Ethan

It seemed that no matter how his hair fell, he looked fabulous. If it was in his eyes, it looked boyish. If it was curled up a bit, it looked sexy. If it was cut short, it showed off his perfect forehead. That was the kind of man-boy he was. He could wear whatever he wanted, and did. Anything from black boots, black jeans and a biker jacket to a waistcoat, pinstriped pants and loafers. In his pocket, you could easily find either a pack of cigarettes or a watch on a chain. If all that weren’t enough, he also projected his comfort and self-esteem and acceptance of who he was. His presence was enough to make anyone weak-kneed, men and women alike. He wasn’t even twenty yet.

He stood smoking outside of his apartment building. As I walked by, he looked up at me, and I saw that his eyes were wet, on the verge of spilling tears. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out “Ethan? You alright?”

He mutely offered me a cigarette, lit it for me, and leaned back against the brick wall, one leg going up to prop himself. He was wearing his black boots, I noticed. I stood beside him, puffing away, feeling more intimate with him than I ever had before, despite being his neighbour for over six months, and despite us having many mutual friends. It seemed that I saw him all the time – around the building, at clubs and pubs. He was a fixture of the Soho night-life, and I often found myself dancing just a few people away from him. It wasn’t that he was a snob, exactly. He wasn’t posh, his father didn’t go to Eton and he hadn’t even finished university. He was just a regular bloke like me. Of course, I couldn’t pull off half the image he had, but then, that’s me.

“Boyfriend,” he sighed. He took a last drag and then threw the butt down. He stomped on it with a force that made me shiver a little. He looked at me, and I think I must have looked a little guilty, since his eyes flashed from heartbroken to angry to resigned in quick succession. “You knew?” He’d already ducked his head, pulling out another cigarette from his pack.

I couldn’t deny it, but I didn’t want to let him in on the fact that, well, we all knew. We all thought he knew it, too. We’d seen them together almost every night of the past few months, but we all knew. The boyfriend lived in Manchester, only came to London every month or two. He’d been over just three weeks ago. So, obviously, we all thought that Ethan knew.

“Sorry, mate.”

He shook his head. His hair flopped, looking perfect no matter what he did. That hair, that hair that my eyes always fixated on, it was still as glossy, as perfect, as natural as it always was. But the rest of him… Well. For the first time since I’d met him, I wasn’t intimidated.

“When’s your birthday?” I asked. I knew it didn’t matter one whit, but I asked anyway.

“February. February 9th, ’88. Why?”

“No reason. You’re two days younger than me. I always thought you were older than me. Never mind. Come upstairs, come on, I’ll make you some tea and we can watch whatever football game is one tonight, right?”

He chucked his smoke way across the street so it hit the building across and a little spray of sparks shone red-hot before falling to the ground. Brushing a hand through his hair, he followed me into the building.

Mute Anna

Anna wept silently. Where once she screamed, now she was calm, tears dripping down her cheeks without a sound. She had gone away for a time, or, at the least, had slept like a morbid version of a Sleeping Beauty. However an equally morbid prince must have come to her without her knowing it – he must have worked some sort of sourcery to awaken her from her restless, though long, sleep. She couldn’t remember a prince, but he must have been there. If she could have chosen freely for herself, she would sleep in the tower forever more, sparing the world her presence.

But Anna was awake again, and she couldn’t fall back asleep. In fact, the castle where she’d slept seemed to have disappeared without a trace, leaving a few dusty old stones lying around in a field of brown grass. She would stare at the forlorn heap and couldn’t even contemplate building the castle up again. It was too difficult. It was so much easier to simply sit on the grass and weep.

The silence irked Anna, though. She was used to being free, unfettered, unreserved, but something had changed – she knew not what – and she couldn’t make a sound anymore. She was so silent that she would throw stones around for the simple pleasure of hearing a noise and making sure that she hadn’t gone deaf. She hadn’t, though, she’d simply become mute. Each day that passed, however, brought her throat a slight ease and she felt that before long she may be able to make a squeak again – and then, ah, then! Then she would be able to resume her screams, the thing she relished in most. Anna couldn’t help it – she was a violent, ugly beast. But so beautiful as well, so beautiful that it would take an age to describe her beauty and charm.