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Five Nights by the Sea

“I hate this place,” Abigail announced, “and I want to go home.”

 

Simon didn’t answer her at first, he knew she wanted him to ask her to stay but he couldn’t be bothered. Instead, he carried on eating his fish and chips.

 

“I said, I hate it here,” she repeated.

 

He purposefully looked around himself, as if he was surveying the fish and chip shop they were sat in, and then replied:

 

“I’ve been in worst fast-food places, this one isn’t bad.”

 

“You knew what I mean!” She snapped back.

 

“Yeah, I do. You haven’t stopped moaning about it since we got here, day before yesterday,” he said. He was getting sick of her, she was supposed to be his best friend but now if he never saw her again he wouldn’t complain.

 

“I want to go home. There I’ll get a comfortable bed.”

 

“Then go home!” He snapped.

 

“I will!” Abigail shouted back at him. Then she jumped up from their Formica table and rushed out of the cafe, leaving her uneaten meal behind. Simon knew she wanted him to follow her but he was just feed-up with her, and he wanted to eat his dinner.

 

It had been Abigail’s idea for the two of them to go away on holiday together; she said it would be their last chance to enjoy themselves before they started “real life”. They were eighteen, she would be off to university in September and the week before he would be starting his first job, by joining the civil service.

 

She’s seen the advert for “holiday apartments” to rent in Brighton and, to Simon’s surprise and relief, they had been very cheap and had one free. Abigail had booked it and made all the arrangements and Simon had followed along behind her. He’d done that throughout their friendship, following what Abigail decided to do. They’d been two outsiders, posh and artist Abigail with shy and quiet Simon, which had drawn them together.

 

The first disappointment had been when they first reached the apartment. It was much further from the station then they had been told and up three flights of stairs. Though all of it was painted white, the apartment was shabby and rundown. There was only one bedroom, with a broken down sofa bed in the sitting room, none of the appliances in the kitchen worked and the only view from it was of a multi-story car park. Abigail hated it the moment she saw it but not Simon. This was his first holiday away from his squabbling parents and he would have been happy wherever they stayed.

 

He took his time eating his food, he was hungry and he would need a full stomach to deal with Abigail. She was probably back at their apartment sulking. Eventually he left the fish and chip shop and slowly walked back to their apartment.

 

To his surprise, he found the apartment empty. Abigail’s bag and clothes were gone, only a note from her left behind. It told him she’d taken his advice and gone home. At first he was angry, how could she have just abandoned him. It had been her idea to come here and she had bailed on him. Then the realisation slowly came to him, he was alone and could do whatever he wanted to.

 

Abigail wasn’t there, he didn’t have only do the things she wanted to. On their first night he’d spotted a gay bar, not far from their apartment, but Abigail had turned her nose up at it, saying, “I’m not going into some awful gay bar!” Now there was no Abigail to stop him.

 

That night he went to that gay bar and to his surprise met a Dutchman called Isaac. Isaac seemed so interested in him and Simon found himself coming alive under Isaac’s attention. When Isaac invited him to come home with him Simon readily agreed. He was almost breathless with anticipation, he was finally going to bed with another man, a handsome man who was interested in him.

 

The next four days saw him presuming his romance with Isaac. Though Isaac lived in Brighton he was on a week’s holiday himself, spending his time at home, and seemed to have plenty of time for Simon. They did things together, not just him following behind someone else, Isaac showed him Brighton, and he enjoyed himself. Was this what having a boyfriend was like, he asked himself, if so he liked it.

 

Following around behind Abigail, being the “outsider” with her, he had hidden away his sexuality. It had been the perfect excuse not to do anything about it, certainly not to look for the company of other gay men or even a boyfriend. But those days away from Abigail had given him the push he needed, he certainly wouldn’t have done it if Abigail had stayed.

 

On the train home, at the end of his six day holiday, Simon found himself constantly checking his jacket pocket. Inside was Isaac’s mobile phone number. When they’d parted, that morning, Isaac had told him how easy it would be for him to come to Brighton for the weekend or longer, and how much Isaac wanted him to do that, how much Isaac wanted to see him again. Suddenly that mobile phone number was the most precious thing he owned. He was coming back, as soon as possible.

 

Drew Payne

January 2009.