Staci was confused and lonely. His long-term girlfriend—who he was about to propose to, had left him for another man. He’d not had a clue anything had been wrong. They enjoyed each other’s company. Their sex life was amazing and—she’d left. Moving out without a goodbye, just a stupid note on the dining table.
He sighed into his drink, not looking at anyone, not even remembering where he was. He’d just walked away from there—make that his house, crying, only stopping when he needed a drink.
“Damn you, Katie,” he muttered, pushing the beer away ignoring it sloshing over the rim making his hand and the bar sticky.
He looked up into the bar mirror, his eyes full of pain when he noticed a man behind him, his hand coming down on his shoulder. Staci stilled.
“Hi. I was wondering...”
“Sod off. Not interested,” Staci stood up shoving back his stool, which fell to the ground with a thud. The barmaid frowned walking towards them.
“Yes,” he snapped. “I’m just leaving.”
“I told you to sod off,” he snarled.
“You can’t save everyone, Gil. Leave him alone.”
“Fine,” he replied turning to Staci. “I’m sorry...”
Staci ignored him, picking up his coat, walking out into the frigid night air.
“Honestly Gilbert you need to stop helping people.”
“I’ve can’t Sadie. It’s in my blood.”
“Find another way to do good deeds then.”
“Not that bloody easy. Anyway, I don’t like seeing...”
“I know. Most of the locals know, however, you need to not get involved. Remember what happened last time?”
Gilbert winced, remembering the black eyes and broken ribs he’d ended up with. Picking up the stool he put it back upright and sat down. The stool wobbled, kneeling down he tugged a thin wallet from under one of the legs.
“Looks like he dropped his wallet,” he showed it to Sadie as she placed a pint in front of him.
“Give it here. I’ll find out who it...Gil,” she protested when he opened it.
“Staci Kalen,” he looked at Sadie handing her the driving licence.
“Strange name for a guy. Now give it here and I’ll get it back...”
“I’ll drop it off. He lives on my way home.”
“Don’t get involved, Gil,” she warned him.
“I won’t. I promise,” he smiled placing the wallet safely in his pocket while he finished his drink.
Staci pulled his jacket on shoving his hands deep in his trouser pockets. Head down, shoes scuffing the pavement, he continued to wander finding himself on the seafront. Stopping he looked out to sea, listening to the waves pounding the shore. Breathing in deeply he started to smile, releasing his sadness while inhaling the scent of the ocean. He jumped down onto the beach crunching over the pebbles and shells until he hit the wet sand. Taking off his work boots and socks leaving them on the shoreline, he turned up his trousers heading for the sea, letting the freezing water curl and swirl over his feet. Smiling and laughing he kicked the waves as they fell over his skin, running along the seafront until he toppled to the sand exhausted. Lying staring up at the stars he let the tears fall once again.
Groaning and damp, he looked around him, wondering where the hell he was. The town lights were at least two miles away. Shrugging he began walking back the way he’d come, his toes squelching in the wet sand. Slowly he made his way home, to the lonely house and his depression. He hated life. He loved his woman, who apparently didn’t love him. What was he going to do with the engagement ring? How embarrassing to need to return it to the shop, especially in a small town. Mind everyone would know she’d left him by the morning. She’d make sure of it.
An hour later he stood on his doorstep, taking his keys out of his pocket, inserting it in the keyhole. He stilled for a moment, hearing a cough. Turning around a man stepped out of the shadows.
“Who the...Are you follow...H-how did you find me? What do you want?” he backed into the door suddenly realising he was alone with a tall dark stranger he only knew as Gil.
“I’ve been waiting for you. I was getting worried.” he stepped closer, Staci’s butt hit the front door.
“S-stay away from me,” he stuttered.
“You dropped your wallet, Mr Kalen. I’m just returning it.” he held out Staci’s thin brown leather wallet. “Sadie...the barmaid, wanted to make sure you got it back.” he smiled. “Anyway, I’d better go. It’s cold out here tonight.”
Staci accepted the wallet, his hands still shaking as Gilbert started to walk away. “W-would you like a hot drink to warm you up?”
Gil paused, “I wouldn’t want to intrude. But thanks.”
“Look,” he called after Gil. “I’m not in a good place right now, and a drink, it’s the only way I can thank you.”
Gilbert returned to the porch pulling his hand out of his pocket holding a piece of paper and pen writing his phone number down, he folded the paper handing it to Staci.
“Not tonight. Call me if you want to talk or go for a coffee. I need to get home; I’ve got work in the morning.”
Staci took the paper, their fingers touching. He felt his fingers tingle as he pulled away.
“Goodnight,” Gil nodded and melted away into the darkness.
Staci stared after him, blinking and sighing he turned opening his door. Entering he shrugged out of his coat hanging it up before walking down to the lounge. His eyes widened in shock. Everything had been tossed, broken or damaged. With a shaking hand, he took out his phone, tugging out the piece of paper and rang Gil as he sank to the floor, his back against the wall.
“Who is this?”
“Staci Kalen...I-I, oh God, please come back, my house has been trashed,” he sobbed into the phone.
“On my way. Call the cops.” he closed the call. Staci closed his eyes, hugging his legs as he sobbed his heart out. Ten minutes later he heard a banging on his door. Staggering to his feet he looked through the peephole opening the door to Gil.
“Shit. What the hell is going on?” He jerked Staci into his arms holding him until he’d stopped crying, his body shuddering as he stepped back.
“Sorry. I-I didn’t know what to do,” he looked at his bare feet suddenly realising he didn’t have his work boots. “Damn,” he turned away hurrying back to the lounge.
“Staci? Don’t touch anything. Did you call the police?”
“I-No I didn’t.”
Gil stood beside him and looked at the mess. “Christ. You’ve not had a good day.” He took out his phone calling the station. “They’ll be here within the hour. Who did you piss off or have you been burgled?”
“It’s probably my ex-girlfriend. She still has a key.”
“You didn’t change your locks?”
“She left me this morning for another man. I got home to find a note on the dining table.”
“The house was ok?”
“Have you been upstairs yet?”
He shook his head. “I didn’t...” he groaned, “damn,” he muttered hurrying up the stairs to find all his clothing strewn everywhere, dresser drawers pulled out and contents dumped on the bed. Staci got down on his knees putting his hand under the mirror until his fingers touched a small square box. “Thank god.”
“The police are here, Mr Kalen,” said Gil from the doorway.
“Thanks.” he grabbed the box shoving it into his pocket and walked back downstairs to talk to them.
Two hours later, the police gone, fingerprints taken and Staci was fast asleep on his couch. Gil shook his head, gently picking him up and placing him in his bed, shoving all the clothes on the floor. Going back downstairs he called Sadie.
“Gil. Where the hell are you? I’ve been...”
“I’m with Staci Kalen...”
“I told you not to get involved, for God’s sake when will you...”
“He involved me,” he cut her off. “His house was either burgled or his ex-girlfriend trashed the place. I’m going to sleep on the sofa, make sure he’s ok in the morning.”
“What about your job?”
“I’m sure they’ll cope for a few hours. The lads don’t bite,” he smirked.
“You’re smiling aren’t you. You asshat,” she ended the call making him chuckle.
Checking the front door was double-locked and the chain was up, Gil settled down on the sofa, dragging his overcoat across his body, closing his eyes to sleep.
Gilbert woke to the aroma of coffee filling the air. Rubbing his eyes, he sat up slowly wondering where he was. Yawning he looked around at the mess realising he was still at Staci Kalen’s home.
“You’re awake.” Staci approached with a smile, handing him a cup of coffee. “I’m sorry about last night,” he sat down on the sofa across from Gil, shoving the other items on the carpet. “I suppose it’ll take a while to get over. I didn’t realise she hated me so much.”
“Perhaps it wasn’t her.”
“I can’t think of anyone else. There was no forced entry.”
“Her new lover?”
Staci shrugged. “Thanks for staying over. I’m going to stay home and tidy up today, get the locks changed etc.”
“What time is it?”
“7.30. Do you want some breakfast?”
“Nah. I’ve got to get home and get ready for work. Thanks for the coffee.”
“W-will I see you again?”
“You asking me on a date?”
“What...no. I, well I could do with a friend right now.”
“Call me at the weekend,” Gil stood patting Staci on the shoulder and took his mug to the kitchen. Walking back, he put his overcoat on, smiling to Staci. “You have a better day.”
Gil left. Staci sank back onto the sofa closing his eyes, letting the tears escape once more.