The Tale of the Broken Umbrella
Etude In G minor
Walking home in the darkened streets, I couldn't help letting my mind wander off and wonder about what had stopped Galen from picking me up after work. He'd said he would do it, and when he said he'd do something he generally did it, so it seemed strange and maybe even a little worrying that he hadn't showed up after saying he would. Maybe he had some unfinished business related to the reason he hadn't been showing up at the café for the past week. Maybe it was his work, which I still didn't know anything about. Maybe it was his family, maybe his sister—what was her name again?—was in trouble? Maybe she had been hit by a car and rushed to a hospital and Galen had to go comfort her because her husband had just left her or maybe Galen himself had an accident on the way and was now all alone in a hospital room scowling at the insipid soaps on TV and picking at the hospital food with the tip of the frail plastic fork. Whatever his reason was, it was probably a good one.
I arrived home, switched on the lights and the old heater and set about boiling some water for pot noodles, which was currently the only food I had in the room. While the water was warming up, I just laid down on the mattress I used to sleep, looking up at the mouldy wooden beams supporting the ceiling and not really thinking about anything. I didn't usually allow myself to do these things: lying idle encouraged the mind to going into thinking overdrive and that wasn't a very nice experience because the thoughts into which the mind then wandered were rarely agreeable and never useful. But tonight I just let myself do it. It was only a minute while the water boiled in the kettle, and in the end it wasn't even a full minute because someone knocked at the door. I stood up and answered.
Mrs Blythe was standing on my doorway, holding a long woollen cardigan tightly around herself, her usual ice queen countenance somewhat disturbed by the look of slight anxiety on her face.
"There's a man at the door saying he's here for you." She indicated the downstairs front door with a toss of her head that shook wisps of black and silver hair across her face. "But he looks like he's from the Mafia so I didn't let him in. You haven't been hanging around dodgy people, Luke, have you?" she asked severely.
"No-no, I haven't, it's…I'll…um, I'll go talk to him."
"It's nothing. I'm glad to know you do have some friends after all," Mrs Blythe said, shuffling awkwardly, as though speaking kindly was an embarrassing ordeal for her.
Leaving the door open, I rushed down the narrow staircase and to the front door. Galen was standing there, leaning against the porch, looking up at the sky. Which his black hair and pale skin and black clothes and brooding gaze he did look a little like the mafia, I supposed.
"Hey Luke!" he said cheerfully when he looked up at me.
"You followed me," I pointed out, aware that I was stating the obvious.
"That, I did, my friend. I told I would, remember?"
"Didn't think you would," I said.
"Oh, come on! Would I lie about these things?"
You probably would, I thought, but I didn't say it out loud.
"So, are you going to let me in?" Galen asked, grinning the dangerous grin.
"…no," I said, as apologetically as I could.
"Ah. So you live in the basement?"
I shook my head, and then I said: "I don't," which was the perfect truth.
"You live…in the broom closet?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
"No," I said, shaking my head and smiling a little.
"You live in the toilet?"
I shook my head.
"Well then? How bad could it be? Come on, let us see your humble abode."
Galen pushed past me, and feeling as though this couldn't be avoided, I led him up the narrow stairs and into my room.
"Fuck," he said, completely blankly, his voice devoid of any intonation. And that was more disturbing than if he'd shouted or hit me. Looking at the bare room, with its single mattress on the floor, small wooden table and cardboard boxes, its cracked sink, oversized heater and buckets, I guessed it must have been a little startling for a stranger, especially a stranger used to living in a wide and luxurious apartment.
I closed the door behind him.
"Do you want noodles?" I said, taking out a second plastic pot of noodles from the cardboard box underneath the table and pouring the hot water into my own.
"No, we're going out anyway. I knew it, you know? You look like the kind of person who would say: ooh no, it's fine, I'm having a cosy night in tonight when invited to someone's party and then return to your little room under the leaking room of an abandoned mansion and eat three days old cold chips, huddled on a flat mattress you found in someone's front garden and reading an old copy of Pride and Prejudice you found on a park bench."
"That bad?" I asked, in a low voice because I didn't dare say it too flippantly.
"Yes, that bad. Well, it's settled now. Get on some clothes, we're going out. You can take your pot noodles to eat in the car. Tomorrow you're moving out. Let's away."
He took my pot noodles while I dressed and preceded me out of the apartment. When we were in his car and he'd started driving and I'd resumed eating my pot noodles, I said:
"You're not what?"
"Yes, you are," he replied in the perfectly normal and assured tone of a parent telling its child it's going to bed straight after dinner.
"I'm…I'm not," I said, cringing inwardly as I heard how cowardly my voice sounded to my own ears.
"Yes, you are," he repeated.
"I have nowhere else to go," I whispered.
"I will ignore this and pretend you were just making a joke of poor taste."
"It wasn't a joke."
"Are you trying to offend me or are you just trying to tactfully tell me you're refusing to move in with me?" Galen asked coldly, staring on right ahead at the road, dark petrol grey-blue with the headlight digging two tunnel of dazzling white into it.
"I'm not moving in with you!" I said, and the horror and sharpness in my tone startled me as much as it startled him.
"What's wrong? I'm not going to molest you or kidnap or make you do all the chores or whatever. Besides, you've slept over a lot, it'll be the same thing."
"I'm not moving in with you. I'm not, I'm not…it's—oh, I'm not."
Galen stopped the car at the side of the road. It wasn't raining, but dark, heavy clouds hung against the dark canopy of the sky, and there were no cars anywhere in sight. Galen turned towards me, and put his hands on either side of my head, palms over my ears, sliding them down and grabbing hold of my hair so that both his fists lay against my cheeks hanging from my hair. It dragged my head downwards, so it gave me a good excuse to avoid looking him in the eyes.
"You have issues," he said, his voice very low but very, very clear.
I looked up at his face. His mouth was slightly pursed, his black eyes strained on my face. I raised my hands to my face, taking his wrist in order to make him let go of my hair.
"I deal with my own problems," I said, quickly, because I wanted him to let go and move on and let the whole matter drop, and stop make me speak to him, but of course, he didn't, just abruptly let go of my hair and grabbed my neck instead, puling my head a little closer towards his.
"I don't need to worry when I know that you live in a tiny bedroom that is colder than my fridge, I don't need to worry when I know you don't even have a bed to sleep in, I don't need to worry even when I know you live on pot noodles, I don't need to worry even when I see you every day walking around like a ghost, not saying anything and with a skin paler than a bar of fucking soap?"
There are bar of soaps that are pale pink or orange, or even yellow, yellow in the way those wedding bouquet roses are yellow. I thought that, and even as I did so I realised what a ridiculous, pointless thought it was. I just kept looking down, at the space between our two seats were he kept all those classical music tapes and a handful of random sweets with cartoon pictures of fruits (pineapples, strawberries, apples and lemons).
"Whoever it is who fucked you up, stop letting them control you even now!" he hissed, and our faces were so close I could feel his breath, mint and the underlying sourness of coffee, against my mouth, the intimacy of it sending a shudder trailing down my spine.
"I'm the one who fucked myself up!" I said, angry, angrier than I'd been for a long time. Without thinking, I yanked myself free of his hold, flung the car door open and ran away from the car, without a clue where I was going, why I was doing this or even what I was hoping to achieve by running. I had no idea were we were, the roads were dark and the streets were silent, like a ghost town, the cold like a presence all around me. I ran, mindlessly, pointlessly, with no idea where I was going but going there fast as I could, and then something hit me around the middle of the legs and I pitched forward with a brutality that momentarily robbed me of my breath. I landed hard, gasping, my palms scraping against the pavement and my left cheek landing on my arm. I raising my head to look back, and saw Galen lying half on top of me with his arms wound tightly around my knees.
He sat up, shaking jet black hair away from his face. I sat up too, and for a moment we just sat there on the icy pavement, my hands throbbing and bloodied, him rubbing his knees, both of us breathing hard. Then, taking me once again completely by surprised, he grabbed me by the shoulders and jerked me forward so I fell against his chest. Tightening his arms around me and bringing one hand up to support the back of my neck, he held me tightly against his chest, his embrace hard and warm and oddly authoritative and yet comforting in a way that was entirely too good to be safe.
"Running away never gets you anywhere."
I said nothing, but silently remembered something Knight had once told me. We had been playing a violent game of tag-and-tickle around his flat, and he'd escaped me by locking himself in the bathroom. When I'd accused him of being a coward and running away from the battle, shouting loudly and happily while I sat with my back against the bathroom door, he'd replied, shouting back: "Paraphrasing General McArthur: I'm not running away, I'm just advancing in another direction!"
Didn't that apply to what I did as much as what he'd done? Except on a different scale, and for different reasons, and whenever I did it I only felt worse, whereas when he'd done it he'd eventually opened the bathroom door and we'd spend the evening watching films on the couch, lazily trailing fingertips on each other's hands and arms…
"Come on. Stop thinking melancholy thoughts, stop acting like everything is out to get you, and let's go have something to eat," Galen muttered, pulling away. He stood up and hauled me onto my feet, not letting go of my arm and dragging me back towards his car.
"I can't help thinking that if this had been filmed and put into a film, I know it would have been one of those scenes that make you cringe."
It was an odd point to make, but I found myself thinking that it was a valid point.
Fifteen minutes later, Galen's car was parked in a quiet, empty street lined with identical houses, and we were both standing in front of the door of one of them. The door opened, revealing a woman with dark hair in a tangle of knots around her face, dark eyes blazing with irritation and a cigarette clenched between her teeth.
"What?" she snarled.
"Evening, Selena," Galen said serenely. "We need some food."
"Bog off. Go get yourself a wife or a takeaway," Selena snapped, but opened the door nonetheless.
"Thank you, sweet sibling."
Selena led us through a narrow corridor and into a small, neat kitchen. She spoke while she did so:
"I got a call from Mom the other day. Telling me about your little dinner together."
"Oh, yeah?" Galen asked, sounding like he really couldn't have cared less.
"Yep. Don't bother sitting down, you're leaving immediately." Selena turned to me and gave a tired smile: "Do sit down, darling," she said, pulling out a chair.
I sat down.
"Favouritism," Galen muttered.
"What can I say? He's not family so that automatically makes me like him more than you. Now stop trying to change the subject."
"What was the subject in the first place."
Selena stopped rummaging around her fridge and pulled Tupperware boxes out of the cupboard to throw a glare at Galen.
"Ah, yeah. There's not much to talk about, rally. It wasn't pretty."
"You keep forgetting she's a human being. Like you were when she did these things to you."
"Ooh, a nice pair of free tickets to the Eternal Guilt-trip tm. Keep the tickets. I've already got a date. Now, give my food and let angelboy and I be on our ways."
"You're rude. I don't even understand why I bother."
Selena took out the food she'd put in the microwave and put it back in the Tupperware boxes. She piled them in a plastic bag she took from the cupboard beneath the sink and pushed the bag across the kitchen counter towards Glen.
"Here you are. Take this and get the hell out of my home."
"Will do. Thanks sis. Come on, Luke."
I said goodbye to Selena and followed Galen out of her house and back into the car. We drove in silence for a while, Galen's eyes focused on the road ahead while I sat with my forehead pressed to the icy glass of the window, staring out at the streets we drove through, dark windows and lit windows that showed the inside of a room, people talking in front of a mantelpiece, a television playing cartoons, a series of posters on a pale green wall…like glimpses of people's lives. Little by little, the streets grew longer, the houses spare, until I realised that we'd left the city and were now driving on a motorway: countryside landscape stretching out into the dark until they disappeared in a blur or night and land. The rush of cars driving in the opposite direction would occasionally accompany the sudden white flash of headlights, but apart from that the road seemed mostly empty. I wanted to ask where we were going, but I was feeling far too comfortable and sleepy for that: the inside of the car was warm, the feeling contrasting with the iciness of the glass against my cheek, and it was such an oddly comfortable feeling…I slowly felt my mid drift, my thoughts growing sluggish and slow and vaguer and vaguer…
"I know you don't like the idea of it, but I want you to move in with me. I don't like the place where you live, and I think my flat is too big for me to feel anything but guilty knowing I'm wasting so much space and you live in this cramped attic cupboard of yours. I know you don't realise it because you're dumb that way, but I really, really care about you and the idea of you cold and lonely just makes me cringe and you're not even listening, are you?" Galen's voice was an unintelligible drone at the edge of my consciousness, gently lulling me to sleep. "I could say anything right now, and you wouldn't register a thing. Not like it makes any different form usual: you have no problem with blocking out whatever you don't want to hear, don't you? Whatever it is that's hurting you inside is making you cruel and selfish and weaker than you think. Can't you see that? You can't see that. You're such a goddamn child. Fuck you."
A/N: You know how sometimes when you're just on the edge between sleep and wakefulness, and someone tells you something, and you don't register it, but if this person mentions it several months later you'll remember they told you but you won't remember how and you'll be confused?
So anyway. Sorry for the lateness. I suck. I currently have so much homework it's ridiculous. On the up side, though, I HAD AN AWESOME DAY!! Baaasically, here is the story: I was talking to this girl in college, Ebony, a cute Chinese live chibi, who's also obsessed about manga, and we were freaking out about anime and stuff, hence one of Ebony's friends, Dale, asked me: "Do you like anime," Hence I replied: "Like it? It's my LAIFE! :B " hence he said: "We're doing a cosplay meeting in town this Saturday for my birthday. Come along!" Hence I went: "ZOMFGOSH ARE YOU SERIOUS?" Hence I went.
And it was so awesome. First time in my life I was with so many people who understand The Obsession. And we had a Sasuke and a Naruto who gave us tooons of yaoi fanservice! It was superb. We tied up Sasuke to a chair in the Arndale food court and got a lot of bondage yaoi fanservice, people were staring like we were freaks (which I guess we were, relatively speaking XD)…it was great…and then…I MET MY FIRST LIVE YAOI FELLOW FAN EVER! We were basically talking about the SasuNaru pairing and we realised we were both part of The Cult. So now I know someone who shares the boilove obsession IN MY TOWN! IN REAL LAIFE!!
I'm so happy I could cry :')
Anyhow. I've got to stop now because I really DO need to get down and dirty with my homework --
A THOUSAND BILLION THANKEES TO MY REVIEWERS! I think I replied to most of the reviews and thanked you personally, and if I haven't then GOMEN NASAI I SINCERELY DO APPRECIATE YOUR REVIEWS AND I LOOOOVE YOUUU! glomps reviewers
LAST THING GUYS AFTER YOU CAN GO AND REVIEW: I've started the October Challenge. All those of you who didn't join the September challenge missed out on a looot of fun. So go and get writing! You know you can do it! :D
Oh, and by the way. Anyone gives good advice? I have a little problem in my personal life and I have no idea how to solve it…-.-"