nineteen || leslie's initiation

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Leslie was asleep when Greg rang. The irritating buzz of her phone on her bedside table roused her from her dream, one she had enjoyed but couldn’t grasp once she was awake. She noticed with horror that it was nearly eleven thirty.

“Yes?” she croaked, forgetting to cough the night away before she answered.

“Les, it’s me,” Greg said. “Did you just wake up?”

“Uh, no…what’s up?”

“I tried ringing you last night but there was no signal. I’ll be back in about half an hour, forty-five minutes,” he said, with a tone of unfinished uncertainty.

“With the kids?” She got out of bed clumsily, hopping to her chest when her foot got tangled in last night’s knickers.


“Are they hungry kids?”

“Yes. I’m so sorry to put you out. Would mind going over to mine and sorting something out? Just a couple of sandwiches or something?”

“Absolutely, yeah, sure.”

“Oh, shi- have you got a key?”

“Oh, yeah, I gave you one. Sorry, my head’s all over the place.” He sighed. Leslie made what she hoped was a comforting sound.

“Don’t stress,” she said, though he always came back in knots after vising Jas. “You just get back safely and I’ll be here. I’ll put the heating on, get you something to drink and make something for Emma and Freddie, ok?”

“You are such a star, Les. Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. Stay safe. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Leslie yawned once she had hung up, screwing up her pyjama top and aiming for the laundry basket. She wandered around naked for a few minutes until she found a pair of fresh knickers in a basket by the ironing board, as well as a pair of jeans and a suitable jumper. The unexpectedly nice weather had regained its English charm, throwing down buckets of rain and blanketing the once pale sky in dark, bulging clouds. It was cold. Leslie took off her jumper and added a couple of layers beneath it, rubbing her hands together. She yawned again. Sleeping in always made her more tired when she woke up, a ridiculous phenomenon she had never bothered to look into.

Donning her coat as her fourth layer and hoisting her bag over her bulky shoulder, she locked up behind herself and jogged down the five flights to keep warm. The walk was brisk, more of a power walk down the empty pavement to the second block of flats. Eleven windows up and three along, Leslie spied the one Greg called home. The brick outside his window was chipped, the paint peeling on the frame, but inside there was an oddly homely quality to it. Maybe it was the abundance of children’s toys, the odd child’s sock turning the flat from a bachelor’s pad to a devoted uncle’s abode.

The eleven flights of stairs were more of a battle than the five Leslie was used to but she didn’t slow her jog the entire way up, gasping for breath by the time she reached the top. It took a few seconds longer to get the key in the lock and the stiff door needed a thump but she was soon inside. It was cold. All of the radiators were off and the bedroom window was open a crack. Greg always slept with the window open, for a bit of fresh air as he slept. He didn’t like the thought of the same air being recycled over and over again, and he often overheated. Leslie pulled it shut and turned the heating up to twenty-two degrees before she turned her attention to the fridge and its contents.

She hadn’t thought to ask what Freddie and Emma liked and she had no idea what to feed small children. The only sandwich-worthy food in Greg’s fridge was sliced ham and there was a tin of tuna in the fridge, so she made one of each and cut them in half so that the two plates had a mix. From the fruit bowl, she sliced two bananas into thick chunks and broke a couple of oranges into segments arranged to look like smiley faces, with banana eyes and noses. Her handiwork made her grin too, hoping it would put a smile the children’s faces. While she wasn’t particularly fond of the two, Greg could speak no wrong of them, praising the ground they walked on to compensate for their bad luck with the mother draw, and their absent father. He had left when Emma was barely out of the womb and since then, Jas had spiralled into a long winded cycle of depression and anxiety, her tornado only becoming more and more destructive as it took over. Greg was her saviour. Leslie knew that and she pitied him, and the children for what they went through with their mother. They probably didn’t even notice the excess time spent with uncle Greg.

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