ONE OF THOSE DAYS
© Clare London
Well, it was obviously going to be one of those days, wasn’t it?
Baz stood on the pavement outside his apartment block and groaned aloud. No money, dwindling prospects, bleak social plans, not a cute boyfriend in sight – and now this. Hell of a way to celebrate a birthday, right? A year older… a year none the wiser, obviously.
He should never have got up in the first place, he reckoned. He was cursed. At breakfast, the last slice of bread in his cupboard had been an unattractive mix of crust and mold; the milk smelled of ripe cheese. He’d had to walk to work because his train was cancelled – three of them in a row, actually – and he couldn’t take a cab because he’d lost his last twenty bill somewhere on the platform. He was late in to the office, and on the day when the boss was vindictively pre-menstrual – for a man, that is. By lunchtime, after he’d shut the drawer of the filing cabinet on his colleague’s fingers and accidentally shredded his boss’s dry cleaning receipts, Baz was on report.
Third time this month.
At lunch he went to the bank but his account was mysteriously overdrawn, maybe something to do with the new games console he bought at the weekend, but that was beside the point. His colleague – not the one whose fingers were still bleeding – shared half a tuna sandwich with him, but that repeated on him all afternoon. His PC crashed; he spilled coffee down his leg so it looked like he’d peed on himself; the vending machine ate the only coin he’d found at the bottom of his desk drawer and then left his soda still hanging miraculously from its perch. When Baz kicked the machine in frustration, half the sole of his boot fell off.
He walked all the way home again at the end of the day, crossing the road to his block in eventual safety, despite two trucks, a bicycle and a hooded kid on a skateboard attempting to dismember him. No-one at the office had been free for a celebration drink or anything tonight, though he’d made some tentative plans for the weekend. He was on his own for the night.
The question was, whether he could borrow some milk and eggs off one of his neighbors to make an omelet. The long bath he’d been looking forward to was going to be tepid because the boiler in the block had broken down two days ago, but he’d lie in it regardless and bemoan his miserable new life in the city. Then he’d read the free local newspaper from last week that the dog downstairs had probably peed on at some stage, and pretend he could afford to go to one of the clubs or buy new clothes or date one of the grinning boys at the supermarket –
Then he’d dropped his keys.
Shocked, he grabbed out at them as they fell, but they tumbled down to the ground then through a slit in the drain cover. He bent down to peer through the tiny opening, and could see them shining in the gutter. He knelt on the muddy pavement for a while, trying to wriggle his fingers through and grab them but without any luck. He stood back up again, and had stayed there ever since. That’s when he groaned aloud.
And why not? He was cold, tired, hungry, irritable and – to add insult to injury – locked out for the night. How much worse could things get?
It started to rain.
Yes, it was definitely one of those days. Baz threw his head back, letting the rain drops trickle down his throat and under the collar of his shirt. Rain was seeping into his ruined boot, too. Maybe he could drown himself in it. Maybe he should have let the skateboard swipe his legs out from under him. Maybe he could go back to work and ask the vending machine to eat him, too.
He started to laugh, letting the whooping fits take over.
At that point, he realized there was someone watching him. A tall, slim guy with very dark hair and amused blue eyes. He stood on the steps of Baz’s apartment block as if he’d just come out, and he was sheltering underneath the awning from the rain. He had a rolled up magazine under his arm and a heavy-looking leather bag in his hand. He looked down at Baz’s pants, now covered in both mud and stale coffee, then back up to his face.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
There was a loaded question if ever he heard one! Baz thought, hysterically. He wondered whether to tell the man he was an escaped lunatic who belched tuna and attacked vending machines, but he decided against ruining his day any further. And besides, the guy was gorgeous. Drop dead, delicious, Look-how-well-my-day-is-going-you-Loser, gorgeous.
Thanks, thought Baz, aiming his hatred at some Unknown Deity. Give me the birthday from hell then dangle a whole bucket-full of cuteness in front of me when I look like something the cat dragged in then spat out again.
“I’m fine,” he said. He could feel the rain running down the back of his neck, and his hair sticking in spikes over his eyebrows. Like his ‘look’ would make the cover of any men’s magazine, let alone the one this hunk would be reading. “Well, actually,” he confessed, “I lied. I’m not fine, because I’m locked out. My keys are down there.” He gestured at the ground. He could hear rain water gushing under the drain cover, probably washing his keys out to sea by now. “But that’s my problem, not yours. The whole day’s been full of them. For a birthday, I’ve had more than my share of Life Sucking.”
The dark-haired guy was still smiling. “I’ve had days like that,” he said, nodding. “I’ve got a key to the block, shall I let you back in? Then I’ve got a magnet in my toolkit, we can fish your keys out, no problem.”
“You’re sent from the Unknown Deity?” asked Baz, a little dazed at the man’s calm and obvious preparedness.
Mr.-Gorgeous-and-Helpful-with-It laughed. “I doubt it. I’m the plumber, been to fix the boiler. I was just bringing the rest of my toolkit back out to the van.” He stared at Baz and flushed, very slightly and very attractively. “Oh… and happy birthday, right?”
Baz stared at him. “I can get back into my apartment,” he said. “I can have a hot bath at last.” He was trying out how it felt for things to go right. It was damned odd, but pleasantly so. He remembered to smile at his savior at last. “Thanks. For the birthday wishes and all. I’m pleased – no, very pleased to meet you.”
“Look…” The Gorgeous-and-I-fix-boilers-too Guy was still a little flushed. He was looking Baz up and down, all the way from his filthy pants to his rain-soaked shirt to the way his wet hair licked around his neck. The Looking-suspiciously-like-I’m-ogling-You Guy said, “This is going to sound pretty blunt, but after you dry off and get changed, how about some supper with me? This job took longer than I thought and my office is closed now for the day so I’ve got the use of the van for the evening. I was just going to go into town, but I don’t know my way around that well. And maybe if you don’t have any other special celebrations going on…”
Thanks, thought Baz again, aiming it to the Unknown Deity but without the sarcasm this time. “That’d be great,” he said, and started to laugh again. “No, I’m not doing anything else. That’s really wonderful. I’d like that. Great.”
Mr.-Gorgeous-and-don’t-I-look-Relieved smiled broadly. “Your laugh -” he said. “Excuse me saying so, but it’s great, too.” He turned to unlock the door and Baz bounded up the steps to join him. He turned back suddenly, just as Baz came nose to nose with him. They both leant back in surprise. They both flushed this time.
“Everything seems to have gone wrong for you today but you’re still laughing,” the guy said. Baz grinned. The Gorgeous-and-I-rather-think-you-are-Too Guy grinned back.
“Yeah,” said Baz. “But I guess it’s just one of those days!”