[November Breaks] NOW | 26 | Noah

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MONDAY 4TH FEBRUARY 2019

Watching you sleep is a rare luxury and my mind fills in the colours I can’t see. The red of your hair, the purple of bruises and the pale pink of settling scars. I almost don’t want to touch you in case I wake you, but I take my chances and drape an arm around you, pulling you close and burying my face in the warmth at the back of your neck.

For so many years, I didn’t share a bed with another person. I didn’t stay, or they didn’t stay, or there was never a bed involved at all. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to sleep with someone breathing next to me, and now it’s the only time I can. When you get up in the middle of the night, it doesn’t always wake me, but the tone of my dreams shifts. Something becomes emptier.

Your hand twitches, a barely imperceptible tightening of your fingers into a fraction of a fist, and I rest my palm against the motion. You never really stop moving for long. It’s not the same as before you quit work and it’s nothing like when we met, but there’s still a constant sense of activity about you. Everything is made of energy. Some things more than others. Some people more than anything else.

It’s a long way off starting to get light, but I doubt you’ll stay asleep for much longer. I’m savouring and watching and my mind’s wandering, but not too far.

It’ll be the first time in a long time for me and the first time ever for you, as far as I know. The who of it doesn’t matter so much, but there are a few I kept track of from way back when. Philip Drayne was one. Alan Gerrit was another. After he did what he definitely did, but no-one could prove, he moved. A year or two later, he moved again. Then he stayed very, very still.

I remember the statements taken at the time, but more than that, I remember the whispers. People who could have come forward, but wouldn’t. They said they didn’t want the trouble, but really they didn’t care enough. I didn’t care enough, either. I still don’t. But I knew Alan Gerrit might one day allow a need to be satisfied, so I kept an eye on him.

He moved from an estate near town to one out of town to a remote and run-down bungalow. If he had neighbours, I’m sure they would describe him as quiet. The kind who keeps to himself. But he has no neighbours, no family, and definitely no friends. Nothing else about him matters. He exists and soon he won’t and that’s all.

You roll over to face me, eyes flickering open. “What are you thinking about?”

“Good morning to you, too.”

“Good morning.” You mouth tilts into a half-asleep smile. “But what are you thinking about?”

You. Always. “What we were talking about last night.”

“What about it?”

“Nothing new. Just going over things. History. Background.”

“That’s the least interesting part to go over.”

“I know. I was waiting for you to be awake to go over the rest. After we get out of bed. After coffee.”

“Coffee.” You yawn. “You and your one-track mind.” Says the traffic.

“Shut up.”

“No.” You stretch across the bed, cat-like, and get up. “So it looks like an accident or a suicide and we’re all good?”

“Either is fine. Nothing to investigate, nothing suspicious. He’s miles from anywhere and no-one’s likely to be looking for him, anyway.”

You slither into jeans and lift my sweater from the back of the chair you keep leaving it on. The chair I keep lifting clothes off. The chair I keep trying to leave empty, even though neither of us uses it as a chair. “I want to do it.”

I shrug, a forced casual response. Already, I can feel Alan Gerrit’s heart slowing and already it’s enough for me, for what I need from it. If I start thinking about you covering his mouth and nose or crushing his skull against the ground, we aren’t going to leave this room for at least an hour.

I don’t feel that way about killing when I do it. I never have. At its most mundane, it was work. At its most personal it was, is, necessary. But thinking about you doing it, thinking about feeling a heart stop specifically because of you. That’s a very different situation.

You pull on my sweater and tell the curtains to open, then yawn and push your hair back and stretch again. And you turn towards me. The lightning-strike smile and the fire and the devastation waiting to happen.

And my heart almost stops. Specifically because of you.

TUESDAY 5TH FEBRUARY 2019

We arrive shortly after 2pm to a drizzle that hangs in the air and clings to our coats. Our car is parked far enough away that he doesn’t see it, that it isn’t seen near his house, and mud climbs from unkempt grass onto our shoes as we make our way to his front door.

I knock sharply and we stand back, waiting. When he answers, he doesn’t look too different from all those years ago. Older, obviously, more bloated and redder in the face. He reeks of paint thinner vodka and I know you’ll notice that immediately. I know it’ll bother you. Cheap vodka is a crime, in your eyes.

“Are you Alan Gerrit?” you ask, blank-faced and official-sounding.

“Who wants to know?” he slurs.

“Are. You. Alan. Gerrit?” you repeat, ignoring his question.

He glances nervously over his shoulder at a computer screen in the room behind him, then hastily closes the door. “I… I’m… yes.” He’s shaken, but not as shaken as he should be. Confusion dawns slowly.

“Mr Gerrit,” I address him directly, “we’re going to have to ask you to come with us.”

He looks from me to you and back to me again. “Why? Where?”

Your mouth slides into a sly smile and you take the gun from the back of your waistband, holding it at hip-level, pointed at him. “We’re going for a walk.”

His eyes, jaundice-yellow, narrow at the weapon. He looks at us again, at our faces, brow furrowed as if he’s doing maths in his head. “I didn’t do it. Any of it. They never proved anything,” he hisses. “You can’t prove anything.”

And your head tilts. And your neck cracks. And your smile widens. “We are going. For a walk.” You gesture with the gun towards the outside world behind us. The cold, mist-soaked, unwitnessed outside world.

A moment’s pause and he comes with us, drunk enough to still not grasp the severity of the situation. You and I are in step with each other, perfectly aligned, and you walk Alan Gerrit in front of us, directing him with the gun.

He talks clumsily, quickly, spitting out words, bitterness and anxiety tangling in his voice. He denies and apologises, then desperately threatens his way to the end of the path, to the crumbling overhang where the land beneath has collapsed and worn away. It’s low tide now and jagged rocks lie waiting.

The overhang isn’t high, but it’s high enough, and a more gentle slope leads from a short distance to the left of where we’re standing down to the stony stretch of beach. That’s where we’ll walk down. Afterwards. And before.

He looks over the edge, then turns to face us, still not fully connected to reality. “Are you going to shoot me?”

“No,” you tell him, and your honesty is a weapon. “I don’t need to.”

Anger flares in his liver-disease eyes. “There’s no point pushing me. That’s not high enough to kill anyone.”

The smile hasn’t left your face the entire time. “No-one’s going to push you. You’re going to fall. And it isn’t going to kill you.”

You take a step forward.

He takes a step back.

Without warning, you move quickly, as if you’re about to hit him or grab him. It’s a small motion, but sudden enough to shock him. There is no actual contact.

In total silence, the surprise registers on his face, and he leans back just enough. There’s a moment of balance, equilibrium, when he almost rights himself from the reflex. But it doesn’t last.

He tips and drops and you grin at the audible crunch when he lands on his back on the beach below. We look over after him and he’s twisted and twitching, his mouth gasping more like a seizure than an attempt to inhale.

Before we finish what we started, the sky splits open and rain roars around us. You tuck the gun back into your waistband, turn your face upward and laugh, wild with the ecstasy of new experience. Then you reach for me, a hand around the back of my neck, and pull me into a breathless kiss.

I bite your lip, hard, because I know you want me to. My fingers find your throat and the world is nothing but a slowly climbing tide and clouds crashing empty to the ground at our feet.

And I let go and you take a deep breath and we remember where we are.

We walk down the slope to the beach, hand in hand, and pick our way across the litter of boulders and stones. Alan Gerrit is still twitching, the back of his head wedged on a point of rock.

You pull a pair of nitrile gloves from your inside coat pocket, snapping them on to your hands. It’s a slow, deliberate action. It’s not for his benefit, because he’s well beyond understanding anything that’s going on. Maybe it’s for my benefit. Maybe it’s for your own. You, savouring the experience. Me, savouring you.

The moment softens and I kneel beside him, my hands resting against the worn fabric of his sweat-stained shirt. I can feel his erratic, fading heartbeat through my own gloves, thin leather like a second skin.

You kneel too, and a prayer hangs between us. Not a prayer for Alan Gerrit’s soul or redemption for any of us. But a prayer built from you and me and whatever we are, your need and my need and whatever this is, and how it’s now something we have together.

You knot your fingers in the front of his greasy hair and a tremor ripples through his face and chest when you lift his head off the stone spike. Something in the structure of my ribs aches with longing, driven by your total lack of apprehension. You are so perfectly at home with all of this and I half expected it, because I know you, but at the same time it’s so much more than I allowed myself to hope for.

With your other hand on the ground to steady you, you lean towards me until there’s barely an inch between us and your breath meets mine across the corpse-to-be, under the grey sky and the pouring rain. You push Alan Gerrit’s head back onto the rock with a wet crunch. And his heart stops because of you. And I feel it. I feel it.