Rupert and Mark trawl through the personal adverts onscreen.
“This is a new low, even for us this is…”
“What?” Mark flicks at the mouse. “Desperate? Needy? Pathetic?” he sighs and swivels to face his partner; Rupert who is currently polishing his glasses and perched on the edge of the sofa. “It’s necessary… we’re… weird, and the others…”
“I know what they think.” Rupert remains stubborn, putting his glasses back on and picking at the loose threads in his jersey. “But why should that change how we feel?”
“It’s not just them though, is it?” Mark quirks an eyebrow and gestures at the copy of Entertainment Weekly on the coffee table. On the front cover Brad Pitt, Jenifer Anniston and Angelina Jolie smile at the camera, heavily edited and set on a background of pastel sky.
“Look at them, look at…” he opens the magazine and flicks at it irritably. “Ross, Rachel and Joey…” a flip of a page, “Ron, Harry and Hermione…then, Bridget, Daniel and Mr. Darcy…it’s everywhere.” He drops the magazine. “We’re not normal.” He turns back to the computer huffily.
“We’re fine… you love me… I love you. What’s wrong with that?”
“There’s only two of us. That’s… that’s not right. What is this even called? We’re not a threesome, we’re a…” He waves his arms mutely. “Seriously, finish that sentence.”
Rupert goes in search of coffee. From the kitchen he calls, “Twosome?”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that… because it was shit.” Mark shouts back. “What about… Ian, friendly, outgoing, likes clubbing…”
Rupert returns with his cup of coffee, setting the second mug on the desk beside Mark. “Anyone who ‘likes’ clubbing is a liar…” he sips, “or high.” Rupert perches on the desk beside the monitor, “Pair? Are we a pair?”
“We’re a sad case.” Mark sips his coffee. “This is good, though.”
“I finally changed the filter… which there is no law against, just so you know.”
“Maybe we should leave it.” Rupert stares into the depths of his coffee mug. “We’ll find the right person when we’re ready, and we’ve got our careers to think of…”
Mark swivels in his chair, punches Rupert on the arm.
“I knew watching Serendipity was a mistake.” Mark sighs. “Rupert, you cannot leave this to chance, okay? If we do this the Hollywood way we are going to wind up sad, desperate and alone. Do you really want that?”
“Who answers ‘yes’ to that question?”
“Exactly.” Mark clicks a few tabs on the web page. “We can at least meet some of them.”
Rupert makes a noncommittal noise into his coffee.
Ian is the first to respond to Mark’s invitation to meet up for a drink at a pub a couple of streets away. Though it seems a simple thing to just meet their potential third, Rupert complicates the whole thing by managing to be both lukewarm about the evening and yet paranoid that they’ll make a mistake.
“For the last time.” Mark snaps, “nothing is going to go wrong. He won’t take one look at us and leave, he won’t think we’re boring because we hate clubbing…” He shoves his hands into his jeans pockets. “…and he will not judge you for ordering Malibu…but I will.”
“I still don’t see why I couldn’t wear my own clothes.” Rupert grumbles.
“Because your clothes…” Mark fumbles for a tactful way to explain that Rupert’s jerseys and scratchy jumpers don’t exactly show him at his best; Mark doesn’t really care about it himself, but they are trying to be alluring.
“They’re not ‘with it’, I know, but I feel ridiculous.”
Mark looks at his partner’s anxious face and relents a little, sliding an arm around Rupert’s waist he guides them a little closer, walking down the street as a pair, close enough to provide comfort.
Twenty minutes later he drapes his arm over Rupert for an entirely different reason.
“I can’t believe he stood us up.” Rupert says, crestfallen at the insult being dealt to them with every passing minute.
Mark sighs and drains his Guinness.
“We could try again?” He circles a finger in the wet rings on the table. “Plenty more fish in the sea… other metaphors like that.” He wonders when it became so difficult to meet people. Rupert had just appeared in fresher’s week at Kent, woefully unprepared for independence and asking him how he was supposed to know when water was boiling. Mark, bossy and extroverted as he was, had taken to the little weirdo then and there.
“I don’t want to try again.” Rupert says in a small voice.
“I’m serious… I mean, yes, it would be nice to be normal and to have someone… but… you don’t care if I wear jumpers that I bought in university, and you like nice normal things like sitting on the sofa and watching Corrie.” He sighs, “I just don’t want to spend the rest of my life looking for someone else, because you think I’m not enough or you think I’m going to get bored of you.”
“That’s not…” he begins, opening his eyes and letting them light on the ring box in Rupert’s hand, resting nervously on the table between them. “…what I think it is?” he finishes.
Rupert opens the little velvet box and holds the ring out.
“Rupert…” Mark’s eyes flick uneasily between his partner and the proffered ring box.
“Just look at me.” Rupert swallows. “I love you… so do you want me, or not?”
“Even if we have to deal with Sue and Andy and Tania looking down on us?” Mark says, but he’s smiling, his hand extended.
“We’ll be just as smug and happy, I promise.” Rupert removes the ring from the box and slips it onto Mark’s finger.
“We’re going to be… a… couple.” Mark tries the word out.
“That sounds right.” Rupert snaps the box shut, one-handed.
Sarah Goodwin is a creative writing student of Bath Spa University.