Where the Grass is Greener (SOT #2)

Excerpt from Chapter One / Two

    "You're quiet today, Seamus. What's up?" the landlord asked.
    "Just tired, is all. Got a leaky roof and the fecker was drippin' all the damn night. And didn't I get up this morning and kick the bucket?"
    "You look alive and well to me, so you do. I say look like shite."
    "Yeah, thanks very much, John. Think I'll go join the lads, see if I can't get a few more insults thrown at me."
    Seamus gave the landlord a wry grin and went over to the others, who were already well into the first of the three games they got in every lunchtime. He watched one of them take a bad shot and accidentally pot the black, the clunking of the ball as it rolled its way through the machinery of the table setting Seamus's teeth on edge. John was right: he was dog-tired and probably did look like shite. He'd barely slept after the missed call, trying to decide whether to return it or not. His mind played tricks on him, one minute convincing him it was urgent and he should call back, the next telling him to stay strong. He'd made the move. He'd come back to Ireland. That's what he'd wanted all along.
    He had wanted it. Ever since Mam died, he'd set his sights on coming home. He'd only stayed for Paddy's sake, and now Paddy had Aidan, there was nothing to keep Seamus in the States, although he was no further away from his brother now than he had been in Kansas. Never mind that he'd already made the decision before he knew Aidan even existed. No. It was a good decision. He was just -
    He already knew, before he pulled his phone from his pocket: same Kansas number, same caller. His thumb hovered over the red button. Reject the call. Reject the call. He answered.
    "Seamus Williams."
    "At last! I thought I was calling a wrong number. Man, it's so good to hear your voice."
    "Er, yeah. Yours too. What's up? Has something happened?"
    "Nothing new. I just..."
    The rapid-hard thump of Seamus's heart filled the pause, two seconds, three, four, and more. He drew breath to speak, but there was nothing to be said. Or nothing he should say.
    "I miss you, Shay."

    * * *

    The first call had been a drunk dial. Thank God that Seamus Williams hadn't picked up. Lord, the shit that might have come tumbling out of Chancey's mouth. Now he was dead sober, but only slightly more composed. Had he really just said he'd missed Seamus? He tried for a laugh. It sounded as fake as it felt. Well he had missed Seamus. Nothin' wrong with that.
    "You gonna say somethin'?" He knew he was putting on the accent. Drawing out his vowels, droppings his g's. His grandmother - who was from south Texas and who had an accent so deep it was digging a hole to the centre of the earth - used to yell at him when he'd get lazy with his words.
    You jus' sound ign'rant, Chancey Bo Clearwater. Full name, cue snickering cousins, and Chancey sank down low in his chair, ashamed at the way he sounded despite the fact they all talked just alike. The accent followed him when he moved to Oklahoma, where he picked up a whole set of strange 'O's, and even having lived in Kansas now for the better part of his life, it was still there underneath.
    "I didn't expect to hear from you, that's all."
    "Surprise." He was trying for friendly, for calm. Trying to keep the I wanna put my fist through the wall and did you really mean to let me find out through Lulu? out of his voice.
    "Isn't this call costing you a million dollars?"
    "Skype. On my phone. I bought minutes, y'know?"
    "Is that right then?"
    "But I didn't think. It's probably charging you too."
    "It's fine."
    Is it? Seamus sure as hell wasn't saying much. There was a long pause as Chancey considered his next move. He'd called because he'd wanted to talk. Not talk. Not like that. Nothing to say on that front. Seamus had made it all as clear as crystal dropped in the mud when he'd left his parting message with Lulu, down at the pool hall, Rack 'Em. In a last-ditch effort, he said the only thing he could think: "Boss Tina asked after you the other day when I went around for work."
    That got a laugh out of Seamus, which gave him more relief than Chancey cared to admit.

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