Though everybody's afraid of something, fear comes in all shapes and sizes. For Daniel, it's the fear of losing his job in the middle of a recession, which is why he doesn't dare stand up to his boss and her unreasonable demands on his personal time, even though he knows she's ruining any chance of him ever finding a steady boyfriend. Until a chance encounter, far from home, makes him rethink his options.
To look at Tom, you wouldn't think that anything could scare him, whether it be bosses, big brothers and their practical jokes, or finding almost naked burglars asleep on his sofa. But Tom does have a fear. Though it's not a physical one, it preys on his mind enough to keep him away from home every Halloween. Until Daniel turns up in his life, and together they realize that fear is a lot easier to face when you're not alone.
"May I charge my phone?" I called.
"Be my guest!"
I found a socket on the wall and plugged the charger into it. Normal, square pins. I shook my head as the image of Thomas' sad smile flashed through my mind. Even if I had been delirious from hypothermia, there was no way I could have made everything up. I just didn't have enough imagination for it.
With my phone now happily charging away, I left it to it and went to join my host in the kitchen. He paused in the act of doling out scrambled eggs onto plates and looked me up and down as I stood in the doorway, a salacious glint in his eyes.
"Very nice," he murmured, and I felt the blood rise to my cheeks.
"Thanks," I said. "For lending me the clothes." My jacket was where I'd last seen it, but now hanging over the back of a modern, metal-framed chair. A plumbed-in, front-loading washing machine was chugging away near the sink, and a percolator was spitting out the last drops of coffee into a glass jug. Just a normal, everyday, twenty-first century kitchen.
"You're welcome. Now sit. I'm very good at making breakfast, or at least I've never had any complaints so far."
I sighed. "You know, there is such a thing as flogging a dead horse. Okay, I was almost naked, but my clothes were covered in sheep shit."
"I know, that's why I'm washing them." He brought over a plate of toast, then placed it on the table and sat down. "All right, I'll stop acting like a dickhead if you tell me about last night. And I'm sorry I scared you with the shotgun."
"Okay, then," I said, grudgingly accepting his apology, and took a seat at the table.
And so, over breakfast -- which really was very good -- I told him everything I could remember, up until when things had started to get hazy.
"Hazy how?" Tom said, staring intently at my face, his last corner of toast seemingly forgotten as it paused halfway to his mouth.
I cleared my throat and took a sip of coffee. "The clock was just beginning to strike twelve. I was starting to black out, and I think I must have panicked a little. But Thomas said not to worry, that Carrie had felt disorientated the first time it happened to her."
"Carrie?" Tom's eyes went wide, and the toast fell from his fingers.
"Yes. He mentioned her a few times. And then…"
"And then I passed out."
Tom frowned at me. "And that's all you remember?"
I turned away, my face warming as the memory of what else had passed between Thomas and me last night came flooding back.
"Come on, man. I know you're hiding something."
"All right." I looked him in the eye and squared my shoulders. "Just before the clock began to strike twelve, Thomas… Thomas kissed me."
Tom's eyes went wide. "He kissed you? Well, I can certainly see why he might do that."
"No dickheadery," I reminded him sternly.
"No, I'm not… but really? He kissed you?"
"What was it like?"
He nodded, his hands clenched together on the table-top.
I smiled, reliving the moment. "It was the sweetest, purest, chastest kiss I've ever experienced."
"Oh. My. God."
I pushed my glasses up on my nose and took a deliberate bite of toast while I studied his face, which was now white as a sheet. "Let me guess," I said, enjoying his discomfiture -- payback for the shotgun prank. "Thomas is a ghost."