Brother’s Keeper: Episode 11

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

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 noon.’

‘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.’

‘I’m good.’

‘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.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 9

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

‘Fuck you.’

***

Jay steps into the kitchen, and it is surprisingly very tidy. He opens the large fridge freezer and it is sparsely filled with cans of beer, several take-away left overs, and a bottle of Nandos extra hot sauce.

‘What do you eat?’ Jay loudly calls out to Alan.

Alan saunters into the room and glances nonchalantly into the fridge.

‘You hungry?’ he asks Jay. ‘What do you want … oriental or pizza?’

Jay attempts to answer, but Alan walks purposefully out of the room. Jay shrugs and opens a kitchen cabinet. Neatly set unused dishes that he recognises. He opens the other cabinets and recognises all the cutlery and kitchenware – all immaculately arranged and clean. He smiles widely to himself – evidently Alan doesn’t bother with these cabinets, or the kitchen.

In the next moment, Alan returns with several take-away restaurant flyers.

‘Fuck you smiling for?’ he asks.

Jay softly shakes his head, still smiling.

‘Okay then,’ Alan says, and gestures to the flyers. ‘None of em take cards and I don’t have cash.’ He hands Jay a Chasing Dragons Chinese restaurant flyer. ‘I’d suggest this. They are fantastic. Their …’

‘It’s still the same flyer,’ Jay interrupts, astonished.

‘Oh, yeah, you were here when they opened. They’re still …’

Alan stops abruptly as his phone begins to ring.

Jay notices that Alan’s demeanour instantly changes to anxious. He watches intently as Alan pulls out his phone, glances at the caller ID, turns the ringer off and returns the phone into his pocket. Jay has the urge to ask about the call, but decides against it.

‘Yeah,’ Alan continues. ‘They’re still the best. But then again, they aren’t too many of them in Epsom?’

‘Them?’ Jay inquires with amusement.

‘Yes. Chinese restaurants.’

They laugh.

‘Very well,’ Jay says. ‘The Waitrose still around the corner?’

‘Yeah, why?’

‘Let’s go. I’ll cook.’

‘I don’t have my car.’

‘It’s around the corner; we’ll walk.’ He gestures to Alan’s beer belly. ‘You need the exercise.’

Alan laughs.

It’s early evening and the clean leafy streets surrounding their home are quiet. Alan lags a few steps behind Jay; he’s struggling to keep up with Jay’s brisk walking pace.

‘Fucking slow down already, it’s not a race,’ Alan says.

‘Keep up. We’re almost there.’

‘Fucking hell, you seem to forget I was faster than you.’

‘What?’ Jay laughs. ‘Stop that.’

‘Really, what you forgot now?’

‘There’s nothing to forget. I know you were pretty fast …’

‘I have the school medals to prove that. Where are yours, eh?’

‘Firstly, I never ran in school.’

‘Yeah, you thought you were to cool to sweat, eh?’

They laugh as they turn the corner into another quiet residential street; Waitrose supermarket can be seen further ahead in the horizon.

‘Secondly, we never raced each other.’

‘I’ll race you to the store.’

Alan immediately takes off running. Jay shakes his head in amusement and chases after him.

Jay quickly catches up with Alan and slows down a moment to keep pace. He taps Alan’s head and impressively picks up pace, leaving Alan behind.

Jay stops at the entrance to the supermarket – his breathing is regular, no sign of exertion. He watches Alan approach and admires the fact that Alan didn’t give up the race.

Alan arrives, panting, and raises his arms above his head as he attempts to regulate his breathing.

‘That’s sorted then,’ Jay says.

‘You cheated,’ Alan says, between heavy breaths.

‘How?’

‘You don’t drink or smoke.’

They laugh. Jay turns to walk into the supermarket and Alan slaps him on the back of the head and runs past him into the supermarket.

‘I win,’ Alan declares.

‘Yeah, sure, you did,’ Jay says sarcastically, and picks up a basket.

They walk along the fruit and vegetable aisle of the somewhat busy supermarket.

‘Do we need anything for the house?’

‘Well, yeah, you have seen the fridge.’

‘I mean like toiletries and all.’

‘What? Do you think I don’t shower?’

‘Probably not.’

Jay laughs as he selects fruits.

‘Oh my god, you’re so funny,’ Alan exaggeratedly declares.

‘Shut up. How about some fruit?’

‘What? Do you think I’m gay now?’

Jay shakes his head in mild amusement.

‘I’ll go get some stuff and meet you at the checkout,’ Alan says. ‘And yes, we need toiletries.’

Jay smiles as he watches Alan saunter off into another aisle. He carefully selects vegetables and places them neatly in the basket.

Alan stares through a vast array of beer, indecisive about what six pack of beer to choose.

Jay methodically picks more foodstuffs and household supplies; without pausing to make a decision, as if he has a list in his head.

Alan still stares at the array of beers. He sighs in frustration and grabs a six pack of Peroni – like always. He takes a couple steps to the spirits and stares lustfully at the array of spirits.

Jay walks to the checkout and waits. There is only one person – a sweaty middle-aged woman in a yoga outfit ahead of him.

Alan grabs a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey and a bottle of Grey Goose vodka with his free hand.

It’s Jay’s turn. He glances around looking for Alan before he forces a smile back at the young redheaded checkout assistant and places his basket on the counter.

Alan walks towards the checkout and, in stride, grabs a bag of Haribo with his teeth.

The checkout assistant diligently scans the items as Jay looks around for Alan. He sees Alan and grins as he watches Alan approach.

‘You’re so predictable,’ Jay says.

Alan opens his mouth to speak and the bag of Haribo falls.

‘Nice,’ Alan says, and gestures to the juices in the basket. ‘You bought mixers.’

He dumps the beer and spirits into the basket.

Jay chuckles and says, ‘Really Alan? No, they’re not mixers. They are for breakfast.’

‘Oh, I know. A little vodka and orange with breakfast never hurt anyone.’

Jay smiles and picks the bag of Haribo.

‘I haven’t had one of these in years.’

He places the Haribo in the basket.

‘They don’t have Haribo in New York?’

‘They do. Just never had them.’

‘Hmm,’ Alan mutters, and grins mischievously.

‘A hundred and forty-two Pounds, please,’ the checkout assistant says.

Jay reaches for his wallet and Alan tears open the bag of Haribo and turns it over into his mouth.