George and Phillip
(Or how to create a story out of nothing in about forty minutes)
By Hambel, Jennysmum, HJ, Piper Vaughn, Elin Gregory
Transcribed by Mara Ismine, with apologies for all the wonderful ideas and details that got left out of this quick draft.
Edited by Charlie Cochrane
Phillip was trying to decide between Pouilly Fume and Chablis to accompany his chicken salad with herb-dusted croutons and a light scattering of pancetta. He had moved aside the bottle of aged balsamic vinegar that he’d used his to create his own honeyed salad dressing and lifted the Pouilly Fume to check the label when the doorbell rang.
Who could be disturbing him at six forty-five in the evening? Phillip stalked to the front door and drew himself up to his full height before opening it.
“Ah! You’re in. Mr MacDonald?”
Phillip nodded, dismayed that the stranger knew his name.
“I was hoping to catch you, as I missed you earlier on my round.” The man on the doorstep spoke rapidly. “I’m sorry that your parcel was damaged in transit. I think it’s only superficial. Would you like to check that the contents are okay? You can refuse delivery and it’ll go back as the shipping address is still clear.”
Phillip didn’t reply, too distracted by the damaged parcel that the stranger was holding out. The cover of one of the books he’d ordered online the other day showed clearly through the ripped cardboard. In the too bright evening sunlight the cover appeared lurid and almost pornographic. The entwined, naked, undeniably male torsos had been attractive, even seductive, when viewed on his computer screen which had only enhanced his anticipation for this new Gregor Blair novel.
“Who are you?” Phillip pulled his eyes away from the cover and fixed them on the chin of the man standing on the doorstep, unwilling to see either a smirk or look of contempt. His passion for m/m romance was his secret vice and he was not comfortable with a complete stranger knowing about it.
“I’m George Gregory, the postman.” George pointed to his shirt, grinned, then shoved the torn package towards Phillip again. “I have to pass your door on my way home, so I thought I’d see if I could catch you in, rather than leave them at the collection depot. I’m really sorry about the damage, it was done before it got to the post office. I think the books are okay. I can wait while you check.”
“I’m in the middle of preparing supper.” Phillip scowled, but let his gaze rise above George’s chin as he hadn’t heard any negative emotions in George’s voice. The guy was smiling in a pleasant, professional way, even if he was wearing scruffy shorts and flip-flops; and there was a Post Office ID card hanging from the collar of his equally scruffy polo shirt. Phillip was annoyed with himself for noticing the width of the shoulders filling said shirt and the massive thighs straining the legs of the shorts, rather than having seen the badge straight away. Phillip intensified his scowl, pleased that George’s face was nothing special.
“It’ll only take a second to check, Mr. MacDonald. I could open it for you, if you want?”
“No!” Phillip cleared his throat and repeated the denial, “No. I can open it.” He all but snatched the package from George’s hands.
“Did you say you were cooking supper?” George asked, staring over Phillip’s shoulder and flaring his nostrils. “I think something might be burning.”
Phillip turned and rushed into the kitchen where his chicken was charring under the grill. Smoke was curling from the cooker and Phillip’s hands were full of books. He stood staring at the unfolding disaster unable to process what to do with the books so that he could turn off the grill.
“Let me just turn that off for you.” George slipped past and flipped the grill off before peering at the chicken. “I think we were in time, it’s only just caught the edges. You can probably cut off the burnt bits and never notice.”
Phillip took a deep breath as his hands clenched on the package of books. “I don’t recall inviting you in, ” he said in his best disapproving senior-surgeon-to-hapless-medical-student voice – which had been known to reduce the more delicate flowers among the students to tears . It didn’t have any apparent effect on George.
“I couldn’t leave you to deal with a potential emergency while I stood on the doorstep, now could I?” George looked around the kitchen. “I haven’t been in here since they refitted. It looks pretty good now. You would have hated it last year – all seventies orange with an avocado fridge.”
Phillip couldn’t prevent his wince at the thought of the clashing colours and he didn’t have chance to say anything as George rattled on.
“It was even worse than you’re imagining. But it looks really good now. Are you going to be staying long?”
“Another month,” Phillip answered and scowled again at letting the words out.
“It must be great to be able to take a nice long holiday and really relax. I can’t see the Post Office letting me take that much time off all at once, though. What do you do for a living?”
“I don’t think that’s any of your business.” Phillip couldn’t quite understand how he had got into this situation, but that didn’t mean he had to tolerate, or reply to, personal enquiries. It was humiliating enough to have been told to take “gardening leave” without admitting to some total stranger that he had succumbed to the stresses of working in A&E. At least it wasn’t enforced sick leave, although that would have been the next step if he hadn’t agreed to the time off. He knew that the hospital could survive without him, but he didn’t have to like the knowledge.
“Sorry, I was just wondering.” George didn’t sound sorry at all. “I like being a postman most of the time, I’m just curious about what else might be available.”
Phillip bit down on his bottom lip to prevent the snarky comment escaping about George probably not being a suitable candidate for a surgeon in the next twenty years or so.
“If you’d just check the books, Mr. MacDonald, I’ll be on my way.” George looked at the package still gripped tightly in Phillip’s hands. “You’ll have to let me know what you think of that one,” he nodded towards the exposed cover, “have you read any of his other books?”
“You’ve read Gregor Blair?” Phillip was startled into asking. He’d never met anyone else who read m/m romance and wasn’t quite sure how to react to this sudden revelation.
“I’m very familiar with all his work,” George chuckled and winked. “What else have you got in there? I’m always on the look-out for something new to read.”
Somehow George ended up staying to supper and their lively discussion on books carried them to the settee in the lounge. Which led, inevitably, given the discussion on Gregor Blair, to Phillip’s bed. George didn’t stay the night – a postman had to get up early for work – but he did deliver a few books of his own, the next day “just to get your opinion” which generated another supper date. And another discussion. And another supper date. And more bed.
Phillip began to wonder if “gardening leave” was going to leave his climbing vine decidedly wilted.