Chapter Five: Black Out
Instead of waiting for the rain to let up, Nate and Alex decided to make a mad dash for the car in the downpour. As neither one of them had a coat, they were soaked through within seconds and, when they finally got into the car, the seats felt soggy beneath them. Nate tried his best to sort out his mop of hair in the rear-view mirror whilst Alex fought the urge to wring out his shirt right there and then.
With dripping fingers, Nate turned on the heaters and started the car after massaging his knee a few times; it was really starting to ache and it didn’t help that his trousers were now somewhat moulded to his legs. He turned out of the car park and onto the main roads where the traffic moved at a snail’s pace because of the low visibility. The window wipers swished back and forth rapidly, momentarily mesmerising Alex, and the lights from other cars bounced off the wet windows like some sort of private disco in Nate’s car. The redhead desperately wanted to break the ever-growing silence and blurted the first thing that popped into his mind,
Brilliant. Move over Tarantino, there’s a new wordsmith in town.
Alex nodded silently.
After another twenty minutes of waiting in traffic jams and avoiding overflowing gutters, the silence was weighing on the two males like a heavy, wet blanket. Neither man wanted it to continue but neither could think of something to say that didn’t involve the weather. It was only when the two cars in front swerved and collided with the hard shoulder that Nate finally spoke up. He slammed on the brakes, his knee protesting at the sudden movement, and the car jolted to a stop. Thankfully, no one careened into Nate’s car as the crash in front had been pretty obvious.
“Fuck!” he rested his forehead on the steering wheel a moment, catching his breath. The sound of metal on metal had brought back the memories of his own accident the previous year.
Alex looked at Nate as he sat up straight again, “You okay?”
Nate glanced at his passenger, suddenly aware that he wasn’t alone in the car, “Yeah, you?”
“I’m fine,” Alex looked at the drivers of the cars in front as they pointed and shouted at one another through the rain. He didn’t like the way they were getting closer and closer, like they were going to fight. “Should we go around?” What he’d wanted to say was ‘Let’s get out of here, please’ but Nate took the hint well enough.
With a curt nod, Nate manoeuvred the car around the accident and drove on, more careful now that he was aware of just how bad the road surface was. They passed another couple of accidents; a telephone wire had fallen across one of the more narrow roads in town, blocking their way completely and leading Nate to take a different route home, adding another ten minutes to their seemingly never-ending journey.
Finally home, Nate squelched into the house and went straight upstairs to change, leaving Alex to make some tea. Before he could boil the kettle, however, he heard Nate’s voice echo down the stairs,
“Take a shower if you want, Alex!”
He did just that.
Nate took a quick one too and then made some beans on toast for the two of them, feeling somewhat cosy as he poured the beans onto the toast, knowing he wasn’t going to be eating alone once again. He opened his mouth to shout to let Alex know it was ready and then snapped it shut, realising he probably sounded like some old fishwife, shouting constantly. Instead, he knocked on the bathroom door and spoke like a normal man,
“I made beans on toast,” the sudden thought that Alex might not like beans dawned on Nate but he shook it off like the rainwater, “It won’t keep warm for long.”
He turned to return to the kitchen and ended up looking directly into the spare room – Alex’s room. The young blonde was looking in the wardrobe, once again wearing Nate’s too-long jogging bottoms. Nate could see his bare back - muscular, yet narrow, a nice light shade that matched Alex’s hair, but what covered it startled Nate. Scars. Tens, maybe hundreds of small gouges and slashes mottled the teen’s skin like someone or something had been let loose upon his pure flesh. Nate immediately recognised one of the shiny patches as a belt buckle and his fist clenched reflexively. Alex turned then and spun a little faster when he saw Nate looking, he was about to ask to borrow another shirt when everything went black.
Nate thought he’d gone blind as he squinted into the darkness but the lights flickered momentarily once again, reassuring him that he still had his sight, then faded out completely, leaving the two in complete darkness.
“Well,” Nate’s green eyes squinted towards where he thought Alex was, “Glad I made the beans beforehand.”
“Can I borrow another shirt, please?” Goosebumps had formed on the blonde’s skin as he stood in the darkness and he rubbed his arms to try and warm himself up. Nate nodded and then realised he should probably say something too, the kid didn’t have night-vision,
“Yes! There’s some upstairs… I’ll go get one for ya’.”
He turned, tripped over his own feet and sprawled onto the carpet, staring upwards at the darkness. Alex had heard the thud but was already at the doorway before he realised what had happened; he caught his foot on Nate’s lanky body and clattered on top of him like a gherkin on a burger. If the lights had been on, Nate would have seen the younger man’s cheeks burning as his bare chest collided with the redhead’s and vise versa.
“Sorry!” Alex blurted, his breath warm against Nate’s neck.
Nate swallowed thickly and tried not to think of how close his housemate was as Alex quickly tried to scramble to his feet, muttering apologies as he did so, but he didn’t know where to put his hands in order to avoid touching Nate. They were still tangled up like flies in a web when a blinding light shone out of the darkness and Alex breathed a sigh of relief, Good, I died. He hadn’t, of course, as the voice that spoke from the darkness was not that of God,
“Oh, shit! I’m now scarred for life, thanks Nate. Didn’t mean to interrupt your kinky time, bro,” Simon shone the torch onto his face, revealing his ghoulish grin and making his red hair look like it was ablaze as the tangled mass of bodies on the floor finally got to their feet.
Nate brushed himself down and pointed at his twin, “We tripped.”
“I bet you did. Who’s the lucky lady?” Simon shone the torch onto Alex, making him blink, and his smile faded as he looked back at his brother, “Is this the homeless guy? He’s still here?!”
Alex glanced at Nate, a little worried that Simon was going to make him leave or perhaps call the police. It wouldn’t be the first time someone trying to help him had backfired. However, Nate stepped closer to his twin so that they were both lit up like Jacko-lanterns by the torch and spoke quietly yet deliberately,
“Yes. He’s staying with me. It’s fine. Shut up.”
Simon’s shoulders sagged and he knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere arguing, “Alright. And there I was thinking you were finally shaking the sausage.”
“That is horrendous. Never speak again.” Nate frowned into the torchlight, “Why are you here anyway?”
Simon shrugged, “Our lights went out, thought maybe yours would be on.”
Beside him, Alex shivered and Nate sensed the small movement. He snatched the torch from his brother and pointed the beam towards the stairs,
“I’ll go get Alex a shirt, go and find some candles will you?”
“Yessir,” Simon muttered as he turned and barrelled straight into Kyle, who had been standing there the entire time like some poised ninja. Simon slapped a hand to his heart, “Forgot you were there, Christ!”
“Oh, thanks!” Kyle elbowed his love in the ribs and held onto his shirt like a school kid as the two of them, and Alex, fumbled through the darkness towards the kitchen.
“Can’t see shit,” Simon snagged his toe on the end of the sofa as the three made their way into the kitchen, “OW! Bastard!”
Kyle waved his arms in the air, searching for the drawers, and Alex opened a few cupboards, fumbling around in them blindly as he felt for candles. When Nate returned with a shirt for Alex, the younger man put it on and Nate shone the torch into the small room, momentarily blinding everyone as they hunted for the elusive candles.
“Cheers, Nate, I didn’t need my retinas anyway,” Simon jibed.
“Got them!” Kyle pulled out a small plastic bag full to the brim with tea lights and Simon clapped, a loud hollow sound in the dark room.
After lighting almost twenty of the small candles, the living room was officially illuminated. It looked like a cheap brothel, yes, but at least they could see one another now. The men sat on the floor like it was some silent code when there was no electricity, like they had to revert back to cavemen and fend for themselves.
Simon leant against the sofa and Kyle sat between his legs, his back resting against the taller man and their hands intertwined. Nate couldn’t help the twinge of jealousy that shimmered through him like a small jolt of his very own electricity and he tried to force himself to think about something other than his own loneliness because he knew going down that particular road was not a pleasant journey. He was about to ask his brother why he was even still there when Alex spoke up, his quiet voice sounding almost forced,
“When did you two…” he trailed off, suddenly aware of the six eyes staring his way. He was looking at Kyle and Simon and much to Nate’s shock and, if he admitted it, delight, Alex looked exactly how Nate felt: jealous.
Simon looked sideways at his brother and then back to Alex, “Us?” he squeezed Kyle’s hand a little tighter as he continued, “You mean when did we meet or…?”
Alex nodded, his cheeks a little pinker than before. He looked like he was starting to regret asking, “You don’t have to answer. I didn’t really mean to say it out loud.” He glanced quickly at Nate then back to the couple.
Simon shrugged, “School. We met in year 8 and were best friends straight away,” he smiled at the surfacing memory, “Well, after I punched him in the face.”
Alex’s jaw dropped and Nate grinned. He remembered the day Simon had been sent home after hitting Kyle; they’d been in P.E and Simon had been, quite blatantly, staring at Kyle’s legs as they played dodgeball. Of course, Kyle had noticed and so when they were back in the changing rooms putting on their uniforms he had asked Simon straight-out why he’d been staring. Simon lost it. He hadn’t ‘come out’ to anyone yet and only Nate had any idea that he might be gay. Simon was known as the ‘jock’, the ladies’ man that enjoyed nothing more than flirting with anyone in a skirt. It was all a front, however, and Simon had had the hots for Kyle as soon as he’d seen him. So, when Kyle brought it up, Simon had simply balled up his fist and punched his troubles away, breaking Kyle’s glasses in the process. He was suspended for a week and when he returned, Kyle was the one blushing when Simon was around.
Nate chuckled, “Simon wasn’t as simple as he is now.” He received a cushion to the face for that comment and Alex grinned despite himself, content in the safety of this small ‘family’.
“I realised I shouldn’t hide who I truly am and we ended up dating, in secret mind you, up until university.”
Alex was leaning forward now, too engaged in the story to hide his interest, “You spilt up when you went to uni?!”
Simon nodded and a shadow seemed to encase his eyes, “It wasn’t a mutual decision.” He waited for some sort of response from Kyle but all he got was a small snore as he lover slept soundly against his chest. Simon’s stony expression melted and he kissed Kyle’s messy hair lovingly, “We realised our mistake in second year and ended up together again. We lived happily ever after. The End.”
Knowing that was all he was going to get from the eldest twin, Alex sat back silently and turned his attention to the long sleeves of the borrowed shirt. He rolled them up slowly so that it would take longer and he wouldn’t have to occupy himself with something else other than staring at the loved-up couple.
“So what about you, Alex? Got a girlfriend?” Simon absently stroked his thumb over Kyle’s hand as he spoke.
“I…” the blonde kept his eyes on the sleeves of his shirt, “No. No girlfriend.”
“Si!” Nate snapped and Simon pressed his lips into a thin line after mouthing a ‘Sorry’ to his brother.
“No boyfriend, either.”
Although he knew he was prying, Nate couldn’t help but dive at the chance of knowing more about his housemate, “Family?”
Alex’s bright blue eyes seemed to shimmer more in the candlelight and he swallowed loudly before speaking again,
“I never knew my Dad. My Mum… She died.”
Nate clenched his jaw, Am I seriously that stupid?! Why did I have to ask that?! He ran his hand through his hair and licked his dry lips,
“I’m sorry, Alex, I didn’t mean to-“
“It’s fine. It’s alright, don’t worry.”
With sweaty palms, Nate rubbed his face, hoping that he could rub it off altogether and be left with a gaping hole that he could somehow dive into. Simon could sense the pressure building and cleared his throat purposefully,
“Well, we should get going,” he tried to stand but Kyle’s sleeping body remained limp against his chest, pinning him back against the couch.
“Stay if you want,” there was a pleading present in Nate’s voice that Simon hadn’t heard in a long time, a desperate sort of hidden rope that his twin wanted to tie him down with. He nodded,
“You can sleep in my room, I’ll use the couch.” It felt right that he should be punished somehow for asking the stupid question in the first place and Nate thought there was nothing more fitting than sleeping on the cold, threadbare sofa.
“You could sleep in my bed.” Alex chewed on his lip as he stared at the tea light in front of him.
“What?” Was all Nate could muster.
“Yeah, what?” Simon parroted.
Alex flushed a deep red and seemed almost ablaze in the flickering light, “I mean, you- You could sleep in my bed and I’ll sleep on the sofa! It’s not really my bed anyway.”
“Christ, thought you were getting an invitation there, Natey,” Simon grinned, showing his pearly whites as he forced a half-asleep Kyle to his feet and guided him upstairs.
Nate raised his middle finger at his brother’s back and politely declined Alex’s offer, reassuring him that it was in fact Alex’s bed and that he had every right to it. He was almost disappointed when the blonde nodded and slowly padded back to his room.