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The misty grey corner of nowhere and no place, Bloomsbury, London-‘late Friday night at the pub. Another long, dreary week of suffering in the trenches had passed quietly into the oblivion of raucous laughter, dizzying clouds of smoke, and rounds of drinks for all.
Just the five of them. "Out on the piss," they would all say, and as Laleana glanced around the table, she came to realise that it had always been this way, for as long as she cared to remember.
Lit cigarette dangling precariously from his lips, Julian presided over them, antagonizing everyone as he flung his glass of whiskey back and forth through the air, punctuating his sentences with cast off drops of drink.
"So," he said as if already demanding an answer, "We all still headin’ out to the ole family plot for holiday? I have confirmed…we’ve got the run of the place. We can paint the walls chartreuse should we feel so inclined. Hell, we can douse the place with petrol and light a match for all I care. Ha! I don’t care…let’s do it…burn it to the ground."
He probably would have reduced the place to cinders by now if it hadn’t been for the other four. Julian had no love loss for his family. His parents are of old money and of even older patrician temperament. They own a brewery in Cardiff, Wales and have a handsome estate there as well. It’s the predictable majestic expanse of manicured lawns, brimful cottage gardens, and tranquil ponds, ornamented with esoteric statuary and uncomfortable stone benches. It has all of the gilded trappings the wealthy aristocracy could ever hope to possess, not to mention flaunt in the most garish ways conceivable. Julian loathes and detests his parents for the same hypocrisy that most children do, and he finds pure enjoyment in ransacking the place whilst they are out of the country on holiday. The others had gone along with for the last five years or so. It is nothing less than a hedonistic event, filled with friendly frivolity and riotous debauchery, and every year
they all eagerly anticipate the solid week of self-indulgent mass-hysteria.
Laleana raised her glass and gave him a wicked little wink. "I’m in," she confirmed, and then she looked across the table to Ioan.
Ioan, sweet Ioan, sat sullen and quiet, both hands wrapped around his pint, gaze cast downward in attempt to stay out of the fray, a shy little smile just barely creasing his face. It wasn’t even a smile really but more of a delicious little parting of his lips, only slightly upturned at the corners, as if a dirty thought had passed behind his eyes for a flash of a moment. He shot a quick and gentle glance back at her. That fragile gesture of camaraderie was as understated and innocent as the rest of his face. Laleana could not help herself and smiled back with blushing appreciation.
"Count me in as well," Ioan said whilst fumbling with his shyness and his pint of beer. "But I want to stop in and visit my mum and dad for a day, you know, whilst we are there and all that…"
Without delay or fear of consequence, Julian slammed his empty glass down onto the table, sending shards of ice flying in every direction. "Oh for fuck’ sake, what ever for? Way to ruin a perfectly good holiday. What did they ever do for you except declare you a nutcase and pump you full of drugs?"
Ioan didn’t respond. Couldn’t respond. He just shut his eyes and clutched his drink as the stiff reminder, too painful to bear, greyed his knuckles and tightened his shoulders.
Laleana could feel his anguish, they all could, lying thick in the murky air, but the solemn silence didn’t last long.