Dead Words (A Short Story)

He woke up early, his sleep having been disturbed by bad dreams. If truth be told he hadn’t slept properly in years. He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders of late but hadn’t he always anyway?
His heart and soul were heavy with it all.
He had to be awake anyway for he was off to London to meet one of his musical heroes arranged for him by a very close friend who was a freelance journalist. The thing was he had a nagging doubt running around in the back of his mind that it may not happen. His friend had lied to him on so many occasions. Little white ones and big whoppers but he tolerated it because he was the only friend who was crazy enough to do the things that he also liked to do. For instance one evening they had got the train into London about eleven at night, got drunk as usual and ended up getting the Eurostar to Paris. His friend had work that day so phoned in ‘sick’ saying he was taken ill and had to stay overnight. The thing was his friend had drunkenly put it up on all his social network sites that he was drunk and in France. That didn’t go down too well at all.
And that’s the kind of friend he is when he’s on form. But when he’s not, then it all goes south fast. And that day would see them both go south very fast. So far south that they would feel the fires of Hell burning…

He showered and shaved, grabbing a quick breakfast of toast and honey before charging out of the door for the train.
The station was a little over a mile away but he always left things late so would spend his day rushing around. He assumed he did this on purpose to fire himself up and remain hyper for the rest of the day. It was a psychological thing to him.
He was twenty minutes behind schedule but thought if the trains were running on time then he would make it okay and have a few minutes to spare. Besides he would be there an hour early he guessed.
He ran part of the way, feeling the sweat down his back on a rainy June day. He could feel the excitement in him bubbling up and the nerves kick in for his meeting with the guitarist Edge from U2. He hoped Bono and the rest of the band were there but he doubted it. That’s not what his friend Nick had told him. Just Edge who was promoting the bands new album and tour plus a kids charity he had set up that he wanted out there which was the real reason for the interview.
A car beeped at him as he went by but didn’t notice if he knew them or not? Probably some idiot trying to be funny. At least he didn’t wave like he had done countless times before like a fool.
He felt something then in his pocket and wondered for a second what the hell it was when he realised it was his damn phone vibrating. He dug it out and answered it seeing it was his journalist friend Nick.
“Hello Nick, Is everything okay mate?”
“Yes Conner, Just checking you’re on your way mate. I’ve just left home myself and will be there in twenty minutes to set up and prepare so buzz me when you get to the hotel okay.”
“Will do dude. Almost at Berkhamsted station now. I’ll see you soon.”
“Okay, later’s mate. See ya.” The line went dead.
He slipped the phone back into his pocket and within a few minutes he was at the station. He paid for his ticket at the self service machine and ran up to the platform. The train pulled in a few minutes later. He had made good time. The journey lasted just over half an hour to Euston station. Conner had a love/hate relationship with London but more on the hate side really. It was a sprawling cesspit of negativity, jealousy and hate and that was the good side of it!
He was off the train and like cattle being herded, was through the gates and down under the city into more chaos that was the world infamous London Underground. The place was humid and stank of sweat and urine. Only the thought of his meeting with one of his hero’s and friends kept him from turning back. His own town wasn’t perfect but at least it wasn’t chaotic and full of pretentious idiots all looking for wealth, power and glory, trampling over each other in the pursuit of it all.
The tube journey to the West End took little more than ten minutes or so. He couldn’t understand why everyone got stressed with the so-called delays of a few minutes, if that. Again, it was the crazy London mentality he expected.
Jumping out of Leicester Square station, he found himself being pushed about and approached by beggars and chuggers, but he skilfully avoided them. God, he needed a pint already!
He really needed to get off at Oxford Circus but thought he may have time for a quick pint in the Three Greyhounds in Greek Street, Soho. His phone vibrated then and he looked to see hat he had a text from Nick. It read: INTERVIEW RUNNING LATE. BE HERE FOR 2PM. HAVE A PINT SOMEWHERE. SEE YOU SOON.
What the hell he thought, he had ages anyway. It had just gone eleven in the morning and it was only a ten minute walk or so to where the hotel was in Great Marlborough Street. He had time for two pints then somewhere.
He did indeed stop off at the Three Greyhounds taking in the hustle and bustle of theatregoers, tourists and locals alike. He loved this pub. He would watch the world go by as he sat still taking it all in. He could be left alone in a sea of madness and go unnoticed by everyone. That was city life for you and as much as he hated it in cities like this, sometimes he welcomed it, welcomed the anonymity.
He finished his pint putting his glass on the bar and walked through Soho, heading up to Carnaby Street. He would stop off in one of the many pubs in and around there before heading over to the hotel just across the road. The O’Neill’s bar was his choice, The Shakespeare’s Head opposite rather full and it was only a few steps across the busy road to his destination.
So, there he sat in the Irish themed bar, butterflies in his stomach; the excitement mounting as the time drew near to meet one of his idols and the alcohol flowing nicely, working its magic with each sip, calming him a little.
A girl behind the bar smiled at him once or twice and he thought about plucking up the courage to talk to her but he wasn’t a confident type and she was stunning with long jet black hair, slim and seemed wild with the way she was talking to the other staff behind the bar. She still hadn’t served him yet so there was hope if customers would stop coming in all the time.
And time was what he didn’t have as he looked at the clock behind the bar. Time was almost up and if truth be told, he was a little merry considering all the alcohol he had quickly consumed, nerves making him drink faster. Maybe that’s why the girl was smiling at him he thought, drunk as a skunk already and probably was taking bets on how long he would last?
He decided he had better go over now, ready to face his hero, so getting up off the stool from the bar, he made to leave, putting on his jacket. The beautiful girl behind the bar came to pick up his empty glass and crisp packet, saying she hoped she would see him soon with a cheeky smile playing on her stunning face. Was she just flirting or did she like him? He had no time to find out as yet. Maybe after the interview he would find out? He would never understand women as long as he lived.
He walked over to the hotel and went in through the main doors, opened for him by a doorman in a top-hat, and walked through the grand entrance to the reception desk on the right. He wondered how much it would cost to stay here he thought. More than he could afford he expected.
A surely looking receptionist looked up and down at him, taking him in and asked if there was anything he could do for him? He told them about the interview and that he was meeting his friend in reception who was conducting it and was it okay to wait there or should he go up?
They looked at him again as if he was mad or on drugs. He asked him to wait a minute and checked his computer, stabbing the keys as if they were alive and trying to kill him.
‘I’m sorry sir, but no-one is being interviewed here today or even tomorrow. I think you must be mistaken? Maybe it would be best if you called your friend and check that you have the right hotel’ Again that look of Conner being beneath him and his kind. He suddenly started to panic though. Had he heard right? He had, he knew, because he had saved all the texts on his phone about it. He was in the right place at the right time on the right day but something suddenly didn’t feel right?
He texted Nick first, thinking he may have changed the location at the last minute for some reason and waited for a few minutes. Then he went into the bar of the hotel, ordered a drink and tried again. Nothing.
He then decided to call him but it rang and rang. He left it a few minutes and then tried again but it went straight to voicemail. At this his gut twisted and thoughts tumbled through his mind. All sorts of thoughts. Had it all been a lie or had something happened? Maybe he was in the building and there had been some sort of mistake somewhere down the line and the man at reception had just been mistaken somehow? He asked the barman if he had heard of anything about the interview but he hadn’t and didn’t know of any coming up through the grapevine either. He said he always heard something happening and managed to meet most of the interviewees and other stars that passed through his bar but for the life of him couldn’t think of any with the Edge of late.
Conner thought then that something was up, that he had been let down again after taking a day off from work too for it. He called and texted for the next hour, finally giving up and heading back to O’Neill’s for a pint of Guinness and a large Bushmills, that latter which he knocked back in a swift gulp.
He tried again and again on his phone, text after text, call after call but no reply or answer was forthcoming. He wanted to think the best of his friend but couldn’t help thinking the worst of him because of all the other times he had been let down by him through one way of another.
He sat at the bar, his drink almost gone and ordered another one, the girl he had seen earlier still there. This time she served him and he brought her a drink that she accepted with a big smile. That cheered him up a bit. She spoke to him briefly about life and things and he told her what had happened about his day, that he was worried for his friend but was also angry with him for possibly letting him down. The simple fact was he hadn’t called or texted him to let him know of any problems. Anything could have happened and he wouldn’t know at all.
He would try his sister, see if she knew anything but when he did, she hadn’t heard from him in days and said she would try and get hold of him for Conner.
Another hour passed by and nothing. That night he ended up walking the streets of London, charging his phone up in each pub sending text after text, making the odd call; some angry, some worried. Still no answer came back to him. Before he knew it, he was drinking with strangers and getting the 2am train back home, collapsing in his bed with bad thoughts for his so-called friend.

A week passed by and nothing was heard, then a month and still nothing. What was wrong with him? Why wouldn’t he answer his phone or reply back. There simply was no excuse in the age of social networking either as message after message was left on all forms of contact that he was on, some of which became rants, others disappointments, some just giving up on him altogether and saying so; that he couldn’t be bothered anymore.
Then one day, a few months down the line a call came out of the blue. Conner’s Mum had just died and Nick had got to hear about it. He made promises of being there at the funeral, that he wouldn’t let him down on this at all. He would take the day off and be there for him like no friend had.
The day of the funeral came and he was nowhere to be seen. The man had no honour, no loyalty, no respect. He was dead to him now and always would be.
Months passed again and he called to apologise for his behaviour, saying he had been through hell with life stuff and had taken it out on him. Indeed he had taken it out on him but why? What had he done he had asked. Nothing was the reply. He was just a punchbag and didn’t know why. He took him out, brought him drinks, saying nothing could make up for his behaviour towards him but he would do all he could to put things right and for a brief while things seemed to be pretty good. They had laughs, mad times and it was as if nothing had happened.
Conner may have forgiven, but he had not forgotten.
Then one winters day, whilst in Cornwall, staying at a hotel, Nick had disappeared, leaving Conner on his own. He had done this loads of times and never replied, but this was different for Nick had promised to pay for the weekend for various reasons, one being that he owed Conner money, a lot of money, but he was nowhere to be found. Conner couldn’t afford the whole bill and the police were called. He was arrested and cautioned, told to pay the bill and a fine as well for reasons he wasn’t quite sure of. This was the final straw now for him. There would be no more lies, no more being treated like a doormat and no more Mr nice guy.

That was two months ago and now as he stared down at the broken body of his former friend Nick, he said to to him in a cold low voice, ‘No more dead words my friend. You’re dead to me…’

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