Charlie looked across the living room at Gordon. How had he ended up here? He knew that things with Stella hadn’t been great either, heaven knows they’d had their arguments, but at least his life hadn’t been boring with her. They had fought, oh God, yes, they had rarely agreed on anything, and at times it seemed like they had both gone out of their way to make the other one as miserable as possible. But, despite all this there had always been, in its own weird way, some sort of love for each other. With Gordon he didn’t feel anything. To be honest, he wasn’t sure if he ever had.
After he had come out of the elephant Charlie had immediately moved out of the house he had shared with Stella and into a small, rundown one-room flat at the other edge of Royston Vasey. Tony avoided him like the plague, and for a long time Charlie had kept to himself a lot. About two years later he had met Gordon. He guessed it must have been a combination of the curiosity after the Spit and Polish incidents and the fact that he was quite lonely that made Gordon look like a great option. And for a while he certainly was. Charlie wasn’t alone anymore, and Gordon was kind, stable, and reliable, something Charlie had never had in his life before.
However, Charlie was miserable. Everything Gordon did seemed to annoy him. They didn’t argue. Ever. They barely spoke at all. Stella had often complained about him being boring, and he was starting to feel the same way about Gordon. And then Charlie had started noticing Gordon’s increased intake of food over the last year. It had started with small things like second helpings of deserts or a chocolate bar on a particularly hard day at work, but it was getting out of hand now. And while Charlie wasn’t exactly a slim man himself, he didn’t find Gordon attractive anymore. It wasn’t necessarily that he had put on weight that bothered him, but more the fact that he didn’t care. Now Charlie was starting to resent watching Gordon eat, and the constant grunts whenever the man had to reach for things became piercing noises that drove Charlie mad. Charlie was sure they were both miserable, but none of them knew how to fix it.
He found himself thinking about Stella more frequently and wondered what it would have been like if they hadn’t broken up and he hadn’t been stuck in that elephant. Would he have been able to fix things with her if he had realised it wasn’t Tony that picked him up after that van crash? Would he have been able to get himself out of there before it was too late? Would he even have wanted to fix things? Stella and he had talked about divorce several times before that, but neither of them seemed to have the guts, or perhaps, the desire to actually go through with it.
After being beaten up by Tony and left by Stella over the course of a few seconds he felt his whole world had ended, but he had never really been sure which bit had hurt the most. Right then and there he felt being rejected by Tony was the worst, but in hindsight he realised they would never have worked anyway. But he had lost both of them on the same day. And his friendship with Judee. And his job. Actually, being stuffed inside an elephant had been quite a blessing at that point.
If he were to be completely honest, Charlie had found himself thinking quite a lot about Stella lately. Back when he had just moved out they had seemed to bump into each other all the time, not very odd considering the size of Royston Vasey, but eventually Stella found a new bloke, a younger man, probably the toy boy she had always wanted, and after that she seemed to be less out and about.
The last time Charlie had seen her she had been on crutches, claiming to have broken her leg while skiing in the Alps. It must have been some toy boy, Charlie thought, because Stella had stated quite firmly over the last thirty years that being out in the cold, and especially in the snow, was a thing no human would do voluntarily. Something was wrong, but Charlie didn’t know what. This had been eight months ago, and Charlie hadn’t seen her since. He had even taken to stop by the Greedy Slits just to see if she was in there, even if that meant running into Tony. Charlie always made sure to be quick, but that also meant he never really got to ask anyone else if they had seen Stella lately.
He was getting more worried by each day, but he didn’t know how to check up on her. They weren’t exactly in the same social circles anymore, and if Gordon found out he had been asking about her he would be furious. Charlie had tried looking her up on social media, but anything he could find were over a year old, and people always lie on those things anyway. Her number wasn’t listed and he couldn’t exactly call up her toy boy and ask for her either.
”Charlie?” The sound of Gordon’s voice made Charlie snap back to reality.
”Oh right, you’re home.”
”What’s wrong? You were miles away.”
”Oh, nothing,” lied Charlie. “I was just thinking about something that happened at work.”
“Do you want to share it with me?”
“Nah, it’s not important,” said Charlie. “How was your day?”
“Pretty good,” answered Gordon. “It was Patricia’s leaving-do today.”
“Oh, she’s finally moving? I’m sure you’re all glad to be rid of her.”
“It’ll be nice and quiet around the office from now on,” said Gordon with a smile. “And also , there was a nice cake.”
Gordon chuckled. Charlie felt like screaming but sent a fake smile back instead.
“Any plans for tea tonight?” Gordon asked and Charlie had to close his eyes and breathe for a few seconds before thinking of an answer.
Maybe if they went out to a restaurant Gordon wouldn’t eat as much. Maybe being around other people would do them both good. And, hopefully, the whole thing would take his mind off of Stella for a while. Yes, this sounded like a great plan.
“Gordon,” Charlie stood up and took Gordon’s hands in his. “Do you fancy going out tonight? I think we could both do with a change of scenery. Let’s go to Luigi’s.”