I hope you enjoyed the first episode of this blog serial. If you missed it, I recommend starting there before reading this installment.
This episode brings you Malik’s perspective, written by my co-author Joshua Wake…
After closing the workshop, Malik swaggered back into the office where Chris was shutting the computers off. It was not at all unusual for Malik to swagger, but something seemed different enough to warrant a cocked eyebrow from Chris; perhaps he noticed the sparks of reminiscence and excitement Malik was feeling after sparring
with Danika. So she’s back, he thought, allowing his mind to drift back to the show she unwillingly treated him to a few hours ago. And looking no worse for the trip. He leered privately, then chuckled at the remembrance of a couple of her choicer words. Loyal subjects. She really does think the world owes her something for being easy on the eye.
Chris’ voice, always jocular and a few decibels clear of what is strictly necessary to be heard in a small room, broke the trance. ‘So what was all that about with the Astra? Not that I don’t enjoy the odd chance to play darts at work, but that one seemed a little uh… heated.’
Through the office window, Malik could just about see the bespoke dartboard. Chris’ dartboard. It was normal, except that every section had a different car part roughly scrawled on it in pen ink. A single dart rested in a green section with the word Muffler written in, which is why Danika’s family Astra, which rolled into the garage with one poorly-connected headlamp and not a single other thing wrong with it, had driven away with a brand-new and absolutely unnecessary muffler.
‘Oh that,’ Malik affected to sound dismissive, and failed by an octave or two. ‘She’s just this private-college lah-de-dah princess I used to cross paths with in high school. Real stuck up. If her stiletto heels were any longer she’d tip over forwards. I wanted to let
her know whose world she just landed in, and what she can expect now all her sycophantic hangers-on have moved on with their lives.’
Chris averted his eyes and nodded in a way that suggested the gesture was not one of agreement, and that there was plenty he wasn’t saying. He did say, ‘Two things I get from that little speech: number one, you’ve been practicing it for years. It contains more long words than I’ve heard outta you in the, what is it, almost a year you’ve been workin’ here.’
Malik barked a short laugh. He loved bearing witness to Chris’ rare moments of personal insight. It was a talent he hid from the world by being, at all other times and to all appearances, a clock-watching, computer-illiterate moron.
‘Okay, guilty. What’s number two?’ Malik had adopted the stance he took whenever he wished to appear in control or intimidating; arms crossed, legs apart, shoulders back to maximise their broadness, posture dead straight. Most importantly, eye contact. When you break it, I’ve won.
Characteristically unfazed, Chris’ lips curled up into a lopsided smirk. ‘You like her.’
That’s quite enough fuckin’ insight outta you, Chris. Malik smiled broadly. ‘I musta given you too much credit for intelligence, Christopher, if that’s what you took from it. And you can stop lookin’ at me like that. You’re forty-seven with two hairs left on
your head, and it’s gross.’
It was Chris’ turn to laugh sharply. ‘There it is. That sounds a little more like you. Oh, can you shut this thing down? It’s starting back up again.’
‘That’s probably because you hit Restart instead of Shut down again, dingus. Leave it to me and see ya tomorrow.’
‘See ya.’ As usual, Chris whistled on his way to his car, an awful-sounding tune Malik didn’t recognise from anywhere other than Chris but had privately titled: ‘Please Punch Me in the Face Immediately’.
That evening, Malik was at home, admiring his reflection, going through his usual checklist. Hair: gelled up into shape perfectly. Shirt: nice purple button-up with the top two left undone. Facial hair: cropped close all over to leave just a hint of shadow and stubble in the right places.
Staying out late and bringing girls home was just about par for the course with Malik, even on weeknights with work in the morning, and that was exactly the plan for that night. He didn’t get nervous, he tended to walk right into any group of people in this town as comfortably as though he owned them; parties had a way of revolving around wherever he was, and whatever he wanted.
As he finished up with his clothes and cologne, he was only vaguely aware of his parents arguing about something. The words ‘neighbours’, ‘noise’, and ‘mess’ floated down the hallway, where he allowed them to die on the wind. It probably didn’t concern him, and if it did, there was no way they would trouble him with it directly; they were already too pathetically frightened by him to discipline him anymore. Not that he had ever used any violence upon them. He wouldn’t. But it did no harm to keep them uncertain.
He stepped out into the summer night. It was no warmer out here than it was inside most of his house; only one room of which had an air-conditioning unit, which Malik himself had bought with his own pay. Starting his Monaro, he turned up his car stereo and selected a playlist heavy on the EDM, and mercifully completely free of Chris’ Greatest Whistling Hits.
He knew most of the girls who were expected to be at the party—and after the day he’d just had at work—was feeling peculiarly energised. He didn’t want to party, he wanted to conquer. Who will it be tonight? became hell, why stop at one? and for some reason he couldn’t stop thinking of strawberries. Just as he was on the threshold of the driveway, his phone buzzed. He looked at the message preview:
You better not be going to that party at Elise’s place.
Malik sighed. Alison. Pain in my arse. Malik wrestled with himself for a minute, then made a decision. He floored the accelerator and tore out of his parent’s driveway with far more speed and noise than was necessary.