Yuri Alina lived at No. 21, McMullen Street. He got up at 7 o' clock every morning, left his house just before 8, always arrived at work early and got back home in time to listen to "The Archers". That's it. That was his life.
One day, however, something happened to him which surprised him. He was on his back from work one pleasant sunny afternoon when he saw a young man sitting on a ripped-up black squelchy chair in the front garden of the house next door to him. The young man was smoking and looking very bored. The garden in which he was sitting had clearly once had all sorts of beautiful things planted there and had had a water feature, some white shiny gravel and a brick path. Now it had all run wild. The massive Coade stone dolphin periodically spat water in the young man's direction from its algae-encrusted mouth while daffodils pushed their way up between dislodged bricks to greet the wisteria that was threatening to engulf the side of the house. An allium giganteum had really lived up to its name and nodded its gigantic head lazily into the smoking young man's back. A spreading bellflower had likewise decided to take its name literally and had spread so far it was helping the combination of bindweed, tree roots and water from the fountain to cause large cracks to appear in the retaining wall.
Mr. Alina had never looked at his neighbour before. He felt something he was not used to feeling: love. Pure, unadulterated, dizzying love.
"Oh, er, hello... I'm... well, as you're aware, I'm your neighbour," he stammered, unable to think of what to say.
"Hi. Yeah, I've seen you around," said the young man, taking another drag.
"Are you back home early?" asked Mr. Alina.
"I'm just having the day off," smiled the young man charmingly. "I've been overdoing it a bit recently, you see, and I've accrued all this time off in lieu, you know."
"Well, what a day for it," said Mr. Alina. "It's glorious. And how nice to sit in the garden. I like doing that too. In fact I was thinking of sitting in my garden this very evening. I could wave at you over the garden fence."
"Yeah. Why not? Why not?" smiled the young man.
"Well, goodbye. I mean, au revoir - I'll probably see you later on."
Mr. Alina went inside his house. He went out through the back door, ran round to the off licence and bought a really classy bottle of wine. He then sneaked back in, changed into his white snow shorts, white t-shirt, white driving gloves, white croquet hat and white sand shoes and brought his bottle of wine casually out into the garden with two gasses. He then brought one of the glasses back in again in a hurry. He put up his white village table and his orange cricket chair with brown surrounds and sat down to his first glass of wine. (It was red, of course - he didn't like white.)
Every now and again he glanced across at his neighbour who was sitting there oblivious. Mr. Alina fancied he could hear the young man muttering something about dog-men and rental cars. Maybe the boy was on the 'phone to someone?
Eventually he plucked up the courage.
"Excuse me. It's Lucian, isn't it?" asked Mr. Alina.
"As you turn to the west to face the cliffs far above the azure... sorry?" asked Lucian, his eyes opening suddenly. "Oh, yeah, that's right."
"I've just found this old bottle lying on a shelf. I'd forgotten I had the thing. It's perfectly OK, though. It's a bit much for me. Why don't you come over? You can bring your cigarettes with you. I'm sure I've got another glass somewhere."
"Yeah, thanks. That sounds really cool."
Lucian climbed over his cracked retaining wall and onto the pavement then up to Mr. Alina's garden and in through the gate.
The two of them sat in Mr. Alina's neat little garden with its trim hedges, its statue of Apollo and its gnomes shaped like 18th-century politicians and slowly drank wine together.
Mr. Alina tried talking about work but Lucian said he'd been doing so much overtime recently that he didn't want to think about work right now.
The topic drifted onto families. Lucian said that his family were giving him "hassle" at the moment because of his "lifestyle". Mr. Alina made a mental note of that but thought he'd save it until later.
The two of them shared many a pleasant afternoon in the sun that summer.
Then Mr. Alina decided to send Lucian a love letter. He instantly regretted it, wondering if he'd spoiled a beautiful friendship but Lucian never mentioned it. After all, he hadn't signed it.
One day Mr. Alina invited Lucian for dinner and he accepted!!! Mr. Alina was so excited he bought a white boar's head and picked it in Malibu. He made a lovely cauliflower cheese to go with it. For pudding he'd arranged rice pudding and white sauce from a special Christmas shop. There was glasses of that lovely red wine that he always got because he knew Lucian loved it so much. He laid the white dining room table with a white dining room cloth and put his brown rocking chairs around it. He put a nice orange blanket over each in case they should become cold. Mr. Alina spent a huge amount of time and money on the meal.
On the night in question Lucian failed to turn up. This was the very night when Mr. Alina had been going to admit his feelings to Lucian. He waited and waited and waited. He walked gingerly round to the side of Lucian's house. He could smell the smoke. It smelled funny this time. He could hear the sounds coming out of Lucian's television. It was quite loud - you could make out exactly what was going on! There were two women in a big bath of green tea. From what they were saying they were both obviously nude. After a while they started doing more than just saying things to each other.
Oh, well, thought Mr. Alina. Maybe Lucian would like to come round to dinner anyway - perhaps he just shouldn't mention a certain... thing to him. But then maybe Lucian was bisexual? His mind was racing when he heard the sound of a telephone ringing. Mr. Alina didn't have to strain too hard. Whatever it was, Lucian was shouting with joy. Mr. Alina decided to knock on the door.
Lucian opened it.
"Oh, hi," said the young man with a huge smile on his face. "I've just had the most amazing, amazing, amazing news," he said. "You probably realised that all that stuff about my job was B.S.? I've been unemployed for ages. But as of tomorrow that ends. As of tomorrow there'll be no more smoking in my bedroom, no more dossing about watching porn, no more sitting in my neighbour's garden getting bored together while the world moves on around us. As of tomorrow I'm part of that world again. Lucian is back - YAAAAAAY!"
"I'm very pleased for you," said Mr. Alina, forcing a smile.
"Why don't you come and have a drink with me? I've got some beers in the fridge," said Lucian. "I probably won't have time to see you after this so this can be like a celebration of my new job and like a goodbye as well."