Alex is downstairs, hands in pockets, looking directly into the camera outside, and I don't have the patience for him right now. "Why are you here?"
"That's not a nice way to greet a business associate. Can I come in?" He's obviously trying to sound more relaxed than he is, but he's still too awkward and it's not like him. It's making me nervous. Not many things have the power to do that.
"I'm busy, but whatever." I let a few seconds pass before I buzz him in and I bet those seconds are longer for him than they are for me. I'm slouching, leaning an arm against the door frame, blocking his way when he gets to my front door. "Why are you here? You never just show up. What's wrong?"
He looks around even though there's no-one about to hear anything. "We need to talk about...work."
"OK." Two letters, drawn out and slow, syrup or crude oil. Quicksand. I take half a step back. If he's going to walk past me, he'll have to walk close. "You hungry? I can order take-away."
"Don't you ever buy food?" His smile's forced, uncomfortable.
"I. Can order. Take-away?"
"No, I mean like actual food. Ingredients."
"Jesus. You never change."
"You're saying that like we didn't talk two days ago."
"It's different being in the same place at the same time."
"It is to me."
"It isn't to me." I lead the way down the hall to the living room and he follows, shuffling, literally dragging his feet.
"See why we didn't last as a couple?"
"We didn't last because I am, to quote you exactly, 'a manipulative, self-centred time bomb of repressed emotional issues', but you were still happy to work with me."
"Those aren't bad qualities in a business partner, just in any other kind of partner. Do we have to have this conversation again?" He looks at his hands, the floor, the window.
"I didn't deny it then and I don't deny it now. Do you want food or not?"
"No, it's OK. Look, we really need to talk about work." He walks to the window and back, then to the window again.
Tension crawls into my knuckles. Not the good kind of tension either. I settle into my desk chair. "You want to sit or are you going to keep pacing?"
He lowers himself onto the couch, trying to lean back casually but not quite managing it. "OK, so the latest project..." he looks around again.
"No-one's recording anything. You're not that interesting." He wishes he was that interesting, always has.
He exhales heavily, one of those breaths that comes before shitty news. "I know, it's just...fuck. OK. So, the current project. I think someone knows."
"You think? Does someone know or not? Because there's quite a difference between those two scenarios."
"Someone at Allegra-"
Everything goes dark around the edges and I swear to god I feel the fingers of the fucking void reaching into my head. "Fucking Allegra? What? That. Is where. I fucking work, Alex. I don't play both sides of that. I might be reckless, but I'm not fucking stupid."
"I know, I'm sorry." He swallows and it sounds like he's going to choke on his tongue. If only.
"You're fucking sorry? What did you do? And if you leave out any details, I will trail them out of you in the worst possible way and you know I mean it." There's a glass on the desk that may contain water, or vodka. I empty it down my throat in one go. Vodka. Good.
YOU ARE READING
Winter FollowsGeneral Fiction
One month, one city, five lives colliding with the forces of fate. A thrill-seeking tech genius with an appetite for dangerous extremes. A retired contract killer fighting to escape his past and himself. An underworld driver tempted deeper into a li...