It began with flowers.
Aeron Harris could barely rouse himself to answer the summons from the front door. Black and purple smudges bruised the skin beneath his eyes, and a delicate web of red snared the whites. He hadn’t washed for days, and his pale, gaunt cheeks were covered in a coarse, black, itchy fur, the skin beneath smattered with angry red scratch marks. He had worn the same black tee shirt and grey jeans for over a week, but seemed oblivious to the smell coming from his own body.
The morning sun pierced his eyes like golden shrapnel, and he lifted a hand to shade them whilst the other hand gripped the battered white-wood door for support.
“Delivery,” was the greeting the stranger gave. Aeron grunted and took the bouquet of lilies from the blonde haired man and closed the door in his face, pulling the card from between sticky green stems as he trudged back up to his top floor flat. The message, much like it’s sender, his sister, was short and sweet.
His lips twitched briefly, but came nowhere near to smiling. After setting the flowers in water, he returned to the couch, rolled himself another cigarette and lay his head back on the arm to stare at the smoke drifting up to the ceiling. A traitorous tear escaped from the corner of his eye; his angular face slowly creased. He turned onto his side and held his torso tight, but could not suppress the sobs that violently shook his body. He threw himself off the stained settee, stumbling into the small coffee table, and staggered to the sink. As he lifted the bottle of whiskey to his lips, movement from the corner of his eye made him hesitate. He turned to stare at the vase with the lilies; as he did so, another dead petal fell to the counter. The flowers had withered and died.
“Come on; up.”
“Go ’way, Car.”
“Now. Christ, you stink! What, have you been saving it all up or something? Don’t tell me you’ve given up on hygiene now. Jesus. Come on. Shower. Now.” The world spins and my stomach lurches as my twin brother hauls me to an upright position. Drool has dried down the side of my face making the skin feel tight, and my mouth feels like I’ve gargled an ashtray and chewed on the butts.
“Wha’ time’s it?” My voice comes out more like a growl than human speech.
“Shower time.” Carwyn is slouched on the armchair opposite me, looking like a human cat, elegant and poised in his black jeans and long sleeved tee shirt, bright eyed and bushy… I hate him for a moment, for being so goddamned perfect, crisp cut and neat as a bloody whistle. We are almost identical, but, looking down at my stained tee shirt and rasping a hand over my cheek, I can’t help but feel his polar opposite.
Good. Who would want to be so fucking perfect anyway?
“Coffee?” I ask hoarsely.
“You shower, I’ll make the coffee.”
Grunting, I slowly unbend from the sofa, stiff with having slept awkwardly, and shuffle like an old man to the bathroom. Stripping is a lot of fun; it takes me four goes and a lot of swearing to get the belt on my jeans unclasped, and then another two tries to open the buttons. There is a spider in the bath.
“Sorry, buddy,” I murmur. “I’m in no mood to shower with anyone.” Reaching up, I unhook the showerhead from its holder and reach for the tap, pausing at an ache in my shoulder. My eyes flitter to the spider. It has already curled into a ball, playing dead as if it knows what’s coming. It doesn’t move even when the water hits it and washes it away.
The heat and water help to clear some of the cobwebs and soothe the aches, but they can’t reach deep enough to soothe the other agonies.
Carwyn is absent from the kitchen-living area when I stick my head through the door on my way to the bedroom, but I’m not worried; he often disappears and reappears unannounced. Hope he’s gone to get some bloody booze. Knowing him he’s gone for bottled water or something ridiculous. I dig through the clothes that litter every available surface in a futile attempt to find something clean to wear, becoming more angry with every filth-encrusted garment I unearth, throwing and kicking them around the room like a petulant child. At last I find some clean underwear in the drawer, and settle for a pair of jeans that have been worn once and a black tee shirt that smells less than the rest. Carwyn still isn’t back when I return to the living room.
“I’ll make my own coffee, then, shall I?”
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