Alone For Christmas(10)

By: Ashley John

“After tonight, I think I’ll have to agree with your Granddad,” said Chip. “Thankfully, you’re a better contract writer than you are a functioning human being.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“I meant it as one.”

They caught each other’s eyes for a second and shared a quick smile. When they both went to stand up, they bumped heads, but before Noah could apologise again, Chip waved his hand and laughed. Noah tossed the cloth back into the kitchen and resumed his place on the couch. Instead of sitting in the opposite corner, Chip opted to sit in the middle, directly next to Noah.

“You’re a bit of a mystery, aren’t you Noah?” said Chip as he rested his head on the headrest.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you’re the first person to speak to me for more than a couple of minutes and not ask me about my divorce.”

“It’s none of my business,” he said quietly, also leaning his head on the headrest. “It’s nobody’s business but yours.”

Chip smiled for a moment before turning his head away to look out of the window. The snow was falling thick and fast, and Noah imagined Amy standing outside the bar, shivering and smoking a cigarette with Steve latched to her neck. She probably hadn’t noticed he had left.

“I brought it on myself.” The vulnerability in Chip’s voice took Noah by surprise, making him lean in to listen closer. “I should have done what I knew was right, not what I thought was right.”

Noah thought about what he meant, but the metaphor didn’t click. He thought about what Beth had said about Chip cheating on his wife, but even now, he couldn’t believe that was true.

“Relationships aren’t easy,” said Noah. “Nobody knows how they work. We just make it up.”

“Have you ever been close to being married?” Chip asked, turning back to Noah. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk about a man.”

Noah had never outwardly told his boss that he was gay, but if the drunken mess of a kiss didn’t confirm it, it must have been obvious somehow.

“There’ve been a couple of men, but nobody has ever stuck,” said Noah, thinking back to his last serious relationship with Jackson, four years ago, before Jackson moved to northern England, leaving Noah behind in London.

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t know,” he frowned, trying to think why. “I guess I’ve never met the right person. I don’t think you can have your heart broken if you’ve never been in love.”

“You’ve never been in love?” Chip asked, visibly surprised.

Noah was surprised by his own admission too. He had never vocally admitted that he had never found the one, but it was something he had thought about in the back of his mind late at night when he was feeling lonely.

“I don’t think so.”

“You’d know if you had been,” sighed Chip, his eyes darting down and glazing over for a second.

Noah almost asked if Chip had been in love with his recent wife, Sasha, but he stopped himself. From the tears streaking down Sasha’s face and the lack of tears in Chip’s eyes, he knew who had broken whose heart.

“My Granddad always used to tell me I would know love when it hit me, and until it did, I should just sit tight and wait,” said Noah.

“Your Granddad sounds like a very wise man.”

“He was,” said Noah, a lump catching in his throat. “He died early in the year.”

“Oh,” Chip frowned. “I’m sorry. I had no idea.”

“It’s okay. I didn’t tell anyone. Well, I told Amy, but I tell her everything.”

“Didn’t you take some time off work?”

“I took that holiday, didn’t I?”

“You told me you were going to Italy on a last minute city break,” Chip shook his head. “Were you worried I wouldn’t give you compassionate leave? I’m not a monster, Noah.”

“I know you’re not,” he said quickly. “You’re a great boss, I just didn’t want people knowing. I didn’t want to have people asking if I was okay all the time. I just wanted to deal with it in my own time. He was all I had.”

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