“Oh!” Don put the Sunday paper on the coffee table and got up. As soon as Rick had entered the living room he saw something was wrong. “What’s the matter? Bad news.”
Rick put his mobile beside the paper with a peevish little click. “The boss. I’m going on a training course.”
“What?” Don shook his head. “But why?”
“Some new computer programme we all have to use. As if that’s going to make an already shitty job any better.”
Once they had decided to move in together, they had managed to find the perfect flat to rent, nice and close to the school where Don was head of Physics. But Rick had had to take what he could get in the way of employment – data processing for some faceless international corporation. Sure there was a gym in the basement of the building were he worked, but no discernable soul amongst the middle-management.
“Apparently I have to have the bit of paper before I can go up to the next grade where I might do something that requires a brain,” Rick elaborated with a wave of his hand. “So it’s the course for me. Thursday.”
“That’s short notice,” Don scowled. “But at least it’s just one day. What?” Rick was shaking his head.
“Thursday first thing through to lunchtime Saturday.” He shrugged. “I’ve got no choice but at least it’s all expenses paid and the hotel should be a good one.”
“London?” Don asked.
“No, down on the south coast.” Rick grinned. “You could come with me. I’ve opted for a double bed with no sharing.” He patted his belly. “Claimed I need my space, see. Some of the other guys are taking spouses so there’s no reason why you can’t come.”
“And what would I do while you’re doing whatever? I’d sooner stay here. Make ready to give you a really warm welcome when you get home.” Don raised his eyebrows suggestively.
“You could keep me warm down there,” Rick protested. “Come on. It’s a nice place.”
“Bognor? No, I’m not going.” Don folded his arms with a scowl. “God awful place that’s stuck in the 50s. Walk down the street holding hands and corseted matrons have the vapours and call for the Peelers.”
“Exaggerating much,” Rick said. “Oh please yourself. This crap job hasn’t got many perks so excuse me if I make the most of this one.”
Don went to make supper, feeling guilty but not yet prepared to apologise, while Rick sorted the laundry with more force than necessary. Neither job was improved by sulking.
By the next morning they were at ease with each other and when Rick asked again Don had an answer that couldn’t possibly cause offence.
“You know we’ve been meaning to give the hall a coat of paint. I can do that Friday night after I get in. You wanted that soft green, didn’t you?”
“Okay.” Rick smiled, kissed Don good bye and went to catch his bus.
Rick asked again on Monday evening just after they had gone to bed. “Are you sure you won’t come?”
“I think I’m bound to if you keep doing that,” Don replied with a gasp.
“No,” Rick snickered. “I meant Bognor?” But he didn’t stop and he didn’t get a sensible answer either.
Don assumed that the matter had been dropped. Rick made the occasional comment about ways and means. He was getting a lift with a colleague. Ellie would pick him up from the house at 6.30 on Thursday morning which should give them plenty of time to be there by ten. The hotel was a modern one – Rick had checked it out online – very plush.
Don provided satisfactory responses but was still adamant. “I’ve just got too much on,” he said. “Between the office and home – no, I can’t spare the time. You get your sleep.” He raised his eyebrows. “You’ll need all your energy when you get back.”
“I thought I might go out on the town,” Rick said.
“In Bognor?” Don snorted. He too had looked it up online. “Good luck mate. I can recommend the music hall. Dan Leno, Marie Lloyd, Nosmo King and Hubert are still playing down there.”
“Exaggerating,” Rick sang out again but this time he was laughing.
Thursday morning, Don got up early to see him off on the doorstep. “Take care,” he said and drew him close for a farewell kiss.
Rick sighed. “I’ll miss you,” he said. “Last chance? You could come down by train?”
“You don’t give up do you,” Don said and gave Rick a squeeze. “Off with you. I can hear a car.”
Ellie came to the door – a bright twenty something in impossible heels that didn’t seem to slow her down at all.”
“Ready?” she asked. “Got your glad rags?”
“Hardly,” Rick said. “I plan to do a lot of reading.” He waved his Kindle.
Ellie snorted. “Silly man.” She rolled her eyes and grinned at Don. “Didn’t they tell you that the venue had to cancel? They rang last night. Dry rot or salmonella or something. We’re not going to Bognor. We’re going to Brighton instead.”
“Brighton!” Rick and Don’s voices meshed perfectly in yelps of delight and disbelief.
Rick turned to Don. “Changed your mind?” he asked.
“You betcha, big boy,” Don replied with a grin.
Bugger Bognor. Brighton was more like it!
Elin is fairly new to official authordom; Alike As Two Bees, her historical gay romance, was only published in March. Links to her work can be found here.