Robert's Day

by Camy

It was a hard decision to make, the choices starkly obvious, but once he had made it Robert prepared himself thoroughly. After all, hadn't his uncle always told him 'Don't talk about it! Do it!'? Now that the thinking part was over, all taken care of, the decision made, Robert felt much better, more settled within himself. He had gone over the pros and cons time and time again, and now it was time for action. For once in his life, Robert was positive his uncle would be proud of him; not for what he was about to do, but because of the way he did it.

Robert waited until the old mantel clock in the hall struck the quarter hour; until he was sure his aunt and uncle had left for the day. Then he set about tidying his room. He took all the clothes out of the closet and put them on the bed and then cleaned as he had only seen cleaning done by his aunt, or on television adverts. By the time he had finished, the closet was web free, dust free, odour free, and the shelves as spotless as the newest cream cleanser could possibly make them. Robert grinned. He was on the way, and he definitely didn't want his aunt and uncle to have even the smallest excuse to moan when the time came.

Robert started on the chest of drawers, adding its contents to the pile of clothes on the bed. He removed, joyfully scrunched up, and binned the lavender scented lining paper, and then carefully repeated the thorough cleaning process he had perfected with the wardrobe. He had a niggling thought and started sweating, panic edging ever closer. There was no new lining paper for the drawers.

His plan was in ruins. He could imagine the scene: his uncle would smile … that slow, knowing smile that always managed to cut him to the quick, to the very core of his being. The smile that said, 'failed again, Robert; still, with the kind of boy you are, it was only to be expected.'

His breakfast churning, Robert knew he was going to be sick. So close and yet so .... There would be fresh lining paper in the garage. Robert smiled in relief, the nausea vanishing as rapidly as it had arrived, the panic subsiding. His smile turned into a grin, and he let out a loud 'Whoop!' He was saved.

Robert went to fetch the lining paper, walking downstairs and through the kitchen door to the garage, which had been built onto the side of the house as an afterthought. There had been no car since his uncle's trouble and the garage had, over time, become a sort of ground floor attic; full of the stuff that most people throw out but scrimpers love to save. Yet this was no ordinary higgledy piggledy garage. This was garage neat. It was garage immaculate.

The door squeaked a little as Robert pushed it open.

"Ha!" he said, automatically taking the household oil and dealing with the squeaking hinge, "I'm not the only failure."

The concrete floor was as spotless as always, and he was mildly surprised he could still see dust motes bobbing about in the rays of sunlight that streamed through the sparkling garden window. Almost unconsciously, Robert checked to see that the case, his case, was still there. It was, stored neatly against the back wall, its brass strengthened end sticking up from behind a pile of Tea Chests. He walked over and ran his hand down the dark polished grain.

"Soon my love, soon ...," he murmured, mulling over the plan again. "…But not quite yet." Pausing, Robert let his spirit drink in the stillness. Out of every room in the house he felt most at home in the garage, yet oddly it was in the garage they had been caught. Where they had …. Absentmindedly, Robert opened a stripy canvas folding stool and sat down to collect his thoughts. When he had first arrived to live there, his aunt had shown him to his bedroom.

"This is your room now, your sanctum, Robert," his aunt had said with a sweet expression on her weathered face. "Your own private place to put your grief to rest." But she had lied. Lied with her saccharin voice and perpetual questions, always invading his space, continually chiding him for this and that and producing home spun homilies like diarrhoea.

"We take our shoes off in this house, Robert," she would say, and, "nice people make their beds before they have breakfast, Robert." Whilst his uncle would inevitably add, sotto voce:

"You are such a disappointment Robert," or "why don't you buck up your ideas, boy?" Robert shuddered at the memories and got up, carefully replacing the stool.

Finding the lining paper didn't take him long, with his aunt's axiomatic system of 'a place for everything and everything in its place.' And he followed his uncle's maxim of 'never waste an ounce of energy - you never know what the next ounce will cost you', by picking up the vacuum cleaner on his way out. As he moved the Hoover, he saw the torn edge of a card poking out from beneath the skirting board. He leant down, pulled it free and looked, and froze when he saw what it was.

A photograph. Eddie. He was sitting on the swings at the playground with Eddie. It had been taken the summer before, just after their sixteenth birthday and just before …. Robert pulled a hankie out of his pocket and blew his nose. He knew it wasn't doing anything to stem the flow of tears, but as his aunt would have said, it seemed the thing to do. Silent sobs became vocal hiccups, as he gave up all pretence of decorum and collapsed against the wall, starting to keen and wail, his tears spilling onto Eddie's frozen smile, tearing his heart apart.

Eddie was still his true love, his only love, his soul mate and his joy. On his own, Robert would never have admitted who he was, but Eddie had known, and had, over the course of a year, brought him out of his shell. He had persuaded Robert to tell his parents, which went so well Robert had thought he was dreaming. His parents were supportive; and Eddie and he were so happy, so complete. Then they were gone. On their way home from the annual family trip to see his aunt and uncle, a cat had run in front of the car.

A stupid fucking cat.

Robert had survived, though he only remembered vague snippets. Breaking glass; dull pain; the smell of disinfectant; the colour of the jelly he ate; Police; tears; and funerals.

"I will always love you, Bobby."

Grunting, Robert slammed the door in his head and locked the memories away again. Back in his room he cut the fresh lining paper to fit, carefully folding over the edges. Then he closed the empty drawers.

Next he attacked the pile of clothing on the bed. It was all clean and pressed, so no problem there. He carefully sorted and refolded it all into suitable piles. Underwear, Socks and Handkerchiefs. T-Shirts and Jeans. Shirts, Trousers, Sweaters and Suits. The Suit pile was really not a pile at all, as he only had the one, but Robert knew it would be what his aunt wanted. He then placed each pile into its own plastic bag and onto each bag he carefully stuck a handwritten copperplate itemised label of contents.

Robert was proud of his calligraphy. His aunt had told him soon after his arrival that "handwriting showeth the spirit of the man, Robert," and "people will always judge you by your script, Robert," and "always use ink, Robert, never, ever, EVER a Biro!" So he had practiced and practiced and had even won a competition, though he had never been allowed to tell anyone. "Never boast, Robert. It belies a gentleman to boast," she had said, and he had thought that proper too. But when they had burnt his winner's certificate at the dinner table ... when she had taken his prize and joy and handed it to his uncle to burn ....

"Bitch!" Robert said aloud, thinking back to the day. "Fucking Bitch and Bloody Bastard!" he shouted, looking around guiltily to see who might have heard. Such language, he thought, such ripe and wonderfully bad language. He put the neatly labelled bags in a pile on the floor of the closet. His aunt would have no excuse for complaint. No excuse! Bitch. Robert's stomach started rumbling, and he went down to get some lunch.

The kitchen was a bright and cheery room with a large scrubbed pine table and chairs, and matching Welsh dresser. It was one of his favourite places in the whole world, nearly as important to him as the garage -- at least it was when he had the house to himself. It was the room that the outside world got to see most, and, Robert had decided soon after he had arrived in the house, it was this room that gave visitors the impression of normality. The impression that here was a well adjusted family, going about its well adjusted family business. If only they knew.

A sandwich, that's what I'll have, he thought, and slung together a cheesy salady thing, making sure that he left no trace of his presence on the oh so clean kitchen work tops. No moaning aunty today. He grinned at the thought. No fucking moaning aunty today. Using the utterly forbidden 'F' and 'B' words in the house put him in a great mood, and Robert decided to eat his sandwich in the garden.

He put the concoction on a plate and wandered out through the back door to watch the birds at play. There were quite a few birds in the garden as he sat down at the patio table, and he thought perhaps they knew then about his plan, then decided they couldn't. After all, there were only the sweet-hearted robins and waddling, overfed pigeons … there wasn't a crow in sight.

Ever since he could remember, Robert had liked birds. They were beholden to no one except themselves, and occasionally to their mate. They were truly free creatures. Not liable to receive long lists of chores. No deadlines. No aunts or uncles. Robert watched the big robin as it splashed its wings and preened its red breast happily in the thin spring sunshine, its mate watching stoically from a low slung branch nearby.

Wistfully, Robert finished his sandwich, shook the plate on the lawn, leaving his crumbs for the robins, and started back indoors.

"You must stop." Robert wheeled around to see who had spoken, but there was no one there.

"I miss you too, but this is no way to behave, Bobby."

"Eddie?" Robert knew it was.

Buoyed by the sound of Eddie's voice, Robert carefully washed up the plate, dried it, put it back in the cupboard, then went back to his room.

"Righty ho! and now for the desk!" he said, and began humming to himself as he started with the bottom drawer. The desk held his personal things, his private papers. He took out the steel lock box that he had bought after he had begun to suspect that his aunt had been snooping, and opened the lid with the key he kept in his wallet. It contained his diaries. He had stupidly thought that he could just throw them away, but now he saw them he hesitated.

"Go on, read them, Bobby, tell me about our time by the lake." Robert blushed and Eddie chuckled. "I always could make you blush, Bobby," he said quietly in a tone overlaid with deep sexual desire and need. Robert shivered and felt his cock start to harden as Eddie's hands began caressing his neck, kneading the tension away with his famous 'just for Bobby' massage.

He sighed and ran his fingers slowly, wistfully down the row of diary spines. What harm could there be in reading one or two passages? Reading about happier times, re-living, just for a moment or two, days that ... No! He had his plan, and for once he would follow it to the letter. One by one he put the diaries gently, almost reverentially into the wicker wastepaper basket. Realising quite how close he had come to wrecking the plan, he started sweating.

"I can't read them, Eddie," he said sadly, "it'll spoil the plan." Eddie's hands abruptly left him. "Please don't hate me."

"I could never hate you, Bobby, I love you too much, though you do deserve to sweat 'cause you're really a stupid bastard." Eddie was being stubborn, and wouldn't let it go.

"Fuck off, Eddie," Robert said quietly, "it was your choice to leave, not mine." Robert sensed Eddie's confusion and smiled. "I know your game and you're not going to spoil my plan."

"I don't mean to rain on your parade, Robert, but your plan sucks big time." Robert decided to ignore him.

Old school books followed the diaries without problem, but photographs he wasn't sure about. These he did have a look through, deciding eventually to keep just one of his parents, standing with Eddie. They were smiling at the camera, arm in arm, with the old house in the background and his mother's favourite rosebush, 'Roseraie de L'Hay', in the foreground. Smiling, Robert kissed them and put the picture reverently in his wallet.

"Aww, that was so sweet, though why put it in your wallet? Do you think it'll matter, do you think they'll look?"

"If you've nothing constructive to say, Eddie, then why don't you leave?" Robert bit his tongue. The last thing he wanted was for Eddie really to leave. "Eddie?" There was no reply, and Robert sighed, cursing himself for a fool. He knew that Eddie was right; no matter what he did, his aunt and uncle would, could never accept him.

The rest of the photographs he added to the growing pile in the wastepaper basket, along with most of his other personal papers and bits and bobs. His passport he put in the lock box, back in the now empty, and as always, clean bottom drawer. After all, he wasn't planning on going abroad.

The middle drawer contained stationery which he left alone, having sorted through it thoroughly just the week before. He was nearly there. He looked at his watch to make sure that he was still on schedule. Yes, nearly there.

"I'm still here, Bobby … if you want to talk." Robert shut his eyes tightly and shook his head.

"I can't … I can't be distracted … please?"

There had been an enquiry. The police had been uncertain as to the cause of the crash even after Robert had told them about the cat. He had overheard a conversation about faulty brake pipes, and at some point the theory of murder had been suggested. Ultimately, without any real evidence, the Coroner had returned a verdict of 'Death by Misadventure', and Robert had gone to live with his aunt and uncle. His only living relatives, who happened to be born again fanatical zealots, who had told his parents that they and their perverted son would fry in the fires of hell for eternity.

"Can you give me hallelujah!?" Eddie again. This time Robert thought he sounded angry, really angry.

"I love you." Eddie's voice was warm now, and Robert felt tears coming.

"I love you too, Ed." He sniffed and pulled out his hankie. "I love you so much I can't …."

"You're better than this, Bobby, you know you are."

"No, Ed, I'm not ... I'm lost."

The last drawer, the top one, was, he had to admit, a bit of a mess. It was where he kept his pens, pencils, crayons and rulers, though over the last few months he had got in the habit of putting the contents of his pockets in there before putting his clothes away for the night. Old tube tickets, odd change, scraps of paper and bits of pocket fluff had to be sorted out. These taken care of, he bound the pencils together with an elastic band, ditto the crayons. That just left his pride and joy, his fountain pen. The only gift his aunt and uncle had ever given him.

No. That wasn't entirely honest. They had given him gifts on each of his birthdays, and every Christmas too. But these had always been, bar the pen, needlework mottoes that his aunt had sewn and framed by his uncle.

He remembered his tenth birthday and a row his father had had with his brother over religion and the needlework tracts. His uncle had called his father 'a heathen' and tried to convert him. His father had just laughed it off. It had torn the family apart over the holidays. Though they had never actually insisted, when he had been taken in by them Robert had felt he was obliged to hang them up on his bedroom wall, involving himself with their trite little clichιs. One that he hadn't immediately hung up, 'All work and no play makes Robert a dull boy', had made him aware of a deep, seething, and almost obsessive resentment emanating from his aunt. This Robert had found harder to take than the having the beastly things on his wall, and so had meekly, and as always, neatly, added it to his collection. As he finished hanging it up, the plain wood frame almost screaming at him 'I was chopped down for this?', he found his aunt standing in the doorway, wearing her 'pleased with Robert' face. He had been happy to see her watching him.

The desk finished, Robert looked around the room to see if he had missed anything. Somewhat self consciously he double checked beneath the mattress, looked under the bed, and breathed a sigh of relief. There was nothing except clean carpet. He ticked his mental check list off item by item on his fingers.

Closet: Done!

Chest of drawers: Done!

Desk: Done!

Clothes: Done, Bagged and in the Closet!

He took the wicker wastepaper basket out into the hall, and then meticulously Hoovered his room, though at the back of his mind he knew it wasn't really necessary; still, one could never be too sure.

After returning the Hoover to its rightful place in the garage, Robert took the wastepaper basket into the garden. Almost hidden beyond the lawn, beyond the apple tree and behind his uncle's shed, there was an area used for burning garden rubbish. Making sure that he still had plenty of time, Robert carefully pulled out a box of matches.

"Don't, please Bobby, don't," Eddie pleaded.

"You don't care …."

"I love you."

"It's too late."

"It's never too late to break free."

Robert got the fire started with his first attempt at writing a novel. To this he added his photographs; finally placing his diaries, one by one, year by year, onto the roaring pyre. Then, and this was almost an orgasmic moment, he burnt his Aunt's wicker basket! He felt like screaming out to the world, "I! I, Robert Algernon Jones, have burnt my aunt's awful wicker basket!" But he didn't … he couldn't.

"Why not, Robert? Let go, be who you want to be."

"I can't. It's too hard."

An hour and a half later he was ready, ready for the final stage of the plan. He had been dirty after the fire, the sort of sooty, smelly dirt that demands a long shower and a change of clothes. This he had done, carefully putting his old clothes in yet another plastic bag, and putting this at the bottom of a builder's skip, outside the house next door. This was a last minute adjustment to the plan, but Robert justified it with his uncle's axiom, 'Always think on your feet.' Nobody had seen him with the bag, he had made sure of that, and it would add a little mystique to the situation. Robert went through his mental check list.

Item one: Room clean? Yes!

Item two: Room immaculate? Yes!

Item three: Can she complain? No!

Item four: Can she complain? NO!

"Of course she'll complain. Don't be such an arse, Bobby."

"Fuck off and leave me alone!" Robert muttered.

"I love you."

"NO, YOU DON'T! OR YOU WOULDN'T HAVE LEFT ME!" Robert screamed at the empty room.

It was half an hour until they were due back, and Robert went to the garage and collected his case. Cradling it gently in his arms, he took it up to his room, crooning quietly as he walked. The case was around three feet by two feet, and the brass filigree inlay and polished mahogany glinted and shone in the evening sunlight from his bedroom window. He laid it on the bed, and lifted the catches and lid.

The Purdey double-barrelled shotgun had been all that was left of his parents' estate, and that kept hidden from the 'money grubbing executors' by his uncle.

"This is all I have left of my poor misguided brother," his uncle was fond of telling people, but Robert knew that the gun was really his. After all, his father would have wanted it.

"Not for this, Bobby, not for this. He loves you much too much." Robert ignored Eddie's voice.

Lovingly, thinking of his father, he took the barrel out and turned it in the sunlight, watching the muted reflections of his face in the blued steel, remembering the long days that last summer spent tramping through the valley, his father telling stupid stories, the swim in the ice cold waterfall pool, Eddie laughing and playfully swatting him on the arse. The nights they spent in the two man tent, Eddie's smell, the touch of his hands, the brush of his lips. The memories came flooding back, startling him with their intensity. Shaking, Robert took out the stock, and with a snick and a click the gun was complete.

He loaded it and sat down on the bed to wait.

The light was beginning to fade as his aunt's and uncle's taxi pulled up outside the house. Robert stood up and saw them walk up the path and disappear into the porch.

"This will show them," Robert thought as he heard the key in the lock of the front door. "This will show the pious prigs."

"Robert!" his aunt called cheerily from the hall. "We're home!"

Unexpectedly, Robert found his finger trembling as he placed the barrel under his chin and slowly began to squeeze the triggers.

Then Eddie -- beautiful, wonderful Eddie -- was standing right in front of him, slowly, sadly shaking his head, his long blonde bangs and troubled face translucent in the fading light.

"Please, Bobby, don't, or I can never see you again. Ever. Please don't."

And Robert, for all his faults a kindly soul, wondered how he was going to explain away the wicker basket.

I originally wrote 'Robert's Day' yonks ago. Then left it for a while before tweaking with it, getting fed up and putting it away again... Finally I felt I knew what it was I was trying to say, and this is the end result. Out of all the stories I've written this was the hardest. Hopefully it's not shite ;) - 10th August 2006

Robert's Day by Camy ©2006

Thanks for reading this tale - I really hope you enjoyed it.

Thanks to Kitty for editing.
She has, as always, made the story better. Gassho.

Feedback would be adored. Honestly. No kidding.