Alan brushes past Jay and walks out of the kitchen.
It’s approaching noon as Jay vacuums the now very tidy living room. He’d considered going back to sleep – he usually sleeps till 6 AM, and every minute of rest counts – but, instead, he’d commenced his daily routine thirty minutes early.
He went for an hour run around the neighbourhood, while listening to his advanced level Japanese audio learning course. So far, he is fluent or near fluent in Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, German, Portuguese, Afrikaans, French, Dutch, Hindi, Italian, and, of course, English – you’ve got to put in the work if you want to be an upper echelon international assassin, which he undoubtedly is. Also, he has a passing understanding of Persian and Pashto from his tours in Afghanistan, which is where the immense value of understanding native languages, especially when the natives don’t know you understand, first manifested.
When he returned from his run, he’d done his usual brief but high intensity strength workout and finished with a full-body stretch routine. Then, he’d set on cleaning the house, and he’s now three hours into a very fine job – military training, it can be handy sometimes.
Alan saunters in with a glass of juice and winces at the sound of the old vacuum cleaner.
‘Really?’ he asks, and gestures to the vacuum cleaner. ‘You know you woke me up with that thing.’
‘It’s the weekend, I get to sleep in.’
Alan dumps himself on a sofa and places his glass of juice on the glass coffee table.
Jay gestures to the glass and says sternly, ‘Put something underneath that.’
‘Ah! Calm the fuck down. You haven’t changed at all. If you hadn’t noticed, the house survived while you were gone.’
‘Barely. I had …’
‘What do you mean barely? I get someone to clean it every other week. Chill out.’ He switches on the television and gestures to the vacuum cleaner. ‘When are you going to be done with that?’
Jay grabs a cushion and tosses it at Alan. It hits Alan flush on the nose and they laugh heartily.
‘I’m done,’ Jay says, and switches the vacuum cleaner off.
‘So, you have anything to wear out in that tiny bag of yours?’
‘Well, yeah,’ Jay says as he rolls up the vacuum cleaner power cord.
‘Well, no, if it’s anything like you wore yesterday. You looked like the grim reaper. We need to get some colours on you.’
Jay chuckles and says, ‘Fashion tips from YOU?’
‘Whatever. I certainly dress better than you.’
Jay shrugs, amused.
‘Really?’ Alan says with an eyebrow raised. ‘You want to argue that?’
‘No, I don’t care.’
‘I do. Let’s go to the mall to get you something.’
‘Right. Well, I’m not going out with you dressed …’
‘I don’t care …’
‘Plus!’ Alan says, and smiles. ‘I need to get something for myself.’
A few hours later, Alan walks into the house holding several shopping bags and Jay walks in after him holding one shopping bag.
‘Thanks,’ Alan says as he leads up the stairway. ‘I’ll pay you back soon as I get to a cashpoint.’
Jay shrugs indifferently as they diverge at the top of the stairs and walk towards their rooms at opposite ends of the hallway.
‘Yeah,’ Alan says with excitement. ‘I was saying, this girl at the restaurant, she’s absolutely fucking hot.’
Jay smiles to himself as he steps into his room – Alan hasn’t stopped going on about this girl at the restaurant. He leaves the room door open as Alan’s still going on about her.
‘I’ve been watching her for a bit now,’ he continues. ‘And I can tell she likes me.’
Jay laughs softly to himself – he was expecting Alan to say something like that, although, to be fair to Alan, he’s rarely wrong about these things; you might say Alan’s good with the ladies.
He empties the contents of the shopping bag onto the bed – a pair of blue jeans, a soft pink shirt, a pair of Chelsea boots and a honey coloured Burberry trench coat. He reaches into his unpacked travelling bag for underwear and a pair of socks; he lives out of the bag, and hasn’t unpacked the bag in years.
Alan peeks into the room and says, ‘Trust me. She’s fucking amazing.’
‘Sure, I’ll take your word for it … since you’ve been WATCHING her.’
‘Fuck you. You want to get in the shower first? I’ll call the cab.’
A luxury black Mercedes parks in front of Sophia’s Place, a modern European restaurant right in the middle of Epsom’s high street. Alan, dressed sharply in a fashionable fitted suit with no tie, is the first to step out of the Mercedes. A moment later, Jay steps out, also dressed sharply in his recently bought outfit.
Jay feels very comfortable in the outfit, although it had taken a while before he finally relented and went with Alan’s choices. Alan picked the entire outfit, after objecting to all of Jay’s previous choices, because they were in his words – ‘fucking dull’; ‘fucking grim’; ‘fucking weak’; ‘shit’; ‘really, dude? It’s fucking 2014’; ‘you’re fucking with me, right?’; and his final objection, ‘what the fuck is with all this dark colours? It’s not a fucking burial, mate.’
Jay tucks his wallet into his pocket as Alan leads into the restaurant. They step into the darkly lit and sophisticatedly decorated reception and Jay instantly begins to scan his surroundings, but Alan tightly grabs his arm.
‘That’s her,’ Alan whispers, and nods ahead.
Jay looks up to her and is captivated. She is divine.