Gareth slumped low in the couch, legs spread in front of him. He felt neither one way nor the other about what the results might be. He was comfortable for now and that was the only thing that really mattered. The huge window in the front of the lounge room was tinted dark and spattered with bubbles, the odd pockets of air separating the plastic tint from the glass. The sunlight that shone through the tint was eerie, like in movies where they played with the film to make a scene shot during the day look like night. Gareth enjoyed the feeling of this faux-moonlight, making his pale skin glow a dull purple.

Gareth had been thirteen years old the last time he’d seen his father, Bob. He’d turned up at his Aunt Gladys’s house, where Gareth had lived most of his life. He hadn’t stuck around. He asked Gareth how he’d been keeping, dropped an envelope full of money on the kitchen bench and said goodbye. The whole visit lasted roughly eight minutes, with Gladys staring at Bob, tight-lipped for every one of them. When he left she swept up the money, left the room and never mentioned the incident again.

Gareth ran a hand through his hair which, over time, had begun to resemble that of a clown’s, disappearing in all the right places, but neglected, growing in thick clumps, one on either side of his head and another one climbing out of the top of his skull like a windmill in a meadow. As he brought his hand down again he realized that it was still covered in motor oil. Motor oil which was now also slicked across his head. He had spent the past couple of hours working on the rusty HX that was sitting in the back yard like the ruins of a lost civilization of rev-heads. It even had weeds growing in the foot well of the passenger seat when he had gone out to it this morning. He had torn them out and then gone to work on removing the carburetor, though he’d only really been out there to avoid Bertie.

Gareth had never felt too strongly for Bertie. Since the day he met her at his mate Travis’s house she had merely been someone who was willing to hang around with him. He had paid Travis for the buds and then sat outside with her, smoking and not saying much. Life had stayed fairly consistent since. In a way, Bertie was settling as well. At the age of thirty (nine years Gareth’s senior), Bertie felt as though she should swoop at whatever opportunity presented itself. She let him move in, and even paid for the broken old HQ to be towed there from Aunt Gladys’s place.

Standing, Gareth went to the fridge and took out a half finished carton of iced coffee. He leant on the door of the fridge and took a swig. Bertie finally emerged from the bathroom, her face angled down, eyes wide, staring up at Gareth. In the distance, the local primary school’s bell rang. He had nine months to get that HX running.

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