The suns attempt to stream through the windows of Dorian’s apartment were halted by two thick curtains, who took seriously their duty of keeping the cheerful call for awakening out.
Where the duct tape had loosened a slither of a gap remained, and through there the slightest sway of gold might be permitted as gusts of air from the overhead fan, the ground fan, and the desk fan sent tiny ripples up and down the faded, dark blue material. The light danced about the room like a sparking engine, all falling down in sprinkles on Dorian’s curled up body.
Sweat tangled hair fluttered against his forehead as droplets took the begrudging journey from the base of his spine down onto the wooden floor panels. Beneath him they groaned as Dorian rolled onto his back with a thump, before groaning along with them.
Da do da da do doooo…. Da da da do do dooo…
Dorian crawled his fingers across the floor, fumbled his mobile towards him, but could do nothing more than slip them across the glass screen while the tone continued to play. He stared at his fingers, then his phone, then back to his fingers with one eye fully open while the other remained half shut. His upper lip raised in disgust, but soon swept up into a smile at his own grossness as he wiped an index finger against his coarse t-shirt and then swiped across the phone again.
“What? What is it?”
The phone answered, the line crackled. Nothing was said.
“To think I almost sat up for that,” Dorian muttered, hanging up the phone.
His hand was pulled back, ready in full swing to thrust it onto the couch when:
Da do da da do doooo… Da da da do do dooo…
He’d changed his number. He’d moved apartments, it couldn’t be them. They couldn’t have found him.
Dorian broke it with a sigh that stayed with him until he was sitting upright. He pulled his knees against his chest, his feet catching against the stickiness of the floor as he dragged them across it. He swiped the phone and pushed it to his ear.
“Let me guess. You’re a banshee? Spring heeled Jack in need of a good cobbler recommendation? A vampire who hasn’t been keeping up with his dental insurance? Look, I’ve heard it all. Just get on with it before I go back to sleep and change my number, for the fifth time.”
He stretched out an arm in front of him, watched as the light brushed his fingertips then scampered up his arm before disappearing as the fan beside him changed course.
Still no sound came from the caller and although more awake, the heat of the room placed Dorian in no mood to entertain.
“Okay,” He began, removing the phone from his ear. “I was going to give you a chance after everything you must have gone through to track me down, but I’m not…”
A crackle came through the phone, a song he hadn’t heard in years, the sound of children playing and then a cut. A pause. Another crackle, and then the words he knew were coming.
“Into the dark we go.
In the dark I stay.”
Dorian’s mouth gaped open and he stared at the white, bare wall in front of him and into his past. A second was lost, but he pushed the phone from his ear and held it out in front of him like a thrashing animal that was on the offense. He pushed himself backwards, his skin squeaking against the floorboards. His back smacked hard against the wall and with an instinct he thought long gone he checked that he could see each corner of the room.
“I know you’ve heard it all, Dorian, because I was the one who told you everything. I’m the one who told you never to tell. And what did you do?”
Dorian’s mouth was dry, his tongue unable to move in a way that could form a meaningful word let alone a sentence. His phone tapped against his head, drawing his attention to his shaking hand.
“4 million views and counting,” the voice that shadowed his memories continued, “that’s not a secret shared, but a secret broadcast to the world.” The voice was crisp and sure of each word said, as though it owned each and every one and had left none for him.
Dorian hung up the phone before anything else could be said. It took a few tries to hit the red button, but he got it. How could he forget that song? That voice… He’d tried, and would take up any recommendations for wiping his memory of it completely. He checked his phone, no new calls, still, he turned it off and jumping up raced across the room to tuck it under one of the pillows on the couch.
“There its hidden,” he said, pushing his hand over his eyes. He lifted it an inch to glance at the pillow that concealed his phone, and gave a sharp nod.
He knew it was a case of if I can’t see you, then you can’t see me, but he had to do something, anything to keep that voice from finding its way back through the speakers of his phone. Turning it off was an after-thought that required him touching it, and that felt as unwelcome as answering it.
He rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand, his eyes dropping onto the main source of light in the room. The spinning colours that shone through the glass of his computer usually brought him joy, but right now they served as nothing but a reminder of the promise he had broken to afford them. Ill-gotten gains is what his mother would have called them, unknowing that it was ill considered games that had granted that story life in the first place. His chest drooped and he again covered his eyes with his hand.
That secret belonged in the past and could have stayed there. It should have stayed there.
Two Weeks Ago
The street lights flickered above Dorian as he shut the door to his car. He breathed in, taking the smell of vinegar and salt up through his nostrils and down into his tummy until it growled. The Gate chippy would be lighting up just like the rest of the street and customers would be lining the main road beyond to get inside, leaving a few minutes later with a bag or two of chips tucked under their arms.
He leaned against the metal of his car for a few seconds more, enjoying the cool of its exterior while dreading the heat of his home’s interior.
Pressing the small plastic button on his keys, the beep of his car alarm came sharp in the quiet evening. The curtain shuffled in the living room and his stomach, no longer interested in dinner, took a dive down to his feet.
“Onwards,” he said, with an imaginary pat from his dad on his back.
He trudged up the first two steps, but then jumped into a small jog for the next few. The door was locked this time, but before he could reach into his pocket to find his keys it was opening in front of him.
“Oh!” He said in surprise, soon to find no reason to continue as his fiancée walked off down the corridor.
By this point his feet were tingling, pins and needles with no business being there, pushing his stomach back up where it belonged – you deal with this, we carry him around all day. He swallowed and closed the door behind him.
His feet had no sooner touched the bottom step when he heard a scoff from the kitchen.
Not even going to say hello?”
He gritted his teeth, but with practiced patience they soon released and his lips turned up into a smile, even if his eyes drifted up the stairs.
“Sorry, Daisy,” he dropped his bag in the hallway, then picked it up again as she walked towards him, her eyes following his bag as she approached.
“I did just clean the hall,” she said.
Dorian glanced back down to the floor and noticed the small crumbs on the wooden boards and dust beginning to build up along the skirting board.
“Oh yeah,” he nodded. “Thanks for that. Anyway, how was your day?” He moved towards her to give her a hug, to which she responded with a pat on the back and a flinch when he kissed her cheek.
“It was fine,” she nudged her head back to the door. “Before you get too settled can you grab us a bag of chips from The Gate? I’m starving.”
“I was going to check on Big Ben…” he stopped talking, her expression warning he was treading into dangerous waters. “Yeah, alright, not a problem. I’ll just take my bag with me.”
Dorian slung the backpack over his shoulder again and turned to head out the door. He walked no more than two steps before he felt the bag jerk and his body pulled with it.
“What, Daisy?” His voice raised a little even while his chest shrunk.
“Well, it’s too hard for you to carry your bag, isn’t it? That was obviously said to spite me, wasn’t it? Even after I cleaned up after your mess. Maybe if you spent less time acting like a complete nerd babying a tomato you wouldn’t struggle to carry a bag.”
Dorian shook his head, pushed his fingers against the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. He knew he didn’t work out enough, but neither did she. Only he didn’t see it as his place to point it out. And lately it seemed like it was the same argument over and over, like boring and twisted déjà vu, but rather than it being a black cat that kept passing by, it was Big Ben.
“The tomato again, Daisy? Really?”
He saw the anger in her eyes before he heard it in her voice. “I know, let’s make it so it’s never an issue again, shall we?” She turned her back on him and started to walk down the hallway. No shouting, no stamping of her feet, just the slam of a door. The garden door.
“Daisy, wait!” Dorian raced down the hall and through the kitchen, he glanced through the window and saw that she was already at the end of their small garden. He threw open the door. “Wait!”
Dorian could see the tomato plant was already pulled from its pot, dirt and roots dangling at the bottom of the long green stem.
He reached her just as she ripped the top few sprouting branches off Big Ben and threw them to the ground. He grabbed hold of her arm and pulled.
“Why did you do that?” She screamed, nursing her arm. “Why did you hit me?”
“What? I didn’t.” Dorian shook his head, his eyes beginning to blur. “I didn’t hit you. I pulled your arm to stop you destroying Big Ben.”
With the arm she had moments before been cradling, Daisy tossed what remained of the plant into the already torn off pieces. She stamped down hard, crushing what remained of the stem and the leaves. “It’s a tomato, Dorian. I’m your fiancée. I come first. You don’t get to hit me over a tomato.”
Dorian looked down at Big Ben. He had been nursing it for weeks. Grown from a seed with the help from his dad. His eyes began to sting but with a deep breath he held back any further ridicule. He looked up at Daisy, at her arm hanging by her side. He hit her?
“Is your arm alright?” he asked.
At this Daisy lifted her arm back against her chest. “I’m not sure. You really hurt it.”
“I’m sorry, Daisy. I really am.”
She nodded her head, her eyes dipped to the ground.
Dorian felt sick. He leaned down to collect the pieces of Big Ben. Some part of him wondered if there was any way to help him.
“Are you seriously going to the aid of a plant over me?”
Without speaking Dorian straightened himself back up. “Of course not, Daisy.” He hooked his arm around her waist and helped her inside. “How about I go get you those chips? Unless you want me to take you to the hospital, that is?”
She shook her head and then leaned it against his shoulder as they stepped into the living room. “Just the chips would be lovely.”
“Alright then, anything else?”
She glanced up at him, her green eyes large beneath long brown eyelashes. “Well, my tea did go cold during that whole debacle. Another would be great.”
“Not a problem,” Dorian said, with a kiss on her forehead. A kiss that she didn’t flinch away from.