C O M P L E T I O N -- by Parker Penn
This story is intended as a work of fiction, and any resemblance to real persons -- living or dead -- is purely coincidental. This story also involves a relationship -- sex included -- between two persons of the same sex, and if this is against your beliefs or if you're too young to be reading such material, turn back now.
Thanks in advance for reading. This chapter basically sets up the situation for the remainder of the story, I hope you enjoy it and will read the parts to come. This isn't meant to drone on forever, it has a finite conclusion that I'm working towards, but I live and breathe for comments and criticism! If you've got any suggestions, complaints, or (hopefully) compliments, please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will reply to anything and everything I receive.
He dragged the fry through the smear of ketchup on his plate, the potato almost falling off of his fork as he brought it to his mouth. He chewed silently, staring ahead at the dimly lit wall across from his table, eyes glazed over. His swallow was harsh and dry, and he pulled a face as the food got lodged in his throat. Reaching for his glass, he took a swig of water and forced it down. The light above him flickered and he winced at the transition from light to darkness then back to light, sighing quietly and glancing down at his plate. He ran his fork along the remains, piling up the ketchup and bringing that to his lips. Liam Thompson was hungry, he didn't particularly care what he was eating. Truth be told, he really hadn't cared about anything lately.
He pushed the plate away, giving the waitress a few minutes to take note of him again. He really wasn't in any rush. Taking another sip of his drink, Liam finally turned his gaze to the busy restaurant surrounding him. Every Friday night he visited the small diner, sitting in the same booth, ordering the same food, and tipping the same amount. The waitresses had learned that he never left with change and usually only had twenties, which had them bickering about who would get to serve him but, every week, he was greeted by the same, warm smile. "All done?" she asked, her hand brushing Liam's shoulder as she walked by, scooping up his plate and his now empty glass of water.
"Yep," he replied, his voice refusing to give away any emotion.
She stopped, looking down at him with a smile -- sadder than usual, almost pitying him. He was always alone, never talked much, and had a persistent scowl on his face. Today, she had decided to do something about it. "Is everything all right? You seem kinda down."
It took him a moment to speak again, perhaps because he was shocked that somebody was bothering to make conversation with him. "Peachy," he said, mustering up all his strength of will to say it convincingly. "Just peachy."
The waitress nodded slowly. Despite his best efforts, he really wasn't believable, but it wasn't her place to pry. "All right then," she said to him. "I'll be right back with your cheque."
"Thanks," he mumbled in response. It was the last thing he said to her.
Ten minutes later, after getting his bill and paying for it with a bill straight from the machine, Liam stepped out into the chilled air. The sun had set a good hour before, the moon and stars hidden behind clouds, the only lights in the city coming from the fluorescent glare from the surrounding stores that were just starting to close. A few feet ahead, a streetlight switched on. He paid no attention, buttoning up his jacket and keeping his head down as he walked, stopping at the crossing for a brief moment before continuing on, uninterrupted, into the darkening streets.
He was starting to wonder why he even bothered going to the diner. The food wasn't great and it was overpriced, it was crowded, loud, and distracting, and they never brought him change anymore, and he had never had the heart to ask for any. Running a hand through his messy brown hair, Liam found himself doing the one and only thing he'd been capable of doing since he'd graduated -- thinking. It was starting to get to be too much for him, the constant pressures put on him by his brain. Three months since he'd finished his bachelors, and every waking minute he spent regretting the past four years of his life.
The problems had started with the uselessness of an English degree, but they quickly spiralled out of control. He shouldn't have moved to the city first of all; alone, lost, confused, like a speck of dust in the fabric of the world, he thought he was being brushed aside for bigger and better minds. Then he lamented his choice in friends, though that wasn't the best word for them. They'd abandoned him as soon their last exam was done, going off to the bar without even bothering to wait for him to finish. None of them had answered his texts, calls, and he wasn't going to try it on Facebook -- the last thing he wanted was his depression made public. He'd just drifted off into obscurity, working out of his apartment, scraping by on whatever he could get freelancing.
Here he was now, skulking down a crowded street on a Friday night, surrounded by people enjoying themselves, people in love, people who smiled without having to work at it. Happy people. It almost made him sick to think about other people's happiness when he couldn't manage his own.
Turning the corner off the main road into a side-street that provided a shortcut to his house, Liam pulled up his hood and began sprinting back to the apartment building. He couldn't take it anymore. The old complex was almost completely dark with the exception of the bottommost level. He buzzed himself in, pushed open the door and ignored the front desk attendant as he repeatedly pressed the elevator button.
"It's not gonna go any faster," said the mild-mannered voice of the woman behind him.
Liam ignored her, the gentle ding of the elevator's impending arrival sounding just after she spoke. He stepped in, pressed 9 and then pushed down the door close button as rapidly as he could.
The lurch in the pit of his stomach as the box began moving upwards made his stomach only feel worse, so he closed his eyes and took some deep breaths, impatiently waiting for the elevator to just stop and let him out. It felt like hours to him, but a moment later there was another lurch and the doors slid open. Moving quickly, he turned down the hall and stuffed his key into his apartment door as soon as he could, pushing it open and leaving it open, doubling over as he entered and heaving. His hands clasped to his mouth and he rushed to the bathroom, tears streaming down his cheeks as he tried in vain to settle his stomach.
When he was finished, a good fifteen minutes later, he stumbled out of the small bathroom and removed his key from the lock, tossing it into a bowl on a stand next to the door, and shut himself off from the world. Closing his eyes again, he took a deep, strained breath, and rubbed at the swollen bags under his eyes.
He stepped back into the bathroom, examining himself in the mirror. He looked disheveled, that was the most simplistic way of describing it. His brown hair, cut a few inches long, was usually messy but now it looked as though it hadn't seen a comb in a few months. His eyes were puffy, his nose red, his lips dry. Liam squinted back at himself, turning on the tap and splashing himself with a few jets of cold water. He pulled off his shirt, lifted his arm and sniffed, face twisting. He undid his belt, unbuckled his jeans, and pulled them down to his ankles, haphazardly kicking them off. Turning on the spot, he opened the shower door and turned on the water, keeping a hand held under the shower head until the water was lukewarm, then pulled off his boxers and stepped inside.
Liam kept his eyes closed for most of the shower, instinctively reaching for the bottle of shampoo, and then for his body wash. It felt good to be under the running water, but he wasn't enjoying himself very much. As soon as he had rinsed off the suds, he turned off the water and cracked open the shower door to grab his towel. After he dried off, he stepped out, dropping the wet towel on the floor and quickly brushed his teeth. As he left the room stark naked, he turned off the bathroom light and walked further into the dark hallway of his apartment.
It was small, cramped, but seeing as he never had anybody over, he made due. His mattress was left on the floor, blankets messily strewn across it, a pile of dirty plates stacked a few feet away. Across from that was his television, glaring a dull blue light -- he had left it on. His kitchen was attached without a transition at the far end of the room, more dirty dishes left in the sink, the fridge covered in pictures he didn't care to look at, his phone hanging on the wall, a flashing red light blinking on the console.
Breathing in sharply, Liam approached the phone and lifted the receiver, plugging in the number to check his answering machine. With his luck, it was just a telemarketer, nobody else bothered to call him anymore. The voice that met his ear, though, was a more familiar one. It sounded panicked and urgent. "Liam, it's mom. I don't want you to worry, because everything's going to be all right, but your dad's in the hospital. Somebody shot him."
By then, he had tuned out the dronings of his mother, the phone falling to his side as his arm went limp, staring blankly at the wall. After a few moments, Liam hung up the phone, but his feet were rooted firmly in the ground. He blinked, his eyes drifting to the wide glass door leading out to his balcony, the cityscape barely visible behind the translucent curtains meant for blocking out the sun. Licking his lips, Liam managed a small step away from the kitchen, collapsing onto his bed.
Five days later, Liam entered the Starbucks a few buildings away from his apartment dressed in his pyjamas. The barista looked at him quizzically for a moment, but had apparently seen stranger sights before and quickly moved on to making his order. Liam closed his eyes and gently tapped the wooden ledge of the serving station as he waited. All things considered, he seemed more cheerful today than he had been in a long time.
His father was fine. He'd been shot twice, one missed entirely and the other missed its intended target, striking him in the arm. Liam had rushed to the hospital in town, where his father had been taken, and met with his hysterical mother and his younger sister who, Liam had always felt, was the most rational person in the family, despite only being 16. Through sobs and shouts, his mother had attempted to piece together what they knew. His father had been leaving his office for the day a few hours later than usual, when he heard his name called. He turned his to face the person, and a shot rang out. Another one followed quickly after. According to his mother, he hadn't gotten a good look as his assailant, but she was certain that it was premeditated, perhaps even an attempt at assassination.
For six years, Liam's father had been serving as the outspoken Premier of the province they lived in, and for many years before that as a member of parliament in their jurisdiction. He had enemies in, relatively speaking, high places. Liam's mother was a frantic woman on the best of days, but if she was telling the truth--and the would-be killer had called his father's name directly--then attempted assassination couldn't be ruled out until they had a lead.
The barista handed Liam the drink and winked at him with a lopsided smile as Liam nodded, took the cup, and headed towards one of the couches. He didn't much feel like taking the five minute walk back to his apartment. Setting the drink down, he picked up a newspaper that had been left on the table and began absently reading it. His father's news story was still a front-page affair, something of that magnitude hadn't been seen in Canada in living memory, and the press was simply eating it up. Liam had been denying interviews for days, but despite the hullabaloo surrounding him, Liam felt pretty good about himself. He rarely spoke to his parents, they'd had a falling out when he moved away for school and hadn't been on good terms since, but the phone call had triggered something in him. A drive, a purpose. He wasn't sure he was fully comfortable with it, and he still wasn't happy, but he wasn't depressed, either.
"Shocking story, huh?" said a deep voice from behind the paper. Liam pulled it down at saw an older man, had to be mid-forties, early fifties, reading the same publication he was. "Can't believe somebody would try to kill the premier. Always thought he was a good guy."
Liam shrugged. He didn't like drawing attention to himself as the man's son and had actually voted against his father's party in the last election.
Despite his non-response, the man kept talking. "Shame, really. Some people these days..." He laughed, and something about it made Liam take a second glance at the man. His hair was cut short, salt-and-pepper flecked as it slowly went grey, his face had some wrinkles starting but it seemed jovial and youthful, stubble beginning to show in form of a goatee around his mouth. His lips looked positively delicious. Liam smiled slightly. "Anyway, I'll leave you to it, only reason I come here is for the paper and the guys behind the counter." He smirked at Liam, who couldn't help but be surprised at his candour.
Glancing down slowly again at his paper, Liam spent the better part of the next ten minutes sneaking glances at the man, who was half-hidden behind his own newspaper. It wasn't until he had decided to stop looking that he noticed the man looking back at him. Flustered for a moment, Liam lowered his eyes, pretending to read the sports headline. "I'm Michael."
"Liam," he managed through his embarrassment.
"Liam," Michael repeated, nodding his head slightly. "This might sound a little strange, but any chance you'd like to go for dinner some time? I'd suggest coffee, but I guess we're already doing that."
It took him a moment to respond, but Liam accepted. Happily. It was the first date he'd be going on in nearly three years.