This is surreal. All of it. Him, us, the last two days. His house. His bed. His shower and the hour we spent in it yesterday. His hands and how they feel against my skin. Just how I feel being here with him. It's good surreal though. The best. The kind I want to hold on to. The kind I don't want to ruin, but probably will anyway because that's what I do. "OK, my turn. Did you ever have an affair with a student?"
He doesn't even look remotely shocked that I asked that. "Yes, a long time ago, but not now."
"Not at the moment or not anymore?"
"That's an extra question. I didn't realise there was a difference."
He's watching me smoke and I don't know how to handle him looking at me, so I turn away, almost, as away as I can turn without being rude. "Of course there is."
"OK then, not anymore." He rests a hand on my shoulder like he thinks he might have upset me and I don't know how to explain how I feel about people looking at me. I know how little sense it would make if I said it out loud because I haven't been properly dressed in two days and he's been looking at me the entire time, but when you see someone naked you don't really see them.
Sitting here, with the covers over me, with him looking at my face, at my hands, it's different.
I make myself turn towards him so he doesn't think I'm upset or annoyed. "Since when?"
"Since it stopped being interesting. And that's another question. You owe me now."
"If I owe you anyway, I'm going to keep going. What stopped being interesting - the situation or the people?" I hand the joint to him and when he takes it from me I slide down the bed a little and wrap myself around him because it feels right. It's where I want to be.
"Both." He trails the fingers of his free hand along my arm.
I close my eyes and give into the sensation. Time passes. A few seconds. A minute. I don't know. "So what makes someone interesting?"
"Contradictions. Inconsistencies. Opportunities for discovery. Do you want this?"
"Yeah, please." I take the joint back and he's looking at me again. I'm trying to be alright with it. I'm trying not to think too hard about what I look like, that there are angles I've never seen myself from, unknown quantities. It doesn't matter. "You make it sound like people are just experiments."
"They aren't. But maybe they were, to an extent. I'm not saying it's alright or even remotely acceptable though. In case you haven't guessed, I've never exactly been a shining beacon of propriety, but I like to believe I've improved over time. Or at least I have a deeper understanding of consequences."
"Someone hurt you and it showed you the error of your ways?"
"That would be a much tidier version of events, but no. It was more gradual than that. At some point I began to understand that other people deserve more than to fulfill my desire for extremes. I don't even know what set me on that learning curve, if it was one specific thing or just everything, but something did and here I am, hopefully slightly less of a self-serving shit. But I'll let you form your own views on that."
"What drugs were involved in your great epiphany?"
"All of them. In large quantities. For years. And it's definitely my turn now."
"Fine. Go for it." I finish the joint and nestle back down again, draped over him in every way I can be, his arms around me.
"Tell me something you don't usually tell anyone."
"That's not technically a question."
"OK, will you tell me something you don't usually tell anyone?"
"Sneaky, but I'll allow it." I don't know how much I want to tell him, but I can't be anything other than honest right now. And if I'm going to mess this up, I may as well mess it up early, before it starts to mean too much. "OK, prepare to change your opinion of me."
"Really? How many people have you killed?"
I poke his leg with my foot. "None! And don't do that. I'm trying to admit to something here."
"OK, sorry. Continue."
"My parents own my flat. They bought it years ago, along with a few others, and I've lived in it since I was eighteen. They paid for me to go to uni. I have no debt, student or otherwise. They'd pay for anything I wanted, if I asked them to."
"Why do you work?"
That's all he has to say? "Because their generosity is endless, but their compassion is conditional. Because I want at least some of my own money and I feel worthless if I don't earn it." Truth is, I feel...I am kind of worthless anyway. "Because it's what people do, isn't it? You can go ahead and judge me now."
"I never attach moral judgement to financial stability. I inherited this house, four others, and a company I take as little as possible to do with but that puts a stupid amount into my bank account every month anyway. Make of that what you will."
"Wow. OK. Why do you work?"
"Technically I don't, not now. I'm having a break, a sabbatical, whatever you want to call delaying the inevitable. A midlife crisis. I was bored. I don't know what I want to do instead though."
"First world problems."
"I know. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy. I'm enjoying life. I sleep like a baby. But a change of scenery would be good. And you, this, this is already good."
I look up at him just as he looks down at me and we both laugh because...I don't know why. But we do. Then he kisses me and I forget everything again. This keeps happening. "I've been here for two days. I should go home."
"What do you mean?"
"You said you should. But do you want to?"
He's good. "What's the difference?"
"Should is an obligation. Want is an expression of desire."
"That's very eloquent and I'm sure it's worked every time you've said it."
"So you're going to stay?"
"That's not my decision."
"But I make terrible decisions." I close my eyes and bow my head in the presence of another piece of my truth.
"For what it's worth, I'm honoured to be among your terrible decisions."
"When you put it like that..."
"So stay. Tell me secrets. Smoke my weed. Drink my wine. Walk around my house wearing nothing but my sweater. Make some more terrible decisions with me."
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...