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Authors: Nick Alexander

Better Than Easy

BOOK: Better Than Easy
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Better Than Easy

Nick Alexander was born in Margate, and has lived and worked in the UK, the USA and France. When he isn't writing, he is the editor of the gay literature site His latest novel,
The Case of the Missing Boyfriend
, was an eBook bestseller in early 2011, netting sixty thousand downloads and reaching number 1 on Amazon. Nick lives in the southern French Alps with two mogs, a couple of goldfish and a complete set of Pedro Almodovar films. Visit his website at

Also by Nick Alexander
Fifty Reasons to Say Goodbye
Good Thing, Bad Thing
Better Than Easy
Sleight of Hand
13.55 Eastern Standard Time
The Case of the Missing Boyfriend
Better than Easy
Nick Alexander
First published in Great Britain in 2009 by BIGfib Books.
This edition first published in Great Britain in 2011by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.
Copyright © Nick Alexander, 2009
The moral right of Nick Alexander to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN: 978-0-85789-638-4 (eBook)
An imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd
Ormond House
26-27 Boswell Street
London WC1N 3JZ
Table of Contents


Title Page





Dogs, Rhubarb and Pantaloons

Dreams On Hold

All About Tom

Mental Infidelity

All About Who?

Sixty-Forty Split

Uh Oh!

The Pot and The Kettle

A Perfect Day

Post Mortem

A Question Of Belief

Surprise Guest

Petites Mensonges

Badly Timed Abandonment

Sex Like Chocolate

Strategic Paranoia

Unavoidable Mistletoe

Deserving Better

Waam Baam…

The End Of The World

Two Days

This Friend Of Mine

Selfish Contrition

Best Friend


Living In A Fairytale

Reasons For Champagne

Good Enough

Expert Advice

Lies, Damn Lies, And Politics

Keeping Everyone Happy

Two Bit Farce

Three Letters

Phasing Out

The Key

Bad Acting

What You're Good At

Casting Error

If Things Were Different

It's True Though, Isn't It?

A Tiny Goodbye

Vaporising Hope

Better Than Easy



Thanks to Richard Labonte and to Rosemary, Allan and Giovanni for their help with the final manuscript. Thanks to Apple computer for making such wonderful reliable work tools, and to BIGfib for making this book a reality.

Do not pray for easy lives.
Pray to be stronger men!
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers.
Pray for power equal to your tasks.
Phillips Brooks

Sleep evades me. The wind is hurling itself, invisible battalions crashing against the shutters. I imagine that the subsonic thuds are the lines they show on weather maps, smashing to smithereens, cartoon style, on the walls of the building, hopelessly, pointlessly.

Tom sleeps through it all, dreaming it would seem – his mouth is working constantly, his tongue clicks occasionally against the roof of his mouth.

I can feel the warmth of his body or maybe something more than just warmth –
his aura?
– jumping across the gap where our thighs nearly meet. From the waist up our bodies curve away into separateness.

Another subsonic wave collides with the bedroom window. I can feel the air inside the room move too. There must be a gap somewhere.

I roll onto my side and study Tom's features; he looks beautiful. He's no slouch when awake, but asleep he looks younger – peaceful, neutral somehow.

I know he's still asleep precisely because our bodies
touching. When awake Tom always positions himself so that there is at least one point of contact – unless we're at war. In winter he hugs me like a koala, hot and comforting against the cold extremities of the bed, while in summer it can be just a heel, or a shin; the simple contact of a finger, a toe, his dick… but whatever the season, there's always a spot where our bodies meet. And then sleep takes him and he rolls away.

I sigh and smile at the contented look on his face and wonder if he is truly happy. He's so hard to read when awake – he gives so little away. And then I roll onto my back and wonder what the day will bring.

I think of a song by Holcombe Waller – my current musical obsession.
“Hey oh, hey oh, hey oh; who controls your emotions?”

For Tom will wake up soon and the nature of the day will begin to crystallise, like some complex mathematical result of putting his star sign or biorhythms, or whatever controls our emotions, together with mine. Or maybe the day already exists somewhere over the horizon, and we just have to sit and watch as the weather of the day – sunshine or storms, cold shoulders or popcorn – slides invisibly into place.

A few drops of rain lash against the window revealing at least one aspect of what's in store. I move myself an inch to the right so that our legs are touching. It feels so good, that soft human warmth, magical – mystical almost. Tom replies with an “Umh,” sound and then with stunningly crisp diction, does his sleep-talking thing – answering, I reckon, a dream telephone.

“Hello? Yes?” he says. “One moment. I'll put you through.”

As I start to smirk he raises his knees and breaks wind – a vibrating two-second whoopee-cushion number.

“Jesus!” I snigger.

Tom clears his throat. “Uh?” he says, maybe to me, maybe to his dream caller.

I study his face and see the smoothness slip away, see the brow wrinkle, see him change from angel (OK…
angel) to human being as something slips into and possesses his body. Ego maybe? His face takes on a recognisable configuration: bleary, slightly irritated. “You woke me,” he says.

“You farted,” I reply.

“I was asleep,” he says, groaning and rolling away. As he turns he pushes a foot out backwards to find my leg – all is not lost.

I yawn and stretch luxuriantly, then curl
towards his back and think that no matter what the day brings – rain and storms or sunshine and laughter – fifteen hours from now we will be back in this bed, cuddled together in animal comfort, for the simple reason that we have decided that, from now on, this is how it is going to be.


We duck, laughing, into Monoprix. It's raining hard now, and still too windy for umbrellas – water is trickling down my back.

Tom runs his fingers up through his normally spiky hair. “Wow!” he says. “You never warned me about the joys of the Mediterranean climate.”

I shrug and shiver. “It's November – at least when it rains it rains… And it never lasts more than a couple of days.” I pick up a shopping basket.

“So,” Tom says pushing through the turnstile. “Where's the frozen stuff?”

“You're gonna be disappointed,” I say, pointing the way. Monoprix is like a New York supermarket, sandwiched into the available, ancient space, aisles not big enough for a full-width trolley. The frozen food section is about three square meters.

I follow him – intrigued and determined not to say anything, just to see what he buys. I'm thinking about this strange mutant entity that is coupledom: not Tom, nor I, but a pick and mix of both. It's surprising and intriguing to watch the boundaries fade, the compromises form, as this third entity that is

In French law, legal associations or companies are called a
Personne Morale
– those thus joined together create a new legal “person,” with the same legal and moral requirements as an individual, and it strikes me that coupledom is similar. There is Mark and there is Tom, and there is a third person called
. A third
person that likes this but not that, that hangs out with him but not her … And right now we're in the process of deciding every aspect of who this new being will be.

We've been together a while now, of course. But when we lived apart, though there were moments when we formed an
, ultimately we still had very individual identities, habits: the books I read, the TV Tom watches, the friends Tom sees, the shopping that goes into each refrigerator – in my case, vegetables, cheese, butter, in Tom's, frozen pizzas and oven chips. Now we're living together we're slowly whittling away at the individualities to get to a common core. It's not less… for every friend I stop seeing because Tom doesn't seem to like them much, I usually gain one from his side, and for every meal I stop cooking, something else replaces it. But it is different. And that process of negotiating common ground isn't dull, and it's not entirely without pain.

Tom drops two frozen pizzas into the basket, and says, as an afterthought, “Two of these? I love these spinach ones.”

I used to make pizza – with flour and yeast and mozzarella cheese. Frozen pizza somehow feels naughty, hedonistic even. “Sure!” I say, grinning and following Tom on through the store.

He grabs a bag of washed salad leaves and despite myself I intervene. “Can we just get a lettuce?” I ask. I'm sure someone, somewhere in the world truly doesn't have the time or energy to rinse a lettuce leaf, but that person isn't me.

Tom hesitates then drops the bag. “Sure,” he says, then, looking perplexed, as if this is maybe a challenge, a trick question he thinks he might get wrong, he adds, “You choose.”

As we leave the store with our hybrid shopping – Tom's pizzas, my lettuce, Tom's Molten Centre Chocolate Pudding (!), my eggs and flour, Tom says, “So… A film?”

I frown. “A film?”

Tom smiles. “Yeah,” he says. “Shall we go see what's on in English?” He nods in the direction of the cinema, not two hundred yards away across Place Garibaldi.

I smile and nod. “Sure,” I say. “Why not?”

“Not much else to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon,” Tom says, pulling his collar up and heading off.

Not much indeed – it's a great idea, and strangely, one that would never cross my mind, for no reason I can think of except that it isn't something I
on a Saturday afternoon.

“Will the frozen stuff be OK?” I ask, trotting to catch up.

“We'll just eat it when we get back,” he says.

So, it's a pizza and cinema kind of a Saturday then. I feel like I'm living someone else's life. I push my lip out and nod approvingly. It feels just fine.

“Tom,” I say, back at the flat. “Do you
to?” After our special Saturday, I'm feeling quite in love with Tom. I would have liked the feeling to last a little longer.

BOOK: Better Than Easy
4.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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