Read The Saving of Benjamin Chambers (The Uni Files) Online
Authors: Anna Bloom
Table of Contents
THE SAVING OF BENJAMIN CHAMBERS
Why Eight Pints is Always too Much
THE SAVING OF BENJAMIN CHAMBERS
THE UNI FILES 1.5
SOUL MATE PUBLISHING
THE SAVING OF BENJAMIN CHAMBERS
Cover Design by Shirer Burkett Towler.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the priority written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.
Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
Published in the United States of America by
Soul Mate Publishing
P.O. Box 24
Macedon, New York, 14502
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
To the boy with the guitar
My huge thanks to Verity who went through this novella with me while we drank lots of wine and tried to work out if we knew anything about the inner workings of a man’s mind. The jury is still out if we do or not.
To Mr B who read it through, told me Ben was too girly and that I needed to ‘give him some balls.’ I hope I succeeded.
Thank you to Zoe, my bestie and metaphorical whiteboard who reads all my ideas no matter how rubbish they are.
Thank you to Heather and Kim for showing that people can ‘get’ my books and find joy and love inside their pages. You girls inspire me with your infectious enthusiasm for my work.
Lastly I want to say something a little out of the norm.
This year as a family we have had some very sad times and lost a person who not only inspired us but also held us together. In the months since the summer I have come to a new understanding and respect for the idea of ‘family.’
My cousin, Naomi, has astounded me with her support, giving up her own time to help me. It means so much to me. My South African family, especially Rene, Grace, and Aunty Suz have been nothing short of pompom shaking cheerleaders behind my new career.
Whenever I get lost, or stuck for the words to fill my blank pages, I always think of my Nan. I think of the time we spent in the hospital together before she died. Her love of books was infectious and it now drives me on wanting to write better stories, ones that I would have been proud to give to her and say “Here, Nan, I wrote this.” Sadly this is a conversation I will never get to have but it is in my mind every time I sit at my computer.
So instead of handing her a book and then running off to hide while she reads it, I will have a gin and tonic and carry on sitting at my laptop typing away until I create the perfect novel just for her. When I do, the whole world will know about it.
A Shaky Start
I don’t need to open my eyes to know that there is something not quite right.
It’s not the taste in my mouth that leaves me to believe I may have eaten road kill during the night, and washed it down with eight pints of Stella.
It’s not the pounding headache working its way around my brain, much like the heavy bass Dave churns out on stage. Although that does hurt, too.
No, it is worse than all of the above.
Cautiously, very cautiously, because I know it’s going to be bad, I open one eye.
Yeah, it’s bad.
Just as I thought, there is a girl lying on her side next to me in my bed and she is staring at me with avid attentiveness. I think she may have been staring for a while.
She also has my dick in her hand, which is a) embarrassing, and b) uncomfortable because nature is calling and it is calling loudly.
“Hi,” she says, her voice low and breathy.
“Uh, hi.” Small talk with women I don’t know is hard at the best of times let alone in the intimate position we are currently in.
This is the exact reason why I stay away from girls as much as possible. I never have a clue what to say to them the next day. It’s okay when we meet and normally both parties have had a fair few drinks and it’s normally okay during the inevitable act itself that follows the said few drinks. It’s the next morning of sobriety and painful hangovers and stilted conversation that I don’t like.
This is why, compared to the rest of the band, I live like a monk. A guitar-playing monk. If there is such a thing.
Dave, Mondeo-Man, and Trav think it’s very amusing that I normally scurry away from any female approach like someone has set a fire under my arse.
I find running away safer because otherwise
happens and I wake up next to a girl who thinks she is going to be my girlfriend. Girlfriends aren’t something that I do.
“Any chance you can release your death grip so I can get up?” I ask.
She gives a giggle and releases the excruciating hold she has on me.
I scramble out of bed and grab for my jeans on the floor. Safely covered, I head over to my drawers and grab a T-shirt out of the top drawer.
I know she is watching me so I keep my back purposely turned. ’It’s not that I am trying to be rude. I would never do that. It’s just that I am trying very hard to remember her name, which for the moment has completely escaped me.
Katherine? Caterine? Kaylie?
Damn it, why can’t I remember?
Then I recall the eight pints of something or other I put away last night and realise why I can’t remember small details, such as the name of the girl that I seemingly slept with.
“It’s Caitlin”.” She sits up in bed and throws the duvet back. No shame whatsoever. Just go-for-it brazen nakedness, which puts me on the furthest edge of uncomfortable.
“I know.” Well, duh.
“Ben, you don’t have to act all coy with me. I know your deal. It’s not like we have not been here before,” she says with a borderline evil laugh. She slides out of the bed and slowly stretches in front of me.
I stare at her. Her face only. And try to work out why I feel like I know her so well. The stabbing pain in my head and bleary vision is doing nothing to help matters. I try to focus on her sharp features and catlike eyes and then it clicks.
Caitlin, the bartender from our local pub.
Oh dear, very awkward.
Then I register her last comment.
What does she mean ‘been here before?’ I don’t have any recollection of us having
e together before, nor do I recall us having a naked conversation before. The arch of her knowing eyebrow tells me that this is indeed the case. I can’t question her, though, because then she would know for sure I don’t recall having sex with her. Twice.
I ask a different question instead.
“What do you mean, you know my deal?” I don’t really want to be hanging around talking. I want to be in the shower but I am interested to know what she thinks my deal may be.
“You know, that you never have a girlfriend and don’t plan to have one.”
Is this what people think? That I don’t actually want to have a girlfriend? They have got it so laughably wrong. I do want one. I just don’t want
one, and I really don’t want to sleep around while I wait for whoever she is to turn up. It makes me feel cheap and used. Obviously I am only human, a male human, (so I only contain limited self-control) therefore have downfalls like last night. Then I have to spend the next day explaining why I probably won’t be in contact, and it’s just too painful so I have pretty much given up bothering.
Naked Caitlin, to her credit, seems to understand though.
“Don’t worry, Ben, as pretty as you are I can see that you have more baggage than Heathrow, and I am not so keen for that either.” She starts walking around gathering her stuff and then struggles into her clothes, which look like they have been applied with spray paint.
“I will see you later at the pub, yeah?” she asks.
She doesn’t give me a chance to say that she probably won’t before she grabs her bag and heads out my bedroom door.
Well that was very easy. Maybe too easy.
I dash straight into the bathroom where I stand under the steaming hot water until I feel like I may be as near to clean as I am going to get.
This is not the start to the day I was hoping for. I have two very clear things on my agenda, and an uncomfortable conversation with a naked girl was not one of them.
Firstly, I need to get Christmas shopping. I am going home tomorrow and right now I have no gifts to give to anyone and I am not sure the ‘Christmas Handshake’ is going to cut it two years in a row.
Secondly, and probably more importantly, I need to build up the courage to tell the others that I am quitting the band.
It’s going to be a tough conversation and one I am not looking forward to, but after nine years of being in the band I just need to have something more. Or something different at the very least.
They would be blind if they haven’t seen the news coming. My enthusiasm has been lacking for a while and I can’t remember the last time I came up with new lyrics or just sat and played my guitar. The only time I play now is on stage, the same set over and over and over again. It’s soulless, and I am becoming soulless because of it.
It’s going to stop today. I have no plan whatsoever to play with Sound Box again after the Christmas Break. I am going to leave the band where it belongs in 2011. Hopefully in my past. That’s my New Year’s Resolution and the only one I am going to bother to make.
Why Eight Pints is Always too Much
I find Dave in the kitchen buttering and jamming some toast. He has been my best friend for as far back as my memory goes although sometimes I struggle to remember the reasons why.
“Hey, big guy.” He pauses his studious digging in the jam jar to greet me. “How was last night?” He wiggles his eyebrows, and I grimace in response.
“I don’t know, I can’t remember.”
“Well it sounded good through the wall.”
“Dave, that’s disgusting.”
“Just saying. It sounded like Caitlin was having a great time. She was screaming the place down. Still got the old Chambers magic, hey?”
“Hardly old! I am only bloody twenty-four!”
“Yeah with the virtues of a granny.”
He gives a
“Want some toast?”
He slides a slice towards me.
I reckon it is about eighty percent jam, twenty percent toast. I am more of a Marmite guy so I slide it back over to him.
Dave gives a little shrug and picks it up and shoves it in his mouth.
“Why did you let me leave with her?” I ask. I’m glad I don’t have any graphic visual images to accompany my question. My memory is blissfully blank, and I don’t recall any screaming, but I stir a mug of coffee to distract myself from the prospect of remembering. There is a fine art to making coffee that cannot be rushed. I hate instant, and always go through the rigmarole of making a pot. It’s either that or dash outside and run over to the café next door, but it is December and freezing so that idea is not overly appealing.
“I don’t see why it is such a big deal. ’It’s just sex, Ben. If you stopped beating yourself up, you might enjoy it a bit more.”
“What, like you?”
“Well, I left the pub last night with two stunners and had a great time. Believe me, no one was complaining.” He gives me a wink to underline his meaning.
“You’re a dog.”
“And love it.”
“You haven’t answered my question. Why did you let me leave with her? Don’t we have some ‘best friend’ code where we are supposed to stop each other from making mistakes, apparently twice?”
Dave gives a little snort and dribbles the tea he has just sipped out of his nose.
“Mm, if only those two girls were here now, I bet they would have wet panties. From laughing so much.”
Dave flips me the bird and really annoyingly leaves his puddle of snotty tea on the table; he knows that it is going to give me the arse.
“What do you remember?”
I scan through my mind to see if I can come up with any new memories, or even half a memory but I am still blank. That’s probably a good thing.
“Nothing at all after drink five.”
“Ah, pint five. Now that was a good one.”
This is how we recount our evenings, always has been since we were sixteen. It is never by time passing but rather drinks consumed. Same as our time estimates are always given by inches of cigarettes burnt or measures of drinks no longer in the glass. For instance, I will walk into a pub and find Dave already ensconced at our table. When I ask him how long he has been there, instead of looking at his watch like any normal person he will show me the two empty inches at the top of his pint of beer. The two inches tells me he has been at the pub about ten minutes; five minutes for ordering and small talk, one minute for walking to our table saying hello to everyone he meets, and then four minutes for savouring his first two deep gulps of golden nectar.
“What happened at pint five?” I ask him with a sense of dread.
“Pint five is when we asked you the last time you got laid and you couldn’t remember.”
“Oh, whatever, Dave. I am sure it can’t have been that long!”
“Nope. You stood there staring at the ceiling for about, well, two inches.”
“We then decided that we should try and find you a
for the night.”
“Oh for goodness’ sake. We have had this conversation before, and it is embarrassing when you do that. If I wanted to find someone, then I would. It’s not like I am short of offers.” I wish I was short of offers. Then maybe I would not find the whole thing so bloody degrading.
“Well we don’t want you to explode out of frustration someday. Because that would be a mess none of us would be willing to clear up, no matter how good mates we are.”
Dave’s loving this. He
it when I fall off the wagon. It’s the highlight of his month (Yes, I am a human male. A month is a long time.) and he gloats about it for its duration.
“So then what happened?”
“You decided that instead of finding a girl you would be better off playing your guitar and you begged Darren to let you play an acoustic set.”
This isn’t good. Darren, the landlord of our local pub, has not forgiven me for the last time I decided on a spontaneous set and some guy kicked off because his girlfriend sat right in front of me and stared open-mouthed the whole time I played. There was a broken window. Completely embarrassing.
“Did he let me?”
“Yeah eventually, but while you waited for him to decide you went off to the bar where you ordered another pint and Caitlin gave you two shots of Jägermeister, clearly on a mission to get you so bladdered you would give in to her wily advances.”
“And still you did not step in?”
“No, it was bloody hilarious. You then got the all clear to perform. I think Caitlin worked her magic on that one as well. You sat on your little stool and told the whole pub that you wished you could find real love and how sad it was that no one ever truly got you for what you really are.”
“What? Which is to be a complete twat?”
“I’d say. Anyway by the seventh pint—”
“Stop, I don’t want to hear any more,” I shout.
“Okay then, Mr. No Fun, but let me just tell you that at about three-quarters of the way down your eighth pint you looked up from where you had your head on the table and announced very loudly, ‘That Caitlin. She’s not that bad to look at, you know.’ Thing was, you were not even looking at her. You were staring at some bald guy getting served at the bar.”
“Okay, enough.” I sigh.
“This, my friend, is why you need to open up your mind to meeting new people and, well, actually start talking to women. Otherwise you are always going to get caught with your knob in the wrong jam jar.”
He smacks the lid down on the jam jar to make his point.
I eye him with caution before playing my killer shot.
“I’ll take relationship advice from you when you admit that you have been in love with the same girl for ten years and that you put it about in a foolish attempt to forget about her.”
He glares at me.
I have crossed a line. We are not allowed to talk about
. Ever. Well, we do because we have to, but we are never allowed to talk about his relationship with her.
We glare at each other for a moment before we both start to laugh. This pretty much sums up how we have argued over the years. It lasts two minutes, then we normally end up laughing and slapping each other.
“So what’s the plan for today? Fancy coming Christmas shopping?” I ask. I’m more than keen to change the subject from my dire personal life.
“Ben, Christmas Eve is only tomorrow. It is illegal for a man to purchase any sort of gift before midday on Christmas Eve.”
“Well I am going back home tonight so I need my stuff all sorted.”
“Uh, no you’re not.”
“Yes, I am.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Dave! This is making my head hurt.”
“We have got that gig tonight. You can’t go today.”
I give a little groan and smack my head onto the kitchen table.
“Dave, mate,” I start, but he holds his hand up to stop me.
“Ben. We need this gig. They are paying us a stupid amount of money for you to stand at the front of a stage and make drunken female office workers swoon. It’s a steal.”
“Not doing it.”
“Um, yes you are. That gig will pay our rent for the next four months.”
“Let’s talk later.” I grab my coffee and head towards the kitchen door. I don’t care if I am breaking a significant man code. I need to go shopping. Otherwise I will have two very unhappy sisters on Christmas day. Oh, and an unhappy Mum along with stroppy nieces and nephews.
“Setting up at seven,” Dave calls as I bang into my room.
I don’t bother replying, although I do have an array of colourful words that I use under my breath as I get my stuff together ready to hit the high street.