Chapter 1: The Heartbreak in the Café
“Listen to me, both of you, I don’t like you. Not in that way. Either of you. Christ, seriously, I’m tired of being caught in this sick game you two have concocted. Just stop it, okay? I’m done.”
Mona left the table, leaving Theo and Hamlet behind simmering in a painful silence. Neither knew how many minutes passed by, but they passed without a word. The café was mostly empty, a fact both Theo and Hamlet were grateful for after the scene that they had caused.
Taking out his phone, Theo checked the time. A quarter over four in the afternoon. He had hoped to take Mona out later in the evening to a movie, but obviously, that wasn’t in the cards anymore. Texting his coworker, Theo told her he could take her late shift after all.
“What are you still doing here?” Theo said to Hamlet, finally breaking the uncomfortable silence between them.
Hamlet looked at him with angry blue eyes through dirty blond bangs.
If looks could kill, Theo thought to himself.
“Is there a problem with me being here? I’m waiting for my coffee.” He tsked at Theo, looking away. “What are you still doing here?”
“I ordered a coffee too. Plus,” Theo said, huffing, “I can sit wherever I damn please, you prick. After all, it’s not my fault that Mona left. It’s yours. You come here every time in your worn-down rags, smelling like a freaking ashtray with those dark bags under your eyes, looking like a goddamn homeless vampire, and expect to get the girl. What the hell did you expect would happen? You thought you’d win her heart and be happily ever after? For fuck’s sake. I can’t believe some piece of shit like you chased her away. Mona’s cute, we were taking most of the same classes at different times. She’s a bookworm. It was perfect. Not only could I get with someone that cute, but it would help me improve my grades, but nooo, you just had to come here and think you had half a chance to get with her. You should have just stayed away and found someone more, akin, to your tastes. Like some worn-down corner whore.”
Theo wondered why he was so angry, he didn’t think he liked Mona that much. But he was irritated, and hurt, and wanted to vent out and Hamlet was there.
Slamming his hands on the table, Hamlet got up and immediately left the café.
Theo thought to himself that maybe he went too far for a moment before dismissing it. He couldn’t possibly give a shit about how Hamlet felt. It was because of him that Mona snapped at him and doesn’t want to see him again.
A moment later, the barista called his name. As Theo took his drink, the barista called Hamlet’s. As he was gone, Theo didn’t see the fault in taking the drink for himself.
“He’s waiting for me outside.” Theo lied, “I’ll take it to him.”
Taking Hamlet’s drink with him, Theo left the café.
Outside, Hamlet was nowhere to be seen. He really had left.
Good riddance, Theo smiled to himself.
Theo drunk his espresso on the way to his apartment, and then proceeded to drink Hamlet’s drink once he was done with his own. Before he was even halfway done with it, Theo realized, that he was, in fact, a piece of shit.
The ringing at the door woke him up. Theo looked at his phone, 02:11. For a moment, Theo wondered if perhaps he dreamt the ringing, when it rang again. With a curse, he ripped himself away from his bed and stomped to the living room. Pressing the speaking button on the front door panel, he said,
“Who the hell is this?”
Pressing the listening button, he waited for an answer.
“…it’s me. Hamlet.”
Hamlet? What the hell is he doing here? Theo thought to himself. How does he even know where I live?
“What are you even doing here? Do you know the time?”
It was a stupid question to ask, but he was at a loss for words.
“It’s late, I’m sorry. Can I come up? I just need a second of your time.”
“No,” Theo responded. “It’s late. Whatever it is, it can wait for another time.”
Theo left for his bedroom and threw himself on his bed. He enjoyed the welcoming warmth of his duvet.
The nagging thoughts wouldn’t leave. Why would Hamlet come to his place so late? Why would he even think it would be an okay thing to do? It hadn’t even been a week since the incident with Mona. Theo was still sore about the subject.
The wind howled outside his bedroom window. The living room had been freezing. Outside of his bed, the whole apartment had become an igloo.
Tossing and turning, Theo was angry at the fact that sleep wouldn’t bless him again. He blamed Hamlet for that. Taking his phone again, he saw the time. 02:28.
God, it’s just been a few minutes. I got class in a few hours. I need to freaking sleep.
The weather notification on the corner of his phone caught his attention. -9 C. It was colder than it had been for months. A cold front, Theo supposed.
No wonder the whole apartment’s as cold a witch’s tit.
Theo began to ask himself why Hamlet came to him again. Why would he be out when it’s not only so cold, but rainy as well? At least he was gone. He must’ve been gone. There hadn’t been any more ringing after Theo returned to bed.
The thought kept nagging at him, enough so that Theo found himself walking back to the front door panel.
Pressing the speaking button, Theo said, “Are you still there?” He pressed the listening button and waited, expecting nothing but the sound of the harsh wind outside in return.
But there came a shaky voice alongside the wind.
“I’m still here.”
“For fuck’s sake, what is wrong with you?!”
Theo pressed the door button long enough for Hamlet to get in and went to his room. Taking a robe from his closet and putting it on, he waited by the door for Hamlet, who didn’t seem to hurry up.
Theo lived on the sixth floor, but even at a slow pace it usually didn’t take Theo himself more than 2 to 3 minutes to come up every time. It had been almost 5.
Did he even come in?
Like clockwork, there was a light knock on the door.
Theo opened the door to find a bloody-faced Hamlet waiting for him. Panic set in almost immediately.
“Hey there, Assbutt.”
Theo didn’t have a chance to respond before Hamlet fell to his knees, shaking.
“It’s a bit cold outside.” Hamlet said with a smile.
Theo helped him to his feet, taking him to the sofa just a few steps away. Hamlet dropped on the sofa, and Theo just stared at him, still in shock. He didn’t know what to do first. He looked down at his hands, bloody.
“Where are you bleeding from?”
Theo was surprised at his composure, before realizing it probably wasn’t bravery but shock.
“A little from my mouth, and from my right brow I think. It feels really hot there, even in this cold, so I guess I’m bleeding from there too. I think I managed to stop the worst of it, but I haven’t fixed it yet.”
From the looks of his shirt and jacket, Theo assumed Hamlet used those to try and stop the bleeding. Why wouldn’t he go to a hospital? That was the answer, Theo realized; a hospital.
“Just let me get my phone, I’ll call the hospital.”
“No,” Hamlet grabbed Theo’s hand, stopping him. “No hospital. They might call my old man.”
Hamlet smirked, “Who do you think did this?”
Theo felt a pang of guilt. He had no reason to, but he couldn’t help it.
“What do you want me to do then? Why did you come here?”
“I don’t know. Panic? I don’t have anyone else. I didn’t have a friend to call and all I got is my asshole of an old man. Could you just put a band-aid on and let me sleep here for the night? It’s never been this bad before but it’s not the first time. I’m used to it. I just need to sleep.”
“So, where would you sleep all those other times?” Theo didn’t even know why he asked what he did. There was obviously no time for useless questions.
A particularly loud gust of wind rocked the living room window. Although improbable, Theo feared the window would give in.
“Ah,” Hamlet said, “I remember. The cold. That’s why I came here. It’s too cold to sleep outside.”
Sleep outside? ‘…it’s never been this bad before’?
Theo noticed the bleeding on his brow was getting worse. Hamlet dropping himself in the couch must have worsened the wound that had just barely held itself close.
“Just give me a second. I need to suture that brow. If not, you really will have to go to a hospital. I can’t have you bleed all over my place.”
Hamlet said nothing as Theo left for his room.
Looking around in his closet, Theo found his old fishing gear, dusting off the age on it. He searched for the fishing line inside and took it. Looking around another box, he took out his mother’s old sewing kit. It had been left alone for so long, Theo couldn’t believe he was opening it for Hamlet of all people. Theo chased his mother’s promise out of his mind.
Fastening the fishing line to the needle, Theo returned to the living room and roused Hamlet awake.
“You can’t fall asleep before I’m done with you. If you wake up in the middle of it, it could get even worse.”
With a nod, Hamlet said, “Yeah. Do your thing, Doc.”
Getting to work, he expertly sutured Hamlet’s brow. Theo would have hated to have his father be in the room just then, gloating over the fact that he had been right, the First Aid classes had been helpful.
Getting a damp cloth from the kitchen just a few steps away, Theo cleaned the area around the sutures and the dried blood from Hamlet’s face. Going back to the kitchen a second time, Theo got a glass of water and pain pills. This was a rare occasion in which Theo was glad he had such a tiny apartment to live in.
Returning to Hamlet, Theo found him asleep again. He lightly shook him awake.
“Drink this.” Handing over the glass and the pills, Theo noticed Hamlet shivering. “Did you break something? If you’re bleeding internally, we will go to a hospital. I’m not going to have you die here.”
Hamlet shook his head, no. “Nothing brok-th. Trust me, I would feel the difference. He’s always careful not to break anything. He must’ve been a little ess-tra drunk tonight for him to go thi-sh far.”
Theo could see that Hamlet clearly needed the bed much more than he did.
Slowly, Theo helped Hamlet to his room. It was hard for him to support Hamlet who was nearly 20 centimeters taller than him. Hamlet was shivering so much that Theo could hear his teeth chattering.
He hadn’t missed the fact that Hamlet was slurring his speech as well.
Crossing the threshold of the bedroom, Hamlet’s knees buckled under him, and they both fell to the floor. Theo couldn’t believe just how cold he felt.
Theo gasped as he turned Hamlet on his back and pressed his hand on Hamlet’s bare chest.
“You’re way too cold. Get up. I can’t carry you alone. These clothes are soaked. We need to get you out of them.”
Hamlet mustered the last of his strength to get on Theo’s bed but that was as far as his strength took him. The rest, he left for Theo. It was all he could do to not scream in pain.
Theo didn’t think about the fact that he would have to strip Hamlet until his shirt was off. The adrenaline started fading then. It wasn’t so much shame as it was annoyance, why did it fall to him to help him when Hamlet hadn’t been anything but a pain in the ass for Theo?
As he unbuckled Hamlet’s pants and started pulling them down, Hamlet groaned in pain. Walking over to the light switch, and turning the light on, Theo felt his heart sink at the state of him.
Up until that point, he had been using the light from the living room to guide them to the bed. Theo hadn’t had the time to turn the light in the room on when they came in, so he hadn’t noticed the marks on Hamlet after he first took off his shirt.
His chest and arms were riddled in bruises. The left side of his face, where he had sutured just moments before, was bruised as well and in the process of swelling. And there, on his left thigh, was the worst of it. The bruise there was bright pink and large. Its shape was long and oval.
Is that a fucking footprint? Theo asked himself.
Theo turned on the small heater in his room before returning to the bed. Being extra careful with his leg, Theo finished taking off Hamlet’s pants and shoes. He was not looking forward to the next part.
“Listen to me carefully, it’s very cold here.” Theo said. “I’ve turned on the heater, but it will still take a while to heat up the room, especially in this cold. And you can’t just wait for it or I’m afraid you could go into hypothermia. I have to take your briefs off and then I’m gonna have to…cuddle you.” Picturing the act, Theo shivered in disgust. “Ugh, trust me, neither of us wants this, but it’s either that or calling the hospital.”
Theo couldn’t understand why he was going so far for someone who had annoyed him so much. Especially someone he told to piss off not even a week before. And then, he had opened his home to that person in the middle of the night, sutured his face, stripped him and now was about to apply his own body heat just so they wouldn’t die.
Hamlet smiled. “Are you trying to sedu-sh me, Mrs. Robinson? I like your brown curls and those pretty brown eyes.”
Theo couldn’t figure out if Hamlet was being a dumb-ass or sinking deeper into delirium. He immediately realized it was the latter, when Hamlet stopped shivering and began to mutter cold, cold, cold, repeatedly under his breath.
Taking off the robe, Theo got on the bed and turned Hamlet on his side, pressing his body to Hamlet’s.
Two facts became evident to Theo just then; first, the whole ordeal would be strange to explain to a coherent Hamlet in the morning, and second, he remembered the fact that he always slept naked.
As Theo made to get up and put on at least a pair of underwear, Hamlet pulled his arm over himself again and held it tight in his, breaking into a heavy sob not a moment later.
Hamlet felt himself cry uncontrollably. The shock of it seemed to make the situation clearer to him, but he couldn’t bring himself to calm down. Not only had his father beaten him harsher than he ever had before, he felt shame enjoying being in Theo’s embrace, the closest thing to human contact he’s had in years.
Theo held Hamlet until the latter fell asleep. Hamlet refused to let go of his hand. It was uncomfortable to lay in the position that he was in as Hamlet was taller than him. His face was pressed on Hamlet’s back. In that moment, though, Theo couldn’t bring himself to complaint when he thought about Hamlet’s situation.
The whole ordeal had seemed surreal, but suddenly very clear. Theo had a million questions and he wasn’t sure he’d get all the answers, but at least, the crisis was, for the moment, averted.
And yet the ridiculousness of it was almost comical to a degree.
“What the fuck just happened?”