twenty-nine ~ attraction
**Dedicated to cookiejar_ for the stunning banner!**
I was following Brent up the rickety wooden steps onto the porch of his home when he suddenly paused and slowly turned to face me.
"Um," he said hesitantly. "It's not exactly...well, it's not like your place."
He was clearly nervous, or embarrassed, or some other emotion that was rarely ever visible on his face, and so I did my best to reassure him and lighten the mood.
"Well, you wouldn't have had much right for judging me two months ago if it was."
Forcing a smile, he shoved the key forcefully into the lock and then pushed the door open. Rather than stepping inside, he moved away from the door and gestured for me to walk through first. As I did so, I couldn't help recalling the moment I'd witnessed him pull the same gentlemanly move with Riley, and how unsettled it had made me feel. Now I was on the receiving end of his chivalry and this time it was a different kind of strangeness.
From a purely objective point of view, I could understand Brent's insecurity. His home was very simple, resembling more of a basic hut than a house, but there was something incredibly tranquil about it. From a subjective point of view, I liked that it was different. Maybe it's true that the grass is always greener on the other side, but who really needs avocado peelers, anyway?
I took a couple more steps into the centre of the room, my eyes scanning it. It looked like just one big area, with the bed pushed against the far wall, a small kitchen tucked away in the corner, and a door hanging off its hinges which I assumed led to the bathroom. Obviously it was basic - probably containing the least amount of things needed in order to make it habitable - but Brent spent the majority of his time at the beach, anyway. It was small, sure, but he was the only one living here. I knew I hated being alone in big houses. It was terrifying and overwhelming sometimes.
That's when it occurred to me that, wherever Brent's parents were, they weren't here. He'd never spoken about them and I hadn't ever felt comfortable enough to ask. Having seen how traumatised he still was with his brother's death, I didn't think it was particularly tactful to start asking questions about the rest of his family.
My footsteps echoed on the wooden floor as I took a few more steps towards his bed, where three photos were propped up on the table to its side. I didn't touch them, but I spent a long time looking at them. From the photo in his beach hut, I recognised the young boy as his brother. In this photo, he was standing beside a much younger Brent, their arms around each other and smiling happily into the camera. Obviously I'd noticed Brent's aversion to smiling, or showing emotion in general, but seeing how happy he was all those years ago really tugged at my heartstrings. The two adults present in the other photos were likely to be his parents, both dark-haired and tanned from life on the beach. That was one thing that all these photos had in common: they were all taken on the beach.
When I turned to ask Brent if he'd always lived here, I realised he was still standing in the doorway, the door still open behind him. His eyes remained on me but something about them looked unsure.
"What's wrong?" I asked him with a frown, taking a few steps away from the photos in case it was them making him uncomfortable.
"I'll understand if you want to leave."
My frown deepened but slowly, I started to realise his problem. It wasn't with the photos or my general curiosity. He wasn't worried I was going to start asking questions. He'd kept the door open in case I didn't want to be here.