He could get used to this thought Edward as he went to the kitchen for his third coffee of the morning. It was only 10am but it was already hot in London, the sky a clear crystal blue and the windows were open bringing in the fresh morning air before the heat overpowered the city later in the day. Thank god he didn’t have to shoe horn himself into a suit and tie and squeeze onto the Central Line he thought. At home he could pull on his old khaki shorts and a pink polo shirt and have done with it. He didn’t even need to worry about his hair, no laborious attempt to flatten and control his curls with a ton of product, instead they tumbled freely across his forehead.
Picking up his coffee and congratulating himself on not having the second cinnamon swirl in the packet he went back to his desk which he had positioned so it faced out onto the cobbled mews street where he lived. Sipping his coffee, he peered at his email squinting and then picked up his glasses. Its no use denying it Edward he said to himself, you need these to read. He began to engross himself in the day’s emails; his boss Sir Robert wanted him to take on a contract negotiation for a new client “Lothian holdings”.
Hmmm that was a surprise he thought. His boss was very unhappy with him because it was entirely Edward’s fault that everyone was working from home for the foreseeable future. The Chamber’s in Lincoln’s Inns were beautiful with mullioned windows, sloping floors and low ceilings that Edward didn’t always remember to duck his head for. For some weeks there had been strange noises in the roof and eventually Edward had gone up there to investigate and found a colony of very rare horseshoe bats. Sir Robert had been all for smoking them out and killing them, but Edward had indignantly insisted that they call the Bat Conservation society. This had led to two earnest looking young women coming to the office to inspect the site and shortly after that by a formal letter instructing them that the bats could not be disturbed as they were about to give birth and furthermore, that the office should be emptied of people to ensure their complete peace. Sir Robert had been apoplectic, and Edward had endured a prolonged haranguing about the damage being done to the business and Edward’s career in particular.
Perhaps things were looking up and sir Robert had forgiven him, after all he was the best trainee at the Chambers. He was always the one coming in early and working late though perhaps he thought ruefully that was more to do with his complete and utter lack of lovelife.
Just then, he heard a vehicle reversing down the streets followed by a motorbike. Someone must have rented out the place opposite he thought, it had been empty ever since the charming French family who had lived there had left 4 months ago. He’d enjoyed many a summer BBQ in their herb filled court yard garden the previous year and even more late-night kisses with Louis’ younger brother Antoine when he’d come to visit for a few weeks. He’d asked Edward to come back to France with him, but Edward had refused, Antoine was charming, but it wasn’t love, he’d never come close to loving anyone and seeing as he spent every waking hour at work he couldn’t see that changing anytime soon.
The removal van drew up outside the pale blue painted house and a white motorbike stopped alongside it. Edward didn’t know a lot about motorbikes, but he recognised a Ducati when he saw one. Nice! He’d harboured a faint desire to have a motorbike when he was 18 but his father absolutely refused and now he could buy one himself, he somehow had never got around to it. The person riding it was wearing navy blue leathers and a navy and white helmet. As Edward watched they dismounted and dropped the kickstand to rest the bike before pulling off their helmet.
“fu…” Edward let out an involuntary exclamation, he was looking at the most beautiful young man he’d ever seen. The man placed his helmet on the bike and looked around, blond hair gleaming in the sun. He walked over to the guy who had just jumped down from the removal lorry, unzipping his jacket as he went. Edward watched, staring unashamedly as the jacket swung open to reveal a tight white t shirt underneath. They had a conversation with the young blond guy waving his arms a lot and then the removal man went around to the back of the truck and opened the door. The young man walked back to his bike and took another look round, his eyes coming to rest on Edward gawping through the window.
“oh crikey” muttered Edward frantically trying to behave as if he had in fact been looking at the laptop screen all along, before casting his eyes up again to see if he was still being observed. He felt himself go red as he realised he was, and he risked a smile which was returned, then the young man turned on his heel and went over to the removal lorry and began unloading boxes.
Edward sat there in agony. Should he offer to help? It would be the neighbourly thing to do but he did have work to do and he might get in the way? And what if he dropped something? Something valuable? He could be clumsy; his Aunt Maud had never let him forget the time he’d dropped the porcelain Wedgewood tea set left to her by her mother. His sister still called him Lumpy Clumpy because of it. How about taking over some coffee? They would probably want coffee, right? he could take coffee and biscuits over and whilst there casually find out his new neighbour’s name.
He went into the kitchen and made a pot of coffee and rummaged in the biscuit tin; biscuits didn’t last that long in his house, he was terribly prone to nibbling while he worked which is why he spent so much time at the gym. He took down a couple of mugs and added them to a tray along with the biscuits, sugar and milk. Balancing the coffee pot on the corner and remembering to remove his glasses, he carried the whole lot out into the warmth of the street and over the cobbles
“hello” he hovered at the garden gate and called through the open door “I brought coffee”
“just a moment” responded a voice and then the young blond man was walking towards him, smiling broadly
Edward smiled back and just as he did, he heard a bark and a small white fluffy dog shot out of the door
“argh” Edward jumped with surprise and lurched forward knocking the coffee all over the young man who yelled in shock as he was doused in hot coffee
“oh gosh, I’m so sorry, p p please let me get you a t.. t.. tissue” Edward wanted to faint with embarrassment, his stutter that only came out in times of stress coming to the fore
“its fine” said the young man frantically stripping off his t shirt and clearly trying not to wince “really no harm done”
Edward tried hard to keep his thoughts together and not let his mouth drop open at the sight in front of him. Here was someone who evidently spent as much time in the gym as he did, and he tried not to stare at the hair now damply clinging to his chest
“D…did you burn yourself?” he asked
“No though I definitely feel warmer than before” he said
“l.. let me wash your t…t….t shirt” said Edward thankful that if everything else failed he could at least rely on the manners drilled into him by his grandmother “it’s the l..least I can do”
“thank you, that would be kind” said the young man and then he held out his hand “my machine won’t be plumbed in till later I think, I’m Alfred Paget by the way” and he flashed Edward a look through dark eyelashes of the bluest eyes Edward had ever seen
“Edward Drummond” said Edward holding out his hand and making a mental note to be cool for once for Christ sake. Unfortunately, one hand was not enough to balance the rest of the tray and it slid to the floor with a resounding crash
“oh shhh…...sugar!” said Edward in dismay
Alfred bit his lip trying not to laugh
“it isnt your day is it Edward?” he said with a smile
Edward shook his head thinking that it very much was his day if Alfred had come to live opposite him.
“g… give me your shirt” he said trying to remember he was actually a fully qualified lawyer with a mortgage and an ISA “let me wash it and b…bring it back later along with a pizza, I assume you don’t want to co…cook on your first night after moving in”
“no” shuddered Alfred “I think all I will want to do tonight is have a nice long hot shower”, the way he said this made Edward’s stomach lurch and imagine fleetingly he was under the shower with him
“well um yes” he said, as flustered as if Alfred had seen straight into his mind “sh…showers are always good and gosh is that the time? I must get back to work, I will see you later Alfred”
And he fled back to the safety of his house forgetting he’d left the tray and smashed contents on the pavement
Alfred watched him go, a smile dancing on his lips. What an absolutely adorable man he thought. His shy smile and sweetly confused demeanour contrasted beautifully with an almost ludicrously handsome face and what looked like a hard-muscled body underneath those clothes. Oh, he would very much enjoy sharing a pizza with him he thought, though he told himself sternly he must not read too much into it, he couldn’t be certain Edward liked boys. He bent down and began to pick up the smashed china on the ground, he could give them back to Edward later.
Edward bolted through his front door and tossed the t shirt into the washing pile before running upstairs
‘idiot’ he berated himself ‘idiot!’
He splashed water onto his hot face
‘what must Alfred think of him?’ he’d had the chance to go over there and make a good first impression and instead he’d thrown coffee over him, stuttered and stammered, and then dropped the tray on the floor. He must think he was the clumsiest fool on the planet. He lent his head against the mirror and groaned, why did these things always happen to him?