XOXO

Tuesdays, George thought, were the absolute worst.

Sure, you’d hear everyone moan and groan over the antagonising reality of Monday, usually after an exceedingly pleasant and likely inebriated weekend. But Mondays, to George at least, were a start. The start of what exactly, depended entirely upon the person.

Sundays were another point of contention to the average man. To the more rebellious sort, they were a reminder of all the past Sundays forced into Sunday School or forced into nice clothes for a Sunday Dinner. Occasionally, Sundays were despised by those who were prone to look far too far into the future, those who couldn’t possibly enjoy Sunday because it reminded them that Monday was soon to follow. George imagined that those were the sort of people who cried on their birthdays because it reminded them that they were a year closer to death.

Not that George could necessarily judge anyone for that, as he sipped at his nearly empty bottle of vodka and watched the clock turn over to 03:01 AM.

George hated all Tuesdays, something about the second day confirming more monotony than the last. However, this particular Tuesday was something more pathetic than usual.

Three hours into his twenty first year on Earth, and not only was he shit-faced, but had cried almost enough to fill the Pacific.

George had emptied an entire box full of tissues, the snot-rags discarded over his carpet when his aim faltered and he missed the bin. George blamed the alcohol.

He wished that the source of his misery was something philosophical or ethereal. The folly of man or the meaningless of life – those would be ideal topics to cry over. Or perhaps he would feel better crying over the injustices of the world, or the struggles and obstacles he faced in his own life.

Well in a sense he supposed the object of his gloom was dense and impermeable enough to be classed as an obtrusive obstacle.

George was crying over A Man™

They had parted on amicable terms, him and Jimmy, because even if they had fallen out of love, his James was still a gentleman in all ways. George could find no fault in the too-perfect man, and in part that was likely why they hadn’t worked. Just being in James’ presence would make any man feel inferior.

George was sure that right now James was sitting in his plush leather armchair, in that damnable high-end perfectly organised flat, daintily sipping at some vintage wine or whiskey.

Because James was a gentleman, George imagined that he would feel a slight twinge in his chest, perhaps shed one solitary tear, and raise his glass to their shit-show of a relationship.

He couldn’t even call him a bastard, not because George had met Mr and Mrs Lance and seen just how legitimate James’ birth had been, but because Jimmy was the human incarnation of an overexcited puppy dog.

When they’d first met George had expected the man to be a posh cunt, mostly due to the fact that the idiot was wearing a ridiculously expensive bespoke suit just to grab a bag of chips from the local chippy.

James had bounced in place while waiting for his order, flashing a grin at the visibly unimpressed worker behind the counter before turning to George.

“You come here often?” James had asked, and he had honest to god winked at George.

George had flushed and stuttered for a few seconds, trying to formulate some sort of response.

Apparently James needed no such reply as he simply continued speaking, “I’m James. James Lance, and you are?”

“Well I, ah,” George coughed, “George Winters”

In return, James gave him the most dazzling smile that George had ever seen. He was not one to wax poetics, but George could have sworn that the entire world brightened for a moment, time slowed and a warm fuzzy feeling blossomed in his chest.

It was just like heartburn.

George snapped back to reality as James turned around to grab his chips, offering a parting handshake to George before he quickly dashed out of the shop. Their interaction was over so quickly that George was sure that he had dreamt it up, a hallucination from the excessive amount of coffee and energy drinks he consumed to make it through a day.

In a haze he looked down at the slip of paper in his hand, deposited there during the handshake, a series of numbers was scrawled down followed by ‘Call me – James :)’.

A goddamn smiley-face. Who did this lunatic think he was? When did he even write that down? Had he really been staring at the other man for so long and not noticed? Or did this James fellow keep his number on him all the time, just for encounters such as that?

George walked out of the chippy without ordering, and resolved to not call the strange man.

A whole twenty-four hours passed before his resolve crumbled and he dialed the number.

“Right, ah. Hi, this is George. From the chip shop down on North street.”

George,” James purred, “We should get coffee tomorrow. Lunch? I know a wonderful place called Café et Merde with the nicest little apple tarts or if you’d rather we could go to-”

“Yes,” George cut him off, “I would love to. Café et Merde at noon tomorrow. See you there.”

❖︎

The present George, the one crying on his birthday and ruining his liver with strong determination, sighed at the thought of his ex.

They had been separated for all of three days and already George had fallen apart. He supposed that it was to be expected, in the past George had fallen fast and fallen hard for pretty men with nice smiles. He had spent two years dating James, texting him cat photos everyday, visiting each other’s families at Christmas, and stealing his blanket at night.

And goddamn it, he missed James.

He missed how James would reply to the cat photos with a smiley face or a ‘hey! that one is almost as cute as you <3’. He missed snuggling up while watching those dumb documentaries that James liked, and falling asleep on James’ chest while his boyfriend ran his long fingers through George’s hair. He missed waking up in James’ arms, and he missed James complaining when they would wake up with George’s octopus arms clinging to James in a tight hold. He missed James’ smile, and the little pout he would have when he disapproved of something. He missed James’ passion. He missed watching James train in the gym, sweat beading on his back, hair soaked through, the punch bag wheezing in protest as James beat the everloving shit out of it.

He missed how James would leave dirty clothes all over his room until George shouted at him to pick up his mess. He missed James’ failed attempts to make tea that didn’t taste like dishwater.

George just wished that James missed him.

❖︎

Café et Merde was cozy. George had arrived half an hour early for their first date, sitting by the window with his coffee, desperately trying to calm his nerves.

James arrived fifteen minutes early, bouncing on his heels as he ordered some ridiculously over complicated drink. As soon as the server gave him the coffee, James swung around (somehow managing to not spill a single drop of coffee) and plopped into the seat opposite George.

He wasn’t wearing a suit this time, however James still managed to look like a rich fuck in black jeans and a low v-neck. George swallowed heavily.

“You are every bit as attractive as I remembered! And those eyes, I never noticed but they are just so blue, aren’t they?” James said, and covered George’s hand with his own.

George choked on his coffee, though James didn’t seem to notice as he kept on talking.

“I mean, I know I have blue eyes, but wow! Yours are just so bright! Have you ever considered modelling? Maybe you could be in a calendar? ” And then James lowered his voice and said, “I would have you pinned to my wall one way or another, mon chéri

George made some sort of squeaking noise in response and surreptitiously covered his crotch with his beanie. He was only human after all, and James’ arse looked really good in those jeans. Really, really good. That voice as well – hnng.

The hand atop his moved, lacing their fingers together as James leaned very close and began babbling about something. Art, perhaps? George wasn’t listening anymore, he was too preoccupied by the warmth of James’ fingers and the uncomfortable tightness of his trousers.

“Fuck!”

Well that removed one problem at least – James had been wildly gesticulating and sent his very hot coffee all over George’s lap, effectively killing his erection. Unfortunately James was now dabbing the area with a napkin and George’s dick was valiantly trying to regain it’s former glory despite the pain.

“I’m so awfully sorry. God, look at what I’ve done! So so sorry, I’m sure you don’t want to see me anymore. I’ll just, well, fuck.” James spluttered, clearly embarrassed, and gathered his things, his metaphorical tail between his legs.

James was halfway through the door when George caught up with him, hoodie tied around his waist to disguise the wet patch, and linked their fingers back together.

“Dumping coffee all over someone and then running off? Very cowardly of you.” George teased, “C’mon then let’s go for a walk instead, you can’t spill any coffee on my groin that way.”

This man, George thought to himself, This man is an idiot that I could fall in love with.

❖︎

George had run out of vodka. It was a real pissing awful shame, since he would’ve preferred to keep drowning his sorrows until either his liver gave out or his life gave out.

Okay, that was a bit excessive. Maybe until he passed out at least.

George heaved himself from the floor of his bedroom and staggered towards towards the door. Last time James had come over he had left half a bottle of some fancy wine in the kitchen, and George was filled with a sudden determination to keep on drinking.

He didn’t even make it two steps before his clumsy feet tripped over thin air and deposited his ass onto the floor with a thump. George sighed and closed his eyes, feeling tears well up in his eyes.

God, I am pathetic, he thought.

George simply lay there for a moment, wallowing in self-pity, before he felt his arse buzz.

He furrowed his brow and reached an arm back to pack against his butt, where he found the solid presence of his phone in his back pocket. As he extracted the mobile from his jeans he opened his eyes, finding them bleary and sore from crying. He wiped them roughly with the back of his hand and glared at the notification on his phone.

03:20 AM [Annie]: happy bday m8

03:20 AM [George]: Whk are yo/ evn awake

03:21 AM [Annie]: insomnia. why r u even awake, bday boi?

03:22 AM [George]: drumk

03:22 AM [George]: cryign abt james

03:22 AM [George]: whyh did i break up wiht him

03:23 AM [George]: i stil love him sp much

The ‘…’ icon appeared, but George didn’t bother waiting for a reply. He exited the messaging app and reached out to tap the notes file to write some sad poem about James’ eyes before the sane part of him could convince him not to.

Instead, George opened his photo gallery and was confronted with an image of him and James snuggled together on his settee. George was smiling up at the camera like he had won the lottery, and in a way his relationship with James was like winning the lottery. James on the other hand, his gaze was firmly focused on George. He looked at George like that was his entire world. The picture wasn’t taken on an anniversary or a holiday, it had just been a normal day.

Why did he break up with James?

❖︎

They were crowded around a too-small oaken table, knees knocking against each other and shoulders bumping with every breath.

Now, George liked Harry and Harry’s new boyfriend, Gareth. And George certainly liked his younger sister Annie. George even liked his sister’s boyfriend, Mark. Of course, his ‘like’ of James went unsaid,he adored that man.

What George did not like was a triple date packed around a table that could barely seat two.

George sat with his back against the wall, James practically in his lap, and Harry pressed snug against his side. He needed to piss, the music was too loud, and was he beginning to feel claustrophobic.

Just as he prepared to excuse himself to the restroom and prevent a panic attack, the waiter appeared before them.

The server was a couple of years younger than George, with a head of carefully styled copper curls and warm sun-kissed skin that was smattered by freckles. ‘Nick’ – according to the wonky name tag, gave them a wide grin that reached his sea-foam blue eyes and held aloft his dinky little notepad, ready to take their order.

As James leaned forward to talk to Nick, George felt an overwhelming surge of jealousy. This boy seemed to be a far better match for Jimmy. He was cheerful, even in such a stressful occupation, while George sulked and skulked around as if life itself was a chore. Hadn’t James always said he prefered redheads? George fingered his dark brown-black hair nervously.

His eyes flickered back to where his Jimmy was laughing at something the waiter had said, and offering a retort that had the waiter blushing to the tips of his ears. George swallowed heavily.

One part of George was telling him that this jealousy and lack of self-confidence was ridiculous, James was with him. They had been together for two years, and his boyfriend was just as in love with him as ever…Right?

Then there was the other side of George’s mind, the part that didn’t blame Jim for his wandering eyes. George wasn’t exactly a looker even on his good days, he was painfully plain looking. This ‘Nick’ looked like the protagonist of a story, and George looked like a background character.

He added nothing to the plot. He couldn’t offer James anything. He was nothing.

George stood suddenly, squeezing past Harry and making a beeline for the toilet. They were staring at his retreating back, he was sure, but he couldn’t find the willpower to care about what they were thinking.

He locked himself into a stall and sat down onto the toilet lid, trying to control his breathing. Harry had known James for years, and had hinted that the man used to be uncontrollably promiscuous before they had started dating. What if James was getting tired of their relationship?

Shit. Tears spilled down his face unbidden and he let out a low whine deep in his throat.

How could James be in love with this? No, how could he let James be in love with this?

The door to the toilets opened and his breath caught in his throat. He sat ramrod straight and didn’t dare to make a sound as he heard the unmistakable voice of his boyfriend.

“Georgie? Darling, are you okay?”

George whimpered, and the footsteps paced closer to his cubicle. Shit. James tapped his knuckles against the wood.

“George, you in there? Please come out, sweetheart,” James said, concern lacing his voice.

He slowly opened the door to face James with puffy red rimmed eyes.

“Oh, love. Let’s go home, yeah? The others will understand,”

George nodded and the two set off to George’s house after giving a quick excuse to their friends.

Annie gave him a knowing look, concern biting at her conscience, but simply said, “more room for us then.”

James probed him for what had triggered the episode that had ruined their night, but George made some shit excuse about feeling tired and surreptitiously ensured that they never visit that restaurant again.

❖︎

George had started flipping through all of their old photos together. He blamed the alcohol.

James smirking at the camera, red and sweaty from fencing practise. The next photo with his lips beginning to form his next sentence, “babe, is it hot in here or it it just me?”. Just you, George had said, before pecking him on the lips, just you, James.

There was a series of photos with James and George on dates in different places; a forest, a beach, a cinema, an arcade, a museum. A photo of just James, still asleep and likely mid-snore, then another photo of his eyes wide open and looking straight into the lens, and then a selfie of the both of them lounging in bed.

Christmas, and their shit jumpers. Summer, and some risqué skinny dipping shots. Greasy takeout and their mouths full but smiling into the camera. Laundry day, James looking like an angel as he pegged up a bed sheet.

George wondered if James had as many photos of him as he did of James. It was likely impossible, George had accumulated so many images of the two of them that his phone struggled for storage space.

He swiped to the right for another picture and instead a video began to play.

“Georgie? It’s your James, here in Singapore! The country is lovely, and the people here are nice, but I miss my Georgie Porgie puddin’ and pie. I’ll be home soon, darling. I love you, happy anniversary!” James spoke from the tinny speaker, his eyes shining with love and longing as he stared into the camera.

Their first anniversary, a year and four months ago. James had been in Singapore on a business trip and George had moped for the entire day, despondent as he missed James’ presence.Then a message with the video attached had arrived, and George hadn’t been able to stop smiling all day.

He shouldn’t have broken up with James.

❖︎

Not too long after the ‘incident’ – (by which George meant the instance in which he cried over less than nothing in a public restroom until his long-suffering boyfriend came to his rescue) – things began to go downhill.

George was used to James acting secretive. ‘Business trips’ were sudden and urgent, with James jetting off to Singapore, Belarus, Lithuania, Germany, Russia, Argentina or Kyrgyzstan at a moment’s notice. James was oddly perceptive, and very good at acting.

For some reason George jumped to the conclusion that James was having an affair.

Because, really, who even went to Kyrgyzstan? Where the fuck even was Kyrgyzstan? No, George reasoned, James likely took any excuse to leave his side, and who could blame him?

And so began the first real fight of their relationship. Not a ‘you forgot to buy milk’ argument, nor a ‘the piano won’t fit through the fucking door, James’ argument. Even the infamous ‘dog versus cat’ feud paled in comparison.

It started like so:

“Georgie, darling? Work just called, I’ve got to be on a flight to Switzerland within the hour,” James said, pouting slightly at his partner.

When George didn’t offer any reply it became apparent to James that something was amiss. He sat down on the sofa next to George and their cat, Purrcy (George may have won the cat vs dog argument, but James fought viciously to name the furball).

“Georgie?” James nudged George, but the man kept his eyes resolutely downcast.

“Just fucking go, James. I’ll cancel our reservation for tonight, and you go prance off to fuck knows where!”

James reeled back as if he’d been slapped, “Georgie, I have to go, it’s important for my job.”

George sniffed and turned away from James. Stupid, irrational, overreacting fool, he berated himself.

James sighed, pressing his lips to George’s temple, murmuring a muted ‘love you’ before sweeping out of George’s apartment with his usual last-minute rushed panic.

His James returned within two days, but it didn’t matter.

His James returned sheepish and with what looked like a ludicrously expensive souvenir in his hands, but it didn’t matter.

James returned with a vendetta to get some time off work, but it didn’t matter.

During James’ flight home, George sent him a message to his mobile explaining that their relationship was over.

James had returned to England with an apology ready on his lips and a ring in his back pocket, but it didn’t matter. He read the message on his mobile and sent back a polite response, ever the gentleman.

❖︎

Purrcy had joined him on the floor, butting his head against George’s neck and climbing on top of his head before settling in between his shoulder blades. A notification flashed across his screen.

03:37 AM [Annie]: hes still so fckn in love with u

03:37 AM [Annie]: stop being an idiot. call him.

As if summoned by magic, James’ ringtone blared out into the room, spooking Purrcy, and his goofy face appeared on the screen.

George accepted the call without hesitation. For a few seconds there was only heavy breathing and sniffling from the other end of the call, then –

“Georgie?” fuck, James’ voice cracked and wobbled. Was James crying?

“Y-yeah Ji-James?” George said, noting how rough his own voice sounded.

James released a breath and sounded…relieved?

“Georgie, I miss you so fucking much,” James almost whispered the words, “I know you don’t love me anymore but I-” He made a strangled noise, “I still fucking love you, I love you so much.”

George’s resolve crumbled.

“James,” George said, “James, I love you too, I miss you so goddamn much,”

James made a noise, then said, “then, can I come in? I’m waiting outside.”

George shot to his feet and rushed towards the door with newfound co-ordination.

The door opened to James’ perfect face – even with red puffy eyes and lip bitten red raw.

“Georgie,” James breathed.

And then they were kissing.

❖︎

George awoke a few hours later lying next the love of his life, feeling pleasantly sore.

“Georgie?”

George hummed.

“Georgie, are you awake?”

George cracked an eye open, “James.”

“I know this is a bit sudden,” James said.

George grunted.

“D’you wanna marry me?”

George felt himself go rigid.

“You don’t have to of course! I just-” James fished out the ring from his pockets and presented it to George with a nervous expression plastered over his face.

George slapped him, “Of course I want to get married, you utter fucking twit!”

James smiled, and that was the end of that.

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