It took a week for Olly to not be mad at me anymore. I knew the exact moment he was over our little spat; I’d wandered into the lounge to ask Olly and Arthur, who were spread across the mattresses on their phones, if they wanted a cup of tea. Arthur looked up from his screen.
“Thanks, Ang, that’d be great,” he said. I glanced at Olly, not expecting him to even acknowledge me, since he’d been ignoring me all week, but he grumbled a “Yes,” to his phone, so I took that as a mini victory, and went off to make the teas. Maybe he just wanted some tea, but I knew it was more than that.
I was pouring the hot water into mugs when Mack breezed through the flat door and into the kitchen, bringing a brief but chilly gust of wind with him.
“Afternoon, Angelo. You’re looking better,” he commented, shrugging off his coat and folding it over the back of a chair. He sat down and ran his hands through his dark hair, which was getting unusually long for him – he was due a haircut any day now.
“Feeling better,” I agreed.
“Put one on for me, will you?” Mack gestured towards the mugs before pulling out today’s paper from his backpack.
I grabbed an extra mug from our scant collection by the sink, and popped the tea bag in. Mack was in an unusually chirpy mood today – usually, he’d be out all day doing his errands, come back at night, go straight to his room and sleep until the morning, only to repeat it all again with a sombre face the entire time. He rarely saw us while we were in the flat, and he even more rarely spoke to us when things didn’t concern work, or issues that might affect our performance at work. It didn’t always used to be like that – not when I first arrived, anyway. Mack used to be involved in every single thing in our lives, pretty much down to whether we’d washed our hands after the toilet … but over the years he’d distanced himself – don’t get me wrong, he was still very much involved in making sure that we were safe, he just was less personal about it nowadays. I supposed Arthur had taken on that almost maternal role now.
“No milk left,” I said as I handed Mack a black tea.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Not to worry; I’ve drunk worse before,” he replied, not looking up from his paper, but smiling at the corners of his mouth.
Definitely in a good mood. I wondered what had happened that had caused him to break out of his cool, distant bubble. I knew better than to ask – Mack rarely spoke about himself, and when he was asked personal questions, he evaded them with incredible ease.
“Where are the boys?” Mack asked, sipping on his tea. I glanced at him flicking through the paper, brow straight as he concentrated on the words. He really was a handsome man, even still, as he was approaching middle age. His body was long and rangy with that wiry strength in his muscles, and he had a face that belonged to Hollywood.
“Arthur and Olly are next door, Logan and Bran are out,” I replied, grabbing two mugs to take next door.
“When are they back?”
I paused by the doorway. “Logan should be back within the next ten minutes, I’m not sure about Brandon.”
Mack nodded thoughtfully, still scanning the paper. “Make sure everyone’s in this evening, we’re having a meeting. After dinner. Don’t be late.”
I opened my mouth to ask what it was about, then thought better of it when I realised that he probably wouldn’t answer me. I took the mugs of tea next door and gave it to the boys.
“No milk?” Arthur pondered as he took his from me.
“No milk,” I confirmed, and flopped back into the pillows behind me. “Mack’s calling a meeting this evening.”
Olly took his mug from me, and raised his eyebrows at me. “A meeting?”
“Yeah,” Arthur agreed.
“You already knew?” Olly turned to him.
I wasn’t surprised; Mack spent a lot of time with Arthur. He was bound to tell Arthur what was going on in his life these days, like what was coming up in the schedule.
“He’ll tell you about it this evening,” was Arthur’s only reply. He continued to scroll through his phone, sipping on his black tea.
I started flipping through my own phone, when I noticed Olly staring into his mug like it held all the secrets of the world. But all the wrong secrets. The bad secrets.
“Logan will be back any minute with the milk,” I tried to stir him out of his trance.
Olly blinked slowly twice. Then he seemed to shake himself out of it. “It’s not that … I just…”
The weak tone he used was so out of character that Arthur even stopped what he was doing and looked up, eyebrows furrowed.
“What is it, Oliver?”
Olly took a deep breath through his nose, then shook his head, and took one sip of the hot drink. “Nothing. It’s just – this is how Anne used to take her tea.”
Arthur opened his mouth to ask, then, in the nick of time remembered, and shut it again. We exchanged a careful glance, and went back to our phones, saying no more about the subject.
“Olly, please tell me what’s going on – you’re scaring me,” Logan pleaded with the blonde man, whose face was a perfect storm. I followed the two of them, rapidly glancing from one to the other, practically jogging to keep up with Olly’s ferocious pace. He stopped by the edge of the carnival grounds and silently pulled out a pack of Marlboros from his pocket. He ripped open the carton and yanked out a stick. He pulled out a lighter from his coat pocket, but his hands were shaking so violently that his thumb kept slipping against the tiny serrated wheel. He missed it four times. Then again. And again. Again.
“Here,” I said, closing my hand around his. I didn’t look at him as his breath huffed in and out of his nose, and I ignored the way his fingers trembled beneath mine.
I could see Logan looking at us with his big, wide eyes, in my peripheral vision – I ignored that too. I struck the lighter, managed it on the second try, and shielded it from the wind as Olly brought his cigarette into the tiny flame to light it. Once it caught, he sucked in a big breath, and blew the smoke away on the wind. I tried not to notice how tempting the smell was. To stop my itching fingers, I took Logan under one arm, and kissed the top of his head, trying to soothe the alarm in his eyes.
It took a full minute for Olly to calm down enough to speak. When he did, the words leapt out from behind pained, gritted teeth. His green eyes flashed feverishly with the reflection of the frantic fairground lights behind us.
“Did you see her? Did you see that girl?”
“Which girl, Oliver?” I asked in a neutral tone.
“The girl by the big wheel – you didn’t see her?”
“There are a lot of people around. We don’t know which one you’re talking about,” I replied. Logan pulled my arm around him tighter.
Olly took another drag. He held the cigarette so tight it was crumpling beneath his fingers. I watched ash fall to the grass below. “That girl with the pink dress. She was smiling…”
“So…?” I prompted when he didn’t continue.
“She looked like Anne!” he barked in my face. I resisted wiping the spittle from my cheek.
“Who’s Anne, Olly?”
“My sister! Okay?! She was my sister.”
“Was…?” I echoed.
“Yes! Anne was my sister, and I fucking killed her, okay?!”
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Book / Gay and Lesbian