Thursday, 22 June 2017

Wittenberg: An Extract

He took my hand on the walk back to my apartment. It was so bony and fragile that it felt anything but comforting – instead it reminded me that he probably wasn’t eating, wasn’t leaving the house, wasn’t getting up from the chair in the corner of his room. Yet I could feel what it meant to him to touch somebody again. I wondered how long it had been since he’d seen Adora; from her diary I later found that since the Chancellor’s death he had been ignoring her phone calls, as with the rest of us. She’d phoned him every day at first, then less, until Maria finally answered and told her what was going on and that she shouldn’t take it personally.
I felt very sorry for Adora during all of this. it was the first time that I cried whilst reading her diary. She had sat for weeks believing that something was wrong with her, trying to figure out ways to see him, wondering if she should drop by at his house. But she wasn’t brave enough. Not back then.
The sky had started to turn dark behind us, but the colour we walked towards was lilac. It illuminated Gideon’s face in a way that didn’t look right. I’d always been jealous of the warm tones of his skin and the gentle creases around his eyes whenever he laughed. It made him look alive. This lilac made him glow, but it was a ghostly glow. The colour his father’s face had been just hours earlier.
“Thank you for rescuing me,” he said, keeping his eyes trained on Kingsley who was dancing his way down the road in front of us. “I don’t know how long I would’ve stayed there. I didn’t know what I needed.”
I shrugged. “We were worried about you.”
“Don’t be sorry. You needed to be upset, that’s fine. Just don’t ignore us next time.”
He let go of my hand at this point, and darted forward towards Kingsley. Gideon vaulted himself onto his shoulders and the two of them fell forwards in tangle of limbs. I wondered whether Kingsley was sober yet or if he was back to his normal school-boyish brashness. The whole movement made me fearful to break his heart. He’d escaped the house to escape his father – not for good, of course, but just for a moment. Just for now, we had nothing to do with the Chancellor or Maria or Claude and for a while he could pretend nothing was as insane as it was. Knowing Gideon, he’d hate himself afterwards for trying to escape, but whilst he was away from it I could see in his eyes that it’s what he needed.
Lorcan read me – he was good at that. “Are you still going to tell him?”
“I can’t not,” I said, hushed, although Kingsley’s laughter probably drowned me out anyway. “He needs to know, Lorcan. There’s something not right about him. He’s never been upset about something like this in his life. Perhaps it’ll give him closure.”
“Or perhaps it’ll open a fresh wound.”
“Can’t you just have some optimism about this whole situation, please?”
“Hey,” He grinned. His teeth were so white against the blackness of his skin that his smile always dazzled me for a moment before I caught myself. “I just want you to blame yourself and not me if it all goes wrong.”
I clapped him on the back. “Wow. You’re a good friend man.”
The lights had been left on in my apartment and so my windows were illuminated to the far side of the street. I didn’t even remember them being on when we left but they must have been. In any case, it made me feel better to walk into a flat that hadn’t been sitting in the dark for hours, and it didn’t take long for us to push the coffee table to the side and spread out on the floor with shorts of rum held delicately in our hands. Gideon fiddled with the record player and carefully set a vinyl playing. It was Sam Cooke, one he always picked whenever I entertained him here.
“I’m going to need you to fill me in,” Gideon said, his glass already half empty. “I feel like I’ve been in a cocoon. But also like I haven’t really left it. Do you know what I mean? It’s like with you guys I have a bit of breathing space. I can feel tiny little wings.” I nodded. Something had got him high. “So tell me. Tell me everything.”
Lorcan coughed. “We spent the last four weeks trying to get a hold of you and that’s basically it.”
“So did Adora,” I added.
Gideon’s smile dropped. “Fuck. Adora.”
“Is she okay?”
“I don’t think so, but she’s dealing.”
Gideon knocked his head back and finished the rest of his rum with a graceful swoop of his arm. The bottle stood on the table next to us, and he grabbed it with desperation, filling it to the top and forgetting the mixer. “How’s Heather?”
“You should ring her.”
He shook his head and placed his glass down. “I don’t want to talk about Adora. Have you got any food?”
We watched him stand and make his way over to the kitchen. I expected Kingsley to go with him – he must have been hungry by now – but the three of us watched him kick in to overdrive and begin raiding my cupboards like a starving orphan. I had to look away and take a large sip of my drink, revelling in the warmth that it spread all the way down my throat and realising that I was dangerously dehydrated. “I’m going to make a cup of tea. Do you want one?”
Kingsley’s hand shot up. “Me, me! Wait!” He crawled over to where his backpack was still sitting on my sofa and rummaged around in the front back. He pulled out a bag of dope and handed it to me. Great.
Gideon was eating cereal against the counter. I didn’t even know I had cereal. “Want some tea?” He shook his head, so I filled a pan with water with my hands shaking and let it start simmering on the stove, thinking about how I was going to tell him about his father.
“We should invite the girls. Heather and Moira. Adora.”
I sighed. “We shouldn’t.” Kingsley had given me way too much dope, but I started crushing it together with the last remnants of butter I’d scraped out of the bottom of a tub. This was supposed to be saved for chocolate cupcakes I promised my mother I’d bring home over Christmas. I smiled at my insolence. 

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