The Fix, or the Burden of Arrangement

A 60,000 word literary novel. Following the recent loss of his long-term partner, Wren, Alfie receives a letter in the post from the true love of his life, Felix, asking him not to bring a testimony to the police which would free him from a murder charge. Alfie’s memories of Felix and Wren comingle and corrupt one another as Alfie tries to determine which of them he was in love with, and whether it would be selfish to ignore Felix’ wishes and attempt to free him anyway.


The letter must have come that Wednesday morning with the rest of the post. It was sandwiched between bills and more brightly enveloped cards from the people who had missed the funeral. It had no stamp whatsoever, and the closest thing it bore to an address was a scribbled line of directions to a flat I had moved out of three years previously. The paper was heavy and expensive but the edges were worn soft, it’s corners half-dog-eared as though it had spent a long time lining someone’s pocket. Even though I hadn’t seen it for almost a decade, the slanted, looping handwriting on the front was as unmistakable as it was beautiful. Without breaking the seal I knew it had come from Felix.

I’d been receiving a lot of post from old school friends since Wren died, and he’d been getting a lot of it himself in the long weeks before it finally happened. “I haven’t seen this guy since the nineties,” he had told me as he handed me a card. The message inside was so long it ran out and onto the glossy back, biro smudged and barely legible. He’d been sent photos of babies, husbands, wives. He had post cards and letters and greetings cards of all varieties and price points, from crappy train station tat to multi-layered, many-leafed kinds that supposed you had a whole cabinet in which to display them. We had cards on the mantel piece, on the kitchen counters and coffee tables. They stuck out of the edges of picture frames and from the sides of the bathroom mirror. Wren wedged them around the headboard and into the window frames.

They were still hanging over me as I discovered Felix’ letter, their bright ‘Get Well Soon’s and ‘Thinking of You’s faded and beginning to gather dust. The recycling bin was overflowing with the cards people had sent me since Wren died, almost all of them unopened. There wasn’t anywhere to put them, anyway, and they all said the same thing.

It struck me for an instant that Felix might have sent a ‘Sorry for Your Loss’, but I seriously doubted he’d have thought to do such a thing even in the unlikely event he remembered Wren existed at all. This wasn’t just because he was Felix, and so immune to social pleasantries and affable mundanities like card-sending. He and Wren had never met. I don’t think I even really said that much about Wren the times I’d run into Felix, back when we still lived in London. We hadn’t really spoken much at all on those occasions. Especially not the last time.

I turned the letter in my hands, lifting it to my nose. There wasn’t even a trace of the smell of him, and I wondered if I’d recognise it even if there had been. I knew his handwriting without a doubt, surely I’d remember how he smelled? I’d been worrying the same about Wren, about what would happen when I really had to change the sheets on our bed, when the back of the couch and his coats and his shirts smelled of nothing but dust and my cigarettes. There was already no more messages from Wren on my phone, no half-written shopping lists in the back of notebooks left to discover. How many times would I have to lose him?

I’d lost Felix years before in a way that felt just as permanent, and in many important but insignificant ways I wished I’d never seen him again after that, because that way I wouldn’t have had to lose him again. I don’t know which was worse, that horrible knowledge that Felix was going on living somewhere, that someone else was touching him, loving him, knowing him, or the gut-punch certainty that nobody would ever know Wren again except the worms. As soon as I thought it I regretted it.

I ran my finger under the letter’s seal but the gum held fast. Had he licked it himself, I wondered, or was that the sort of thing people like Felix had others do for them? I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a wax seal. Wren’s parents had a family crest and they were furious he hadn’t wanted it on his headstone. The letter they’d sent trying to get me to ignore his wishes had been pressed shut with a blob of red wax imprinted with a tiny stallion and an axe. It was all very poetic.

The family didn’t speak to me at the funeral. Not even his mother. Right at the end, before she’d left to go to the wake I had not been invited to, she’d grabbed the edge of my scarf, caught in the wind and almost hitting the edge of her large black hat. She had this odd look on her face as though someone had manually clamped her jaw shut and it was possible she’d never prise it open again. Her eyes – the same hazy blue as Wren’s – were glassy and unfocused, like she was looking through me. For a moment I felt like I was the one who had died and she had somehow sensed my ghost.

I think she called the day after. I’m not sure, but the phone box the call had come from was close to where Wren’s parents lived and I could think of few other people who would call to say nothing but ‘I’m sorry’ very quickly and quietly before hanging up. Maybe I’m giving her too much credit.

Even coming so soon after losing Wren I’d felt my heart flutter when an unknown number popped up on my phone. That was how Felix usually got in touch, though he’d usually text and use excruciatingly vague terms. I’d never get a response to my replies and when I tried to call the numbers he’d used they had been disconnected. The address-less, stamp-less letter sent the same thrill through my veins. How had he found me? Why was this a moment he would choose to seek me out? It should have scared me, knowing he could always get in touch, somehow.

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