Chapter 1 : ...Frith Street, UK - January, Pt. 1
“People say things like “it wasn’t supposed to go this way” and “this isn’t what I wanted.” They’re just making noise. There’s no such thing as “supposed to,” and what you want doesn’t matter. All that matters is what happened.”
~ Mira Grant
“You ’lright, mate?” I ask. I don’t know his name. I don’t care. He’s cute. I want to fuck him.
He doesn’t hear me. He’s doodling on a napkin.
The music isn’t that loud, though, so I’m not totally sure how he didn’t hear me. “Mate?”
He looks at me.
“You all right?” I look him over real fast. He’s got rings under his eyes and everything. He’s got this wavy black hair and is slouched over drinking something I can’t figure out. His glasses are slipping down his nose and he looks like a knackered librarian. Nerdish appearance aside, he’s got this real cute face.
The bartender gets me my beer. I don’t know what he’s drinking. It looks like rum and coke. Or a whiskey? I don’t know. I don’t care.
I turn to lean against the bar. “Nice place, yeah?” I ask. Seems like the right thing to do right now.
The bar’s cool. It’s like a really big airplane cabin. Like, long. Or even a wider-than-normal private train car. Bar’s on one side, seating along the walls, and light wells punch through the sloping ceiling.
Except I’m not that into the bar. I’m interested in stripping him down and seeing if he screams when I slam it into him.
He turns to me for a second, looks away, and then leans forward a little. “What?” And then he takes off his glasses to rub his eyes.
“You all right?”
He nods his head hard and then looks back at the three still-full drinks by him. “I’m just waiting for my friends to come back.” His voice is distinctively American, except it has some weird English inflections mixed in. Like he’s trying to blend in.
He puts back on his glasses and glances around, scratching the top of his head. His face is really round and you can tell it’s a face that can express shit like nobody’s fucking business; clearly not a British face. But his breath is heavy as he looks around the long room more than once. “They’ve been gone for half an hour,” he says finally, after three minutes of checking the room.
I don’t think he heard me. “I think they ditched you.” He leans in, and I repeat myself.
“Why would they abandon me at the Bugle?”
I scoff. This poor kid. “Luv, this is the Bulge.”
His eyes widen. In the blue light behind the bar, I can’t tell what colour they are. ”No...no. This is the Bugle. My friends told me so.”
“Mate, this is the Bulge.” I lean forward. “Though I can understand if you want to ditch them, too.”
He turns back to the bar and sighs, putting his face in his hands. “I knew the sign wasn’t a typo,” he whispers, and then downs whatever is in his glass. “They insisted it was a typo, but I thought it was a little ridiculous that a brass instrument like that would be hanging that many rainbow flags on the front.” He throws back whatever he’s drinking and taps the glass with his fingers. “Though it also might be because it’s Soho, but still...” He trails off.
I signal for the bartender for another of whatever he was drinking.
The bartender fucking pours him a Diet Coke.
Sorry, let me clarify. Diet Coke with ice.
This poor kid, who’s been abandoned at a gay bar by his friends, is drinking Diet Coke. And I don’t even think he came to cruise like I did.
Honestly, I’d be drinking to forget.
“Wanna get out of here?” I ask in a low voice.
He sighs and looks around one more time. “Let me message them so I can tell them I’m leaving, okay?” He puts the napkin away in his pocket, pulls out some dosh for the drinks, and stands up.
I blink. “You can’t do it outside?”
“Not without WiFi,” he mutters, and I follow him out the door and back up towards the street.
The air is cooler than it was when I came into the bar three hours ago. There’s a breeze that kind of pushes towards the city centre, and it smells like car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and rubbish.
I mean, the street isn’t that pretty, either. It’s bland, safe for all the neon signs that’re humming.
And it isn’t even the bar’s sign. There’s a sushi place across the street. And then a corner shop next to the bar.
He sighs and rubs his arms, like it’s the first time he’s been in the company of strangers. He looks at me and smiles, exhausted, and says, “Thanks.” He buttons up a real posh-looking coat and wraps a muffler around his neck. I’m about to suggest we get a cab before going to his place, but by the time I glance back at him, he’s turned down the street towards this Mediterranean place by the intersection.
“Hey, wait!” I call. I catch up with him and match his pace. “The least I can do is...walk ya back to your flat.”
He’s not looking at me. “I’m catching the train.” He grins, and there’s dimples.
Fuck, that’s cute.
But I blink. “Oh, ’lright.” I didn’t think he’d be into that. I’ve never gotten it on with someone on a train before. Taxi, yes. Bus, that was hot. But train? I’ve been missing out.
No, that’s a lie. I’ve done it with someone on the Pendolino. But the Underground is trickier.
He takes in a slow breath and waits for a biker to pass. “You live down here?”
I shake my head. “Nah, I’m up in Islington.”
The street’s a little quieter now. He nods. “Ah. I’m just off Old Street.”
We cross Shaftesbury Avenue and then turn onto a side street. He either isn’t very talkative or is real shy. Either way, the perks of finding out if he screams is still interesting to me.
“How old are you?” he asks. He steps away.
“Don’t I look i’?” I ask, grinning.
He gives me this weird look. I don’t think he knows what to say to that.
“I’m nineteen,” I say. “You?”
He coughs, and walks around me to not walk through the smoke. “Twenty-one.”
THE ACTUAL FUCK YOU DO NOT LOOK TWENTY-ONE. “Oh.”
He smiles and looks away at the upcoming traffic. He clears his throat and walks a little faster.