Arthur wasn’t fond of New York. In fact, Arthur abhorred the wretched place. If he wasn’t being trampled on by the self-important commuters with burnished shoes and battered briefcases, he was being ambushed by some poorly paid employee with leaflets for events no one cared about. The city smelt like burnt car tyres and synthetic sugar, and the inhabitants ate doughnuts for breakfast. Doughnuts for breakfast, honestly, Arthur welcomed that notion the same way he’d welcome sharing a bed with a Frenchman. And, unfortunately, a day hadn’t passed by without Arthur having to hear that ridiculous American accent.
As far as the Englishman was concerned, nothing could make him enjoy New York or the company of Americans.
He was particularly irritable today after having received a phone call from his boss, who had decided that two entire weeks in the USA wasn’t enough and, instead, a month would be ‘more conducive to improving international relationships.’ Ergo, Arthur had another three weeks left before he could return to the civilised world.
Stomping proved to be an ineffective release of infuriation, and scowling blackly at whomever crossed his path was futile since New Yorkers were either jaded or preoccupied.
The sky was grey and apocalyptic, and the whorled clouds threatened to burst at any moment. Arthur liked the rain, nostalgically, but not when he was outside, trudging to work, in his best suit and sweater vest ensemble and in a foul mood.
He came to yellow-taxi infested road and made a half-arsed attempt to check for any oncoming traffic. Not paying attention to the people who had clumped together at the edge of the pavement, Arthur marched on. He’d only reached the centre of the road when a distressed 'Hey!’ reached his ears. Arthur reeled, a car horn blared and the world tunnelled into loud, yellow clutter.
His body furled, without consent, bracing for the impact of the car. When it came, all the oxygen was dislodged from his body. The floor was surprisingly yielding and there wasn’t a great deal of pain except for the concrete grating against the right side of him. Arthur felt pillowed and breathless, his eyes were open but he could hardly see anything. The skyscrapers of New York seemed distant and smudged, like looking at a water colour painting.
“I don’t think you’ve got concussion.” The voice was striking, real and directly above him. “How’d you feel?”
Arthur’s sight flickered in and out of focus until everything became three dimensional again. There was a man gazing down at him, an exceptionally handsome man with startling blue eyes.
“Hey there,” the stranger said, smiling. Arthur had never seen a smile like it.
“I sincerely hope you’re not the angel of chastity,” the Englishman replied blearily.
The smile became crooked with amusement. “Nah, I don’t think so. If you’re having impure thoughts about me, that’s totally fine.”
This time, the man chuckled. It was a genuine laugh, entirely harmless, but Arthur got the impression that the man was laughing at him, rather than with him.
“You’re British, right? The accent? Explains why you walked out in front of a car. I hate to break it to you, but you gotta look the other way over here.”
Gradually, Arthur was coming to. A mass of eyes greeted him and the distant wailing of an ambulance siren rang in Arthur’s ears. The ground, which he had previously thought was cushioned, wasn’t the ground at all and, instead, he was sat on the blond American’s thigh with his back slouched against the man’s chest.
The Englishman’s cheeks became pinched with red.
“The bloody hell are you doing?!” Arthur tried to wriggle away but his body felt sluggish and unreactive like wet sand.
“Woah, hold still.” The man’s arms tightened around Arthur, proving himself to be ridiculously strong. “The paramedics are here now. Just try not to panic, okay?”
“I’m not panicking, you stupid American!” Arthur protested.
The paramedics accosted Arthur with a million questions after they’d finally approached the duo. He was then elevated by the bends of his elbows until Arthur found himself in the back of an ambulance. An entirely unnecessary precaution, in Arthur’s mind, and he’d made sure the paramedics were aware of his thoughts.
One over-invasive medical examination later, the Briton had been declared fit to leave. A whole day’s work had been wasted and the insurance would cost his company a fortune. Sure enough, he had three enraged voice-mails from his boss, all of which Arthur listened to with impatience.
Upon deleting his boss’ messages, there was only one message left from an unknown caller.
“Hey there, Arthur Kirkland, this is Alfred F. Jones! I’m the angel of chastity that saved your life today. I’m just calling because, and I’m going out on a limb here, you made my gaydar senses tingle and I think you’re really cute. Since I did save your life, and that, technically, makes me your hero, I think you owe me a date. Call me back when you’re feeling better!” A pause. “Oh, and if you’re wondering how I know your name and number, one of your business cards fell out your pocket when you were lying on me. You got some killer legs by the way; hope that’s not too impure a statement for you. Anyway, call me!”
Arthur frowned and ended the voice-mail. Americans were impertinent gits, the lot of them, and Alfred F. Jones was the worst Arthur had come across thus far.
This, however, didn’t stop Arthur from attending that date. And another date after that, and another date after that.