Three Tears

Chapter 5

by David Heulfryn

The following day, Martin dashed home from college and jumped straight in the shower. He spent ages washing and rinsing his hair and soaping up every inch of his body ensuring he was scrubbed clean. After drying himself he shaved for the second time that day. It was not like he needed it as he only had to shave every other day but he wanted to look perfect for his date.

Wrapped in nothing but his towel he went to his bedroom and bathed his face in aftershave. The aerosol body spray also got a battering that evening ensuring that all his skin smelled ever so slightly of musk.

Rummaging through his wardrobe for something to wear, he came across a relatively new pair of cords. 'Hell, no', he thought, 'nobody wears corduroy anymore'

It had to be casual and trendy, but not too trendy. He also had to look smart. It was a difficult choice and a choice he had never made before. He wanted to look nice but not as if he had made too much an effort.

Martin could not remember the last time he felt so conscious about what he wore. He was never this nervous about meeting someone. Usually he did not care what anyone thought of him, or what he wore. He was never one to follow the crowd and in not dressing like the crowd he would blend in and go about his business unnoticed. Ironically it was always dressing like the crowd that got you noticed, as they were obsessed with whatever slight variation in fashion you were sporting that day.

Everything in his wardrobe looked drab and unimpressive. He dug out a pair of old jeans. Jeans were good, he thought, very casual so he did not look too desperate.

He flung his damp towel on his bed and stepped into a clean pair of light blue boxers. He then stuffed his legs into the old jeans and buttoned them up. Looking in the mirror, they seemed too old and faded and he was having doubts. But then again, he continued, faded is in. Isn't it? Martin had no idea. His head was always stuck in a book or painting on canvas so he never really got to know what was trendy and what was not. He went back to his wardrobe, got out a pair of dark navy slacks and tried them on. They looked too smart. Jeans were better. He hung his slacks back up and went about looking at his shirts. Beige and dark blue were all he saw. Flicking through the hangers he came across a light khaki green shirt and thought he might look good in it. He put it against the jeans that were laid out on his bed.

'No', he thought.

Sitting on his bed, he looked into his wardrobe. Waiting. Wanting the right clothes to pull themselves out but they did not. All his clothes hung in their dark closet, afraid of the light.

Downstairs, he heard the front door slam. Someone was home. He glanced at the clock.

'School's out', he thought and he heard the heavy footsteps of his brother coming up the stairs. The bedroom door opened and in walked James in his uniform.

James dropped his bag on the floor by his bed and said, "What you up to?" as he noticed Martin sitting on his bed in only his boxer shorts.

"I've got nowt decent to wear."

"What on earth do you want to wear something decent for?" James laughed as he began to climb out of his uniform and chucked it in a heap on his bed.

"I'm going out tonight."

James was now down to his briefs and fishing out his sweatpants and t-shirt. On hearing Martin, he turned and faced him. "You're going out! What's the occasion? Is a comet hurtling to earth?"

"Yeah, good one, James." Martin flung his body back and lay across his bed, staring at the ceiling.

James got more serious. "So what is it?" He asked as he pulled up his sweatpants.

"I'm just meeting someone at the pub." Martin sat back up.

James looked at him and furrowed his brow. "You've got a date." It was statement. You do not live with someone for fifteen years without knowing what they were thinking.

"Hmm." Martin almost whispered in response.

"Is that a yes?"

Martin had to agree there was no way round it. As he confirmed James' suspicions, he became embarrassed and his cheeks began to go a deep crimson. It was not often he blushed but he was not exactly used to taking about his feelings and being open.

"Ah, bless." James teased. This was a side to his brother he rarely saw. He threw on his t-shirt and went over to Martin. "So, we had better make sure you make a good impression."

"But I've got nothing." He was despondent.

"I'll be the judge of that." He saw the jeans on his bed. "Those jeans are good idea. I'll try and find something to go with them. Put them on."

Martin got back into his jeans. James looked at him. "Top wise I think we're about the same size. Which is good as it doubles your choice."

"Thanks, James. I appreciate it."

"Don't mention it, just tell me everything when you get back."


James told him to sit down. "Good." He said.

"Why good?"

"You don't get a belly when you sit down. Now stand up and put your arms out slightly."

Martin stood up and James put his hands on his flanks. He stretched the skin that tightened his chest. He then moved his hands to his pecs. "It's not a bad little body you've got there, bro. I think you can pull it off."

"Pull what off?"

James went to his wardrobe and brought out a light red, not quite pink t-shirt. "Put this on and tuck it in your jeans."

Martin pulled the shirt over his head. "I can't wear this. Look! It's far too tight." The t-shirt was skin-tight and showed the curves of his chest and the faint outline of his nipples.

"Just trust me and tuck it in."

Martin undid his jeans and tucked the shirt into the waistband of his boxer shorts.

"Now you don't think I'd let you go out like that do you? I'm going to find you a shirt."

James went through his wardrobe and pulled out a deep red, lightly checked shirt.

"Put this on over the t-shirt"

Martin put on the shirt and began to button it up. James batted his hands away and undid the button he had just done.

"Don't do it up, that's the whole point. Just wear it open. Like this." James pulled the hem of the shirt down and tugged the front. It casually lay open showing the tight t-shirt underneath. "There you go. Good enough to eat."

"Thanks, James."

"No problem. Just remember to put on your nice dark trainers and not those manky white ones."

Martin sat on his bed and grabbed his trainers, put on a pair of socks and slipped in his feet.

"So," James started, "who's the date and where did you meet?"

"Oh, its just someone I met at college." He said sheepishly.

"And who asked who out?"

"Can we just leave it. I don't want to get all worked up before we meet. I'm nervous enough already. And no doubt I'll have to go through all this with Mum and Dad."

"Ok. I'll leave you to it." He moved towards the door. "What time you going, by the way?"

"We're meeting at seven. In the 'Lord Duncan' in town. I'll be leaving around a quarter past six."

"Good luck. I'm getting a drink. Want one?"

"No, ta. I've just got a bit of work to do and then I want to be off."

James left the room, shutting the door behind him. Martin relaxed. Sitting on his bed, his right leg twitching. He felt nervous and just wanted to get it over with. Not the date, just the waiting. He had no fears about the date itself but just the waiting. Once they were together he thought he would be fine.

His mind started to go through what he would say. His biggest fear was drying up and having nothing to say, feeling foolish at letting Phil say everything and carry the conversation. But they had a lot in common and Martin clung to that. If nothing else they could talk art, but he wanted them to have more in common than that.

Martin got up, took off his over shirt and hung it on the back of his chair. He then lay down on his bed, looking at the ceiling again. He raised his knees and closed his eyes, trying to calm his nerves.

"Martin! Can I have a word."

The sound of his Mother's voice rung in his ears. He had not heard her come home but knew the only reason she was calling him was because James had opened his mouth. Martin got up, threw his shirt on to cover his chest and the faint outline of his nipples, and went downstairs.

As he reached the bottom of the stairs he saw his mother looking at him. "You look very nice."

"Thanks." Martin said.

His mother went on how James had told her and that she wanted to make sure he would be all right. She always worried about her sons; she was not over protective, not stopping them going out or ringing their mobiles every half-hour when they were out. She allowed them their own space, which she felt was important for them to learn about themselves, but she did like to ensure she was always there when they wanted, or needed, her.

Martin put her mind at rest. They were not going out late and, as it was mid-week, he would be back early. He would have his mobile phone with him at all times. There would not be too many people around and they would not get caught up in the usual weekend drinkers on their marathon sessions and pub-crawls before falling into the local night-club to pick up someone who was just as drunk as them. Naturally he had to have a time to be home by and as this was his first date in a long time, she was flexible and said ten-thirty at the latest.

"Thanks, Mum." He said and went to go back to his room.

"Hey, what about your dinner?"

Martin stopped. "I'm a bit too anxious to eat. I might just have a small sarny before I go."

"Ok." She let him go back upstairs.

She was quite pleased that he was going out. It had been a long time and spent so much time in his room that she was beginning to worry. She knew he had no real friends and that he never seemed to really need any, but it is always a good idea to let your hair down once in a while. She hoped that his date would be the first of many.

At half past six, Martin came downstairs. He had done his teeth again to freshen his mouth and had topped up his after-shave. He grabbed his coat and went into the front room to say goodbye to everyone.

His mum got up from her chair. "You sure you gonna be OK?"

"Yes, Mum." He exasperated.

"How much money have you got?"

He dug his hand into his pocket and took out his wallet. He looked inside. "Just a tenner."

His mum went over a grabbed her handbag. "Let me give you some more, just in case. And so you'll have enough for a taxi if necessary." She handed over a twenty-pound note.

"Thanks, Mum." He pocketed the money, said goodbye and walked out of the door towards the bus stop which was only a minute away from his home.

Martin stood at the bus stop trying to busy his mind, reading the timetable, the route the bus took and every bit of graffiti the kids wrote in black marker pen. He put his hands in his pockets and played with the change he had extracted earlier from his wallet so that he was not left fumbling for his fare when the bus arrived.

In the distance he saw the ageing green, corporation double decker bus trudge down the road. As it got nearer he put his arm out to stop it.

The doors wheezed open and he dropped is exact change in the jaws of coin collector. "Town, please." He said to the driver. On a pad in front of him he punched in some figures and the machine whirred to life and printed his ticket. He took it, the door shut and the driver was back on the route. The jerky driving and uneven road made the journey down the bottom deck of the bus more treacherous than usual. Fortunately there were not many passengers, so he did not fall on to anybody and managed to get to the back seat. He sat and looked along the bus, his eyes falling on each passenger in turn.

As the bus approached his stop, he reached for the button and pressed. The bell dinged and he waited until the bus began to slow down before getting to his feet and moving along the bus. The brakes squealed and the bus shuddered as it ground to a halt. The doors wheezed open again and Martin alighted. He had barely got off the step as the door shut and the bus driver cut up an approaching car to finish his journey.

Martin began to walk, conscious of his clothes, which he did not feel entirely comfortable in, feeling like everyone he passed looked at him. Which for the most part they did as he no longer blended in to the pavement. Instead they saw a handsome young man confidently walking along, perhaps on his way to meet a group of friends or to meet a girlfriend. With each step his confidence grew and he began to carry himself better; standing straight pushing out his chest slightly and squaring his normally hunched shoulders.

Walking through the centre of town, he passed crowds of kids just hanging round. Young men in suits walked with lit cigarettes between their fingers on their way to their favourite bar after a hard day's overtime to meet their work mates, who had got there over an hour ago. Smartly dressed women walked to the bus station laden down with shopping bags containing new shoes, clothes or just something for that night's dinner. And then there was Martin, walking to his first date.

The pub was not in the centre of town but in a small 'city village' just passed the main area. This used to be where the slightly unconventional element of society hung around to feel comfortable, the Goths, the Hippies and the Gays, but it was slowly being taken over by the trendy set and the chrome plated bars and sushi bars where springing up.

He approached the pub and looked at his watch. It was not quite seven o'clock. He hoped that Phil would already be there but he could not tell though the frosted windows. Martin opened the dark wooden door and went in.

The Lord Duncan was an old style pub. Dark wood tables accompanied deep red paisley upholstered benches and chairs. There were not many people in the pub, just a smattering of men in groups of two or three having quiet conversations. Before approaching the bar he looked at each man in turn, hoping one would be Phil, but he had yet to arrive.

As he reached the bar, a young barman broke off his hushed conversation with another barman and went over to Martin.

"Hiya. What can I get you?" He smiled.

"Pint of lager, please."

The barman took another look at him, he was young but he looked old enough, he though. So he grabbed a glass, put it beneath the pump and flicked the tap.

"That it?" The barman said.


"Two, ten, please." The barman held out his hand.

Martin pulled his wallet from his jeans and handed over a five-pound note. As he took the money, the barman turned off the tap and put the glass on the bar, condensation forming already on the cold glass. Martin instinctively took a sip and replaced the glass while collecting his change and dropping it into his pocket. The barman turned around and went back to his secret conversation with his colleague.

Martin took hold of his pint again and looked round the bar. There was still no sign of Phil, so he looked for a quiet place to sit. He went over to the corner where he would have a good view of people coming into the pub. He placed his drink on the table and made himself comfortable.

As time passed, he found it more and more uncomfortable. He was not used to drinking in pubs and he was certainly not used to drinking alone in pubs. He glanced at the barman. They were still chatting but every so often they would look in his direction. Martin would sit and cross his legs, look at his watch and then hold his foot, moving it from side to side. Letting go he would uncross his legs and look at his watch again.

Phil was late. He had already half finished his pint and the time was getting on to twenty past seven. He got his phone from his pocket, and searched his phone book.

"Shit." He breathed.

He had not stored Phil's number into his phone. He had left it on the beer-mat in his desk drawer. Should he ring James and ask him to let him have it? No. He would leave it until half past seven.

Martin took a long draw on his pint to soothe his nerves. It then seemed like the door flung open and in rushed Phil, but no one in the pub blinked an eyelid, Martin was relieved. Phil quickly looked around the pub, hoping Martin had not given up on him, and saw him in the corner looking at him, a relieved smile growing on his face.

Reproduced with David's permission from Screeve. © David
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