I’ve finally started work after a couple of months that felt a very lot as if my brain had packed its bags and left the building. While it has popped by for a visit, it seems to have done so with caveats.
1. We will not edit anything that might make sense in the scheme of things.
2. Instead, we will edit a stand alone novel with characters about a decade younger than usual. Post grad best-mates sharing their very first flat.
3. We will not wonder why we are proceeding with said cunning plan, which makes no sense. Whatsoever.
I suspect it’s watched Venom too many times, but what do I know?
Here are the first 2 chapters of the new story, perchance you wish to read them…
The First Day of Forever
Today is the first day of forever…Mattie wrote. Or, it would be, if it was up to him.
‘Today I boarded the bullet train to Bedlam’ might’ve been a bit more truthful, but his diary didn’t often concern itself with such trivialities. It was Mattie’s dreamscape, a place to stash the daydreams he couldn’t really share with his best mate—well, he could—but that would probably be last thing he ever did. In truth, the outcome would very much depend on the mood of said mate at the time. Mattie hadn’t mentioned this either. Mostly ’cause that would be a surefire way of assuring that Curt’s mood swings came to a clattering halt. Not in a fun way. Thus, Matt had determined on keeping his lip buttoned on this most perfect of days, to ensure it remained exactly that.
There must be no Mattie mishaps on their very first day in their new flat. Or it might be well be their last. Now he’d just have to hope that he remembered; being far too fond of forgetting his best intentions the moment Curt Baxter prowled into a room. In his own defence? Curtis promptly became, without exception, the most distracting presence in it. Worse still, the scoundrel could pull this off even when he wasn’t—no—particularly when he wasn’t present. A fact that doomed Mattie to spending the entire time fretting about where the fuck Curt had elected to be instead. Instead of with his best mate, with whom he did most everything. Except the multitude of things Mattie must not long for most. Not least when he already had more of Curt than most were ever gifted…even those fortune favoured with everything Mattie ached to get his mitts on.
All he could do,
was hope—hard—that Curtis never found out just how much. No matter how distracted Matt found himself. While it was
all too…apparent that Mattie craved more than most besties coveted, Curt had
neither backed off, nor let that infringe on their friendship. It had remained every
bit as tactile as it had always been, which was as torturous as it was
Mattie knew that Curtis loved him—he said so whenever he was squiffy—it was just that this love was returned a mite more effusively than was customary. Perhaps prefixed by the word ‘in’. Two letters—a whole world of difference—but there was bugger-all Mattie could do about it, so he would just have to suck it up (if only) and savour every second of all he had. Rather than bemoan what might never be.
This was the advice of his very best self, and Mattie had done his damnedest to pay heed. It didn’t help that there was no telling which flatmate he might find himself shacked up with from one minute to the next. It would be akin to living with a crew of Curts, which would be bloody brilliant…if they all wanted the same thing. Or, at least shared the same sensibilities. Then Mattie might have been able to persuade himself that he was pissing in the wind—but the truth was—they did not. Despite Curt’s oft declared straight-as-a-die disposition.
Curt Baxter was a living juxtaposition. Mattie had never met someone who emanated such an air of louche confidence—until you scratched the surface—and found yourself freeze-dried by the icy knot of dread crouched in his guts. His quicksilver wit was never more withering than when turned upon himself, so quite how he’d survived it thus far, Mattie knew not. Curtis was the most contrary creature on earth…and the most compelling. He was not only drop-dead gorgeous, he oozed far too much sex for comfort. Mattie’s. A chipper Curt was so luminous that his emerald gaze glowed like Kryptonite…but the minute he donned his trusty black dog backpack, that laser glare was as lethal as absinthe.
Matters had taken a toxic turn for the worse of late, after Curt got it into his barmy brain that he was going to wind up living on his tod in a dark bedsit, watching daytime telly and surviving on ready-meals-for-one. A dismal scenario he’d most likely cooked up watching too many kitchen-sink drama productions at work. To ensure that Curt’s (melo)dramatic descent into despair didn’t continue apace, or something such, Mattie had declared that it was high time they rustled up a cunning plan.
In truth, ‘plan’ sounded a tad too prescriptive. Mattie’s ideas were more akin to tatty old maps stashed in the attic, it must be admitted, but he wasn’t fussed where they wound up. The only matter of import was Matt’s companion on the journey itself. To cut a trip with many ruts in the road short; it had been decided that Messrs. Andrews and Baxter would find themselves a den of iniquity (pronounced ‘base’ apparently) from which to plot their magical mystery tour to Nirvana. Or thereabouts. A destiny as divine as a certain derrière. Almost.
The beginning of their forever was pinpointed on Mattie’s map as Hampden Road, Hornsey, N8. Curtis took one look at their new bedsit and declared it a hovel. No sense of romance whatsoever, some folk. It was very charming. In certain lights. If you squinted a bit. The ramshackle collection of rickety relics that rendered it ‘furnished’ perhaps explained why Curt had declared it could have come straight from an Osborne stage set. A comparison that stretched the truth a smidge, ‘cause they didn’t have an iron to plug into the light fitting. Not matter, it was as cheap as chips, which cancelled out all such technicalities.
The front door was a bit dodgy, so their best bet would be to enter and exit via the window instead. This would save having to slam it hard enough to shatter its titchy windows, so it was fortunate that they lived on the ground floor. Not least, when climbing a ladder after a session on the sauce perhaps wouldn’t end well. The merest sniff of a mishap might also aggravate their upstairs neighbours, who seemed to be self-appointed minions of the noise pollution police. This, despite forever clomping across the ceiling in bloody great Doc Marten boots.
Mattie still wasn’t sure how he’d managed to persuade Curtis to live with him. Not ‘living together’ as his lordship was at pains to point out, perchance anyone had the temerity to presume they were fuck-buddies. A VIP VBT on Curt’s list. Mattie didn’t actually give a toss why he’d agreed it was a bang-up plan—he had—which was the be-all and end-all o’matters.
Whatever Curtis had guzzled beforehand may have sealed the deal, unless he’d decided that being bored to death was best averted by bidding adieu to his sanity. Not that Mattie was in any position to cast aspersions; plotting how best to wrangle his way into Curt’s undercrackers possibly wasn’t the wisest of pastimes.
Quite how Mattie was going to survive sleeping next to Curt on the mattress they’d rescued from the tip, was something he was doing his utmost not to contemplate. For more than twenty-three hours a day, ‘cause that would have been excessive. Nonetheless, brave soldier that he was, Mattie had determined on making the best of it. Hopefully.
Curt had left Mattie to unpack his stuff while he popped
to the shop to purchase a few necessaries and their supper. He would
undoubtedly return laden with lager, tea-bags, bananas, bread and cigarettes. If he was feeling benevolent, Curtis might
bring Coco-Pops. Knowing that your entire evening could be accurately predicted
by the purchase—or not—of a box of cereal that turned the milk chocolatey? Prob’ly
summed up their relationship a treat.
Nevertheless, tonight they were going to celebrate their brave new world with a bucket of fried chicken. Mattie had developed an unquenchable appetite for it, as was his wont when he was partial to something. An addiction that was possibly healthier than his penchant for rum, smokes and certain emerald-eyed men. How the hell they were going to live together without killing each other was beyond the bounds of logic—but it made a lot more sense than quadratic equations—and they’d been deemed essential to survival. So was Curtis.
Logic was not Mattie’s very best thing, it must be confessed, nor did he concern himself with it overmuch. That was Curt’s department. They’d always seemed to sort of finish each other off. It didn’t matter whether they were scrapping or sitting in a cafe scoffing bacon butties, there had always been one constant in their friendship. A sacred, sacrosanct something—an indefinable fizzle—from the first day they met. It was as incomprehensible as it was undeniable. Unless your name was Curt Baxter, o’course.
Every time they had a stonking row, Matt tried to convince himself that staying away would solve a multitude of problems. It would make life so much easier for a start. It wouldn’t be worth living. Doing so in a state of sex-starved frustration seemed a minor inconvenience when compared to the fact Mattie would be doing so with Curtis. It was simple; Matt would rather live in purgatory with Curt, than give up the hope holding him hostage.
This, despite the doom ‘n’ gloom days when he despaired of ever being gifted so much as a(nother) drunken fumble Curtis could forget by morn. An incident that was Mattie’s most prized and precious memory of all. Squirrelled away in his diary and shared with nary a soul.
One incomparable, incandescent night that convinced Mattie
he wasn’t as deluded as he was daft. An occasion so memorable that he would never
forget it until the day he popped his clogs; a party at which the lights were
low, the broom cupboard pitch-black and the punch free-flowing. An evening when
Curt had slurped himself into such a sozzled state, he seemed to have lost all
sense of geometry. So much so, he appeared to believe that he was locked in a
clinch with a leggy lovely, gifted with hands the size of say…a man well over
six foot tall. Odd that.
Curt returned from his shopping spree clutching two
carrier bags and accompanied by the delectable waft of KFC. A triple whammy of
wondrous bulging with tempting treats; a multiple assault on the senses so
staggering it made Mattie’s tongue tingle as if he’d shoved it into a socket.
“Welcome home,” he beamed, while retrieving the bursting bags so’s Curtis could clamber through the window. Curt just rolled those glorious greens but did bestow a hair ruffle on Mattie when he landed beside him. It was all Matt could do not to push against his palm like a contented cat and purr with pleasure. Instead, with a supreme effort of aforementioned will, he took himself off to stash the bags in their little kitchenette. Setting aside the two six-packs of lager for a mo, Mattie peered into the carriers and espied cigs, bread, bananas, milk, tea, sugar, nary a ready-meal…and a bumper box of Coco-Pops.
Ha. He loves me really…Mattie hummed to himself. His days were often
punctuated by the plucking of petals one by one. He loves me, loves me not, loves me…on an endless loop-the-loop.
Never had a box of Coco-Pops seemed so serendipitous. Mattie was still sporting
an ear-licking grin while stashing the lager in the fridge. In their own
kitchenette. In their own flat. Said refrigerator was ancient and made the most
alarming noise when it rumbled to life doing its charging thing—or whatever it was
that fridges did to amuse themselves—but it was theirs.
Shopping…scattered, Mattie plonked their bucket of chicken on the table with two cans of lukewarm lager. Supper was scrumptious. As was the sight of Curt scoffing it; teeth tearing into the succulent flesh of a drumstick, interspersed by tantalizing flicks of tongue that slithered across glistening lips. This had nothing whatsoever to do with Mattie’s addiction to the Colonel’s secret recipe…but suffice to say, it didn’t help matters much. Finger-licking good being the very definition of ‘understatement’. Watching a digit disappear into Curt’s cakehole to suck the grease off was a dessert to die for. If only it could ever come complete with a cherry on top.
“Curt, will you get your guitar and play something for
me?” Mattie asked when he’d polished off his supper. “I have words flitting…where
are the pens?”
“God knows, there might be one in the pocket of my leather. Failing that, you might actually have to unpack one of those.” Curt inclined his head towards the pile of carrier bags in the corner. The ones Matt had, um, forgotten about when his lordship popped to the shops.
Instead of parrying that slice of snark with a spot of impertinence, Mattie kept schtum as he rooted around for a pen. Mostly ’cause he didn’t have a leg to stand on, but he also wanted Curt to play more than he wanted to wind him up. Mattie was pretty sure the notebook was in the pocket of his coat, which was p’raps pointless without a pen, but one of those could usually be procured, whereas a pad could not. You couldn’t cram many lyrics onto a bus ticket.
“What d’you want me to play?” Curt asked, after fetching
his guitar from his own immaculate stash of stuff and seating himself at the
“Whatever comes into your head. A melody sprinkled with
minor chords, without being too melancholic?”
“That shouldn’t be a problem, I don’t feel miserable.”
Curt paused for a moment as a smile twerked the corner of his still shiny lips.
“I feel pretty chipper, actually,” he blinked, more than a mite bemused by his
Mattie’s heart soared, out-fluttering his thoughts as he gazed at Curt’s radiant face; lit up by the devilish grin aglint in his eyes. Illuminating the whole room, and Mattie’s world with it. He knew he could endure months, years, decades of the black-dog despair that clouded Curt’s brow, for one iridescent moment of his happiness.
Curtis started to strum softly, a melody that rippled from magical fingertips to shimmer down Mattie’s spine. Letting his eyelids slide shut, he watched the words flit through his thoughts for a wee while…then began to scribble furiously. His pen could scarce keep up with the letters that spilled forth, scattering themselves across the page as Mattie watched Curt’s clever fingers dance across the strings, coaxing out an intricate tapestry of sound.
Whenever they sat down to work on a new song, Mattie could scarce bring himself to believe it would still be there. That invisible thread tugged as taut as a guitar string between them. Twanging with the torrent of stuff that simmered beneath the surface. Feelings wrangled into rhyme, gifting them a veil of validity. Lust unexpressed, secrets suppressed. Their very essence encapsulated in song; Curt’s melodies entwined with Mattie’s words.
It was the only way Curtis could allow them a tangible form without fear of...fucknows what. It was enough—more than enough—half of Curt was twice as much as anyone else could ever be. While it would be a travesty of truth to suggest that there was nothing on earth Mattie would rather do than make music with Curt; he could at least cling to the fact that his fingers were gainfully occupied with a pen in the meantime.
Their new neighbours didn’t seem quite so delighted by their efforts as they were. Every time Curt
started to strum so much as a fragrant chord, a cacophony of banging on the
ceiling caused a plaster shower to rain down on their barnets.
“Damn cheek, they stomp louder than you strum. If this keeps up, we’ll be saddled with shocking dandruff.”
“I’m more worried what we might pick up from that mattress, frankly.” Curt muttered, casting it a shifty side-eye. He did have a point. Mattie was starting to fear for his pulling prowess. Curtis would no doubt not have to concern himself with such minor inconveniences. He only had to prowl into a room with a wicked gleam in those glinty greens and women’s knickers fell off.
“I very much doubt you need to worry, I’d still wind up
spending half of my life kipping on the sofa.”
“On the sofa!? What d’you think this is…? The Playhouse?”
“Good thinking, I’ll put some popcorn on the shopping
list,” Mattie noted, as breezy as y’please, while springing from his seat to
haphazardly gather the debris of their supper stuff from the table. If only to
conceal the fact that his face was far too fond of revealing more than his flat-mate
cared to see reflected there.
“Are you fed up of living?” Curt snorted.
“That’s your department, dear Curtis. Well, that and
chucking me out of my bloomin’ bed.”
“Chance would be a fine thing…again.” Mattie muttered the last bit under his breath, which was
promptly cut off by a flying blur of green and gold when Curt launched himself
forwards and barrelled into Matt like a bowling ball. He didn’t even have time
to brace himself—if that was even possible—he’d never tested this theory. Strangely
So, down they went in a tangle of limbs, Curtis splayed atop him. After making a swift grab for Mattie’s wrists, the scoundrel wrestled them to the floor either side of his head and sat back with an air of triumph. Mattie could scarce blink, let alone rustle up any sort of response, cos the lush tush was now sat atop his belly; a fact that caused chaos a few inches behind said butt, resulting in an acute case of cripple-cock. To make matters worse, should Curtis happen to shift back a bit, he would find himself perched on faarr too much info. This would be a Very Bad Thing. Tragically, Mattie’s list of VBTs tended to encompass his Very Best Things too…which was, of course, another VBT.
“Oh dear, you seem to have run out of hands to clobber me
with,” Mattie pointed out, after somehow snatching enough air to speak.
“In case you haven’t noticed, I have a head,” Curt smirked.
Oh yes, Curt certainly did…and Mattie had. Noticed. Here ‘n’ there. That was a bit of a fib. He’d done a mite more than that; under cover of darkness, while wearing his trusty feminine fingers. Thinking about that, roundabout then was also a VBT, on accounts of volcanic consequences in the pants department.
Mattie’s list of VBT’s was swiftly assuming Andrex proportions. They’d soon be able to paper the flat with it, should they fancy doing a spot of decorating.
There was something most odd about Curt’s mood tonight. Rather than becoming miffed if Matt pushed him too far, it felt more as if Curt might shatter if Mattie so much as touched him with an untoward fingertip. That was a thought destined for the top of the list, so Mattie did his damnedest to stash it away to ponder later, when he couldn’t sleep. A feat he might never manage again…but that seemed very small price to pay for being snuggled up to Curt on a single mattress. Even upside down.
Quite what Curtis hoped to achieve by this top-to-tail arrangement was unfathomable. It was way too close to an oft-dreamed VBT to ever be considered a comfy prospect…
Curt had left Mattie with strict instructions to unpack his stuff, knowing full well that he would return to find one, maybe two, bags upended on the floor and scattered like an explosion in a thrift shop across the threadbare carpet. Having unearthed some bit of tat that entranced him anew, it would be examined with a reverence most would reserve for the Sistine Chapel.
He was willing to bet a box of Coco-bloody-Pops that this was where the unpacking would screech to a halt. There Matt would remain; as would the sea of detritus he was sat amidst. This would no doubt stay exactly where was, until Curt couldn’t stand it for another second and crammed it all back into the bags. All too soon afterwards, Mattie would announce that he’d ‘lost’ something and upend the lot in a scramble to find it. Until, of course, he happened upon a long-lost treasure far more irresistible than the (now forgotten) thing he’d initially sought.
It had not escaped Curt’s notice that this was uncannily akin to a life spent with Mattie. Full stop. A bloody minefield. One he seemed to have felt compelled to spend the last three years blundering through. So much so, that Curt had now deemed it a cunning plan to pitch a tent in it.
Marvellous. His mood had all too swiftly turned maudlin. Ten minutes ago, Curt had felt far too satisfied with his lot. He had finally allowed himself to do what he most wanted—feared—and had been enjoying his moment of victory over the snake pit of anxiety forever seething in his guts. The gnawing in his nuts was a different matter, but that had only been true for about…three years.
Curt knew why. Of course, he did. It was hard to ignore—a sentence that said much more than it ought—but he did his damnedest to. He just didn’t want to lose his best mate. The friend Curt had spent his whole life longing for but had given up hope of finding. Someone he could be himself with, rather than having to assume a persona to be ‘popular’. Liked. How pathetic that sounded—even in his head—which didn’t make it any less true. He’d always nurtured the hope he might meet someone who…got him. A friend who liked him for himself, rather than despite himself. A soulmate of sorts.
Curt had promised himself that he would find all this in London. Like millions before him, he’d banked upon the streets being paved with…if not gold, then a tarnished bronze that was far more intriguing. He’d pinned all his hopes on a drama course at Uni, convinced it would be crammed with free-spirits who didn’t give a toss about fitting in. He’d been gutted to discover that most of the drama students were as conformist as folk in the suburbs, except more dramatically so. While he’d liked most of them well enough, Curt had pretty much given up hope of meeting someone…captivating. Someone who danced to music only they could hear, rather than the muzak piped through the system. That is, until the fateful day he’d dragged himself to the library, hoping to find a copy of the play he planned to audition for. The day he met Matt Andrews.
From the moment they’d met, nothing had felt as daunting, desperate, or depressing. Nor even seemed to matter overmuch. For brief periods Curt had found himself somehow able to sweep his own fears aside and…believe. Believe because Mattie believed enough for them both—and most inexplicably of all—appeared to believe in Curt. It had been far too late to do anything except fear losing his best mate by the time Curt realised exactly how he felt about Mattie.
On dark days he wondered where it had all gone so wrong—despite the fact he knew that this was a crock of shite—it was far too right. It’s very rightness freaked Curt the fuck out. It meant that he had so much more to lose.
A fact that had (contrarily) compelled him to attempt to keep Matt at a careful distance in a futile attempt to retain some sense of…self? Safety. An effort doomed before it began, because Curt hadn’t had the strength to stay away. He’d just wound up half-crazed with longing for Mattie’s company, to see the mischief glitter in his midnight eyes. Enduring the self-imposed distance had proved far more excruciating than the effect of Mattie’s presence on Curt’s sensibilities.
Nothing had made so much as a dent in the need gnawing his guts. Nuts. Heart. Head. No matter how much Curt had drank, snorted or shagged, he’d still felt empty. As if half of himself was missing. Worst of all, it hadn’t just been Mattie’s company he craved—nor the bond Curt treasured—he’d yearned for the very things he’d fled from. That smile. The dark spotlight of Mattie’s gaze. The way Curt felt when they were together.
He’d spent many sleepless nights, tossing and burn—turning—hell-bent on convincing himself that he’d just found the kindred spirit he’d craved. No more, no less. A pure, powerful, love in a cruel, cold world. It was simple; Curt feared losing Mattie more than…whatever the fuck else he wanted.
Yes, Curt had crushed on a fair few rock stars; men who were everything he wished he was—wanted to be—but he’d never fancied any of his mates. That said, none of them had been gifted with the lithe grace of Prince or the lizard hips of Jim Morrison. Nor looked like Jamie Cullum after a session on a stretching rack. Saddled with three sisters, he’d always been comfortable with women, and enjoyed shagging them far too much to question his own sexuality. Even if he’d had cause to, Curt couldn’t begin to convince himself that he would have found it possible to take Matt Andrews in his stride.
No matter how hard he tried, Curt could not define what Mattie meant to him. Neither as a person, nor as a part of his life. He defied categorization. To state that Matt seemed about as masculine or feminine, as he did black or white, didn’t begin to cover it. He frequently didn’t appear to be entirely human. Mattie grappled with mundane matters as if they were an unwieldy deck-chair he couldn’t quite fathom, despite the fact Curt had never met anyone with such a brilliant brain. The miscreant hoovered up knowledge with a flair Curt reserved for nefarious substances. Sometimes Matt didn’t seem entirely…present in a roomful of people, despite being the most luminous person in it. Curt would watch, entranced, as Mattie sat, smiling his secret smile, lost to a world away from the tatty pubs they frequented, chasing the faraway thoughts that flitted through his head. Mattie was a melody without rhyme nor reason, as incorrigible as he was…captivating.
By the time Curt realised how he felt about his best friend, it was far too late to do anything other than fear losing him. Driving himself half-insane fretting about it had achieved fuck all. There was nothing to be done. Other than hope he met a woman who turned him on the way Mattie did—personality wise. In Curt’s infinite wisdom, he’d furthermore decided that living together would drive them both so demented that being apart would be a bloody relief.
Despite their constant bickering, their fights never flared up over anything important. They only ever fought about nonsense that meant little and mattered less. It frequently felt about the only way to syphon off the excess fucknowswhat whenever Mattie was…well, being Mattie. It was so akin to rage that Curt wound up consumed by the need to punch something. Perhaps because he was always nearest; so very there—and bloody tall—this translated into a desperate desire to punch Matt. The proximity of two of those words really didn’t help matters. Curt spent an increasing amount of time trying not to think, or swiftly backtracking when he did.
“I’m going to bed in a minute, I’m knackered,” Curt announced after their latest wrestling bout. “I’ve got a shift tomorrow and there’s an after-show shindig, so I’ll have to work overtime.”
supposed to be practising,” Mattie pouted, sticking his bottom lip out. Grown
men should not look cute sulking.
Especially far too tall ones. That was just ridiculous. Everything about Mattie
was far too something-or-other. As
was everything he did, said and thought. Even his effect on Curt was excessive.
“Yeah, I know…”
Slumping back in his seat at the table, Curt lit a cigarette and inhaled
gratefully before sighing out a stream of smoke. “…but we need the money.
Keeping you in KFC doesn’t come cheap.”
“Curtis. You know
exactly where that money will go.” Pursing his pin-cushion lips, Mattie tapped
the side of his nose illustratively.
“I thought you were
knackered.” Mattie ducked when Curt lobbed the lighter at him, grinning as it
sailed over his head and bounced off the wall. He had the reflexes of a bloody
Curt decided not to dignify such impertinence with an answer. Largely because…well, it wasn’t a conversation that would go anywhere he was willing to venture. He sure as shit didn’t conduct it while he was asleep either, but this didn’t make a damn bit of difference to the dreams that desecrated Curt’s fitful slumbers. They were getting worse. Better. Much worse.
He was banking on the fact that sleeping in the same bed as Mattie, night after night, would neutralize his nearness through familiarity. Negate it. With a bit of luck Curt would get so pissed off by Mattie’s incessant fidgeting and being stabbed by sharp elbows, he’d never want to get in bed with him again. In any way, shape or form. It was an infallible plan.
“Uh-oh…I have a bad
feeling about this.”
“Paranoid, you are,
Curtis, for chrissakes. Mattie had decreed that said moniker better befitted a drama student, and it had somehow stuck. Curt had been in no position to complain, although that hadn’t stopped him pretending affront; he had been the one to start the nickname thing, by telling Mattie he looked like Bill ‘n’ Ben. The Flowerpot Men. A comparison that promptly saw Curt christened ‘Bill’ to Mattie’s ‘Ben’. Despite the fact that the flowerpot twins were identical, and Curt did not have a moon-beam face with huge dark eyes that damn near devoured it.
“Ha.Ha. What’re you
after?” he sighed.
“Who says I want something?” Matt’s melodious voice rose three octaves in protestation.
“I do. Come on,
y’know you’ll ask me eventually, so you may as well stop prevaricating.”
“It wasn’t bad,
honest. I just wondered, well…are you regretting this already? You seem miffed
with me, am I getting on your nerves?”
“No…” Curt sighed, scraping
his too-long fringe back from his face, but it just flopped straight back down.
He needed a haircut…and a new flat-mate.
“It’s not you. I’m
just, tired…and worried about money, that’s all. I want us to do this…”
“Y’sure?” Barely above a whisper as whirlpools of beseeching
brown dragged him to his doom.
Curt nodded, despite
himself. No matter what mischief Mattie got up to, Curt always wound up feeling
like an evil panto villain if he expressed the slightest irritation. It was
most perplexing. Mattie was just so bloody…endearing. Another thing a grown man
had no right to be. Curt wasn’t annoyed with
Mattie. He was pissed off with
himself. Annoyed because he was aching to go to bed, for the comfort of
darkness…and Mattie’s nearness without the self-recrimination that accompanied
it. Sleeping on the mattress was their
only option until they could afford beds—it was necessary—so Curt wouldn’t have worry about their proximity…to
prove the lie. Grinding out his cigarette, he drained the dregs of his lager
and plonked the empty can on the table with a hollow sounding clunk.
Curt stood and stretched, far too tense for comfort, let alone sleep. Then tried to ignore the guilty thrill that shot through his system when he caught sight of Mattie’s wide-eyed face. He looked rather as if he’d walked in on Curt having a wank. He should not have to feel guilty for stretching, that was ludicrous.
In truth, the way Mattie watched him was…exhilarating. He gazed at Curt for all the world as if he was…extraordinary. Exceptional. He couldn’t begin to fathom why Mattie had so much faith in him when Curt had none whatsoever in himself—but it didn’t matter—his ever-excessive Mattie seemed to have enough for them both.
He knew that Ben loved him…and Bill loved him back. How could he not? Mattie was as loveable as he was impossible. That brilliant brain entranced Curt every bloody day as he wafted around conjuring magic from mundanity. He was lethal. Living with Mattie Andrews was, without doubt, the best dreadful decision Curt had ever made in his life.
Better. Curt blew out a long breath, pressing his forehead to the cool comfort of the cabinet mirror. Lifting his head, he met the glassy gaze of the stranger staring back. Who was he, this doppelgänger who couldn’t even doss down with his best mate without having to sort himself out first? Curt could never have strolled back into their room in the state he’d been in so, other than sleep in the bath, he hadn’t had a lot of choice. Curt hadn’t wanted to want to. Largely because of the image he knew full well would loom behind his lids and the name he’d be forced to bite back in bitter anguish.
It was brutal. It didn’t matter how punishingly Curt went about it; whiplash wrist sweeping in perfunctory, jarring jerks, teeth gritted as he glared down at his cock. Damn thing didn’t give a toss—on the contrary—it seemed to glory in it. It was like living with a poltergeist in his pants. A somewhat chafed one. Worse still, Curt’s hand seemed so much smaller than the hand haunting his—FUCK. NO.
Dragging in a jagged
breath, he yanked open the bathroom door and stood in the hallway, head hanging
forwards, gripping his thighs. A grip. Exactly what he needed to get. He was just
horny, that’s all. He hadn’t had sex for a few days. No chance of that tomorrow
either, because Curt was working late. He was going to combust if this kept up.
Curt raked a hand through his hair, attempted a human expression, gave up, and
pushed open the door. Mattie was in bed. Lying on his side, ramrod straight,
looking uncannily like a scamp who’d been tucked up for the night and told not
to get up to mischief.
“I thought you’d decided
to kip in the bath…” Matt greeted him.
“It would probably
prove a helluva lot more comfortable than your elbows.” Curt snorted.
“My heart bleeds for you. I’ll have to endure your feet in my face while mine hang over the edge of the bed, so think yourself fortunate. I’ll get frostbite and my toes will drop off and all you’ll have is a titchy bruise or two.” Mattie sniffed.
things are lethal.”
“Stop cussing, my elbows can hardly take your eye out, so su—” Matt’s damn near plopped onto the duvet when he clamped his lips shut, mid-word. A suspended silence was finally shattered by a single syllable. “—there.”
The two-and-a-half he hadn’t uttered? Were deafening.