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The thought of being with Albert terrified Jeffrey. The thoughts of kissing him, of loving him, of touching him had sometimes been too much for him to handle, and yet here he was, in his plush bed back in Belvidere, thinking of Albert while his hand wandered lower than it should while thinking of nothing more than an old friend.

Jeffrey had fooled around with girls before, he knew how this felt. He liked girls, he liked the softness of their hands and the curves of their hips. He’d developed a few fleeting fancies for a men as well, though he never acted on them. Sometimes he wished he had, but then there was Albert and Albert was the only person Jeffrey had ever really wanted.

He was to be married tomorrow, to a woman by the name of Elizabeth. Betty, he had been told to call her, because they were getting married and that apparently made them intimate enough to call each other by such names. He was to be married tomorrow and all he could think about Albert, who was in town, who was right down the street and would open his door if Jeffrey knocked.

And Jeffrey would kiss him softly, his hands falling to Albert’s hips and pulling him closer. Albert would respond eagerly, he knew, wrapping his pretty little arms around his neck and kissing him harder. And then his hands would drift lower, touching Albert’s ass, his thighs, and Albert would flinch.

But Jeffrey knew. He had always known, to some degree, that Albert didn’t have the anatomy of a man. It was only made official when he had brushed against Albert’s unbound breasts at the train station. He hadn’t meant what he said about Albert becoming his wife. He’d only meant that he loved him, wanted to spend the rest of his life with him. He’d meant that he didn’t want to lose him.

“It’s okay,” Jeffrey would say, pulling away to look at Albert’s pretty green eyes. “I know,” and he would press another quick kiss to Albert’s lips before they walked slowly and steadily to Albert’s bedroom because Albert deserved a bed. He deserved a soft mattress fit for a king, not the ratty feather stuffed one he’d been given. He deserved everything in the world and so much more, yet they’d both be content to make love on the uncomfortable bed in Albert’s ramshackle little house.

Jeffrey knew that these fantasies were merely that and nothing more, because he was a coward that did not do these things when he had the chance, when Albert would welcome him with open arms and an open heart. Now he only saw him in church on Sundays and in passing at the market. Their conversations never went past gossip about old war buddies and the drastic rise of corn prices in Illinois.

And yet Jeffrey spent nearly every night like this, thinking about Albert, thinking of what might have been, what could have been if he had had the guts to do something about it. He was out of time, he was to be married tomorrow and he wasn’t ready. Curse his mother for inviting Albert because she thought it would be nice for him to have some old friends with him on his wedding day.

Albert would be there, would see him pledge his love for this woman and kiss her and dance with her while in reality the only thing he thought of was Albert. He didn’t dislike Betty, he could even go as far as to say he was attracted to her - in fact, he was very attracted to her, but he did not love her, and that was what mattered.

There was a part of him that hoped Albert wouldn’t care, a part of him that hoped that after the wedding Albert would pull him off to the side where no one could see and kiss him, hard and rough, teeth and tongue. And then they’d run away together, into the woods and far away without a word to anyone, or maybe he could be the one to pull Albert off to the side, the one to kiss him and hold him close and whisper soft declarations of love in his ear. “Let’s run away,” he’d quietly whisper, and Albert would just kiss him again and that would be the only answer he’d ever need.

Sometimes Jeffrey wondered what could have been, what they would been if he'd done even the littlest thing differently. Sometimes, when Jeffrey couldn’t sleep, he’d imagine Albert lying next to him, just lying there, asleep, his chest rising and falling ever so slightly and the occasional snore leaving his dainty mouth. He imagined the weight of Albert next to him, he warmth, his form. Just Albert, nothing more.