RM Skill: Undisclosed
Are you using UK English? I never recall... >< If you are, there are multiple things I could correct in your written work, though in terms of "Chris's" you would be correct in how you have it (unless you're using U.S. English - although names ending in "s" or an "s sound" are not required to have the second "s" added in possessive form, it is preferred when dealing with certain literary form).
RM Skill: Undisclosed
Well, I actually couldn't find that option on my own Mac using Safari, so... I guess it's something else, lol. (I don't use Safari for much outside of email, because my Mac isn't online much at all - it store too much personal information to be connected often; just as a precaution). =]
Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing the results of this "deal" you've got going. Best of luck getting it done in time! =D
Group: Global Mod
RM Skill: Intermediate
Rev Points: 5
I was right about it going in a weird direction...
Anyway, I got my five chapters done for new years (friend didn't live up to her end of the deal, women ) and I'm now half way through the sixth. My new years resolution is to write at least 1,000 words a week on this, or something else, which is a TINY amount (as mentioned earlier I cracked out the first 3,000 words of this in two days) but I have to be realistic with my goals and college is back on
anyway, I present 6 1/2 chapter of The Closing Winter probably riddled with typos and general horrible formatting (doesn't translate well from Open Office to RRR) but I hope you enjoy it all the same. Oh, by the way, it's 8199 words, so you don't have to read it all to give criticisms.
The Closing Winter
Her words were harsh, and the lurking winter cold did nothing but sharpen her icy tone. I met her eyes and she gazed back with intense indifference; her presence physically pushing against mine. “What do you think it means?” I stood for a moment, letting my soul linger with the silence until my body could catch up, like two beats phasing out of time. I could feel her breath on my neck – words waiting to form – as I turned and forced myself over the frozen path that would take me home. I must have still been in eyeshot when I burst into a run, first jogging then sprinting, in spite of the ice. The dry wind found it's way through my hair, wrapping itself around my ears and numbing them with its insatiable desire to rob the world of warmth. The air picked the dusty snow from off of the ground and generously heaped it at my face, wetting my brow and cutting my cheeks as I continued to flee from the harpy waiting by the door of her home. From time to time my foot would dance across the frost, finding the bare minimum grip required to keep me upright, but I refused to slow my pace all the while. The wind picked up, blurring my vision with spirals of white peppered before me like approaching stars. I would find myself halfway between curbs with no knowledge of what lay on the road inbetween. Convincing myself that the disturbing silence of the one o'clock morning would be enough to warn me of any traffic, I pressed on. I arrived home, a shoddy house two friends and I rented from an old middle-class couple, some time later. My hands were raw with cold. I was shaking so badly I dropped the keys several times before giving in and knocking. I had the distinct feeling, more of an educated guess, that David would still be awake. I knew as the door opened not moments later, like a light calling me back from the dead, that he'd been waiting for me. His silhouette enveloped the night. Without speaking he wrapped his arms around me. I buried my face into his cardigan and sobbed. Truth be told I did not cry. I made sounds like a wounded animal as his tall frame cradled me out of the cold and into the warmth of the house, closing the door on the prying wind as he did so, but I did not cry. He didn't say a word, but led me through the light of the house, my head still buried in his chest, and into the sitting room. There, by the fire, he placed me onto the couch he'd acquired by some undetermined means, and looked me in the eye with a perfect mixture of concern and understanding. “I already know everything. You don't have to say a word if you don't want to” he said melodically, soothing the brittle bones of my spirits. I nodded slowly. He sat down next to me and placed his arm over my shoulder. It was only then I noticed the third occupant of the room, Chris, the other roommate, sitting crouched on the armchair just to my left, toying with a teapot on the table before us. When he became aware that I'd spotted him he turned away awkwardly then tried to be comforting. It wasn't his strong suit, but I appreciated the effort. “We made tea.” he stuttered slightly as he spoke, pouring out a cup as if to check I knew what tea was, “If you want some, I mean.” his uncertainty was apparent. I nodded without enthusiasm, but in all honesty it was exactly what I needed. He fixed up the cup he had just poured to how I like it, a spoon of sugar and a good portion of milk. He passed it over and I embraced its warmth. I felt like I'd been involved in some kind of accident, and despite my knowing I would hate myself for letting them treat me like this, it was how I wanted to be treated. I felt a pressure on my feet and looked down to see David untying my shoes. I opened my mouth to speak, but the air just crept out with no purpose, brushing past my throat still sore from the cold. “You can't wear these in weather like this.” he fussed, referring to the soaking fabric of my trainers, “You'll freeze your feet off, Ben.” The name sounded foreign coming from him. I took a gulp of my tea, warming then burning my throat, and tried to correct him. I had only one small plea for the time-being. “Benjamin” I murmured weakly. She had called me Ben, and all reminders of her had to be quickly and efficiently removed from my daily routine starting immediately with the name. “Back to Benjamin, eh?” Chris interjected. David cast him a warning glare as he removed my second shoe. Chris looked down then away to the clock on the wall opposite me. I knew he wasn't trying to be mean or crack jokes at my expense, in fact I didn't mind the insinuation that I changed my preferred name every few seasons, it was true, but I also knew David had his mind set on helping me recover as quickly as possible, and Chris could rarely help with that. I still wanted Chris there, though, even if he was a duck out of water in these situations. Eventually Chris found the courage to pour David and himself some tea, and the three of us sank into the furniture, our worries melting before the open fire, our doubts released in the most British way possible as we drank. It wasn't until the clock in the hall, an old and beautiful thing belonging to Chris's grandfather, may he rest in peace, rang once that we realised we'd spent nearly ten minutes in perfect silence. I looked over at my two closest friends in the world. Chris turned to me, and I immediately recognised the look on his face. David's approach to my problems was to wait them out with me, then allow me to open up in time as he would listen and comfort. Chris's methods were more abstract. Chris had a habit of 'adapting' absurd philosophies and teaching them, but rarely practicing them himself. This was one of those moments. “Ulysses S. Grant” he said in a tone which suggested, contrary to the true nature of events, that a name could fix all of my troubles. The American civil war general and later president, who I was well aware of, seemed entirely unrelated to recently transpired events. However, despite David being half-desperate to shut Chris up, I found myself listening intently. “Go on.” I said, permitting him to say whatever petty wisdoms he had for me. “He had nothing to lose.” Chris continued, a point almost emerging, “At first at least. He had no reputation to speak of. He had nothing to lose by taking risks. A lot of people think that's why he succeeded where other generals failed.” I began regretting letting Chris speak, my temper rose a little. “Why should I care?” I asked, but any harsh tones were wasted on Chris, and he continued as if I had charmed genuine interest. “Right now I'm betting you feel like you've got nothing. That's why you should care. You can't be cautious. Caution is for those who built something up slowly and are scared of knocking it down again. Pull a Grant. Take risks. Succeed.” Every word hovered in the air, not dense enough to sink in, but not meaningless enough to float away. “Silver lining, you know?” “You sound like a life coach.” I said, smiling, “A bad one.” I curled into a ball and rested against the arm of the couch. Even with my eyes closed I could tell, from the movements on the couch, that David was trying to silently tell Chris to shut his mouth. The odd thing was, as hollow as Chris's words were, he did have a point. I had nothing to lose. I toyed with the idea briefly, before realising it was little more than fantasy. One can't choose to take chances. They present themselves and, if we're lucky, we may find ourselves making the right decision. Anything past that is wishful thinking. I could feel David's eyes burying into the side of my head. “Benjamin” he spoke, cutting into the establishing silence, “How about you tell us what happened?”
I grew weary of the nothingness; under the pressure of their caring gaze my exterior crumbled and I caved, confessing every moment from her invitation to her rejection, and descent from those steps home. The short of it, that is, but the long version requires more than a sentence to be understood. “Ben” David repeated, then corrected himself, “Benjamin” I nodded, “What happened?” “I thought you already knew” I croaked meekly, like a child caught misbehaving, I was ashamed of my emotions in that moment. Weakened by them. “We only know what was on Facebook.” “What was on Facebook?” I asked. Chris and David exchanged glances. “It's official.” David replied. I looked down into my near empty mug, and before I could think I lurched upwards and threw it against the wall. Pieces scattered behind every conceivable shadow in the room. Chris jumped about in his chair in a frenzy. “Jesus Christ, Ben!” “It's only a cup, Chris.” David asserted, having not moved an inch during the commotion. “And it's Benjamin, remember?” “Sorry,” he turned from the broken mug back to my grim expression, “Benjamin.” “We thought you knew.” David finally said to me, drops of tea dancing down the opposing wall. “I knew.” I said, “It's just one thing to hear it and another thing to hear it again.” David leaned over and hugged me. I felt like a child. He was only a small fraction taller than me, and not too much healthier, but he was always the parent in situations like this. He had a bolder presence, like he'd lived more years, like life had nothing ill to throw at him or those in his arms. “Okay, well tell us the rest of it.” The opening of winter had not bode well for me. With the cold season growing colder, and the dark days shorter, the need for company became excruciating. I found that company in the warmth of an old friend, Sarah, and despite my best intentions, I slowly came to consider her as much more than a friend. These things can be kept casual, and other times they can't. I should have left the moment I knew she would not reciprocate the feelings; but I convinced myself her heart would soon follow her body's desires as well. Such a time never came. I had to endure nights spent with her in my arms and I in hers, burning with confessions that could not be uttered. Of course, she realised this; Company is worth breaking hearts. Even if superficial, we had each other, and for a foolish heart that would be enough. But it was boxing day, and the arrival of an old flame was enough for chance to pry open our seasonal cocoon and rummage through our business. She invited me over that night, and that's as much as I can say. David and Chris heard it all though. “She's a bitch.” Chris stated accurately, but still grazing my feelings as he did, “What gives her the right to treat people like that?” He stood up and began pacing, he really could get his blood boiling over a passionate enough cause. David hadn't said a word in some time. He didn't so much converse as guide. He once told me language is a way of expressing one's own opinions and world views, and you could never help anyone by speaking; you had to listen. “Then I ran back here.” I closed by statement, “No more, no less.” I pushed myself up from the couch and walked around it to the nearest door. I stepped through it and found myself in the kitchen, opening the fridge door and grabbing three bottles of lager. I wasn't sleeping sober tonight. I went back through to the sitting room. Chris was already taking out his bottle opener; he knew me well. David didn't seem too keen on the idea, but went along with it because he understood pain better than any of us, even though he never explained how. It wasn't our place to ask, either. The night began to pass with a more certain rhythm. Drinks came and went, and by the time the clock announced half past two we had achieved an applaudable collection of empty bottles. It was only then, after over an hour of drinking in relative silence, that the mood finally lightened. It was Chris, in his infinite uncertainty, that relieved the atmosphere. He left for the kitchen, under the pretense of getting another drink, only to return with two bottles of German liquor. “For Christmas, you know?” he replied to our vacant stares. I immediately burst into a smile. The three of us hadn't been together since before Christmas, having other arrangements to attend, and none of us had bothered to say a word. “We never buy each other presents.” David interjected, though his tone suggested he was still very supportive of the idea. David could be that way. He hated to start drinking, but once he started he really loosened up. “Was on sale.” Chris admitted, placing the two bottles on the table, “Besides, I'm having some too.” “If you're lucky.” I scoffed, eyeing the bottle. For the time being my troubles seemed a lifetime away, thankfully. “Have we got anything to go with this?” I asked to David, who was the only reliable source of inventory in the house. “I think we have a few liters of energy drink left over from Halloween.” he said, flashing me a wolfish grin and standing up, “just let me go check.” As he left the room I turned to Chris, beaming from ear to ear. I was aware that the positive feeling wouldn't last, but I was intent on clinging to it. He returned my gaze with his bashful half-smile, before turning up to the clock and then back again, a nervous habit of his. “Cut it out, man.” he laughed, “Stop looking at me.” “Thanks for this.” I said, adamantly ignoring his pleas, “perfect present.” “Happy Christmas, Benjamin.” “Merry Christmas.” “And a happy new year” David chimed in, somehow carrying four liter bottles of various energy drinks and three pint glasses. “I assume, gentleman, that regular rules apply?” “No one sleeps until everything is empty.” I said, predicting my eventual regret of those words. “Any half-sessioners can and will be punished in whichever way the judge, jury, and executioners, AKA the surviving sessioners, deem appropriate.” I continued as David and Chris measure out each pint. Roughly one part liquor for six parts mixer, but as the night progressed the ratio was bound to tip dangerously. We each grabbed a pint. “Please direct all complaints to the toilet bowl.” we haphazardly sang in unison, attacking the drinks with gusto as we did. The sweet concoction flowed down my throat in mouthfuls, and I found myself pulling back the glass with only a third of the cocktail remaining. Chris had managed slightly more, David slightly less. It was a custom to compare, at least briefly, after each round to see who would pour the next. The skill was in drinking just enough to avoid bar tending duty, but not so much as to be left with an empty glass and nothing to drink. Chris and I turned to David, holding our glasses to playfully mock him. “Okay, okay” he conceded, “I know the rules. I was just thinking.” “What about?” I asked. “If Beth and James are still up, we could always give them an invite, could even get a party going.” “Not a bad idea. You text them. BYOB of course.” I instructed, before downing the last of my pint ceremoniously and placing it on the table. I had barely finished speaking as he began texting. Beth and James were two friends from college who David had always been better friends with than Chris or myself, but they'd grown on us, mostly due to living so close. I glanced at Chris and saw his eyes lost in a compassionate space in some corner of the room. I knew He would ask the inevitable soon, so I beat him to it. “You should invite Amy over.” I asked. “She won't be up” Chris answered, trying not to blush. “Do it anyway, just in case.”
3 Chris remained curled up on the couch for minutes. He looked around in agitation from time to time, awaiting a text message that was breaking his heart with its absence. David and I exchanged glances; there could be only one cure. He began pouring out another round and Chris, begrudgingly, accepted the invitation. We repeated the routine. This time as I lowered my glass I saw David smugly smiling back, a fraction less remaining in his glass than mine. I heard Chris's glass make contact with the table, and knew immediately that he had finished it in one. I swore under my breath and accepted the duty of refilling for the next round. The mood was once again altered. David's phone began buzzing. Beth and James had just arrived back from the local pub with a handful of guests and were looking for a place to take the party. As David finalised the invitations with a devilish smile encompassing his face, Chris took off out of the room, as an obscure ringtone played from his pocket. David and I waited in silence for his return. Some time later, he announced her verdict. “Amy's on her way.” he said, beaming from ear to ear. We were about to burst into applause when he continued speaking, “She's bringing friends.” We spent the next few minutes tidying the place up a little for the guests, but mostly preparing ourselves. By the time the we heard knocking at the door, you could have believed we spent every early morning dressed to impress. Beth and James were the first to arrive, but they were not alone: Standing quite triumphantly in the cold, despite wearing a red cocktail dress, she met my gaze for the first time. David clarified the mystery. “Chris, David, this is Eve. She works at Beth's office.” “We had a late Christmas party.” she explained. I then noticed Beth was also dressed very formally, though not quite as revealing, “So I hear you boys are throwing a party?” She led the way in without waiting for confirmation. We followed her through to the kitchen where she proceeded to reach down the front of her dress and produce a small bottle of vodka. She turned back to us mischievously before grabbing a plastic cup and pouring her drink in. As she leant over the counter, her dress inched up her legs. She revealed just enough to be suggestive, but still leaving something to the imagination. She shook slightly as she poured out the last few measurements. I stood transfixed. It was only after David coughed I realised I was quite noticeably staring at her arse. David and Beth both shot me amused looks. David then gave the subtlest of nods, arching his eyebrows and looking over at our new guest. The look translated into English perfectly as: 'Talk to her'. “You want something to mix that with?” I asked as soon as she'd finished. “That's sweet” she said, smiling, but with a hint of something else, “You got any cranberry juice?” “We do.” “How 'bout orange juice?” “Coming right up.” I walked to the fridge next to her and pulled out both cartons. “We don't have any peach schnapps though.” “Well it's not Sex on the Beach without the schnapps.” she replied, taking the cartons off me and fixing up her drink all the same. I resisted the urge to make cocktail jokes. I noticed, this time, that she barely leant over to pour her drink at all. “I suppose you'll have to make do.” I said, collecting the cartons and placing them back in the fridge when she was done. I turned so I was standing next to her, the two of us leaning on the countertop “You got some nice juices.” she decided after a sip. In the moment it took me to think of a response, she'd already continued talking. “looks like we're alone” I hadn't realised until she said it, but she was right. I turned to look at her; there was no doubt about it, she was gorgeous, and a mile out of my league. “So tell me a little about you, Eve, what's your story?” “Oh I think you know.” she said coyly, rolling her eyes and smiling at me. I was taken aback, I really had no idea what she meant. “Sorry, I really don't.” “Typical.” she laughed, she was unnervingly light-hearted, “You don't remember.” “Remember what?” I replied, worried. I was a bit of a drinker, but I'd never forgotten a one night stand, though I was being hopeful when I even considered that. “We've met before” she answered. “I think I would have remembered you” I said, inadvertently undressing her with my eyes. “Well, Benjamin, I suppose I'll just reintroduce myself.” She smiled whole-heartedly, holding out her hand for me to shake, “My name is Eve Rose.” “That's a very pretty name.” I shook her hand as I spoke, her expression changed from a smile to a giggle. “Now you're just repeating yourself.” she said, letting go of my hand. “Sorry” I said, beginning to feel like it was all some crude prank, “I'm” “Benjamin Baker.” she interrupted me, “I remember names.” I waited about for a few moments, the awkwardness was unbearable. She knew me, of that I was certain, but I couldn't remember anything about her. It was maddening. That's when she said the strangest thing of all. “You still like to be called Benjamin, right?” she said, laughing lightly. I nodded slowly, confused, I hadn't answered to Benjamin before tonight since at least seven months ago. There was a growing fear that overpowered my embarrassment. She was enjoying this too much. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I began to form a picture. She somehow read this on my face and leaned forwards. “Here, let me jog your memory.” she kissed me lightly on the cheek, then pulled away and smiled at me. In a second I'm looking out on a field. The sun is setting, casting long strands of gold across the blue sky. Shadows stretch out behind clouds, forming ripples in the sky like twisting bedcovers. There are faces I just barely remember mingling to and inbetween the step I'm sitting on, but I paid no attention. In the distance ahead, someone is walking by. I blinked and found myself once again looking into Eve's magnificent blue eyes. “I should probably get back to David and Chris.” I stammered, walking for the door. “What's the rush?” She asked back with an almost childlike innocence. “I have to pour the next round.” She looked at me vacantly, “It's a thing we have.” She shrugged and followed me back to the others. On any other night I may have tried, but there was something in the way she kissed my cheek. My mind fluttered back to that memory that seemed a lifetime ago. I couldn't place it, but there it was. A face glancing at me briefly from across a summer evening. Her face had changed, but her eyes never could. Those deep brown eyes. That was the night I met Sarah.
4 Some time later Amy and two of her friends arrived. I recognized them from college, very pretty, but I'd never spoken to them. I scarcely said a word as they entered. To be honest, I can't remember even acknowledging their existence. The embers of a fiery memory were glowing before my eyes, obscuring the importance of events around me. Time would pass and they would cool and cease, then a simple breeze of thought would revive them. I began moving through two opposing emotional states. The first of bliss; A shear lack of care. A love of life and all things temporary and ethereal. For lack of a more concise definition, it was an embracing of the present. The second was a darker nostalgia, roots of unrequited love buried in a haunting memory that seemed to have been born that night. I hungered to recover the thought, to be one with it again, but every sense I remembered pulled heavily on me. One moment I was free falling through life, and the next I was buried up to my neck in it. For the hundredth time that night I tried to escape it. The number of guests grew unimaginably. It seemed inappropriate for so many people to be awake so late – yet here they were. It was like they had been called; Perhaps they had been. Most of the time when I saw new arrivals, as I drifted between the rooms of the house and observed them, they would approach the woman in the red cocktail dress. It was like they'd waited the whole night just to hear her name spoken, without ever realising why. To some she appeared as a siren. They could not leave her presence. Others saw her as something more holy or sinister. This wasn't limited to the male guests either; everyone had beauty to learn from her presence. I decided, after a while, to meet some of my guests. I approached a kid with messy brown hair. He looked younger than most of the guests, but not much, maybe seventeen. He was sitting on the armchair when I found him, another piece of furniture David brought home one day. I sat down on the arm. “Enjoying the party?” I asked. He was distracted, and took a few seconds to answer. “Yeah.” his voice trailed off, “Who are you?” he asked, turning to look at me. “I'm Benjamin, this is my house.” I explained. Before I could ask for his name he was already talking. “Oh! So you live with Eve?” his expression lifted into something haplessly enthusiastic. “No.” I shook my head and smiled at his naivety, “I just met her tonight, she doesn't live here.” His head turned from me and he muttered under his breath. I had little desire to hear what he'd said. He raised his hand and sipped from his bottle, which I noticed was empty. “You want me to get you another drink?” I asked, but his mind was somewhere else. I patted him on the shoulder and stood up. “Have a good night then.” He didn't flinch. As I approached David to get another drink, I saw a red blur move by the doorway in front of me. He was talking to Amy's friends when I found him, no doubt working some kind of wingman angle. I joined him in the frontline. “Alright, David.” I greeted him, then turned to Amy's friends. “You two arrived with Amy, didn't you? I'm Benjamin.” I shook their hands, their names were Jamie and Nicole. “Anyway, Benjamin, I was just about to get the ladies a drink. Take care of them while I'm gone.” “Sure thing. Get me one too.” As David left I turned to the two friends. Chris had been head over heels for Amy for some time, and it was my solemn duty to make sure these two didn't interrupt them. “So tell me about yourselves.” The two of them did a shy shuffle. A sort of dance of glances to see who would speak first. Jamie took the reigns. “Well we're both kind of artists.” she said quite confidently, “I'm into graphics and Nicole is more of a painter.” “That's really cool. Do you have any pictures? I'd love to see.” “Sure! Nicole has photos on her phone.” “You don't wanna see them.” Nicole laughed with feigned modesty, “They're really not that good.” “Rubbish, show him The Librarian.” Hesitantly, Nicole took out her phone and began scrolling through her photos, with all the genuine stealth of a teenage girl. After a while she arrived at the photo and stopped hiding the screen. She passed it over to me. It was a black and white painting of an attractive woman looking down at something in her hands. Her fingers were perched on parted lips, her expression focused and intrigued. Very subtly on the reflection of her glasses, I could make out words painstakingly drawn mirrored. It was a far more impressive work than I'd been expecting. “This is brilliant.” I said, beaming from ear to ear, “Seriously, keep at this.” I was just finishing the compliment when David returned carrying four bottles. Two lagers for us, two alcopops for the girls. I showed him the picture. “Yeah, I've seen this. It's hung up in the art department of college.” he turned to Nicole, “So you're that Nicole, eh? You must have got full marks for this beauty.” “Pretty close yeah.” she said nervously, “Jamie nearly did too. She did this awesome comic thing!” “That sounds so nerdy” Jamie laughed, rolling her eyes, “It's what we had to do it on.” “We believe you.” David stated sarcastically, putting his arm around her shoulder and rubbing her arm humorously. I opened my bottle and began drinking. The night warmed terrifically, and some time after my conversation with Nicole and Jamie my previous experiences of the night were well and truly blurred. A fictional event seasoned with overdone emotions – I placed them out of mind. The characters of the room span more and more into fanciful colours and laughs and smiles and crude behaviour. I collapsed onto the couch, where I had been sitting not a moment before the guests started arriving. I was not sure how long I'd been out of my seat, or how long the drinking game had been abandoned, but something felt off. I looked to my right, the powerful presence of Eve captained the seat by mine. She was sitting with a tall glass I wasn't even aware we owned, sipping on a straw and watching nearby antics through the television screen – so as to avoid detection. She bit her lip and smiled as she saw the raunchier couples roll over each other meters away. Slapped across her face, an alarming mixture of disappointment and arousal. Without moving her eyes she began talking. “Look who's lightened up.” “How would you even know?” I joked, “You're not looking.” Her attention turned from her faux-television 'entertainment' and to yours truly. “Better?” She asked without a hint of earnest. My eyes darted as I searched for an answer. She was showing enough thigh to make the nuns down the road shriek profusely, but she continued to leave just enough to the imagination. Her clothing was just an extension of her personality. “Much.” I replied, throwing her a cheeky smile, “You have to let me know where we've met.” I admitted at last, the strange imagination from before still ebbing in my mind's eye. “That takes the fun from the game, dear. I'd rather let you figure it out yourself.” “You have no idea how uncomfortable that makes me.” I confessed, trying to hide my honesty with laughter. “Benjamin, sometimes there are things you don't get to know; things you shouldn't know. You can't let that stop you from acting.” There was a sinister honesty to the words she uttered, like they could be brandished in all situations and find meaning there. Her lips were half open, waiting to close the statement she had begun, but the first half begged me not to hear it. I leant forward and kissed her, my fingertips brushing through her hair. She tasted sweet; forbidden. She put her hands on my chest and gently pushed me away, not much, just enough to speak. I hung weightless for inches of time, waiting for something, anything, to interrupt the silence between our lips. “That's more like it.” her voice was like song as she embraced me and kissed me back. Barely a moment passed, however, before she pushed me down and stood up. “But you'll have to do better than that next time!” she waltzed away from me and disappeared into the crowd. I was left perplexed and determined by her sudden swing of passion. Vices had taken me before, but never to this extent. She was the entirety and extent of man's pursuit of beauty, and even if I had just one more chance, that was two chances more than the rest of the world. Life had taught me only one thing: You cannot make an opportunity. My personal key to happiness was to try when I could, and forget when I couldn't, and while it did not always work, it served me well. With this in mind, I made no attempt to find Eve among the crowd of the party, which had somehow grown far beyond the meager number we had originally invited. An arm reached around me, and pulled me into a torso that embraced me. “Benjamin” David shouted enthusiastically. I was about to reply when he pointed me towards the kitchen. Inside Chris and his love interest were locked together, eating each other's faces ravenously. David and I laughed. “Mission Accomplished” “Not quite.” Benjamin said, turning to me. His face suddenly solemn. “Someone's been asking for you. It seems serious.” He looked me in the eye, as serious as I'd ever seen him, “Benjamin, what did you do?” “Who has asking?” “Some guy. Answer the question.” I turned around. I could see straight down the hallway and out the front door. The kid stood outside, embers glowing in his hand. He gave me the faintest of nods from behind a veil of cigarette smoke. “I have to go.” I answered, then I walked towards his unmoving gaze.
5 “Stay away from her.” he ordered as I came outside. The command wasn't violent or aggressive, it sounded more considered; serious. “Eve?” he nodded, “She seems the type to make her own choices.” “I know.” his voice was cold, calculative, he wasn't acting out of emotion. This was something different. “I'm going to speak to her next.” “She'll listen to you?” “She'll listen to me.” He stood focused while I shivered. “I'm sorry.” “Why are you sorry?” I asked, my blood boiling. I wasn't angry at him, but I couldn't contain my curiosity. The past few hours had been a descent from heartbreak into madness, and it began with her and that memory, and it ended with whoever the man before me was. “Because this is my fault.” he took another drag of his cigarette and continued, “Not just her; Other things that have happened to you.” “Like what?” I asked, beginning to feel like he was insane, or I was. “Sarah.” The name hit me like a kick in the throat. I nearly killed him there and then, but he looked me in the eye and I saw him. I saw the real him. He had the same eyes as Eve, eyes that knew something, eyes that were old. “Who are you?” “Eventually you'll meet her again, trust me, and I won't fuck it up next time.” he spoke with absolute certainty. I'd barely registered what he said when he walked inside. I noticed, as he left, he was still carrying the empty bottle. I stood outside for a while. I thought maybe if she did try to leave, I could get the whole story out of them, but they never came. Dawn started breaking, and a few people left, but most people stayed inside and crashed on the couches. Eventually I went back inside. I asked everyone I saw, and I checked every room, but there was no sign of either of them. It was like they both disappeared the second he left me. I sat down next to David after some time, utterly perplexed. The night as a remedy for my sorrows had turned into a tragic failure. “How did the party go?” I asked, desperate to remove myself from what had just happened. “That depends on how you're doing. That was the point, remember?” he laughed, but I could tell he was somewhat agitated. “I'm fine. Better. Trust me when I say that what happened is a million miles away now.” I lied, but I did it well. “That's good, and what about Eve? I heard you kissed.” “Just a kiss. She left after that.” “I don't know how to tell you this.” David began, something was clearly weighing heavily on his mind, “I saw her go upstairs with that guy you were talking to. I didn't see them come down, but I checked the rooms and they're not there.” “I checked too. That is odd though.” “I must have missed them. Sorry.” “It's ok... I don't know who they were, but I don't think I was robbed.” “No?” “No... They were something else. I think I should forget the whole thing, at least for a while.” The words were my own, but I could barely imagine myself saying them. “Anyway” He said, a grin spreading across his face, “Jess and Nicole are kicking around somewhere. You in?” “I don't know man... I'm feeling tired.” “Do a friend a favour?” I considered it, and he looked back with sympathetic eyes. They were almost lonely. “I'll talk to one of them.” “Jess.” “I'll talk to Jess. Have you got a thing for Nicole?” “We hit it off, I think.” “Okay. I'll talk to Jess then. Just talking, though, I don't want to complicate my love life any further.” “Thank you” he sang-spoke, lifting himself from the couch. We made out way upstairs together. David stopped at the top, perplexed. “What's the matter?” I asked, my voice shaking with uncertainty. “They were here.” “Maybe they're in your room.” I laughed, “Maybe my services won't be necessary.” We walked down the corridor to David's room. Sure enough, they were inside. Tucked beneath the covers like a child – a drunken child anyway – was Jess. Nicole walked over to us. “I think she's had a bit much to drink, just passed out on me. Do you mind?” We shook our heads and gestured for her to follow us. We made our way downstairs again. David and Nicole headed for the couch, I went for the door. “Aren't you joining us?” Nicole asked. It was the kind of question which, to be read honestly, should be inverted. She really wanted to know whether I was going to interrupt them. “I'm gonna go for a walk, clear my head.” I answered, “see if I can't walk off the alcohol.” I didn't wait for a reply. I headed out the door and into the cutting cold. No idea where I was going to walk to, I picked a direction and began. It was as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. The sun was rising behind me, but before me there was still a murky blue darkness. I realised after some time that I was heading to the park. The lake froze during winter, and I found the image tantalizingly beautiful. To tell the truth, I felt drawn. I arrived sooner than I thought I would. Despite the ice I must have walked quickly. A handful of birds sang welcomes to the morning in a nearby barren tree; it was all very haunting. As I approached a worn bench I had unofficially made my spot, I heard something from across the lake. I slowed my approach and tried to hear, but they were too far away. I couldn't even see them. I sat down and continued to peer, I could just about make out shapes in the distance. “Benjamin, I assume.” A voice inquired from next to me. I couldn't recall him sitting down, but I immediately stood up in reaction. “Please.” he requested, “sit down.” I did. “Who are you?” I asked, looking upon his unfamiliar face. He didn't look at me, but I could still see his eyes were like the others': Powerful. “I've never thought that question was worth asking. People will tell you who they are if they want you to know. No more, no less.” His voice was heavy with burden and purpose. After a moment he turned to me. The sleeve of his shirt was rolled up on his left forearm, revealing an intricate tattoo. The tattoo seemed to move ever so slightly as he did. “Your tattoo is moving.” “You shouldn't believe what you see in a dream.” “Are you saying this is a dream?” I swallowed hard, gripping the bench to check it was real. “I'm saying you should believe it is. Reality is rarely a comfort.” I looked away for a moment, too drunk to register the events happening to me. In the center of the lake I could see Eve and the kid from the party arguing about something. I felt the stranger by my side grab my wrist. I looked down in time to see small spiders of ink crawl from his arm and onto mine. I wanted to panic, but they soon disappeared and replaced me with a calm disposition. “What's going on?” I mumbled, watching the red and black blurs in the distance converse. “Something impossible.” The stranger whispered. Before I could think of an appropriate response, the kid disappeared and Eve began walking towards us. I couldn't tell you whether I had just witnessed a miracle or whether my mind was decaying before my eyes. “I don't want it to be like this.” I lamented. I was slowly collapsing into his lap, his hand stroked my hair. I didn't struggle, I allowed the air and the poison in me to suffocate my consciousness and take me, but I didn't struggle. I felt tears roll down my cheek, for the first time in years. The sun was just rising over the approaching red figure, who I began to realise was so much more dangerous than I first thought. I couldn't see her expression, and then eventually I couldn't see anything at all. I felt her hands cup my face, and she kissed me on the cheek like before. “From here,” she said soothingly, “Things will get better, I promise.” The memory of her began returning, as the world around me faded. Soon I could no longer feel their touch, or the harsh bite of the closing winter. Eventually I was just a boy stood on a step, admiring the pretty colours of the sky. Then, that faded too. I vaguely remember thinking whether David's sexual escapades were worth me dying for, but I probably thought that long afterwards and added it to the memory. It's funny like that, most of what I remember from that night seems inaccurate, made up, or at least exaggerated. Except for one thing: When I woke up the next day in my own bed, feeling surprisingly healthy, something happened. Things began to get better. 6 It was early afternoon. The rich aroma of coffee drifted around the house. I came to my senses almost immediately and deduced the situation: It was a compulsion of Chris's, after a party, to make sure everyone got a wake-up drink, so there must have been a party, and people must be heading home. I picked myself up out of my bed and walked down the stairs. The memories of the night before gradually came back, but it became difficult to distinguish dream from reality. In my mind's eye the events came to, but in the wrong order, so much so that I knew some of it must be fantasy. I resolved to believe whatever I was told happened, as usual. I walked through to the kitchen and found Amy sipping on a mug filled with what looked like tea. She brought the mug down from her lips with both hands and smiled at me. To my left, Chris was stirring two cups of coffee. He slid away from me slightly and pushed the cup closest to me toward me. “Milk, one sugar.” he chirped. I looked over at Amy and began putting the pieces together. “Cheers.” I grabbed the cup and began drinking from it. It was hot, really hot, scolding even, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from fending off my tiredness. “How long was I out?” “Not too long.” Chris took out his phone and checked the time, “Let's see. David said he heard you come in at about five, and it's just past twelve now.” “Did I say anything when I came in?” “You'll have to ask David.” Chris sipped from his mug, “I think he's giving Jess a lift home, she's pretty fucking rough.” “Yeah she would be” I laughed, remembering her passed out in David's bed. “What about Nicole?” “She's with him too, I think. I found 'em spooning on the couch this morning when I came down.” “Adorable” “It was.” Amy agreed. It was then I noticed she was wearing one of Chris's dressing gowns. The one I got him for his birthday a few months earlier. “Nice robe.” I teased. She squinted at me, her lips drawn back into a thin line of faux contempt. She was shorter than Chris, and the end of the dressing gown dragged across the floor as she walked over to him – but that wasn't what I was joking about. “I spilt some rum on her.” Chris explained, “Accidentally. Her clothes are in the wash now so I leant her this.” “A likely story,” I answered with a wink. “Go back to bed, you prick.” Chris retorted, grinning from ear to ear. He looked away from my eyes and eventually found himself looking at Amy. Hesitantly he put his arm around her and the two hugged. “Careful you two,” I continued lightheartedly, “This is a PG kitchen.” Chris cast me an unamused glare, but I could see he was stifling a smile. “I'm gonna do some damage control. Try not to stain anything while I'm gone.” I left, mug in hand, knowing the two of them would be glowing red. I sometimes got kicks off of that, making things awkward for people. I scoured the house methodically, as I had done so many times before. Aside from some bottles and cans in the corridor of the house, it was spotless. I made my way right, towards the front door, and then right again into the lounge. I tried to be quiet this time; an unfamiliar face was passed out on one of the couches. The room was looking worse for wear: photos from David's travels a few months ago littered the room, a frame just to the left of the fireplace has hanging crooked, the room was ankle deep in various different cans and bottles, it didn't look like anything major though. Then I saw it. As I came back out of the room, into the corridor, I caught my reflection in the grandfather clock. The glass in front of the pendulum was brandishing a small but noticeable fracture. I decided I'd tell Chris once I finished inspecting.
I forgot to mention last time, there is the occasional use of local slang in what I write. The only one I can think of here is 'sessioners'. I don't know how wide spread this is, but to be 'on the session' is to be drinking. A sessioner is therefore someone who drinks well and keeps going, also known as a top sessioner, while a half-sessioner would be someone who passes out early, 'can't cut the session', or otherwise shows signs of weakness. Yes, this is an incredibly poor example of responsible drinking, but I felt it was necessary to show otherwise responsible characters still being a part of binge drinking culture - because that's how it is in my experiences. Just thought I'd clear that up. If there's anything else in there feel free to bring it up. As always criticism is deeply desired.
Warning!this post may contain sarcasm, please re-read it in a funny voice The old spoiler was out of control, it had to be stopped.