Playing Stories — Chapter 28: The House of the Rising Sun

Chapter 28: The House of the Rising Sun
from a 1964 single by the Animals
posted at 04:19, 14 June 2019

It’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God, I know I’m one

“But when was the last time you spoke to her?”

“I don’t know, a couple of days before that? We’ve kind of drifted apart.”

“… drifted apart? Well come on then, how?”

“I mean, we’d see each other in the morning, and we still did it every now and then. But we barely texted. And with work going on for both of us, we couldn’t really meet up or talk. We’d just go home and fall asleep on the couch or something. So it was really a matter of time…”

“Is work in the Foreign Office that stressful?”

“You know how things are these days. What with all the things happening in Vietnam nowadays we’re completely rushed off our feet. All the people asking to come over here, it’s like Brexit all over again. The ministers are coming up with new ideas every day, and things are being lost all the time. You should have seen Mark’s face this morning, the PM was just telling him that he’d be moved to the Middle East brief…”

“God, so you two didn’t speak for days? What about the weekends, that must have been a pretty easy time for you two to get together…”

“If only… we’re tired and everything and she doesn’t really like being in the house. Says it’s too stuffy for her, reminds her too much of Whitehall. So I guess we go out, we have a couple of drinks. But nothing much. Then last week —”


“Oh God… hello, Rob, how you doin’ these days? This is my friend Tom —”

“Thomas, please.”

“Thomas, then, he works in the Foreign Off — ”


I’m not going if you’re continuing to shout like that…”


“Nothing — I’ll check with Kelly, I think we might have something to do on that day. Lots to do for September!”


“… who the hell was that?”

“My neighbour from across the street. Nice chap, but a bit rowdy at times. Anyway, you were talking about you and Layla… last week?”

“Yeah, it was nothing much really. Just some big stupid argument that we had.”

“Wait what? That’s… not ‘nothing much’ is it?”

“Nah, it’s just the usual, ‘don’t you feel that we’re not taking care of each other’ kind of shit. Wasn’t going to break it to her, but then she read my mind and she told me what I was thinking.”

“Oh shit, I’d forgotten that she did that.”

“So did I… we’d agreed that we wouldn’t pry on each other, right, like we’re supposed to not have… anyway. Yeah. We had a bit of a shout after I realized that she’d been reading my mind even though she’d promised not to. And that was it.”

“Well of course you aren’t… she read your mind? Without your permission? That is utterly one of the worst things she could have…”

“No, it’s fine. I asked for it, anyway. Stowing all those things in my mind, not being honest with her…”

“Come on, you can’t blame yourself for wanting to keep a few secrets away from your girlfriend, we all have secrets…”

“No, she was right, Charlie. We WERE getting distant, and we SHOULD have talked it out. And yeah, maybe I WAS avoiding the subject after all. It’s just that I didn’t want to face it, you know? Cause Layla seemed nice, she seemed like she didn’t mind everything that I’d done. I didn’t want to spoil it. And look where that ended up.”

“Look, Thomas, you didn’t do anything wrong, okay? You didn’t ruin the relationship or anything, these things just happen. Don’t worry too much about it. You and Layla just didn’t work out.”

“ … I know. It’s just that —- you know, you could have finally done right, and then you throw it all away. You can’t help but feel that you’re the one responsible.”

“I know, you haven’t had so much luck on that front… look, it’s a terrible thing you’re going through, Thomas, and I’m sorry you had to go through all of that— but you’re thinking too much about this, okay? Maybe Layla just isn’t your type. Perhaps you and mind-readers just don’t get along that easily…”

“Maybe… it’s just not really easy to spend time with a mind-reader as your girlfriend, really. I mean, she knows everything about me, and what have I got? The ability to go places faster. What am I supposed to do with that?”

“Well, it saves up on travel time, if you ask me.”

“Ha. That just means that I can get up forty-five minutes later in the mornings. And what’s the use of that? Like, there are so many people who have that kind of ability, there’s like three people in the Foreign Office who teleport to work everyday. People don’t give a shit if you’ve just materialized from nowhere, you just saved the planet from carbon emissions or something. Mind-readers… now there’s somebody special, you’ve got people at your feet, wondering how much of their own life you know. And you know, I was terrified when it came to Layla. Not that she’d know all of my secrets, she sussed them all out a minute after we’d met, cause I was ‘interesting’, she said. Nobody really said I was that, you know? But she fed me on lies for twenty-one months and I knew that it wasn’t true or anything, but what the hell, if she said that I was, I wasn’t gonna tell her that she was wrong.”

“Another beer, gents?”

“No thanks, I think this man’s had enough for the night. Look, Thomas —”

“Anyway, she knew, obviously, and I kept on kidding myself and kidding myself and God I hated it, that feeling tugging at me and telling me that I would never be as interesting as her, and now of course it has to be true. I mean, I don’t feel like what I have is a curse or anything, but sometimes I think you have it better than me. Just not having to worry about whether the person you’re seeing has superpowers. Just being able to enjoy everything.”

“Maybe. Same goes for my side, actually. You know how many times I’ve wished I had what you had? That I could be able to catch somebody as good as you. And sure, sometimes I think that being with somebody who has superpowers is a tough gig, but I mean I got over it, really. You kind of realize that even if the other person has the rarest superpower in the world, ultimately it’s just another characteristic. Doesn’t really matter what they do.”

“Yeah, you say that easily though. You’ve been out with both, you should know that us so-called ‘superhumans’ — we’re a much harder bunch to please. Maybe that’s why we’re just lonely all the time.”

“I mean, if you think that… I don’t know. Maybe it’ll come to you sooner or later. Maybe the right person will pop along. You’ll see.”

“Ah well. Anyway. Enough about me, how about you? How are you and Kelly going along these days? Rob just said something about September…”

“Oh yeah, about that… I suppose you’d have to know sooner or later, but… I’m getting married.”


“Look —”

“Where are my manners? Congratulations, man! Kelly’s a wonderful person, I’m sure you’ll be happy… so where’s the wedding going to be?”

“Well we’re not doing anything big. Just a small ceremony at the Registry… maybe we’ll get the use of church, I don’t know. I’ll send the details over soon.”

“That’s good. Good for you, getting married so soon… we always knew that you and Kelly had a thing going on. You two look cute together. I’ve got a week’s holiday for September, maybe I can come over…”

“Yeah, thanks. Everyone at uni’s says they’ll be there — Scarlett and Kenny and John and Morgan. They all miss you, you know? You never come to gatherings anymore…”

“That’s their business.”

“Better be going. Mark’s all on fire about Hong Kong and it’ll be another day of meetings tomorrow… you need me to take you home, Charlie?”

“No thanks, you know I like the Tube. Look, I’m sorry about…”

“Don’t mention it. I’m happy for you. Really.”

So we’re experimenting with format, then? It’s weird to see your stories being that short.

Actually yes, William says he might be able to relieve me for a couple of weeks in July. Where’d you have in mind? Somewhere you can’t see the sea would be a nice change of scenery. The Moorlands are nice this time of year. What about the cafe though?


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