Alone For Christmas(8)By: Ashley John
As he climbed into the backseat of the heated car, he allowed himself a moment of madness to imagine his fantasies coming true, but he resigned himself to the fact that his boss was taking pity on him.
When Chip’s car pulled up outside of Noah’s block of flats, he was sad that the journey was over. They hadn’t talked about much, but he had always found it surprisingly easy to be in the company of the man who employed him.
“This is me,” said Noah, looking up at his modern block of flats in a new development in London’s East End, feeling remarkably more sober than when they’d set off.
“It’s nice,” said Chip. “London’s not an easy place to buy.”
Noah nodded his agreement, not wanting to let on that he was renting. When he had turned twenty, it had been in his ten-year plan to own a house by the age of twenty-six, and now that he was twenty-six, he wasn’t sure if he was going to have the deposit for a mortgage saved up before the end of his next ten-year plan.
“Don’t go to sleep straight away,” said Chip.
“In case of concussion.”
“Oh.” Noah laughed. “Right.”
“That’ll be the concussion,” Chip said with a playful wink.
It had been twenty minutes since Noah had tried to kiss Chip, and his boss wasn’t making him suffer for it. Noah doubted Chip would ever bring it up again. He still could not believe that he had somehow managed to kiss the man he had had a crush on for two full years. If that was all he would get to have, it was enough to send him to sleep.
With his hand on the door handle, he looked up at his flat, where the lights were still on from before he had left. He hadn’t expected to be home before midnight, nor had he expected to spend the night alone. With the stark reality facing him that he was going to be spending the next five days off work and completely alone in his flat, he suddenly turned to Chip, allowing himself one more minute of madness.
“Do you want to come up for some coffee?” Noah asked, unsuccessfully hiding the nerves in his voice. “I might even have some whiskey in the back of the cupboard from my last house party.”
Noah caught Chip catching eyes with the driver in the rear view mirror. For a moment, and to Noah’s complete surprise, he looked like he was considering accepting the invitation. Just when Noah let himself get excited, Chip shook his head and looked down into his lap.
“I should get going,” he said quietly. “I’ve already stayed out longer than I expected to.”
Noah didn’t fight it. He smiled one last time and pulled on the door handle. Stepping out of the car, the cold nipped at his skin, and despite the forecast saying otherwise, soft white flakes of snow were starting to flutter on the wind.
Deciding it would be easier not to look back, he set off across the courtyard towards his flat’s door, pulling his keys from his pocket. He was sure in the morning he was going to wake up with a sore head, full of shame and embarrassment for his three major missteps, but tonight, the fall, the kiss and the invitation didn’t feel like such heavy weights on his mind.
Before he punched in the security code on his door’s keypad, he pulled up the sleeve of his shirt and checked his watch. Its face was cracked and the hands were frozen, no doubt from his fall. Sighing, he shook the watch next to his ear. He didn’t know what time it was, but he hoped it was before midnight so he could run to the local supermarket before it closed for Christmas Eve.
“It’s half-past eleven,” a familiar voice called from behind him.
Noah turned to see Chip walking through the softly falling snow, wearing a heavy, black trench coat he hadn’t been wearing in the car, it’s collar popped and protecting him from the cold.
“I told Mike to get off home,” said Chip calmly and casually. “He’s got kids and I live all the way across London.”
“Like you said, getting a taxi will be hard tonight.”
“Is that offer of coffee not on the table anymore?” he chuckled.
“Oh.” Noah shook his head, wondering if he was concussed after all. “I was just about to go and grab some wine.”