Haddon cursed as the claw end of the hammer slipped off the drywall he’d been yanking on, slamming into the side of his head like an anvil. He stood back and glared at the offending wall. He’d hoped to have this done by the time Link got back from work, but that was quickly becoming a fantasy. What should’ve taken him fifteen minutes, tops, had already taken well over an hour. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear the house didn’t want the wall to come down. He shook his head with a grin. Now he was starting to sound like Link.
Setting the hammer aside, so as not to concuss himself, he grabbed hold of a the chunk of drywall and pulled as hard as he could. It came loose easily this time, his momentum driving him back with a whuff against the edge of the sink. He lost his footing and landed on his ass, coughing and sputtering in a cloud of drywall dust. Haddon chuckled. At least the damn thing was down. He rubbed his back and wondered how fast the bruise would form.
A flash of dark color across the room caught his attention, and he waved a hand in the air to dispel the fog of particles, squinted at the hole he’d made. What the hell? Pushing to his feet, he tossed the wall scrap onto a growing pile of debris, and crossed the kitchen to lean into the hole. There, stuffed into a space between two oddly placed studs, was a little brown tiki totem. He wiggled and jiggled it until it came out, took it over to the sink to inspect it under the light. Nothing special - just a plastic brown tiki, like the kind he imagined you might find at tourist traps in Hawaii or the Bahamas. But what had it been doing in the wall?
He turned on the water and started to rinse it off. A layer of dark dirt covered it, clinging like glue, so he reached into the cupboard under the sink and nabbed the Magic Eraser. If that didn’t clean it, nothing would. Rubbing lightly, just in case the paint might come off, he finally got the little tiki clean. He dried it off, and began an inspection of it, looking for any kind of mark or writing or...something. Anything that might tell him why the thing had been where it had been. Nothing.
He was so engrossed that he only vaguely noticed his cell phone ringing. When the shrill notes finally pierced his awareness, Haddon jumped as if he’d been shot. That ring tone? Why was that ring tone going off? He clutched the tiki tight in one hand, dug in his pocket with his other for his cell phone. Sure enough, there on his iPhone’s display was the image of his ex, Mel.
Frowning, he tapped the Answer button with his thumb. “What?”
Mel chuckled. “Well hello to you, too. I’m doing fine, thanks.”
“What do you want?” Haddon glanced around. Though he knew he was home alone, he still didn’t want to get caught on the phone with Mel. Just talking to the man was a betrayal of Link in so many ways, more than even Link knew.
“I’m in town for the weekend, and I thought we could get together. You know, have coffee or something. Catch up.”
Haddon chuckled bitterly. “Are you serious? You want to catch up? Here’s a catch up for you. I’m still not going to leave Link for you. You remember Link, right? The guy you tried to kill?”
“I didn’t try to kill him. It was an accident.”
The annoyance in his ex’s voice came through loud and clear, and Haddon could just imagine him sitting there, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. Apparently some things hadn’t changed. “You ran him down in the street. I was there. I haven’t forgotten anything about that night. Unlike you, I don’t have the benefit of drug-induced blackouts.”
Mel sighed. “This... This is what I wanted to meet with you about. I’m clean and sober. Did you know that?”
Haddon tucked the phone between his head and his shoulder and rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “I’d heard you enrolled in a program a while back.”
“I did. Last February. I’ve been clean - no drugs, no booze - since last April. The last time I used, when I woke up, I promised myself I’d get sober for your birthday, and I did.” Mel paused and cleared his throat. “Part of the program is to make amends for what you’ve done wrong.”
“Yeah, I’m familiar with the Twelve Steps.” Haddon shook his head. All those years of cleaning up after Mel, pleading with the man to get better, making up excuses for him, covering for him... It had all left Haddon more than a little bitter, and while he was truly grateful that Mel had made some real progress, a part of him was still resentful that it hadn’t happened when they’d been together. Still, if they’d stayed a couple, he never would’ve met Link, and Link was worth a hundred years of Mel’s bullshit.
“Anyhow, I wanted to make amends to you. You know, for how I acted when we were together.”
“Okay, go ahead.” Haddon toyed with a few errant pieces of drywall that had stubbornly clung to the wall.
“In person. I want to do it in person. Please, Haddy?”
Haddon grimaced. “Don’t call me that. Look...” He shook his head at his own stupidity. “What about lunch this weekend. Saturday at Dayre?”
“That’s awfully public. I was thinking somewhere more intimate, where I don’t have to shout over the music.”
He didn’t want his name, Mel’s name, and the word intimate in the same sentence. Ever. “The club doesn’t open until eight at night, you know that. Come by around Noon. It’ll be quiet enough.” And I’ll have staff there just in case you try anything.
“I guess if that’s the way it has to be.” Mel sighed and made that lip sucking noise that Haddon had always found so sexy. “I heard you bought a new house.”
“Link and I bought a house, yes.” Who the hell was telling Mel his business?
“Mel... We can meet at the club Saturday, you can say what you have to say, and that’s it.”
“I was hoping we could be friends.” Mel’s voice broke on the last word. “I know I hurt you--”
“Yeah, you did.” Haddon pressed the ball of his hand into the space just above his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. “There’s too much history there. I don’t want to be your friend.”
“You don’t even know me anymore,” Mel protested. “I’m different now.”
Haddon opened his eyes and looked around the kitchen at the construction debris piled off to the side, the new tiny stove covered in garbage bags so it wouldn’t get dirty, the purple coffee pot Link had brought home so proudly yesterday. This was where he belonged, both figuratively and literally, and he couldn’t let Mel hurt this place. “So am I.”
He pulled the phone away from his ear and hit End, and shoved it back into his pocket. “Well, little guy,” he said, holding the tiki in front of his face, “wonders never cease, eh?”
The tiki stared back at him, grinning from ear to ear.
“Where did you come from, huh?” He glanced back at the wall. The spot where the tiki had been stuck seemed to have been made just for it -- there was no other explanation for the studs being so close together. Haddon was no carpenter, but his friend John had taught him enough about construction to know how to build a wall, and those boards were most certainly spaced wrong.
“Knock! Knock!” His sister Alice bustled into the kitchen, carrying several boxes of take out from Tarts. She stuck one under his nose and waved it back and forth. “I brought you lunch.” She stepped back and looked him up and down. “No blood so far! Good for you!”
Alice busied herself with paper plates and napkins, dumping out something that smelled like delicious and decadent had given birth to a baby called ohmygodnomlicious, babbling on about her day and the latest family gossip.
Haddon paid half attention. He stepped closer to the hole in the wall. The air around it had gone from room temperature to down right cold. He shivered as he reached out and stuck his hand inside, his fingers going numb in seconds. He yanked his hand back, eyes wide.
“Do you feel that?” He pressed his hand to Alice’s arm.
“Yikes!” Alice jumped back. “Holy freeing, Batman. Don’t do that.” She looked down at his hands. “Hey, who’s that?”
“What?” Haddon’s left had tightened reflexively on the tiki, and he remembered at the last second he’d put his phone away. She couldn’t have known he’d spoken to Mel. “Oh, this? I found it in the wall.”
Alice snatched the tiki away. “Oh my God! He’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! He’d look so perfect in my tropical bathroom. Can I have him?” She batted her eyelashes at him and pouted prettily.
“Yeah, yeah sure.” Haddon chuckled. He held his hand near the wall again, but the air had gone back to normal. He shook his head and took the plate Alice handed him, leading her to the dining room.