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Harry looked through the playing cards in his hand and glanced at the table. He could win this. He had been on a losing streak it was true, but here he was with a full house in his cards. He got excited at the possibility of a high win, but tried to conceal it from the other players at the table. Glancing around at their expressions they were all cool, collected and calm.
His head span with alcohol as he looked at the blurry pile of chips in the middle of the table and then down at his pitiful pile. Perhaps the last couple of shots had been a mistake.
“Harry, dont you think you should bow out,” his friend Charlie whispered in his ear with a look of concern at his glazed eyes. “Aren’t you already behind on your rent? Your housemates said they would kick you out if-”
“Shut up Charlie,” he hissed angrily and Charlie sighed looking down at his own cards. Why did he have to remind him of those stupid housemates of his. Yeah ok he was a bit behind on rent and didn’t have a job right now. But that’s why he was gambling, he would get enough for at least two months rent plus extra beer money, as long as he played his cards right.
“I’m folding, sorry guys. You play too high stakes for me,” Charlie said standing up. “Careful Harry, you know Melissa won’t have you on our sofa again.”
“Yeah yeah, don’t worry about it. I’m good,” he said throwing a few chips into play.
Charlie left with a last desperate plea, and Harry was left with three other players. One more folded and as the stakes got higher the other folded too, leaving only him and Benjamin
Benjamin was cool and smug having won a sizeable chunk of money already that night, he surveyed Harry’s tipsy state with a lofty amusement that annoyed him.
“You really want to keep going Harry? You barely have enough to go another round,” he said, his voice full of a mocking derision.
“Sounds like you want me to fold. Haven’t got the cards this time old man?”
Benjamin frowned at the insult but his mouth curled up in amusement. He was not old, perhaps mid thirties with a slight silver speckling in his dark brown hair, a stern chisled face with steely dark eyes that Harry had been trying to read all night. He was probably fitter than Harry too, not that he wasn’t fit, he had been on the university swim team after all, but if Benjamin were to take off his jacket his muscular arms would be clearly evident through his shirt.
Harry thought they were probably about the same height, perhaps Benjamin was a touch taller, but Harry was a thinner build so would appear smaller. His black hair always making him look paler than he was, and at twenty four he was much younger than Benjamin. They hadn’t met before this party and now here they were, head to head. He didn’t even know who invited this much older man to a party of twenty somethings. He took another swig of his jack and coke, that was a lot more jack than coke.
“Aren’t you a fiesty one. Well then Harry, I raise you hmm, £400? I believe that is you spent? You give up?”
Harry glared, he knew he only had £320 left.
“What do you want? I can give you something to make up the rest.”
“What could a soon to be penniless kid like you give me?” He laughed and Harry scowled.
“I dunno, there must be something you want.”
Benjamin surveyed him with curiosity and then said “a day. A day where you are my personal assistant. To do whatever I want. Deal?”
This seemed a bit of a weird request, but it wasn’t more money that he didn’t have, and besides he wouldn’t lose anyway. He agreed, and scrawled out on a piece of paper his name, number and address.
It was time to reveal his cards, a full house. The other man at the table made noises of surprise, impressed. He gave a smug look to Benjamin who had his eyebrows raised.
“Very well done,” he said.
“Thank you, I’ll be taking-“
“But not quite good enough.”
Benjamin placed a straight flush on the table and Harry’s stomach jolted. What had he done? He had lost everything.
Benjamin scooped up the chips and grinned.
“Pleasure playing with you Harry. I’ll see you soon.”
Harry sat back in his chair looking at the empty table in sick horror. What had he done?
It was all down hill from that night for Harry. When his housemates found out he had spent every penny he owned at a poker table they screamed at him. Called him a drunk, a pathetic addict, and demanded he leave. They were never close friends so it was hardly a surprise but he still felt shaky as he left the house with nowhere to go, and a large backpack and a bin bag all he had to show for possessions.
He rang around friends but each one either wasn’t able to put him up or wouldn’t. Even Charlie, his supposed best friend said that the last time his girlfriend had almost broken up with him because of Harry. He couldn’t risk his relationship again.
“I’ll book you a motel tonight or something, but I can’t pay for any more than that. You need to pay for ataşehir escort bayan your own mistakes or you’ll just keep making them.”
He tried to sound grateful but he was annoyed by the chastising of his friend. He was treating him like a child.
However 24 hours later when he had checked out of the motel and was facing his first night living rough, he realised quite how foolish he had been. He had walked out on his family, got drunk almost every night and pissed off every friend he had. He thought he would always have Charlie, but even he had eventually turned his back. He shivered. The October night was cold, and dark. He headed into town and found a shop front that was sheltered from the cold wind a little. He shrugged off his backpack and lay on it like a pillow. But he didn’t think he would sleep.
The cold concrete seeped through the jeans at his thigh and began to numb him with cold. His shivering was more obvious now, his teeth chattered. He rummaged through his bag to find his largest hoodie and quickly unzipped his coat, put it on over the jumper he had already been wearing and zipped the coat back up. It was hours of numb miserable cold until he eventually drifted off to sleep.
The reality of his situation dawned on him the next day when he realised he was probably going to have to beg for money. He felt sick at the idea, the thought of sinking so low that he had to sit on street corners like some pathetic junkie. But he had been searching for a job long before he was homeless without any hope. And now his stomach was growling and he had eaten the last of the food he had stolen from his housemates cupboards last night. He looked at his phone screen to find it dead and lifeless. A weird feeling that this was now just a useless brick to him until he was able to have a home to charge it at. He could try selling it to a pawn shop?
He took it to a vendor who, giving him a look up and down, offered £40 cash.
“It’s worth more than that!” He complained but the shop keeper shrugged.
“That’s the offer. Take it or leave it.”
Begrudgingly Harry took the offer and then spent most of the money on a sleeping bag. It felt reckless to use all the money and yet he couldn’t face another night like the last one.
Feeling so ashamed he could cry he found a busy spot in the town centre and sat cross legged on the street placing a cap in front of him. He felt like an idiot. He thought if he sat like this long enough then someone would throw some money into the hat.
An hour passed and nothing. He realised that sat scowling with his arms crossed wasn’t getting him anywhere. He attempted to make eye contact with passers by but it was as if he was completely invisible. He could sprout tentacles from his armpits and people would probably still go about their business, avoiding the sad homeless guy sat on the floor… with tentacle pits.
It made him angry. Worse, it made him cry angry tears. Tears of frustration and self hatred. How had he managed to sink so low.
A pound coin bounced into the hat. He didn’t see who dropped it but someone had. Perhaps moved to kindness by his tears. And so he let them out, crying into his hands, feeling the shame ripple through his guts in waves as the coins fell into the hat before him.
What felt like hours later he counted up his coins. He had £4.89. He felt exhausted and drained from his outpouring of emotions and from his poor nights sleep, so he decided to find some food.
He headed to a nearby Greggs and ordered a hot steak bake and a coffee. The hot food warmed his stomach and he felt slightly better. He found a new busier spot and set up station again. He didn’t have the strength to cry again so he just sat looking forlorn, which wasn’t hard, and that seemed to do the trick.
This new lifestyle continued for another two weeks. Each day he would scrape together enough meagre coins for at least one warm meal, a while back he had bought a bottle of water that he was able to refill at the public water fountain. He used it to try and wash his face and his armpits but he was very quickly beginning to smell. Each night he would guard his possessions fiercely, avoiding other homeless groups, drunkards, and the police who on some nights woke him up roughly, demanded him to move from wherever he was sleeping. He would be exhausted when the day came and would sometimes nod off where he sat.
He occasionally recognised people he knew and kept his face low in the hopes they wouldn’t see him like this, but they never did. People just didn’t want to look too closely at homeless people Harry realised, whether through guilt or selfishness it was easier to just pretend we don’t exist.
But one day, someone did see him. The day everything changed.
“Well look who it is,” the voice said one particularly chilly morning. Harry was huddled with his knees tucked into his coat against the cold, his chin and hands buried and a beanie pulled low over his head to try and keep walm. At escort kadıöy first he figured the voice couldn’t be talking to him. Until it said his name.
He looked up, startled to see the poker guy, Benjamin. He was in a crisp suit, and holding a briefcase in one hand, a folded umbrella in the other. He was looking at Harry with a semi-surprised interest.
“Hey,” he said reluctantly, his face flushed. He didn’t want this prick to see him like this of all people.
“Well, I would say ‘how are you’ but that seems inappropriate in this situation.”
Harry said nothing, glaring at pavement in stony silence.
“How long have you been living like this?” He asked and Harry considered ignoring him further, but eventually sighed.
“About two weeks.”
“I take it not long after our poker game then?”
“Yeah wasn’t long after that I was thrown out my house.”
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Benjamin nodding gravely.
“I tried calling to get my days service we agreed but I assume your phone is useless these days?”
“I sold it.”
“I see,” he replied.
“Look man, you’ve had your laugh. Can you just fuck off now? You’re losing me valuable money,” he said, irritated into glaring at Benjamin, gesturing to the damp dirty hat on the floor.
Benjamin raised an eyebrow, peering into the hat at the coppers that lay inside. His mouth twitched. Harry thought about how he must look to him, pathetic, broke, tired, hungry, dirty. It fuelled his rage further to feel so belittled by the man who put him here.
He knew it was his own fault, not Benjamin’s, but it felt easier to blame the cool faced fuck in front of him with his neat suit and tie, well paid job and easy life.
“You really are a self centred little prick, you know that?” Benjamin said, cool and stony.
“You fucking dare-“
“Fucking dare? You fucking dare. You owe me a service. Now I will do you a courtesy that you do not deserve. In return for your days service to me I will let you wash and sleep in a bed tonight. Do you accept? Bearing in mind if you say no, I will go out of my way to tell everybody you know that you are living on the street.”
Harry scowled at him, he hated the man stood before him with every bone in his body. But he had agreed to the cost in that poker game. Besides, the idea of a shower and a bed had his body aching with desperation.
“Fine, what do you want me to do? Be your bitch?”
He smiled thinly, “come on. Get your things and follow me.”
Harry hadn’t been sure what to expect as he followed Benjamin down street after street, his backpack slung over one shoulder, his quickly stuffed sleeping bag under his arm. But Benjamin eventually led him back to what seemed to be his home. It was a spacious and luxurious flat, decorated in a tastefully minimalist style.
“Shower is through that door, you need to get rid of that smell before it lingers in the soft furnishings.”
Harry smouldered with hatred but kept his teeth gritted as he shrugged off his backpack and walked to the bathroom. He stripped off his clothes and stepped into the shower.
The hot water cascading over him was heavenly. Thin rivulets ran down his body, leaving clean lines through the grime that had begun to cake his skin. He used liberal amounts of Benjamin’s products on his hair and body just to piss him off, smelling their various fragrances with curiosity. He took his time in the shower, his fingers pruning by the time he heard a knock on the door.
“Harry there are some clean clothes out here when you need them.”
Deciding he had taken long enough he turned the showers off and stepped out onto the tiled floor. The room was thick with steam, the mirror fogged.
He wrapped a towel round his waist and opened the door slightly. The cold air tickled his skin raising goosebumps. He could see no clothes nearby, but saw the back of Benjamin’s head sat on the sofa in the living room across the hall.
“Um, did you say something about clean clothes?” He called and Benjamin gestured to the chair next to him, not turning his head.
“Here,” he said and Harry padded bare foot across the hall, feeling the water dripping from his hair and down his neck.
He walked to the chair, feeling aware of his lack of clothes. Benjamin turned to watch as he came towards the pile and a smile curled his lip.
“Look at that, you have a decent body under there after all,” he mused.
Harry locked his jaw and picked up the clothes. A smart set of trousers, underwear, socks , a shirt and tie.
“It should fit you,” he said looking down at the newspaper in his hands. Harry went back to the bathroom leaving damp footprints and water droplets on the floor in his wake. He dried his hair and dressed in the clothes Benjamin laid out for him.
He was surprised how well they fit and was almost annoyed that he looked so presentable. It was like Benjamin was using him like a dress maltepe escort up doll. He came out of the bathroom, shoving his own clothes back into his backpack hastily.
Benjamin stood and looked him up and down. He looked at his bare feet and raised an eyebrow.
“I didn’t want the socks to get wet, and I’ve only got these shoes.” He brandished the pair of filthy trainers and Benjamin pulled a face and sighed.
“Hm… I think I may have a size 10. Wait here.”
He waited in the hallway, wrestling the socks over his damp feet until Benjamin returned with a pair of brown shoes and a navy bomber jacket.
Harry put them on and looked into the hall mirror, he actually looked pretty good. The bomber made the outfit a bit more casual, a bit more him, but he still looked smart. He couldn’t help being impressed by Benjamin’s styling. He was also grateful for the clean clothes, and the bed for the night. Most of his friends had offered far less. He felt himself softening and squared his shoulders. He wasn’t supposed like this guy.
“You like it?”
“Yeah… thanks,” he said, dropping his gaze.
“Not at all, I couldn’t have you coming to work with me looking like some gutter rat could I? Besides, it suits you, the colour compliments your skin tone.”
Harry blinked, that was an odd comment, but he didn’t have long to think on it because Benjamin was heading for the door.
“Chop chop,” he called over his shoulder and Harry followed in his wake.
The day at Benjamin’s office wasn’t as bad as he expected. He was essentially errand boy to anyone who needed him, for photocopies, messages, coffees, you name it, Harry is your guy. He didn’t get a chance to sit. But actually Harry found he rather enjoyed feeling useful and seen again. He had been so lonely sat on street corners invisible to everybody, suddenly having his name called by a dozen people at once was thrilling and refreshing.
He tried to still hate Benjamin, but it was hard to keep the fire burning when he felt so invigorated. He also was, against his better judgement, developing respect for him. A CEO, and by the way people spoke to him and went to him for advice, clearly a good one. When they stopped for lunch Benjamin paid for Harry’s meal without a glance and he ate like a starving man, which he wasn’t far off.
By the end of the day Harry was hooked. He was almost sad that he had to leave the bustling exciting office. But Benjamin didn’t seem phased, leading him out the door and down the street at a brisk pace. It was chilly and Harry felt a rush of gratefulness that he wouldn’t be sleeping rough tonight.
“Where are we going? Back to your flat?”
“No, not just yet.”
Harry followed a little bemused down the pavement until eventually they reached a bar.
“We’re going for a drink?” He asked but Benjamin ignored him. Opening the door and stepping inside.
Benjamin walked towards a table, reaching into his pocket and pressing a £20 note into his Harry hand.
“Old fashioned and whatever you want.”
Without question he headed straight to the bar and ordered the drinks. When he came back he was surprised to see a woman sat at the table sipping on a drink of her own and laughing at something Benjamin had just said. He returned with the drinks and the woman turned her big doe eyes on him.
She was very beautiful, with long blonde hair perfectly curling around her heart shaped face. Her makeup was a little heavy, but it suited her, full pouty lips parting into a seductive smile.
“Oh Benjamin, what handsome friends you have,” she purred and Benjamin laughed.
“Natalia, this is Harry. Harry, Natalia.”
“Hi,” Harry said sitting down with them and Natalia swirled the straw in her drink fluttering her eyelashes.
“Harry has been working for me today, he is very good at following orders, I have been testing him all day and not a single complaint,” Benjamin said and Natalia’s eyes lit up.
“Oh just how I like my men.”
Harry looked awkwardly from Benjamin to Natalia expecting one of them to laugh but they were serious.
“Er, am I missing something here?”
“Oh how cute, he’s an innocent looking thing too. Those big hazel eyes,” she pouted like she was looking at a puppy and Harry scowled.
“Fuck off talking about me like that. What are you going on about?” He growled. Natalia smiled wickedly but said nothing, Benjamin too gave a knowing look before turning his back on Harry to talk to Natalia.
“Natalia, how is Stephanie?”
Benjamin and Natalia continued to chat as if Harry were invisible which irritated him more and more every minute. He had just begun to be seen again, he tried to stand up to leave but Benjamin turned and ordered him to stay, before continuing his conversation.
Occasionally Benjamin would send him to get another round of drinks and he would grind his teeth and wordlessly storm to the bar, reminded of his essential slave labour to Benjamin. But, he thought, at least he was getting free drinks.
When he returned from the fifth round of drinks Natalia was no longer at the table.
“Natalia has gone to ladies. After this round we will head home.”
“Oh right,” he said lamely.
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