Wine Labels and Small Talk

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The silence between Bryan and I have become the third resident in my apartment (and only one of us was paying rent). It stretched between us, filling the air, save for words of pleasantries first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. If I thought living with a ghost before was bad, I was wrong. This was worse. So much worse.

And I was swamped with work, so I couldn't even leave.

The atmosphere wasn't conductive to what I was trying to accomplish. As a freelance graphic designer, it was crucial I stayed focused and inspired. Now, I just felt shaky and anxious, and uncomfortable. My skin itched with it. Once or twice, I contemplated giving the sofa to a thrift store. It was an idle threat, of course, one I would never go through with or even voice out loud.

Until one day, when everything was as normal, silence stretching for hours - Bryan watching tv, but he must have gotten bored, because I felt him right behind me, too late. The jolt of electricity, the wrongness in the air, he bent down over me to peer at the screen.

"What'ya doing?" his tone was conversational and familiar, as if this was what we did. I froze for a second, not sure if I should turn around and answer or ignore him completely. I settled somewhere in the middle, not taking my eyes of the screen.

"Work stuff. I'm making labels for this new wine."

"Looks awesome," Bryan whistled appreciatively. I briefly wondered if you need vocal chords to do that. Probably not, right?

I cringed at the piece of crap on the screen. It really wasn't 'awesome'. It was subpar at best. Not up to my standard.

He was still leaning over my shoulder, deeply engrossed in the mock-up. I took the chance to steal a glance of his profile, and noticed his eyes were glistening with interest. It was cute.

The staleness of the air had dissipated, just like that. Suddenly, I felt more inspired, and decided to start from scratch. Bryan watched me delete the file and made a small sound of protest.

"What'd you do that for?" his voice incredulous, I couldn't help but smile at how outraged he was on my behalf.

"It was no good. I can make it better."

The enthusiasm re-appeared on his face, and he pulled out the chair next to me and placed his elbows on the table. I never bothered buying a desk, preferring to work in close proximity to the coffee, and now it was apparently taken as an invitation. Strangely, I didn't mind.

"Show me, Clara, yeah?" I looked at him, confused, "show me other shit you made."

I raised an eyebrow at him, not sure if I should be insulted by him calling my work 'shit', but he had a look of a child at Christmas, so I let it go.

We spent a few hours like that, and it was... fun. He made fun of some of my older pieces (which were well worth making fun of), and that one condom commercial I worked on; then grew quiet when I showed him stuff I did for myself. The landscapes, the creatures - stuff I did back when I thought making a game would pay off. It didn't of course, and the old files only served as a part of my portfolio on Behance now.

"You should get back to that, yeah? Clara, I'd give fucking money to play that."

He was being sweet, and supportive, and I didn't really know how to react to it. Alice was glad when I dropped it for some actual paid work, so were my parents. This was... new. It was nice. I felt warm inside.

By the end of the day, the apartment felt new, as if I've aired it out for days. The charged air was now pleasant and filled with the starting spring. Bryan was in a better mood too, and suddenly we had a new routine - instead of awkward silence, we were friends, I suppose. For lack of better words.

Days go by like this. He joins me for dinner. Doesn't eat, of course, and at first, I feel awkward eating in front of him, but soon even that becomes the norm. He sees all my work first, usually before it's even finished. Tells me all about the games he liked to play, before.

Before.

We don't talk about that. I don't mention it, afraid it would be inappropriate. He doesn't mention it, and I don't know why, but I leave it at that. When he's ready, he'll tell me. Of course, I'm curious, and I want him to tell me. But more - I want him to want to tell me.

Suddenly, just like that, it's been two weeks since I bought the couch. He mentions it, laughing about our little anniversary. It doesn't feel two weeks. It feels an eternity. He's as familiar as sin now, an integral part of the furniture. I buy a bottle of wine that day, and wish he could drink it with me.

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