It was the end of the month, the weather knew it even if the calendar in his head hadn’t quite caught up. The office was busy. It had been easy to let November slip by.
“Well this was nice, I love coming here at this time of year” he said it gesturing with his head toward the little theatre as he bounced down the steps. Hands stuffed into pockets.
The weather had turned a few days ago, they’d both admitted to being kind of glad of the opportunity to break out their winter wardrobe, “Sweater weather” he’d called it. He had laughed (out loud – actually) when he had read that message – laughed, probably more than he should have – that’s how he knew he liked him. Even if neither of them had said it.
“Thanks for booking it” he smiled and it seemed honest. The light from the cinema’s letter board illuminated him from behind for a moment.
It was the kind of cold that seemed to cause the light to hang in it. As if the frost trying to form in the air somehow slowed it down, by just a microsecond, barely perceptible unless something made you pay attention. His eyes sparkled a little beneath the broad brow of his beanie, as he wrapped his scarf around him and made a kind of lumpy woollen frame of his features.
“My pleasure, honestly it was really nice to see you again. I hope it wasn’t a rush, I just saw the tickets and figured we should make the most of it while we both had the chance. Things have a habit of getting away with themselves at this time of year”
“I know what you mean, there’s always a lot to get finished up before everybody breaks up and heads home.” He shivered as he finished the sentence.
“Which way are you heading?”
“Back towards Leicester Square I suppose, did you want to grab something to eat first? I’m starving”
“Sure, what did you have in mind?”
“I know a place” he said bundling his scarf closer and turning up the collar of his jacket “let’s go..”
They turned toward China Town, walking a little closer, then linking arms, both a little warmer for it. Chatting comfortably, they walked unhurried beneath the swaying lanterns and fairy lights which hung from street-lamps and gates, eventually turning into one of the small brightly lit doorways.
“Chicken or Pork?” He asked, “Oh I’m a veggie…” he responded a little self-consciously.
“Oh, so am I!” he laughed. ” … I was trying to be polite” he was sure he must be blushing now. They both smiled hoping no-one noticed.
“Two veggie?” The lady behind the counter prompted.
“Oh, yes, sorry – it seems we are”
They turned back out into the street, the buns steaming in their paper wrappers as they both bit into them. They continue chatting. Work, family, what they would do if they ever got a Gremlin as a gift. Before either noticed, the wrappers were empty, they lick fingers shyly, shared mints, exchanged glances, offering, carefully, “Thank you.” polite, affectionate, grateful, handsome.
They reached the station entrance.
“Well I’m glad we managed to make this happen… thanks again”
His eyes smile back, his pupils dilate.
He does not register it (he does). He’s too busy worrying about how his mouth has gone dry, the frog in his throat, where he wishes some words were.
The traffic of the station and the road around them swells.
They seem to hang like the frost trying to form in the air, something in one another’s expressions says, I want to, I ought to, tell them – something.
The little phrase just kind of opens like a gift.
Immediately he’s unsure how to respond.
Holds his gaze a beat longer, nervous like he sounded stupid now, forward, needy.
“Sorry it’s, probably a little soon…”
“You just looked…” (chooses carefully) “Cosy…”
“I mean cute” (second guesses) “… standing there.
“I had a really nice night” (he resolves to be honest).
“Don’t be, it has been (comes easily).
I just didn’t think… sorry I should just say.. (unsure of himself now too)
I’ve made it awkward…. I mean, yes…”
They both exhale, laugh. The breath floats up and hangs like smoke between them.
“Maybe it is a little early but whatever – I’m glad you’re my first”. He grins.
“I hope it’s a good one”.
He leans in, a kiss on his cheek, arms around one another, the scent of soap or after shave, something like star anis, cloves or frankincense?
“Merry Christmas… and y’know, in case I don’t see you… Happy New Year. Let’s catch up after the holidays, whenever you get back into town?”
“I’d like that. Enjoy the time off with your family”.
“I will do, so long as I don’t end up strangling my little sister!”
“Be nice, and like I said, if it really comes to it you can just buy her that Gremlin!”.
They laugh, probably a little more than either normally would do.
Another kiss, a little longer this time on the lips, star anise, no, not cloves – ginger.
He watches the orange jumper and hat bob down the stairs into the station, disappear into a crowd. He turns, crosses the street. Somehow he doesn’t feel the cold so much anymore as he waits for his bus.