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Crying in The Rain (HBTC Novel)

1: Always on a Sunday

    Ade was awake.
    His alarm had been set to go off at six, but he'd barely slept all night, waiting for a 'reasonable' time to get out of bed. Five-fifteen was what he'd settled on, because if asked, he could contend that he needed to be in early to prepare the studio, even though the actors would most likely spend the morning rehearsing, and therefore wouldn't start recording until after lunch. The clock displayed 5:14, and he waited out the seconds, his heart pounding double time to the flashing colon of the clock's LED, as he mentally prepared for whatever might happen next.
    Whatever might happen next. He didn't want to think about it.
    He rolled carefully onto his back, biting his lip to stop the hiss escaping as he lifted his arm and pushed away the duvet, sliding his right leg off the side of the bed. No response to this, he shuffled on his bottom towards the edge, breath held as he eased his left leg out, remaining as close to horizontal as he could. He paused, trying to breathe slowly through his nose, every sound amplified by the early morning silence. Bracing himself, he turned and sat up at the same time, wobbling slightly with the wooziness of last night's wine and the throbbing pain, unable to pinpoint its origin, but he thought it was probably all over.
    In the bathroom, Ade set the shower running and put paste on his toothbrush, gasped at the raw effort of opening his mouth, forcing the brush through the tiniest slit between his almost-closed swollen lips and circling slowly and agonisingly over his teeth, gradually pushing it around to the sides. He couldn't spit out the foam, and instead had to just let it dribble from his mouth into the sink. He glanced up cautiously at his reflection in the mist-free mirror, hating the stupid face that stared back at him. Hating it. He grabbed the hand towel and draped it over the mirror, trying to shake off the feeling as he stepped under the cold jets, shivering, uncaring. After a while, he became used to the indifferent coldness. The sponge scraped over his skin, his pain receptors already overloaded so that it tingled rather than stung, like pinching a bruise. He took it for as long as he could, barely aware of his teeth chattering, or the telling numbness of his lips, nose, fingertips and toes. He turned off the shower, slipping slightly as he unsteadily climbed out and stood, quaking and dripping, and completely devoid of pride, on the bath mat. There was blood on the towel, but at least it was his own.
    He scrubbed his goose-bumped skin dry, returned, dithering, to the bedroom and snatched at the first clothes his fingers came into contact with, in the curtained darkness, taking them out to the living room to dress. The boxer shorts were old and grey, the shirt crinkled with frayed cuffs. Old and grey was how he felt. The trousers were those he usually wore to do the cleaning. The socks were OK, but he'd forgotten his shoes, and his hairbrush was also in the bedroom. It would take too long, and in any case his scalp felt like it was burning. No, he'd just go in, grab his shoes and leave, get a coffee on the way. By the time he got home from work, his 'guest' would be gone.
    Ade made it into the bedroom and out again with his shoes, grabbed his jacket from the hook, clutching his keys tightly to his palm to mute their tinkling, enjoying the cutting sensation of the sharp edges a little too much. He squeezed harder, smiling grimly, wondering if he could tighten his grip enough to slice into his hand, imagining the heat and the smell of the blood as it oozed between his fingers, the thick drips dropping from his clenched fist. It would feel like both triumph and failure and would be just for him. He couldn't allow himself to think like this, needed people, company, right away. The sweet terrible craving was trying to break through all of his flimsy defences as he locked up with shaking hands and sped off down the stairs, out of his apartment building—MY apartment building, MINE—and onwards to the commuter coffee bar in the train station; the only place open this early in the day.
    "Morning, sir. What can I get you?"
    "Vanilla latte, please—large to go."
    The female barista nodded an acknowledgement and set to work, every clang and button push ringing scornfully in Ade's ears. Definitely too much wine last night, or that was part of the problem. The rest? The rest was just too much.

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