Christian nearly stumbled down the steps of the hotel, he was crying so much. The cold January air hit him in the face, like a physical blow but he could have been wearing shorts and a t-shirt for all he cared. "Albert Square, Walford," he told the taxi driver. Earlier, he'd been planning to head for Heathrow, to get that flight to Miami that Jane had talked about, but right now he didn't think he could get enough words out to even buy the ticket, let alone survive the rigors of security and a long haul flight.
He sat in the back of the taxi, sobbing. Dimly, he was aware of the taxi driver staring at him through the rear view mirror, unsure what to do. Men didn't sob in public, certainly not in Walford. "You alright mate?" the driver finally asked.
Christian smiled through his tears. What could he say in response to that? Syed had just married Amira, Christian had outed Syed to his mother, his own sister Jane had rejected him in favour of her business colleagues and there was nothing Christian could do about any of it. But worst of all, the man he loved, the only man in nearly 40 years he'd wanted to spend the rest of his life with had slipped out of his reach, leaving his heart, and his life in pieces. No, he couldn't tell the taxi driver any of that.
"Yeah, I'm ok. Just, just a bit of bad news you know."
The taxi driver nodded and decided to finish the rest of the journey in silence. Back in the Square, Christian thrust the first note that came out of his wallet into the driver's hands and walked up to the front door of his flat. There, he rested his head against the cool wood, unable to even open the door. Soon, the tears overcame him again and he stood, racked with sobs, before crumpling onto the front step.
It was Lucy who found him some time later. She'd left the wedding as soon as she had noticed he had gone, but she'd had to get the bus back to Walford. He was barely aware of her as she helped him to his feet, opened the front door to the flat, and put him on the white sofa where he had loved Syed so much and so often, covering him with a blanket and putting a cup of tea by his side.
"Christian." Her voice was soft but insistent. "Christian, please." He turned to look at her, surprised to see her there. "Christian you're frightening me." She looked so young and helpless, wanting to help, but not knowing how. He sat up: "Luce, it's alright, I'll be fine, I just… it's just…"
"I know," she said. "I know now how much you love him. I didn't realise before, not really. I'm sorry, and Jane will be too."
Christian stared ahead, not wanting to think about his sister and her reaction. "Oh Lucy, what am I going to do?"
"Christian, you'll get through this. Syed, yeah, he's nice looking and stuff, but you know, I always thought he was a bit of a prat. And as for Amira, talk about a spoiled…" she tailed off at the sight of Christian's face. "Sorry, that's not helping, is it?"
"Lucy, I don't think anything will help right now." And the sobs overtook him again.
Christian awoke the next morning, enjoying that brief moment of disorientation where all he was conscious of was the warmth of the bed and stretching his long limbs against the smooth sheets. Then it hit him. Syed was gone. Gone on honeymoon with Amira. His wife. Christian turned his head into his pillow and a long groan came from his lips. Syed was gone and, at some stage, he had to face Zainab.
It took him a long time to get out of bed that morning. He cradled his mobile phone in his hands, longing and dreading a text from Syed, until he realised that Syed was probably on the plane, having spent his wedding night at the hotel with Amira. Even in his distress, Christian couldn't help but smile a bit at the thought of Syed on his wedding night. He knew Syed so well in every way, emotionally, physically, sexually – he knew that the younger man would recoil at Amira's passion, not wanting to stroke her long, lustrous hair, or kiss her smooth skin. Syed just wasn't into women, yet Christian was in no doubt that Amira would pounce on him the minute they were alone together. "Serves him bloody well right" he thought, he'll have to spend his honeymoon gritting his teeth or making excuses. Or imagining he's with me." That thought gave Christian the impetus he needed to swing his legs out of bed and head for the shower, but it wasn't long before the tears overtook him again and he leaned against the tiled wall, remembering the many times Syed had joined him there. With his finger he wrote Syed's name in the misted up glass of the shower door. "It's ok," he tried to tell himself, "it's all going to be ok." It's what he'd told Syed the night before, trying to reassure the other man who looked so lost, standing there with only one shoe. Trouble was, he didn't believe it himself.