Exclusive Excerpt from Release
by A.E. Ryecart
It was late. Far too late to be phoning. A ringing phone in the early hours of the morning meant only one of two things: somebody had died or was halfway there. What it didn’t mean was that you were getting a call from somebody who was ringing to say this wasn’t a good idea. Whatever this was.
“Fuck if I know,” Sean muttered as he poured himself another tot of engine oil. He pushed it away. It was gut rot. He pulled it back and gulped it down. It was Dutch courage. What was it he was going to say to Laurie again? Thanks but no thanks. No more galleries. No more kissing. No more us.
Prostitutes and policemen, stick to your own.
Brutal. But brutal was best, wasn’t it? Brutal got the message across. No misunderstanding, no room for a sudden change of mind. Because Freddie was right, wasn’t he? Him and Laurie, it could only end in tears. Which meant putting a stop to it at—Sean squinted at his watch. Four o’clock in the morning. How had it got to four o’clock? He was drunk. He knew he was, because he wasn’t brave enough to make the call sober.
He could text. Yeah, was was what he should do, but that felt like a cheap trick. Sean snorted. Cheap trick. Very apt, very droll. He needed to say what he had to say, not tap it into the tiny keyboard with fingers that felt clumsy and too big. Anyway, at 4:00 am — no, 4:08 am — Laurie would be asleep, and the message would go to voicemail. Yeah, a good compromise.
He hit call.
Laurie sighed. “If you’re calling about my having being missold PPI, or enquiring whether I want my double glazing replaced, or if I’ve been in an accident and would like to put in a claim, the answers are no, no, and no. So fuck off.”
Sean started laughing. “That’s pretty sharp for — 4:12 am,” he said, screwing his eyes up at his watch.
“Sean? Is that you? Has something happened? Are you all right? Do you need help?”
Sean’s chest tightened. He needed help, no doubt of that. He needed help in telling Laurie he wouldn’t be seeing him again. Yet the words he’d meant to leave in a message weren’t the words he found himself saying at — 4:15 am.
“I like it when you say my name.” Nooo. That was not what he meant to say. Sean held his breath. He really, really hadn’t meant to say that.
“Sean? Are you there?”
“Hmm.” Sean closed his eyes and flopped backwards onto his bed. Yeah, he could kind of get used to Laurie saying his name.
“Are you drunk?”
Sean smiled. Any sane man would be angered by the call, but instead of annoyance, Sean could hear the undertone of laughter in Laurie’s question.
“I can neither confirm nor deny. Have I woken you up? Sorry, thought it’d just go straight to voicemail. Sorry. How did your party thing go? Sorry I ran off, but all those gallery types… and stuff. Sorry.”
“Stop fucking saying sorry.”
“I think I’ve heard that before.”
“I think you may have said it to me.”
“So I did. Sorry.” His smile broadened as Laurie answered with a small laugh.
“What’s this message you wanted to leave me that’s so important you had to ring at 4:19 am?”
“You sound wide awake. Do you get up early or go to bed late?” Sean didn’t even pretend he wasn’t avoiding the question, but the message he’d meant to leave — thanks, goodbye, have a nice life — lodged in his throat.
“Insomnia. I get it from time to time. But you still haven’t told me why you’re ringing. Unless it’s a random drunk call and you picked my name out of a hat. Is that what this is?”
Sean’s stomach clenched as the engine oil churned in his stomach.
“I shouldn’t have called. Because it’s late.” Sean added. No, I shouldn’t have called because I don’t want to say it.
“I’m glad you did, though. Random drunk call or not.” Laurie laughed, but it sounded unsure.
“It’s not a random drunk call. Even though I am a bit drunk.”
“So, you wanted to talk to me — at 4:25?”
“I keep unsociable hours.”
Silence filled the airwaves. Sean stared up at the patch of damp on the ceiling.
“I keep thinking about it. You kissing me, I mean.”
Laurie’s quite words burrowed into Sean’s chest. He closed his eyes. He didn’t want to talk about that kiss, that breathtaking, heart-stopping kiss. He didn’t want to think about it, or imagine he still tasted Laurie on his lips. The kiss was not why he’d phoned at — 4:29 am.
“Yeah, me too.”