Empty swimming pools [BxB]

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Do me a favour


One year later





William Hamilton-Smith stares into his tea. The sounds of the pub bleed into the hallway, into his ears, and he taps his foot to the rhythm of music from the radio. Music always gives him the urge to move, as though the sound tickles him. Maybe it does.

Mentally, he ticks off the seconds until Saturday night’s competition. Tomorrow night, the bands would have to practice - complete with sound checks, lighting consultations, everything to ensure perfection. Then Saturday. There’s the promise of fresh music for his label and his ears.

Hamilton Records boasted some of the hottest new bands in the country, with their unique sounds getting significant airtime on the radio, hitting the top of the Billboard charts, selling out arenas left and right, and headlining festivals. William has been in the company for a month now. After his uncle stepped down as CEO he took over the job. Responsibilities and pressure of being the boss of the company like this doesn’t scare him, it is coming back to London after being away for almost four years. And last time he visited was a year ago.

He’d found the bands through competitions like the one this weekend, and from the demos he’d already heard, he anticipated a tough decision. Will the live sound hold up, or are the recordings products of studio magic? He drains his mug then motions to his planner.

- We have a busy day. Busy weekend.

He says to Micah, his assistant, who is sitting next to him at the bar with his laptop open, writing emails in William’s name.

He likes coming down to this pub on his lunch break. It is just across the street from the big, tall building where the label offices are. On his first day at a new job, when he found this pub he thought it was the worst place he’s ever been to. Too old, too dark, to clustered. But somehow he found himself going back in spite of all that. His office with its wall to wall windows feels like a fish bowl, he needs to get away from it at least for an hour, and he appreciated Micah’s ability to follow him here, no questions asked, and that he treats him like a normal person. Not like a serious and emotionless owner of a record label that everyone else is seeing. No, these conversations in the pub with Micah provide some sense of normalcy, even though they mostly talk about work. Or actually just work.

- What do you think of the bands? - Micah says not looking up from his laptop. He is always dressed in bright colourful suits, a perfectly styled quiff slicked back and thick rimmed square reading glasses.

- Better than I expected. There are some amazing bands coming this weekend. I might have trouble choosing. - William looks at his phone, a message from Nina pops up. - I have two that I am already considering. I’ve been praying for the sound to hold up live.

- I think it’s time to go back to the office Mr Hamilton-Smith. Best not to be late. You have a meeting with Paul Andrews in 10 minutes. Then a conference call with Susana from LA at half past two. I made a reservation for dinner with your family and fiancée at 5pm. Although your fiancée insisted that you go to Le Gavroche in Mayfair not Amaranto at Four Seasons like you initially wanted. I... didn’t know what to do, I just booked both, in case you... well I don’t know if you wanted... -

Micah stutters, obviously put in an awkward position, and William just sighs. He knows why Nina doesn’t want to go to Four Seasons, William himself isn’t sure why he would go back there. He isn’t staying there anymore, since he moved back to England with Nina, they were staying at Charlotte’s house temporarily until they found their own forever home. Forever. Yes, William still needs to repeat that word just so he gets used to it.

- It’s fine Micah, just stick with Nina’s choice. She already messaged me about it.

He is tired, it is only one in the afternoon and he is tired. He takes a deep breath and they leave the pub, at this hour of the day plenty of people are rushing around, talking speedily on their phones, all dressed in similar suits. William is just in front of the building with two glass spinning doors, and floor to ceiling glass walls when his phone starts ringing. A smile shows up when he sees his friend’s name on the screen.

- Liam. Finally, man, what took you so long? - hushed speaking is heard in the background as soon as he enters the lobby, but he is now used to it. Everyone is still talking about the new CEO, being only 27 but a millionaire, his previous career in Broadway theater not in business, him being in every gossip magazine in the past few months. Him showing his tattooed skin under rolled up sleeves of his branded shirts. After he left Broadway he felt more rebellious, wanted to paint his skin with images of things that meant to him, and got quite addicted.

- Yeah, listen, I gotta go know, I’m in a meeting but please, please let’s meet later today -

William tells his friend that just came from New York to visit his family and William desperately needs an escape from work and this new life that he really doesn’t mind. He just really misses some simplicity that New York offered him, that’s all, he’s sure Liam can give him that. He enters a large meeting room on the top floor, puts the phone down and grabs a file from Micah. This is what he was meant to be doing, everything else was just an illusion.

*

- I adore these photographs Nina, you look stunning! - Charlotte says while flicking through the phone and sipping her rose wine. - No offence, big brother, you look... alright. - her grin is cheeky.

- You’re hilarious. - William snickers while still chewing on his medium rare steak; he is not annoyed with Charlotte’s joking - constant bickering and jokes is rather normal for two siblings. It is the internet portals and magazines all over the country with pictures of William and Nina leaving a fancy restaurant in Paris last month.
Nina was wearing a stunning diamond ring, and the gossip about their engagement started spreading like wildfire. Son of Baron Hamilton-Smith, famous British mogul and one of the members of the extended royal family, Gabriel William Hamilton-Smith sparks rumours he’s engaged to his girlfriend actress Nina Perry as she’s spotted wearing a diamond ring on a romantic holiday in Paris. He is definitely in the spotlight after moving back to England and taking over Hamilton-Smith’s business.

Soon after that, they confirmed it by giving an exclusive interview, which really wasn’t William’s thing, but he agreed to it eventually. It certainly made Nina happy.

- We were thinking of doing the exclusive with Hello! first but I just couldn’t refuse the offer OK! magazine made. - Nina beams from her seat next to William while Jack, Charlotte’s husband, just gives him a sympathetic look from across the table.

- I understand now why you moved across the ocean, mate. - William nods at this, he became quite fond of Jack and is really happy to see his little sister find somebody who treats her right and is a decent person to be around. - This family of yours is crazy. - They all laugh after Charlotte playfully hits him, their waiter tops up their wine glasses in a luxurious atmosphere of prestigious Le Gavroche and William is content, finally everything seems to click.

- It all worked out really well. Perfect actually. - Nina looks adoringly at her new ring . - The Forgotten is filming another season in England, I would only need to travel back to New York a couple of times.

- And when do you reckon the wedding will be? - Jack asks but William ignores the question by stuffing his mouth with more food.

- I’m guessing next year will be perfect, won’t it? - Gabriel, William’s father says.

- Yes, there’s so much to plan. - Nina looks at William and he just nods.

- Oh, I’m giving you the number of our wedding planner. She’s brilliant. - Charlotte adds eagerly.

- Definitely.

- Yes, we will need time to organise such a massive event, so I’m thinking about spring next year. I’m proud of you, William. I thought you will never come to your senses but here we are, you are all grown up finally. - William’s father says after he dabs the corner of his mouth with a napkin. - Except for those headouis tattoos. But hey. I’ll take what I can get.

- Can’t believe you actually said the word proud. God, let me mark this day in my calendar and celebrate it like Christmas.- William rolls his eyes.

- I talked to your uncle Pete yesterday, and he told me how good of a job you’re doing at the office. You still have a lot to learn in business but he can see the passion in you, it’s positive feedback.

- Well I love music, and I do try to be involved in the whole process as much as possible. There’s a few new bands that I truly believe in and some more I have to listen to live tomorrow. - William tries to ignore the fact that his dad is still putting him down even when saying that he’s proud of him, and decides to keep talking about work. He’s done fighting, he wants to keep the peace. Surely a couple of glasses of wine help to do that.

- Pete said he’s bringing some big names too soon so make sure to be ready.

- Really? He didn’t say anything to me.

William is still very much new to the company’s business so his uncle comes to the office every now and then and helps him get into a routine or deal with whatever jobs are left unfinished after he officially resigned. He imagines it is normal that he still has some important contracts to close that he couldn’t trust William with, so he makes a mental note to talk to him about it first thing on Monday morning.

- It’s been a blast you lot, but I gotta go, I’m meeting Liam for a quick drink- he stands up after the waiter clears their table, and few eavesdropping eyes land on them probably realising they must be important guests.

- Oh, make sure you invite him over sometime, it’s been ages since I saw Liam. - Charlotte said.

- Will do. See you all at home later. Dad. I’ll see you... when I see you.- he waves at everyone and then quickly kisses Nina. - See you later, love.

*

When he sees Liam afterwards he’s as excited as he can be. They hug, they joke, they laugh, they catch up. Even though Liam is English and this is his home as well it’s just strange to see him in London, and not back in New York where their friendship officially started .

-So how have you actually been Will? I’m surprised you answered my call and not your assistant.

- Oh man. I’ve been so busy .

- No shit. You’re a fucking CEO, quite a change innit?

- I like it, yeah, it’s a challenge, and I am enjoying it.- he really is. It’s just that sometimes he feels it’s too much.

- And Nina? I mean, you could’ve told me. I found out on the bloody internet.

- I know, I know, it wasn’t supposed to be anything big. But then ...

He remembers the day. Nina booked them a weekend in Paris just after they moved back. She always wanted to go, and after everything they’ve been through he thought it would be nice. Just before their trip William’s father gave him a ring that belonged to William’s mother, saying that it’s what she wanted, her engagement ring is what she would want William to give to his future wife. And it just happened. He proposed to her, thinking it’s what he was supposed to do.

- Will?

- I don’t want to talk about it ok? It’s happening, it is what it is.

- Ok but it doesn’t seem right. I just thought after everything that happened, you know with Lennon and...- and Lennon. Liam clearly knows about the affair but William is not the one who told him about it. He opens another beer bottle as soon as he hears that name. Name he successfully managed to avoid. Name that he knows will hear more now that he lives in the same city as him.

- All that is ancient history Liam, there’s nothing to talk about.

- Are you sure, Will? Have you heard Edge of Revolution’s last album yet? - Liam is pushing him.

- Of course not. I fucking hate Lennon Lewis.

William is bitter and only partly honest. He didn’t hear Lennon’s album that was released a few months after the infamous event. But he heard about it, he didn’t have much choice really, it was everywhere on MTV and on the radio. So William would change the station if the song would come up on the radio while he was driving. Yeah, they were hitting the charts in America as well, and that one day when he was going to his theater on Broadway, Lennon and the band were playing the Today show, and the streets near Rockefeller Center were blocked. He couldn’t actually hear the band but he heard the screams of the fans and in that moment he thought about how annoying it is that he will be late for work because of Lennon Lewis. There was also one second when he was proud of how far they had made it, he always thought they were too good to stay unnoticed. But that second didn’t last much and those thoughts were soon forgotten with deafening sounds of horns on the streets of New York.

- Well he obviously doesn’t hate you, the whole album was written about you. - Liam breaths out and laughs casually.

- What are you talking about? We all now that can’t be true - William laughs at this like he did at one of Liams stupid jokes.

- Oh please William. I have known Lennon since he was basically a teenager. That whole album is full of love songs about one person and one person only. He’s never ever been in love except, well, with you.

- That’s ... not true. He never had feelings for me Liam.

He takes a cigarette and lights it, walking through the balcony door, leaning on the railing outside. Looking in the distance, he tries to imagine where in this city Lennon could be in this very moment. Are they looking at the same sky?

Did Lennon love him? Of course he didn’t. If he did he would’ve done something. Call him more than that one time. But of course he never called again. He spent the night with Matty Sinclair right after he sucked William’s cock in the restroom and told him he cared about him.

Right after William told him he wants to be with him. It was all a fucking game for Lennon, and that little game could’ve destroyed William’s life, his reputation, his relationship. He was so fucking naive and weak.

It’s absurd to believe that such a careless,immature,unpredictable character like Lennon Lewis would write and publish an album with songs about William.

- Ok, you believe what you want to believe Will. - Liam joins him on the balcony of his London flat and takes a cigarette from William’s packet.

- Did he tell you that? That it was about me? - William asks him carefully, actually thinking what it would mean if that was in fact the truth. He immediately regrets asking that because he doesn’t want confusion in his life, everything is finally normal.

- No. He never speaks about you. Which is why I know he cares. Or cared. - William heart beats faster and he shrugs it off deciding he is done talking about this subject. There is no way in hell he will let Lennon be present in his life even as a thought.

- Whatever Liam. Let’s not go there again, there’s no point. I’m engaged and yeah... Wait, what did I want to talk to you about? Oh right. I really want to do another tattoo and you said you have a guy here.

- Oh yeah, it’s my mate Dom, we can go together while I’m still here. -

- That would be sick.

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