Chapter 02

Gerry went to bed at eleven that night, and Lia followed him soon. She wanted to get up earlier than usual and have a shower before she began the morning routine with Gerry. By half past eight she had dressed, poured a glass of fruit smoothie for Gerry, opened the blinds, spotted the ceiling cat, switched on the monitor of Gerry’s TV, and prepared things for his tea, which she would make after he’d had his smoothie. Then she stormed into Gerry’s bedroom with her usual: “Good morning, sunshine!”

Gerry’s lips formed a delighted smile and he made a cheerful sound. Lia dressed him, hoisted him onto his electric chair, and gave him his liquid breakfast. Then she made herself some toast with cherry jam and black tea and retreated into her room to consume them while watching an episode of one of the many TV series she liked.

When her hair was sufficiently dry, she brushed it, got ready to go out and went to Gerry to tell him she was going to check onConstantine. Gerry nodded, and she took the house key from his desk and departed.

The weather was still very cold, but otherwise lovely, and Lia enjoyed every moment of her morning walk, although she was a bit nervous. What if he doesn’t even remember her? What does she say then? But there was no need to worry. When she got to the barn, she saw that his car was gone. Was he at work then?

She rang his doorbell just to make sure, but there was no answer. Slightly disappointed and slightly relieved, she turned around and went back to Gerry’s.

“That was short,” he commented when she came in.

“Well, he must have been ok after all, because he wasn’t at home,” Lia shrugged.

“Will u go back l8r?”

“Why would I do that?”

“U sed he was handsome,” Gerry suggested.

“Sunshine, he said I was ugly and called me a stupid hag. No amount of external beauty can compensate for that.”

“Why did u help him then?”

“I don’t know,” she shook her head. “Must’ve been my silly messiah complex or something.”

Gerry laughed.

Lia did go back that afternoon. She knew the reason as much as the one why she’d driven Constantine home the night before, but decided to blame it on curiosity, and if she was the cat to be killed by it that day, she was feeling particularly suicidal.

His car was parked in front of the house. Lia braced herself, rehearsed her opening line and rang the doorbell.

It didn’t take long for him to come open the door. He looked much fresher than the night before, and far more cheerful.

“Hello,” he greeted her in a friendly manner, but there was no recognition in his eyes.

“Hi, I just wanted to check if you were all right after last night,” she explained.

“Erm…” he looked confused, but didn’t lose the smile. “Yes, I am.”

“Good,” she nodded.

“Who are you?” he asked finally.

“I’m Lia,” she introduced herself in an ‘and you should know that’ tone. “I drove you home last night.”

He laughed. “No, you didn’t.”

Lia was taken aback. She never expected that kind of an answer. “Don’t you think I should know?” she objected.

“No,” he shook his head. “I mean, there’s no way you could be that ugly girl who found me at Two Chimneys last night. There’s just no way. You’re much prettier than her.”

“Yeah, I’m much sexier than that tall skinny Scottish bloke,” she remarked, quoting a notorious sketch from Friday Night Projects with David Tennant. “More to the point, I really just wanted to see you were ok, and seeing as you are, I can go home now. It was a pleasure talking to you,” she added acidly and turned to leave.

“No, wait! Please! Lia!” he called after her and ran out to catch her up. “Please, would you at least have coffee with me?” he asked when he did.

She looked up to see a genuinely pleading expression on his face. “Not coffee,” she shook her head. “It’s too late, I wouldn’t sleep. Got tea?”

His lips extended into an unbelievably broad smile. “Sure,” he nodded. “Come in, I’ll put the kettle on,” he invited her and ran inside to start making the tea. Lia noticed that his feet were bare, as she followed him inside a bit more slowly.

She found him in the far corner of the barn where he had an open kitchen and right now was busy there with mugs and tea and coffee. He smiled at her when she approached him, and then shook his head in disbelief.

“Gosh, I’m so sorry,” he said. “I must’ve been so rude to you last night. I was just so pissed off – and pissed, of course – and you were just at a wrong place at the wrong time, I guess.”

“Well, you might have killed someone. Or yourself, so I guess it was worth it.”

“No, but seriously, who are you, Lia? What makes a person rescue total strangers?”

“Lots of things, to be honest. Some people want to be noble, some get high on other people’s appreciation. Some people are genuinely selfless, and some people are just spoiled and sometimes feel like performing a good deed. And some people try to prove themselves, and buy their way to Heaven.”

“And which of them are you?”

She thought for a moment. It wasn’t as if she wanted to talk about it. But she wasn’t one to tell people she didn’t, and didn’t like to lie either. Then she laughed. “I guess I’m just a megalomaniac. Showing off that I can make a difference.”

He laughed at that as well. “Well, thanks for that anyway.”

“You’re welcome.”

The water boiled and he filled the mugs with it. “Sugar?” he asked. He had been fairly considerate and made her a fruit tea, since she had expressed her wish not to be overdosed with caffeine at such late hour. She nodded, and in a short while got her tea, while he took his coffee and gestured her to come sit with him in the living room.

Then, suddenly, something flew over her head and a huge black shape settled onConstantine’s shoulder.

“Gabriel!” scolded Constantine, who just about managed not to spill his coffee on impact.

Lia stared at the creature with her mouth open. It wasn’t your average pet.

“Wow, he’s adorable!” she professed. “Where did you get him?”

“Oh, he came with the house.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, he was here when I moved in. I have no idea how he got here. But apart from being a pain in the backside now and then, he’s a cute little pest, so I kept him,”Constantineexplained. “He’s probably hungry. Hang on, I’ll give him something.”

Lia took offered to take both mugs to the living room coffee table, and then returned to the kitchen to watch asConstantineprepared a sweet concoction for his fruit bat.

“Does he bite?”

“No, he’s quite tame by now,”Constantineshook his head.

“Can I touch him?”

“I wouldn’t. Not when he’s eating. I mean he’s not a cat or a dog, but I don’t think he’d like that either.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Lia agreed.

“Let’s go,”Constantinesuggested, and so they left Gabriel to feed and settled in the living room.

“You know, you promised to bring me something for the hangover,”Constantineremembered.

“I did, but you were gone,” said Lia, and immediately realised what she had just confessed to. Now he’ll want to know why she came twice, because she could have guessed he was all right on her first visit.

Constantinelooked at her thoughtfully. “Yeah, I went to work,” he said eventually. “It wasn’t so bad really.”

“Why did you… I mean what was it about last night? What made you so angry?”

Constantineshook his head and sighed. “That was work-related. I’m really sorry you got mixed up in it.”

“But you said we were all going to die.”

“Yeah. I work atFairfield.”

Fairfield Hall was a weapons development facility nearby, just over a tiny valley to the west of town.

“You make weapons?”

“I make them up,” he corrected her. “And until yesterday afternoon, I was one of those naïve fools that believed they were helping the world. You know, make better weapons to help protect civilians in unstable countries. Civilians,” he stressed. “I don’t like wars. I never set out to do what I do so that some idiots can shoot at one another and compete for power. It’s all a game for them, you know. Those clowns pulling the strings never see or realise what these weapons do. They just give the commands. And I thought, I sincerely believed thatFairfieldwasn’t like that, that it was company policy to only make weapons to protect. But apparently there are parties that are much better off when they’re preying on unstable countries instead of trading with them fairly once they’re sorted out and peaceful. It’s much quicker, too. You don’t have to wait till the dust clears and everything’s ok again. People just want too much and want it now.”

“What exactly happened?” she asked gently.

“It sounds rather silly now that I think about it. There was this presentation to potential buyers yesterday. And the way they were talking about the weapons! You could see they enjoyed every minute of it. They were like excited boys who’ve just found something forbidden and planned to make the most of it. But it’s not a game, for Christ’s sake! It shouldn’t make you exhilarated and thrilled to talk about deadly things. Talk of civilisation…”

“… and often you realise that we’re all just animals and the development hasn’t moved that far in some aspects.”

“And then you came and showed such goodness of heart. After that horrid display at Fairfield, and me so close to losing all faith in humanity, you came and… And you were so patient, too. I said appalling things to you, and you didn’t even bat an eyelash and helped me anyway.”

“Yeah, I know. Maybe I’m not so doomed after all,” she smiled. “No, but seriously, I would’ve felt bad if I left you there. I always feel bad if I think I could’ve helped, but didn’t. And the only thing that would’ve stopped me from helping you would’ve been if you were dangerous. And to me, people are never dangerous. I know, it’s ridiculous, because people can do the most terrible things, but I just can’t bring myself to be scared of them.”

Constantinesuddenly got up and rather theatrically kneeled down on the floor in front of her.

“Lia, I like you,” he professed. “Would you consider being my friend?”

She laughed at his silliness, and then went serious again. “I don’t know… I mean I’d love to, but I’m not sure whether your image of me’s not somewhat distorted. It really seems you think I’m some kind of a saint or something, but I’m not. There’s darkness inside me, so much darkness… That’s basically why I do things that look good, out of guilt. I’m not an angel,” she shook her head, almost certain she discouraged him by this confession.

He reached out and took her face in his hands.

“You may be a sinner, but your innocence is mine,” he whispered with a smile and her eyes widened in amazement.

“Did you just quote Matthew Bellamy to me?” she asked, just to make sure she heard him right, andConstantineshrugged and nodded.

“Ok,” she said eventually. “I’ll be your friend if you’ll be mine.”

“Goes without saying,” he assured her, got up again and sat beside her on the sofa. “Hey, how long can you stay?”

“What time is it?”

“Just after six.”

“I should get back to Gerry’s by seven, I need to cook him dinner. Haven’t got the faintest idea what I’ll make him this time. I always run out of ideas so quickly…” she complained.

“Seems he’s lucky to have you, you’re taking such good care of him,”Constantineremarked.

“Actually, I’m not,” she admitted. “He doesn’t need much care, in fact, so I just feed him and get him in and out of bed and mind my own business meanwhile.”

“Does he like you, though?”

“Oh, he loves me. Can’t think why, I mean if he insisted on me keeping the hours, I’d at least have to keep him company most of the day. But he’s quite happy to let me watch films in my room, or take longer breaks from the house if I like… He’s very generous that way. Not many clients are like that.”

“How many others have you had?”

“Long-term just three. Then I quit. And then my family started their own agency, and I’m helping them out. Mostly in the office, sometimes as an emergency carer. This assignment now is an emergency, too, actually. Gerry is quite choosy about his carers, he tends to fire them a lot. That’s why it beats me that he loves me so much.”

“Have you asked him?”

“Not really, but he did tell me he likes how I make him laugh. And I suppose he likes my cooking too. And we have always got on well, from the very first moment we met.”

“So why don’t you take him on full time?”Constantinewondered.

“He irritates me too much for that,” Lia shrugged. “Little things he says or does… I can do short-term stays with him, but couldn’t stay longer than three weeks. And I do understand why he does those things, but I still can’t help feeling mad at him.”

“Did you tell him?”

She shook her head. “No. I don’t want to risk a fallout.”

“Well, that makes it rather difficult, don’t you think?”

“It is difficult. I know what glitches in communication do and I believe one should avoid them, make oneself as clear as possible at all times, talk about things, explain things… But sometimes you just can’t. Basically, I’m a lazy utilitarian; I only go into trouble if I can see it resolved successfully.”

“Well, nobody’s perfect, and trying counts,” he winked at her.

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