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by Camy Sussex

The fridge was empty—again. Never share a flat with a self aggrandising dickhead, I thought as I closed the door with my foot. It shut with barely a thump. Not very satisfying.

I was in a desultory mood. Jack, the yank—who called the one roomed L-shaped shithole we lived in an apartment, for god's sake—had left before the crack of sparrows for an open casting. He hadn't mentioned it the night before, but if I knew Jack it would be a casting couch call at the very least. I chuckled. With his luck he'd probably end up on some producer's yacht in Monte Carlo.

The bastard could have left enough milk and instant coffee for coffee.

I flopped on the couch, turned on the TV and extrapolated. Knowing Jack as I did—and in the carnal sense I knew him very well; I paused to muse on that, had a wank, and then, as I flicked through the channels, it occurred to me that apart from sex—I knew Jack not at all.

With an extravagant sigh at the slings and arrows, and an annoyingly rumbling stomach, I decided it was time to go shopping. It was soon after that that I discovered how much of a bastard Jack actually was.

I couldn't find my wallet. I tore the place apart looking for it. Nada. I'd left it on the bedside table when we'd gone to bed. I left it there every night, along with my keys— to the flat and my new baby Kawasaki. I couldn't find those either. With a sinking feeling I looked out of the back window, swore, and smashed some crockery.

I wanted to cry, so I did. Not very manly for twenty, but fuck it. I'd really liked Jack and thought we'd had the beginnings of something good. How he had the balls to take my bike I had no idea. He knew how much it meant to me. It was freedom, and it wasn't as if I left him behind. I'd even shelled out for a helmet for him and had it custom sprayed to a design he'd drawn. Naturally, that was missing too.

I pulled myself together, washed my face, put the door on the latch and went downstairs.

"No, Brian, I haven't seen him," Mrs Alala, our landlady, said in as offhand manner as I'd ever heard. "But if I do see him I'll be sure to say you're hunting him." She started to close the door in my face, then stopped. "Rent?" She enquired and held out her hand. It was the last thing I needed. I felt like biting it. I also felt like shit from the previous night's excesses. After a moment I realised I was swaying, so I reached out and held on to the door jamb. Mrs Alala was back-lit by the sun pouring through her ground floor flat's windows, and the dark hallway where I was standing, with its peeling paper, moth-eaten carpet and forty watt gloaming bulb, added to a distinct feeling of dissociation.

I cleared my throat. "Rent. Yes, um. So sorry, Mrs Alala, Jack has it," I lied. "Actually, he's been a bit of an idiot and gone off with my jacket." I managed a chagrined grin. Mrs Alala didn't glare so much as start to tap her foot. "And of course the idiot didn't think to tell me he was going to borrow it." I tsked with a 'how can anyone be so stupid?' expression, then chuckled. "Anyway, to cut a long and terribly boring story short, my jacket, which Jack's got, has my wallet in it. And so I was wondering if I could be really cheeky and borrow a few pounds until he gets back." I tried to read her face but failed miserably. She always looked like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders and you were the final straw. "So I, um, need to get a bit of shopping, and then of course I've got to go to college this afternoon."

Mrs Alala raised an eyebrow, "On Halloween? Really? I thought the college was closed today."

"Oh." I was genuinely bemused. How on earth could I have forgotten it was Halloween.

"I just don't know. You youngsters will be the death of me," Mrs Alala smiled and smoothed down her apron, her whole demeanour suddenly changing from the hard nosed landlady that I knew too well to a simpering coquette. "I tell you what, Brian. Let's a bargain make. I'll give you money and you look after my nephews and make sure they don't get into trouble when they go trick or treating, tonight. What say you?"

I frowned, then blinked as she reached into her apron and pulled out a large roll of notes. She peeled a month's rent off it, tapping the roll absently with her forefinger as she watched me watching the notes. Then she peeled off another months rent, adding it to the first. It was more money than I'd seen in one place since I'd left my parents' and started college. I wasn't drooling exactly, but I think I came close.

"Well Brian? What do you think? Oh, and I tell you what. We'll forget the rent that's owed now, too." She smiled. She terrified me.

My grip on the door jamb increased until it seemed to be the only thing holding me to reality. The whole situation was so far from the norm I tried to recollect if we'd taken acid the night before. I closed my eyes and remembered who'd been there. Jack's friends Jane and Simon from the fine arts course, of course; Jane as ever trying to tell Jack he was misguided and actually hetero whilst Simon watched her with his usual arrogant, paternalistic sneer. Bob from performing arts, who thought he was a star and claimed he was the reincarnation of Jimmy Hendrix, along with his girlfriend Brenda who simpered but never said a word. Finally, there was Paul who was a few years older, camp as tents with a roving hand, and provided the nicest drugs. From what I could remember it had been a good night. We'd smoked some wicked weed, had a couple of lines of speed, but definitely no acid.

I opened my eyes. Mrs Alala wasn't back-lit any longer. Her flat was now as dark as the caves of hades—where had that thought come from? All of a sudden I wanted to run, but as I turned towards the front door my hand refused to let go of the door jamb. I looked at it and saw Mrs Alala was casually holding on to my pinky.

"Do we have a deal, Brian?" She said. I felt her voice more than heard it as it thundered through my body and rattled my soul. I nodded, unable to do anything else, and from afar saw her fold the crisp banknotes and push them into my shirt pocket. She tapped them down, closed the flap, buttoned it, patted it kindly, then stepped back expectantly.

"What time should I…?"

"About six, dear. I'll send them up to knock on your door. Do be firm with them, Brian. Don't take any of their nonsense. You know how they are at that age, just a couple of little demons."

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