Sophia Ricotta

Simon Wendell is fighting a losing battle with acloholism and de-motivation. When his old friend Gilbert turns up, and wants to move in for a while, Simon dreams up the perfect excuse for turning him down. But the lie quickly spirals out of control...

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1. Gilbert

  The doorbell pissed on my already sputtering creativity, and I thumped the desk.  The bottle of cheap whiskey staggered and I steadied it, rubbed my burning eyes, and felt myself condense back into cold reality.

  Glancing resentfully at my sparse, scribbled notes, and my blank Word document, I ducked through the low doorway and hurried down to the hall.  The cold of the flagstones sprouted through my thick socks and I remembered I hadn't switched the heating on.  How long had I been up there?  It was getting dark already and, automatically, my hand flicked the light switch.

  There was a voice from the other side of the door.   A once familiar cry.

  Oh Christ.

  "Siii-mon Wendel!" the voice hooliganed tunelessly through the letterbox.  "Siii-mon Wendel!  Siii-mon Wendel is-a-horse's-arse!"  I saw his spindly, yellowed fingers pushing the flap open, his rubbery, wet lips delivering his ridiculous call to arms.  I felt as if he had opened a flap in my forehead and was yelling into my skull, rallying my sleeping memories.  I heard him grumble something and through the mottled glass panel beside the door I saw his fragmented shape flapping as he beat his arms against his freezing torso.  A miserable moment later the flap opened again: "Heeeeee... lookslikeahorse'sarse, heee smellslikeahorse'sarse, heee is aaaa horse's- Oh for God's sake, Si, hurry up.  It's fucking freezing out here!"

  I opened the door.  Cold swarmed in, and so did Gilbert.

  "Yey, y'big gay tosser!" he fog-horned as he gripped me in an icy bear hug and lifted me off the ground.  "Shit, man, it's been... how long?"  He ripped off his scarf and gloves and I pushed the door shut.  "Hey, man.  Good to see ya!  Caught you in the middle of anyth-  You dirty old bastard.  What's her name, eh?  Eh!  Bit of a saucepot is she?  Hey, nice place!"  He led himself through to the kitchen leaving me to scoop his coat from the air or let it fall to the floor.  "Sorry to just drop in on you unannounced, but- Wow, nice kitchen!"  I took a deep breath, hoisted the heavy camel skin off the floor and hung it on one of the pegs.  "No beers in the fridge?” he said, finding out for himself.  “I'd've brought some if I'd known.  Christ, man, it's colder in here than it is out side!  Should've left the fridge open; warm the place up a bit."

  "I know," I said, wondering what to do with my ridiculous, fake smile which was beginning to ache.

  "Look at you, mate.  You look like fucking shit!"  He announced it as if he was telling me I'd just won a great prize.

  "Thanks."  My cheek twitched.  He was right though: with my ragged jumper and threadbare cords I must have looked like some sort of aging art student. At least I wasn't dressed in a cream suit and a pink flowery shirt like he was.

  "Got any skunk, mate?"

   He was a good friend once.  We grew up together.  I say grew up, but I think that’s something he never really did.

  "No, I er... don't really... you know... any more."

  "What?  Come on man, you’re a toker.”

  I shook my head apologetically.

  “Tea then?" he said, pulling out a chair and sitting at the table.  "To drink, not to smoke, idiot."  My frozen, inane grin hmmfed into a genuine smile. 

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