A/N: These are the very first scenes in “Sunny Days”, my Nanowrimo novel from last year. I plan to post a part that’s somewhere in the middle of the story as well, but I’ve been promising to post an excerpt for so long and this bit is actually okay, as far as my writing goes. Feel free to critique(as long as it’s constructive!).
Mark closed his folder, and without even speaking to his class, simultaneously the sound of them throwing their books back in their bags and scraping their chairs against the linoleum floor arose in the room. As usual, they were out of there almost before he could say “Class dismissed”. He sighed as he watched them all leave. Then he packed up his things, put on his autumn jacket and hauled his messenger bag over his shoulder. He was going into town.
He had planned to go shopping, to buy something nice for his 12 year old niece, whose birthday was just around the corner. However, the Underground gods didn’t approve of this course of action, a fact they made clear when Mark’s train stopped halfway between Warren Street and Oxford Circus.
Mark had been through this kind of stuff before, so it didn’t exactly phase him. However, he was the type of person who kept to himself, and didn’t talk to anyone outside of his family or small circle of friends if he didn’t have to. That’s why he inwardly groaned when the old lady beside him started to small talk in a shrill voice, one that was much too loud for a mostly quiet subway cart.
“I think I recognise you from somewhere!” she said, and half the people in the cart turned to scrutinise him. Everybody liked a good celebrity encounter, he supposed.
But he was no celebrity. “I’m sure you’re mistaken, ma’am. He smiled weakly.
“No, I’m certain,” she insisted and started rummaging around in her bottomless handbag. “I know I had it in here…”
Mark looked away, stared up at the ceiling. What had his life become? Ten years ago, his whole life had been promising. He had been so happy. He used to consider himself an author, a man on a mission to change the way people saw the world. Teaching was really just his backup plan.
“Here it is!” the lady next to him exclaimed without warning and tugged at his sleeve.
He suppressed a sigh and looked to her. He raised his eyebrows in confusion.
“Wait a minute, that’s my…!” he looked up at the lady, who was now smiling.
She smiled sweetly, the wrinkles on her face testifying about a long life with many meetings and moments of both happiness and sorrow. “It’s my favourite,” she said.
“It is?” Mark stared disbelievingly at the book in her hand.
She turned to the very last page and pointed at the picture that was printed there. It was of Mark, a picture of the author, from eleven years ago.
He gently pried the book away from her hands to look at the picture. He was so young there. So happy. With a start, Mark remembered that very day, and his former boyfriend who had been with him. He smiled, this time much more genuine, and handed the book back to the lady. He never thought he would see anyone with his book, as it only sold about 300 copies when it was published. “Thank you,” he said to her and pressed a kiss to the back of her hand. Thank you for reminding me who I am, he added in his mind.
She returned his smile with fervour. In that very moment the train powered up and started moving again. Mark and his newfound friend returned to sitting in silence, the rest of the people in the cart having stopped paying attention to them long ago.
“Oh!” Mark buried his head in his hands. “An autograph!” he turned back to the lady. “Did you want an autograph?”
He arrived in Oxford Circus at long last, an hour after he was supposed to. The streets were usually still full of tourists at this time of day, but today seemed to be a little quieter. He was mostly window-shopping, finding nothing he deemed good enough for his favourite niece. Alisha was his goddaughter as well as his niece, and he always felt like taking a bit of extra care of her. He himself wasn’t religious, but his sister was Christian and all her two children were baptised.
An hour later he had bought a gold necklace, and though he was very happy with it, it had been a struggle to get through to the jeweler who had been wrapped up in his own problems and arguing with his wife. He headed back to the tube station at a leisurely pace, feeling more relaxed than he had in a long time. Suddenly he stopped, as he saw another man his age come running down the steps from another street, carrying an unwieldy guitar case. The man looked extremely scattered and in a hurry, and suddenly he tripped down the rest of those stairs, guitar case falling open in the air, revealing a very battered and well-used acoustic guitar, now laying outside of its case, next to the man on the cold pavement. Mark had, however, already been staring at the man for several seconds before he fell. He knew that platinum blond hair anywhere. He swore he wouldn’t have noticed if a tsunami washed over them at this point. It had to be him. Nothing else mattered, because it was him.
He ran up to the man, who was just rising to his feet. Mark had gone over there, meaning to ask if he was okay, if he could help with anything, but he found himself simply standing there, a dumbstruck look on his face.
The man he knew to be Mitchell finally looked up at him, and Mark’s heart constricted with an emotion he had abandoned, as Mitchell’s face flashed with sorrow, anger and shock. And then something happened that Mark hadn’t expected.
“Mitchell!” Another man came running down the steps from which Mitchell had just fell. “Are you all right?” the man glanced briefly at Mark before grasping Mitchell’s shoulders firmly and looking deeply into his eyes, as if he was searching for something. Mitchell closed his mouth, that was open but silent, making him briefly resemble a goldfish.
“Mitchell!” the red-haired man insisted.
“Yes, Allen!” Mitchell burst. He squirmed in his friend’s tight grip. “Now let go!”
Allen did as he was told and glared at Mark, as if everything was his fault. Which he supposed it was, in a way. Mitchell turned to Mark, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Mark,” he stated in a strained voice.
“Mitch,” Mark breathed, showing considerably more emotion with his voice. With barely perceptible motions, started moving his hands up to Mitchell’s sides, but suspended the action before they had touched. He had never expected to see this man ever again in his life. “What are you… doing here?” he asked, because if he recalled as correctly as he knew he did – he wasn’t likely to forget his year with Mitchell, least of all how it ended – Mitchell was supposed to be working as a music teacher somewhere in Yorkshire.
Mitchell picked up his guitar with slow motions, as if he had to think each one through. “Came back to follow my dream,” he said matter-of-factly, looking at Mark strangely.
Mark couldn’t decipher his former boyfriend’s expressions. Nor could he think of anything to say to the man he had once considered the love of his life.
“Mitchell?” Allen said from behind him. “Who’s this?” he curiously raised an eyebrow.
“Nobody,” he answered, all the while looking at Mark.
Mark swallowed, starting to feel sick.
“I’ve got to go.” Mitchell looked as pained as he was, but his voice remained unwavering, and so did his gait. He started walking, slowly, and looked back to catch the older man’s eyes one more time, before he started running, guitar held protectively against his chest. Outside of its case.
Allen, however, didn’t spare him a second look as he sprinted after his friend.
“Mitch!” Mark yelled. “Mitch!”
But Mitchell didn’t hear him. Either that, or he didn’t want to.
Mark sighed and looked down at the ground, where the guitar case did indeed lay, open and empty without its occupant. He closed it and picked it up gently. Maybe if Mitch was back for good they’d run into each other again. That was his argument for saving the case. He could give it back if they did. And he couldn’t just leave it there. It was Mitchell’s. Therefore, it was more important than anything he owned. It was another link to the man he had lost through sheer stupidity. He couldn’t even bare to think about what that ginger bloke might mean to Mitchell. He hoped they were just friends. He disapproved of jealous thoughts in general, especially when they were unfounded and even more so when the person having them had no right to, but he couldn’t help himself. It was in his gut, that feeling. In his heart. It felt wrong to see Mitchell with somebody else.
Mark and Mitchell’s last meeting was so long ago, they hadn’t seen each other in ten years. Mark had almost started seeing him as a dream, being so utterly perfect in his memory. And he knew, that nobody was perfect. Maybe that was why, with each passing week, even day in the beginning, Mitch had felt less and less real until he seemed to Mark a concept, a dream you barely remember when you wake up, and one you distort further every time you tell it to someone. Mark hadn’t even thought about him for months, yet there he was, just like that. The same day somebody reminded him of Mitchell. The same day he found a new friend on the subway.