hearing you say that about just letting someone into your house without any concern...it made me think about my mom...I’m sorry I lashed out at you.” Cliff then suddenly realized just how much he had told Nick about his childhood and his life in general. He got flustered pretty quickly as he clasped his hands together behind his head. “I-I’m sorry for just dumping all that on you, I don’t know why I said all of that…”
Nick didn’t say anything at first. He only walked up close to him, his hands behind his back and a smile on his face.
“It’s okay, these kinds of arguments happen.”
Cliff looked down at Nick in surprise, eliciting a small laugh from Nick.
“It’s okay, really! These things happen sometimes, but at least now I know why you got so upset. It’s my fault too. I should have explained myself more, since I wasn’t raised in the same kind of situation you were raised in.”
Cliff blushed a bit more as he wiped his hand down his face. “You don’t need to apologize…” He looked down at Nick with his cheeks flushed pink as his small frown turned into a smile.
Nick’s eyes glittered in excitement and a newfound happiness between them. He then grabbed the plate of pancakes that were still sitting on the counter next to the stove. “Hey...we should eat these before they get cold.”
Cliff couldn’t even protest when there was food involved in the conversation. At the same time, however, he couldn’t fathom how easily Nick de escalated the situation. This only further amazed Cliff and made him admire Nick a lot more. But for now, that thought was put to rest. Pancakes sounded like a better way to start off this morning on a lighter foot.
“Yeah, good idea.”