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Life For Rent

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“Yes?”

“Hi, Cal, it’s Dan.”

“Hey, Dan, what’s up?”

“You won’t believe what I just found out -”

Dan was his usual self. Happy and intense. Always up to something new.

“What do you say?”

“What?”

Dan was obviously waiting for some response from him.

“I just need some input on this. If I pop over and show you what I’ve got, we could have a glass or two -”

Cal knew what he was up to. Dan didn’t want him to be left alone after what he had gone through. He really was a good friend. Sometimes Cal wondered why he couldn’t meet a girl who cared this much. Like Anne. No, Anne was history. Under other circumstances he would have accepted Dan’s invitation, but right now he just wanted to be left alone.

” I think you’ll manage just fine. I’d gladly have you over, but right now, I’m busy. You know how it is?”

Dan accepted the situation.

“Sure, mate. I understand. Later then, alright? I’ll call you in a few days.”

“Alright. Talk to you later.”

When he got off the phone, he went into the kitchen and looked for that bottle of wine Della had brought him the last time she was here. How long had it been since he heard from her? Too long, he thought. Perhaps he would give her a call. He reached for the phone and rang her up. No reply. He was just about to hang up when he heard her voice.

“Della here. Give me your name and number and I’ll call you back.”

” Hi, it’s me. Well, hm, I just wanted to talk to you. You don’t have to call me back -”

He hung up. Why did he have to say that? He really wanted to talk to her. But obviously, she was too busy to talk to him. It was better this way. He needed time for himself. He took the phone off the hook and went into the living room, bringing the bottle.

“Cal!”

Della picked up the phone just a second too late. She called him back right away, but no one answered. Bollocks! It had been ages since they talked. She had wanted to call him for so long, but she was afraid that she wouldn’t know what to say. She wasn’t any good at these things. This time though, it was different since Cal had called her. He wanted to talk to her. Perhaps she should pop over for a visit. Bring a bottle of something to make him forget. Before she’d decided what to do the phone rang.

“Cal, is that you?”

“Who is Cal, dear? Anyone we know?”

“Oh, hello, mum. Cal – he’s just someone from work.”

That wasn’t true. Cal was so much more than just someone she worked with. He was a friend and perhaps something more. If only she knew how Cal felt about her. Then maybe she’d have something more to tell her mother about him.

“Your father and I are going away on a small trip. You know that little place we went to this spring? Yes, we want you to go with us. It’s just for the weekend. You need to get out more. ”

“Mum, I don’t know -”

“Oh, yes, dear. We’ve already booked the rooms. It’s too late to cancel now. You can meet this Cal on Monday. It’s going to be nice.”

“Yes, alright. I’ll pack a few things.”

“That’s a good girl. We’ll be over to pick you up tomorrow.”

Della hung up, feeling a bit empty. Her mother usually had that effect on her. Cal would have to wait. She would call him first thing Monday morning.

***

Cal drank from the bottle in big greedy gulps. He wanted to numb the pain inside him and this was the only way he knew. The thought of Della faded away quickly. He didn’t need anyone right now.

He glanced at the stack of envelopes on the table. How long had it been since he looked through the mail? He reached for them and skimmed through them. Most of them were bills. He put them aside for later. He recognized the paper’s logo on one of the envelopes. He didn’t want to hear from The Herald right now, but opened it anyway. Inside was a small paper in his former boss’ writing.

I expect you to get in touch with this man. He’s a friend of mine and he might have something for you. Cameron.

How typical of Cameron. He didn’t just ask people to do something, he ordered them. Even so, it was nice of him to think of him, but Cal wasn’t up to it right now. Work had to wait. Cal put away the rest of the mail and reach for the bottle. He finished it quickly. The thought of his old job made him a bit uneasy. Too many painful memories in connection with it. And there was Anne too. He didn’t want to think about her. She had betrayed him just as Stephen had.

He went out to the kitchen to look for another bottle. When he didn’t find one, he decided to go to bed. The bed was a mess but he didn’t care. He just wanted to sleep and forget about everything that had happened in the past few weeks. In just a few minutes he was fast asleep.

Cal woke up feeling rested and much more content with life. Suddenly he thought he heard something. He reached for the bedside lamp.

“Hello, my friend. Did you sleep well?”

That voice. It couldn’t be – Stephen?

“But how -”

“You’re wondering how I can be here. No thanks to you anyway. But I do have some friends left. They pulled a few strings and here I am. I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye to my dear friend Cal.”

“Well, goodbye then, Stephen.”

Stephen’s face changed. It became pale and hard.

“Are you trying to get rid of me now?”

“No, but you said -”

Cal didn’t like the way Steven sounded. What did he really want?

“I wanted to say goodbye properly.”

Stephen pulled out a gun and got to his feet. He climbed up into bed right beside Cal. Cal was beginning to have a really bad feeling about the situation. He had never seen Steven this calculating. And the way those eyes bore into him was unnerving.

“You didn’t expect to see me here, did you?”

Stephen didn’t wait for an reply. Instead he played with the gun and let the muzzle trail down Cal’s face and upper body.

“You know why Anne liked you so much, don’t you? She wanted to get back at me so she picked the first slag she could find. You were available, ready to pull down your pants for anyone. She didn’t care about you. You know that, don’t you? All she cared about was your body and your eagerness.”

Why did he have to bring Anne into this? And anyway, what he was saying couldn’t be true, could it?

“It wasn’t like that. She was -”

A sharp blow stung Cal’s face.

“Shut up, slag. I’m not finished yet. You wanted me all along didn’t you, slag? Anne was just a way to get even with me. You wanted my life, my friends, my family, Anne – me.”

Suddenly Steven’s features changes. An unreadable look got into his eyes. With a forced smile Steven began to use his gun to play with Cal’s mouth. He let his other hand unbutton Cal’s shirt reaching for a nipple and finding it, he pinched it hard. Cal drewin breath. What was he doing? He couldn’t be – no, Steven wasn’t a –

“Did you like that, you little slut?”

He pinched harder. Involuntarily, Cal cried out.

“Shut up, or I’ll make you. I can’t figure out what Anne liked so much about your body. Take off your clothes so I can take a look.”

This couldn’t be happening. Cal was now close to panic. He didn’t know what else to do, so he just pleaded.

“Stephen, please -”

He pointed the gun at Cal.

“You’re not in a position to refuse. Do as you’re told. Now!”

Cal obeyed without trying to protest anymore. He had a feeling Stephen would kill him if he didn’t do exactly as he was told.

“Well, not bad. Not bad at all. Let’s see how skilled you are.”

Stephen reached for his belt and began to fumble with his zipper.

Cal was terrified. He couldn’t actually mean that he wanted him to – no, Stephen wasn’t into that. Or was he? Not that they’d ever discussed it.

“Well, get on with it. No wait. I want you to get in the mood first. Did Anne suck you? She refused to do it for me. Answer me. Did she get on her knees for you?”

He held the gun to Cal’s temple to emphasize the question.

“No – I didn’t ask her to. I always -”

“Of course. You served her. How appropriate. Her toyboy on his knees to serve her. But we’re going to do it a little bit differently today, Calboy. I want you to please yourself.”

Cal was really frightened now. Although it seemed impossible, he wanted to make one final attempt. He was hoping he could get through to the man who had been his best friend or at least that was what he’d thought.

“No, please. I can’t -”

“I’m sure you can. With the right encouragement.”

Steven sat down on the bed behind Cal and held the gun to his head.

“Now, start playing with yourself, Calboy. Didn’t you ever put on a show for her? For Anne? Think about her now.”

Cal knew his life depended on it so he tried to make himself hard, but the fear made it impossible.

“I’m waiting -”

“Please -”

Cal pleaded with his capturer and his eyes felt suspiciously moist. For a moment it actually seemed that Stephen was going to let him go. He almost looked like the old Stephen, the one that Cal admired so much.

“I’m so sorry for everything, Stephen.”

Steven eyes darkened and looked at Cal with such hatred, he cowered back into the pillows.

“Yes, so you should be. You owe me so much. Now it’s payback time. Look at me, Cal. If you’re not able to please yourself you’re going to serve me instead. If Anne doesn’t want you anymore, why shouldn’t I use you?”

Cal’s voice almost cracked.

“Stephen, please. You don’t want to do this. Let me go.”

“Shut up, slag. On our knees. I want you to suck me dry. Anne never did. Now you do it in her place.”

Cal cried soundlessly and began to move closer to Stephen’s crotch. Suddenly the door bell rang. Stephen gave Cal a hard blow on the cheek. He fell face down onto the bed.

“Silence. I need to think.”

Cal stayed where he had fallen, afraid that he would upset Steven even more. He heard the door open and some whispering. Then the door closed again. Soon Stephen would be back and everything would start over again.

But he couldn’t hear anything. The door to his room remained shut.

In the end Cal realized that Stephen wouldn’t be back. He got up and looked through the flat. Stephen really was gone. Cal put on the safety chain and locked the door, to make sure that he didn’t have any more unwelcome guests. For a moment, he stayed by the door, his back pressed to it, as if he could keep the world out, by sheer physical force. But he knew he wasn’t strong enough to do that. Then he headed for the shower. He didn’t think he’d ever feel clean again.

When he got out of the shower he slumped down on the sofa. There was a coldness inside him that just wouldn’t go away. He pulled the blanket around him and sat there staring at nothing. Suddenly he realized that the doorbell was ringing. Could it be Steven? With an effort Cal got to his feet and went into the hallway and opened the door a crack without taking off the safety chain. Outside was a man he’d never seen before. Cal hesitated a little, then opened the door entirely.

“Yes?”

“I was here earlier. Your – uh – friend, said you were asleep.”

Cal sighed. Whatever Steven had told this man, he didn’t care. All he wanted was to be left alone.

“My friend? Hm – yes, what can I do for you then? You see, I’m a bit of a rush so – ”

“I’m just here to read the meter. I won’t be a minute.”

The man disappeared inside the flat. Cal stayed indecisively by the door not knowing whether he ought to go after the man or just wait. He was interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Cal, my friend. Late night? Or have you been out running?”

Dan looked pointedly at Cal’s half naked body.

“What?”

Cal stared at Dan. He had no idea what he’d just said.

“Doesn’t matter. Anyway, aren’t you going to ask me in?”

Cal really wanted to be left alone, but he was too polite to ask his friend to leave.

“Oh, sorry. Come on in.”

Dan nearly bumped into the electricity man on his way out.

“I’m all done here. I won’t disturb you and your – other friend anymore now.”

He shot Cal a rather odd look. Cal didn’t reply, merely closed the door and went back inside.

“Can I get you something? I’m not sure if I – I’ll just get dressed.”

“That’s ok. Take your time.”

Dan cast Cal a thoughtful glance. His friend seemed different somehow. Had Anne called or something? Then he noticed the state of Cal’s flat. The place was a mess. What had made Cal change so completely? How long had it been since he visited his friend? A week? Two? He didn’t know exactly, but it had to be something like that.

Dan went out into the kitchen to look for something to drink only to find the kitchen in the same state as the rest of the flat. He thought about doing the dishes, but the idea didn’t appeal to him. When he didn’t find anything to drink he picked up the phone to call for some take out. He usually didn’t eat that stuff himself, but Cal seemed to be in favour of that kind of food.

When he got back into the living room he found his friend sitting on the sofa. At first Cal appeared to be sleeping, but when Dan got closer, he noticed that he had his eyes wide open.

“Hey Cal, what’s the matter?”

Cal didn’t seem to have heard him so Dan sat down beside him.

“You’re beginning to scare me. Are you alright?”

Dan was really concerned now. He put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. For a split second, Cal looked terrified, as if he was going to bolt. At last, Cal collected himself and managed to produce a reassuring smile.

“I’m alright, honestly. Recent events must have got to me. I have trouble sleeping. Nothing to be alarmed about. I’m a big boy and can take care of myself, you know. Thanks anyway.”

Dan relaxed a bit. So he was just exausted. That would explain it. He returned Cal’s smile.

“Do you want a pizza or something?”

“Are you buying?”

“Sure. I’ve already ordered it. It will be here any minute now. I thought it was best.”

They ate in silence. Dan glanced at Cal a few times to make sure his friend was alright. He seemed to be so he might just be overreacting. Even so, he was still not entirely sure. That frightened look in Cal’s eyes had alarmed him. He promised himself to check in on Cal more often for a while to make sure everything was fine. He was pretty sure Cal wouldn’t tell him if that wasn’t the case, but he was still going to try. Cal was his best friend and he wouldn’t desert him now.

“Cal, you would tell me if something was wrong, wouldn’t you?”

Again Dan put his hand on Cal’s shoulder and this time he didn’t tense up.

“Dan, please. I told you I’m just tired, that’s all.”

“Yes, I know what you told me.”

“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”

“If you say so.”

Dan wasn’t entirely convinced, but he let the subject go. Cal wasn’t going to confide in him and that hurt a bit. Perhaps it was as Cal told him. He was just overreacting. So he changed the subject to a more interesting one. One that he knew both of them would enjoy.

“So, have you heard from Della lately?”

Cal was glad that Dan had stopped asking how he was. He knew that he would never tell anyone what had happened. Not even Dan.

When Dan finally left, Cal felt empty inside. He just wanted to go to sleep and forget about everything that had happened to him. Still, Dan’s visit had made him think. He had been pretending that everything had been alright for so long that he’d almost believed it himself. Dan might have guessed that something was wrong even if he didn’t know what it was. He was a good kid and a very good friend. Better than he deserved, Cal thought bitterly.

Cal had considered Stephen a good friend too. Now he was certain that he’d never cared about him, not even from the start. He’d been using him like he did with everyone. Cal realized that the admiration he had felt for the older man had been childish and immature. Stephen’s visit had cured him of that, and it had been a hard lesson to learn. Everyone, except himself, must have known what sort of person Stephen was. Cameron, Della – even Dan. He’d been so blind. They must have known all along and he had ignored their warnings. Now he had to pay for being so naive.

Cal went to bed hoping that sleep would make him forget or at least dampen the chaos inside him. Before dozing off, he made a decision to take up Cameron’s offer. Staying inside the flat all day would only make things worse. He had to keep busy to dull the pain inside him. His last conscious thoughts were about Della. He would call her, perhaps even first thing in the morning. He was glad to have her as a friend. He knew he’d neglected her lately and there had to be some way to make it up to her.

FIN

© Melantha