A Better Life
"What have I gotten myself into?" Andy said out loud to no one in particular. He stood in front of his new flat. His flat. That sounded so different to him. He'd never had a place he could call home except for the last four years spent with Alice, or Mrs A, as he still liked to think of her. When the social worker had dropped him off on Alice's doorstep for temporary guardianship, she had taken one look at the painfully awkward boy trying to act indifferent to everything happening around him and fell in love at first sight.
Two weeks he was supposed to spend with her while the council organized another bed for him at a home nearby. It ended up being the happiest four years of his life. Mrs A had been more than just his legal guardian, she had been the mother and best friend he'd never had, and he had been the son she'd lost twenty-seven years previously.
Now she was gone and he was, once again, on his own. But Andy was surprised that it didn't feel all that bad being alone. He'd experienced more love and acceptance in those four years than in all his life. He would always love Alice Anderson and honour her memory by living his life to its fullest and finding someone to share it with. To share all the love she'd given him. But first, he had to move into his new flat, his new life.
Unlocking the door, he stepped into his new home. "Damn," Andy sighed. The girl at the agency called it efficient for a bachelor, but this was about an inch bigger than a hole in the wall. Didn't matter. It belonged to him. And he probably wouldn't have a lot of people over anyway. A fresh coat of cream-colored paint would make it seem much more spacious than it looked now.
Walking through the entrance hall and lounge, he entered the tiny kitchen. It's a good thing I'm such a recluse. He wouldn't be able to hold big dinner parties in the teensy space. That suited him fine, though. Ever since he could remember, it had only been him. He'd never had a real friend to his name. He'd been in and out of schools so much the friendships he did build ceased to exist upon his transferring to the next school or the next orphanage, that after a while he decided to keep to himself. But Mrs A changed all that. She'd been everything to him, and he to her. It took a long time for him to trust her enough to open up and talk to her about the possible disappointment of losing her. She showed him his heart was big enough to allow someone in, and he really was worth being loved by someone in return.
Andy sighed. All these thoughts started to depress him, as if the sight of the bathroom wasn't enough to knock him on his ass. Puke-green tiles floored the whole room and covered the walls and made him want to run screaming. The tub and toilet were in a reasonable condition, but the sink was on its last legs. Rust crusted around the plughole where a puddle had formed from the constantly dripping tap. Andy knew this flat wouldn't be his permanent home--he'd only stay until he found his feet and got settled--but he still saw all the TLC that was needed to make it into a space that he would be comfortable living in for any length of time.
First to go would be the pukey tiles and leaking tap. Next, he'd buy some paint and get his living room sorted. After that--
"Oh no." Andy grunted. He still needed to see the bedroom. He walked toward the only other door left in the "hallway" and prepared for the worst: yellow wallpaper and brown carpet probably. He stopped dead in his tracks. The curtains were open and he faced the most breathtaking view he'd ever seen. His room looked over the old church he'd passed on his way and barely noticed before. Seeing the complete picture, with the garden surrounding the old building like a fire protecting it, brought calm into his grief-stricken heart and tears to Andy's eyes. The view justified the apartment a hundred times over.
Andy stared out the window and suddenly knew he would be really, really happy there. For the first day since Mrs Anderson had taken her final rest, Andy had a genuine, heartfelt smile.
* * * *
Later that evening, Andy flipped through the tenant's directory in the lobby looking for a pizza delivery place. He thought of himself, again, as a nineteen-year-old adult. It saddened him, as it had Mrs Anderson, that he'd had to grow up so quickly. He laughed at the thought of Mrs A insisting, for the hundredth time, that he call her Alice. He always answered her each time, "Of course, Mrs Anderson". Respect for his elders had been ingrained in him, like washing his pitch-black hair every night, and it wouldn't ever go away.
He knew his dark brown eyes held the look of a child that had grown up too fast. That, coupled with his natural shyness and introverted personality, made for one cynical, lonely, gay boy. He'd just begun to find out what being gay was all about. Mrs A had been cool, but she was nothing if not old-fashioned. She'd told him, flat out, she didn't give a duck's arse what team he batted for, as long as he didn't do any of 'those things' the children seemed to do 'more and more, and at a younger and younger age these days', under her roof then they wouldn't ever have a problem.
Andy readily agreed. Hell, he'd never even had a boyfriend of any kind. Never kissed anyone like that before. It didn't bother him much while he stayed with Mrs A. She was all the company he'd needed. But after she'd gone, Andy thought about it a lot, and having someone to love him maybe wouldn't be such a bad thing.
"You almost done, buddy?"
Andy turned on his heels. "Uh, yeah. Sorry. Got what I came for." Andy stole a glance at the tanned and handsome stranger before he angled around, ripped the slip of paper with the pizza place's number off the notepad, and headed toward the lift. Then the same voice asked another question.
"You new to the building?"
"Yeah, moved in today. Number 182. Which are you?" Andy babbled, he knew. He always did when he got nervous.
"I don't stay here. Well, not officially, anyway. I'm just hanging with friends. Sometimes it does feel like I live here though, from all the time I spend here. You know how it goes."
Sure, Andy thought grimly.
The elevator arrived and Andy entered. "Well, don't let me keep you. And welcome to the building. I'm Alan, by the way." He stared at Andy.
"Andrew. Have a nice night." Have a nice night? Is that all he could come up with?
"Same to you, little man," Alan said with a grin as the doors to the lift closed.
Andy thought Alan's stare lingered a second too long, but he didn't focus on that now. "Shit, shit, shit," he repeated to himself. "The first half-decent guy you meet and 'have a nice night' is all you can come up with? Shit, shit, shit!" Thirty minutes later, when his pizza arrived, he was still beating himself up about it.
When Andy polished off the last piece of his Hawaiian Paradise pizza, he remembered the look Alan gave him along with his parting words. 'Little man'. He wanted to laugh at that statement. Had he said it good-naturedly, or did he mean it another way? That look lasted a second too long for the usual non-interest of a passerby. He laughed then. "Andrew, you need to get laid." He flipped the pizza box shut with sullen sigh. "Then maybe you wouldn't see flirting where there was none."
He thought about Alan's words. Andy could be seen as little. He was just under five feet five and naturally slim. He had a bit of definition, though, thanks to Alice. Dragging her stone-aged mower around her massive back yard every Saturday for four years gave him some well-positioned muscles in his arms, shoulders, and waist. His nightly cycling sessions made his legs look well defined. Yet his frame remained compact, as Mrs A had once noted. Not too masculine, yet not feminine. Andy always worked hard to stomp out any form of feminine traits in himself. Not because he'd have a problem with it. But the world he had to live in, if anyone came across as weak in the least, people would pounce on them and not let go. Coupled with his compact frame, Andy realized at an early age he'd have to put up a front if he wanted a chance in hell to reach his eighteenth birthday. The tough facade he'd developed had become like second nature to him.
'Little man.' Andrew grinned when he thought back to his meeting in the lobby as he got into his new bed. As he drifted, Andy wondered whether he'd see Alan again.
If he only knew.
Ratings and ReviewsWrite A Review
This book has not been reviewed. Be the first!
Available Download Formats