[November Breaks] NOW | 31 | Brett

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THURSDAY 7TH FEBRUARY 2019

This is both the same place and somewhere completely different. It’s when you went home and I went with you the night after we met. It’s your iceberg blue digital clock and morning cigarettes at the living room window. It’s you grinding coffee beans in the kitchen and me dealing with work on the phone and doing my best to avoid dealing with it in person. It was your couch and now it’s a couch. Your shower. A shower. Your bed. A bed.

It was the wall next to your front door and your hand around my throat and your teeth sinking into my lip and it still is, now, tonight. Officially, we’re here to check everything is where it’s supposed to be and nothing has been damaged before someone else moves in. You’re supposed to sign something about it. You’re supposed to be more interested than you are.

You pull back. “Brett?”

“What?”

“You’re miles away.”

I snake my arms around your neck. “I’m right here.”

You lean your forehead against mine. “You aren’t.”

You’re right, kind of, but I’m about ten more seconds of unresolved need away from not giving a shit that it isn’t your bed in the other room anymore. Although technically it is, I guess. You still own the place and everything in it, even though you don’t live here now. I try to nudge you towards an insignificant confrontation, because I know where that leads. “Stop projecting.”

“Yeah.” You stand up straight and take a step away. “You’re right. I’m projecting. I’m distracted. I don’t know.”

Fuck. That backfired. This is one of the very rare times when I don’t want to be right. Today has already been clouded by unmet expectation, and I’m frustrated and pissed off. People don’t think I’m frustrated and pissed off. People don’t think about what they’re thinking. There are too many layers to this. I’m doing it again.

And the meetings I didn’t have the patience for earlier and the closure that didn’t come. And that table in that bar and dinner with you and the drive over here and how close you were and how much every cell in my body was reaching for you the entire time. And now. Now we’re here and you’re fucking distracted.

I curl my fingers into the front of your coat and pull you towards me. It echoes endless stolen moments, a tradition that began the first time you came to Allegra and we walked to the lift following a casual handshake as if you were there about work. Then the doors slid closed, and I did exactly this thing with my back against the mirrored wall and an eyebrow arched over your shoulder towards the security camera I knew was there but didn’t mention to you. You probably knew. We both knew, and neither of us said anything.

Anyway.

This is all going exactly where I want it to until you pull back again and I swear to god—

“Let’s just do what we need to do here and go.”

“Aren’t we already doing what we need to do here?” It’s worth a try.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“What did you mean?”

“I thought it would feel different, being here.”

“Doesn’t it?”

“It’s different from before, obviously. But I thought it would feel different from how it feels now.” You sigh deeply. “It feels empty.”

And I get it. “Everything changes, but nothing changes enough.”

“Something like that.” You hold out a hand.

I take it. “Do you want to stop on the way home and walk?”

You lead me into the living room. “Where?”

And the kitchen. “Anywhere. I don’t know. Park up somewhere and walk around until we don’t want to walk around anymore.”

And back through the living room. “Why?”

And into the bathroom. “Because. Burn off the emptiness.”

And the bedroom. “You’re being very sensible. Balanced, even. It’s not like you.”

I look at the bed, then at you, then at the bed again. “How much do you want me to be like me right now?”

You smile, and it takes the weight of years off your face. “Come on. Let’s go. Drive and walk. That’s what we both need.”

You lock up and we leave and get in the car. You watch the empty road and I watch you.

After a while, you ask. You finally ask. “Is it because of Stefan?”

“I don’t think so. Maybe, but not like that. Not because I’m sad about it or I feel like I should be or anything. I can’t explain it.”

“And officially leaving work?”

“Perhaps that more than Stefan.” The buildings are lower now, less glass and more brick, more potholes in the roads. The houses are small, interspersed with blocks of flats. “Here. Park here.”

You pull up in an empty space in an area that serves as residential parking and we get out and walk. Neither of us says anything, but there’s still a connection in the silence.

Up ahead, a man and a woman argue as they make their way towards a bus shelter. Their voices get louder and the man’s wallet falls from his pocket, but he doesn’t notice. Then the bus arrives at the shelter at the same time they do and the woman gets on and yells something as the doors close. The man stands and shouts at the closed doors, then at the side of the bus, then at the taillights as they swing around the corner.

I stop and pick up his wallet and we watch him walk away as I open it and take out his driving licence. We both read his name and address. I put the piece of printed plastic with the unflattering photograph back into the compartment I took it out of. “Him.”

You know exactly what I mean. “Why him?”

I tuck the wallet into my pocket and reach for your hand. “Why not?”