“You’re fucking going ahead with it, then?” Flynn runs his hand through his hair and fidgets beside me.
“Yes. And I don’t want you telling her,” I say pulling into the underground car park.
“What am I suppose to fucking tell her?”
“Tell her an evening meeting came up to do with one of your contracts.”
“Beats me why you didn’t come up with a fucking proper excuse and tell her before we went out.”
“I didn’t think.” I’m not telling him I’m nervous and keep changing my mind. But I’m going to do it tonight. She’s the only woman I can see spending the rest of my life with.
“That’s fucking unlike you.” Flynn opens the door.
“Don’t forget the clothes.” I pull the boot lever. Flynn saunters to the back of the car and takes out the bags. I managed to get some clothes for El. I think she’ll love them. And she’ll love the penguin rucksack. I can’t help but smile.
Flynn bends down beside my open window. “Never thought I’d see the day you were fucking gooey eyed over some chick. You’re no fucking good for her, you know.” He pushes off the car and heads for the elevator.
Fuck. He’s probably right. No. This is because he still wants her. Shit. It’s ruining our friendship. Why did we have to fall for the same woman?
I pace outside the bakery. Perhaps I should have called first. I take a lung full of air and breathe slowly out. Feeling slightly calmer I walk down the alleyway and ring the doorbell. I can do this. I tuck in my shirt and straighten my tie. Fuck. I hope he thinks I’m good enough for his daughter. Shit. Maybe he’ll think she’s too young. Maybe she is. I should leave. Think it through a bit more. No. No. It’s now or never.
I hear firm footsteps. The door swings open.
“Grant, son, come in. To what do we owe the pleasure? Ellie’s okay?”
“Yes, sir. More than okay.” I step inside.
“That’s good.” He points to the stairs. “Julie’s in the lounge. Head on up. I was just locking up down here. Final batch of cupcakes are out of the oven. Jules! Grant’s here!”
Julie meets at the top of the stairs. “Grant. Is Ellie with you?”
“No. She doesn’t know I’m here. I wanted to talk to Dennis.”
“Okay. Fancy a cuppa or something stronger?” She reaches out and touches my trembling hand. “Are you okay?”
I clear my throat. “I’m fine. Just a little nervous.” Fuck. Can’t believe I admitted that.
“I’ll get you a whiskey. It always works for me. Den won’t bite.” She winks at me.
I study her. It’s like she knows the reason for my visit.
“Go and sit down.”
I perch on the sofa, waiting for El’s dad to walk in. I am close to bottling this.
Dennis walks in holding two glasses. “Julie says you need this and that I might need one too. What is it, son?”
I jump to my feet and grasp the tumbler in my hand. “Thank you.” I take a gulp.
He sits in his armchair. “Get it off your chest.”
I sit on the edge of the sofa again and fidget with my tie. “Hell, this is harder than I thought it would be.”
“But nothing’s wrong?” He looks puzzled.
“No, nothing’s wrong. I’m just going to come out and say it. El and I have been dating for some time now. I know it’s not a year yet however we’re in it for the long run, at least I am. I’m hoping she is too. It’s important to me that you approve of our relationship.” I pause. Fuck me, could I be anymore long winded?
“I think you know that I do, son. You’re like family. And I know you have Ellie’s best interests at heart.”
“Good, sir. The reason I’m here is, and I’ve thought a lot about this, I mean, I’m aware she’s only twenty and that’s young however she is mature in many ways, not all the time.” I can’t help but grin.
“Not that it matters. And I know I’m seven years older than her but I don’t think that’s too bigger age gap. What I came to ask you,” Spit it out, Sturridge, “is for your daughter’s hand in marriage?”
Dennis stays motionless for a couple of seconds looking stunned. The wait for a response is agonising. Finally, he reaches for his whiskey and takes a sip, all the while looking at me. But he still doesn’t say anything.
I’m starting to sweat. I pull the knot on my tie away from my top button trying to get some air to circulate. “I’m not planning on asking her until after her birthday. That’s if you approve, of course. I’ve bought tickets to Rome. I plan to ask her when we’re out there.” Fuck. He’s, still, not saying anything. I’m probably not what he hoped for as a son-in-law. I’m not good enough. Never have been. “Sir, I’m aware I’m not worthy of her but I’ll do my very best to take care of her, cater for her every need.”
He leans forward. “Do you love her?”
Jesus Christ. Fuck. This will jinx it. I’m not saying it out loud. An affirmative yes isn’t vocalising it. “Yes, sir. I think I demonstrate that every day.” I do. I hope she sees that. I hope Dennis sees it too.
“Yes, I think you do, son. However, I do have some concerns.”
A father would have concerns. This is normal, isn’t it? “Which are, sir?”
“Ellie was upset with the way you handled the story about her and Kyle, shush,” he puts his hand up to stop me speaking, “she didn’t say much but I can read between the lines. The key to a strong relationship is discussing things in a mature, reasoned manner and not punishing someone with anger or moodiness, especially when something is not their fault.”
I can’t argue with him. I behaved like a wanker. “I was wrong. I have apologised to Ellie and I will do my best not to repeat it, sir.”
“You didn’t have the best role models for a stable, loving relationship while you were growing up. And even if you had, a relationship takes work. Listen, share your feelings.”
“Yes, sir, I’ll work on that.” Work on sharing my feelings? Fuck, it’ll be hard. But for El, I can do that … can’t I?
“And can you work on not calling me sir?” Dennis smirks at me.
I laugh, nervously. “Yes, will do.”
“Treat my daughter well and you have my blessing. Although, to be fair, it’s really got nothing to do with me. Ellie is her own woman. It’s up to her who she marries.”
“True. But your approval is important to me.”
“I know, son. I get it. And I do appreciate you coming to see me. Now, fancy going bowling for a couple of hours? Phil dropped out. We’re a man down on the team.”
I really want to get back to El but I should look willing. “Why not.”
That’s bloody annoying. The charger in my car appears to be broken. I can’t let El know I’m on my way home. Fuck. I hate not being prepared for every eventuality. It’s taking too long to get home. Fucking traffic. What the hell is going on? I switch on the radio. Another security alert. Fuck.
My mobile springs to life and a few text messages come in. Thank Christ it’s charging. As I’m stuck in traffic I pick it up and scroll. Two from El asking what time I’ll be back. The last one says, No pressure but what time do you think you’ll be back? Flynn wants me to go to dinner with him, I won’t if you’re going to be back. El xxx
Fuck. I hope they didn’t go out. I glance at the clock. They’ll be back by now. That’s okay.
The flat is quiet when I finally arrive home. They must have gone to bed. I creep into my room. “El, are you awake,” I whisper. I switch on the bathroom light giving me a better view of the room. My bed is empty. Fuck.
I stride into Flynn’s bedroom. His bed is empty too. Where the fuck are they? I fire off a text. Where are you El?
I throw my jacket over a chair and remove my tie. Flynn’s probably dragged her to a club. I fucking hope he’s being sensible. I make a cup of tea and switch on the TV. I can’t settle or concentrate. This is unlike El. She usually lets me know where she is. I hope nothing serious has happened. I send another text. I’m starting to worry. Call me.
I could try texting Flynn but where would be the point in that. He definitely wouldn’t reply. I bet Ellie’s turned her phone off, again. Fucking hell. I give her a call. It rings and rings before going to message. It’s unlike her not to pick up or at least call me back. I ring again. Nothing. I check Flynn’s Twitter page. Nothing there either. Oh fuck, he’s trending … and so is El. What the fuck is going on?
Fucking hell. What is it with Flynn? He does this, tonight of all nights. I fire off a text to him. Get her fucking home NOW
Twitter is buzzing with photos of the both of them. How the hell did they get into a fight? I tilt my head to one side admiring Eleanor’s bum as she slams a fist into a bloke’s crotch. Now is not the time to get distracted. A text comes in. It’s from El. Soz. Not are failed honesty. Mo taxes. Getty might bush homes. El xxxxoxoxxxxxoxxxoxxox
What the, what is she talking about? She’s evidently very drunk. I grab my jacket and car keys while hitting speed dial. I’m in the lift by the time Eleanor picks up.
At least she can speak. I step out of the lift being careful to speak clearly, just in case. “Where are you?”
“Er … I’m not suure. Whaat rroaad is … this?”
Fuck, she sounds slurred. I hear Flynn say, “Fuck if I know.”
“Fucking bastard.” I’m going to kill him, bury him, dig him up and kill him again. I put my mobile on speaker and fit it in the cradle. I pull out of the garage and into the road. “I’m in the car heading for the club you got thrown out of. Check your Google map app and text me. You can’t have staggered far.” I hang up. I’m past angry. This is not her fault. Bloody Flynn.
Ten minutes later I get a message saying where they are. They’re not far from the club. I put my foot down. The sooner they’re both home the better.
Jesus fucking Christ she’s lying in the road. Flynn is just sitting on the pavement letting her. I slam the brakes on. “Get her off the fucking road and in the fucking car.”
Flynn roars with laughter and staggers to his feet. He grabs Ellie’s hands and pulls her up. She can’t stop giggling. The journey back is going to be annoying. Flynn throws open the passenger door, flings back the seat and guides her in. She stumbles, shrieks like a banshee and then proceeds to snort like a pig when Flynn slaps her bum. Fucking bastard. I give him my hands off bastard scowl. He smirks.
“How much did she drink?”
“Enough,” Flynn says.
“I didn’t drink much,” she groans, while struggling to sit in the seat and yanking on the seatbelt. It needs to be pulled gently into position. “Jesus Christ.” Sighing, I get out and pull my seat forward. I lean across her. Her eyes are glazed. Fucking hell.
I gently ease the seatbelt into position. There’s no point even trying to converse with her. I settle into my seat and drive off.
“Fucking get the lecture over with.”
I wish I’d never told the fucker I want to marry El. This is sabotage.
“So, how was your evening, Flynn? Fucking ace if you must ask, Grant. Women all over me and I would’ve fucking pulled if I hadn’t had to save your bird from some bloke.”
Eleanor starts wriggling and pulling on the seatbelt. I glare at her in my rear view mirror.
“I didn’t need … saving. I had it … under con…trol thank you …very much. It was a set … up, Graaant. The maan …blocked me in my … seat … so Flynn would … ressscue me.” Her words are slurred, hardly coherent.
Flynn knows he’s a target. It makes me mad that he took her into that situation. And then abandons her to fucking tart around.
“That’s me. A fucking hero.”
You are no hero, you fucker.
“Ellie slammed her fist into his nuts.”
“I was a warrior woman.”
She’s fucking snorting, again.
“You fucking were, babe.”
I hate it when he calls her babe. Why couldn’t he just leave her alone for tonight? I’m going to keep quiet. I’m not getting into it with him now. He’s drunk, she’s very drunk.
I help Eleanor out of the car and guide her to the lift. Flynn is doing his best to push me. He’s pulling faces at her and all she’s doing is giggling.
“Sorry,” she says stumbling into me as we leave the lift. I catch her before she falls to the floor.
“Don’t be mad with me, with us.”
I’m mad with Flynn, not her. Maybe I am with her too. I don’t know. Everyone gets drunk. Christ, she’s gone cross-eyed. Okay, now I’m trying not to laugh.
“You’re fucking wasting your time, Ellie.”
As soon as he’s speaks my anger ramps up. Priority is get El to bed before I punch Flynn. Christ, they are making too much noise. “Shut the fuck up both of you. You’ll wake the entire block,” I say getting them both through the front door. I point Eleanor in the direction of our bedroom, “I’ll get you some water. Go to bed.”
“But we haven’t explained yet.”
“You’re not her fucking keeper, Grant.”
Here we go. “It’s 3am. She’s drunk, you’re drunk. Fucking go to bed both of you.”
Flynn grabs El’s hand. Fucking hell. Do not punch him.
“Come on, babe, let’s go to bed.”
“I’m not your babe.” El’s eyes are rolling. Shit.
“Fuck you’re not. So won’t you please, be my, be my babe, be my little baby.”
“My one and only baby.”
Jesus Christ, out of tune singing is all I need. “Fucking hell,” I say catching El in my arms before she hits the floor. I pull her into my arms getting ready to carry her. Christ. “Fuck.” She’s retching all over me. What the fuck, her vomit is blue. Her eyes open briefly before she finally passes out in my arms.
“You shouldn’t have let her get in this state. Get out of my fucking way!”
“Okay, keep your fucking hair on. She’ll be fine. She didn’t drink that fucking much. You know she’s a light weight.”
“Go to bed, Flynn.” I manage to manoeuvre El through the bedroom door. I take her straight to the bathroom and prop her by the shower. I strip off my clothes and carefully remove El’s. Her eyelids flutter and she repeatedly mutters, “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ve all been here.” There’s even sick in her hair. I open the shower door. “Do you think you can stand? El, Ellie? Eleanor? Can you stand?”
Her eyes flicker open. She nods but her legs sort of buckle as I try to get her up. I pick her up in my arms and carry her in the shower narrowly missing knocking her head against the tiles. Fuck, this is difficult.
“Sorry.” She’s a bit more coherent and her eyes are open so I lower her gently. Her feet stay firm. I keep a strong hold while showering her. I manage to wash myself too.
When I’m satisfied we’re both clean and free from vomit I steer her out of the shower and wrap a towel around her.
“Thanks, Grant. Sorry.” Her words are still slurred and her eyelids are shut again. She still manages to look cute. I dry her hair, get her ready for bed and tuck her in. It’s not quite how I imagined tonight going but at least she’s safe and in my bed. I stroke her hair until she drifts off into a peaceful sleep.
Christ, I feel exhausted. I’ll get El some water, check my phone and then go to sleep.
She’s still sleeping soundly when I get back to the room. I place a glass on her side table and sit up in bed beside her scrolling through the mess of last night forward slash this morning. What a fucking mess. They’re making out that Flynn and El caused the fight. Bloody paps.
What the fuck? What the hell does that mean? Ellie and Flynn are not a fucking couple. I click on a link and instantly wish I hadn’t. No. Fuck, no. I look at Eleanor, sleeping beside me. Is this why she kept saying sorry? I don’t understand. Shit. Fucking Flynn. I feel, shit, I feel numb. I look at the video, over and over. Torturing myself. How long are they going to kiss for? Why the fuck is she not pushing him away? After all I’ve done for her, she betrays me? Why? I fucking jinxed it with all that love nonsense. Who am I kidding. She’s never really been mine. Her heart has always been his. Why I believed otherwise…I’m a fool.
She’s welcome to him. Fuck. He’s welcome to her. I’m not sticking around to hear her apology. I’ll sleep on the sofa. I’m done.
“Fuck, my head.” Flynn staggers into the kitchen. I have a prime view from the sofa of the betraying cunt as he gets himself a pint of water.
“You got what you wanted.”
“Fuck, Grant. You’re fucking trying to kill me, creeping up on me.”
“I can think of worse things than killing you.”
He fumbles his way to a bar stool. “Get the fucking lecture over with although it was not my fault. Last night was a fucking set up.”
I clench my hands. “Wasn’t it. I suppose you had it planned all along. I should’ve fucking guessed. You might not think I’m fucking good enough for her but you’re not either.”
“What the fuck are you going on about now?”
“Eleanor. And you know what and who I’m talking about.”
“What the hell? You’re as confusing as fuck as usual. So we got drunk. That’s what people do, when they’re having fun. You should try it once in a fucking while, instead of being wound tighter than a screw.”
“I’m sick of your fucking shit! Your betrayal, hers, it’s fucking out there! Don’t even try to fucking deny it!”
“Fucking deny what? You’re fucking crazy. We went to a club, we danced, we drank, then we had the fucking fight and were thrown out, then you picked us up. That’s it. We didn’t betray you, fucking moron.”
He’s bloody convincing, I’ll give him that. “You think by now you’d be used to be caught out what with all the cameras focused on your miserable life.” I press the link on my mobile and push it across the bar towards him. “Deny that, you cunt.”
Flynn squirms. “Fuck. It was a peck. We didn’t kiss that fucking long.”
“You knew I … fuck! I’m past fucking caring! You are welcome to each other. I’ve had enough!”
“Where are you fucking going?”
“Out!” I have to be anywhere but here.
“Grant, don’t. It was only a peck. She pushed me away. Grant!”
I slam the door.
Why didn’t she tell me she had feelings for Flynn? Why not let me down gently? Fuck, the alcohol hasn’t deadened the pain. I’ve made a fool of myself. Declared my hand, to Flynn and then her dad. No one to blame but myself. Never been good enough for her anyway. Fuck, Flynn isn’t either. Why him over me? I order another treble whiskey and try to look interested in the blonde’s conversation. We both know why we’re here. For a mindless fuck. I try to make polite conversation. Compliment her, always works. Christ, she’s like putty in my hands. I could probably fuck her, here, right now. Only the barman left. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.
She says something about her room. What have I got to lose, absolutely fucking nothing. I knock back the last of my whiskey and follow the blonde out the bar. She sashays her way to the lift, turns and beckons me with a manicured finger. She’s not Eleanor, no way. Couldn’t fucking get any further away from Eleanor. She grabs my tie and pulls me into the lift. Her cherry red lips find mine. Fuck, yes. This is what I fucking know. No feelings. Nothing. Just a direct line to my dick. For however long it takes I’ll be free from all that shit. Flynn’s shit, Eleanor’s shit. They’re welcome to each other.
By the time we stumble into her room, her thong is by her ankles, my zip is undone. She’s moaning in pleasure. I spin her around and press her against the wall. I don’t need to see her face. I don’t need the connection. I grab a condom from my back pocket and put it on. I push her dress up and thrust into her. Fuck. I keep pumping until I come. Mindless fucking. It’s all I need. I withdraw.
She mumbles something like, “Is that it?”
What the fuck? I tidy myself up and adjust my trousers. I check my zip is up and leave the room.
The blonde shouts after me. She doesn’t sound happy. Like I care.