Home was not where Click's heart was. Although, in truth, his heart was on the same floor.
He lived in a little three-room flat on the top floor of one of the downtown buildings. The bottom floor actually belonged to an Indian restaurant, so the smell of curry was always lingering outside of the windows. It was a rare home that, with the windows opened, smelled much worse than with the windows shut. It had come into his possession mostly be accident, seeing as it was quite literally the only thing available during the entire month that he was looking. When people asked, he told them that he rented the penthouse suite, and typically stopped talking immediately afterwards.
The truth, of course, was far from the image that he painted it. The yellow wallpaper, still there from when he had moved in, had turned green over the years but for the sections closest to the ceiling, which were grey from smoke damage. Several sheets were peeling and, though he often tried to push them back down, it was mostly in the effort to cover the damp and mould that continually fought against his efforts. People had learned not to touch the walls in fear of what might lie beneath.
He had the basic creature comforts of a carpet; black in order to mask any filth that might be breeding there, and a relentlessly cleaned bathroom and shower, but other than that he was severely limited. There had been no furniture when he had moved in, and he had had to move hastily in order to secure himself the little single bed that, despite the size of it, still obscured the doorway in the mass of dirty clothes and tiny electronic accessories that was hid bedroom. There was rarely any light in there, and the thick, black curtains helped the thick, crimson wallpaper in keeping things as difficult to navigate as possible.
The room that he entered first from the outside corridor, and the central hub of the place that he called home, was his kitchen. Here, though he still maintained a constant and fierce war against the growths beneath the paper, was where he spent most of his time. He loved his simple gas cooker, his chunky fridge-freezer and his pointlessly twin chaired dinner table almost as much as he loved his mother. He loved the noise that he made when he slipped off his shoes and dropped them back onto the tiles underfoot. He loved his little collection of pens, and the stack of papers that always accompanied his microwave or heat up meals. Coming home, he always had a very heavy weight on his shoulders, and yet, it was his own, and he loved it.
Coming home today, this feeling was very welcome, since he had encountered Jerry waiting for him downstairs and been unable to refuse when Jerry had invited himself upstairs.
Wow, you really live in a dump, Click, were the first words out of his mouth upon entering Click's personal little palace. I thought my landlord was a stingy bastard. This place is falling apart. And what the hell is that bulging out of the wall? You need to redecorate or something because it looks like there's something growing there. No wonder you never get laid.
Is there something you want? asked Click, sitting down on his usual chair and kicking his shoes off. Would you prefer to just belittle me instead? It's alright; people have made a really good start today that you can probably capitalise on real easy. I can give you the topics if you like, but you already know most of them.
He paused to sigh and let all of his remaining energy out with it. For a moment, he felt very lucky that the chair was leaning against the back wall, or he would likely have collapsed.
Jerry, still standing in the doorway and looking down on him, had an uncomfortable frown on his face. You sell yourself short all the time, man, he said. You're such a coward. If Dim's bullying you then stand up and say hey, bitch, stop being a prick, prick.
At first tempted to laugh, as Jerry continued to speak Click noticed something that killed the impulse. You've been drinking again, haven't you?
It looked as though he would deny it, but after a physical recoil and an expression of disgust, Jerry's face dropped a little. Yeah, he admitted slowly. He didn't seem to have noticed it himself. I had a few drinks, but it's not a big deal. You know what it's like when things are hard and you just need a couple to pick you up. It's a bit of extra courage - that's all. You should try it, man. I remember back when you used to have a few with us after each show, before any of this Dim business. You used to be smiling then. Want me to get a bottle of something from the off license? Theyre still open; its not even dark yet.
You know, I'd much rather just go to bed, answered Click. I've had a hell of a day, and maybe if I tuck myself in and close my eyes it will all go away - just for a little bit.
That's not going to sort anything out and you know it, Jerry told him. At least alcohol is a warm to your heart.
Seriously, Jerry, not interested, Click said through a hand on his face. Now, try and put some focus into why you're here, because I have absolutely no idea why you'd come to see me if all you're going to talk about is getting drunk. Now come on, tell me what's going on that you obviously think I should be aware of. Why weren't you at Dim's little meet and greet?
Hardly band relative, is it? Bet the whore was there, came the quick response.
Well yeah, she was, Click admitted, but that doesn't mean Dim wasn't coming up with some weird things to say. He says he wants to steer the band in a punk direction because he bought himself a leather jacket and he thinks it'll suit the stage presence that he completely doesn't have.
He stopped to breath. Rubbing his eyes made them feel no better, but he tried anyway. The last two hours had been hell. His wallet was empty. His throat was dry and his stomach was constantly growling quietly at him like a dog that strongly disliked it's location. Listening to the sheer volume of almost entirely meaningless drivel that escaped Dim's lips had caused a headache so intense that, even though he was male, he would still use it as an excuse to turn down sex.
You mean like Sex Pistols or that weird stuff that came just before grunge? Jerry asked, eyebrow raised and confusion evident.
I don't know, Click told him. Whichever one includes a leather jacket in the stage performance. Honestly man; you're the last person I thought would want me to actually listen to Dim. He cost me so much bloody money while he was just sitting there. Honest to god, since when does Orton's sell cocktails?
A-ha! So you have been drinking, yelled Jerry, in evident triumph and with a pointing finger.
Finally giving up on the concept of going out to get more booze, Jerry took a step back through the still open doorway. It was a cursory motion that was typically a prelude to leaving, but he still seemed to have something to say.
You remember that girl from New Music Magazine? he inquired sheepishly.
The feeling of danger was as familiar to Click as his own bed was, so this came as little surprise to him. The one you could barely even open your mouth in front of?
Quickly, Jerry became defensive. Don't be so bitchy, man: I was drunk.
And you're drunk right now.
Yeah, but not as drunk. There's different levels. Anyway, I went to see her today for an hour.
If he had had the energy, Click would likely have physically recoiled. As it was, he settled for feeling sick in the pit of his stomach. How did that go? Didn't your last date end with you throwing up in her glass?
That's because I was dating your mother, and she took the paper bag off, he said before breaking into laughter. Click could feel himself sneering, but he reigned in any cursory return comments. It was crucial that he get a hold of the information that he needed first and foremost.
He waited a little longer, hoping that Jerry would magically become a little more sober than he was, but chose to consider himself lucky when something finally brought about a serious expression.
We talked for a bit - well, she talked for a bit, but we worked some stuff out, explained Jerry. She's really interested in having me come down for an interview. Just me; no Dim, no Rock or hard Plaice, not that those guys say anything in interviews anyway. I think it'll be really good for my career, so I think I'm going to go for it. I know you're going to whine at me and be a little bitch about it because you work for Fire Brand and everything, but I know when something is helpful for me and when it isn't. I have to think beyond this and into the future, because as long as you follow Dim, you don't even have one. That's about all I came to say. I'll stick with you guys until I find something better. It's nothing personal.
Even knowing how he was supposed to react and how this was supposed to forever alter his life in a negative way, Click still found himself quite excited at the concept of having one less person to spend all of his time chaperoning around the town. He tried to come up with something nicely personal to say that might fail to display this, but he ended up settling for something simpler: Does Cooper know about this?
Always following the boss eh? came the amused reply. No, and I think you know enough to keep it quiet. I'm going to fly for now mister manager. I'll see you at practice, and I'll be sure to wear leather.
With another little laugh to himself, Jerry turned and strode away, leaving the door wide open as he marched straight out of sight. Rubbing his eyes again, Click waited until his footsteps had receded before he stood up and shut the world outside. He moved his shoes, dumped his jacket on the back of his chair, and pulled a pie out of the oven, intending to cook, eat, then sleep.
Unfortunately, this plan was diverted when a knock on the door disturbed him. He was tempted to tell them, whoever they might be, to go away, but even that would require opening the door, so that is what he did.
Sorry about earlier, just avoiding drama. I brought some wine to cheer you up with because you look miserable, said Harmony, or, as he knew her, Emily from two flats down the corridor.
His heart leapt, his lips sighed, and his hand gestured her inside.