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[center Before he could properly think about how wrong it was to be as nosy as he was being in that moment, Ludo began to read. And it wasn't just a quick skim. Once he'd begun, he couldn't stop. Somehow, his legs had come up to be tucked beneath him, his hair had been tied back, a pillow had become nestled beneath his ribs, and he was peering through his glasses with interest.
Of course, he was gentle with each page, gingerly turning each leaf with utmost care for fear of its owner's wrath. After all, he might've been breaking the rules. No need to make it worse than that, right? The further on he read, the more he felt like he was peeking into the depths of his phone pen-pal's mind. Something about reading this work felt deeply personal, but... didn't it usually with a well-written novel?
You fell in love with the characters, sure, but didn't you fall in love with the writer, too... with the mind that they were borne of? The blond settled into his newfound interest and read on, only pausing for trips to the loo as needed. It wasn't until he'd blown through a chunk of the manuscript that he actually resolved to continue this some other way. The longer he held it, the more anxious he became.
Instead, at some point he had called it a night entirely and decided to head into town to see if he would be able to find a copy anywhere. Something he wouldn't feel nearly as anxious about carrying about or reading over a cup of tea.
Town felt a little odd, since it wasn't his own, but it was welcoming. There was no one there who wasn't warm to him, even at the early hour he'd set out. The night before, he'd gotten very little sleep. From what he'd experience, it wasn't uncommon for that to happen in a new space, but that fact made it no more the less frustrating.
To his surprise, it took him some time to locate the bookstore. It was beautifully organised, cosy, and smelled both of new and old paper. The elderly man behind the counter was busy wrapping a stack of books for a patron but nodded and smiled to him on his way in. Something about him reminded him of his grandfather, but he didn't linger too much on the thought. Best not to get all caught up here in his sentiments when he was on a mission.
Wandering the aisles, he searched for some clue as to their system and took it from there, seeking out the mysterious manuscript's printed counterpart. That was, if it was yet printed. He kept this in mind as he searched, but when he came to a section of books dedicated to the author, he gratefully plucked the book from its shelf and tucked it in close to himself.
[i Goodness, it's not like anyone will take it from you-] he thought to himself, feeling silly for having even felt the anxiety creep that way.
Reaching forward, he decidedly looked into a few other novels and cut himself off at the three in his arms. He didn't have to get crazy here. Turning with determination, he marched himself back toward the till. Mission complete!
Well, almost. A large book caught his eye and he stumbled over himself for a moment. It was tucked behind a few others but took up a large chunk of the shelf. The spine was beautiful...leather? He reached a fingertip out and stroked it. Yes, leather. Old but well-loved.
Against his better judgement, he slid it from its place and set it down to have a look. It had ridiculous heft, but his delight at finding it was a cookbook far exceeded his concern for its convenience. He flipped through for a brief minute before scooping it along with his other selections.
Before long, he was headed back to Seth's home and settling in with his purchases. Each book got a good second inspection and a full kettle found its way to the stove. It wasn't difficult to pick up where he'd left off, but it was certainly hard to stop once he was drawn in again. Be it cooking, eating, lounging, walking, or breaks from work, he couldn't seem to put it down.
Nearly an entire two days passed before he picked up his phone with every intention of calling Seth. Ludo only took pause when he realised it had been some time since he'd last messaged or said anything. He'd been so wrapped up in other things, he hoped there hadn't been any mishaps.
He pressed the speakerphone button and combed through missed called and messages from his mum and Alex.
[i 'i miss you...
Why won't you answer?
Are you dead?
Don't be dead...
I'll kill you, call me back this instant
I'm sorry, I didn't mean it']
He scoffed at the conversation, book in his other hand as the line rang on.
But wait... wouldn't this be the first they'd ever spoken on the phone? Come to think- he'd never heard his voice.
Seth couldn’t even remember the last time that he didn’t have to prepare his own meals. There was the odd occasion when he would go into the local town to eat dinner but it was never really fun dining alone and having people wonder if he had been stood up or whether he was just sad and lonely with no friends to keep as company. That was something people would never really understand; just how lonely life as an author was. It was hard to write a best-selling novel and have a lot of company so he had just decided to opt for the quiet lakehouse where distraction would be near impossible.
He was just reflecting on his loneliness when Ludo’s name flashed up on the screen. He was the person he had spoken to the most besides his publisher and that was saying something since he hadn’t even met the guy. Maybe he really did need to get out more. He unlocked his phone and read over the text, chuckling to himself when the man questioned if he had fur children. He made his way into the kitchen and pulled the menus out of the drawer and looked through them. He noted that there were a bunch of notes on the menus which intrigued him, and he took a minute to read through some of them. Ludo was either a huge foodie or he was careful about what he ate because the notes were thorough and meticulous, and he highly doubted he would have kept any menus from places that didn’t meet the standard he had apparently set for the food outlets. The Mediterranean certainly caught his eye and he could see from the selection that Ludo had made a good recommendation.
[I Mediterranean it is! The selection looks great so I am sure that I will thoroughly enjoy that. As for children…I have no fur children or human children for that matter. I’ve been thinking about getting an animal for a while, but I just haven’t had the time to look for one. Maybe when we go back to our own homes, I might invest some time into adopting a fur child.]
He chuckled to himself as he wrote his reply and hit send before making a mental note of the food that he would order from the take-out. He dialled the number and placed his order and gave the address for delivery and then decided to take a little bit more time looking around the place. Ludo’s personality was starting to show itself as he walked through the place, everything seemingly placed specifically as well things being labelled up methodically. He would ensure that he did not move anything and that he kept things just as tidy as Ludo did. He didn’t want to disrespect his home. He did have to wonder if Ludo simply enjoyed organisation and cleanliness or whether there was something more to it, but in honesty, it was not his business so he would not ask.
His home was completely different to Seth’s. He liked order and cleanliness too, but he was not as regimented as Ludo. He figured that it would be his collection of writing that would stand out as something that was cared for the most, the shelves dusted daily and the manuscripts void of imperfections. They were something he was proud of and he assumed that Ludo wouldn’t take long to figure that out. He wondered then, if he would read his manuscripts, if he would find them familiar. Maybe he had read them before. He wouldn’t know unless he asked but he would not allude to who he was just yet, in case it meant nothing to Ludo or in case it would change the fact that he was comfortable having Seth in his own home.
He settled on the sofa after some exploration and pulled out his laptop, opening up the document that only have a title for now and before he could even give himself a moment to think, his fingers brushed over the keys and words flowed through him and appeared on the screen. As easy as that. He didn’t even stop to think. Maybe it would be nonsense, maybe it would be the best thing he had ever written, but he was scared that if he stopped to read, he might lose his train of thought or delete everything and be back to square one. No. He would keep writing and that was exactly what he did, pausing only to answer the door and pay the delivery guy. He was back on the sofa then, eating as he wrote, not letting anything stop the flow on inspiration that seemed to come with the freedom of being somewhere other than the confines of his own home.
[center He'd settled for pancakes. Not really dinner material, under most circumstances, but he was in the mood for something sweet, so he settled for crushing some berries to boil for jam whilst sifting out flour and the like. Ludo was just in the midst of cracking an egg when his phone lit up.
Carefully wiping his hands, he tapped out a quick response, knowing all too well the feeling. Not that he could really get away with ordering takeaway here.
[i There are a few menus in the drawer in the kitchen, just beneath teh cupboard the borders the sink to the left. There's a variety, so hopefully you have enough to choose from. The Mediterranean is quite good. I'm glad he hasn't been causing you any trouble, though. I'm curious, though, no fur children?]
He sent off the message and went back to cooking, rubbing at his cheek with the back of one hand. Being alone felt strange. No William to keep him company here. He'd miss him during the time he was away, but maybe if he asked, Seth would send him a photo now and again.
In the drawer, there were a number of restaurant menus that offered takeaway. Oddly, they had notes all over them, bookmarking which ones were safe for allergies and which places to ask for alternative ingredients from if they offered it. It was...organised, to say the least.
In fact, despite the style of his abode, it was quite apparent that everything within it's bounds had it's place. Labels designated containers, a cup of felt tips adorned the wall, and a schedule of sorts had been recently cleared from a whiteboard on the wall adjacent the kitchen.
Later, Seth would find another was in the bathroom, also recently cleared, but with the remnants of the week prior stained into it's lacquer. For someone who lived in such an exciting place, it seemed lived in a rather regimented way. Not that this was anything new. His life had always been that way. Were he still living with his mother, it would be an entirely different league of hell, but he'd managed to evade that by working quite a number of hours from home, in a city where she loathed to visit even seldom.
Given that he was an only child, and his history, he couldn't blame her for being overprotective, but if nothing ever changed, how was he supposed to live? Lately, most of the questions that plagued him were those you'd often see listed in forums that discuss the possibility of depression.
Was he depressed? He didn't feel depressed. Just...not happy. Were those really the same? He still functioned every day, and did as he was supposed to. He still showered, and spent time with Alex, and did his work, and ate all of his meals, and watched films on fridays, and had his tea at the cafe up the road on wednesdays, and he was still reading--
Okay, well, he wasn't doing that. He hadn't touched a book in ages. They never made him feel anything anymore. It was a challenge to find anything new that really captured his interest, but maybe it was his library that was the problem?
Surely Seth had books, though. No way he would believe the man didn't keep a single sleeve in his home, even if it was something light. He couldn't imagine someone who lived in an area this beautiful would want to waste much time staring at tree pulp and ink, but who knew. Stuffing a bite of pancake into his mouth, the blond's foot tapped impatiently--nervously?-- at the prospect of hunting down something of interest before he settled in for the evening.
He took bites far too large and washed them down with water, licking the last of the sweetness from his lips before he set about washing the dishes. Before long, he was wandering Seth's home in search of a library, even if it was a small one, he'd be happy for a volume. He'd even take his time.
Padding along the hall, he found the bathroom, at least, and reminded himself to actually unpack at some point so it didn't feel like such a chore to do it tomorrow. Wandering only further piqued his curiosity about the man, though. Did he have any siblings? What was his family like? Did he have a crazy mum that was going to show up in the middle of the night? Should he have warned him about his own?
A pit formed in his stomach just thinking about it, but to dwell on such things would only drive him mad at this distance. There was nothing he could do to stop her even if she did.
Pausing with hands tucked into his back pockets, Ludo's brows rose. A shelf? But these didn't look necessarily like books. Were they dissertations of some sort? Research packets? They were hefty... it would have to be something extensive.
Glancing about, as if he was some sort of criminal, he reached for one of the thickly bound bundles and slid it from its place, pulse picking up a bit as he flipped open to the first page. Why was he nervous? Surely if he wasn't to look at these, they'd be locked away, right?
Ludo's eyes scanned the first few lines once, then again, before he flipped back to the page he'd missed. The title page, of course. This certainly wasn't research. And he certainly wasn't stopping. Apparently, since some unknown force had taken him back to the sofa to settle in with this... manuscript nestled atop his thighs.
Would he be angry? A quick glance at his phone offered nothing but guilt. [i Snooping]. He'd been snooping, and to own up to it with a question sounded just about terrifying. Maybe when he'd had time to come up with some excuse for how he'd come upon it.
Something to the effect of 'hey, I was dusting, and-' no, that was too stupid. He'd think of something better later. For now, it couldn't hurt to read a bit more, right?]
Seth could already feel that the change of scenery was something that would genuinely do him some good. Of course, it wasn't like he was itching to write straight away, but he imagined after having some time to explore his surroundings, he might feel some ounce of inspiration so that he could meet the deadlines that his publisher was pressuring him for.
He wondered then if Ludo might have ever read once of his books. He was quite an accomplished author and he imagined that at some point he might realise that Seth was the same Seth Hodkins that was named the best selling author of the previous year. At some point, Ludo would like find his bookshelf where he kept his original manuscripts.
William crawled over his lap and started to purr before climbing up his chest to nudge his face with his. He smiled and ran his hand over his fur and let William decide when he had enough. He chuckled when he jumped off and he reached out for his phone which caused a chuckle again.
[i I don't mind it. I quite like animals so you have nothing to worry about. I'm quite tired from the travelling. Can you suggest a decent take-out at all? Not in the mood to cook anything and it's been a long time since I've had a take-out."]
[center It felt so... homey. Nothing like his home, really. At least, not to him. This place held a warmth he didn't really get back at his. But that likely had more to do with the proximity to everything that gave him anxiety.
Ludo worked on unpacking his things before washing and ultimately changing into house clothes. Hair wrapped in a towel, he reclaimed his phone and scrolled through the messages he'd exchanged with Seth. The bit he'd missed about William being king made him chuckle.
[i William knows as much. I'm afraid he's always been that way. Also, thank you for thinking my flat stylish. You can credit Alex for that.]
Not that it made the cat any less affectionate. He had no trouble at all rubbing up against Seth or settling by him. He was so accustomed to soothing with his presence. What better way to welcome his guest than to curl up beside him?
[i Just a forewarning, he may try to curl up by your head. If you don't want him so close, you can put him out of the room.]
Now to look about some food. What was here anyway? Ludo found himself wandering into the kitchen to look about items for dinner. Any excuse to use the kitchen, honestly. He hardly realised he'd forgotten his slippers. Being barefoot here felt... natural. He wondered how Seth must've been viewing the city now. Did it take his breath away in the same manner it had stolen his?
God, it was still nuts to think he was staying in a complete stranger's home. It made him... curious. But for now, dinner! Surely he could whip up something quick and simple. Then maybe a walk? Bright eyes shifted to the nearest window. The panes were still bright, but it was a little intimidating, the prospect of a hike on day one.
"Perhaps tomorrow." That seemed a far better idea.
Seth spent some time looking around the place, finding where he would find his basic appliances and cutlery as well as exploring all the rooms so he knew where to find the bathroom and such. It really was a nice place and he could tell that Ludo was clearly quite proud of his living space since everything seemed immaculate and had its own place.
He pulled out his phone and read Ludo's message and replied.
[I I do indeed. It's a beautiful space and the peace is sometimes euphoric but a little bit of a change was needed. If you decide that you want to get out on the lake the boat tied up at the end of the decking is mine. Feel free go take it out. I often fill the fridge with wine and take out some food and enjoy the serenity of it all.]
He smiled as he hit send and started to unpack some of his things , mainly his laptop taking priority before his clothes. He would find a space within the house that would become his spot to write soon enough but for now he just wanted to get comfortable and that is what he focused on. William eventually left his spot on the sofa to observe the newcomer and decided that he seemed okay so he started to rub himself around his legs.
[b "Careful there, I don't want to step on you."] Seth leaned down to stroke the cat gently before sitting down on the bed with a sigh.
[center Finding the lake house once he'd travelled from the station wasn't difficult. Well, no, that wasn't true. More like it was hard to miss once you [i did] find it. It was.... [i gorgeous]. He'd never seen a place like this before - not in real life. In films, sure, but never so close.
Carrying his little luggage case, he hefted it along, approaching the door of Seth's home with a bit of apprehension. If the outside was this inviting, what did that mean for the inside?
As if suddenly remembering himself, Ludo drew out his phone to message the man. [i I've arrived, in one piece surprisingly, and I've found your beautiful home. You really get to live here all of the time?] It was mind-boggling. How had he come about it? Had it always been or had he built it?
Fumbling momentarily with the key, Ludo internally chided himself for dropping it. He came back up with it in hand, unlocking the front door to reveal what would be his home for the next few weeks. He hesitated to look beyond the space just inside the doorway.
He had no idea who this man was, really, and it suddenly felt very... personal. He'd be in his space - existing where he usually did. He wondered if any indication of his presence would linger when this was all over. Ludo found himself suddenly hoping so.
Living a simple life wasn't the worst, but he just wanted to feel like a person. What a burden lifted to realise he was alone - beholden to no one here. Swinging the door shut behind himself, he stepped out of his shoes and explored in socks alone. First the living room, then to the kitchen, to the bathroom. His curiosity even had him peeking in closets to see if maybe this man was a hunting enthusiast.]
Pulling up at the apartment building was like a breath of fresh air. This would be his new home for the next few weeks and he could already see that there was so much more evidence of life here and the busy nature of the city would likely offer as a nice change for the seclusion of his lake house. Of course, this would just be a temporary thing, knowing that in the long run that place was his home and he loved being there as much as anywhere, it was just a chance of pace that he needed.
Seth locked up his car and made his way inside the building, following the instructions that Ludo had sent him to find his way to the apartment. He was really looking forward to seeing what the place was like as well as meeting the cat that Ludo had left behind, knowing it was likely easier for him to stay here and not have to worry about William trying to settle in to a place that wasn’t his usual environment. Cats didn’t really take kindly to change.
As soon as he found the door he looked under the mat for the envelope and smiled at the stationery that had been chosen before removing the key and popping it in the door. At least he could relax now. As soon as he opened the door he could see the head of the cat looking up from his sleeping place on the sofa and Seth smiled, offering his hand to the feline so he could get used to his scent and once he was happy he placed his head back down and returned to his sleep.
He shot Ludo a message then. [I Arrived! You have a lovely place. Such style! William is King I see? Barely even moved when I got here.] He chuckled to himself. [I Have you found your way? Don’t hesitate to message me should you need anything.]
[center At last, the day had come when he would finally depart. Finally make his way. Settling in on the train was difficult. He was so anxious now that he was on his way - too far gone from home to turn back now. Ludo inhaled slowly, nausea spiking and causing his gut to cramp. He swallowed against it and readjusted in his seat, turning bright eyes to the outside instead.
Eventually, a woman with her baby settled across from him. She was sweet. From Sweden, like his family. He couldn’t help but to remark on how cute her little one was. It was a reminder for him that things weren’t so bad. He wasn’t in danger. Being in the world could be good.
Holding one of her tiny hands, he wondered what it must have been like for his mother when he was but a babe - tiny and full of promise. She probably worried herself sick even then. Babies were so delicate in some ways. Unfortunately, that quality had never left him.
Settling back into his seat, he drew out his mobile to check the lastest message from Seth, smiling at the prospect of William as the welcoming committee. [i Thank you, I appreciate that. You’ll find my key beneath the door. It’s, uh... the envelope. The fridge is stocked, so please make use of whatever you need. I’ll let you know when I’ve arrived! (:.]
And now to call his mother. How could he break the news to her now that he was on a train already? Well... it had to be done, he supposed. Reluctantly, he dialled her.
“Hey, Mama... I just wanted to let you know I’m on a trip. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be back, but I’m ok?”
The disapproval hit him hard, anxiety spiking when she mentioned the prospects of illness or injury.
“I’ve been fine for a long time now. I love you, don’t worry so much.”
More words he didn’t want to hear, but he grit his teeth through them until their call ended. It was such a relief to get away. Especially from her. He could feel the suffocation even from here. It prompted him to loosen the first button of his shirt beneath the cashmere jumper he’d opted for.
Soon. Soon everything would be okay.
His flat was a nice, modern affair. Large glass full length windows that overlooked the city, comfy modern couches, a beautiful dark wood coffee table, polished wooden floors. It was so pristine. It might’ve been hard for anyone to believe someone lived there.
Even the kitchen was beautiful, open to the rest of the space, with slate counters, chrome fixtures, perfectly clean and integrated appliances. And there was blessedly a guest room.
William lounges stop the sofa, perfectly content to keep watch over the place. After all, he was the responsible one of the two, right?
A couple of days was all that Seth needed to get ready. He spent that time ensuring that his lake house was suitable for someone else to stay in, straightening up some of the cupboards that had become disorganised in the process of his writer’s block. Everything seemed to be out of place but he worked hard to ensure that everything was put back in it’s rightful place and it actually went some way to making him feel a little bit better, knowing that this was the first step to making a change, which he hoped would be for the better.
Seth didn’t even need to tell anyone that he was going because it was secluded out here, although he did tell the people in the village that there would be someone else living there for a while and to expect a new face doing their weekly food shop in the farmer’s market. On the morning of departure he loaded up his car and made the drive his temporary home in the city, stopping for gas along the way as well as some food that he knew he shouldn’t be eating but the burgers at the stop smelt amazing and he couldn’t stop himself. With a full stomach and a full tank, he made his way back to the car, glancing at his phone as he made the slow walk.
[I I can’t wait to meet him. I will be sure to let you know how he is doing on the odd occasion and I will text you when I arrive to let you know your house is safe.] He paused for a minute and smiled. [I I left the key in the post-box at the end of the porch. I really do hope you find what you are looking for there.]
The rest of the drive was rather uneventful, and time passed quite quickly as the music from the radio blasted. It was warm and the windows were down all the way, a light breeze dancing along his face as he drove. He was already feeling much more positive about things. He would write his next book in now time, he was sure.
[center So strange. Why was he so [i nervous]? It wasn't as if he hadn't made the decision to do this himself. No one had put a gun to his head. And yet, now that it was actually going to happen, Ludo could faintly feel the panic setting in. His chest felt heavy, fingers numb from being curled so tightly about his mobile.
"Hey... relax? It's going to be fine. Come on, I'll help you pick out some proper clothes at least. After that, you're on your own. I've got to be up early tomorrow. How does that sound?" Alex rested an arm across his shoulders and coaxed him in the direction of his bedroom, perfectly used to his skittish nature.
"Yeah, that sounds good. He said William could stay. Do you think William would be okay?"
"Depends. Do you feel like you need him with you, or do you think you could stand to be alone for a while? I really don't mind taking him."
"Maybe I'll leave him, then. He's really comforting. Just check on him for me?"
"I'll make sure this guy doesn't kill William, I promise." He even crossed his heart and everything.
Setting up a decent time frame wasn't too bad, though. At most, it had taken a couple of days. His boss was willing to give him some time to get settled when he explained that he'd be changing locations and all, and once he'd packed up all that he would need, had done some thorough cleaning, and had hidden the key beneath the mat in a small envelope, he was off to the metro.
Regret reached him a little too late on the choice of envelope. It was a small pink affair with dainty floral designs - all he could find and a remnant of his mother's tea party days. Well, there was no avoiding it now, he guessed. He was already gone, already on his way to his reprieve from the busy everyday life that stifled him here.
[i It's all yours. I left the key in an envelope beneath the mat. William is lounging about. I hope you two get along.]
It wasn’t exactly late but Seth was extremely fatigued. Sometimes these mental blocks zapped more energy than times when he actually found himself to be quite busy. It was the pressure he put upon himself that made him feel that way. So when he yawned, he could barely do anything to stifle it. He just had to tell himself that it wasn’t time to go to bed yet. The sun hasn’t even set and the last thing he wanted to do was enter a stage of depression where he couldn’t even face removing himself out of bed anymore. He wouldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t. Not that Seth considered himself to be depressed but he certainly wanted to make sure that he avoided becoming that way. He had seen what it could do to people so he tried to remain positive.
Time away. He was sure it would fix a lot of things. It wasn’t time off, it was just a change or scenery, a new office if you please. This is precisely what would give him a new lease of life and help him get his life back on track. Who knew, maybe he would even meet people and socialise in when he made it to this city apartment. The lake house was quite literally in the middle of nowhere and while that was precisely why he loved it so much, he needed something different to his normal daily routine.
His phone buzzed again and he picked it up to read the message, a smile playing upon his lips before he started tapping away on his phone to send a reply.
[i I’m self-employed so I can make my time frame match your needs. You may well have a lot more to sort out than me in order to make this happen. As for allergies I am not aware of any, hell if the cat stayed it wouldn’t bother me. I have quite a fondness for animals, one that I haven’t explored in a long time.] He hit send and then started to type another message, mostly as an after thought.
[i I wanted to thank you for agreeing to do this. I know it’s not exactly the norm, but I think it will certainly help me deal with some of the things I am going through right now and I hope my lake house offers you some tranquility.]
Once he checked through this message he hit send and then glanced down at his notebook again. [b “Not tonight Seth, you’ll give yourself a migraine.”]
[center Alex had since redirected them both to the task of taking care of dinner, but Ludo couldn't shake the nervousness off. This was a huge step. He hadn't even taken a couple of days to think it over first.
Then again, maybe he had? It was possible that this desire had been sitting in the back of his mind ever since he happened upon the forum and had begun o frequent it. That made more sense than his sudden desire to be impulsive, by far.
He and Alex pulled something pretty decent together, and they settled at the table for a little one-on-one time. Ludo tried to release his anxiety, and Alex distracted him by grilling him about next to everything that had been going on with him lately. Except, there wasn't much to give him. He hadn't really done much. No going out, no personal pursuits, nothing. Just quality time with William, eat, sleep, the occasional film. That was it.
"Are you depressed?"
"No!" It immediately left his lips, but he felt the denial the second he said it.
"Maybe this swap thing really would be good for you. Don't worry about William - he can stay with me."
"Thanks, Alex..." At least he wasn't going to interrogate him about his feelings. His mother already had a habit of doing that. It was always something or other with her that she had to harp on until the end of time. Definitely one of the biggest reasons he seldom called her anymore.
Ludo cleaned most of his plate, remaining gratefully at the table as Alex cleared it. He hadn't even touched his phone since they'd sat down for their meal.
Wandering into the next room, he reclaimed and brought it back to the table with him to read through the newest message.
[i Likewise, Seth. I wonder, what would the time frame be? How soon would we do it? I hope you don't have any allergies? I have a cat, but he would stay with my friend.]
He hoped the whole cat thing didn't put him off, but there was not much to be done about it besides cleaning very thoroughly before his departure.]
Seth finished his food and moved the plate into the kitchen where he started to wash the dishes from the last few days. He had been so distracted that he had been neglecting his chores around the house, so he focused his mind on that. It wasn’t as though his house was dirty, in fact it was immaculate aside from the plates and pans he had left on the kitchen side. Sometimes cleaning the house also helped him to clear his mind. Right now, it was fixated on that apartment and he couldn’t think of much else. He wondered what it would really be like to leave the lake house for a little while and spend a bit of time in a smaller apartment in a more bustling city. He had lived in isolation for so long that he hardly remembered what it was like to socialise with other people. This would be good for him and his writing.
He dried the final plate and put it back into its place before turning around and taking in the sight of his home. It was a beautiful place and if this stranger agreed to a house swap, he would be happy here, he was sure of that. He wondered what it might have been that motivated this man to want to swap his home for a short period of time and how he might have happened upon the forum. She sighed and made his way over to the desk and read the latest reply before pulling a book out of the top drawer of his desk. It was a journal of sorts, one that he hadn’t written anything in, aside from his name. Maybe now would be the time for him to start it so that he could document this journey he was about to embark upon.
[+navy [I I still can’t shift this block. It’s as though I have a dark cloud misting the creative part of my brain. I’ve tried to write something, anything but every time I put pen to paper it’s as though all thoughts leave me. This is easy enough because I’m just writing down my feelings and that doesn’t exactly take much thinking.]]
[+navy [I I found this forum today. I was looking for vacation houses, thinking that getting away for a little while might help with some inspiration and I came across this instead. People offer their homes for a swap! It’s crazy really, but exactly what I need, and it seems that I found someone willing to swap with me. I’m excited about this adventure. I promise to write about it and fill these pages with my experiences. You will no longer be a book full of empty pages.]]
[+navy [I Seth – 29th June 2019]]
A vibration moved through the table as he placed his pen down on the desk and he glanced at his phone and saw the message attached to a number he did not recognise. This must be the guy from the forum, and he wasn’t about to hesitate to reply to him.
[I Ben! Great to hear from you. Seth here! It’s great to…meet you? Although we are not really meeting but you know what I mean. Anyway, your place looks great and I would definitely like to get the ball rolling on this if you are up for it.]
God, he hoped that he was up for it. Just the thought of it brought an excitement to him that he hadn’t felt in a long time and that was enough to tell him that this was exactly what he needed to get everything back on track.
[center Maybe it was too impulsive? Ludo was questioning his decision as he carefully sliced vegetables. All into perfect little strips and cubes - wearing gloves because one could never be too careful. Especially in his case. He found it difficult to focus, anyway, so he'd even doubled up on the gloves in case he did slip. He couldn't afford the infection.
Sniffing over onions with reddened eyes, he cursed himself for not having stuck it into the freezer first. It was a trick he had learned from Alex . He'd invited himself, saying he had news and would bring dessert.
Ludo didn't even bother to let him in - he knew where the spare key was, and the moment the other blond came through the door, his place came to life.
"Ludooo~." He sang, taking his shoes off at the door. "Baby, Honey, Sugar Plum-- uhh, gimme another?"
"Sweetie pie! Oh, that's cute. You look more like a Muffin Butt or something, though."
Ludo coughed, choking on his spit. "Exc- what? My... bum looks nothing like a muffin?"
"How would you know?" Alex quipped, crossing over into the kitchen, William already scooped into his arms. "Look often, do you?"
Ludo had to set his knife down to laugh. Now he felt better. He breathed easier. [i Anxiety.] Just what he needed. A breath of fresh Alex. He was better than air any day.
"What are we up to here? I brought D'orsi's. Cheesecake, I know it's your favourite."
"Uhh, I wasn't really thinking about it." He admitted. "Just prepping the basics.
"Want me to handle the meat?"
"If you wouldn't mind?" Ludo sniffled and went back to his work, slicing away as Alex wandered.
"What's this?" He queried, lowering himself into his desk chair. "You on a dating forum?"
"Tch, Alex, no," He began hurriedly. "It's like a house swap thing."
"A house swap?"
"Place swap, whatever."
"And you're gonna' swap with this guy? Bored with your life?"
"I just need a break. Some space."
"Well, he attached photos- good fucking God, it's gorgeous. If you need company, you have my number."
Ludo leant further over the counter to have a look, immediately transported by the beautiful imagery. It really [i was] gorgeous. He could already see it now - lunch on the lake.
"I'm accepting on your behalf."
"W- Alex, no! Don't-"
"It's too late. [i Wow! Your place looks brilliant, I'd love to swap. I'm in the middle of fixing din, but I'll contact you soon.] You worry too much." Alex shook his head.
"Alex, did you really write that?"
"I did. Do you want me to hit send?"
Ludo tapped his foot nervously. "No."
Alex sat quietly, waiting.
He hit [i send], and the message published. "Here, I'll write this down for you." He explained, taking down the e-mail and the number. Then he saved it to the computer, just in case. William could be mischievous. "It'll be fine."
Ludo yanked the gloves from his hands and collected his mobile, sure he would hesitate if left alone. He punched in the number and moved to the message field, nervousness tightening his chest.
After several long moments, he began. Something simple. Something neutral. Anxiously, he tapped the mobile against his palm, pacing.
[i Hey. It's Ben.]
Benjamin was his middle name, and it was more comfortable using that with anyone he didn't know well enough to explain his name to.
He pressed send and watched the message's time stamp populate. Alex patted his back gently. "It'll be just fine. If things really get going, I'll help you pack."
"I never even put in for time off of work?"
"Tell them you're unwell and need to work from home for a while."
He could, it was a privilege he was afforded when he needed it due to his circumstance.
"Cheer up, [i Ben]. We still have two thirds of a dinner to make."
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