Thursday, 29 December 2011


Four years ago, Gabe met Mike at the annual Downe's Valentine's Day Masquerade Ball.  But now Mike is gone and thinks it's about time Gabe moved on, but Gabe's not so sure.


Valentine’s Day 2011
Gabe stared out of the window as the taxi turned off the country lane they had been travelling down and onto the beginning of the gravel drive that led up to Downe Hall.  The music could already be heard through the open windows of the large country house and laughter spilled out with it.  He couldn’t believe he was actually doing this… albeit under duress.
The house looked as magnificent as it had on his first visit there four years ago, when he’d been talked into attending the event of the season.  The Thomas Downe Annual Valentine’s Day Masquerade Ball was legendary and people came from miles around to lose themselves in the splendour of it all; the music, the costumes, the chance to be someone else, for just one night.
The grass verge either side of the drive up to the gates was decorated with life size sculptures of naked men and women, covered with strategically placed white fairy lights, heralding the way to the house.
“That’ll be eighteen fifty.”
Gabe looked at the taxi driver and blinked owlishly.  “Huh?”
“The fare,” the man repeated, nodding at the meter.  “Eighteen pounds, fifty.”
“Oh, right,” Gabe replied scrabbling in the pocket of his costume for a twenty pound note and handing it to the other man mumbling, “Keep the change.”
“Thanks, mate.  Nice costume by the way.  You meeting someone in there?” The driver’s question was innocent enough and Gabe knew that he couldn’t know how those words made his gut tighten and his heart ache. 
“Not this year,” he replied and opened the door before the man could remark further.  Gabe stood looking at the bridge over the moat to the large open gates.  He’d spent a fortune on his costume and the ticket itself would have kept him his fridge stocked for six months, even though he hadn’t paid for it, so standing on the drive and watching other party-goers just sail past him was kind of stupid.  And then there was the added concern that if he stood there much longer, the organisers might drape him in fairy lights.
Besides, this was where it had all begun, it seemed only fitting that this is where it should end; where he should bury the past and move toward the future.  He huffed a joyless laugh through parted lips.  The future—what future?  Mike seemed to think he was ready to embrace a life without him… but Gabe wasn’t so sure.

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