So here it is at last! The sequel to Letting Go!
For explanations and apologies for my absence, please see Chapter Three of 'The Luxury Boosh'.
It won't make a whole lot of sense if you don't read 'Letting Go' first, although you could give it a bash- it's fairly easy to pick up what's happened. Really would reccomend reading 'Letting Go' anyway though, 'cause it sets the scene for this nicely (obviously).
So I'm actually pretty proud of this. Not in a sort of 'best bit of writing ever' kind of way. Because obviously it isn't. In fact, I haven't even proof-read it. But it has a nice feel to it. I really got lost in the narrative writing this. I mean, it was like I was watching it happen and writing notes about it. The first bit is kind of sketchy, I'll admit, 'cause I was working fast to get the chapter up, but somewhere in the middle (right after I went out the back to get stoned with my brother I expect) I really got into it.
This story has a more grown-up feel to it. Because to me, Vince has lost his innocence, he's grown up. And I hope that came through in the writing, because Vince and Howard can't have gone through all that with no character development.
Unfortunately, because of how I chose to finish 'Letting Go', this story is going a little dark. Like I said, a bit more grown-up.
Well, I'm afraid I've rather built it up too much now. So please, lower expectations about ten notches, and let's begin!
Vince crossed the shop, trying to hold himself upright in spite of the buzzing in his head. He felt sick and dizzy, but Howard's watchful eye was on him and so he forced his brightest smile as he sat in his favourite chair.
"What took you so long?"
Howard's voice was full of suspicion. Vince knew what he expected him to have done- spent half the morning in the bathroom throwing up the cereal he had been served for breakfast. That wasn't strictly true. Vince had spent all morning in the bathroom, but he had simply been touching up his make-up so the circles under his eyes didn't show. He didn't have anything to throw up- the cereal had simply gone down the sink.
It had been two days since Howard's return from the afterlife. So far, it had only been Vince who seemed traumatised by the whole affair. In fact, Howard was doing well, due in part to Naboo creating an anti-depressant potion and to Vince's mental state. Having someone to take care of would keep him out of his own head, Naboo had explained, and that was why he wasn't feeling so down. But Vince could no longer tell when someone was being truthful with him and when they were lying to make him feel better.
That morning on Howard's first day back had changed the balance of the household. They had sat on the bathroom floor until well into the afternoon, talking and being completely open with each other for the first time in a long time. For a while, they were equals- no longer the man-child and his carer, not the old jazzy freak and the popular young socialite, but two troubled, broken men, bearing their souls to each other.
When they had finished, Howard had been the first to rise, offering a hand to help Vince to his feet. They had gone into the front room, awkwardly sat down to watch television and no more had been said all day. But from then onwards, there was a watchfulness about Howard. He was keeping his eye on Vince, making sure the younger man was alright. And that was starting to grate on him.
On the second day, Howard let Vince off from eating. Vince avoided him as much as possible, embarrassed and ashamed. It was like they were on a short holiday, away from the stresses of the real world, except Vince could no longer face his friend. But now they were on day three and life was going back to normal (or some semblance of it) and there was no hiding from reality. Vince had been issued with a bowl of cereal that morning to get him 'back on track', with strict instructions to wait for the milk to soak in so it was soggy. But Vince had no intention of swallowing cold, plain Cornflakes only to have his hopes that they wouldn't come straight back up dashed, and so he had washed them down the sink the moment Howard had left to open the shop. After much stalling and tweaking of his appearance to make himself look less pathetic, Vince had forced himself to descend the stairs and face things head-on.
Vince realised a long silence had passed and Howard was still staring expectantly at him. He gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile as he tried to remember the question.
"Just fixing myself up, you know how it is," he said at last, fluffing up his hair and trying to look vain. Howard's gaze didn't waver.
"Did you have your breakfast?"
"Yeah, of course," Vince lied smoothly.
"And...?" Howard prompted.
"Everything's fine." Then Vince thought that the statement would probably be a cause for some joy, so he grinned. "It's stayed down, I think."
This seemed to ease Howard's mind and Vince felt a stab of guilt when a small smile appeared underneath the moustache.
"Good. Hopefully, we'll have the same luck with lunch, eh?"
Vince's smile was decidedly weaker this time. "Yeah," he agreed lamely.
Lunch. It hadn't even crossed his mind that in a few short hours, he would be forced to munch through a sandwich or something of the kind with Howard's sharp eyes upon him. More misery. He would have to think of a way out.
Was this how it was going to be until he died of starvation? Dodging meals for fear of that awful sickness? Because he couldn't live like that- not for anything. Not even for the sake of Howard. But how could he save himself when he was so terrified? What else could he do? There wasn't a way out- not from where he was standing.
Before he realised it, tears were running down his cheeks. Howard's features softened and Vince had to turn away, dragging his sleeve over his eyes.
Neither man spoke. The silence pressed against Vince's eardrums, the pounding of his heart so loud Howard must have been able to hear it on the other side of the shop. He was so afraid of the man's opinion- worried that he might decide Vince wasn't worth it, petrified that he might decide to sever his tie with life for good. It hurt so much the first time, when Vince was still whole. How would he cope now?
And then there was a hand on his shoulder. He turned into Howard's chest, wrapping his arms around him, clinging to him in case he changed his mind and tried to walk away.
It was at times like this that Howard dropped all physical boundaries and became human for a few moments. Long enough for Vince to know he was loved, but to learn that it didn't mean he was special. Only one person would be special enough to cross the line permanently and Vince knew it wouldn't be him. That was why they were still just friends. He had realised that two days ago, on that first morning.
But Vince didn't really mind. He just wanted Howard, no matter what place he took in his life. Best friend, boyfriend, there was no difference other than sex, and Vince could get that anywhere he wanted. He could go without, if need be. But the thing he couldn't go without was Howard, and he had learned that the hard way.
"What's up, Little Man?" Howard asked gently. Vince didn't have an answer. How could he summarise his thoughts without sounding completely off the rails?
"I don't know," he said helplessly. Then added, truthfully, "Just scared."
Vince shook his head and pulled away, silenced by the lump in his throat. He inhaled deeply, trying to control himself.
"I need a minute."
On shaky legs he rose and stumbled awkwardly past the Northerner, ignoring the way his head spun when he walked. He climbed the stairs slowly and deliberately, clinging onto the banister for dear life. Then, finally, he reached the flat and collapsed onto the sofa as black dots swam before his eyes. He was shaking beyond belief, his heart was racing, his legs felt like lead. He felt like he had climbed Everest, not struggled up fourteen steps. His body was protesting against him, waging a war against the starvation he had forced upon it. His emotions were everywhere, swirling around in his head, fighting powerfully against each other.
He had lost control. He was way out of his depth.
Hmm, yes, that will do.
And that's just the opening chapter- a mere taster of things to come!
If I randomly vanish again before I can update, have no fear! I will return eventually, every time. I promise.
Also, I know exactly how this ends and I couldn't be more excited. But I'm not telling YOU, ha ha!
No, seriously, I'm so excited for the end of this. Really. I mean, the bits in between are cool and all that, and I'm kind of impressed with how this story is going to progress (I have it more or less planned out), but the ending is a scenario I've been toying with for years in all kinds of stories that I've written, but it's never quite made it in because I either abandoned the story or decided it wasn't right. But it seems to fit perfectly with this and I love it, so hooray (and all that)!
Uh, so please review! No, no, I insist. Go on, just a couple of words? Please?